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Colombia

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Hampton by Hilton Cartagena
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Not to be confused with Columbia, which can refer to numerous places other than the country in South America.

Colombia occupies the northwest corner of South America. It has an area twice that of France and almost twice Texas, with long coasts on the Caribbean and the Pacific oceans, mountainous regions, and Amazon jungle areas inland. The ethnic groups and cultures are diverse. The country has something to offer almost any traveller.

Pick a climate, and it's yours—if you find the light jacket weather of Bogotá cold, drive an hour down through the mountains and sunbathe next to the pool of your rented hacienda. If you don't want to sit still, head off into the Amazon or any of the country's other many inland jungles, snow-capped volcanoes, rocky deserts, endless plains, lush valleys, coffee plantations, mountain lakes, deserted beaches.

For culture, intellectual Bogotá might lead the rest of Latin America in experimental theater, indie-rock, and the number of bookstores, but you could also get a completely alien education in an Amazonian malocca, or you could delve into the huge Latin music scene of salsa and cumbia, with the most exciting dance display being the enormous Carnival of Barranquilla.

For history, wander the narrow streets of South America's original capital in Bogotá, check out old Spanish colonial provincial retreats like Villa de Leyva, trek through the thick jungle-covered mountains of the northeast to the Lost City of the Tayrona Indians, and walk the walls of Cartagena's achingly beautiful old city, looking over the fortified ramparts upon which the colonial history of South America pivoted.

For nightlife, hot Cali is today's world capital of salsa, claiming that competitive distinction over Colombia's other vibrant big-city party scenes, which keep the music going long into the small hours of the morning. The hipsters' playground is found around the El Poblado neighbourhood in Medellín downtown.

For dining, you'll find everything from the ubiquitous cheap, delicious Colombian home-style meals to world-class upscale and modern culinary arts in the big cities, with cuisines from all corners of the world represented.

And for relaxing, there are gorgeous tropical beaches along Colombia's Caribbean and Pacific coasts, but you can find even more laidback and peaceful retreats on the idyllic and unspoilt Caribbean island of Providencia.

The political violence has subsided substantially throughout the majority of the country and savvy travelers have already flocked here from around the world—come before everyone else catches on!

Regions

Cities

  • Bogotá — the capital, a cosmopolitan city 3 km (two miles) high, with some eight million people sprawling outwards from Andean mountains, where you'll find excellent museums, world-class dining, and most everything one wants from a big city.
  • Barranquilla — the Gold Port and fourth largest city in the nation isn't necessarily that exciting most of the year, but its carnival is the second biggest in the world after Rio de Janeiro's, and is an amazing cultural experience and one heck of a party!
  • Cali — Colombia's third largest city, renowned as the salsa capital of Latin America.
  • Cartagena — the Heroic City, Capital of the Bolívar department, is Colombia's tourist city par excellence. The colonial architecture and the skyscrapers can be seen together in this city that offers a unique experience of festivals, historic attractions, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Manizales — the center of the Zona Cafetera offers the opportunity to visit Los Nevados National Park and to live the coffee plantation experience.
  • Medellín — the City of Eternal Spring and capital of the Antioquia department is famous for having a large textile industry, which produces top-quality clothing that is sent all over the world. It's also the birthplace of master painter Fernando Botero, so it houses the great majority of his works.
  • Pereira — the lovely city, capital of the Risaralda department, and major city of the coffee region – modern, commercial, and touristic. The famous "naked Bolívar" monument and the Matecaña Zoo are here. Very near to Santa Rosa hot water springs and the National Park of "Los Nevados".
  • Popayán — this beautiful, white-washed city is Colombia's religious center. Home to the second largest Easter festival in the world (after Seville, Spain), this town has contributed more Colombian presidents than any other. Bordered by the Puracé National Park and gateway to the archeological sites of San Agustín and Tierra Dentro in nearby Huilla.
  • Santa Marta — a popular base for adventure tourism in the beautiful areas surrounding, and unique in the sense that it offers you beautiful beaches one day, and the next one a walk to the foothill of a snowy mountain, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest in the country.

Other destinations

  • Amacayacu National Park — Far, far from civilization in the Amazon rainforest, a huge national park explorable via boat, full of strange monkey-infested islands and pink dolphins.
  • Catedral de Sal — A colossal church built underground in a former salt mine, with passages lined with exquisite sculptures, and a radiant cross rising over the altar of the cavernous nave.
  • Ciudad Perdida de Teyuni — A pre-Columbian city located in the Colombian jungle close to Santa Marta. Built between the eighth and the fourteenth century by the Tayrona Indians. Nowadays only stone circular shaped terraces covered by jungle remain.
  • Corales del Rosario — a scenic archipelago a short boat journey from Cartagena.
  • Isla Gorgona — This former prison island in the Pacific Ocean is now a nature reserve open for visitors. There is abundant wildlife like monkeys, snakes, whales and sea turtles. It offers excellent diving conditions.
  • Los Nevados National Park — Colombia's high altitude volcano park offers great trekking.
  • Providencia — an idyllic, remote Caribbean Island found halfway towards Jamaica. With the Western hemisphere's second largest barrier reef, beautiful Providencia Island has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • San Agustín and Tierradentro — Archeological sites in south-western Colombia.
  • Tayrona National Park — Some of the loveliest coastline in all of South America.

Understand

Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and it has the second-most biodiversity in the world. Lying to the south of Panama, Colombia controls the land access between Central and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, and Ecuador and Peru to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, following the Italian version of his name (Cristoforo Colombo). Although Columbus never set foot on the current Colombian territory, in his fourth voyage he visited Panama, which was part of Colombia until 1903.

Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogotá, with a temperate climate 2,600 m (8,530 ft) above sea level and at a constant temperature of 19°C, a drive of one or two hours north, south, east or west can take you to landscapes which are as diverse as they are beautiful. To historic city centres and towns, modern and energetic party cities, oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. rugged contours of the higher Andean region, the Guajira peninsula and its desert, idyllic beaches, the tropical jungle of the Amazon and the Choco with abundant flora and fauna, snowy peaks and volcanoes, ancient ruins, the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather, beautiful coral reefs and an abundant underwater marine life together with pleasant relaxed tropical islands, and the ability to rest and relax in a privately rented hacienda that lets you have and enjoy these treasures to yourself. Such a diversity comes with equally diverse traditions and foods. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water and has something for everyone.

Climate

Take your pick, really. Colombia is an equatorial country with amazing variance in altitude, so it's going to be pretty whatever temperature you like best all year long somewhere! The climate is tropical along the coast, eastern plains, and Amazon; cold in the highlands with periodic droughts. Lacking the usual seasons, Colombians normally refer to rainy seasons as winter—but the differences in terrain and altitude mean the rainy seasons are different in every corner of the country!

The one downside to all this climactic diversity, though, is that you'll have to bring a fair amount of different clothes if you plan to travel extensively. Cities in the center like Bogotá and those to the north in Boyacá can potentially reach temperatures below 0°C, so bring a coat. Some mountains are also covered in snow year-long. Cities along the Caribbean coast like Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta are hot and humid, while some cities at mid-altitude in the Andes like Medellín (the City of Eternal Spring), Manizales, and other cities in the Coffee Triangle region always have beautiful temperate weather.

Terrain

Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains

Natural hazards: highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes. Recent volcanic disaster occurred in Armero, 1985. 25,000 people were buried by lahars (volcanic mudflows) that the Nevado del Ruiz produced.

Highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m (18,950 ft) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is part of the world's highest coastal range. Nearby Pico Simon Bolivar has the same elevation

History

Colombia was inhabited by numerous, major indigenous cultures like the Muisca, the Tayrona and the Quimbaya; some groups of indigenous people as the Caribs lived in a state of permanent war, but others had less bellicose attitudes. The area that now is Colombia was conquered by the Spanish through alliances with some indigenous groups when America was 'discovered' by Europeans. The process of conquest and colonization radically altered the social structures of the areas, the indigenous populations shrank dramatically in size and their share of the population has declined ever since. The Spanish Empire brought European settlers and African slaves, while most of the population in the colony was of mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry. The Spanish empire brought slaves to their colonies largely using the 'asiento' system, licensing merchants from many slave trading nations to transport slaves.

Independence from Spain was won in 1819 as part of the the "Gran Colombia" Federation, but by 1830 the federation was dissolved. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simón Bolívar (the others being Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia). The success of the independence movements across Latin America was made easier by the Napoleonic Wars that left mainland Spain with two rival governments. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was declared in 1886. The United States of America's intentions to control the Panama Canal led to Panama becoming a separate nation in 1903.

Colombia was the first constitutional government in South America. Slavery was abolished in the country in 1851. The years following independence were marked by several civil wars, the legacy of these conflicts combined with state repression against leftist militias in rural areas and world polarization caused by the Cold War culminated in a communist insurgent campaign in 1964 by the FARC and the ELN to overthrow the Colombian Government. The years during the conflict were marked by heavy fighting between the communist guerrillas, the Colombian state and military, right-wing paramilitaries and several drug cartels. In the years following 2005 the safety has been improving throughout the country. As part of a difficult peace process the AUC (right-wing paramilitaries) as a formal organization had ceased to function, and in 2012 the government and the FARC started peace talks aiming at bringing the 50-year-old Civil War to an end once and for all. Colombia is in recovery with an rapidly improving economy. Ending the conflict, wealth inequality and rebuilding the nation are some of the issues that confront the country. In October 2016, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in bringing the country's five decades of civil war to an end.

Get in

Visas

Citizens of most western countries, including most European countries, all South American nations, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Bhutan, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore don't need a visa, unless they are staying for more than 90 days. Irish citizens no longer need to apply for a visa at a Colombian embassy, and should have the same treatment at immigration as any other visa-free travelers.

Colombian authorities will stamp passports from the above countries giving permission to stay for a maximum of 30 to 90 days. Immigration officials at any of the international airports of the country will usually ask you the intended length of your trip, giving you a determinate number of days that will cover it, which you can extend to 90 by going to any immigration services office.

Extending your stay

You can apply for a 90-day extension to your stay at an Asuntos Migratorios office in some of the major cities, which costs around US$40. You need two copies of your passport's main page, two copies of the page with the entrance stamp, two copies of a ticket en route out of the country, and four photographs. The procedure takes some time and includes taking your fingerprints. For visitors, the maximum length of stay can not exceed 6 months in 1 year.

By plane

There are regular international flights into major cities including Bogotá, Medellín, CaliBarranquillaBucaramanga, Cartagena, Pereira and San Andrés Islands as well as to other smaller cities in the borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Panamá and Brazil.

There are daily direct flights to and from the U.S, Canada, México, Costa Rica, Panama, Spain, France, and South America.

Beware that Medellín is the only Colombian city served by 2 airports: International and long-range domestic flights go to José María Córdova International Airport (IATA: MDE) while regional and some other domestic flights arrive in Olaya Herrera airport (IATA: EOH).

Bogotá has two airport terminals: Puente Aéreo and El Dorado. Outside the airport, be aware of enterprising men who will help you lift your bags into a taxi or car, and then expect payment. It is best to politely refuse all offers of help unless from a taxi driver you are about to hire.

Taxis are regulated, reasonably priced and safe from the airports. A taxi ride from the airport to the central business district in Bogotá, takes approximately 20 minutes.

By car

  • Enter from Venezuela by the San Cristóbal-Cúcuta or Maracaibo-Maicao pass.
  • Enter from Ecuador by the Tulcan-Ipiales (Rumichaca) pass.
  • Important: There are no major roads coming from 3 neighboring countries: Panamá, Brazil and Perú. There are no roads at all from Panamá, and there are tiny roads between Colombia and Perú or Brazil, but they do not lead to major cities or regions.

By boat

Enter from Panama by the Puerto Obaldia-Capurganá pass. From Capurganá, another boat ride takes you to Turbo, where buses take you to Medellín and Montería. You can take a ferry from Panama City to Cartagena. More info.

If you enter from Brazil, there are weekly boats from Manaus to Tabatinga/Leticia through the Amazon River. It takes around six days to go from Manaus and just three days to come back (the reason of the difference is the current of the river). There are also weekly motorboats which are more expensive, but cover the route in less than two days. Once in Leticia you have dayly domestic flights to several cities, including Bogotá.

A fair number of cruise ships pay day visits (usually at Cartagena), especially during cooler months in North America.

By bus

From Venezuela

Connections can be made from the Caracas main terminal to most cities in Colombia. From the main terminal, Maracaibo (Venezuela) you can find buses that run to the cities (Cartagena, Baranquilla, Santa Marta) on the coast. The border at Maicao provides a relatively easy, straightforward entry into Colombia from Venezuela.

You can also enter from Venezuela via the busy San Cristóbal to Cúcuta route, which passes through the border town of San Antonio del Táchira.

The border can be a bit of a hassle or even dangerous, especially in the night time. Ask locals.

From Ecuador

It is very straightforward to enter Colombia from Ecuador. Travel to Tulcan, where you can get a taxi to the border. Get your exit stamps from the immigration offices and take another taxi to Ipiales. From there you can travel further to Cali, Bogotá, and so on.

From Panama

You can't cross from Panama to Colombia by bus—the Darien Gap begins at Yaviza, where the Interamericana runs out. Consider using the boat crossing instead. There are often yachts that will shuttle you between Colombia and Panama and offer a stop in the gorgeous San Blas islands.

Airlines with flights between the two countries are Avianca, COPA, and LAN.

Get around

By plane

The most important domestic carriers in Colombia are:

  • Avianca (main Colombian national airline)
  • VivaColombia (the low-cost, Ryanair-like airline). This airline offers the cheapest airfares, but the worst booking system for foreigner. For 2014 foreign credit cards are not accepted to book a flight. VivaColombia has no offices and hardly any tour operator offers a booking service for this airline. So you can either use the call centre, find somebody with a Colombian credit card (e.g. hotel manager) or choose the payment option with VIA-BALOTO sales points. With the last option you get a code to pay at any VIA-BALOTO shop.
  • COPA Colombia (formerly AeroRepublica)
  • Wingo (a 'low fare' subsidiary of Copa Colombia operating as a separate brand)
  • LATAM Colombia (formerly Lan Colombia and Aires)
  • EasyFly (regional airline around Medellín, Bogotá and Bucaramanga)
  • Satena (Servicio Aéreo a Territorios Nacionales) (operated by the Colombian Air Force to provide transport to remote regions of Los Llanos, Amazona & the Pacific coast from Bogotá)
  • TAC (Transportes Aero Colombiana) charter airline
  • ADA (Aerolinea De Antioquia) (new Medellín based carrier offering regional flights in Antioquia and adjoining regions)
  • AEXPA (primarily a charter carrier to and along the Pacific coast)

They all have well-kept fleets and regular service to major towns and cities in Colombia. The major Colombian airports have been certified as "Highly Safe" by international organizations. The online payment process of some domestic airlines is complicated. Payments can be done at the airport or official ticket offices. Most airline fares can be compared at the website of despegar.com.co.

By train

The Metro in Medellín and its surroundings is the closest thing to a passenger train in Colombia. There are no additional intercity trains in the country.

By car

Driving is on the right hand side of the road-most cars have standard transmissions. Colombia's fleet is composed mainly of cars with 4-cylinder engines that are of European and Japanese manufacture.

Foreign visitors may drive if they show an international driver's license (a multilingual endorsement card issued by automobile and driver's clubs around the world).

Insurance is cheap and mandatory.

The speed limit in residential areas is 30 km/h (19 mph), and in urban areas it is 60 km/h (37 mph). There is a national speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph).

The country has a well-maintained network of roads that connect all major cities in the Andean areas, and the ones in the Caribbean Coast. There may be significant landslides on roads and highways during the rainy season (November to February), by which traffic gets interrupted. This usually is resolved within 6 hours to 4 days. There are many toll crossings; the fee is about US$3.00. There are also plenty of dirt roads of variable quality. International land travel is only possible to Ecuador and Venezuela.

By bus

Travel by bus is widespread and has different levels of quality. Long-distance trips rarely cost over US$55 (one way). When acquiring tickets for the bus, the local custom is that the passenger comes to the terminal and buys the next available bus going to the desired destination. Depending on the company or terminal, it may be even not possible to purchase a ticket 1 or several days in advance! Therefore, it is recommendable to know at least when a particular service starts and ends in a day. Long distance bus travel tends to be very slow because main highways are two-lane roads with lots of truck traffic. For any distance more than 5 hours, you may want to check into air travel.

Some of the major companies that offers routes to the north of Bogotá and Medellin to the Caribbean coast and the areas in between the two cities:

  • Expreso Brasilia, toll-free: +1 8000 51 8001. From Tigo and Movistar phones call #501 or #502
  • Copetran, ? +57 7 644-81-67 (Bucaramanga), toll-free: +1 8000 114 164. #567 or #568 from Claro cell phones
  • Berlinas del Fonce. Travels between Bogotá, TunjaBarbosa, Socorro, San GilPiedecuesta and Bucaramanga
  • Rapido Ochoa, ? +57 4 444-88-88. Travels from Bogotá to Barranquilla, Cartagena and Tolu on three separate routes via multiple cities and towns along the way; and from Medellin to Arboletes, Monteria and Tolu on another thre routes via multiple cities and towns along the way.

Other companies that go to multiple cities and towns in the southern part of the country, south of Bogotá and Medellin and the areas between two cities; and down towards the Ecuadorian border:

  • Bolivariano, ? +57 1 424-90-90 (Bogotá number). Operates buses from Bogotá to Manziales, MedellinPereira on three separate routes; and from Medellin to Neiva and Mocoa on one route and from Medellin to CaliPopayan and Ipiales on another route. They also offer international service down into Peru.
  • Expreso Palmira, ? +57 321 890-35-97 (from cell phone), toll-free: +1 8000 936-662.
  • Fronteras - Continental Bus.
  • Coomotor.

Note: There are also numerous other bus companies and drivers' unions throughout the country that operate more locally at varying distances of a particular city or town or within a department or between adjacent departments. See or contribute to those articles of particular locality as to what is available. In the Amazonas, Los Llanos and in the remote parts of the southern regions towards Leticia and the Pacific coast the roads are limited to none, so are the bus services. In addition some of these remote areas especially those near the borders with Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador; Amazon rainforest in the southeast and towards the Pacific Coast may still be unsafe to travel to and around due to ongoing guerrilla activity. Inquire locally before going.

By urban bus

Around the turn of this century urban centers in Colombia saw the development of a highly efficient and neat bus transit systems that are spreading to other countries. In Bogotá you can find the Transmilenio, in Medellín el Metroplus [1], in Cali el Mio, in Barranquilla Transmetro, in Bucaramanga Metrolínea, in Pereira the Megabús.

It is still recommended that you keep an eye on your belongings and that you do not carry valuables, excess cash (more than COP$20,000 visible) or unnecessary items. Never accept food or drinks from strangers. Avoid talking to strangers at bus stops or terminals. It is possible you may be stopped at police check points. A calm attitude is the best key to avoid inconveniences.

By metro

The only metro system of Colombia is in Medellín, in the Department (state) of Antioquia. It connects the outlying suburban towns with the barrios of Medellín - Line A departs from La Estrella to Barrio Niquía, Line B from Barrio San Antonio to Barrio San Javíer. The metro system also has two cable car lines: Metrocable Line K from Barrio Acevedo to Barrio Santo Domingo Savio and Metrocable Line J departing from Barrio San Javier. Riding the cable cars is a unique experience, as passengers travel up the mountains in gondolas. The MetroCable has six stations and an extension to the Parque Arví ecopark. Ride to Parque Arvi costs about US$4 (COP$3500). There, after a 20-minutes trip in the gondola carts you reach an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level.

By taxi

The taxi networks in big cities such as Bogotá are extensive. The prices vary a lot between cities, Bogotá for example being relatively inexpensive while Cartagena pricey. A (bright yellow) taxi journey across Bogotá, can take up to a day but cost less than US$15.

If you order a taxi by phone the company will then give you the taxi registration number. Then the taxi will be waiting at the given address. You may need to give them a three or four digit code given to you when you book the taxi. During the day some taxi ranks outside hotels, office buildings and government offices will only allow certified drivers and companies and will also take your name and details when you board the taxi. Taxis from city to city are easy to arrange by phoning ahead and agreeing the price, it will still be cheap by western standards and is safe and quite agreeable.

The meter in all taxis starts at COP$25, and then increases over distance. The number it arrives at corresponds to a tariff that will be on display on the front seat of the cab. Taxi and bus prices increase on Sundays, public holidays, early in the morning and late at night. There are also extra charges for baggage and for booking in advance by telephone.

Unlike many other countries it is not customary to tip the taxi driver. It's up to the individual.

Many taxis are not allowed to travel outside of Bogotá due to boundary restrictions with their licences. You should always make arrangements to travel outside of Bogotá by taxi ahead of time.

In some locations (Las Aguas in the Candelaria district of Bogotá for example) you may find an individual acting as a tout for taxi drivers - they will offer you a taxi and lead you to a particular cab. They then recevie a small tip from the driver.

It's has become very common, in big cities, to use apps to hail cabs. Tappsi and EasyTaxi seem to be quite popular. Uber service is available in Bogotá and Medellín.

By cable car

Since most of the Colombian population lives in the Andes, cable car systems are becoming popular for both commuting and tourist transportation. You can ride the ones in Manizales and Medellín, which are integrated in the Metro system [2], and the ones in rural small towns of Antioquia: Jardín, Jericó, Sopetrán and San Andrés de Cuerquia. Also enjoy the magnificent view of the new cable car above the Chicamocha river canyon in Santander.

Talk

The official language of Colombia is Spanish. Some indigenous tribes in rural areas continue to speak their own languages, though almost all people from those tribes will be bilingual in their own language and Spanish.

If you've recently learned Spanish, its a relief to know that the Bogotá dialect is clear and easy to understand. The Spanish does vary, however, from Cartagena to Bogotá to Cali. Generally the Spanish on the coasts is spoken more rapidly, and Spanish from Medellín has its own idiosyncrasies. Note that in cities like Medellín and Cali, the dialect of Spanish is the voseo form. Meaning that instead of the second person familiar pronoun tú, vos is used instead. Though tú is also understood by everybody, vos is a more friendly voice while tú is reserved for intimate circles. The Spanish spoken along the Caribbean coast is similar to the dialects spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Quite a few Colombians know at least a few basic phrases in English, because English is taught at school, and Hollywood movies tend to be in English with Spanish subtitles. For the most part however you should definitely invest in learning the basics of Spanish since you will encounter plenty of situations where no-one will speak any English.

Colombians from more affluent backgrounds will be more likely to have learned English, and the majority of high ranking professionals, executives and government workers in Colombia speak an acceptable level of English.

See

Much of Colombia is in the Andes, which means there is very beautiful mountainous scenery to be found. On the other hand, there are also nice beaches to be found in the lowlands. The altitude of some peaks mean that snow can be seen even though they lie in the tropics.

Do

There are a lot of things to do in Colombia, and you can find parties and celebrations wherever you go. Colombians especially love to dance, and if you don't know how, they'll happily teach you. Colombia is known for its exciting night life.

There are many groups and agencies offering eco-tourism and it is very usual to find trekking plans (locally named 'caminatas' or 'excursiones') on weekend; many groups (named 'caminantes') offers cheaper one day excursion, special trips (on long weekends or during periods of vacation time (January, Holy Week, July, August, October, December) to different places in the country. Some recommended groups based out of Bogotá are: Viajar y Vivir, Fundación Sal Si Puedes, Caminantes del Retorno; there are many other. Patianchos in Medellín; Rastros in Bucaramanga. They usually offer guidance and transportation to the place; on long trips include lodging and other services. The recommendation is asking if the guide has the official certification.

Buy

Money

The currency of Colombia is the Colombian peso, but the symbol you will encounter is $ (ISO code: COP). Wikivoyage uses the notation "COP$" for clarity.

Most banks and money changes will accept major world currencies such as the US dollar and the euro.

ATMs are widely available, with varying withdrawal limits. Banks with highest limits are Citibank (COP$1 000 000, but charges an extra fee, therefore gives the same effective rate as) Bancolombia (COP$600 000 limit).

Costs

Typical prices: modest but clean (and occasionally charming) hotel: US$25, for a nice meal US$15, for two beers US$0.60-1.00 at "tiendas" or similar stores, US$1.5-3 at bars; bus 100 km about US$6 (cheaper per km for longer trips, more for dirt roads); urban transport US$0.50-0.90

Tipping

A service charge of 10% is generally added to the bill in nice restaurants (if it's not, you should add it yourself). Tipping taxi drivers is not common. Most "tipping" is merely rounding up to the nearest thousand pesos (e.g., rounding up your cafe bill to COP$7,000 from COP$6,700). Private tour guides do not need to be tipped, but it is common to do so, if you liked the guide.

Be aware that in some restaurants and bars that include the tip (la propina) in the bill, this extra money often does not make it into the hands of the staff person who serves you. Instead, it is simply kept by the owners. With this in mind, many Colombians will pay the bill without the tip (in cash or with credit card) and then hand a cash tip to the staff member (waiter, bartender, etc.) who served them.

Shopping

The Colombian textile industry is well-recognized and reputable around South America and Europe. Clothing, including lingerie is particularly well-regarded as high quality and very affordable. Leather garments, shoes and accessories are also of interest to foreigners. The best place to buy either is Medellín, known for being the fashion capital of the country, where one can buy very high quality goods at a very low cost.

Colombian emeralds and gold (18k) jewelry can also be very attractive for visitors. A typical Colombian style of jewelry is a copy of precolombian jewelry, which is fabricated with gold, silver and semi-precious stones.

The "mochila", the Spanish word for "backpack" or "rucksack", is also a traditional, indigenous, hand-woven Colombian bag, normally worn over the shoulder. They are commonly sold in shopping malls, especially in the Santa Marta/El Rodadero area. Mochilas usually come in three sizes - a large one to carry bigger things, a medium one to carry personal belongings, and a small one to carry coca leaves. Coca leaves are carried by local tribe members to reduce hunger, increase energy and to combat altitude sickness.

Handicrafts such as intricately designed jewelery are commonly sold in markets and on street corners. Many street vendors will approach people, selling T-shirts, shorts, glasses, bracelets, watches, necklaces, souvenirs, and novelty photographs. If you want to buy something, this is a good time to exercise your bartering skills. Usually you can go down by COP$2,000-3,000, however 10%-15% is the generally accepted rule. For example, if someone is selling a shirt for COP$10,000, try asking if you can pay COP$8,000. Go from there.

If you don't want to buy anything, a simple gracias, ("thank you") and a non-committal wave of your hand will deter would-be sellers.

Eat

In many areas of Colombia, it is common to have buñuelos (deep fried corn flour balls with cheese in the dough) and arepas (rather thick corn tortillas, often made with cheese and served with butter) with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Bogotá and the central region have its own breakfast delicacy of tamales - maize and chopped pork or chicken with vegetables and eggs, steamed in banana leaves, often served with home-made hot chocolate.

Empanadas, made with potato and meat with a pouch-like yellow exterior, are delicious and entirely different from their Mexican and Argentinian counterparts. Pastry is prevalent, both salty and sweet, including Pandebono, Pan de Yuca, Pastel Gloria, and Roscon. These vary in quality—ask the locals for the best niche places to indulge.

For lunch, especially on Sundays, you should try a sancocho de gallina (rich chicken soup, served with part of the chicken itself, rice and vegetables/salad). Sancocho is widespread throughout the country, with countless regional variants. On the coast it features fish, and is highly recommended. Another soup, served in Bogotá and the periphery, is Ajiaco (chicken soup made with three different kinds of potato, vegetables and herbs(guasca), served with rice, avocado, corn, milk cream and capers).

"Bandeja paisa" is common in most places, (the "paisas" are the natives from some departments in the northwest, such as Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío). This includes rice, beans, fried plantain, arepa, fried egg, chorizo, chicharrón (pork crackling) with the meat still attached. It's a very fatty dish, but you can leave what you don't like, and if you're lucky enough, you could find a gourmet bandeja paisa in a good restaurant in Bogotá or Medellín. They are lighter and smaller.

There are a few chains throughout the country. In addition to worldwide franchises (McDonald's, Subway, T.G.I.F., which are specially focused on Bogotá and other big cities), Colombian chains are very strong and located in almost every city. Presto and especially El Corral serve outstanding burgers, Kokoriko makes broiled chicken and Frisby specializes in roasted chicken. Gokela is the first choice among people wanting healthy options such as wraps, salads, super foods, supplements and subsequently one of the only options for vegetarians, vegans and organic eaters. Crêpes and Waffles, as the name indicates, is an upscale breakfast/brunch restaurant with spectacular... crêpes, waffles and ice cream. There are many international restaurants, including rodizios (Brazilian steak house style), and paella houses.

A great variety of tropical fruits can be tasted, and the corresponding variety in juices, from some of the oddest ones you can find around the globe (really) to the sweetest ones. You just must know how to find and prepare them. Anyway, anyone would be pleased to teach you. Some examples of those exotic fruits include: tamarinds, mangoes, guanabanas, lulo, mangostines (really great and rare even for Colombians), and a great variety in citrus. In addition, you can find some of those rich and strange flavors in prepared food like ice cream brands or restaurant juices. Most of Colombians drink juices at home and in restaurants, they are inexpensive and natural everywhere.

In Colombia there are a great variety of "tamales" if you like them, but be aware they are very different from their most famous Mexican cousins. They differ from region to region, but all of them are delicious. They are called "envuelto", the sweet tamale made of corn.

Regarding coffee, you can find a lot of products that are both made commercially and home-made from this very famous Colombian product, like wines, cookies, candies, milk-based desserts like "arequipe", ice-cream, etc.

Colombians are famous for having a sweet tooth, so you are going to find a lot of desserts and local candies like "bocadillo" made of guayaba (guava fruit), or the most famous milk-based "arequipe" (similar to its Argentinian cousin "dulce leche" or the French "confiteure du lait"). That just covers the basics, since every region in Colombia has its own fruits, local products, and therefore its own range of sweet products. If you are a lover of rare candies, you could get artisan-made candies in the little towns near Bogotá and Tunja.

The "tres leches" cake is not to be missed - a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk, it is for the serious dairy fiend only. Another delicious dessert is 'leche asada', like a grilled milk.

Organic food is a current trend in big cities, but in little towns you can get fruits and veggies all very natural and fresh. Colombians aren't used to storing food for the winter, since there are no seasons in the traditional sense. So don't ask them for dried items like dried tomatoes or fruits. All you have to do is go shopping at the little grocery stores nearby and pick up the freshest of the harvest of the month (almost everything is available and fresh all year). As for pickles and related preserved food, you can find them in supermarkets, but they are not common in family households.

Pre-Columbian civilizations cultivated about 200 varieties of potatoes. Colombia as an Andean country, is not the exception. Even McDonalds recognizes the quality of this product and buys them. Try the local preparations like "papas saladas" (salted potatoes) or "papas chorriadas" (stewed potatoes).

All in all, in Colombia it can be fun to have the ingredients and the preparation of a lot of exotic recipes explained to you.

Drink

For breakfast, take a home-made hot drink. The choices normally include coffee, hot chocolate or "agua de panela". The latter is a drink prepared with panela (dried cane juice), sometimes with cinnamon and cloves, which gives it a special taste. In Bogotá and the region around, is a custom to use cheese along with the drink, in a way that small pieces of cheese are put into the cup and then after they are melt, you can use a spoon to pick them up and eat it like a soup. It is the same way to drink hot chocolate.

Colombia's national alcoholic beverage, Aguardiente (a.k.a. guaro), tastes strongly of anise, and is typically bought by the bottle or half bottle or a quarter. People usually drink it in shots. Each region has its own aguardiente, "Antioqueño" (from Antioquia), "Cristal" (from Caldas), "Quindiano" (from Quindío), "Blanco del Valle" (from Valle del Cauca) and "Nectar" (from Cundinamarca). There is also a variety of rum beverages, like "Ron Santa Fe" (also from Cundinamarca), "Ron Medellín Añejo" (also from Antioquia), "Ron Viejo de Caldas" (also from Caldas) among others.

The water is drinkable right from the tap in most of the major cities, but be prepared to buy some bottles if you go to the countryside. Agua Manantial Bottled water is recommended, it comes from a natural spring near Bogotá. An advice, make sure you do not use ice cubes, or drink any beverage that might contain non distilled water, ask if the beverage is made with tap or bottled/boiled water.

If you are lucky enough, and if you are staying in a familiar "finca cafetera" (coffee farm) you can ask your Colombian friends not only for the selected coffee (quality export) but for the remaining coffee that the farmers leave to their own use. This is manually picked, washed, toasted in rustic brick stoves and manually ground. It has the most exquisite and rare flavor and aroma ever found.

In Bogotá and the rest of the country, black filter coffee is referred to as "tinto" - confusing if you were expecting red wine.

Also, you can find specialized places where you can drink coffee with many different combinations (like Juan Valdés Café or Oma), hot or frozen preparations.

Commercially, you can find a lot of products made out of coffee too like wines, ice-creams, soda-pops and other beverages.

Sleep

In Colombia you can find a range of options, bed and breakfast conditioned to western standards and hostels to five-star hotels. There are also apartments that rent per day.

Learn

Colombia education is generally strict and is kept to high standards. Most Colombian degrees can be legalized in foreign countries. In contrast to American education, a typical Bachelor's degree program in Colombia is 160 credits or 5 years long. You can find several programs in different universities around the country.

Learn Spanish

Colombian Spanish is considered by many around the world as the purest in Latin America and there are many universities and language schools that have Spanish programs.

Learn Salsa

Colombia is one of the mother countries of Salsa and you will be able to listen to this music all over the place. In the last years several of the Salsa World Champions came from Colombia. Especially in Cali and Cartagena there are plenty of clubs and schools.

Work

If you want to work for a national company, such as Bancolombia/Conavi, Avianca, or Presto, you must be able to speak Spanish with near-native fluency. Depending on your qualifications, companies may offer Spanish lessons, however always make sure that you are indeed eligible for the position advertised. You can teach English for extra money, especially in smaller cities where the demand for it is high. Also you could work for a non-governmental organization.

Stay safe

Colombia has suffered from a terrible reputation as a dangerous and violent country but the situation has improved dramatically since the 1980s and 1990s. Colombia is on the path to recovery, and Colombians are very proud of the progress they have made. These days, Colombia is generally safe to visit, with the violent crime rate being lower than that in Mexico or Brazil, as long as you avoid poorer areas of the cities at night, and do not venture off the main road into the jungle where guerrillas are likely to be hiding.

The security situation differs greatly throughout the country currently. Most jungle regions are not safe to visit, but the area around Leticia is very safe, and the areas around Santa Marta are OK. No one should visit the Darien Gap at the border with Panama (in the north of Chocó), as well as Putumayo and Caquetá, which are very dangerous, active conflict zones. Other departments with significant rural violence include the Atlantic departments of Chocó, Cauca, and Valle del Cauca; eastern Meta, Vichada, and Arauca in the east; and all Amazonian departments except for Amazonas. That's not to say that these departments are totally off-limits—just be sure you are either traveling with locals who know the area, or sticking to cities and tourist destinations. In general, if you stick to the main roads between major cities and do not wander off into remote parts of the jungle, you are unlikely to run into trouble, and you are much more likely to encounter a Colombian army checkpoint than an illegal guerrilla roadblock.

Landmines

Colombia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. So don't walk around blithely through the countryside without consulting locals. Land mines are found in 31 out of Colombia's 32 departments, and new ones are planted every day by guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers.

Paramilitaries

There was an agreement in 2005 with the government which resulted in the disarmament of some of the paramilitaries. However they are still active in drug business, extortion rackets, and as a political force. They do not target tourists specifically, but running up against an illegal rural roadblock in more dangerous departments is possible.

Kidnappings

At the turn of the millenium Colombia has the highest rates of kidnapping in the world, a result of being one of the most cost-effective ways of financing for the guerrillas of the FARC and the ELN and other armed groups. Happily the security situation has much improved and the groups involved are today much weakened, with the number of kidnappings dropped from 3,000 in 2000 down to 229 cases in 2011. Today kidnappings are still a problem in some southern departments like Valle del Cauca, Cauca, and Caquetá. Colombian law makes the payment of ransom illegal, therefore the police may not be informed in some circumstances.

Guerrillas

The guerrilla movements which include FARC and ELN guerrillas are still operational, though they are greatly weakened compared to the 1990s as the Colombian army has killed most of their leaders. These guerrillas operate mainly in rural parts of southern, southeastern and northwestern Colombia, although they have a presence in 30 out of the country's 32 departments. Big cities hardly ever see guerrilla activity these days. Even in rural areas, if you stick to the main roads between major cities and do not wander off the beaten track, you are far more likely to encounter soldiers from the Colombian army than guerrillas. River police, highway police, newspapers, and fellow travelers can be a useful source of information off-the-beaten-path.

Crime

The crime rate in Colombia has been significantly reduced since its peak in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the police having arrested or killed many of the important leaders of the drug cartels. However, major urban centers and the countryside of Colombia still have very high violent crime rates, comparable to blighted cities in the United States, and crime has been on the increase in recent years. In the downtown areas of most cities (which rarely coincide with the wealthy parts of town) violent crime is not rare; poor sections of cities can be quite dangerous for someone unfamiliar with their surroundings. Taxi crime is a very serious danger in major cities, so always request taxis by phone or app, rather than hailing them off the street—it costs the same and your call will be answered rapidly. Official taxi ranks are safe as well (airports, bus terminals, shopping malls).

Drugs

Local consumption is low, and penalties are draconian, owing to the nation's well-known largely successful fight against some of history's most powerful and dangerous traffickers. Remember that the drug trade in Colombia has ruined many innocent citizens' lives and dragged the country's reputation through the mud.

Marijuana is illegal to buy and sell, although officially you can carry up to 20 grams without being charged for it. Police will tolerate you having a few grams of this drug on your person, but you are flirting with danger if you carry much more. Especially in small towns, it is not always the police you have to deal with, but vigilantes. They often keep the peace in towns, and they have a very severe way of dealing with problems.

Scopolamine is an extremely dangerous drug from an Andean flowering tree, which is almost exclusively used for crime, and nearly all the world's incidents of such use take place in Colombia. Essentially a mind control drug (once experimented with as an interrogation device by the CIA), victims become extremely open to suggestion and are "talked into" ATM withdrawals, turning over belongings, letting criminals into their apartments, etc., all while maintaining an outward appearance of more or less sobriety. After affects include near total amnesia of what happened, as well as potential for serious medical problems. The most talked about method of getting drugged with scopolamine is that of powder blown off paper, e.g., someone walks up to you (with cotton balls in their nose to prevent blowback) and asks for help with a map, before blowing the drugs into your face. But by far the most common method is by drugging drinks at a bar. To be especially safe, abandon drinks if they've been left unattended. While a pretty rare problem, it's an awfully scary one, and happens most often in strip clubs or other establishments involving sex workers.

Stay healthy

Drink only bottled water outside the major cities. The water in major cities is safe. Most drinking water in people's homes is either boiled or of the purified variety that comes in huge multi-gallon plastic bags (which you can find at any little grocery store). The coffee's delicious, though, so why not just start that habit!

Tropical diseases are a concern in lowland parts of the country, and more so outside of major cities. Mosquitos carry malaria, Yellow fever, and Dengue, and infection rates are similar to other lowland parts of South America (i.e., much lower than in sub-Saharan Africa). Yellow fever has a vaccine, so get it—it's required for entry to many national parks, anyway. Dengue is not preventable beyond avoiding mosquito bites, so using bug spray regularly in lowland rural areas is good sense.

Malaria is a potential problem, so trips outside Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, and the Andean region warrant use of antimalarials, which can be bought very cheaply without a prescription from a droguería, which are everywhere in any city of any size throughout the country. Ask for Doxycicline tablets at a dosage of 100 mg, with the number being 30 days plus the number of days in a malarial area (so you can start 1–2 days in advance, and take it daily continuing for 4 weeks past the end of your trip). The phrase you want is: doxyciclina, cien miligramos, [number] pastillas. Using some bug spray in the evening serves as a bit of extra protection.

Respect

Colombians are acutely aware of their country's bad reputation, and tactless remarks about the history of violence might earn you a snide remark (likely regarding your country of origin) and an abrupt end to the conversation. However, Colombians eventually become willing to discuss these topics once they feel comfortable enough with someone.

Colombians are more formal than much of Latin America. Make a point to say "please" ("Por favor" or "Hágame el favor") and "thank you" ("muchas gracias") for anything, to anyone. When addressed, the proper response is "¿Señora?" or "¿Señor?" In parts of the country (especially Boyacá) Colombians can be formal to the point of anachronism, calling strangers "Su merced" (your Mercy!) in place of usted. The one (much) more informal part of the country is along the Caribbean coast, where referring to people just as "chico" can be more the norm—but take your cues from those around you.

Race is not a hot issue in Colombia, since whites, criollos, and mestizos (mixed race) blend naturally with natives and Afro-Colombians in everyday life (education, living, politics, marriage). Differences between white foreigners are not dwelled upon: expect to be called "gringo" even if you are, say, Russian. Unless context includes anger, it's not meant to be offensive. If you are black, you will probably be referred to as "negro" or "moreno," which also are not considered at all offensive. Asians are usually called "chino" (Chinese), regardless of actual background. Confusingly, Colombians from the inner regions also occasionally refer to children as chinos ("kids"); this use comes from Chibcha, an indigenous language. Even more confusingly, Colombians refer to blondes and redheads as "monos" (monkeys). It sounds offensive, but actually ranges from neutral to affectionate.

Colombians have the mannerism of pointing to objects with their chins or lips; pointing to a person or even an object with your finger can be considered rude or less discreet.

Avoid indicating a person's height using your hand palm down, as this is considered reserved for animals or inanimate objects. If you must, use your palm facing sidewards with the bottom of the hand expressing the height.

Colombians dance a lot. Anyone will be glad to teach you how to dance, and they will not expect you to do it correctly, since they have been practicing every weekend for most of their lives. Colombian night life centers mostly on dancing, and bars where people sit or stand are less common outside major cities. Despite the sensual movements, dancing is normally not intended as flirtation. It is applied in the same way as in Brazil—an almost-naked "garota" dancing samba in the carnival is not inviting you to have sex with her but inviting you to enjoy, to be happy, to join in the celebration, to join the exuberant shedding of inhibitions.

Gay and lesbian travelers

Most Colombians are Catholic, although you'll find that young people are quite relaxed about religion, especially with regards to social issues. Public displays of affection are rare, though, and may elicit uncomfortable stares. Verbal and physical homophobic violence is not necessarily unheard of, and unfortunately less aggressive homophobia may be more widespread than what politeness masks. Overall, Colombian attitudes to homosexuality are pretty similar to what you find in the United States.

You can find more liberally-minded areas (at least about LGBT issues) in Bogotá's Chapinero district. It is home to what may be the biggest LGBT community in Colombia, and is the focal point of the community's nightlife in Bogotá (if not the whole country), with explicitly gay-friendly establishments such as Theatron (arguably one of the biggest discos in South America) [3]. LGBT pride parades also take place in some of the major cities sometime around late June and early July. [4]

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Colombia since April 2016.

Connect

Post

Colombia does not have a government-run post office system. However, the private firm 4-72 serves as Colombia's de facto postal service, though it tends to be somewhat slow and unreliable. Locals rarely use the 4-72 service and usually go to couriers such as Servientrega, which have many more branches than 4-72, though they are very expensive when used to send mail overseas.

By phone

Carriers

It's simple enough to get a SIM card and even an unlocked phone at the international airport in Bogotá, although there is, of course, a price hike. They're not hard to find in any city either, just ask your hotel or hostel staff where to go. Topping up is also easy, and can be done pretty much on any street corner.

The carriers you'll most likely see are Claro, Tigo, and Movistar. Claro is the most expensive (by a little bit), but has the widest coverage in the country, if you expect to get off the beaten path.

Virgin Mobile might be the best option if you want to have internet for a low price, as you can pay for COP$20,000 for a month and get 350MB (plus 50 minutes, 10 sms and unlimited use of WhatsApp, an almost universally used chat app in Colombia) without the need of a contract. It might take a bit longer to find a spot that sells the sim cards. It should cost COP$5k-10k pesos.

Dialling

From landlines:

To call from a landline to another local landline, dial the normal seven digits. To call from a landline to a mobile, dial twelve digits, always beginning with 03, followed by the ten digit number provided.

It's far more complex to make long-distance domestic calls or international calls. Ask whoever owns the phone to dial it for you. If that's not an option, buy a mobile phone. Seriously.

From mobiles and from abroad:

To call a Colombian landline from another country or from a mobile phone in Colombia, use the +57 country code then the eight digit number (the first of which is the area code). To dial to a mobile phone, dial +57 and then the ten digit number. You can also type "00" instead of the "+".

By Internet

Internet cafés are easy to find in any city or town. Expect rates to run about COP$1,250-2,500 per hour, depending on how much competition there is (i.e., cheap in Bogotá, expensive in the middle of nowhere). Quality of connection is directly related to the centrality of location, and hence inversely related to price.

Stretching 96,922 square kilometers across the country, the Amazon comprises more than 60 percent of Peru. The area is home to stunning landscapes, unrivaled biodiversity, and fascinating cultures. A trip to the Peruvian Amazon is well worth the effort, but what are the most impressive attractions? Check out the top four things to do in the Peruvian Amazon.

Peru Amazon Trip

1. Explore ancient ruins in Kuelap. The Chachapoyas people, meaning the Warriors of the Cloud, were a pre-Colombian civilization living in the dense forests of Amazonian region. Though eventually incorporated into the vast Incan Empire just prior to the Spanish’s arrival, the Chachapoyas were known as fiercely independent warriors that vehemently resisted outside rule. Today, the fortress of Kuelap stands as a testament to the greatness of the civilization. Situated on the summit of a hill on the left bank of the Utcubamba, the walled city contains over 400 circular buildings. Kuelap’s sheer size and breathtaking location makes it one of the most impressive ruins in Latin America. Constructed between 900 and 1100 AD, visitors can reach these 1,000-year-old ruins via Chiclayo, which is about 9 hours away by car. Keep in mind that it is best to make the trek during the dry season, between June and October, as during the rainy season many roads and trails become inaccessible.

2. Hike to a waterfall in Tarapoto. If you’re searching for jaw-dropping landscapes, you will find them in Tarapoto. Situated where the Andes meet the Amazon, Tarapoto is marked by verdant, dramatic hills and beautiful rivers — the perfect recipe for waterfalls. The Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu is arguably Tarapoto’s most famous waterfall. However, there are a number of arguably more spectacular waterfalls situated off the beaten path. The Cataratas de Huacamaillo, though a 3-hour hike away, are well worth the trek.

3. Search for pink dolphins. The Amazon River dolphin, colloquially known as the pink dolphin, is a freshwater dolphin found in the Amazonian rivers of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. These fascinating creatures thrive in the lowland rivers of Peru. During the annual rainy reason when the Amazon floods across vast swaths of forests and marshes, these dolphins are able to use their unusually long necks and flexible spinal cords to maneuver under tree trunks and submerged vegetation to hunt and extract their prey, feeding on crustaceans, small turtles, catfish, crabs, and shrimp. In local Amazonian lore, the pink dolphins are powerful symbols of good luck.

4. Participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony. Made by combining the caapi vine with DMT-containing plants, this powerful hallucinogenic is an important part of a rich tradition of ethoegenic practices within many indigenous communities throughout the Amazon basin, used for both medical purposes and spiritual guidance. The visions induced by Ayahuasca can help users to conquer their fears and gain new insights. Outsiders have long made the journey into the Amazon in search of an illuminating Ayahuasca experience. Allen Ginsberg, a famous beat poet, went to Peru in 1960 in search of the plant on the advice of his writer friend William Burroughs. Paul Simon’s 1990 song “Spirit Journey” recounts his trip into the Amazon and experience with Ayahuasca, while a number of musicians have also tried Ayahuasca, including Tori Amos, Ben Lee, and Sting.

However, visitors are advised to exercise caution if taking Ayahuasca and to find a reputable center or shaman. The experience itself is physically demanding and is often accompanied by fever and intense vomiting. Visitors also need to follow a dietary regimen in preparation for the ceremony, which entails abstaining from salt, sugar, and meat. The Takiwasi center, located just outside of Tarapoto, is highly recommended. The center is run by French physician Jaques Mabiti and combines traditional medicine, including Ayahuasca, with modern psychotherapy. The center runs nine-month rehabilitation programs for those with severe problems, although shorter options are also available.

There you have it, our list of Amazon activities. Check out other things to do in Peru here

Amazon Rainforest Peru

The post The Top 4 Things to Do in the Peruvian Amazon appeared first on IncaTrail.info.

Women are amazing. Men are amazing too, but this post is about the female half of the species, specifically about ten women who blog.

One of the best things about travelling is the chance to meet new people. Craig and I are lucky enough to have friends all around the world; some are people we’ve stayed with through Couchsurfing or AirBnB, others are fellow travellers. Still others are members of the ever-growing travel bloggers’ community, which is full of truly excellent people. At a recent blogging festival, I met one of these people: Alys from The Wild Life. Last week, she nominated me for the Sisterhood Of The World Bloggers Award.

Hover over and click 'pin it' to share on PinterestHover over and click ‘pin it’ to share on PinterestI’d never heard of this award before and my search for answers on Google was not particularly fruitful, but it seems to be a way for women to share a bit about themselves and show some love to their favourite fellow female bloggers. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to use it for!

The rules of the award are:

  • State who nominated you.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Nominate ten other female bloggers.
  • Ask them ten questions.

My nominations

There are a lot of awesome female bloggers out there, these ten are some of my favourite people — check them out!

Sherry from Ottsworld.

We’ve known Sherry for almost as long as we’ve been travelling, and have met up with her in several countries. We’re always impressed by her intrepid adventures.

Jodi from Legal Nomads.

Jodi’s another inspiration. Her long-form articles are beautifully written, and though we may not agree about whether or not to eat olives, we love hanging out with her.

Lauren from Spanish Sabores.

As well as blogging, Lauren also runs a food tour company introducing travellers to delicious Spanish food.

Leigh from The Future is Red.

Leigh is one of those genuinely amazing people who it’s always a pleasure to be around. We spent six weeks with her and her husband at their home in Salta, Argentina, and were impressed with their work with indigenous people and underprivileged kids.

Deb from The Planet D.

Deb and her husband Dave are two of the most adventurous people I know — hence their motto “adventure is for everyone”. Deb is an outgoing, friendly person who always seems to have a good word for everyone.

Alisa from Alisa Abroad.

During my year in Alcalá de Henares, I spent a lot of time with Alisa, who worked at the same school as me. I enjoy her blog for its honest reflections on life.

Two female bloggers at the wine fight in Haro a href=There are some awesome female bloggers out there — like our friend Janine (in this photo, covered in wine).

Janine from Carry On Exploring.

If you listen to the podcast, you might have noticed that Janine is one of our best friends. We’ve travelled with her in a dozen or so countries and really enjoy her company — and her blog.

Liz from Young Adventuress.

Liz is a lovely person who it’s always fun to be around, and her blog is one of the most popular travel blogs out there. Plus, she’s living in New Zealand, so there are always lots of lovely photos of home on her site!

Leyla from Women on the Road.

Leyla is a super intelligent, dauntless woman who I have a lot of time for. Her blog is full of really useful advice for solo women travellers, so if you’re one of those, check it out.

Dalene from Hecktic Travels.

We met Dalene and her husband Pete at a blog camp they were running in Ireland, and I enjoyed their company SO MUCH. I also enjoy Dalene’s writing style, which is friendly and inclusive.

Questions for nominees

  1. Why do you travel?
  2. Suitcase or backpack?
  3. What luxury item do you take with you?
  4. Who do you like to travel with?
  5. What’s great about your home town?
  6. Do you ever feel tired of travelling?
  7. What’s the most challenging thing about travel?
  8. Tell me about a moment when you felt really happy.
  9. What have you only recently learned about travel or about yourself?
  10. Which travel destination would you love to go back to?
Trekking up the Roy's Peak track in New ZealandWho do you like to travel with?

Alys’s questions and my answers:

1. Where was your first ever trip abroad to?

I have no idea! My family travelled a lot when I was a child, and my first trip overseas was almost certainly before I turned one year old. It was probably to Australia, though, which is the closest country to our home country of New Zealand.

2. Why did you start your travel blog?

We’d been travelling for about six months and kept making ridiculous mistakes. We started the Indie Travel Podcast to share our errors with people so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes we had.

3. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened whilst you were travelling?

When we were in Romania, we were sucked in by a scam. A man approached us as we were walking to our hostel and told us that it had been closed because someone had been murdered there the previous night. He led us to a taxi which charged us an extortionate amount to take us to a “tourist park” where we would be “safe”. I still feel sick when I think about it.

4. What’s your biggest travel achievement?

Keeping on going! We’ve been travelling full-time for almost ten years now, despite setting out with the aim of only being away for three.

5. What’s top of your travel wish list?

I really, really, really want to go to Colombia. We’ve been planning a trip there for four years and it still hasn’t eventuated, for various reasons. We’ll get there eventually, though.

Looking down the Sacred Valley, PeruPeru is the closest we’ve come to Colombia.

6. What’s the best food you’ve eaten whilst travelling?

Argentinian steak has to be right up there, paired with a glass or two of delicious Malbec wine. Yum.

7. If you could learn any language what would it be?

I’d love to be able to speak Chinese, but my attempts to learn it haven’t been very successful. I’m currently working on German.

8. What blog post are you most proud of?

I’ve recently been learning more about the technical side of podcasting. I’m pretty proud of how the Camino Primitivo podcast turned out, as it was one of the first ones that I edited solo.

Female bloggers also walk the Camino PrimitivoOne of the many views on the Camino Primitivo.

9. What’s your best advice for a first time traveller?

Pack light! You really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.

10. Where are you off to next?

Next week, we are heading to Moldova. This is another destination that’s been on the wishlist for years, and recent changes in visa requirements have meant that it’s finally possible — I’m really looking forward to it!

Share your thoughts

Who are your favourite female travel bloggers? What are your answers to the questions above? Leave a comment below!

Boston Fourth of July

When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, we joked that he’d be done within a few months. Comedians had a field day. He couldn’t gain any serious support, could he?

Until he started leading all the polls…and winning primaries.

Holy shit. This could actually happen.

“If Trump gets elected, I’m leaving the country!”

I know. Everyone says it. But there’s no way to actually do that, is there?

OF COURSE THERE IS! You could leave the country in SO many different ways — ways that are 100% legal and ethical.

Kate on the Sydney Bridgeclimb

1) Get a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand.

If you’re 30 or under, you qualify to spend a year living and working in Australia or New Zealand! These are the only traditional working visas currently available to Americans.

In both countries, you can apply for the visa if you’re as old as 30; you can enter the country within one year of receiving your visa, which means you could start your year at age 31. Australia also offers the option of taking a second year if you spend three months working in “regional Australia” (rural areas and outside the most popular tourist destinations). Edit: I’ve since learned the second year is not available to Americans, sadly. Brits and Canadians can take advantage of this option, however.

You could spend your year bartending in Cairns or Queenstown, working on a winery in the Barossa Valley or Marlborough, working at a corporate job in Melbourne or Wellington, or taking on a hospitality job just about anywhere. And those are just a few of the possibilities.

For more, check out the Australia working holiday visa site and the New Zealand working holiday site.

Hongdae

2) Get a job teaching English abroad.

Teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways U.S. citizens can get a job working abroad. Most countries only require a university degree in any field; others also require a TEFL certificate.

The most opportunity for Americans is in Asia. South Korea tends to offer the best packages: a competitive salary plus free housing and free flights to and from your home country. Many teachers in South Korea are able to comfortably save more than $10,000 per year and pay down debt or go traveling afterward.

Japan, China, and Taiwan also have great environments for teaching English with decent benefits. Entry-level teaching jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America tend to pay only enough to get by.

While many Americans dream of teaching English in Europe, it’s extremely difficult to work in the EU without EU citizenship and the jobs are thus few. Eastern Europe and Turkey are a better bet.

Options in the Middle East tend to pay the most but have the most stringent requirements, often a teaching certification and experience in your home country and/or an advanced degree.

This is just the most basic of overviews — head to ESL Cafe to learn anything and everything about teaching English abroad.

El Tunco, El Salvador

3) Join the U.S. Foreign Service.

Dreamed of working as a diplomat around the world? The U.S. Foreign Service is your way in. If you’re able to pass the notoriously difficult Foreign Service Exam, you’ll be eligible to work two-year contracts in countries around the world.

The goal of the U.S. Foreign Service is “to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” Basically, you represent the United States while abroad.

There are several different tracks: Administration, Construction Engineering, Facility Management, Information Technology, International Information and English Language Programs, Medical and Health, Office Management, and Law Enforcement and Security.

You don’t get to choose your destination — you could be headed to any of 270 embassies around the world — but if you work in a hardship destination, you’ll often get preferential treatment regarding your next assignment. Like two of my lovely readers whom I met in Mexico last year — after working as diplomats in Pakistan, they got stationed in Cuba next.

Check out all the details on the U.S. Foreign Service’s website.

Bitola

4) Join the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps is perhaps the most famous volunteer program in America, starting in 1961 under President Kennedy. Volunteers are sent around the world in primarily two-year contracts working in the fields of Education, Health, Community Development, Environment, Youth in Development, Agriculture, and Peace Corps Response.

You don’t get to choose where you go — you’re sent where your skills are needed the most. That means if you speak Spanish, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Latin America; if you speak French, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Africa.

Most people I’ve known to serve in the Peace Corps describe it as life-changing. It’s a fantastic way to serve your country and make lasting contributions toward building a better planet.

For more, visit the PeaceCorps.gov.

Koolbaai

5) Find a job abroad.

I know it sounds daunting to find a job abroad when you don’t know anything about it, but Americans do it successfully every day!

The U.S. State Department has put together a comprehensive list of resources for finding work abroad, no matter what field you’re in.

Ljubljana

6) Study abroad or get another degree.

Are you still in college? Studying abroad will be one of the most valuable (and fun!) things you do in your college career. Here are the lessons I learned from my semester in Florence in 2004.

Already have a degree? This could be a great opportunity to get your master’s abroad! Several countries offer you the option of getting your master’s in just one year, unlike the standard two years in the United States.

You probably know that several countries offer free university education to their citizens. Well, several countries offer free university education to international students as well, including Americans! Don’t speak the local language? They offer degrees given in English as well.

It was big news when Germany began offering free education to international students in 2014. Other countries include Brazil, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Many of these countries also offer stipends, making getting your degree infinitely more affordable than in the U.S.

London Millennium Bridge

7) If your job has an international office, see if you can transfer.

This isn’t an option if you work for a small, independent, local business. But it could work if you work for a larger company.

I used to work for a company with offices in Boston and London, and plenty of people migrated across the Atlantic in each direction. The company took care of the sponsorship and all the red tape.

Another option: if your company has an international parent company, see if you can find a job abroad in one of your parent company’s other companies.

Playa Samara

8) See if you can start working remotely.

If your job is mostly doable online, you may have the ability to start working remotely and set up shop anywhere in the world.

Note that this is something best done little by little. Start by doing exceptionally outstanding work for awhile, then ask your boss if you can work remotely one day per week. Make that your most productive day of the week. If it goes well and your company is pleased, keep negotiating for more time working remotely.

If you’re able to transition to working 100% remotely, keep in mind that you may need to stay within the same time zone or in a destination where you have excellent internet. Still, that’s a small price to pay for working from, say, a beach town in Costa Rica!

Berlin

9) Look into the German Artist Visa.

Entering the EU long-term is a major challenge for most Americans, but one of the easiest ways in (aside from getting a student visa) is to get the German “artist visa.”

“Artist” is a relative term here. In this case, it means freelancer. If you’re able to prove multiple contracts paying you enough to get by, that may be enough for you to secure this visa and live in Germany.

Most people with this visa choose to live in Berlin due to its art scene, expat scene, and relatively low cost of living (albeit one that continues to rise). Increasingly popular alternatives are hip Hamburg and artsy Leipzig.

Check out Travels of Adam’s guide to getting the German artist visa or, alternatively, a student visa.

Paris Marais

10) Become an au pair in Europe.

If you love kids, don’t mind living with a family, and want to live like a local, becoming an au pair could be an excellent option for you. Many Americans become au pairs by finding a job and family online, then registering for a student visa to give you a year in the country.

The student visa could be for as little as a few hours of language study each week; some countries, like France, are notoriously lax about whether you actually attend class and many au pairs decide to ditch the classes entirely.

Being an au pair could be the time of your life — or a complete disaster. The best thing is to know exactly what kind of experience you want — how many kids and how old? Living with the family or in your own apartment? Urban, suburban, or rural environment? Would you be expected to cook or not? — and finding a family that fits your needs well.

Ashley Abroad has a great resource for getting started as an au pair.

Christmas at JJ's

11) Save up, quit your job, and backpack the world for awhile.

Yes. You can absolutely do this. Plenty of people around the world travel for months at a time — it’s very common for people from other western countries, but far less popular for Americans.

If you want your money to go the furthest, stick to a cheaper region. Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Central America, and Eastern Europe are all great options. You can live in parts of these regions on less than $1000 per month if you want to (but that amount doesn’t include start-up expenses like flights, gear and insurance).

Here’s how I saved $13,000 in just seven months. That was almost enough to sustain me for six months in Southeast Asia from 2010-2011, but keep in mind prices have increased a bit since then.

Santa Cruz Atitlan Guatemala

12) Move somewhere cheap for awhile.

Not in the mood to be traveling all the time? You could just move somewhere. Many countries have visa policies that allow you to live long-term by leaving the country every few months and coming right back. (Be sure to check on your country’s latest visa regulations, as they can change at any time.)

I still think that Chiang Mai, Thailand, offers the maximum value for a great price. As a solo adult, you can comfortably get by in Chiang Mai for less than $800 per month, or even less if you’re part of a couple, and there are plenty of amenities for the many expats who live and work there.

Other popular options for expats? Oaxaca, Mexico. Ubud, Bali. Bangkok, ThailandMedellin, Colombia. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (particularly Panajachel and San Pedro). If you have the ability to live in the EU, consider Berlin, Germany; Lisbon, Portugal; Budapest, Hungary; Prague, Czech Republic; or any town you can imagine in Spain: Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Barcelona.

Ragusa, Sicily

13) Get a second citizenship based on your ancestry.

Several European countries offer the option of getting a passport based on your ancestry. I’ve known Americans who have gained Irish, British, Italian, and German citizenship due to their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents being born in those countries.

The best part? Gaining EU citizenship means you can move around freely within the EU, not just the country where you hold the ancestry! I have an American friend with new German citizenship who’s thinking about moving to London. That’s totally fine on a German passport.

Do research this first — every country is different and has its own conditions. Some don’t offer ancestry-based citizenship at all. (While my great-grandfather immigrated from Italy, I don’t qualify for Italian citizenship because he naturalized before my grandmother was born.) Here’s a guide to obtaining citizenship in European countries.

Israel also offers citizenship based on the Law of Return. You must either be Jewish by birth (meaning your mother or grandmother is Jewish) or a convert to Judaism.

Keep in mind that this could potentially take years, depending on the country. It took three years for my friend Mike to get his Italian citizenship. (Then again, as someone who lived in Italy and visits often, they are not the most organized of nations when it comes to this kind of stuff. Or anything else, frankly.)

Skellig Michael

14) Fall in love with someone from a different country, get married, and move to their country.

I know a lot of people, particularly women, dream of this — meeting a handsome fisherman on a Greek island, or a brawny Australian at a beach bar in Thailand, and falling in love and it being destiny and your friends being so jealous.

Well…as someone who has lived in another country for two different boyfriends, let me tell you that the reality can often be quite difficult, even if you have a good relationship. Living in a different country is like fighting through hundreds of cultural differences every day, and there can be a chasm in your relationship if you’re struggling while your partner is surrounded by everything he knows and loves. It’s much harder if you don’t speak the local language or you’re living in a small town.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a strong support system on the ground. Make sure you have interests, activities, and a social circle outside your partner. Most importantly, make sure your partner understands how challenging it is for you to be there, even if you’re happy most of the time. Make sure he makes an effort to travel to America, too.

You’re the one who is sacrificing here. Even if you were excited to move there. Even if he supports you financially. Even if you work online and have the freedom to live anywhere.

quebec-ice-slide-gallery

15) Just move to Canada!

Everyone says they’re moving to Canada if a candidate they hate is elected. Well, this guy actually moved to Canada when George W. Bush was elected. That link gives you an overview of ways for Americans to move to Canada today.

Pink House New Orleans

But in all seriousness…

I know this is a tongue-in-cheek list, but I seriously hope you’re not voting for Donald Trump. (I know I’m preaching to the choir here. The kind of person interested enough in other countries to read a travel blog is not the kind of person who would support a xenophobic presidential candidate.) Please do everything you can to keep him from being elected.

But there’s something else I want to say.

In the past six years, I’ve met many American travel bloggers who have said something along the lines of, “I just don’t like it in America. I don’t want to live where I could be killed in a random shooting or where I could be bankrupted if I’m hospitalized. I don’t like it here anymore, so I’m leaving.”

I get it. I was like that. Parts of me still feel that way. But not anymore.

I recently moved back to the U.S. after more than five years of travel. There were many reasons. One is because I am sick of doing nothing. I want to be here and fight to make my country better. And I’m getting started.

All of us can run away. Believe me — there’s stuff about America that keeps me up at night. Frequent school shootings and a Congress that refuses to pass any kind of reasonable legislation like closing the gun show loophole. Black Americans, including children, being killed by the police for no reason at all. The racism, both overt and subtle, that our president receives on a daily basis. Out-of-control elections and candidates supported by corporations. The possibility of a religious ideologue being appointed to the Supreme Court.

So why do I even bother? Because when you choose to be inactive, you’re giving power to the opposition.

If you choose to travel, or to live abroad, that’s wonderful! But don’t use it as an excuse to check out of America completely. Donate money to causes that will make America better. Donate your time to causes and see if you can help online. Get absentee ballots, familiarize yourself with candidates in every race, and vote in every election. These things really can make a difference.

Would you leave the country if Trump was elected?15 legal, ethical ways to leave the country if Donald Trump gets elected.

Join Vagabondish on Twitter and Facebook.

This a guest post courtesy of Deanna Gregorio of TravelCuts.

So, you’ve decided you want to (literally) see the world. From the penguins of Antarctica to the Inca ruins of Peru and the foodie treats of Europe, there’s no part of this great planet that you’re willing to miss. Awesome! It’s going to take effort and dedication (and savings), but if you want this, you can make it happen. Here are our tips to make the planning process go as smoothly as possible …

Budget

Small Money Jar on a World Map

Money, money, money. No matter how you look at it, you’re going to have to be wise about how you save and spend your dollars if you want the trip of a lifetime. One of the best ways to make this easier is to participate in SWAP, so you can work AND travel. These are the destinations supported by SWAP, which we can help you book …

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Austria
  • Japan
  • Thailand*
  • Vietnam*

*These are specifically teaching positions

It depends on where you’re going, but a good rule of thumb is to budget about $100.00/day for Europe, Australia, & New Zealand; about $45.00/day for Asia; $35/day for South America (but this varies from country to country); and anywhere from $60-$100+/day in Africa, depending on where you are staying. These estimated budgets include your accommodation, activities, food, and transportation. Keep in mind that you can bring costs down if you have a friend or family member to stay with, or really inflate your costs by staying in luxury everywhere you go. Make sure you always pair your travel with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), if you’re a student! It’s one of the best ways to save while travelling.

If you’re planning to work and travel, you should have about $6,000 saved up for Europe & Australia, and $4,500 saved up for Asia. SWAP requires you to have a specific amount of “support funds” saved before you leave; depending on exchange rates this may be less or more than our suggested amounts. Always be certain you have the required funds BEFORE leaving to participate in SWAP!

Besides working & travelling, there are a lot of ways to make your money go further. We’ve all heard the old adage about “the cost of a cup of coffee a day”, but it seriously makes an impact. If you take the $1.75 you’d normally spend on your daily coffee and put it into a travel fund instead, you could easily save $500 (or more, depending on your caffeine addiction) in a year. Want new clothes? Instead of going shopping, arrange a clothing swap with your friends and you can all refresh your wardrobes without spending a penny! Take this opportunity to do a few odd or freelance jobs for people you know. You’ll want to take loads of photos on your journey, so why not brush up on your photography skills by doing a few freelance gigs? The biggest tip we can give you is to invest the money you do make. Take a portion of every paycheque you get (even $100/month helps!) and invest it in a savings account. If you set up automatic deductions, you won’t even have a chance to miss the money you’re saving, and it will grow into a beautiful travel fund right before your eyes.

Where to Go

Pushpins in a British Map

So you’ve saved up to traverse the world, but where do you start? This is a big world, and you need to have a plan if you’re going to make the most of your time abroad. Here are a few suggested routes from us …

  • Start Europe, travelling West to East. Make your way to Russia and take the Trans-Mongolian train to China. From here, participate in a tour (or individual exploration) around South East Asia. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump over to the South Pacific. When it’s time to head home, you can sleep on the long flight, full of memories from the trip of a lifetime.
  • Start Australia, working abroad with SWAP. Travel over to South East Asia for a minimum of 3 months. Next, you’ll want to move on to the Middle East & Africa (if Safari is on YOUR bucket list, this is the place to do it!) before making your way to South America, and then back home. It’s only a 6-hour flight from SJO to YYZ!
  • Start Costa Rica, and take a Spanish class with SWAP! Travel through South America (starting in Colombia and ending in Brazil), then jump over to western Africa and be sure to visit Morocco on your way to Europe!

Really, the most important thing is that you decide beforehand which countries are on your MUST-SEE list, and which you’re okay with missing. There’s often wiggle room during your trip, but absolutely have your start and end point decided and confirmed before you leave. A book like Rough Guides: Best Day on Earth can help you figure out where to go and what to do!

When to Book

Young Woman on Her Cellphone

Early is ALWAYS best. If you’re taking on a trip of great magnitude, you’ll want to save every possible penny. Booking your major flights at least 6 months ahead of time will get you the best fares. The closer you get to departure date, the more you will end up paying for your flights. If you’re in London and decide to take a last minute trip to Paris, booking that flight last minute won’t break the bank (although ideally, you’d book all flights well in advance to get the best price).

When you’re booking your flights, REMEMBER to also book your travel insurance! For a year’s coverage, travelcuts has travel insurance as low as $486*. It’s a minimal cost ($1.33 per day!) and oh-so-necessary when planning a big, multi-continent trip. If something happened while travelling and you had to end your trip early, that would be heartbreaking enough on its own. But imagine all your hard work to save up going to waste as well? That would be a real tragedy. So make sure you book your travel insurance before you leave!

You’ll also want to consider the time of year you travel. If you’re starting out in Australia, you may want to start your journey during Canadian Winter. Beginning in Europe, you may want to book for Fall as it’s a less popular season for travel (thus CHEAPER), and you can be around for the Christmas Markets in December. Decide before you leave how long you want to be abroad – and save accordingly. You’ll likely be spending a year or more away from home, but it’s definitely worth it for a trip of this magnitude.

travelcuts can help you make the most of your time and money, whether you’re taking on the whole world, or just a few countries! Check out travelcuts.com and get started.

The post A Trip Around the World: Preparing appeared first on Vagabondish.

Win a Trip to Chile

The following branded content post is brought to you by Marmot and LATAM Airlines. With a contest this good, I’m always happy to promote it to my readers!

Now that I’m based in New York after years based in Europe, I’m making a priority to explore more of Latin America. Central America in 2015, Colombia in 2016. I’m starting to eye more of South America for 2017. And of all the destinations in South America, one of my top dreams is the remote environment of Easter Island in Chile.

But you may beat me there — because Marmot is now giving away a trip for two to Chile, including Santiago, Patagonia, and Easter Island!

Not only that, they’re giving away a $1000 Marmot gift card as well!

Win a Trip to Chile

The Contest

Winners of this contest will win an 11-day trip for two to Chile, including flights on LATAM Airlines (the consolidation of LAN, its affiliates, and TAM) from one of their departure cities (Miami, Dulles, LAX or JFK), plus flights from your departure city in the 48 contiguous states if you don’t live near a gateway. LATAM is actually the only airline that flies to Easter Island.

Winners also receive a $1000 Marmot gift card that can be redeemed on Marmot.com, by phone, or in the flagship stores in Aspen, Greenwich, and San Francisco. Marmot has an excellent selection of high-quality, durable outerwear that is perfect for a trip to a rugged destination like Chile.

Kate’s Thoughts

What I love about this trip is that it gives you experiences in three very different parts of Chile: the capital of Santiago, the mountains of Patagonia, and the isolated Polynesian environment of Easter Island.

Whenever I visit a new country, I try to visit three different places if possible. I’m not a fan of just flying into a capital, spending two days there, and saying, “Well, I’ve done [country].” I like to get a well-rounded experience when I have the time to do so.

This trip is by no means a complete guide to Chile — think about the Atacama Desert, the Lake District, Valparaíso, and all the great wine regions. Chile really has so much diversity as a destination! But it’s about as good of a first-timer trip as you can imagine.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Santiago! Get settled in at your hotel before embarking on a half day tour where you’ll get to know this charming city, famous for its mix of beautiful colonial architecture, bohemian flare and modern skyscrapers. Enjoy an evening on your own exploring the hotspots in neighborhoods like Lastarria or Bellavista.

Day 2: Today you’ll find yourself arriving in Polynesia…yes, you heard right! Easter Island makes up the southernmost island of the Polynesian Triangle and you’ll have the chance to enjoy everything that this remote destination has to offer.

Day 3: Spend your day exploring the best of Rapa Nui’s archaeological sites like the famous standing heads of Ahu Tongariki.

Day 4: Hike your way up the Rano Kau volcano or spend a day basking in the sun at Anakena Beach.

Day 5: Pack your bags and head back to the mainland. Upon arrival in Santiago head to get a taste of one of the world’s most renowned wine regions.

Day 6: Enjoy wine touring and all of the stunning scenery that comes with it.

Day 7: Today you’ll head south to the heart of Chilean Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is home to some of the world’s greatest nature and will be your personal playground for four magical days.

Day 8: Go horseback riding around your lodge or head toward Gray Glacier; adventurous types can approach it via sea kayak!

Day 9: Save your energy for the grueling yet magnificent hike to the Las Torres basin. This full day trek will have you sweating but marveling all the while at one of South America’s most iconic peaks.

Day 10: Time to say adios to Chile and its natural splendor. Fly back to Santiago for your departing flight home. Hasta la proxima!

Win a Trip to Chile

How to Enter

Enter here. It’s easy! Just hit the enter button and sign up with your name, email address, and departure city.

This contest is open to legal U.S. residents age 18 and up. See the full terms and conditions here.

The contest ends on December 16, 2016, at 11:59 PM EST. The trip must be taken in 2017.

Win a Trip for Two to Chile!

Good luck!

Please let me know if you win — it makes me so happy when my readers win contests!

Does Chile sound like your kind of trip?

Kate and Javier Ziplining

Every December, I put together a list of my favorite destinations of the year. I love picking out the places that made my heart beat the fastest!

Last year, the big winner was Nicaragua. In 2014, Finland was a memorable standout. In 2013, Japan hit the hardest. In 2012, I loved the Faroe Islands.

This year was far lighter on travel than the past. I only visited four new countries (Colombia, Slovakia, Poland, and Luxembourg) and much more of my time was spent closer to home — something that I think will continue to be a trend.

Furthermore, I don’t think any one destination stands above the others. As a result, this list is in a completely random, unranked order. It may seem a bit weird to include both giant regions and small towns on the same list, but this feels right to me!

One thing: keep in mind that these are destinations I hadn’t visited prior to 2016. So places like Paris, Savannah, and Cape Town are not eligible.

Here we go!

Krakow

Kraków, Poland

Kraków was one of my biggest travel oversights coming into 2016, and I’m so glad I finally made it happen. It’s no big surprise; it has so many qualities that I love in a destination.

A medium-sized city. Absolutely beautiful architecture. Low prices and very good value for money. Delicious food — both Polish and international (I actually ate at a Corsican restaurant one night!). Out-of-this-world ice cream, served in tiny Kate-sized portions. And a beautiful park that runs in a ring around the town that you can circle for hours and hours if you’d like.

Krakow at NightKrakowKrakow FlowersKrakowKrakow Treats

I did luck out in Kraków. I had perfect early fall weather. I met up with a great local-reader-turned-new-friend, Dominika, who took me out to cool places (including the cafe with the dessert above) and showed me her favorite spots. But what I remember most was the light. Just look at that top photo. It’s barely retouched.

The evening light in Kraków was so beautiful, it nearly brought me to tears.

Read More: AK Monthly Recap: September 2016 (full post coming soon!)

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Visiting Puerto Rico was one of my goals for 2016 and I was so delighted when an opportunity presented itself — especially since it came during the doldrums of winter!

What struck me the most was how perfect an all-around destination Puerto Rico is for Americans. You don’t need your passport, there are nonstop flights from lots of cities, English is widely spoken in the tourism industry, and your US phone plan will work. You can lie on a beach, zip-line through the mountains, or explore art and history. Puerto Rico has it all.

Orocovis, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto RicoOld San Juan, Puerto RicoKate in San Juan, Puerto RicoHilton Caribe, San Juan, Puerto Rico

My favorite highlight of Puerto Rico: a day trip to Culebra Island. I was initially skeptical, but Flamenco Beach lived up to the hype — it’s one of the most incredible beaches I’ve ever visited. A wide expanse of soft pinky-white sand, neon turquoise water, and even a few tanks for good measure.

I need to go back for more — Vieques is calling my name and I hear the beach on nearby Culebrita is even better!

Read More: Puerto Rico Seriously Has It All

Colmar

Alsace, France

It was actually a struggle for me to choose between Alsace (the region) and Strasbourg (the city) for this round-up. I loved Strasbourg, but did the smaller city of Colmar deserve equal recognition? Or was I being unnecessarily contrarian just again, because SO many bloggers love Colmar and I wanted to be different?

Eventually, Alsace won out. Because the things I loved most were universal to the region. Fresh flowers bursting out of every free inch of pavement. Brightly colored shutters and doors on half-timbered houses. Delicious white wines and fabulous tartes flambées. Decent prices and friendly locals. Obviously French, but also very German, with an interesting history of being volleyed back and forth between the countries.

dscf9862Tarte Flambee in Colmardscf9870dscf9946 Strasbourg Street Sign

As soon as I left Alsace, I knew my time there had been criminally short. Right away, my readers started telling me that I had missed the best place of all — the village of Riquewihr. Apparently lots of people like to go on road trips through Alsace, tasting ciders and wines along the way. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm!

Read More: A Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg and Colmar

Hudson New York

Hudson, New York

“You have to get away from the city at least once a month,” New Yorker after New Yorker told me, and after spending April without leaving the city, I knew I had to be better. I started researching local getaways and the town of Hudson kept appearing.

A small town in the Hudson Valley two hours north of New York on the train. Despite its small size, a town leading a foodie Renaissance in the region, with tons of chefs opening acclaimed restaurants. Filled with boutiques and cozy little shops and cafes. It sounded a lot like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town that I love, only with even better restaurants.

My friend Tess had visited recently and echoed all these things. “Plus it’s so cheap!” she exclaimed. Sold.

Hudson New YorkCrimson Sparrow Hudson New YorkCrimson Sparrow Hudson New YorkHudson OctopusMoto Coffee Hudson New York

Even though I thought I had my finger on the pulse of what made Hudson tick, there were surprises. How so many people had given up city life to move there. How massively LGBT-friendly it was.

The only thing is that I feel like I’ve seen all there is to see in Hudson. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, though. Small can be good.

Read More: Hudson, New York: The Coolest Small Town in America

Salento Colombia

Salento, Colombia

When I planned my trip to Colombia, I assumed that the whole country would end up on this list at the end of the year. Truthfully, while almost everyone I know who has been to Colombia considers it one of their favorite countries, it just didn’t quite gel for me overall.

Timing was one reason — I was exhausted and it wasn’t a good time for any trip, much less a lengthy trip in a developing country. And I was traveling in my old-school backpacker style (albeit with private rooms) that I now think is becoming part of my past.

But while I didn’t fall madly in love with Colombia, I did swoon for the town of Salento. Small, beautiful, and brightly painted. So many delicious places to eat. A plaza that came to life on Sunday nights. A mirador overlooking the town. And so many coffee plantations.

SalentoCoffee Bean SalentoSalentoBeer in SalentoSalento

Salento was so chilled out, which was exactly what I needed after Cartagena and Medellín. And my day trip to the Valle de Cocora was a major highlight as well. If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, I couldn’t recommend Salento more!

Read More: Traveling in Colombia: The Best Moments

Shinn Estate Vineyards Long Island

The North Fork of Long Island

I had an image of Long Island held from my university days: isolated suburbia, rich privileged kids who flunked out of school and got their parents to buy their way back in, and not the prettiest accents of all time. Not a fair assessment, I know. It never was and I never should have let it cloud my judgment. I was an idiot in college. We all were.

That all ended when my friends and I took a day trip to the North Fork to explore the wine scene. I found a beautiful country escape with vineyard after vineyard, some truly outstanding cabernet francs, great restaurants, and the best strawberry rhubarb pie of my life.

Sparkling Pointe Long IslandLieb Cellars Long IslandKate at Sparkling Pointe North Fork Long IslandBriermere Farm Long IslandLieb Cellars Long Island

There was only one place where the Long Island stereotype reared its head — Sparkling Pointe, where the jewelry was large, the crowd was tipsy, the Yankees hats were omnipresent, and the accents were loud. But it wasn’t that bad.

Long Island is a killer destination. I’m blown away that such a good wine region is just a few hours from where I live. And that’s not all — one of my next goals is to make it to the Hamptons in 2017!

Read More: A Day Trip to the North Fork of Long Island

Coral Bay Sunset

Western Australia

How can WA not go on this list? It was the craziest, most exciting destination of the year by far. Not to mention one that I’ve yearned to visit for more or less forever.

What did it for me? It was the sparse, remote landscape, how you would almost never see other people and would then say hi to them out of disbelief that they were there, too. It was the crazy wildlife — the quokkas on Rottnest Island, of course, but also the manta rays and sharks in Ningaloo Reef. And dolphins and kangaroos. The crazy landscapes: bright yellow pinnacles in the desert, pink lakes throughout the region. Perth’s hip factor. The gorges in Karijini. Man. I could go on forever about Western Australia.

Dolphins Monkey MiaKate at Mount NamelessPinnacles DesertKalbarri NP WA Shark Bay Scenic Flight

Part of me feels in disbelief that this trip even happened. But the memories here are ones that I will cherish forever.

If you want to go somewhere not as many tourists visit, or somewhere that feels off the beaten path, WA will be a very satisfying destination for you.

Read More: My Favorite Experiences in Western Australia

Stellenbosch Vineyard

Stellenbosch, South Africa

It took three trips to South Africa to get me to visit Stellenbosch, the lauded wine region just one hour from Cape Town. What took me so long, seriously? Stellenbosch is amazing!

Beth and I decided to come here after a long, busy trip through Johannesburg, Kruger, and Cape Town, and we basically spent four days in a row doing little more than going from winery to winery, tasting wine with chocolate, tasting wine with cheese, tasting wine with meat, tasting wine with salt, buying reserve bottles to take home (none of which cost more than $11!!!!!), and reminiscing about the rest of our trip.

Wine Tasting StellenboschStellenboschKate in StellenboschStellenbosch Flowers in WinterStellenbosch Wine and Chocolate

I thought visiting Stellenbosch in July, their winter, would be hit-or-miss, but turns out it was a fantastic time to visit. The wineries were far less crowded than they would have been in high season. We had a few sunny days that resulted in beautiful photos. And there’s nothing like cozying up next to a fireplace with a glass of red on a cold day!

Read More: AK Monthly Recap: July 2016 (full recap coming soon!)

Haye-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

I had never heard of Hay-on-Wye before it popped up in my South Wales itinerary; uncharacteristically, I hadn’t even Googled it before arriving. But perhaps it was for the best, because I was stunned at how hard and fast I fell for this tiny Welsh town.

In short, Hay-on-Wye is the used bookstore capital of the world. They even have a world-famous literary festival that Bill Clinton called “The Woodstock of the Mind.” Between the bookstores, the cafes, and the many quirky shops (including an antique map shop, where I bought a 150-year-old map of northern Italy!), I could have stayed a week in introverted bliss.

Hay-on-WyeUsed Bookstore Hay-on-WyeHaye-on-WyeChandelier Store, Haye-on-WyeHaye-on-Wye

South Wales was a beautiful place, filled with gorgeous scenery and surprisingly delicious food, but no place stole my heart as quickly or as firmly as Hay-on-Wye.

Read More: A Dreamy Trip to South Wales

Old San Juan Cat, Puerto Rico

And that’s a wrap, folks!

At this point, I have zero trips planned for 2017. Which is fabulous!

I have some vague ideas — I think somewhere in the former Soviet Union could be a possibility for the summer months (Central Asia? Caucasus? Russia and the Baltics?), Putin-Trump situation notwithstanding. My dream destinations of Corsica and Sardinia are very likely for September or so.

I should visit friends in Austin, Las Vegas, and Seattle. There have been a ton of cheap direct flights to Cuba from New York on JetBlue — I’ll be keeping my eye on those. I’m enjoying Christmas markets in Germany so much that I want to come back next year. And of course, there’s this crazy travel blogging business, which could take me to any number of locales.

Anything is possible. This time last year, I had no clue that Western Australia or Colombia were even possibilities!

Now, I want to hear from you!

What was your favorite new destination of 2016? Share away!

My trips to Kraków, Alsace, Hudson, Salento, the North Fork, and Stellenbosch were entirely at my own expense. My trips to Puerto Rico, Western Australia, and Hay-on-Wye were sponsored. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Kate in Bushwick

2016 was rough for lots of us, and I’m no exception. Between global events and personal setbacks, it was a very tough year for me. More than I’ve let on here. I have my health and security, which are the most important things, and I didn’t go through any significant personal losses, but this year was a lot rougher than I thought it would be.

That said, there were many wonderful moments, even in a significantly scaled down travel year. And just like in 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012, I’m reminiscing as I go through the best travel moments of the past year.

This year, I’m doing the list a bit differently. I’m thinking of the moments that weren’t the craziest experiences or most unique activities — instead, I’m trying to narrow it down to the moments where I felt the strongest joy.

Oakland Wine Tating

The Most Mysterious Wine in a Cape Town Hotel Bar

After a night out in Cape Town, Beth and I decided to get a glass of wine at the hotel bar before heading up to bed. Before long, the bartender introduced us to a guy down the bar around our age who happened to be seriously into wine.

We started chatting. Wine Guy shared his bottle of “The Very Sexy Shiraz” — his immensely drinkable go-to wine that I gladly would have sipped anytime, anywhere. He called his friend and invited him to join us. We were all in our early thirties, two of us single, two of us taken, all with a similar sense of humor. It’s a minor miracle when you achieve a perfect vibe with strangers!

Then he brought out the big kahuna — Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, 2009. This was a very fine wine, Wine Guy told us. Expensive and unusual.

And we could not figure it out to save our lives.

I have never had a wine like that — ever. For more than an hour, the four of us sipped it slowly and tried to deduce its flavor profile.

“It’s almost like…pickles?” I guessed.

“No, no, that’s the alcohol you’re tasting!” said Wine Guy.

“What about…a cheese that hits the back of your throat?”

“Hmmm. I’m not sure.”

“Hmmm,” we all murmured in unison, taking more sips of the wine.

As time went on, we talked, we laughed, we ordered more wine. Wine Guy was going to a wedding in New Hampshire soon, near where Beth and I grew up, and I offered to go as his date!

Alas, all good things come to an end. Wine Guy invited another friend to join us, a young girl barely out of her teens, and though she was nice, her arrival kind of killed the vibe the four of us had going. We said our goodbyes and I took careful notes on what we had consumed that night.

And when I was at the duty free wine shop at the airport, I found a very similar bottle — Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009. I’m saving it for a special occasion when Beth and I can sip it and keep trying to figure it out.

Brussels Sprouts at Bottega

Lunch at Bottega in Napa Valley

Of all the outstanding meals I enjoyed in 2016, nothing came close to Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega in Yountville, California. Everything we ate was immaculately prepared and tantalizing.

The only bad part? The outdoor tables are underneath bright red awnings. This gave a bright red tint to everything and the resulting garish photos were a nightmare to edit (and still turned out fairly bad), to be honest.

It was worth it. That meal was SO good. I am still dreaming about those shaved brussels sprouts with marcona almonds in a meyer lemon vinaigrette, topped with a sieved egg. And the wines? Stupendous.

The French Laundry may still be the #1 restaurant on my bucket list, but if you can’t get a table, go down the road to Bottega instead. I promise you’ll be pleased.

Guatape

Classic Videos on the Minibus from Guatapé

My day trip from Medellín to Guatapé with Black Sheep Hostel was one of the best things I did in Colombia. I loved everything, from climbing the giant rock to chilling on the riverbank to exploring the colonial towns. And trying my first granadilla fruit, of course.

But as we squished ourselves into the minibus for the ride home, I grimaced. This was about to be a nauseating two-hour drive through the mountains, pressed up against strangers.

“Would you like to watch some classic videos?” our driver asked.

My tour mates and I looked at each other. “Yes?”

He put a videotape in. Suddenly Rick James filled the screen. “She’s a very kinky giiiiiiirl…” Yes. By classic videos, he meant “Superfreak.”

Next up? Eddie Murphy, “Party All the Time.” Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive.”

It was so weird and so random and we couldn’t stop laughing! That definitely made the two-hour drive more entertaining.

Jiyang, Kate, Edna and Joe in Paris

Oysters for Breakfast in Paris

It was Sunday morning in Paris and Jiyang and I met up with Edna and Joe for a stroll through the market by the Bastille. We were going for oysters for breakfast.

Experiences are so much better when you know people who know people. In this case, Edna was a regular at this oyster stall. That got us attention — and a few freebies.

Oysters are one of my favorite things to eat, especially Katama Bay oysters from Martha’s Vineyard. Jiyang, for his part, once ate 225 dollar oysters on a friend’s dare (he succeeded). But to me, this was the best oyster experience yet.

Nine oysters each — not the usual six or twelve you’d get in America. Slices of delicate raw scallop (or coquille, the lovely French word), as soft and tender as a baby’s ear.

And as we finished our oysters, the oyster man reached for a bottle and filled our leftover shells with cold white wine.

We toasted our oyster shells on that chilly October morning. And that was the only moment since moving to New York that I thought to myself, God, I need to live here.

Savannah

Good, Fulfilling Work as a Travel Blogger

Since becoming a full-time travel blogger, it’s been a constant struggle to get brands to understand the value we provide. And while it’s been getting better every year, I feel like the biggest strides for me personally came this past year.

In 2016 I did a lot of fulfilling work with brands I love. I even pitched a lot of the work myself. This led to me designing campaigns where I set the terms, thus building them around my personal travel style, which led to better content for both me and the brands.

And I began selling my photography. My first big sale was a shot of Little Corn Island to Saveur magazine, which was the lead photo of a feature (!), taking up half a page in the print magazine (!!!). After that, photo sales were like dominos. I ultimately sold a few dozen photos to brands and companies this year, including the photo above.

I don’t think photography will ever be my primary focus, but it’s nice to know it’s becoming more of an option. Especially considering how much I’ve improved as a photographer over the years.

Rainbow at Karijini NP

The Rainbow in Karijini National Park

By this point in our Western Australia road trip, Scotty had left us and it was back to just me and my travel soul mate Freedi again. We had arrived in Karijini National Park, a place where I had heard nothing less than absolutely stellar reviews.

We checked into tents on the same block and decided to each go off on our own, arranging to meet at 6:20 PM in time for dinner.

Girl Code. You never violate Girl Code. When you say you’re going to meet someone at a certain time, you will be there. (Freedi’s being German only added to this.)

That is, unless the photography conditions are extraordinary. Which is exactly what happened when a giant, bold rainbow streaked across the gray sky.

Photographer Code beats Girl Code every time. And for the next 20 minutes, we both ran around the retreat with the understanding that the other was doing the same thing. You do not fuck around when something as magical as a rainbow appears.

And when we finally met up, we were ecstatic, and tired, and covered in bright red dirt, bearing beautiful rainbow photos. We each knew the other one was doing the same thing.

Kate and Beth Business Class on KLM

Flying Business Class to South Africa with KLM

Believe it or not, until this year, I had never flown business class long-haul. I had done so on four two-hour intra-European flights, which were nice, but you don’t get the full experience on a short flight.

A few months ago, I had done some work for KLM and they compensated me in tickets rather than money. I very rarely do that, because you can’t pay your bills in comps, but in this case the value of two round-trip business class tickets from New York to Johannesburg dwarfed what I would have charged them for the same work.

You guys. Business class is AMAZING. The flight attendants give you so much attention! The wine and cheese flow nonstop! I never sleep on planes and I slept for eight hours while lying flat! At one point we actually ordered port while watching crappy romantic comedies! And it was even better that I got to share it with Beth, who was also experiencing business class long-haul for the first time.

On our second flight, from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, we were seated toward the back of business class and Beth turned to me and said, “I like these seats better because we can look at the peasants!

I burst out laughing. “You are getting used to this a little too fast!”

Kate at Hamilton

Seeing Hamilton on Broadway

Yes, I only traveled 100 blocks or so, which might be cheating, but seeing Hamilton was unlike any theatrical (or performance) experience I have ever had. I was so excited, I spent most of the show shaking and on the verge of tears until the curtain call. Everyone in the audience had just as much energy as I did!

How did I get a ticket? I bought one on StubHub for an inflated price. I actually timed my purchase wisely as it was just when rumors were beginning to swirl that Lin-Manuel Miranda would be leaving the production in July, but before the Tony Awards. Prices shot way up once he confirmed his exit and Hamilton won most of the Tony’s.

Splurging that much on a theater ticket is not going to be a regular activity for me, but there has never been a show like Hamilton before and I was eager to see the original cast before they departed. I would have loved to have seen the original cast of RENT in 1996. For that reason, getting to experience Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. and Renee Elise Goldberry and, well, everyone else, made it so worth it. I feel very lucky.

Even better? Seeing Hamilton brought me into the community of Hamilton superfans and brought me closer to my friends who love it. It’s also led me to more exploration of Hamilton’s New York. I’m so proud to be living in Hamilton Heights, the neighborhood named after Hamilton himself!

Kate at Club Getaway

Getting to Be a Normal Person at Adult Summer Camp

One of the best things I did this year was go to Club Getaway, a.k.a. Adult Summer Camp, over Labor Day weekend.

Before I went, I made a decision — I wouldn’t tell anyone what I did for a living. I couldn’t handle having The Conversation nonstop all weekend. I tried out different iterations of what I do and settled on, “I develop travel resources for women.” Technically true and it got no follow-up questions!

Three people found out. One because my sister told him; he was cool about it. I told one guy because he was from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, where I’ve done a lot of work and travel, and he knew people in the local tourism board; he actually knew who I was when I told him. I told a third guy because we live in the same neighborhood and I figured I’d run into him at some point.

But the third guy told some people. And one girl came up to me and said, “So can you tell me how to get a lot of followers on Instagram?” My heart sank. Not this again. Not here, not today. That right there was validation that being private was the right choice.

Aside from that moment, camp was amazing. I danced in a silent disco. I jumped on a bungee trampoline. I took a golf lesson and painted. I dressed up as a raccoon for an animal party. I sat by the lake with a Corona. It was insanely fun and more of a vacation than I’ve had anywhere in years.

I made friends. I even dated a guy I met there. And everyone liked me for me, not my travels or my blog.

That was weird. And it shouldn’t have been weird.

Kate and Mario in Bogota

Being the Tallest Girl in the Club in Bogotá

I was always the shortest girl in my class growing up. You can look back at my class photos and see me in the exact same seat — front row on the right — almost every year. I hated being short. It wasn’t until middle school that I caught up; today I’m the very average American female height of 5’4″.

So it was weird and trippy and awesome to have the completely opposite experience in Bogotá this year! My friend Amelia offered to connect me with her boyfriend’s cousin, Mario, who lived in Bogotá; when he told me we were going dancing, I panicked. (I have to dance? In public?! In LATIN AMERICA?!)

Turns out there was nothing to be afraid of. The atmosphere was casual. The music was rocking. People were just chilling and drinking aguardiente and grooving on their own terms.

And then I looked around and marveled at the fact that I was the tallest woman there!

IT. WAS. AWESOME. I haven’t felt like that much of an Amazon since 2011, when I went out with local friends in Bali! I wanted to grab things on high shelves just because I could!

Kate and Quokka

Taking Quokka Selfies on Rottnest Island

It was even better than I imagined — but at first I worried we wouldn’t get that far. The hours slipped away on Rottnest Island and I nearly panicked, worrying that Freedi and I wouldn’t have enough time to take good selfies with the quokkas.

We needn’t have worried. It took some time and exploration, but we met the most adorable new quokka friend. He was hanging out between the settlement and an area called the Basin. He was friendly and sweet and loved giving us kisses (unsolicited!) and posing for photos. LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS!

My quokka time was everything I had dreamed of and more. I’m pretty sure quokkas are my favorite animals now!

Kate and Readers in Savannah

Reader Meet-Ups

Even though I only hosted one formal reader meet-up this year — a mini gathering in Savannah — I had a lot of great meetings with readers. Some of them were one-on-ones. Some were Snapchat followers and weren’t even familiar with the blog. Most started with a social media message of, “Hey, I live here! Want to hang out?”

I have the best readers in the world. You guys are seriously amazing. I am still blown away that one of my readers went and donated blood for the first time after I was turned away from donating due to my travels in Colombia. She donated blood because I couldn’t. I still marvel at that.

If you see me, say hi! People often email me to say, “I saw you at [destination], but was too shy to say hi.” There’s nothing wrong with saying hi to me! I’ll be happy under almost any circumstance. (The exception would be if it looks like I’m upset or having a serious conversation with someone — use your best judgment.)

I hope to see you sometime next year!

Cartagena

The Tooth Loss Celebration of Cartagena

I’ve written about this so many times that I hate to be repetitive, but it was the moment that reminded me of how much I love travel.

I was on a food tour in Cartagena with a Dutch family and a guy from New York, and the Dutch couple’s five-year-old daughter lost her first tooth in the middle of the tour.

Right away, I reached into my back pocket and found a dollar to give to her. “In my country, when you lose a tooth, you get a dollar!” I told her.

“She’s five years old and already earning her first dollar!” her mother said.

“Beers for everyone!” shouted her father. “My daughter lost her first tooth!” He ran into a convenience store and bought beers for all the adults. We toasted the little girl’s lost tooth on a bright yellow plaza in Getsemaní, watching her brother play soccer with local boys.

That moment was as close to perfection as I have ever found on my travels.

What were your favorite travel moments of 2016? Share away!

Kate in Passau

And just like that, 2016 is over. It couldn’t have come soon enough. I didn’t buy into the “Fuck 2016” memes until the election in November, and then I was fully on board. Talk about an awful year.

Now that it’s 2017, even though it’s just an arbitrary difference, I feel like a lot of people will be able to let go of anger and begin welcoming more positivity into their lives. I feel inspired to get a lot of work done this year.

I already recapped a lot of this month in my best of the year posts, so let’s push on through and talk about what made this month special.

New York from the Reservoir

Destinations Visited

New York, New York

Munich, Nuremberg, Bamberg, Regensburg, and Passau, Germany

Reading and Lynn, Massachusetts

Favorite Destinations

Regensburg really jived with me — its small size, its pastel colors, its many espresso bars.

Nuremberg is fun and has the best Christmas market ever.

Kate at Bamberg

Highlights

The big travel highlight was my Christmas market trip to Bavaria. Uncharacteristically, I wrote the post before the month’s end, so you can check it out here: Christmas in Bavaria.

That was a nice trip. An easy trip. A chilled out trip. A trip that I planned and got to enjoy on my own terms, which is exactly what I needed at the time. A trip where most of the itinerary involved aimless wandering, taking trains, and drinking various warm beverages.

I also got to see lots of blogger friends, spent time with a reader in Passau, and met up with a friend I met in Colombia in Munich!

Spending Christmas at home. I still feel crazy guilty for missing Christmases in 2010, 2012 and 2013, so it’s always good to go home and spend time with my family, drink a lot of port with my dad, and do a lot of cooking with my mom.

I also sent my first Christmas cards ever! This is one of the things I looked forward to most when getting a place of my own! I definitely wanted to send a funny card that wasn’t the usual sad-single-girl-drinking-and-eating-her-sorrows-away-at-Christmas variety. So I chose to do something different…

Kate and the Rock Christmas Card

Spending New Year’s in Harlem. I haven’t done much on New Year’s over the past few years, mostly due to memories of walking through deep snow in high heels in downtown Boston to spend $75 on a cover charge (but hey, free glass of champagne!), but I wanted to go out this year. The best thing? Two bars in my neighborhood were having a New Year’s pajama party. My sister and I went and it was so nice to be comfy while drinking spiked Capri Sun packets!

Two great New York activities. I had a great time gallivanting around New York this month, but two activities stand out: first, my friend Oneika and I went to a holiday showcase of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They were all 21 and under — and we were both blown away at how good some of the singers and musicians were! Such a cool event, and it was nice to see so many families with kids in the audience.

The other was when my friends Amy and Anubha came into town. On a whim, we decided to go to Death and Co., a popular cocktail bar in the East Village. Well, we picked the right night — it was their 10-year anniversary and all their expensive cocktails were just $5! So much fun.

Sarah and Kate at the Wallace

This month I got my hair re-keratined and left it in a long time. I left the keratin in about 88 hours before washing it (48 isn’t enough and I aim for 72) and as a result, my hair has never been this straight this long! I don’t have to do a thing — I just let it dry and it’s perfect.

Also, you really don’t realize how bad your hair looked until you get it done and it looks normal again! I look like a hobo in that top pic!

And I joined a gym! Finally. I joined Equinox, one of the nicer gym chains in New York, because I will only work out if I have somewhere fancy and nice where I enjoy going. And Equinox has tons of cool classes and Kiehl’s products in the bathrooms and it is the cleanest gym I’ve ever seen. (PS — are you interested in joining an Equinox? Give them my name, Kate McCulley, and you can get a free weeklong trial.)

Kate with Lebkuchen

Challenges

The biggest challenge was one that I’ve mentioned previously: I fell and hit my head in Germany and ended up with a concussion. It was the stupidest thing ever (I wanted to make a funny video for Snapchat, fell backwards, and greatly missed my target when I hit my head on the corner of the bed frame).

I felt okay at the time, but I suddenly started feeling nauseated and dizzy with a headache about 20 hours later. I then started wondering whether I should see a doctor and get a CT scan.

I want to reiterate to you all: please see a doctor if you have a head injury. You can die from a seemingly innocuous head injury — sadly, Natasha Richardson died after hitting her head while skiing, and thinking of her is what got me to go to the hospital.

I went to the ER in Munich and it was a relatively quick and easy experience, though it cost me 300 EUR ($316) for not being an EU resident and having EU health insurance. That money will be refunded to me through my World Nomads travel insurance — yet another reason why to use travel insurance! The good news is that there were no abnormalities on my scan, though I definitely had a concussion.

The doctors cleared me to fly home the next day, but that flight ranks among the worst I’ve ever taken. There’s nothing like having a pounding headache and being unable to focus on your Kindle or the screen in front of you and even though you turned up your headphones, your plane is full of American college students returning from a semester abroad and discussing everything they did in Great. Loud. Slow. Detail. (Yes, I realize this is karma for how annoying I was during my own semester abroad.)

Also, someone burst into my hotel room in Nuremberg. The front desk gave a man a key to my room by mistake. It was scary to have a stranger burst in after midnight when you’re hanging out in your underwear. Lesson learn — always double-lock your door or use a doorstop, even in the hotels in the developed world that seem nice.

Parmigiano Reggiano at Eataly

Most Popular Post

My Worst Travel Moments of 2016 — everyone always loves this annual post!

Other Posts

My Best Travel Moments of 2016 — all my favorite memories.

My Favorite New Destinations of 2016 — did your favorites make the cut?

My Favorite Reads of 2016 — the top 12 books from a year of hardcore reading.

Christmas in Bavaria in 25 Photos — an overview of my Christmas market trip before I write a big guide later this year.

Win a Trip to Chile (including Easter Island!) — one of the better contests I’ve featured lately. Contest now closed.

Nuremberg at night

Most Popular Instagram Photo

Far and away, this photo of Nuremberg at night was my most popular shot. But the professional shot I edited in Lightroom afterward came out even better.

For real-time coverage of my travels, follow me at @adventurouskate on Instagram and Snapchat. I’m getting close to 100k on Instagram!

At the Wallace

What I Read This Month

I took a break from reading to recover from my concussion this month, so I didn’t read as much as usual.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith — I named this book one of my favorite reads of 2016 in my earlier post. Two girls grow up in a rough neighborhood in northwest London. Both are poor. Both are biracial. Both love and live to dance — but only one of them has the talent. The book follows their intersecting lives and the twists and turns of their friendship over decades. If you enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, you need to read this book next.

The book asks a lot of questions at the end. Just how much are we a product of our upbringing? What do we owe to the people who raised us? If we hide a key aspect of our personality, is it going to come out at some point? I loved this book and can’t wait to dive into Zadie Smith’s other works.

I also tried to read Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild, but honestly, I couldn’t get past 25%. The book was a lot harder to get into than I expected, and it was so frustrating to see Louisianans vote against their own interests again and again. People in coastal communities destroyed by environmental disasters caused by lack of environmental regulation, where everyone was getting cancer and you could no longer eat the fish because they would kill you, would say, “No, the real problem is environmental regulation.”

I get that it’s an important book; perhaps I’ll finish it when I cool down a bit.

I also read two self-help books this month.

What I Listened To This Month

CHANCE THE MOTHERFUCKING RAPPER! I’ve been hearing great things about Chance the Rapper’s new album Coloring Book for months, but it took me this long to actually give it a listen. And I fell in love with it immediately.

This isn’t an ordinary hip-hop album. It’s a gospel hip-hop album — far less audacious than Kanye West’s attempt with The Life of Pablo and with far better, down-to-Earth results. This album is the warmest, happiest, most inspirational hip-hop album I’ve heard in quite some time. And I think it might be a good “gateway album” for people who claim to hate rap.

I adore this album. It’s my favorite album of the year. And the song above, “Finish Line/Drown,” is the perfect introduction.

New York View from the Gansevoort

Coming Up in January 2017

I’ve got a grand total of zero travel plans for this month, and I’m happy about it. Even as dark and dreary as January is, I don’t mind staying put in New York. September through December were very busy travel months for me (especially when you include three home visits) and January will be a good time to catch my breath and get work done.

I will be speaking at the New York Times Travel Show on Friday, January 27, at 10:15 AM. The info is here. This is a Friday morning, and as such it’s more a talk for the travel industry, but if you happen to not be working and want to come by, I’d love to see you. I’ll be floating around the travel show on the other days as well. You can get a $5 discount off industry tickets and $3 discount off consumer tickets with the code SPEAK007.

What are your plans for January? Share away!

Photo: libargutxi

Photo: libargutxi

Most people do not know that hands-on wildlife experiences are doing animals a major disservice, and so aren’t malicious in their intent when paying to be near wild beasts; they just jump at these rare chances to connect with nature.

Here’s the thing: the most humane wildlife experiences you can have will always be the ones in which animals are free to perform their natural behaviors in the wild. That doesn’t mean connecting with wild creatures isn’t possible, it just means that it needs to be done in an educated manner, which is why we’ve listed 8 of the most notable and egregious violations of wildlife tourism, and their ethical alternatives.

Riding Elephants

Photo: Beyond Neon

Photo: Beyond Neon

The problem: Centuries of exploitation have twisted our impression of elephants into entertainment, despite the fact that they are deeply emotional, intelligent creatures. These giant animals are tortured into carrying humans, performing tricks, and even posing for photos. Tourists are attracted to the exotic creatures, who are brutalized into performing these seemingly delightful tricks, ultimately leading miserable lives.

The alternative: There’s no doubt that getting up close and personal with such a majestic animal is a treasure, but it’s possible to form that connection without torturing elephants. Matador Network researched 3 reputable elephant sanctuaries that can even enable tourists to bathe the big creatures. Elephant Nature Park in Thailand is the most highly vetted facility and can ensure that no elephants suffer for the sake of a photo.

Selfies with tigers, walking with lions.

The problem: Tigers are vicious predators. They’re the world’s largest cat species and there’s a good reason they dominate the top of the food chain. Yet tourist attractions from Southeast Asia to Cabo San Lucas offer opportunities to pose and walk with the fierce creatures, and the only way they can get these otherwise ferocious animals to pose with tourists is to heavily drug them. Not to mention many of these animals are stolen from the wild, where their numbers remain very low.

The alternative: Look for big cats in the wild. Safaris in Africa and wildlife tours in India enable tourists to witness big cats in their native habitats, roaming free without the influence of humans looking to make a buck off of unaware tourists. Travel4Wildlife has tips on the best safari etiquette. Point is, touching a sedated, imprisoned predator doesn’t make you look like a badass; it makes you look like you got conned into paying to abuse an animal.

Swimming with pigs

Photo: bookfinch

Photo: bookfinch

The problem: Those adorable feral pigs that tourists can swim with in the Bahamas are destroying local ecosystems and displacing local wildlife. Yes, the pictures are cute. Yet pigs look like they’re smiling. But the more tourists are willing to pay to get pictures with piggies, the more incentivized locals are to encourage the growth of the feral pig population, further damaging the livelihood of other animals. And when the pig population gets too large, they’re killed. It’s like posing with the steer that is about to become your hamburger.

The alternative: Head to an animal-friendly farm sanctuary where tourists are free to interact with happy animals that don’t affect the surrounding ecosystem and do not ultimately end up as lunch.

Performing orcas

The problem: Killer whales are huge, intelligent, and curious. Confining them to small pools to perform tricks for the masses is without a doubt, inhumane. In many cases some of the 55 currently captive orcas are mistreated, often dying years before they would naturally in the wild.

The alternative: Like many of the alternatives in this list, orcas are best experienced in their natural element. They live all over the world, from the sounds of British Colombia to the coral shores of Belize and beyond. There is a lot of information about where to spot them in the wild, and we encourage lovers of these great creatures to pursue travel opportunities that allow them to see orcas where they belong.

Releasing baby sea turtles

Photo: Geoff Stearns

Photo: Geoff Stearns

The problem: They really do make you think you’re doing a good thing by releasing baby sea turtles into the sea. But these poor babies are sick from being handled by germy human hands, hatchlings suffer from sun damage since they normally hatch at night, and the effort to accommodate tourists leads to overcrowding of turtle hatchlings. Another aspect of this is grabbing an adult turtle in the sea and holding onto it for a photo — this is extremely stressful for the animal.

The alternative: According to Cristina Brindley of Travel4Wildlife.com, “the most ethical sea turtle tourist attraction would be the one that either takes tourists to see natural laying and hatchlings, one where tourists can go and see recovering sea turtles like at the Sea Turtle Hospital in Florida, or the one where you can go on a sea turtle conservation vacation and your money is invested in the community.” Ultimately, as with all wild animals, a hands-off approach is the best approach.

Swimming with dolphins

The problem: Like orcas (which are actually the largest of the dolphins), bottlenose dolphins are held captive and made to perform activities with paying tourists. The dolphins kiss, laugh, and do tricks on command for delighted audiences, who continue on with their lives, leaving the imprisoned dolphins to suffer in tanks, only to be disturbed the following day by continual intrusions in their environment. Not worth the photo.

The alternative: Swim with belugas on their terms. In Churchill, famed for polar bear sightings, there exists a tourist attraction wherein guests can swim with belugas in the wild. The difference here is that people hang from the back of boats in the chilly Hudson Bay, and the belugas will come to them (or not). This gives the animals the ability to consent to human interaction, making the experience a fun one for all, instead of just for the humans.

Civet cat coffee

Photo: stefan magdalinski

Photo: stefan magdalinski

The problem: Civet Cats in Indonesia eat coffee cherries and then poop coffee beans, creating the very popular and very expensive kopi luwak coffee. The phenomenon has become a tourist attraction and an exceedingly cruel one at that. The civets are housed in battery cages, cramped and injured while forced to poop out expensive coffee. Not to mention the coffee itself is of questionable quality, healthwise.

The solution: First of all, stop buying kopi luwak. Second, don’t tour so-called civet cat coffee plantations. Civets are meant to roam in the wild, so the best way to enjoy them is to spot them there, happily eating food beyond the coffee cherries forced down their throats at coffee farms.

Crocodile farms

The problem: Overpopulated, cramped crocodile farms provide tours for people to look at the dinosaur-like creatures. What happens when tourists leave? The perfect predator is slaughtered for its meat and its skin, typically while fully alive and conscious.

The solution: There are many ways to see crocodilians humanely and in the wild that the idea of a crocodile farm even being profitable is unbelievable. Crocodile Encounter in Texas is a zoo-like facility that gets tourists close to the action, or anyone can venture into the Everglades in Florida to see alligators lounging about. Of course, there are plenty of tours there as well. Point is, if you want to see a big, toothy reptile, it’s extremely simple to find one that won’t later be slaughtered.  

The list goes on and on. From dancing monkeys to kissing cobras and charming snakes, to people baiting polar bears with their own dogs so tourists can get a good photo, we as responsible travelers need to do a better job of ensuring that when we interact with wildlife we aren’t contributing to animal abuse. The best way to do this is to take a step back when faced with a wildlife attraction and consider the circumstances in which those animals live. Asks questions. Do research. And finally, ask yourself if what attracts you most about being able to get close to that animal is the picture that comes with it. More liks this: How to see elephants responsibly on your trip to Thailand

Lonely Planet Colombia (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Colombia*

Lonely Planet Colombia is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Step into the pages of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, watch the sunrise in El Cocuy, or pick your own coffee beans in Zona Cafetera; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Colombia and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Colombia Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including customs, culture, history, art, literature, music, sports, politics, landscapes, and wildlife Over 50 local maps Covers of Bogota, Zona Cafetera, Cartagena, MedellinEl Cocuy, San Agustin, Mompox, San AndresProvidenciaCali, the Amazon Basin, the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean Coast, Boyaca, Santander, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Colombia, our most comprehensive guide to Colombia, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's South America on a Shoestring guide for a comprehensive look at all the continent has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Bestselling guide to Colombia Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA, May 2011 to April 2012.

The New Colombia

Financial Times

Colombia is usually associated with drug cartels, guerrilla wars andviolence. But the biggest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico is changing.The economy is already larger, by some measures, than South Africa’s; ifpeace talks are successful, it will do better still. This free ebook is anindispensable guide to the new Colombia, reproducing a magazine publishedearlier this year by the Financial Times.FT writers interview President Juan Manuel Santos and profile both theBogota establishment and young Colombians to watch. They explore thedevelopment challenges of the Colombian outback and the rise of a newnational export - security expertise ranging from bullet proof fashion tomercenaries. Essays by Oscar Naranjo, former head of the national police,and Malcolm Deas, historian, provide further context.

The Colombia Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)

Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Marco Palacios, Ana María Gómez López

Containing over one hundred selections—most of them published in English for the first time—The Colombia Reader presents a rich and multilayered account of this complex nation from the colonial era to the present. The collection includes journalistic reports, songs, artwork, poetry, oral histories, government documents, and scholarship to illustrate the changing ways Colombians from all walks of life have made and understood their own history. Comprehensive in scope, it covers regional differences; religion, art, and culture; the urban/rural divide; patterns of racial, economic, and gender inequalities; the history of violence; and the transnational flows that have shaped the nation.  The Colombia Reader expands readers' knowledge of Colombia beyond its reputation for violence, contrasting experiences of conflict with the stability and significance of cultural, intellectual, and economic life in this plural nation.

Colombia (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

Let National Geographic's Colombia Adventure Map guide you as you explore the unique biodiversity, rich history and vibrant culture of this country which is the gateway to South America. Quickly find your destination with the aid of a user-friendly index of cities and towns. Then plan your route using the mapped road network, complete with distances and designations for major and secondary roads, including the Pan-American Highway, as well as tracks and unsurfaced roads for those seeking to travel off the beaten path. Other travel network features include airports, airfields, railroads, harbors and border crossings. In addition, hundreds of cultural, historical, ecological and recreational points of interest are pinpointed, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, protected areas, beaches, archeological sites, castles and areas for diving, fishing, surfing and paragliding.

The map's front side covers the country from northern borders with Venezuela and Panama, along with its Caribbean Sea coastline, through the coffee plantations in the Andes, down to the capital of Bogota, including the cities of Cartagena, Medellin and Pereira. While the reverse side covers the southern half of the country, through the cities of Cali and Popayan, to its Amazon region and southern borders with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. The entire Pacific coastline is covered as well, along with Colombia's islands. With such an abundance of specialized content, along with its topographic features, this map is the perfect compliment to any guide book to the country.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:1,525,000Sheet Size = 37.75" x 25.5"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

Colombia - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Kate Cathey

Colombia is a magical country, full of spectacular varied landscapes, rare ecosystems, succulent tropical fruits, salsa and cumbia music, and kind, fun-loving people. The modern culture is a synthesis of Spanish, indigenous, and African traditions, evident in the music, the food, and Barranquilla’s famous Carnaval. The country’s major cities are modern and cosmopolitan, with an international style and consumerism that makes them feel more like cities in the USA than Latin America. Yet, five minutes into the countryside, its distinct rural charms reveal a slower and more bucolic past.   In the collective imagination, Colombia is exotic, lawless, and dangerous—an illegal narcotics trade and the ongoing armed conflict have contributed to its bad-boy image. But things are changing, and there is so much more than that.   Entrenched social inequality has led to strife, manifest in the long-lived left- and rightwing rebel movements and a cycle of appalling violence that has saturated four decades with an undeclared civil war. And still, the Colombians are animated, lighthearted and fun—always ready to laugh and enjoy the moment. They have found strength in each other, in their families, and closest friends who are the cornerstones of their lives. Culture Smart! Colombia shows how the country’s rough geography and tumultuous history have shaped modern values and attitudes. It looks at the public realm and at life at home with the family. It introduces you to Colombia’s distinct and delicious cuisine, and reveals what people think about each other, their neighbors, and foreigners. There is advice on the safest ways to get around; on how business is done; and how Colombians communicate. Culture Smart! Colombia explains the intricacies of a culture that is both modern and steeped in tradition, international and regional, cosmopolitan and agrarian, very rich and very poor, and after more than four decades of undeclared civil war is happily emerging from tough times and getting ready for the future.

47 Amazing Things to See and Do in Colombia

Neil Bennion

From Neil Bennion, author of Dancing Feat, comes this all-new quick guide to Colombia.Detailed guides are great. But when you're putting together your rough itinerary, you don't always need up-to-the-minute peso prices, opening hours on public holidays and the nicknames of all the local bus drivers. Sometimes you just want a quick heads up, so you know what's what.This is that guide.To the point - quickly get up to speed on what Colombia has to offer Humorous - the author's light-hearted humour makes this a breezy read Variety - everything from swimming in mud volcanoes to relaxing on secluded beachesMaps - put all the experiences into geographical context Digested history - provides perspective without getting boring Get the low-down on Colombia in a single sitting!

Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia

Tom Feiling

For decades, Colombia was the "narcostate." Now it's seen as one of the rising stars of the global economy. Where does the truth lie? How did a land likened to paradise by the first conquistadores become a byword for hell on earth? And how is it rebuilding itself after decades of violence? Writer and journalist Tom Feiling has journeyed throughout Colombia, down roads that were until recently too dangerous to travel, talking to people from former guerrilla fighters to nomadic tribesmen and millionaires. Vital, shocking, wry, and never simplistic, Short Walks from Bogota unpicks the tangled fabric of Colombia to create a stunning work of reportage, history and travel writing.

Colombia a Comedy of Errors

Victoria Kellaway and Sergio J Lievano

Colombia a comedy of errors tells the story of all forty-eight million Colombians, examining the country's history, people, culture, colombianomics and justice. It is a funny, full-colour book that became a bestseller in Colombia in the first month of its release. The book was written by British journalist Victoria Kellaway and Brit-Colombian artist and writer Sergio J. Lievano and reveals the secrets behind a nation that has drama and comedy seeped into its bloodstream. The pair study the country with an eye for detail that will surprise everyone, from the most knowledgeable reader to those who don't have a clue about the country.

This lively, humour-filled book has a serious heart and makes for an ideal gift or travel companion. It contains more than 160 illustrations, caricaturing famous faces (including Shakira, Bolivar, Botero and Uribe) as well as all those ordinary Colombians fighting to survive their country's daily contradictions. Colombia a comedy of errors is an inspiring journey into the very depths of the Colombian gene and what it means for Colombians everywhere.

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Illegal armed groups (see Advisory)

The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla groups—including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army—and other armed groups pose a major risk to travellers, especially in rural areas. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings and damage to infrastructure. Landmines continue to be used by guerrilla groups.

Terrorism

There are two known terrorist groups active in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants, underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities. The Government of Colombia continues negotiations with the FARC to bring an end to the conflict; however, there is currently no ceasefire in place. Remain vigilant, avoid any unattended packages or parcels, and bring them to the attention of security personnel. Avoid travel to the areas of the country listed in the Advisories section.

Crime

Although there have been significant improvements to Colombia’s security situation, petty and violent crime, including pickpocketing, assault, robbery, car bombing, hijacking and murder, is still common throughout the country. Exercise extreme caution, dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and keep cameras and electronic equipment out of sight. Carry minimal sums of money and leave your passport and other travel documents locked in your hotel safe.

Arrive at Medellín’s José Maria Córdova International Airport during the day to avoid the road from the airport to the city after dark.

Remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings at all times when travelling in larger cities, such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. Muggings and assaults occur even in safer parts of these cities, and some neighbourhoods should be avoided at all times due to high crime rates. Check with your hotel or other reliable contacts in the city you are visiting to determine which areas should be avoided.

There has been an increase in assaults and robberies against foreigners at hostels in Colombia, particularly in Bogotá and Cartagena. If you opt to stay at hostels, be highly vigilant and carefully evaluate your personal security situation.

Avoid the southern parts of Bogotá, especially the neighbourhoods of Soacha and Ciudad Bolivar. Avoid the downtown area (Candelaria and surrounding neighbourhoods) after dark, and avoid the neighbourhoods of Kennedy and Usaquen (north of calle 153) at all times.

In Medellín, avoid the city centre after dark and avoid areas not covered by the metro system. Although some of the "comunas" (municipalities on the periphery of the city) are serviced by the cablecar system ("Metrocable"), you should avoid them at all times.

In Cali you should remain in the hotel zone and the south of the city; you should avoid all other parts of Cali. Violent crimes have recently been reported even in wealthier neighbourhoods and shopping malls.

Avoid going to bars alone. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Drugs such as scopolamine have been reportedly blown into the faces of victims on the street. Exercise extreme caution when dealing with strangers.

Business travellers and Canadian companies establishing operations in Colombia should take enhanced security measures to protect both personnel and company assets. Choose living accommodations that have significant security measures in place, and modern office facilities. Consult the commercial section of the Embassy of Canada in Bogotá for more information and advice.

There have been reports of thieves posing as police officers and approaching foreigners to verify their documents or foreign currency. If approached, do not hand over money or documents unless you feel threatened—in which case you should not resist—and then request to do so at your hotel or other public place to maximize your safety.

National parks, wildlife refuges, and city outskirts are often convenient hideouts for illegal groups. Armed clashes are frequent in such areas. If visiting these destinations, remain in tourist areas, as they are usually safer and are more frequently patrolled by police.

In the tourist resort areas of San Andrés Island, Providencia Island and Cartagena, criminal activity and violence directed at tourists is low compared to other destinations in the region. Exercise common sense and normal security precautions in these areas.

Kidnapping

Colombia has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. While kidnapping is primarily aimed at Colombians, foreigners can be targeted by guerrilla groups in all parts of the country, especially foreigners working for (or perceived to be working for) oil and mining companies.

"Express kidnappings" are frequent and often occur in affluent areas as well as in tourist areas. Victims are usually kidnapped from the street and forced to withdraw funds from an automated banking machine (ABM). Victims are sometimes held overnight so that a second withdrawal can be made the next day. Victims may be sexually assaulted during the kidnapping. Uncooperative victims have been injured or killed.

Demonstrations and civil unrest

Demonstrations, major strikes, and acts of violence by terrorist groups may occur. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, especially in large cities.

In some rural areas, illegal armed groups may set up roadblocks targeting the well‑off for robbery or kidnapping for ransom. Roadblocks may disrupt local transportation and affect travel to and from airports.

Travel by air when covering long distances and do not enter or leave Colombia over land borders. Any road travel should be done during the day using main roads only. Road closures may occur between Bogotá and Villavicencio and in the Magdalena Medio region (Barrancabermeja), and are more frequent in the departments of Guajira, Bolívar, Antioquia, Santander, Norte de Santander and Putumayo.

Road travel

Road travel in Colombia, including Bogotá, is extremely dangerous. Most roadways are in poor condition and are often congested. Traffic laws are not enforced by police, traffic signs and controls are ignored, and drivers are frequently distracted and can be aggressive and/or drunk. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, including at stop signs.

When travelling by car, place all belongings in the trunk and keep your doors locked at all times. Carry a cellular telephone and park your car in a guarded parking lot.

Public transportation

Public transportation is not safe; buses and, to a lesser extent, taxis are frequent targets for criminals. Rural buses are often stopped by guerrillas. Do not hail taxis on the street, as express kidnappings often occur in unlicensed taxis; rather, book them through your hotel or through an authorized and controlled taxi centre and take note of the licence plate number. If you have to hail a taxi on the street, avoid cabs without licence plates and do not enter a cab if it is already occupied by anyone but the driver. Many taxi drivers are armed. Smartphone applications are available that allow you to order safe taxis, which are monitored by GPS.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 123 for ambulance services.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness)West Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal

Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. Many clinics offer emergency services, but payment in advance is often expected. Clinics include the Clínica del Country (530-0470), Fundación Santa Fé (603-0303) and Clínica Marly (343-6600). Call 258-6569 to contact the Trasmédica ambulance service.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

There is no Transfer of Offenders Treaty between Canada and Colombia. Jail terms must be served in Colombia.

Illegal drugs

Sentences for drug-related offences are severe. Monitor your luggage closely at all times. Never transport other people’s packages or change money for strangers.

Laws

Colombian law prohibits travellers from bringing firearms into Colombia. Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in lengthy prison sentences.

It is also prohibited to export certain cultural artifacts.

It is a serious criminal offence to have sex with minors in Colombia. Conviction may result in a lengthy prison sentence.

In the event of a car accident, the drivers involved must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive. Failure to do so may result in problems with Colombian law enforcement.

An international driving permit is required.

Money

The currency is the Colombian peso (COP). Canadian traveller’s cheques and cash are not accepted in Colombia; however, U.S. currency and traveller’s cheques are widely accepted. Colombian automated banking machines (ABMs) accept most Canadian bank cards, making it possible to withdraw Colombian pesos.

Climate

Colombia is subject to various natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, torrential rains, floods and mudslides, which can cause damage to infrastructure and loss of life. Pay careful attention to weather forecasts and official warnings, and modify your travel arrangements accordingly.

Hurricanes and rainy seasons

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Rainy seasons normally last from March to June and from September to November. Incidents of flooding and mudslides occur, especially in rural areas.

Volcanic activity

The Nevado Del Ruiz volcano has recently erupted. Although the eruption did not result in damages or injuries, Colombian authorities have issued an alert for the areas surrounding the volcano. Follow the advice of local authorities and avoid affected areas. More information is available on the website of the Servicio Geológico Colombiano (in Spanish).