17 Best Colombia Travel Tips for Digital Nomads

Is Colombia your next travel destination? Read this guide for helpful Colombia travel tips to enjoy its culture and must-visit destinations as a digital nomad.

Flavio Amiel

Flavio Amiel

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Published in Travel on 1/8/2024
17 Best Colombia Travel Tips for Digital Nomads

Colombia is an all-time favorite destination among digital nomads. Its vibrant cities, jaw-dropping landscapes, fascinating culture, and relaxing workspaces all tick the boxes for a memorable work-travel experience.

But there’s more about Colombia that appeals to countless travelers worldwide. For instance, it’s one of the cheapest South American countries that budget travelers love exploring.

It's also famous for its world-class aromatic and mild coffee made of Arabica beans. And if you’re not yet aware, this country is hailed as the “Land of Thousand Rhythms” with its lively folklore music, dance, and festivals.

So, if this country is now on your must-visit radar, this guide can help you plan your trip. In this post, I’ll provide helpful Colombia travel tips to immerse in its local culture and top attractions, as well as budget-friendly options to live here as a digital nomad.

Top 17 Travel Tips for a Great Stay in Colombia

1. Plan Your Trip in Advance

So you want to go to Colombia. Are you already familiar with this country?

You might have gleaned some knowledge from pop culture. Perhaps you've watched Netflix's Narcos or The Sopranos and witnessed the era when drug lords and traffickers plagued Colombia.

However, those days are long gone, and today, Colombia is an ideal destination for digital nomads who love nature. Just look how Disney’s Encanto featured Colombia’s magic with its breathtaking landscapes, relaxing rivers, and diverse culture.

Unfortunately, movies and TV series are not enough for you to learn about Colombia’s culture, government, laws, cuisine, festivals, currency, and more. To determine if this country aligns with your lifestyle and preferences as a digital nomad, thorough research is essential.

Once you decide that Colombia is your next destination, you can start devising a plan for your trip. Consider whether you’re going solo or with a group (via an all-inclusive package).

Prepare the travel documents you need and set your travel and work schedule while you stay. You can also prepare a checklist of essential items you must bring to avoid missing anything crucial.

2. Consider the Cost of Traveling to Colombia

Colombia is a popular choice among digital nomads for its affordable cost of living. With a budget of only $30 a day, you can afford a decent hostel room, cook food, and take public transportation.

But if you want to live more luxuriously, you can increase your budget to $60 a day. Now, you can enjoy some guided tours and try some mid-range restaurants.

Here are some cost-effective Colombia travel tips for you:

  • Stay in cheap hostels offering private rooms at $10 to $20 per night. These rooms usually have free Wi-Fi and breakfast.
  • If your hostel has a shared kitchen, you can cook your food. Buy the ingredients and meat from local markets, as it’s cheaper there.
  • Colombia’s street foods and snacks are incredibly cheap. Empanadas are around $0.65 per piece, while arepas are around $0.76 to $1.27 per piece.
  • You can also enjoy cheap meals in local restaurants, ranging from $5 to $10 per serving.
  • Colectivos (minibusses) are great for short-distance travel, costing around $0.45 to $0.55 per person—no need for car rental to go around cities and towns.
  • It’s advisable to take Uber rather than taxis. An Uber ride will cost you around $10 at most.
  • Use the local currency (Colombian peso), as some stores charge extra fees if you pay in foreign currency such as USD.

3. Choose the Best Time to Visit Colombia

An ideal time to visit Colombia is from December to March, as it's usually the dry season and rainfall is less frequent. You’ll have fun trekking, swimming, or surfing around these months, as the weather here is generally sunny.

he only catch is that most people also visit Colombia during this period, and the prices of goods are relatively higher.

4. Explore the Must-Visit Destinations in Colombia

With its hundreds of stunning natural wonders and charming metropolises, I’m telling you that a 5 to 6-week stay in Colombia is not enough to explore its must-see destinations.

But fret not. I handpicked some of Colombia’s “A-lister” attractions to give you a complete experience of this country’s culture, history, nightlife, and activities during your stay.

  • La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City): Veiled within the dense jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the lost city is a magnificent artifact of the famous Tairona civilization that thrived from around 100 AD to the early 1600s. This destination is known for its ridge-top stone platforms forming circular terraces with breathtaking views of the vast Sierra Nevada. It typically takes a 4-day trek to reach the lost Tairona city, with around 6 river crossings and 1200+ steps to ascend toward the ruins.
  • Cocora Valley: Don’t miss the chance to see the world’s largest palm trees in Cocora Valley. This place is home to hundreds of wax palm trees (Colombia’s natural tree) that stand up to 600 meters high. You’ll also love its dense cloud forests and jungle rivers as you cross those terrifying suspension bridges that will test your fear of heights.
  • San Agustin Archaeological Park: This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit destination for all history connoisseurs who want to see some pre-Columbian megalithic structures, monuments, and tombs. Some of its anthropomorphic (and zoomorphic) ancient statues (called Chinas) can stand over 6 meters high, reflecting the artistry of the pre-Hispanic Andean people.
  • Amazon Jungle: Almost 10% of the Amazon rainforest is in Colombia, and it’s available for visit all year round! Never miss the chance to hike through the lush jungle, meet its flora and fauna, or take a boat trip across the charming Amazon River.
  • Cartagena: The spectacular city of Cartagena de Indias is known as the Caribbean coast’s crown jewel, with its 18th-century Hispanic ambiance reflected on its old walls, colonial buildings, church towers, and fortresses.
  • Medellin: You might be screaming “No way!” right now upon reading this destination because of its notorious drug cartels of the 90s. But after the demise of Escobar, you can now enjoy this bustling city’s temperate weather, innovative housing infrastructure, and welcoming folks.
  • Providencia Island: This wonderful island has crystal-clear blue water that divers, swimmers, and snorkelers will enjoy. The green mangroves and tall palm trees amplify the beauty of this marine paradise.
  • Coffee Triangle: Located in the Paisa region, the Coffee Triangle consists of fertile valleys and myriads of coffee plantations with charming, colorful houses around. Coffee lovers will love exploring its traditional coffee farms and tasting Colombia’s world-class coffee.

5. Pack Appropriately for Colombia

The things you’ll put in the suitcase are as important as your travel plan. The last thing you want to happen is to forget an essential item like a document, cloth, or device that will turn your trip into a nightmare.

In this section of my Colombia travel tips, I offer a comprehensive list of what to bring in your travel bag.

  • Documents: First things first, make sure that your passport, visa, and other travel documents are well-placed in a separate waterproof bag. No words can explain the hassle of losing one of these papers.
  • Sun Protection: Long exposure to the Colombian sun can harm your skin. Bring sunscreen lotion, hats, and lightweight long-sleeve shirts for protection. It’s also advisable to get a pair of sunglasses.
  • Light clothes: If you’re going to Colombia’s hotter regions like the Caribbean coast, Orinoco region, or Magdalena River Valley, bring lightweight, loose clothes made of natural fabrics like linen, cotton, or silk.
  • Shoes: Lightweight toe sandals or walking shoes will suffice during mild weather when walking across Colombian streets. If you’re going to trek, you must wear waterproof hiking boots as a precaution for sudden rains.
  • First-aid kit: This includes bandages, sterile gauze pads, medicine, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Warm Clothing: Colombia’s weather can be a bit crazy. It can be scorching hot in the streets, and suddenly, heavy rainfall follows, so make sure to bring a raincoat. It can also be chilly during hikes, so don’t forget to bring jackets, trousers, and sweaters.
  • Insect repellant: Insect bites are nightmares, especially when walking in Colombia’s jungles. So protect yourself with an organic insect repellant or bug spray.
  • Insulated water bottle: It’s costly to buy bottled water every time you feel thirsty during your trip, so make sure to have a reusable bottle in your pack.
  • Electronic devices: Bring all your essential work-related devices, such as a laptop, laptop charger, and Wi-Fi router.

6. Stay Safe in Colombia

Colombia’s history of drug cartel violence is now over, and digital nomads can roam around in the streets safely. So, there’s no reason to fear that thugs may attack or kidnap you once you visit this country.

However, petty crimes are still prevalent in the country. There are still pickpockets and thieves that may take advantage of foreigners like you. So, as much as possible, don’t give these rascals a reason to rob you.

As the locals say, “No dar papaya” (Don’t give papaya), never let your sweet valuables be the next target of petty thieves. Put your money, phone, and accessories in a bag strapped to your shoulder and avoid walking alone, especially at night.

7. Learn the Visa Requirements for Colombia

As with other South American countries like Ecuador and Brazil, Colombia has launched a digital nomad visa, allowing remote workers to stay in the country for up to two years.

What’s great about a digital nomad visa is that it will also give you the privilege to operate an online digital business in the country. You can also bring your dependents into the country under the same document without the need to apply for another visa.

Here are the requirements for a Colombia digital nomad visa:

  • Passport with a validity of six months.
  • Passport size photo
  • Minimum monthly income of $900 (applicant must provide bank statements dated for the last three months as proof).
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of employment as a remote worker
  • If applicable: Letter of Intent and Proof of Dependents
  • Accomplished Visa application form.

The visa application fee is $52. For complete information on the digital nomad visa application, please refer to this guide provided by the Colombian government.

Alternatively, if you prefer not to apply for a digital nomad visa, you can review Colombia's tourist visa requirements here.

8. Consider All-Inclusive Vacation Packages

In an all-inclusive vacation package, all aspects of your trip are taken care of. From accommodation and transportation to your chosen destinations and activities, a travel company prepares everything, allowing you to just sit back and relax during your entire trip.

If it’s your first time visiting Colombia, I highly suggest checking out some all-inclusive Colombia travel packages. Since this is a non-English country, you’ll have difficulty navigating around your destinations (which can make your trip inefficient and more expensive!).

However, going this route means losing your flexibility. Everything is planned, and deviating from your travel agent’s itineraries is not wise. Fortunately, some companies let their clients have some choice regarding meals and accommodations or even select their preferred destinations.

9. Make the Most of Colombia Itinerary

Colombia is full of beautiful attractions. Unfortunately, it can be expensive and tiring to visit all of them during your visit. But by planning your Colombia travel itinerary carefully, you can experience all facets of its culture, history, and nature.

Start by listing Colombia’s attractions you want to visit. Afterward, pick the destinations you think align with your budget and schedule. Don’t forget to add extra days for relaxation or laid-back exploration of its cities and towns.

Here’s an example of a 1-week Colombia itinerary: Start exploring the capital city of Bogota and get a feel of Colombian urban life. Afterward, visit the historical architecture of Cartagena and enjoy its adjacent beaches. You can then explore the Tayrona National Park or the Rosario Islands.

10. Experience the Local Cuisine

Since Colombia is a melting pot of indigenous, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences, its dishes also reflect the country's multicultural diversity. But Colombian cuisine generally has these mild, earthy flavors, accentuated by tropical herbs and spices.

Yes, their taste is not as strong as that of the Mexicans or the Peruvian (some people even claim that Colombia’s a little bit bland!), but they offer a unique taste focused on starch, meat, fruits, and veggies.

Take a glimpse of some of Colombia’s finest dishes below:

  • Bandeja Paisa: This is a Colombian national dish known for its bunch of foods stuffed on one plate. It’s like you're having a feast for your breakfast! The meal consists of white rice, ground (or minced) beef, red beans, chicharron (fried pork rind), chorizo, a fried egg, and a slice of avocado. Good luck finishing this dish in one sitting.
  • Sancocho de Gallina: A chicken soup made of chicken, corn, yuca, potatoes, green plantains, vegetable broth, and herbs. This Colombian dish is known for its mushroom-like flavor balanced by the oily chicken aroma. It is usually served with spicy herb sauce and white rice.
  • Empanada: This deep-fried pastry stuffed with chicken, cheese, ham, carrots, and potatoes is one of Colombia’s best-known snacks. Most street food stalls in Bogota and Mellin sell empanadas that you can buy for as low as $1 per serving.
  • Arepas: Arepas are cornmeal pancakes stuffed with meat, fried eggs, and veggies. It’s crisp outside but delightfully fluffy inside. Some restaurants also fill it with chocolate, cheese, or mayonnaise, making it extra delicious.
  • Lechona: This is a roasted pig cut open (with its bones removed) and stuffed with fresh herbs, potatoes, ground pork meat, onions, and other spices. This hearty food is usually served during special occasions like Christmas or the New Year and can fill over 100 tummies at once!
  • Ajiaco soup: This Colombian traditional soup is known for its sour and creamy flavor. It is a mixture of criolla, sabanera, pastusa (Colombian potatoes), guasca leaves, chicken, and corn. You can eat it with a bowl of rice on the side and a slice of avocado.

11. Engage in Sustainable Tourism Practices

Over 6.5 million foreigners visit the land of a thousand rhythms annually. While this surge in tourism can benefit Colombia’s economy, it can harm its natural environment. Massive tourists can cause pollution, wildlife disturbance, erosion, and deforestation. It may also increase the country’s annual carbon emissions due to increased flights and vehicular travel.

Hence, tourists, backpackers, and digital nomads must be conscious of the potential environmental repercussions of their actions. As a visitor, you are responsible for engaging in sustainable tourism practices to preserve Colombia’s flora, fauna, and natural resources.

Here are some ways to be an eco-conscious digital nomad in Colombia:

  • Avoid littering when trekking mountains or exploring jungles.
  • Do not create a trail. Some parts of the soil might be too fragile for human footsteps.
  • Use reusable bags, bottles, and containers during your travels.
  • Walk or bike to your destination if they’re near you.
  • Support handicrafts and products made by local and indigenous communities in Colombia.

12. Stay Connected

As a digital nomad, your livelihood is hinged on a stable internet connection.

Fortunately, Colombia has many fast public Wi-Fi spots in malls, stores, and restaurants, so you can always check your email and work messages.

Typical Internet speeds in Colombia average around 15 Mbps download speed and 7.8 Mbps upload speed. But if you’re looking for a smoother connection, there are also fixed-line fiber optic broadbands in Colombia averaging 1.92 terabits per second.

Another option to stay connected in this country is to purchase a local SIM card (preferably a prepaid one). The primary mobile networks here are Claro, Movistar, and Tago. If you plan to stay for long, I recommend the Claro network, as it has the most extensive and fastest 4G connectivity in the country.

A SIM card typically costs around $1.70, and you can top it up with cheap data bundles (usually with unlimited social media browsing) that typically start at $1.27 monthly.

13. Learn Basic Spanish

It can be challenging to travel to Colombia without knowing a single Spanish phrase (especially if you’re alone). Over 99% of its population are Spanish speakers; believe me, most locals in the towns and cities can’t speak English on a conversational level (well, you might meet some bilinguals, but only on rare occasions). So, imagine how nightmarish it’ll be to ask directions, and no one can understand a word you say.

But don’t worry; you don’t have to master Spanish to enjoy your Colombian escapade. You can thrive here with basic Spanish proficiency, as most locals are eager to assist you even if you have broken Spanish.

You can take an introductory Spanish online course or try language learning apps (e.g., Duolingo) to discover some basic Spanish phrases, such as the following:

  • Hola/Buenos días (hello)
  • Gracias (thank you)
  • Me llamo…(my name is…)
  • Por favor (Please)
  • Mucho gusto (nice to meet you)
  • Hable Ingles? (do you speak English?)
  • ¿Dónde? = Where?
  • ¿Aceptan dolares? (Do you accept dollars?)
  • Parcero/Parcera (Bro/Girl, friend)
  • Buenos días (good morning)
  • Buenas tardes (good afternoon),
  • Buenas noches (good evening)
  • Cuánto cuesta? (How much?)
  • ¿Por qué? (Why?)
  • Me gustaría pedir… (I would like to order)
  • Disculpe (Excuse me)

14. Be Prepared for Outdoor Adventures

Colombia’s breathtaking nature is truly marvelous to behold. But your journey should go beyond sightseeing. Spread your wings and let loose in the moment with these thrilling outdoor adventures that this tropical paradise offers:

  • Paragliding: There’s no better way to view the majestic South American Andes mountains than paragliding over them. The top paragliding spots in the country are primarily located in Medellin, Bogotá, San Andres, Salento, and Calento.
  • Hiking: There are a lot of trek trails that you should try to appreciate the glory of Colombia’s landscapes and terrains. The most famous hikes are the Ciudad Perdida trek (to reach the lost city of Tairona), Cocora Valley trek, Cueva del Esplendor trek, and El Pulpito Diablo trek. You can also trek the lush Amazon rainforests and meet its lively wildlife and vegetation.
  • Boat touring: A laid-back trip via boat over the crystalline waters will surely kick away all your work stress and worries. One of the best spots for boat touring is the Rosario Islands, which is adjacent to the vibrant city of Cartagena.
  • Surfing: The waves of the Pacific coast attract a lot of thrill-seeking surfers visiting Colombia. Never miss the chance to play with the waves as you explore the coast’s stunning beaches under warm weather.
  • Diving: A lot of diving sites await when you visit Colombia. For instance, the island of Providencia, located in the Caribbean Sea, has over 40 diving sites where you can spot sunken pirate ships and sharks. Note that some areas may require advanced open-water certification to dive.
  • Mountain biking: For extra adventurous, biking around the rocky terrain of Medellin will surely get your blood flowing. You’ll enjoy its hills with biking trails crossing around natural jumps and rapid-speed downhills.

Always adhere to the safety guidelines and instructions provided by the professionals or staff in the area. If you’re hiking, avoid deviating and walking alone. Wear goggles, rashguards, life jackets, or lifebuoys for water adventures.

You must also respect Colombia’s fauna and flora when exploring its jungles. Keep your distance, maintain a low voice, and don’t disturb their habitat.

15. Capture the Moment

With its charming cities and breathtaking landscapes, Colombia is a perfect place to shoot beautiful photographs of architecture, nature, and urban life.

A DSLR remains the most handy and reliable travel camera for a Colombian trip. It can handle fast-moving objects (good for capturing waves, wildlife, and vehicles) and low-light subjects (great for nighttime exploration). The only caveat with it is that it's pretty bulky and heavy.

You can, of course, use your smartphone to capture photos. But you must do some tricks to make it a good travel camera. For instance, you can set the photo file type from RAW to JPG (for higher resolution), capture the image using the volume button, use panoramic mode, or capture using a wide-angle lens.

16. Protect Against the Sun

As a high-altitude country near the equator, sun rays are intense in some parts of Colombia (especially on beaches and coasts). Thus, a high-quality, strong sunscreen (at least 50 SPF) is necessary for every traveler who wishes to explore Colombian streets and nature.

17. Embrace the Colombian Lifestyle

Most importantly, immerse yourself in the colorful and delightful Colombian lifestyle. And when I say immerse, I mean to experience both its good and bad sides with an open mind.

While it’s a marvelous country, it also has drawbacks, like subpar public transportation and some opportunistic locals. But don’t let these get under your skin; smile and look at it in a positive light with its stunning nature, rich history, and alluring culture.

Make the Most of Colombia

With its low cost of living, gorgeous natural marvels, and enchanting culture, Colombia will undoubtedly entice you to return for more. Stick to my Colombia travel tips for an eventful journey and get travel insurance from Nomad Insurance to safeguard against unforeseen events and fully enjoy your trip.

People Also Ask Questions

What I wish I knew before traveling to Colombia?

Before traveling to Colombia, you must know its culture, government, laws, currency, festivals, and traditions. Searching for good co-working spaces around the cities is also essential to continue working remotely productively.

What do you need before traveling to Colombia?

As a remote worker, you need a digital nomad visa to stay in Columbia for up to two years.

What are some things tourists should be careful about in Colombia?

Tourists should be careful when walking around the streets or riding public transportation because of petty thefts or pickpockets.

Do I need malaria pills for Colombia?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking prescription medicine to avoid malaria, although there’s only a low risk of the disease in the country.