So, you’re seriously considering a trip to Colombia or, even better, you’ve decided to go. You’re sure to have lots of questions, especially about safety, precautions to take and travel tips. Rest assured that your safety in Colombia is our priority. The country is now safe for tourists: read our Colombian safety article. All the same, there are a few things worth remembering. Here are our travel tips to help your Colombia trip go smoothly.
Colombia travel tips: everything you need to know
1. Pre-order your taxi
Consider ordering a taxi by phone or online (such as via Easy Taxi) instead of hailing one down in the street, especially in Bogotá and Cali. If you’re at a restaurant, the staff will be pleased to order one for you. In the country’s other towns and cities you can safely flag down a taxi in the street, although it’s better to call for one or use Uber, especially if you’re alone.
2. Leave your passport in the hotel safe
You do this anyway when you travel, of course. This is just a reminder. Take a photo of your passport with you: it will be enough. Here are embassy phone numbers in case you need them.
3. Don’t tempt pickpockets
As with anywhere in the world, watch out for pickpockets, especially on public transport. Leave your valuables in the hotel safe.
4. Fines and traffic police
If you hire a vehicle and commit an offence, you’ll be fined by the police. But they can also ask for money. We suggest you don’t support this type of corruption and accept the fine instead.
5. Don’t eat seafood sold at the beach
You’re tanning on a beach in Cartagena or Santa Marta and along comes a seller offering some delicious shrimp ceviche. Even if it looks tempting, such seafood isn’t often kept properly cold and may give you food poisoning. At restaurants, however, you can go wild as they’re careful with product quality.
6. Don’t accept “free” things
This is a common scam. The seller offers you a free oyster, shrimp or 3-minute massage. Then they ask you to pay. Basically, don’t accept anything from anyone you don’t know.
7. Check your vaccines
Since 1st April 2017, you must have a yellow fever vaccination if you want to go to the Pacific region (including Nuquí and Bahía Solano), the Amazon, Caño Cristales, the city of Santa Marta and nearby Tayrona National Park. Make sure you take your vaccination record with you.
We also recommend the following vaccines:
- Hepatitis A: infection often transmitted by food
- Rabies: if you’re planning to go to the Amazon or rural areas and have contact with animals
8. ONLY drink the tap water in major cities
There’s no problem drinking the tap water in Bogotá, Medellín and Bucaramanga. But in villages and on the coast, including in Cartagena and Santa Marta, you should drink bottled water instead. When you drink natural fruit juice, make sure it’s been prepared using bottled water.
9. Prevent mountain sickness
If you’re hoping to go walking or trekking at altitude (mountain sickness symptoms can be experienced from 2000 metres; Bogotá is at 2600 metres), you should follow the rules: don’t drink alcohol or smoke, don’t eat too much, train your body beforehand, etc.
10. Avoid poor neighbourhoods
You may want to see the comunas in Medellín or help out in the most disadvantaged areas. Contact an NGO or we can organise safe visits where you spend time with locals. Don’t try and do this under your own steam.
11. Careful with drugs
Our last Colombia travel tip is to be careful with drugs. Even if personal marijuana consumption is tolerated in Colombia, drug possession can mean an unpleasant time with sellers and/or the police. Punishments under the law can be severe.
Want to go to Colombia and explore the country’s must-visit locations? Contact us now for more information and we can help you plan your bespoke trip.
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