G’s Top Tips for Colombia:
- Despite its reputation (my mother was saying multiple novenas for us when she found out we were going), Colombia is an absolutely gorgeous country, and during the brief time we spent there we felt perfectly safe and never uneasy about any of the places we were or the people around us.
- Some taxi’s will have meters in them, but for those that don’t you need to make sure that you negotiate the price before you get into the taxi – some driver’s will try and rip you off so always check what the price should be before you get one and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
- The distances between towns are really big and some of the buses sell out quickly, so make sure to buy your bus ticket a day in advance in the station – you will need to have your ID with you when you do. Sometimes it’s cheaper or costs the same price to fly between cities, especially when the distance is large – it cost us just $10 more to fly from Medellín to Cartagena than getting the bus, and we did it in a quarter of the time.
- The bus does stop occasionally to let food vendors on, especially on the longer journeys. However, compared to Ecuador, the buses are much safer and as long as you keep your bags on you, you shouldn’t have any issues with robberies.
- As with Peru and Ecuador, there are plenty of places where you can get cheap lunches and dinners, and drinks tend to be inexpensive. However sugary snacks tend to be expensive, especially if they’re good quality. This is especially noticeable with chocolate – the cheap stuff doesn’t taste great at all, but anything good is overpriced. The one exception we found are Milky Ways which taste kind of like Mars Bars.
- For those of you that like coffee, the great thing about Colombia is that they export very little of their homegrown coffee, meaning that you can get good quality coffee relatively easy. The only thing to be careful of is that because Colombians tend to drink coffee all day long, they usually brew it quite weak, so if you like your coffee strong, make sure to ask for it ‘mas fuerte.’
- As with Peru and Ecuador, toiletries can be very expensive in the supermarkets and pharmacies – head to the markets to get better deals. The same goes with buying vegetables, fruits and other groceries.
- When booking a hotel/hostel in advance book directly with them through their website/email as booking sites nearly always add on a 12/14% tax.
- You need to pack for all types of weather, especially if you’re going to be staying in the mountainous area. Because of the altitude, the weather tends to be a bit hit a miss – most days it’s very sunny in the morning, and then gets foggy and absolutely chucks it down in the afternoon! This is especially important to know if you’re going to do any hiking!
- Word of Warning: It is far too common to see men and women spitting anywhere and everywhere; it’s nowhere near as bad as in Ecuador, but it’s still prevelant. It’s gross but unavoidable so prepare yourself.
There is a noticeable difference going from Ecuador to Colombia in terms of attitudes to “alternative” clothing and fashion and lifestyles: we saw a lot more people with piercings and tattoos, saw some same-sex couples holding hands as they walked along the street, and saw some non-binary people in some of the bigger cities. While we didn’t come across any LGBTQAI+ specific spaces (to be honest we didn’t actually look in any depth), we felt a lot more comfortable when walking around in the cities, although we aren’t normally affectionate in public anyway.
PLEASE NOTE: I can only speak for the parts of Colombia that we were in – all of the places were large, metropolitan cities, so it makes sense that they would be more accepting to queer society. It is possibly/probably different in the more rural areas, as it is in most countries.
G’s Highlights of Colombia:
Where To Go/What To See:
As with Peru and Ecuador, visit churches whenever you get the chance.
- Visit the Parque de los Gatos and wander across to the other side of the river for more cat statues
- Visit the Museo de la Tertulia
- Visit the Museo del Oro
- Wander the streets in search of beautiful colonial buildings and street art.
- Wander around the Parque del Centenario and browse the stalls for souvenirs
- Explore the walled city and walk the original city walls
- Check out the metal statues in Plaza San Pedro Claver
- Explore the Castillo de San Felipe de Bajara
- Chill out in Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad
- Visit the Museo del Oro
- Relax in the mud bath in Volcan Totumo
- Go dancing in Café Havana
- Check out the statues in Plaza Botero
- Visit the Museo de Antioquia
- Take a day trip out to La Piedra and Guatape
- Visit the Casa de la Memoria
- Ride the cable car up the mountain side
- Visit Las Lajas Sanctuary – it’s one of the top 50 churches in the world and an absolutely stunning piece of gothic architecture!
- Check out the giant eagle statue outside the Ipiales bus station
- Take part in the Carnaval de Blancos y Negros if in the area at the start of January.
Eating and Drinking:
- Pao Bakery and Café: really cute, small café that does really tasty breakfasts and homemade bread – great place for a coffee!
- Tostaky: great place for cheap and filling breakfasts, and really fresh salads that won’t break the bank!
- Sisa Atahualpa: great place to chill out with a beer on the balcony overlooking Parque Higueron.
- Gato Negro Café: really delicious breakfast crepes, great coffee and juice – couldn’t ask for more!
- Lunarossa: brilliant place to get a cheap, filling, and delicious almuerzo – the soups are insanely delicious!
- Kokoa Sushi Wok: if you’re in the mood for sushi, this is the ideal place!
- Royal Thai: this place is expensive, but the food is worth it – really delicious authentic Thai food; perfect when you need a break from the traditional Colombian comida.
- Masala: authentic Indian food – great curries, really nice atmosphere and a decent price.
- Mr Pollo: excellent chicken restaurant – good selection of food, really filling dishes, and all at a decent cost.