What should I know before visiting Colombia

What you need to know before traveling to Colombia

By Robin Hartmann | June 04, 2018, 1:06 p.m.

TRAVELBOOK reveals what vacationers need to know before traveling to Colombia: about entry, security, weather, vaccinations, transport, money and backpacking.

If you ask vacationers and representatives of the travel industry which destination is booming in the next few years, one country is mentioned again and again: Colombia. No wonder, there are Caribbean dream beaches as well as deep green jungle and mountains, metropolises of millions as well as dreamy villages. And then there is the legendary joie de vivre of Colombians! Yes, Colombia is worth a trip. But what about the downsides and the thousands of deaths in the course of drug and guerrilla wars? Is Colombia Safe At All? TRAVELBOOK answers the most important questions about the South American country.

How is the security situation in the country?

Anyone who studies the travel advice of the Federal Foreign Office (AA) on Colombia will be anything but encouraged for the time being: There are warnings against crime in the big cities as well as in the countryside, against attacks by rebel groups that are still not pacified and even against land mines, which are still buried in many places during the decades of civil war. In addition, the attack in Bogotá now unfortunately shows that conflicts can flare up again at any time and without warning. Travel security expert and book author Sven Leidel (“Handbuch Reisesicherheit”) issued an urgent warning when asked about TRAVELBOOK: “I would currently rate the overall rating of all threats in Colombia as high. In my opinion, crime, kidnapping, drug trafficking, extortion and rebel activity are the greatest security concerns in Colombia. ”Very important:“ Travelers should avoid the Venezuelan border as much as possible for security reasons, ”advises Leidel. Across the country, street crime is the security problem most likely to affect vacationers in Colombia. “Although violent crime is also a major security issue that has affected visitors in the past,” says Leidel.

The fact is: you should definitely take care of yourself in Colombia. If you travel to Colombia with common sense, respect and caution, you can have a great time there. There is also good news: the rebel group FARC, which for decades was notorious for acts of violence and kidnapping of tourists, has now signed a peace agreement and is completely disarmed. The Colombians have also noticed that tourism is a great source of income, which is why many locals want visitors to feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

What's the best way to travel within Colombia?

An infrastructure like the one in Germany cannot be expected in Colombia, which is three times its size. For example, there are no supraregional railways, but mainly long-distance buses that connect places in Colombia with each other. Due to the sometimes huge distances and very long travel times, this can be a test of nerves, especially since nobody seems to be responsible for the condition of the roads, especially in more remote regions. An alternative for tourists is the airline VivaColombia, Colombia's low-cost airline with, by German standards, sometimes incredibly low prices. The machines are in perfect condition, only the booking can be annoying because of the often poorly functioning website. VivaColombia flies to many domestic destinations and even to Panama and the United States.

Once you have arrived at a place, the local buses or, in metropolises like Bogotá and Medellín, the train are a good and safe means of transport; cities like Medellín and Manizales also have gondolas that take locals and visitors to their destination. In more rural regions, travelers can also enjoy the use of Motochivas ("Motor goats") - colorful tuk tuks that take everyone for very little money even where the tour buses full of tourists don't go. Courageous tourists often just take a seat in the back seat of a motorcycle. But be careful: you should definitely insist on a helmet!

How is the weather in Colombia?

In Colombia there are generally higher temperatures with higher humidity - all year round. The rainy season in Colombia is from April to mid-June and October and November. Then it can come to heavy rain and in this course even to landslides and floods. In addition, according to the AA, the hurricane season on the Caribbean coast in the north of the country is from June to December.

It should be noted that the country has different climates. In Bogotá (located at around 2600 meters above sea level) it is on average significantly colder than, for example, in Medellín, which is located in a valley at almost 1500 meters and is also called the "City of Eternal Spring". The western part of the country near the Andes that run through Colombia is also hit by earthquakes from time to time. Sun worshipers get their money's worth in Colombia, because according to the "Country Data" page, there are an average of at least five hours of sunshine per day over the year, the water temperature is 28 degrees.

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Do I have to get vaccinated before I travel?

According to the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, there are no vaccination regulations for Colombia - however, the side recommends vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, and also against flu and hepatitis A. In general, yellow fever protection is recommended, but this is in large parts of the Landes not required, not even at altitudes above 2300 meters. Vaccinations against typhoid, hepatitis B, meningitis, rabies and herpes zoster should also be considered, as well as malaria protection in cities and regions below 1,600 meters above sea level. To be effective, any action should be taken no later than four weeks prior to travel. "Remedies for insect bites, fever and pain, diarrhea, disinfectants, plasters and bandages as well as sunscreen" should be in the first-aid kit.

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How much money do I have to plan for the trip?

The good thing about a trip to Colombia is that you get great adventures for comparatively little money. You can sleep in a hostel for around 10 euros per night, a typical dish like the filling and tasty stew Sancocho is available for around two euros even in areas that are heavily frequented by tourists, such as Cartagena. Traveling with the airline VivaColombia already mentioned starts from around 20 euros one way, depending on the booking period and demand, a bus ticket for a trip from one city to the other at around 4 euros - the scale goes up depending on the demands on the Comfort, of course, open.

The website “Precios Mundi” lists various average prices; From those in the supermarket to buying clothes to the cost of going to a restaurant - these are broadly in line with actual prices in Colombia. Of course, the costs can vary a lot depending on the region and city. It is worth comparing offers for leisure activities and / or attractions, you can save a lot of money here! Pleasant: Small, local agencies are often significantly cheaper than their larger international competitors, and if in doubt, it is also better to support the former. If you want to change money, don't do it at the airport or bus stations! The exchange rates here are usually much worse than in the city centers.

Also interesting: Where “Narcos” was filmed: What can Cali do in Colombia?

What kind of documents do I need?

A passport is sufficient for German tourists and a trip of up to 90 days. Upon entry, you will receive a stamp with the approved duration of your stay. A visa is not necessary for German citizens. It is important to have your entry or exit confirmed at the border to other South American countries, because in Colombia, too, the mills of bureaucracy grind slowly and relentlessly. According to the Foreign Office, a missing stamp in the passport can lead to problems when leaving the country. Important for backpackers: Anyone entering via Brazil must currently be able to prove that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever. Travelers who want to stay longer in the country after the 90 days have expired must register this in advance and for a fee with the immigration authority Migración Colombia.

Also interesting: which travel documents do I need for which country?

Is it easy to backpack in Colombia?

Especially for backpackers, the country is a dream because of its countless hostels and the low prices. In addition, most public transport and coaches are safe and the latter are equipped with a level of comfort that German providers can only dream of. If you are traveling with the necessary caution, caution and consideration, you can easily travel in Colombia as a woman and alone. The locals are usually very friendly and helpful, especially if you have learned at least a few chunks of Spanish before the trip - this is almost indispensable, especially in rural regions, because people don't speak English, let alone other languages .

Regarding the search for a hostel: In busy places you can usually find places spontaneously, so that you don't necessarily have to book through large portals.

It is best to book excursions to popular destinations locally, because on the one hand you are helping the local people directly, and on the other hand, they of course also know their way around better, which in turn gives you a more authentic experience.

Also interesting: These are the 12 best travel destinations for single women

What things should I avoid as a tourist in Colombia?

Here, too, the rules of common sense dictate a few things that apply equally everywhere in the world: Do not go with strangers and, especially in big cities, avoid lonely areas where you can be recognized as a tourist at first glance. Caution is sometimes also required with taxis, for example when driving to / from the airport you should only use registered companies. As a tourist or in general, you should also avoid wearing a football jersey from any club other than the Colombian national team, as this could always and unexpectedly lead to animosity. Likewise, one should not talk disrespectfully about the (Catholic) Church or let there be a lack of respectful behavior in institutions of the Church. Many Colombians are devout believers and would take that as an insult. When asked to play a game of tejo - a game of skill that involves hitting small bags of black powder - do not drink too much, as this explosive game is always followed by accidents with people under the influence of alcohol.

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