What should you think about when traveling to Colombia? Where can you find cheap airline tickets to Colombia? What to bring and how to arrange your domestic flights and bus transportation? What kind of plugs do they use in Colombia, where is the best place to withdraw cash and what about mosquitoes? In this article you will read the best travel tips for your round trip Colombia.
1. Airline tickets Colombia
Where can you find the cheapest airfare for your Colombia vacation?
How much does flying to Colombia cost?
From where you fly to Colombia, the most expensive months are December, January, July and August. And with Semana Santa: Easter. Here you can read the best travel time Colombia by major vacations and what are the most peaceful and cheapest months to travel to Colombia.
If you travel off-season then you will obviously be cheaper.
These days you can quickly spend around 1,000 euros on a plane ticket Colombia, although it can certainly be a little cheaper with a transfer. From Colombia to Europe it is usually more expensive than the other way around. From Colombia to the US, especially Florida, is often cheap. A return ticket Curacao Colombia costs around 200 euros.
Websites and tools to find cheap airline tickets with
Find cheap airline tickets through Skyscanner or Hopper. Skyscanner lets you set price alerts that let you quickly see if the price is going down or up. At Hopper, in addition to setting a price alert, you can also see the forecasts. Indeed, Hopper indicates whether it expects price increases or decreases over a period of time. This is how to find the cheapest airfare to Colombia.
Direct flight to Colombia
From the Netherlands, the only way to fly to Colombia on a direct flight is with KLM. KLM flies from Amsterdam to Bogotá, then to Cartagena and then back to Amsterdam. So you can both get off and board in Bogotá and Cartagena. This is also often the most expensive option, but it also saves a lot of time and hassle with transfers.
There are also direct flights from London (with Avianca), Madrid (with Avianca or Iberia), from Paris (with Air France) and from Frankfurt (with Lufthansa).
2. What clothes do you put in your suitcase?
Traveling around Colombia means a journey through four seasons. You can experience anything here: heat, low or high humidity, drought, cold areas, wind and rain.
The climate in Colombia is largely determined by the altitude at which you are located. Most likely, your trip will begin in Bogotá, a city located at 2,600 meters in altitude, and that means temperatures usually no higher than 20 degrees. At night, it can cool to below 10 degrees. Actually, you can experience all the seasons here in one day. Read all about the climate in Bogotá and what clothes are handy to bring.
Once you travel to lower elevations, the temperature increases. On the coast, for example, it can just be 35 degrees. It can rain anywhere in Colombia. Even in the Tatacoa Desert.
Do you also go hiking in the high mountains, such as Los Nevados? Then you need clothing against cold and snow, such as gloves, a warm jacket and a hat. And good walking shoes.
So the most convenient thing to do in addition to your summer clothes is to wear a raincoat, closed (hiking) shoes, long pants, a couple of long-sleeved cardigans and a sweater.
Where to buy clothing, camping gear and hiking boots in Colombia?
Getting gear and clothing to go hiking and camping in Colombia is not very easy. Especially in the big cities, you will find stores where they sell this. Like The North Face in Bogotá. However, this brand is a bit more expensive in Colombia. A good option is Decathlon. You can find these in Bogotá, Chiá (Fontanar shopping center), Barranquilla, Medellín, Envigado and Cali. In places with a lot of camping and mountaineering, you often find good shoes, clothing and gear.
3. What else is handy to bring to Colombia?
Anti-mosquito agent: DEET
Despite Colombia being a tropical country, the presence of mosquitoes depends on the altitude you are at. In Bogotá and other places above 2,200 meters altitude, there is no to little danger of mosquito bites, but if you come below that altitude, there can be many mosquitoes that can also carry diseases such as Zika, Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya. More information on mosquitoes and altitude here. Therefore, below 2200 meters altitude, lubricate yourself with DEET or wear protective clothing.
In Colombia, you can also buy this just fine. I myself use Nopikex, which is a kind of soap you rub in and it works great. I have used it wherever there are mosquitoes, including in the Amazon. You buy Nopikex in major cities, at, for example Farmatodo.
Maybe an open door, but you’d be surprised how many travelers are burned by the second day. Sun intensity in Colombia is very high. In the Netherlands, the sun has a strength of 8 in summer, which is considered extremely dangerous. In Colombia, the sun strength has a value of between 8 and 17 all year round (depending on the place), so applying good sunscreen is essential. I myself burn in 10 minutes here and use factor 50 sunscreen 3 or 4 times a day.
Tip: In Colombia you can get sunscreen cheaper than in the Netherlands (example: Level for face factor 50 costs about €14; in Colombia you can buy the same for about €6). Only brands that are imported are more expensive in Colombia. They mainly sell high-factor sunscreen here, so up to factor 20 is harder to find.
Plugs for in Colombia
In Colombia you will find the same plugs as in the United States. The most logical thing to do is to buy a world plug in the Netherlands, this one for example.
However, in Colombia you can easily buy it for about 1 euro at a ferreteria and in some large supermarkets (but there it is often slightly more expensive). An adapter converter is not necessary, but it never hurts to check on the adapter to see if it is usable in Colombia. I myself brought my hair dryer, laptop, phone, e-reader and epilator from the Netherlands, and at least for these, no adapter is needed.
By now, almost all of my electrical appliances, including my phone, hair dryer and laptop, have been replaced with a Colombian version. And these also do fine in the Netherlands.
What else to bring?
Beyond the usual stuff like toiletries, books and clothes, these are also handy things to put in your suitcase:
- A booklet to learn and speak basic Spanish (limited English is spoken in Colombia)
- A Lonely Planet (you can’t buy these in Colombia or they are very limited)
- Two copies of your passport (so you can safely leave your passport at your hotel in major cities, more safety tips for big cities here)
- An extra wallet to put some money in (better, especially in big cities, not to always show a big wallet with all your money and cards, but to spread everything over several places)
- ORS. Should you suffer greatly from the heat or contract food poisoning, you may need ORS can be very helpful. Here in Colombia you can also buy that at a droguería, only here it is incredibly sweet.
Are you going backpacking in Colombia?
Going backpacking in Colombia and want to make sure you have everything you need with you? Like a handy daypack and backpack, waterproof bag, water bottle, passport cover, waterproof phone case and more? Then check out Amazon with all the essentials for backpackers, selected by experienced backpackers and travel professionals.
4. Upon arrival in Bogotá
Where can you pick up pins?
The airport in Bogotá is very nice and organized. On the second floor you will find a couple of ATMs to get your first pesos out of the wall. It is best to withdraw at a Davivienda or City Bank and then withdraw the highest amount possible. Right after you walk through customs through the doors to the outside, there are ATMs on the right side right next to the exit. In fact, each time you withdraw cash you pay a bit of money extra. Distribute the pinned money to different places on your body. Read all about PIN payments in Colombia here.
How do you get to your ho(s)tel from the airport?
By cab or Uber
As soon as you walk out at the airport you will be accosted by cab drivers, do not respond to this. You will automatically see a cab stand with a person standing by to regulate things. Join the queue and wait for your turn. These cabs are safe and will take you to your ho(s)tel.
Depending on where you stay, this costs between 20,000 and 30,000 pesos, but tourists are often ripped off and pay more. Make sure the gauge is set to the starting position before driving. It is also helpful to keep Google Maps with the route to your hotel, to prevent the cab driver from making detours.
There is also an option to pay for a cab already at the airport, but this is more expensive. Uber is also popular in Colombia, but illegal. You can try to arrange one, but often they don’t want to come to the airport because they are checked there.
There is also an option to get to your lodging by bus. However, I would advise against this if you have a lot of suitcases with you or if you arrive in the night. The buses are not set up for this and it is so crowded on the bus that this is simply really not relaxing. With a backpack, though, it’s easier and definitely doable outside rush hour. Keep in mind that you may have to transfer several times and arrive at your hotel only after walking for a while. Do you have limited luggage, a backpack or want to be cheap? Then the bus is certainly a great means of transportation. But as mentioned, in the evening and night it is safer to take a cab.
You’ll find the buses on the first floor in front of the terminal where international flights come in. So if you come from the Netherlands and you walk out, after crossing the road you are there immediately. There is a choice of 3 buses:
- A free shuttle bus to Portal el Dorado (by the green sign). This is ideal for when you don’t already have a bus pass for the bus system. You can then buy it at the bus station and it is called TuLlave. From El Dorado you can then take the Transmilenio.
- A blue SITP bus P500 to Andino. This one is ideal if you’re staying in Zona T. For this you do need a bus pass, which you cannot obtain on the bus itself.
- The red dual-bus K86 to Portal El Dorado. This bus also goes to the main bus station and from there continues under number M86 to Usaquén. Ideal for when you are in Usaquén. Keep in mind that you also need a bus pass for this bus and must transfer to the M86 at El Dorado. So you can also take the free shuttle bus to Portal el Dorado, buy a map there and then still continue on the M86 to Usaquén.
How do you travel around Bogotá by bus or cab?
Once you are in the city, you can get to places of interest by bus or cab. Order a cab at any time through one of the cab apps, such as Cabify. Taking the bus, however, is much cheaper and hearty fun (click here for a fun tube route through Bogotá!)
You can buy a bus pass at a Deprisa or at any Transmilenio station in the city, among other places. For example, buy a green Tullave, which costs 6,000 pesos (less than 2 euros). Charging is also done at the station or at a Deprisa (search here where to find a Deprisa).
Book a hotel for the first night(s)
Even if you are backpacking through Colombia and like to travel on spec, it is convenient and safe to arrange your hotel in Bogotá in advance. Wandering around Bogotá with your backpack or suitcases is not a good idea, and especially in the evening it is wise to have yourself dropped off right in front of your hotel.
There are many options in Bogotá to stay. The tourist center La Candelaria is popular but not the safest neighborhood in Bogotá. For example, a fun, hip and safe neighborhood is Usaquén. From there you can easily take a bus or cab to downtown Bogotá.
Find your hotel in Bogotá here:
For short stays in Bogotá: hotel tips near the airport
Do you only have a short layover in Bogotá? Or are you on your last day in Colombia and don’t want to stay in downtown Bogotá? There are also many hotels around the airport. Read hotel tips and attractions near Bogotá airport.
Buying a SIM card in Colombia
If you want to be able to make calls and Internet on your mobile, you can easily buy a SIM card. You can buy cards, minutes and Internet on the street or in small phone stores. Look for shops that say minutos and ask there for a map of Claro or Tigo. You then have to put an app on your phone, charge data or minutes at a place where you see minutos, that comes into that app and with that you can choose the amount of data you want. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite easy and available everywhere. In addition to the app, you can also just keep going to such a phone store and reload your card there.
Note that sometimes it happens that your phone gets blocked and then you have to go to an office of Tigo or Claro. Colombia is not yet set up for tourism in such a way that this is completely well regulated. You must therefore register your phone with Tigo or Claro after purchasing your SIM card. This can usually be done through the app or through the website.
Are you going to travel to other countries besides Colombia? Then you can also consider getting a global SIM card. Allows you to have Internet anywhere in the world with 1 SIM card. KeepGo has such a sim card.
5. Traveling through Colombia: how do you do it?
In the Lonely Planet of Colombia you will find clear information about bus routes and from which cities and villages buses leave for where. Additional tips here.
Bus transportation in Colombia is good and efficient. However, distances can be very long and the roads dangerous. A distance of 300 kilometers quickly takes 10 hours of travel time. On many routes you will drive on steep mountain roads full of hairpin turns where Colombians still manage to overtake. These rides will quickly cost you an entire day or night, although I would not recommend the latter for safety reasons.
From Bogotá, you can take the bus just fine to San Gil, which is about an 8-hour drive. If you are going further than 8 hours, better take the plane. The bus station in Bogotá is very organized and clear. Here you can find more information about bus transportation.
Note that there are two major bus stations for long-distance buses. The most famous and largest is Terminal de Transporte in Salitre (from here all buses go throughout the country). The second bus station is called Terminal Satélite del Norte and is all the way north near Transmilenio station Terminal. Should you be staying in the north and traveling north, this station is ideal to go to.
Colombia is a country where you can perfectly travel by plane; there are many daily flights to all cities. I myself always fly with Latam, Wingo or Avianca. Avianca is the national airline and was once the best and most reliable. These days, Avianca is less fine. After huge budget cuts, many additional seats have been placed on planes that cannot be reclined and provide even less room for your legs. Right now, Latam is a better option to fly with.
Outside of vacations and weekends, you can get a flight for as little as €20 to €50. Especially outside the busiest periods (December and January, July and August and Semana Santa) and puentes, there is no need to book your flight if you are still at home. A few days or even a day in advance is then early enough. Click here for a list of Colombian vacations and public holidays to help you plan your trip during the busiest periods.
Paying for a domestic flight can be problematic if you don’t have a credit card or if it doesn’t work in Colombia. Here you can read how to pay for domestic flights then.
Backpacking through Colombia or booking an organized trip?
Colombia is a perfect country for backpacking. Women alone can also travel through Colombia just fine. However, always adhere to the safety recommendations. Want to travel alone, but prefer to have it all well organized? Then book an organized trip.
With Local Hero Travel you travel alone and can design your trip the way you want. They help you travel off the beaten path in Colombia to really get to know the country well.
Also Miramundo Travel is a good option for an organized trip through Colombia. Alone, with your partner or with friends, just the way you want it, and Miramundo takes care of everything.
Travel itineraries Colombia
Colombia is big, very big. If you only have 3 or 4 weeks, here are 16 itineraries from which you can choose one. These itineraries pass through the Colombia highlights. If you have longer time or, like me, love traveling off the beaten path, here are 2 ready-made itineraries to discover Colombia off the tourist trail.
Rent a car in Colombia
You can also perfectly well rent a car in Colombia and drive yourself. For example at Rentalcars. All the way from north to south by car I would not do, but for certain routes it is ideal. Here you can read all about driving in Colombia, including car rental tips and road trip inspiration.
6. Learn Spanish before coming to Colombia
Learning Spanish is not only super fun, it also makes traveling through Colombia much more interesting, easier AND safer. Being able to communicate with locals, make friends who don’t speak English and travel off the beaten path in Colombia where English is not spoken: it’s all possible if you speak a little Spanish.
And no, you really don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to do that. The basics and all the ins and outs about Spanish while traveling is enough.
Traveling around Colombia is a great experience: have fun!
Want to know more? Check out the 13 most frequently asked questions about traveling in Colombia that I get in my mailbox, you might find your answer there!
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