colombia cheat sheet

Want to know some of the basics before you travel in Colombia? We've got you covered!


46.4 million


main cities

Bogotá (capital), Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla

bordering countries

Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil

top tourist destinations

Cartagena, Bogotá, Medellin, Tayrona National Park, Salento.


languages spoken

Spanish is the official language whilst there are some indigenous languages still in use in the north of the country.


currency and 2015 exchange rates

Official currency is the Colombian Peso (COP) although some tour companies will still quote prices in US dollars.

$1 = 2,986 COP |  £1 = 4,630 |  €1 = 3,341


our route

It's a big old country to get around, but we saw a lot of Colombia. Along the Caribbean coast, you'll find the pick of the country's beaches (Playa Blanca, Tayrona), nature and birdwatching in the hills of Minca, the literary city of Cartagena and the rugged desert of La Guajira in the distant north-east.

Moving south, the pick of Colombia's cities (for us anyway) was Medellin. Around it, the colourful town of Guatapé is well-worth a night or two whilst Jardin was where we stepped back in time to old Colombia. From here, your next step will be to the coffee country in Armenia and Salento.

Bogotá? We weren't huge fans of it. In the south, archaeology buffs will love San Agustin whilst Popoyan is a pretty city which holds the world's second-largest Semana Santa parades at Easter. 

must-try food and drink

Emily developed a near obsession with the arepa during our time in Colombia, which is pretty lucky considering that this cornmeal flat bread is served with almost every meal you order. But for a little change, try an 'arepa con queso' from one of the many street stalls. You may feel somewhat closer to a heart attack afterwards but it's certainly unique to the country!

Other favourite specialities include sancocho, a type of soup/stew that can be made with fish, chicken and meat which can be found in every little hole in the wall comedor.

A 'bandeja paisa' never made it into Andrew's mouth, but this meat feast accompanied by eggs and avocado is a Medellin speciality!


good for vegetarians?

Although most small restaurants don't have a specifically vegetarian option, most places were happy to compromise and provide a vegetarian meal. And as mentioned above, the arepa is everywhere and 100% meat free!


can I see it in a month?

Of course, you can see a lot of Colombia in a month. However, given its size and the number of popular tourist spots you could easily spend much longer. We spent three months in the country and still need to go back to see the rest!


can I drink the tap water?

Unless you're far off the beaten track, tap water is generally safe to drink across the country. However, if you've just arrived in Colombia, your stomach may require some time to adjust.


is malaria present?

Yes, in all areas except Medellin and Cartagena. Please visit a travel clinic prior to your trip to secure the appropriate anti-malarials.


vaccinations needed?

In addition to the immunisations you would have received as a child, it is also recommended to have Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever vacinations. Although rabies isn't considered essential, if you are going to be travelling for a while or undertaking risky activities consider getting immunised as it is present in the country (speak with a travel nurse for more information).

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