I’m planning a trip back to Colombia in July, which has got me thinking about all the important checklists I’ve got to get on top of before heading away. I’ve been so caught up with just the idea of being back in Colombia that I’ve had to take a step back and think about all the important things that have to be done before jumping on that flight. If you’re in a similar situation as I am and planning a trip to Colombia, either for the first time or a second (or third!) then take a look at how I’m going about the planning stage. I hope it helps!
1. Know what you want to get out of your trip
It makes sense to do a bit of research before you travel Colombia so you can decide exactly where it is you want to go and what you want to get out of your travels. If you’re interested in nature hikes and adventure activities, then the urban sprawl of Bogota might not float your boat, but if you’re into the arts and culture, then you might just find yourself falling in love with the big smoke. If it’s a mix you’re after, then take a look at the map and decide how much of the country you can see in the time you’ve allocated yourself. I’ve given myself 10 days to do some sightseeing around Colombia, which should leave me enough time to laze in a hammock on the Caribbean, discover the art of coffee making, get lost in the capital of Bogota, step back in time walking down cobbled streets in small towns and get in touch with Magical Realism in Cartagena. But, hey, that’s just me.
2. Learn about the country
A country becomes all the more fascinating when you read up about the place, learn about its history and see it through a different lens. Rather than just going by what you already know about Colombia through television and films, do some reading and allow the country’s storytellers invite you to see the country anew. You might want to read Colombia a Comedy of Errors by Victoria Kellaway and Sergio J Lievano, Maria by Jorge Isaacs, pretty much anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or The Train of Ice and Fire by Ramon Chao. Colombia Reports also has a whole host of interesting articles about Colombia’s innovation and culture that are most definitely worth a read.
3. Learn a bit of Spanish before you leave
Travelling through Colombia without even a bit of Spanish isn’t impossible, but it does make things a bit difficult. When the taxi driver starts up a conversation about the weather or his family or asks about how you’re liking the country, you’ll be none the wiser and only managing a smile in return. He’ll probably forgive you and use his best English on you, which is lovely, truly, but speaking the local language, or at least knowing some key words and phrases, will get you farther and feeling more comfortable in your surrounds. Where do you go for Spanish information or, more importantly, Colombia-specific Spanish information? Well, one of my favourite learned linguistics is Katie from Vocabat.com. From Colombian slang to specific greetings and pleasantries, Vocabat is the place to go for interesting, culturally significant and insightful information about the Spanish language and how it is used in Colombia.
4. Figure out how you’ll access money while you’re away
This is a big one. How are you going to access your money while you’re in Colombia? I’d be checking with the bank to see if your card can be accessed overseas, from which ATMs and how much the fee will be per transaction. It might be worth taking some traveller’s cheques and then cashing them while you’re there, too. But what I’d do is make sure you have cash available to you from different sources. So, perhaps some American dollars, some traveller’s cheques and then a bank card which has a reasonable transaction fee. Check with your bank and see which option is right for you.
How are you planning your trip to Colombia? Be sure to contact me about our trip to Colombia this year.