18 June 2016

9 Questions Answered About Backpacking in Colombia

Posted in Blog

Before embarking on a big trip, there are so many questions that whizz through our minds. Where should I go? What should I pack? Do I need to bring hairdryer? (The answer is no!) What about my laptop? It can be enough to put you off your trip altogether.

But fear not, fellow traveller. If you’re planning to go backpacking in Colombia and have a load of questions that need answering, you’re in the right place. Here are 9 questions answered about backpacking in Colombia:

Backpacking in Colombia

1. Is Colombia Safe?

I get asked this question all the time. Is Colombia safe? Even if you’re a conspicuous-looking backpacker? Even if you’re blonde? Even if you don’t speak the language? Look, I can really only go on my own personal experiences as a blonde Australian who looks about as Colombian as Kylie Minogue wearing a ruana, but after many trips to Colombia over the last 10 years, I’d have to say that I’ve never experienced anything unsavoury. That’s not to say that unsavoury things don’t happen in Colombia (they do), or that Colombia is a danger-free zone (it’s not), but I’ve managed to stay safe backpacking in Colombia because I’ve always been cautious, probably even overly cautious. If you do your best to take care of yourself while you’re in the country, you too are likely to have only positive memories to look back on.

2. What Should I Pack?

The first time I went backpacking in Colombia I had a massive 40-litre backpack. It was big, far too big to lug around the country. To be fair, I was planning on staying in Colombia long-term so I did pack my whole life into that bag. But, if you can avoid it, pack light. If you know you’re going to be visiting many places in a relatively short period of time, then you might be surprised to know that you really don’t need to pack much at all. If you plan on going hiking, you’ll need your walking shoes, pants, shirts and a hat. For the beach you’ll need the bare minimum: your swimsuit, singlets, shorts and flip-flops. Heading to the capital city, Bogota? Well, you’ll need a jacket, jeans and some shirts. Of course, then there’s the toiletries, camera, camping and first aid equipment to think about, too. But, trust me, keep your luggage to a minimum wherever possible.

Backpacking in Colombia

3. What’s The Weather Like?

The weather in Colombia varies from city to city and from town to town. The altitude of each location can have a massive impact on the climate, as can its proximity to the equator, which runs through the country. If you’re planning a trip around the country, then it’s best to be prepared for all seasons.

4. Are There Places I Can Store My Backpack?

Absolutely! Most hotels and hostels have a luggage room where you can safely leave your bag while you’re away.

5. Is It Safe to Backpack Solo as a Female in Colombia?

Again, I can only go by my own experiences but I’d have to say, yes! Take precautions at all times, be aware of the people you surround yourself with and the locations you visit, but ultimately I had no problems at all backpacking in Colombia as a solo female traveller. Again, that’s probably because I’m overly cautious in unfamiliar surrounds.

Backpacking in Colombia

6. Do I Need to Speak Spanish to Go Backpacking in Colombia?

To be honest, knowing a little bit of Spanish is definitely going to help, if only to understand what the taxi driver is on about as he drives you to the airport, or how to ask for something to eat at a local restaurant, or to make friends with the people you meet at a local bar. The more Spanish you understand, the easier it will be. But immersion is also a great way to learn, so you’re bound to pick up the language as you go.

7. Can I Go Camping in Colombia?

You most definitely can go camping in Colombia, it’s quite a popular way to spend long weekends and holidays. Learn about the places you’re thinking about camping before you go and make a trip with a group of people, if you can. I loved camping at the popular rock climbing town of Suesca. You can climb the rock faces all day and then sit and watch the stars outside your tent all night.

8. Is It Safe to Take Night Buses in Colombia?

I’d have to say that taking buses during the day in Colombia is a must, because you really get the chance to see the beauty of the changing landscape. But if you want to make the most of your limited time and do your travelling at night then night buses are the way to go. I think it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, don’t go wandering off the bus and into the towns and suburbs you find yourself in, be aware of where your luggage is and don’t go flashing your laptop and smartphone around during stop-offs either, wait until you get to wherever it is that you’re heading to do that.

Backpacking in Colombia

9. Where Should I Go?

Oh, well that is a great question! It really depends on what you want to see and do. Do you want to spend a good portion of time on a beach? Then Tayrona, Santa Marta, Cartagena or el Choco might be for you. Are you a culture and museum buff? Then Bogota will be right up your alley. What about nature and culture combined with good weather? Well, it sounds like you’d be a fan of Medellin. And for the coffee lovers, there’s the Eje Cafetero, the Coffee Triangle, where you can sip on a cup of Colombia coffee. Whatever the case may be, backpacking in Colombia has been one of my fondest travel memories and I hope you enjoy the country this way, too.

Do you have any other questions about backpacking in Colombia? Let me know in the comments section below.

Sarah Duncan

About the author:

Sarah Duncan is an award-winning Australian blogger, author and journalist who has been travelling the world and writing about it for the last 10 years. Her work about Colombia has been featured in a variety of publications including New York Magazine, the Herald Sun, News.com.au, the Daily Telegraph, Matador Network, Style Magazine, television, radio, the novel “Was Gabo and Irishman?” and on her own blog, Sarepa.com.