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.
What to pack:
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!)
- 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
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
- 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!