Colombia for the first timers
The land of incredible coffee and kind, heart warming people. This is how I remember Colombia. So many things to see, to do in is country, it is almost too overwhelming for the first visitor (as I was). The introductory to Colombia was such a pleasant experience, and I can not wait to go back. Here are few things that I would highlight for the newbies.
How much time to spend?
I only had 10 days to explore but it felt surprisingly longer. If you plan accordingly and are willing to follow the tight schedule, you can see a lot in a very short time. I knew I wanted to see some cities as well as nature. My trip included 3 cities: Medellin, Cartagena and Cali. Few islands: Baru, Boca Grange and Rosario Islands. As well as countless small towns and coffee farms in the coffee Axle zone.
If you want to combine the best of Colombia (architecture, nature, Caribbean beaches), I would definitely include these places to your itinerary.
Is Colombia expensive?
Yes and no. The good thing is that you can do it both ways. There are very affordable accommodations (hostels / motels) under $25-30 and upscale hotels around $70 and up. Variety of food choices too: from street food (few dollars) to a fancier meals for $20 per plate. I tried to do a combination of both. For example, staying at nicer hotel (read safer area) you get a free breakfast and most likely the airport shuttle.
Taxis are also pretty affordable. Keep in mind, when using Uber you’ll have to pay cash to the driver. Also, I’ve noticed lots of taxi drivers with very questionable driving skills… Be carefully choosing your ride.
Most of the national parks have moderate entrances fees (5-10 USD) or free.
Public transportation is very cheap and easy to use in larger cities. Cartagena’s metro was my favorite way to get around. I was pleased to find out that cable cars are part of the metro system too.
What foods to try?
I have to say this, Colombian food is delicious! Flavorful and very home-style which I love! Depends on the area you will traveling to, different foods not to miss. Caribbean side (of course!) offers the great variety of fresh seafood and countless number of fish dishes. I couldn’t get enough of their grilled fish with gimmuchurro sous! A must try.
Inland food is more typical Colombian with yummy patacones (smashed baked platanos) or incredibly addicting cheesy arrepas (fresh baked bread with goat cheese and butter). Arrepas seriously won my heart! I kept coming back to those food stands for more and more!
And of course the coffee! My morning routine now will never be the same! This coffee taste and aroma is absolutely incredible! If coffee drives your engine, you would love Colombian coffee! Needless to say I brought as many bags as I could fit into my carry on luggage. I even threw away my toiletries and clothes to pack more coffee. Addict alert! :))
What to bring home from Colombia?
My list will start from the coffee as I already mentioned above.
Another thing not to miss is Colombian gold. Of course, based on your budget you can bring the the entire gold shop home or a nice pair of earrings. What is so different about Colombian gold? First of all, the design. I adore the indigenous elements twisted into every piece of jewelry and crafts. This gold also has a unique shade due to the blend of the minerals in this region.
Colombia has a lot of art and crafts sold either on the streets or in the shops. Both beautiful and plenty to choose from.
Another gift worth to mention is the traditional Colombian woowen bags. It is unisex and all genders and ages wore it proudly. Depends on the country region colors and pattern vary. I love my bag and carry it with me back home in Southern California. Probably the best and most practical souvenir.
My trip to Colombia amazed and inspired me to explore the South America more and more. Shortly upon return, I had a new trip planned and booked!