Colombia has shed its bad boy image and emerged as South America’s newest hot spot. Get ready for colourful cities, Caribbean beaches and salsa-infused fiestas– all day, every day.
This colourful South American nation is a tantalising mix of old and new. Romantic streets oozing with Spanish colonial charm are interwoven with a thriving cultural scene, some of the best extreme sports in the continent and a spicy-hot nightlife that extends to the early hours of the morning. Whether you want to feel the Caribbean sand between your toes on the beaches of Tayrona National Natural Park, rappel through Colombia’s tallest waterfalls in San Gil, or grab a partner and dance to the constant pulse of Afro-influenced rhythms – Colombia has got it all.
Colombia travel highlights
Calling all adrenaline junkies! Experience the ultimate rush rafting, trekking, caving, rappelling and paragliding at this adventure-seekers paradise.
With colonial buildings, balconies overflowing with greenery and a Caribbean breeze in the air, you’ll quickly see why Cartagena is Colombia’s most romantic city.
Perfect your salsa skills or just watch the locals put on a sultry show in the salsa capital of Colombia
Often overshadowed by Machu Picchu, South America’s other lost city offers a spectacular adventure. Like its Peruvian counterpart, the journey is just as memorable as the destination.
Forget everything you’ve heard about Medellin. Nowadays, the City of the Eternal Spring is more notorious for its flowers, friendly locals and thriving cultural scene.
After visiting artisan markets and bohemian cafes, make sure to visit the iconic church on Monserrate for the best view of this buzzing capital city.
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Colombia travel FAQs
Australia: No – not required
Belgium: No – not required
Canada: No – not required
Germany: No – not required
Ireland: No – not required
Netherlands: No – not required
New Zealand: No – not required
South Africa: No – not required
Switzerland: No – not required
United Kingdom: No – not required
USA: No – not required
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months past the date of departure from Colombia. Most travellers do not need visas when visiting Colombia for stays of up to 60 days.
Unfortunately many Colombians receive low wages and leaving a 10% tip at mid-range and Western-style restaurants is customary and appreciated. Some restaurants automatically add a gratuity to the bill, in which case, there is no need to add any more. Tipping is not expected at more casual restaurants and cafes.
Internet is easy to access at internet cafes and hotels in Colombia’s larger cities, although may be harder to find in more remote areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Colombia's large cities and urban areas. Coverage may not be available in more remote areas, especially mountainous regions. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home.
Western-style flushable toilets are the standard in Colombia. It’s a good idea to carry some toilet paper with you as it’s not always provided. As a rule, never flush toilet paper. The toilets in Colombia can’t handle the paper so there’s usually a wastebasket provided to use instead.
Can of soft drink = USD 1
Bottle of local beer = USD 2
Simple meal at a local restaurant = USD 2 – USD 4
Sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant = USD 10 – USD 15
Tap water in larger cities is safe to drink, but should be avoided in more rural areas. Avoid drinks with ice and peel fruit and vegetables before eating them in these areas as well. Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Water can be boiled or disinfected with iodine pills.
Credit cards are usually accepted by hotels, large retailers and tourist sites but are less commonly accepted by smaller vendors in rural areas. Always carry enough cash for smaller purchases in case credit cards are not an option.
ATMs are widely available in larger cities like Bogota and Medellin but are less common in small villages or rural areas. Make sure you have enough cash before leaving urban areas.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Geckos are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1: New Year’s Day
Jan 6: Epiphany
Mar 25: St. Joseph’s Day
Apr 13: Maundy Thursday
Apr 14: Good Friday
May 1: Labour Day
May 25: Ascension Day
June 15: Corpus Christi
June: 25 Sacred Heart Day
July 3: Feast of St Peter and St Paul
July 20: Independence Day
Aug 7: Battle of Boyacá
Aug 15: Assumption Day
Oct 12: Dia de la Raza
Nov 6: All Saints’ Day
Nov 11: Independence of Cartagena City
Dec 8: Immaculate Conception Day
Dec 25: Christmas Day
Please note many of these public holidays are religious holidays and change each year as they are celebrated on a lunar cycle. For a current list of public holidays in Colombia go to: https://www.worldtravelguide.net/guides/south-america/colombia/public-holidays/
No vaccines are required in order to enter Colombia but some are recommended for protection against disease. Visit your doctor or travel clinic for advice and make sure to schedule vaccinations 4-6 weeks before your departure date, as some require time to become effective.
- Hepatitis A (transmitted through contaminated water)
- Typhoid (transmitted through contaminated water)
- Yellow Fever (transmitted by mosquitoes): Some countries and national parks require a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry after visiting Colombia. Do your research before leaving home to see if you require this vaccine.
Visitors flying directly to Bogota may develop symptoms of altitude sickness and benefit from medication. Dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever are all mosquito-transmitted diseases found in certain rural and forested parts of Colombia. You can protect yourself by wearing light coloured clothing when travelling in these parts and by using a good bug repellent.
Colombia has come a long way in the last 20 years. Previously marred by civil and military conflict, drugs and violence, it is now safer than many of its neighbouring countries. Some remnants of the past do remain though. Visitors should be mindful of the following when visiting Colombia:
- Guerrilla activity still occurs in more remote pockets of Colombia so stick to bigger cities and populated areas.
- Try to avoid dodgy parts of town and travelling after dark.
- Street crime is still a problem, particularly in larger cities. Visitors should be wary of thieves trying to snatch their bags or cell phones and pickpocketing. It’s a good idea to only keep a small amount of money on you when walking around the streets.
- Be careful of criminals pretending to be police officers in plain clothes. They may stop you, ask to inspect your passport and money and then claim your money is counterfeit and confiscate it. Call out to a uniformed police officer or insist on phoning a police station if this happens to you.
Same-sex relationships were declared legal by the Colombian government in 1981 and same-sex marriage has been legal in Colombia since 2013. While homosexuality is accepted in Colombia, perhaps more so than in other parts of South America, it remains an underground culture. Many of the country’s major cities have a thriving gay scene and popular apps such as Grindr are used.