From its vast rainforest and coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to its diverse cultural heritage with a variety of Amerindian influences, Colombia is a rich and vibrant destination that’s a must-visit for any traveler. If you’re planning a trip, take a look at travel tips for traveling in Colombia and some advice to make the most of your visit.

Landscape and waterway at La Piedra del Peñol

La Piedra del Peñol

When to visit

The best time to visit Colombia depends on what you’re planning to see. December to March is the dry season, so it’s the best time to explore the cities and beaches. There’s also a short dry season that lasts from July to September. The rainy season is when you’ll have the fewest tourism crowds, and it’s the cheapest time to travel. If you’re planning a lot of indoor experiences and don’t want to deal with a lot of people, the rainy season is the best time to go. What to know before you plan, however, is that the holidays can get really busy, and you may have difficulty booking accommodations, so plan well in advance.

How to get there and get around

Flights to Colombia are available from major airlines in most major U.S. cities, including New York, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. They’re also cheaper than many domestic U.S. flights. Once you’re in Colombia, you can take taxis and buses to go anywhere in the country. If you’re going to use taxis, however, stick with reputable companies and try to hail cabs from places like hotels or shopping malls to avoid scams. You can also book flights for intercity travel, which saves a lot of time if you’re planning to go long distances.

Where to go

Colombia is a huge country with a lot of different destinations. If you’re looking for a city trip, you have options like Medellin, a large city with plazas, street art, and the famous Botero Museum, and Cali, salsa capital of the world, with live bands and dancing on the street. There’s also Cartagena, a walled city on the Caribbean coast, and the villages of the Amazon rainforest, where you can take boat trips or hike through the jungle. There’s also plenty to see and do in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city.

Visitor viewing artwork at Botero Museum

Botero Museum

What to pack

Colombia is a tropical country, so it doesn’t have well-defined seasons. The temperatures depend on the altitude, not the time of year. If you’re planning to visit a few different places during your trip to Colombia, be sure to pack a wide range of clothing to adapt to any weather conditions. You should bring shorts, tank tops or tee shirts, long pants, long-sleeve shirts or jackets, warmer layers, sandals, and closed shoes that are comfortable to walk in. You may also want to anticipate warm weather and pack hats and sunglasses, since it gets quite sunny.

Colombian currency

The local currency is the Colombian peso (COP$), and the denominations are in mil, which is Spanish for a thousand. One thing you’ll wish you knew is that in many places, such as restaurants and cafés, you’ll see the price printed without the mil, since it’s implicit. Colombian peso notes come in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 pesos. For the best exchange rate, use cards or ATMs. If you have an international card with no foreign transaction fees, you’ll make out even better on the exchange.

Indulge in the food

Colombian food is rich and filling, so it’s a good idea to abandon your diet to enjoy all the unique flavors of the country’s cuisine. Most of the food is fried, but you can find restaurants that serve meat with salad and vegetables or fruit. On the street, you’ll usually find a range of options for empanadas and arepas. If you can, try some fresh native fruit, which is delicious. Local fruits include papaya, pineapple, guava, and tomato del arbol.

Learn some Spanish

Any time you travel to a foreign country, it’s a good idea to learn some conversational phrases in the native language to get by in areas without many English-speaking people. In Colombia, very few people speak English, even in the tourism industry, so you may need a little more Spanish than a few phrases. It’s best to learn as much Spanish as you can before you go and consider downloading a translator on your phone or bringing a pocket Spanish dictionary with you to translate signs, menus, and other vital information.

Boats on the water at Taganga Beach

Taganga Beach

Consider getting a tour guide

Colombia is a rich and diverse country, so you could miss a lot of awesome experiences, even if you do your research. If you want to get as much as possible out of the trip, you can book a tour guide who will take you on specific trails to different attractions and historic sites. Having a tour guide not only helps you navigate any language barriers, but you’ll also ensure that you see all the highlights and learn a little “insider info” along the way.

See the Lost City

If you enjoy the outdoors, one of the best travel tips you could get is to see the Lost City. Known as Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City is located on the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park. The city was first constructed in 800 C.E., long before Machu Picchu, and wasn’t discovered until 1972. To get there, you need to hike 4 to 6 days through the rainforest. While this may take up a chunk of your vacation time, nothing beats the experience of being deep in the rainforest and walking along rivers and waterfalls under the canopy of trees.

Plan your trip

Now that you have all the essential information before visiting Colombia, it’s time to get ready for your trip. Take a look at deals on Colombia vacations from Expedia to save on your travel and accommodations and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.