(Last Updated On: March 4, 2021)

Check latest Covid information and travel restrictions here first before planning any Backpacking Colombia trip: International travel Covid information 

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

A country risen from the ashes of a violent turmoil, civil narcotic war and turbulent past to show the world its natural and true beauty.

This isn’t your usual type of guide to budget backpacking Colombia. This overview doesn’t tell you how to plan your itinerary, cover ‘top 10 things to see and do’, what to pack, or offer a dollar by dollar account on what to spend.

However, in this post we do cover and provide you some useful tips, and advice, things to be wary of while backpacking Colombia, and practical information for everyday life while backpacking Colombia.

Be honest now, when you think of Colombia, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?

Is it the Netflix original Narco’s? Pablo Escobar and Drug cartels and Cocaine? Violence? Political unrest? Guerrilla groups like the FARC? A country with a history of bloody violence civil wars?

Yes narcotics, especially cocaine are still readily available at the drop of a hat. Yes there are some areas still controlled by guerrilla forces and yes there is some violence still but Colombia is a country that’s reinventing itself. It’s a country rising from the ashes.

Even though Tourism in Colombia is growing and it’s showing the world what it truly has to offer, It’s still quite misunderstood. The outside world still seems to tarnish the country with It’s historical brush. That stigma of what the country was during Pablo escobar’s reign still remains to many people around the world.

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Look to the future not the past

However, this country is doing It’s hardest to eradicate those stigmas, over the years Colombia has taken leaps and bounds to move away from It’s bloody, narcotic fuelled past. This is a country that in only a matter of years is completely different to the one the world used to know. It’s growing reputation can be seen by the number of tourists, travelers and backpackers that fall in love with the countries charm…And it’s one I fell in love with!

Backpacking Colombia gives you a chance to really see It’s diversity, vibrant colors and just how full of beauty it is. Take your pick from the Caribbean beaches, dense jungles, coffee farms, clean modernized cities and amazing people. Colombia is also a gateway to the Amazon Jungle and the start of the Andes.

budget backpacking colombia

In this country overview we are going to dive into and cover things you will need to know for everyday backpacking life: 

  1. Basic information for backpacking Colombia   
  2. Visa options for backpacking Colombia
  3. Practical tips 
  4. Things to be wary about 
  5. Budgeting information for backpacking Colombia
  6. Local and national transport information
  7. Accommodation options 
  8. My personal experience of backpacking Colombia
  9. Interactive map of Colombia

Basic things to know before backpacking Colombia

  • Language spoken: Spanish
  • Is English spoken: Yes
  • Currency: Colombian Peso
  • Backpacking through Colombia isFair
  • To check live rates click here XE.com

Visa options for backpacking Colombia

  • British Tourists don’t need a Visa while backpacking Colombia, however, we do get issued with Tourist cards at airports with a rough idea of the length of stay.
  • Keep hold of these cards as you will need them when leaving the country. If you lose the card you will get fined when leaving the country (It’s a big dent in your budget when you have to pay a fine)

To check your nationalities Visa requirements check here CIBTVisas

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Practical tips for backpacking Colombia

  • Only get into official taxis with meters. Be careful At Bogotá Airport, touts will try to get you to use private taxi’s – Don’t! Only use the official ones that line up outside the airport
  • Street art is everywhere in Colombia, places like La Candelaria have streets and alleys full of amazing street art
  • It’s good to learn some basic Spanish, Colombians do speak English in the cities but still comes in handy with locals
  • Colombians love any excuse to party – Don’t be surprised at random street parties and carnivals to just pop up
  • If you want to visit the Tayrona national park, check beforehand as it closes every year for a certain amount of time
  • Be prepared for the color and charm of Colombia to suck you in
  • Colombia is trying hard to move away from it’s past and Pablo Escobar, outside of Medellin they don’t like his name mentioned
  • Even though Colombia is a lot safer nowadays there are still some rough areas you should stay away from
  • If there is a sign telling you not to go out alone at night, or not to go down certain streets, listen to them. Do not think you’re an exception the signs are there for a reason
  • In Bogotá don’t be surprised to see armed police officers with guard dogs on every street corner. No need to be concerned though, it’s just protection against any possible threats from guerrilla groups, they never engage with tourists
  • Colombian food is very diverse, do try Tamales, Arepas, Empanadas, Sanchocho and Ajiaco’s. If you like plantain they will come served with most food
  • If you love coffee, try to visit Salento in the coffee region
  • Cartagena is the most expensive part of Colombia, a holiday hotspot for wealthy Colombians and Americans. However, it’s an amazing historically significant city. (Ask locals why that old Spanish boat is still docked in the jetty.)
  • Drinking alcohol on the streets is legal and very common to find groups gathering and entertaining themselves. Don’t be afraid to join in
  • Flying around Colombia is almost the same price as long bus journeys
  • You will find some incredible waterfalls in the jungles and forests all over Colombia
  • Cocaine is readily available at the drop of the hat, everybody on the street will offer it to you. If you choose to take it, try getting it from somebody reliable and not just anybody off the street – You never know what they’re giving to you
  • Doing a trip to the Amazon from Colombia is much cheaper than doing it from Brazil
backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Things to be wary of when backpacking Colombia

  • Even though Colombia is a very safe country to travel now, there are some violent homeless people in places like Bogotá, do not engage with them
  • Don’t go flashing your cash in public, you will get targeted
  • Bogotá is up against the Andes and gets very cold even when the rest of Colombia is hot, so take warm clothes
  • Water isn’t safe to drink out of taps in most areas but is fine in certain cities like Bogotá
  • Try not to take taxis on your own at night, always ask your hostel or accommodation to provide a taxi for you
  • Police will regularly board buses to check ID’s, you might get an overzealous officer who wants to know more than he needs to. (Happened to me on my way to Medellin, with the help of google translate it was worked out)
  • Certain police departments in Colombia are still corrupt, so be careful if they try to extort you
  • Stay away from areas still controlled by Gorilla groups (they still control some jungle areas)
  • Drugs will be pushed on you in the streets, do not buy them from these guys as they could be undercover police and you don’t know what they are selling. In places like Medellin, dealers will sell to you and then tell the police they sold to you. (Yes It’s a setup, saw it happen to plenty of people with my own eyes.)

If you feel like you need Travel insurance for Backpacking Colombia, get a quote from World Nomads one of the worlds best travel insurance companies for backpackers

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Budget information for backpacking Colombia

I was expecting Colombia to be a lot more expensive than it turned out to be. I was able to travel Colombia and live in Bogotá for three months within my tight budget. Unlike other countries where prices can fluctuate depending on the region, Colombia has similar prices nationwide. That is except for areas of Medellin like Poblado (Hipster and backpacker area) and Cartagena where the prices are higher because of the growth in tourism in these areas.

Cartagena is a popular holiday destination for Americans and wealthy Colombians so the prices are jacked up. If you’re on a tight budget you don’t have to skip it, your purse strings will just be a little tighter. To save money it’s a good idea to find accommodation outside the walled city, eat the amazing street food for next to nothing and buy alcohol from stores and not bars. (Drinking in public is legal)

Food and drinks are very inexpensive, eating street food, eating local food, buying set menu meals and cooking for yourself are the cheapest options. Buying alcohol in shops rather than bars will save you a lot on your budget.

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Activities/tours/excursions

Activities are fairly priced throughout Colombia but as with every country, you will need to shop around to get the best price and value for money for you.

However, there will be certain tours offered to you in hostels which can actually turn out to be more expensive. For example the Pablo Escobar tour in Medellin, the price will vary depending which hostel you book from and how in-depth you want the tour to be.

Colombia does well in offering a number of free tours as-well, In Bogota, you can choose from a free walking, bicycle or graffiti tour. They are good ways to find out more about the city but also get your bearings too.

If you are not heading to other South American countries, Colombia also offers tours into the Amazon Jungle.

If you’re dead set on doing organised tours but feel haggling is too daunting for you with local operators. You can get an idea of prices or pre booked tours and excursions through reputable companies like Contiki and Intrepid travel – Or find specific trips through Get your guide. The banners below will take you directly to their sites.

With prices changing all the time, it would be unfair to try and give you specific prices or tell you how much you should budget for backpacking Colombia. However if you want to check out some live prices these two sites will give you a better idea: numbeo and expatisan.

Travel memory: San Gil, Colombia - Does a memory just come to you sometimes? A funny travel memory came to me and I have to share it with you all

Transport options for backpacking Colombia

As Colombia re-built itself into a modernized Country, the country’s infrastructure was also hugely improved with numerous private and public transport systems put in place throughout the country so traveling Colombia is easy in that sense. However due to its terrain, sometimes what looks like a small trip can actually be a long arduous trip.

Flying domestically is a cheap alternative which saves time and your sanity. Getting around the coast and intercity is no problem with public transport. It’s only when you want to travel through the heart of the country you need to make the choice of long bumpy bus journeys or a short flight.

For Example, Medellin to Bogotá is a horrible 9-hour journey by bus, a flight takes an hour and only costs a few pesos extra.

Getting around locally

  • Bus – Reliable public buses running
  • Collectivos –  Mini-vans that wait until they are filled up and run certain routes
  • Taxis – Can be expensive and not always the safest option if not a registered taxi
  • Uber – Growing in popularity in Colombia
  • Trains – metro/subway operating throughout most major cities
  • Trams – Operate in a few cities
  • Cable carts – Used in Cities like Medellin to get in and out of the favelas

Getting around nationally

  • Private bus companies – 2nd class, 1st class and VIP services available depending on your budget
  • Shuttle buses – Minivans available for trips between towns and cities that are in close proximity
  • Domestic flights – reasonably priced and efficient. Viva Colombia is your best option
backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

Accommodation options for backpacking Colombia

With tourism on the rise in Colombia and rapidly growing in popularity with backpackers there are plenty of budget options, and while it’s not the most expensive it will be a constant expenditure. If you’re looking to stay in a hostel I highly recommend you looking around in the general area once you arrive as many hostels offer cheaper prices at the door.

If hostels are not your thing, then there are plenty of other alternatives while backpacking Colombia. Booking.com offers a wide range of accommodation options

  • Hostels – Range from quiet home like to party hostels. A mix of dorms and private rooms available. Comfort ranges from bare basic to hotel like quality.
  • Hospedajes – smaller than hostels run by families.
  • Budget hotels – Great to have some privacy and some much-needed air-con.
  • Couchsurfing – Join the site and check whats available.
  • Airbnb – Lots of Colombians renting rooms out.
  • Workaways – Live with locals in exchange for work.
  • Camping – A great option for national parks like Tayrona.

Looking for a hostel while backpacking Colombia? Use the Hostelworld form below to find your best option

Backpacking Colombia is infectious & hard not to love! 2

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

My overview of backpacking Colombia

I really didn’t know what to expect when arriving in Colombia. I had heard good things, I’d done my research, read blogs but I didn’t know if they were fluffing backpacking Colombia up. But after just one day, I had found a great hostel, a good group of people and felt at home as soon as I walked around La Candelaria in Bogotá.

La Candelaria became my home and hub between my travels through the country. I just loved the amazing street art, the bohemian lifestyle of the area, the nightlife and how it’s pushed right up against the Mountains.

Backpacking Colombia was amazing, a friend of mine actually flew out from Australia to join me while I traveled around the country. I had some great experiences traveling through the country, a few downs but mainly it was all good. The highlights for me were Bogota, backpacking up the coast, and San Gil even with those crazy last 24 hours! Those last 24 hours in San Gil will stay with me forever.

I fell in love with the whole country, the people, the vibe, the infectious atmosphere and I would love to go back someday.

backpacking Colombia post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking Colombia

An interactive map of backpacking Colombia

If you’re looking to go backpacking Colombia but not sure of the route to take, this map below shows my route, places I stopped, and will hopefully give you an idea of the best route for yourself.

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This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
This backpacking Peru overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #peru #backpackingperu #travelperu #solotravelperu #perutips #peruguide
This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
This backpacking Colombia overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #colombia #backpackingcolombia #travelcolombia #solotravelcolombia #colombiatips #colombiaguide
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62 Comments

Claudia · September 15, 2017 at 10:34 pm

Yes I think of Narcos when I think about Colombia but it doesn’t mean I am scared to visit this country! Since I watch Narcos on Netflix, I really wanna visiti colombia!

    foreverroamingtheworld · September 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Haha, Colombia is an amazing country and you will love it, however it’s not like how it was in Narco’s, incidentally I have just finished season three and it did make me miss it haha

Mario · September 15, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Haha, just stumbled upon this post here about the country I decided not to visit this May – went to Ecuador instead (well, more or less for the scuba diving). But it was a really close call, and Colombia is still on my bucket list top 5. Thanks for the read man, this is getting bookmarked 🙂

    foreverroamingtheworld · September 16, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Haha I was meant to go to Ecuador after Colombia but decided to skip it and headed straight for Peru . I guess we will have to exchange tips for when you go to Colombia and I go back to South America for Ecuador. Colombia was a awesome country, was so much more than what I expected.

Miranda Knudtson · September 15, 2017 at 9:07 pm

these are great tips and overall really informative! But.. pushy drug dealers, violent homeless people, and over zealous (which is a nicer term than what I would’ve used! lol) makes me nervous and not want to visit honestly. (at least not within the next few years).

    foreverroamingtheworld · September 16, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Miranda, as you know from previous guides of mine I do like to make people aware of the things to be wary of but it’s not to scare people off the countries. Colombia is an amazing country and on the main very safe. The Colombian people are trying so hard to shed the old reputation they used to have 😀 You should give it a chance, you might fall in love with it 😀

Bee · September 15, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Once gain nice thorough and to the point guidelines for travelling in a country. Colombia sounds like and adventure but it seems you’ll always have to be vigilant. I agree though I think speaking Spanish is a key help when travelling around South America. i found it helped me a lot and sometimes it can be an advantage for not being ripped off or getting into tough situations. nice post.

    foreverroamingtheworld · September 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Of course like with all countries you have to travel smart and be vigilant, it’s not to scare anybody off. It’s just I’ve come across so many other travelers that don’t use their common sense and then wonder why they got into trouble. Learning basic Spanish was one of the best things I did as it helped me out so much, and yes I completely agree, helps so much when travel agents try ripping you off.

Madison Taylor · September 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

WOW SOUNDS AMAZING! I want to do my first backpacking trip in Europe, but Id love to someday get to South America… Machu Picchu especially. It can be so eye opening to live like that.

    foreverroamingtheworld · September 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    It really was an amazing place, I just fell in love with it as soon as I got there – South America is great to travel around it can be very demanding on you but well worth it – You will be happy to know my next guide will be on Peru 😀 although I will be writing a separate Machu Picchu post in the future 😀

Claire · September 15, 2017 at 11:17 am

Nice insight into a country I honestly never thought of visiting! I am hearing more and more good things about Columbia though, so may need to change my mind!

Theresa · September 15, 2017 at 1:09 am

Thanks for the article. It’s good to know that Colombia is trying to shed its old image. Your tips seem really helpful and quite comprehensive.

lexie · September 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Great post! I watched Something about Colombia on tv and they said there are some scammer around and Dangerous areas too. but thanks to you we have all the informations needed to get going on this country. love reading your post and looking forward for you travels.

TH · September 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm

This seems absolutely amazing – definitely something I’ll add to my bucket list!

Blaine is Lost · September 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

This post is really informative and helpful especially on the first part where you enumerated some safety tips in roaming around the country, It was quite scary though and seems like dangerous to visit this place because of the drug cartel. Hence, we must follow your advice for safety., Thanks for sharing

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