1 year into a job, which was fine but unfulfilling, recently single, and one month away from the big 3-0, I had a mini-meltdown. I quit my job, bought a backpack (one of those flashy ones that you don’t actually have to carry on your back, but you can – so it still counts) and decided I was going to Colombia. For a month.
Armed with a pep talk from my Colombian buddy Paulo, his mum’s number – just in case, and the least embarrassing money belt I could find (I will never admit it was a bumbag), I booked a return flight to Bogota and left my grown-up self in London.
I followed the below itinerary for my month-long adventure and travelled by plane (mostly), shared trucks (often), and boat (now there’s a story) because time was more precious than money for this trip.
I stayed mainly in hostels, graduating (or regressing?) from private rooms to dorms when I shed the fear that I would be woken up by weird people at the side of my bed. I treated myself under the guise of self-Christmas and birthday presents to the occasional accommodation treat, and I ate A LOT.
- Las Amazonas
- Santa Marta
- Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
- San Andrés
One month for this Colombian itinerary felt absolutely perfect. I had time to spend at least 2 nights in every place – more if I wanted to. I relaxed, explored, slept in, read, shopped, celebrated Christmas, volunteered, hiked, partied, swam, drank Piña Coladas and soaked up the sun.
Colombia is an absolutely amazing country coming out the other side of a difficult past. It has a surprisingly great tourist infrastructure and seems to attract a slightly older traveller (think mid-20s upwards).
- Don’t hail taxis, use the Tappsi app to book.
- Take a travel belt or something similar so that you can conceal your money and phone
- Buy a travel SIM if you want to use data – it is expensive!
- English is not very widely spoken – learn some Spanish and/or pack a phrase book.
- Pack for a range of temperatures – Bogota is moderate, Las Amazonas is hot and humid, the Caribbean coast is just hot!
- Machismo culture – it is quite common (especially as a solo female) to have men whistle and shout remarks at you as you walk by – a San Andres islander said to me one day “In Colombia, if you go out and not a single man compliments you or comments on your appearance all day – you’re having a really bad day”. Though intimidating, you sort of get used to it.
- It’s pretty cheap – street food is plentiful and gooood, and trips, transport etc. are all pretty cheap by European standards.
Go. You won’t regret it.