Colombia: The Best and Worst

Trying something new here, let me know if you like it….

Total Days in Colombia-59

Total Days it Didn’t Rain: 8

Amount Spent: $2254

Average Cost per Day: $38 (when you factor in the free accommodation we got for house sitting for 3 weeks, I think $50 a day is probably a more realistic number).

Places Visited: Bogota (39 nights), Villa de Leyva (2), Santa Marta (3), Tayrona National Park (2), Cartagena (3), Medellin (4), Salento (2), Popayan (2), Ipiales (1)

Biggest Misconception: There are a lot of things people assume about Colombia that simply aren’t true. It isn’t super dangerous , cocaine isn’t everywhere (didn’t see it once) and it’s not hot and steamy all the time- I was actually pretty chilly quite often!

Colombia was also more expensive than expected. Although cheaper than the US, I would not call it a budget travel destination: food, entertainment and transportation in particular were pricey.

Favorite Food: Look, nobody comes to Colombia for the food. It’s just… not the highlight of the place. Nonetheless, in addition to the wide world of fruits, I fell a little in love with Colombian hot chocolate and cheese. Yes the cheese goes IN the hot chocolate.

Least Favorite Food: No question: Arepas. Dry crumbly flat-cakes made of cornmeal. Pretty much tasteless and dryer than the sahara. They are a staple served at nearly every meal but I just don’t get them at ALL.

Most Memorable Moment(s): Watching the stars in Tayrona, getting a “mud massage” at the mud volcano outside Cartagena, listening to live music at an impromptu concert outside the old town of Popayan.

Favorite Night Out: Halloween in Bogota was a crazy experience that rivals even the states. Thousands of people flooded the streets in elaborate costumes to drink and club the night away.

Soggiest Moment: It rained on me a LOT- as usual. Since we unfortunately chose to travel during the rainy season (and during an El Nino year), it rained at least a bit every day, usually in the afternoon or evening. The worst was when we were caught in a downpour in Medellin on our way to meet friends. I don’t know why we didn’t bring umbrellas, we were absolutely soaked through in only 5 minutes.

Most Annoying Thing: The bus rides. This is probably a pan-South America thing (I’m actually told they get much worse) but almost every single bus ride was a nauseating, hair raising experience that took at least 2 hours longer than we expected. The worst was trying to get from Villa de Leyva to Santa Marta. It involved 3 bus changes (including one at 3 am) and constant stops. The entire journey took over 24 hours!

Favorite Place: I really enjoyed Medellin, but my absolute favorite was the little city of Popayan. We were only there for two nights but I really loved this beautiful place, known as the White City. The food wasn’t bad either which was a big plus after weeks of chicken and rice.

Least Favorite: Villa de Leyva- there’s nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t find it worth going out of our way for. It was pretty but dull. Wished we’d went up to San Gil instead.

Biggest Regret: Not leaving enough time at the end to properly see southern Colombia. We spent 5 weeks in Bogota, and by the end it was a race to get out of the country before my visa expired. Would have loved to spend more time in the coffee country (the rain prevented us from even seeing a coffee plantation), to visit San Augustine and to really take my time and enjoy places like Popayan.

Best Advice: Don’t believe the hype about Colombia being a dangerous place. During my time their I never felt unsafe or threatened (which is more than I can say about Quito where I am currently writing this). Colombian’s are some of the nicest, most welcoming people and all of the bad stuff happens far away from anywhere you’d want to visit. It’s too cool a country to dismiss because of bad information!

And don’t go during rainy season. Seriously don’t.


Would I Come Back? I was pretty eager to leave after two months and to experience something else, but yes, I’d love to go back and spend more time in Medellin and the south. Also to visit all my new friends in Bogota!

Have you been to Colombia? What were your impressions?

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50 thoughts on “Colombia: The Best and Worst”

  1. I love this new round up feature! Keep it coming. I used to do do in country round ups, but then stopped when I wasn’t spending enough quality time in each one.

  2. Spent 8 days in Medellin, a little too long but it was awesome, and really dispelled the myths about Colombia being dangerous for me too. It was fine, people are super nice, and Medellin was surprisingly more modern than I expected. Definitely not a cheap backpacker destination though.

  3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Bogota when I was there but didn’t stay long. Ciudad Perdida trek out of Santa Marta was great though (much like the Inca Trail in Peru), but the cocaine presence was obvious (you get a tour around a cocaine factory en route…). Very safe though – was a great place.

    The buses get much worse the further south you go though – the tourist buses in Peru are fine, but step aboard a chicken bus in Boliva and you’ll find religion real fast! 😉

  4. I love these “wrap up” posts. Gives a lot of really good info for those thinking of going themselves.

    BTW, how did you get the house sitting gig? Is that something that is hard to set up?

    1. This one was actually a friend of ours, but we are signed up for several house-sitting sites. Nothing has panned out yet b/c most gigs seem to be in Europe.

  5. Totally agree with you re. the arepas, I could never understand why so many of my fellow travellers loved them.

    As for the buses – they don’t necessarily get worse, in fact the buses in Peru, Chile & Argentina in particular are way, way nicer than anything I came across in Colombia, only the Bolivian buses were worse, and even then not much so.

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