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Quick facts about Colombia:
- It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia
- Language: Spanish, some English in cities & tourist areas
- Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
- Time zone: GMT-5
- Capital city: Bogotá
- Climate: Very diverse: tropical rainforest, savannas, steppes, desert, mountains
- Safety: Safe except for some guerilla holdouts in rural areas; be alert to petty crime in cities
- Vaccines: None required
5 Essential Items to pack for your trip:
1. Passport & travel documents
American citizens can enter Colombia visa free. Citizens of Mexico, and most of Central & South America and Europe can also enter Colombia visa free. Citizens from almost all of South America can enter Colombia with only their ID card!
If you were born in Colombia and have dual citizenship (American passport, etc), you must have your Colombian passport, or you will be denied entry! Keep this in mind, as most gate agents probably don’t know this, and will let you board the flight on your American (or other visa-free) passport.
Check the current list of visa requirements to travel to Colombia on this Wikipedia page.
Colombia allows you to enter on a Tourist Visa for a maximum of 3 months (90 days) extendable to a maximum of 6 months (180 days) in one calendar year. This means that if you are in Colombia on a tourist visa from January – June (as an example), you will not be able to enter the country again on a tourist visa until January of the following year
Travel Tip: Print your important travel documents:
- Flight itinerary
- Hotel and/or AirBnb reservations
- Travel insurance
- Any important medical history
- Copy of passport (identity page & visa page)
It’s great to have email confirmation of all this, but remember when traveling overseas, you may not have access to Wi-Fi, or even to a cell phone charger, when you most need it!
I am one of those people who always is going to be an aspiring photographer, but just never have the time to learn how to really use a DSLR. So I can’t really justify the luggage space (or the expense!) for a bulky camera and additional lenses. But Colombia is an astoundingly beautiful country, so cell phone pictures just don’t do it justice.
That is why we love the(or the latest & greatest, 20.3 megapixel, 40x optical zoom,). This little camera takes very good pictures on its own, but it also has Manual settings, so you can learn or practice how to use these before making a big investment on a DSLR.
We just bought our first (used), so we’re excited to use it on our next trip to Colombia! So far, I love how tiny the camera is.
3. Layered CLOTHING & Umbrella
The climate in Colombia varies wildly depending on the altitude. There is tropical rainforest, savannas, steppes, desert, and mountains. Within the mountains, there is tierra caliente (hot land), tierra fria (cold land), and Páramo.
As an example, Bogotá is usually cold, humid, and drizzly. Drive an hour away, and it will be much colder, or very hot, depending on the direction of your travel.
Take clothing that you will be comfortable in a hot climate, but also take a light jacket, long sleeve shirt & pants for the cool nights. The higher the altitude, the colder the weather, and in places like Tunja, it is extremely cold and windy all the time!
4. Travel Iron & Nice Clothes
“What do you mean? I’m on vacation!”
Well… if you want to blend in, skip the cargo shorts and flip flops. Everybody in Colombia dresses nicely.
Definitely pack some dressy clothes for a night out, and invest in a small dual-voltage travel iron, that will come in handy for many trips to come. (You will find that people dress and carry themselves with dignity in a lot of other countries, too.) For the ladies, a travel blow dryer will come in handy as well.
5. Sunscreen, Medicine, First aid kit, etc.
The importance of sunscreen is in a category of its own for Colombia. Although it’s obvious that in a tropical beach setting you will need it, the weather (see #3) in other places is tricky. You may not realize, on a cold, windy, cloudy, rainy day in Bogotá, how badly sunburned you are getting, until it is too late! This is due to the high altitude and thin air.
Colombia is a rapidly progressing country with very modern stores. Take only some basic, common sense, first aid supplies:
- Prescription medication
- Immodium / Pepto-Bismol (pill form – less hassle)
- Ibuprofen and/or some other analgesic
- Mosquito repellent (try this DEET-free repellent)