Colombia: Three cities, three climates
Rob Haworth, ABTA’s customer support manager, visited Colombia and shares his top five tips for visiting the South American country, including learning some Spanish, being prepared for the three climates and trying ceviche.
For advice on booking a holiday to Colombia, get in touch with an ABTA Member who can plan your travel arrangements and tour experiences.
Top tip 1
Brush up on your Spanish as English isn’t widely spoken within the country. Arriving in Bogota I was a little surprised to find out how little English anyone speaks. From airport staff to the taxi driver to the hotel receptionist who showed us around our lodgings, communication was tough, even with expert charades skills, so brush up on your Spanish.
The climate in Bogota is eternally spring like. It is situated 2640m’s above sea level, making it one of the highest capital cities in the world. The days could start off drizzly but turn sunny very quickly and then back to drizzle again come the evening. So a waterproof in your day pack wouldn’t be a bad idea, along with a jumper and sunglasses as well. The Candelaria district, which is the old town area is absolutely stunning. Find a boutique guest house to stay in rather than a hotel chain. They are beautifully decorated and uniquely furnished.
When you're in Bogota, take a trip up the top of Monseratte Hill and if you’re energetic enough you can walk it, otherwise, the cable car or funicular railway are also viable options. But be warned that the city is high already and the top of the hill even higher, so the air is much thinner.
Top tip 2
Visit Medellin (pronounced locally as Medejin), the home of the infamous Pablo Escobar but also the artist Botero, whose work is unique - sculptures are displayed around the city streets. The main airport is a good 40 to 50 mins away from the main tourist area of El Poblado, which is noted to be a safer area to stay in.
The people of Medellin are especially proud of their Metro system and rightly so too as it’s clean, prompt and relatively simple to use. Just buy your card from the desk (you will need your brushed up Spanish) and tap in and out like an Oyster card.
Take a ‘free’ walking tour (widely available), but make sure you do book on in advance. Also, look into official options for a visit to ‘Comuna 13’ as you will want/need a guide for this must see area of Medellin.
Top tip 3
Cartagena on the coast is a beautiful town with a Caribbean vibe to it, where the seafood is fresh and great value, make sure you try and hunt down some ceviche. You can stay within the old town, Getsemani, which is a lively and colourful place, but the streets are narrow and busy with traffic, so if you stay outside, you can easily walk there and there are some magnificent views of the old fort to be had too. Choose a hotel with a rooftop pool to cool down in after a day wandering the streets.
Top tip 4
Be prepared for the humidity. With 80% humidity in Cartagena and air conditioning only available in the fancier restaurants, pack a change of t-shirt or two in your day pack!
Top tip 5
Go and watch the Sunset from the Café Del Mar area of the city walls – and have your selfie sticks to hand!
Safety is always paramount when on holiday. You will hear guides talking about ‘Papaya levels’ which simply refers to, how much of a threat pickpockets/bag snatchers are in that area. Colombian people are warm and friendly, but as with any country be vigilant with your belongings and don’t go flashing that brand new HD 5G Digital SLR camera around!