Guide to Colombia
Capital City: Bogotá
Other Major Cities: Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Ibagué, Pereira, Santa Marta, Montería, Villavicencio, Manizales, Valledupar, Neiva, Armenia
Main Airport(s): Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena Principal
Airlines: Avianca, COPA, and LATAM, with additional service by most larger carriers.
Visa requirements: No visa required for Australian, British, Canadian EU, and USA passport holders for stay of up to 90 days. A departure fee of $37 USD/$124,600 COP (as of 2/7/2016.)
Language: Spanish, with smaller populations speaking indigenous languages and Palenquero, an African-Spanish hybrid language.
Weather: It can vary greatly by region.
Currency: Colombian pesos
Train: There is no railroad in Colombia, save for the short touristic line that runs between Bogotá, Cajicá, and Zipaquirá, two villages north of the city.
Bus: Colombia has an extensive bus network that will take you to all major cities and even the smallest villages. Connections are available to other South American countries.
Car: It is generally not recommended that you drive. However, nearly all cars are manual.
Accommodation: The greatest range of lodging is found in larger cities, which range from hostels and budget hotels to luxury internationally recognized chains. You will usually find a hotel in even the smallest of villages, though quality and value may vary. Hostels have caught on in the past decade or so, giving budget travelers more options.
Hotel: The biggest variety of hotels are found in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, which are Colombia’s largest tourism hubs.
Budget: While somewhat scarce a decade ago, hostels are becoming increasingly popular here and are often better value than smaller budget hotel chains. A word of caution: the term motel has a different connotation in Colombia. These accommodations charge by the hour and clientele aren’t there for sightseeing!
Eating Out: Major cities have the best variety ranging from regional and typical Colombian dishes to international cuisine. Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, and American are popular choices. In smaller cities and towns, get used to lots of rice, beans, chicken, and meat.
Nightlife: Like most countries in Latin America, sizable Colombian cities have zonas rosas, or party zones, with many options for eating, drinking, and dancing. Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Cartagena are known around the country for their dining and nightlife options. Cities like Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, and the smaller coffee region cities also have lively zonas rosas.
Connections (wifi): Most accommodations provide access to wifi. However, speed and reliability can vary greatly, with upmarket locales able to offer faster, more continuous service. Internet cafes are popular here, where you can check your e-mail and social media for a few dollars.