Today’s post is written by Sara Romes, from See Colombia’s Sales Department. Thanks Sara and Happy Semana Santa to all!
You’re traveling to where? I think you should dye your hair. Or as I like to call it: Traveling as a blonde woman in Latin America.
The comment about dying my hair is made by at least one person every time I have embarked on a new Latin American adventure. Before my first trip, I read a blog that mentioned blondes getting unwanted extra attention in Central America, and I wanted to avoid that; after all, I was traveling by myself and spoke Spanish like I did in high school. It was also my first time going to a developing country. I bought a cheap bottle of hair dye, invited a friend over, and became a brunette.
Well, for a week.
Apparently I am a stubborn blonde – and I’m not just talking about the fact that I’m a Taurus. My hair didn’t want to stay dark, especially with the sun and salt water. When the brown started to fade out of my hair, it turned red. Not fire red, but red enough that people asked if I was Irish. Is having red hair less noticeable than blonde hair? Not at all. But to answer the question on whether it was safe traveling as a blonde/redhead during my trip: Yes, it was. Did I get stared at? Yes. But I got used to it. Did someone try to touch me? Never. I often got asked where I was from, and made friends in that way. In 10 months of travel through 7 different countries, and after 6+ months of living in Colombia, I’m happy to say that nothing bad has ever happened to me. Nor do I expect that anything bad will!
How is traveling in Colombia as a blonde?
Well, its about the same as traveling as any kind of foreigner: you get looked at; people ask you questions; occasionally you hear little whispers about being a mona (Colombian slang for a fair skinned woman). But otherwise people are harmless. I would even say that it has been better travelling as a blondie all by myself than it has been traveling with others. People are curious about foreigners, no matter where you travel. I can think of many times in the US when I have heard people speaking other languages, with cameras around their necks, and I wanted to ask where they were from and where they were planning to travel. But I never asked them those questions because they were in a group – and asking a group is more intimidating than asking an individual.
You are more approachable when on your own, and you often make new friends, get invited to a home for a meal or a cup of coffee, or offered a shot of the local liquor of choice thanks to traveling solo. In some ways, I think it is also safer: while you don’t have a seat buddy in a overnight bus or someone to reminisce with once you’re back home, you will find that people will go out of their way to make sure you know where you are going, or where to get off of the bus, that you are well-fed, and that you have a connection with someone in the city you are travelling to.
My first trip to Colombia was for a month, and I visited 5 different places. Every time I mentioned where my next destination was, it was always met with this question: Do you know anyone there? If not, I have a cousin/friend/aunt/brother who lives there and you can call them when you arrive. I’ve never met more friendly people than the people of Colombia.
I also am aware that people may offer you a higher price for the purchase of something since you are foreign. If you ask for a discount or make a counter offer you can reduce that price to a more reasonable one. Knowing the local customs on tipping, bartering as well as what areas are safe and which ones aren’t is helpful to any traveler with any color of hair! Blondes, don’t fear: if you do your homework and use common sense, your trip to Colombia will be an extraordinary one.