Colombia Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Colombia is a really up and coming destination, many of those who have never been associate this country with drugs, violence, guerrilla fighters, and paramilitaries. Fortunately, it only takes a few glances upon the warm, smiling faces to understand how different this destination today. Get advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Colombia.
Colombia Travel Ideas, Backpacking Trips & Gap Year Programs
Travel to Colombia
Our Colombia destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this amazing country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for places to stay and how visit Colombia on a budget.
Get inspired to visit Colombia today!
- Country Area: 1,138,900 km2
- International Dailing Code +57
- Language: Spanish + local languages
- Population: 45,400,000
- Capital: Bogotá
- Visa & Eligiblity: You can enter Colombia on a tourist visa, this is provided on arrived and you can stay for up to 90 days.
- Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
- Language: Spanish is spoken in Colombia and sometimes it can be rare to encounter many local people who speak English fluently. Before departing download a language app, buy a phrase book or try to learn some words and phrases before departing
Top Reasons to Visit Colombia
- Safer than you think
- Great value for money on accommodation, sightseeing and activities
- Tourism is growing every year, get here before the crowds arrive
- So many different experiences available
- Beautiful beaches
- Ancient temples and ruins
Weather & Best Time to Visit
You can visit Colombia all year round and there is no one best time to visit. The Caribbean coast is generally warm with lots of sun whilst the highlands are generally cool most months. The Amazon jungle is always hot and humid
How to Get to Colombia
From the UK flights can take around 14 hours to Bogotá although you will need to get a connection due to there not being any direct flights. There are direct flights from mainland Europe and other destinations like Miami in the USA
Visa & Entry Requirements
- Is a visa required?: Yes
- Allocation of Tourist Visa: At destination airport
- Duration of Tourist visa: Two Months
- Cost of Tourist Visa: No Cost
- Tourist Visa Extension: Yes, extended for up to two months at a time for up to six months in-country
- Cost of Tourist Visa Extension: 40USD for two months
- Passport validation: 6 months required before expiry
- Return/onward flight ticket: May be required
- Confirmation of Funds: Not required
Best Places to Visit in Colombia
There are so many places you should see in Colombia, here are some things you should add to your itinerary:
A vibrant and bustling capital city, the urban center of Colombia, home to over 8 million people.
“The City of Eternal Spring” that has a consistent spring-like climate year-round. It is Colombia’s second largest city and capital of the state of Antioquia, home to over 2 million people. Situated in a picturesque valley hugged on all sides by beautiful green mountains, it has a booming nightlife and cultural scenes.
With a railroad, the boom of the coffee industry, and profits made by mining investors, Medellin grew into a major metropolis over the twentieth century. Medellin has had a colourful history and despite a past disrupted by violence, today it is one of the safest cities in all of South America and somewhere you should put into any holiday itinerary.
Often described as South America’s most beautiful colonial city.
The villages are home to warm friendly people, and are where you can experience traditional Colombian lifestyles
Other unique places you might want to visit include Villa de Leyva, Taganga and Santa Marta, La Ciudad Perdida, the Coffee Zone, the Amazon, Barichara, Cali, Caribbean coast and islands, Pamplona, Popayan, San Gil, Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park.
Festivals & Events
Here are some of the best festivals taking place throughout the year you might want to check out:
- Carnival, throughout the country - Februrary - March
- Easter, throughout the country - March - April
- Flower Fair, Medellín - August
- Hay Festival, Cartagena, January
- International Jazz Festival, Bogotá - September
Travelling & Backpacking in Colombia
In 1500, the first Europeans set foot on what is present day Colombia. Settlements grew, and in the later half of the sixteenth century, the inhabitants began to diversify; Indigenous communities and Spanish settlers were joined by African slaves in Cartagena.
Today, telltale landmarks in Cartagena give testimony to this diverse cultural landscape. Colombia declared independence in 1819. Instability, lost territory, and civil wars riddled Colombia for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You will learn so much when visiting.
Colombia is a beautiful country and we have small group holidays from the worlds leading international travel operators where you will get a local authentic experience. You will get to meet local people and also do something meaningful far better than just sunbathing. There are lots of different packages available and where you go and for how long really comes down to personal choice. We recommend choosing an itinerary which includes visiting cosmopolitan cities like Bogotá and Cartagena which are both facsinating cities with lots of sights and activities.
Colombia has some of the best beaches on the continent, as well as pretty colonial towns, there are also lush National Parks including Tayrona where you can go trekking to see ancient ruins from lost civilisations at Ciudad Perdida (Lost City). This country is also the home of salsa dancing and lessons can be booked in locations throughout the country.
All these places can be explored when backpacikng or travelling in Colombia . The tourism industry is growing every year and its recommend you get here before the crowds arrive. Don't miss out, book your travel to Colombia with One World 365 today. The only risk is wanting to stay!
Colombia Travel Tips
Colombia is not the cheapest country in South America but it is also not the most expensive. We recommend budgeting for around £15 ($25) per day. This is a general guide though and really depends on where you go and what you do. Cartagena and Bogata are the most expensive cities in the country party due to being the most touristy.
You can find cheap hotels, hostels throughout the country. A dorm bed is your cheapest option with beds costing around £6 ($10) per night
Transport & Getting Around:
If you want to travel independently the cheapest way to get around the country is on public bus, but remember this is a huge country (around double the size of France) so you might want to consider flying on one of the budget airlines which operate in the country like Viva Colombia.
Be sure to inform your bank before departing and give the dates of travel and destinations to prevent security blocks on your bank and credit cards. Always take enough cash to cover your expenses for the first week in case there is a problem with your bank cards or access to ATM’s is limited. Travellers cheques can be cashed in major centres but it is a good idea to have at least two different credit/debit card options i.e. MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, or Cirrus. If at any time you have any problems in accessing money you can use Western Union transfer. Money can be sent from your home country and received in Colombia the same day.
Health & Safety:
There are no required vaccinations for entering Colombia, you might want to consider taking maleria tablets if you are going to be in rural areas. Recommended depending on location in Colombia. Before leaving you should visit your local gp or travel clinic for information on other recommended medications you may need while travelling. Present day Colombia is considerably safer than it was during its shaky past. Its cities are exceptionally vibrant, and Colombians are happy to be welcoming more foreigners than ever before. Many people don't know Colombia is the oldest democracy in Latin America and following nearly forty years of insecurity, this nation has emerged in the last decade and is now one of the safest countries in Latin America.
Gap Year in Colombia
Colombia is one of the hottest gap year destinations in the world right now. Expect a a rapidly developing economy, modern cosmopolitan cities, gorgeous Caribbean beaches, the luscious Amazon rainforest, charming colonial villages, buzzing night-life and much more. We have an exciting range of gap year programs available to book all year round. Researching ideas for your gap year? Our directory will help you book an experience.