Sep 09

What To Pack For A Trip To Colombia

What To Pack For A Trip To Colombia

 

A visit to Colombia is usually exciting, exotic and varied; most people who visit this wonderful country leave determined to return. We have frequently written about the beauty and diversity of our adopted homeland, however, when planning a trip to Colombia there are several less exciting things which are essential to keep in mind: one of those is what to pack for a visit to Colombia. So here’s our simple guide to what to pack for a trip to Colombia:

What kind of bag?

The size of bag to take on a trip is frequently a divisive issue among backpackers and travelers; for instance, I recently traveled for 3 months through South-East Asia with just a 40 Litre rucksack, and never found that I had underpacked, yet, for a trip in Colombia I often find this size insufficient. The reason for this is very simple: the broad range of climates and ecosystems in Colombia. Whilst in Asia, shorts and a t-shirt usually suffice, in Colombia it’s very different: Bogota and the Coffee Region can be cold and wet, the Caribbean, Pacific and Amazon are hot and humid throughout the year. Therefore, more bag space is generally required. I would recommend 55 litres or more, especially as you are likely to want to pick up some souvenirs of your trip. A small day-sack is also a good idea. All that being said, don’t overdo it; I sometimes see backpackers carting around an 80+ litre bag, and this is probably excessive. You’ll just end up uncomfortable most of the time, and the chances are you could do without much of the stuff in it.

In terms of the type of luggage, personally I would suggest a rucksack or hold-all rather than any form of wheeled luggage. In some towns like Villa de Leyva, Barichara and Mompos, the streets are cobbled and uneven, making a wheeled suitcase more trouble than it’s worth. Same goes in the Amazon, where any wildlife tour will usually involve hopping off canoes, and plenty of mud. Anything you can quickly swing onto your shoulders will stand you in better stead.

 

Backpack Colombia Travel
2 different sized backpacks

 

What to pack:

Clothes:

The range of climates in Colombia means that a range of clothes are required. This would be a sensible starting point:

  • A fleece or thick jumper for the cold nights in Bogota
  • A wind and rain-proof jacket for hiking and city afternoons
  • Jeans or thicker trousers for cities. Jeans are a good idea if you plan to go out on the town; Colombians tend to dress up a bit, and hiking trousers will look a little out of place
  • Hiking trousers
  • 1 or 2 pairs of shorts / light dresses for girls – the coast is extremely hot and you’ll be glad of them!
  • Plenty of t-shirts/vests for the hot weather
  • At least 1 thin, long-sleeved shirt for mosquitoes in the evening, and another for going out in the cities.
  • Some sort of hat for the sun
  • Underwear and socks (you shouldn’t really need me to tell you that!)
  • Swim-wear
  • Hiking shoes/boots; flip-flops or sandals (I prefer durable sandals as they are more useful in the Amazon region and for hot days when hiking); 1 pair of lighter shoes for nights out

 

El Cocuy Colombia
A good example of the kin of gear to pack if you’re planning any hiking or trekking

 

Extras:

There are several extra items which will make your visit a lot easier:

  • Tablet or smartphone: most hostels have computers and wi-fi, but a device such as these makes backing up photos and keeping in contact with home much easier.
  • Padlocks – bring 1 for your bag and 1 for the hostel locker (not too thick so it can fit in the lockers)
  • Dry-bags or good plastic bags to protect your stuff on boat-trips, and from the humidity of the jungle
  • Travel-wash and portable line – this can really help save money on laundry
  • Sunglasses – essential!
  • Camera and spare memory cards (Go-Pro if you have one, they’re amazing!)
  • A few books, or a Kindle
  • Money-belt and wallet
  • A small umbrella – I have found that when it rains in hotter places, a jacket is too uncomfortable, therefore a small umbrella can be useful

Medicinal:

  • Some malaria tablets for more isolated jungle areas – consult local agencies for malaria info
  • Stomach tablets and rehydration sachets in case of any food-poisoning (generally unlikely)
  • Plasters and nail scissors
  • Painkillers (Bogota and Medellin have a pretty good nightlife…)
  • Sun-cream (high factor!)
  • Bug-spray (ideally free of Deet)

These are the essentials for any trip to Colombia; you could cut down on a couple of items of clothing to save space, but it wouldn’t be recommended, especially if you are planning to visit most/all of Colombia’s diverse climates and regions. This amount of luggage should fit comfortably into a large rucksack and day-bag, with some rooms left over for those little souvenirs. For the electronic items of higher value, simply exercise proper caution by locking them up in hostels and not flashing them about too openly in big cities, and you should have no problems with safety.

So that’s what to pack for a trip to Colombia: If you have any more questions about packing for a trip to Colombia, please don’t hesitate to get in touch; we’re always happy to help!

Chris

6 thoughts on “What To Pack For A Trip To Colombia

  1. Rajat on

    Hello,

    I’ll be spending a week in Bogota next month and was wondering where to find coin-operated laundromat? I am staying next to El Campin stadium and searched google maps but couldn’t find places other than dry cleaning.

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Rajat. I’m not actually sure where you would find one of those, I don’t know of any in Bogota. But I would recommend asking on this group on Facebook (it’s designed for people living or moving to Bogota to find out about those things): https://www.facebook.com/search/str/expat%2C+people+traveling+to+bogota+colombia!!/keywords_search

      Reply
  2. Manuel on

    Hi Chris,

    I´ll be travelling to Colombia on the second half of July with my wife and 2 year old.

    We´ll be primarily on Bogota, what kind of clothes do you recommend?

    Any other considerations I should keep in mind?

    Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Manuel,

      Sorry for the late response, I guess you haven’t arrived yet? I would recommend bringing some warmer clothes: a jacket, raincoat, jeans etc. Also, an umbrella or two is always a good idea. It’s not especially cold here, but compared to the rest of the country it can be, and if you are going up Montserrate for example, it can be very chilly. Also, keep the attitude in mind, and maybe plan a slow day when you first arrive to get used to it a bit.

      Have a great trip 🙂

      Reply
  3. Ella on

    Hi Chris! Thanks for your tips! I’m going out to colombia in a couple of weeks and just trying to figure out what to take, I’ll be working teaching english out there so I wondered if you have noticed how teachers dress out there, whether its quite casual or smart? Also how do people dress when they go out at night time, quite casual?

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Ella,

      Thanks for reading! It depends a bit on what sort of place you’ll be teaching: universities generally require quite smart dress from their teachers, as do upmarket private schools – perhaps not a full suit, but smart trousers and a shirt for instance. Jeans and a smart top would be more acceptable in a more relaxed teaching environment. Colombians, in general, appreciate ‘effort’ when it comes to clothing – perceived ‘scruffiness’ is not generally tolerated in a business or work environment. You might be best off just biting the bullet and emailing the place you’ll be working asking if they have any dress-code.

      In terms of a night out, it can depend a bit on the city you’re going to or the place you want to go to: in Medellin appearance is perhaps emphasized more, so a nice dress or skirt would be more common, whereas in Bogota, it’s much more common to see jeans (partly due to the climate differences). Like anywhere in the world, a lot of it comes down to the place you’re going: the local ‘tienda’ or rock bar – jeans all the way; a ritzy dance club or cocktail bar, maybe something ‘smarter.’

      Hope that helps, and please get in touch with any other questions. And good luck with the move, I’m sure you’ll love it here!

      Chris

      Reply

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