How to prepare for a trip to Colombia

How to prepare for a trip to Colombia

Did you decide on Colombia as your next travel destination? Now what?! Each trip takes some preparation. But there are specific considerations depending on where you’re going. We recently traveled to Colombia. See our Cartagena Colombia itinerary here! It was such a wonderful trip. I thought I would share our tips on how to prepare for a trip to Colombia.

We have all heard the scary news stories of Colombia…. But there is so much more to this incredible country than those stories. I really only had positive things to say about our experience in Colombia. Anyone could travel to Colombia and have a positive experience. With that said, it really helped to prepare for our trip. Shoutout to our Colombian friends who helped us in the preparation phase!

More Cartagena posts:

How to prepare for a trip to Colombia

6 months-1 year in advance

  • Make sure you have a passport and/or your passport is up to date (make sure you have at least 6 months before your passport expires from the time you leave the U.S.). Also make sure you have at least 1 blank page in your passport.
  • Double check visa requirements. Head to the Department of State’s website for all the helpful information about entry requirements in Colombia. USC’s (U.S. citizens) do not need a visa to visit Colombia for less than 90 days.
  • Buy your plane ticket!! Recommended to do this 3-8 months in advance for best prices
  • Research the safety of Colombia. Learn from resources such as the Department of State See if they have any Travel Advisories and if so – at what level? Are there any travel advisories? It’s also important to understand where in the country these advisories might be focused on. Are the travel advisories because of COVID? Or because of safety? Continue to monitor and research these things for yourself. But don’t over-do it. Also learn from locals and friends or family that have had experience here.

3-5 months in advance

  • Build your rough itinerary
  • Book accommodation
  • continue to research the safety of Colombia
  • Check travelers health and public health recommendations for traveling to Colombia. I like to use the Department of State as a resource as well as the CDC. Are there any Travel Health Notices? And if so, at what level? For example, Dengue is listed for Colombia and most of Latin America — but at a Level 1 (meaning you should take basic precautions to prevent mosquito bites — insect repellant)
  • Using the CDC’s website, see if you should get up-to-date on any vaccinations
  • Malaria prophylaxis???? CDC recommends getting prescription Malaria prophylaxis if traveling to areas below 1700 m elevation (this does not include Bogota, Cartagena, or Medellin). But it’s important that you check back for updates and make a plan to visit your doctor if needed
  • Get vaccinated for COVID if you are not. Otherwise, you might have to take COVID tests during your travels which is a much more stressful route!
  • Learn/practice your Spanish! This can be as simple as downloading the Duolingo app. While I do love Duolingo, it doesn’t always teach you basic travel language. So I would also recommend learning some basic phrases, like “Thank you”, “How are you?”, “Can you please help me?”, “Do you speak English?”, “Where is the bathroom?”, “Where is ______?”, and “please.”

1-2 months in advance

  • Continue to monitor the safety of Colombia — and the specific places you are traveling to
  • get vaccinated for COVID if you are not.
  • Book any excursions or events during your time in Colombia
  • Decide if you want to get international texting and calling. This can depend on lots of things. I usually rely on Whatsapp (messaging system through wifi) and SIM cards. But my fiance will often use international texting/calling.
  • Keep practicing your Spanish!

Less than a month to go!

  • Create a rough itinerary for yourself and your family/friends. Include the location and contact information for each place you will be staying. Include your flight information. Ask family/friends to download Whatsapp so that you can communicate with them on wifi (at the minimum!).
  • Create a packing list. If there’s anything you don’t have that you need to purchase, now is the time! ie. Do you have a bathing suit? Do you have enough outfits for hot weather? Do you need to purchase a carry on bag for your travels?
  • practice your Spanish!
  • make copies of your passport and drivers license. You can print out copies to keep in your carry on luggage or make sure to have copies on your phone.
  • Continue monitoring the Department of State – Colombia website for safety, warnings, and events
  • Get Colombian pesos from your bank. You don’t need much, even if it’s just 30-50 USD. From our experience in Cartagena, you could use credit cards/debit cards all over. But it was helpful to have pesos for tipping (ie. our airport drivers) and in emergency — especially when you first arrive and don’t want to deal with finding an atm.
  • Download Google Maps of the towns/cities you’re traveling to. That way you will be able to have some navigation without data or wifi. We used offline Google maps for our trip driving around Croatia. It was seamless and extremely helpful.
  • Download Google Translate for Spanish

0-2 days before you go!

  • Send a couple family members or friends your itinerary — including the places you’re staying with address and phone and your flight information.
  • Complete the Colombia Migration form (Check-Mig). You’re supposed to fill this out within 48-2 hours before your flight leaves for Colombia. You are also supposed to fill it out when you leave Colombia. The website is a little sensitive, and we had some issues with it. So I recommend filling it out the day before you leave. Take a screenshot of the confirmation page and a screenshot of the email you receive.
  • Pack! If you’re like me, you might have already started packing a week ago (just because you are so excited!), but if not — now’s the time to do so…. obviously….
  • Check-in online — if possible. Download your boarding pass(es). This will lead to a smoother airport experience.
  • Pack 2-3 facemasks! When traveling at the end of 2022, we were required to wear facemasks on one of our flights. In some of Colombia facemasks were “required” (although not enforced). I recommend packing a couple disposable facemasks and a couple cloth masks.
  • Wear comfortable layers! Our journey was long (we were flying from the Midwest). We left winter in the Midwest, flew through Florida, and then arrived to our destination with temperature in the 90s. Make sure you dress in layers to accommodate all temperatures….
  • Have fun!!

I hope this list was helpful to prepare for your trip to Colombia! If I’m missing anything let me know!

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