What to Pack for a Trip to Colombia

Colombia offers a lot to the traveler (no matter what type of travel you are) and I highly recommend Colombia as a travel destination to almost everyone. Not sure where to go? Check out this entertaining flow chart which can help point you in the right direction.

But whether you’re planning a trip to Colombia, exploring the options of vacations in Colombia, or just want to pretend you’re headed somewhere tropical, an important question is “what to bring?”

Besides the boring practical stuff such a valid passport, debit cards, and variety of clothes, here is my list of ten things to pack for a trip to Colombia:

  1. Reusable water bottle and water filter. It’s hot in a wide variety of places and you’ll want to stay hydrated. On the coasts or jungle, I wouldn’t drink the water without filtering or cleaning it, so consider buying bags of water (yes, sealed bags of water) to dump in your water bottle as you travel.
  2. Mosquito net and some really good bug spray. And some Calamine lotion. And maybe some Benadryl. And long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Needless to say, there is a healthy population of mosquitoes in Colombia.
  3. A good pair of walking shoes. No matter where you go in Colombia, the best way to see it is by foot. Whether walking the streets of the Centro in Cartagena, or hiking through the Parque Nacional Natural de los Nevados, you’ll want to be seeing the place from your own two feet.
  4. Bathing suit. If you’re headed to either coast, amazing swimming, snorkeling, sun-bathing await you. Though if you’re headed to the beach, make sure you also pack #5…
  5. Sunscreen. Colombia straddles the equator so no matter where you go, that sun is strong. Whether you want to lounge on the beach in the Caribbean or walk the streets of Bogotá (more than 8,000 feet high), this combination of latitude and elevation make it easy for the sun to ruin your stay.
  6. A mix of good Colombian and Latin music on your mp3 players for long bus rides. Try some Juanes, J Balvin, Carlos Vives, and yes, Shakira. If you’re headed to the coast, hit up some Diomedes Diaz or Jorge Celedon and if you’re headed to the interior, try some Fonseca.
  7. Camera. You’re going to be a tourist, so you might as well document your travels. You’ll find plenty of stunning scenery, amazing vistas, excellent architecture, and much more to catch your eye and photograph.
  8. Book for reading. Besides Misspelled Paradise (of course), I’d also recommend a good guide book, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez and if you’re going to the coast, anything by Gabriel García Márquez.
  9. Duct tape. Because you know you’ll need it for something.
  10. Your itinerary and plan where you’re going. While having everything scheduled to the minute might be a bad idea, there is far too much to see in one trip anyhow, and so don’t bother trying. Are you going to the coast? Which one(s)? Going to the mountains? Again, which one(s)? Or are you going to Bogotá? Cartagena? Medellín? The Amazon? The Guajira? Start doing your research and – though I know it is difficult – decide beforehand which areas you want to head to.

Whether you are going to be armchair traveling, are booking your ticket, or are on the way to the airport, I wish you un buen viaje. Colombia is ready to welcome you with open arms!

If you’re still not sure whether you’d want to travel to Colombia, check out my post “Yeah, I Went to Colombia” and others on this site about my own experiences and people’s reactions when they hear where I’ve lived and traveled.

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