It’s no surprise that Colombia is one of the most popular destinations in South America. With its stunning Caribbean beaches, lush coffee fields, impeccable Amazon Rainforest, and colorful cities, Colombia has it all. Considering all that there is to see, you’ll want to be prepared for the trip of a lifetime. That’s why we put together this comprehensive packing list full of our must-have items as well as guides for what to wear, what NOT to bring, and answers to our most FAQs on Colombia.
What to Pack for Colombia – 17 Essentials
1. Quick Dry Towel
No packing list is complete without a quick-dry travel towel. They are extremely small and portable but super absorbent and fast drying. They are perfect for the beach as sand doesn’t cling to them. The microfiber material keeps it odor-free, so you can use it again and again. You’ll want to keep one in your day bag no matter the adventure because it will surely come in handy!
2. LifeStraw Water Bottle
Tap water is not drinkable across Colombia. It’s best to play it safe and filter all tap water before drinking. LifeStraw bottles are perfect for traveling because they transform and tap water into safe drinking water. You will also help the environment and your wallet by not purchasing a ton of plastic water bottles. These awesome water bottles help you stay hydrated during your trip by giving you clean drinking water in seconds.
3. Cooling Towel
Parts of Colombia can get hot. Stay cool and comfortable with one of these instant cooling towels. All you have to do is get it wet and like magic it gets instantly icy cold. Place it on your head, neck, shoulders or wherever you want cool relief. Having a cooling towel can save you from the brutal midday sun while you’re lounging on the beach or out exploring.
Make sure you have everything you need like sunscreen, water, snacks, wallet, and phone on your day trips and excursions by bringing along a spacious, comfortable daypack. You’ll be less likely to have something lost or stolen by keeping everything organized and secure in a daypack versus scattered about in pockets or purses.
5. Packing Cubes
Since discovering packing cubes I don’t pack a suitcase without them. They are so helpful for keeping everything in your luggage organized and easy to find. I love these packing cubes in particular because they are well made and in a variety of sizes with bonus laundry bags to keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones.
6. Waterproof Phone Case
Keep your delicate smartphone protected from the elements, especially water, with a waterproof phone case. Whether you’re visiting waterfalls, rainforests, or the beach, the last thing you want is your phone to get water damage and lose all of your trip photos. This waterproof case is great because not only does it protect your phone but you can also use it underwater to take photos.
7. Travel Umbrella
Bogota, Colombia’s capital can be pretty rainy. It’s always a good idea to pack an umbrella because as we all know, weather is very unpredictable. I love this umbrella because it’s super portable but extremely sturdy. It will hold up and keep you dry no matter how hard it rains or how strong the wind is.
8. Travel insurance for Colombia
One of the most exciting parts of travel is the unknown. But when it comes to your health , not so much. The smartest way to travel is with travel insurance that way you know you are protected no matter what happens. You can prepare for accidents or stolen items that way in case something does happen you are covered.
9. Neck Wallet
Having a neck wallet is a discreet way to carry your valuables like cash, credit cards, and passport. You’ll know they are always close at hand but out of reach from possible pick-pockets. It slides right under your shirt so no one will know it’s there but you.
10. Insect repellent
Unfortunately, part of being outside is sharing the natural beauty with insects. Don’t let pesky bugs stop you from enjoying all the natural wonders Colombia has to offer. A good insect repellent like this one keeps the biting bugs away so you don’t go home with itchy bumps. I love this bug spray because it’s all natural and really works!
When you’re traveling, you’re often on the go. Hopping from one fun activity to the next can make it hard to remember to stay hydrated. Electrolytes are always a smart thing to bring on a trip, especially a destination with a hot climate such as Colombia’s. You can easily and enjoyably replace lost minerals and electrolytes from an active day exploring.
12. Lipstick-sized portable charger
When you’re out exploring a new place is not the time you want to be caught with a dead phone. It’s where we keep the address and phone number of hotels, how we call taxis, take photos of our trip and navigate. Luckily, you never have to risk it. Portable chargers make it so that you can conveniently charge your phone anywhere. They are small, compact, and are perfect for when you’re on the go.
13. Affordable Underwater Camera
An underwater camera is a must-have when visiting the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean.
14. Reef Safe Sunscreen
Long days under the sun on Colombia’s Caribbean coast can be a nightmare for the skin. Avoid uncomfortable sunburns from long afternoons on the beach, a boat, or out snorkeling, by using a sunscreen that is good for your skin and safe for the reefs. Take it snorkeling, sailing, diving, or even when you’re playing in the waves. Capture awesome underwater photos and videos to remember your trip for years to come!
15. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Having a VPN keeps all of your personal information on your devices secure when using public wifi. This means you can connect to wifi at cafes or hotels and not have to worry about someone hacking your personal information. There is the added bonus of being able to change your computer’s location to anywhere in the world and see what’s available on streaming platforms like Netflix around the world.
16. Hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is a staple for any traveler. You’ll want to stay healthy and germ-free on your trip and one of the best ways to prevent getting sick is to have clean hands. Hand sanitizer is useful after flights, taxi rides, before eating, and so much more in between. These hand sanitizing sprays smell great, are easy to pack, and get the job done.
17. Activated Charcoal Tablets
Activated charcoal is great to have in case you find yourself with an upset stomach. It’s great at absorbing toxins that make you sick. When you’re traveling to a new country that has food or bacteria that your body isn’t used to you’re more likely to run into some stomach problems. Be prepared to nip anything in the bud with these handy tablets.
What to Wear in Colombia
Colombia is full of such diverse landscapes. From the Amazon rainforest to the Caribbean coast, Colombia has it all. To take advantage of all the unique sights you’re going to want to dress accordingly. Luckily the temperature doesn’t vary that drastically across the country so dressing in layers is key.
You’ll likely need long pants and a coat for drizzly Bogata, activewear for exploring nature, and beach attire for when it’s time to relax on the Caribbean coast. Like many countries in Latin America, Colombia is predominantly catholic and people dress conservatively. It’s worth dressing more modestly especially when you are away from the beach.
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience)
When packing for Colombia you will want to keep in mind the different places you’ll be visiting like the cities, nature, and beach. For Bogota and surrounding towns, jeans, nice tops, maybe even a sweater or two and a jacket will help you dress for the city’s slightly cooler weather. You’ll also want to bring an umbrella or raincoat as rain is common here.
For nature excursions, activewear would be best along with a comfortable pair of hiking/walking shoes. For hot coastal cities like Cartagena, shorts, tank tops, and sandals are totally acceptable. Don’t forget a swimsuit and cover-up for those beach days!
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience)
Men will be most comfortable in long pants, a t-shirt, and a jacket for layering when visiting higher elevation cities like Bogota. A raincoat or umbrella will definitely be needed to stay dry from the frequent rain showers. Similar attire will be ideal when venturing into the mountains or other nature excursions. Long pants will protect you from any insects and a raincoat will come in handy.
You can get rid of the layers for the beach and change into shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses and maybe even a lightweight fishing shirt to protect yourself from the sun.
Packing for the Seasons in Colombia
DRY SEASON – (December, January, February, March, July, August)
Seasons are almost nonexistent in Colombia due to its close proximity to the equator. Many of us are used to four very different seasons whereas Colombia just has two: dry and cloudy. The climate is practically the same the whole year so you won’t need to dress for extreme temperature changes. Temperature change depends on the elevation of where you visit in Colombia. If you plan to be in the mountains or in cities at higher elevations like Bogota, bring warm clothes and dress in layers. Temperatures are consistent and comfortable year-round no matter the season and tend to be in the mid to low 80’s. A perk of traveling in the dry season is you won’t have to fight with the rain and the days tend to be a lot sunnier.
CLOUDY SEASON – (April, May, June, September, October, November)
The cloudy season typically has more rainy/cloudy afternoons than other months in the year, otherwise, temperatures are just about the same. You’ll still want to bring plenty of layers from a raincoat, a warm jacket, sweaters, t-shirts, and beach attire if you plan on traveling to destinations at a high elevation like Bogota to the beach at sea level. Again, it all depends on where in Colombia you go, but on average the temperature sits comfortably around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Exploring Town – From Bogota to Medellin and all of the quaint small towns in between, you want to make sure you bring along the right attire. Jeans or long pants are usually a staple unless you visit a hot coastal city like Cartagena. A t-shirt or a light sweater and a jacket for layering are ideal. Comfortable walking shoes are essential, especially for the older parts of town where you’ll be walking along cobblestone streets.
Relaxing Beach Day – Kick back and relax on the Pacific or Caribbean coast, the choice is yours! You won’t want to forget a swimsuit, flip-flops, or cover up for a relaxing day at the beach. Remember to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to stay protected from the sun. A beach bag and quick-dry towels are bonuses that will make your beach day all the more enjoyable.
Nature Hike – There is so much natural beauty in Colombia that you don’t want to miss. Across the country, you’ll find rainforest, desert, coffee fields, and towering waterfalls. For these active days, you’ll want comfortable, quick-dry clothing and a good pair of walking/hiking shoes. Activewear will be the most comfortable and make sure to bring along a raincoat and a waterproof case for your phone for those adventures near water.
Night Out – Colombia is guaranteed to show you a good night out. Pop into a salsa club to dance some salsa or take a lesson, sip aguardiente at a local spot, or try fun cocktails at a swanky bar. Colombians love to dress up and look their best so this is a great time to pull out your nicest outfit and your dancing shoes! You’ll see men in long pants and a nice dress shirt and women showing off elegant cocktail dresses or flowy skirts with a cute pair of shoes.
What NOT to Bring to Colombia
1.DON’T BRING Excessive Cash
It’s better to take out small amounts of cash at a time so that you’re not walking around with a lot of money that could potentially get lost or stolen. Just bring enough cash for your outing and keep the rest in the safe in your hotel room. It’s easiest to pay with cash but a lot of places do accept credit cards too.
2.DON'T TAKE Expensive Jewelry
If you can’t imagine living without it, don’t bring it. Jewelry can easily be misplaced or stolen and if it’s something that means a lot to you, better not take the risk. Having flashy jewelry also makes you stand out more as a target for petty crime. Play it safe and keep your valuables at home!
3.DON'T PACK Winter Clothes
Even if you plan to visit Colombia in December when it may be very cold where you’re from, Colombia doesn’t have four seasons like many of us are used to and it never gets very cold. You’ll need a light jacket or sweater at the most.
4.DON'T TAKE Large Books
Nowadays there is no need to lug around heavy books when traveling. Between phones, tablets, laptops, and e-readers, you can bring along more books than you’ll ever need including entertaining fiction books and travel guidebooks.
5.DON'T PACK a Regular Towel
Beach and bath towels are bulky and will take up way too much space in your luggage. A microfiber travel towel is the way to go. They are compact, odor-resistant, and great for the beach as they repel sand. They will easily fit in your suitcase or day bag without taking up much space at all.
6.DON'T BRING a Power Adapter
When visiting Colombia from the US or Canada, there is no need to bring an outlet adapter as Colombia uses the same outlets as North America.
Flashy, expensive jewelry, watches, and purses are best kept safe at home. You also won’t be needing any winter gear and can leave behind thick coats, hats, and scarves. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking so don’t bring along any shoes that are uncomfortable to walk in for long periods of time.
FAQs about Traveling to Colombia
1. Do I need a visa to visit Colombia?
If coming from the US or Canada you will receive a 90-day tourist visa upon arriving in Colombia.
2. What vaccines are recommended when traveling to Colombia?
It’s recommended that visitors get the yellow fever vaccines when traveling to Colombia. It is even required when visiting certain national parks and sanctuaries.
3. Is tap water safe to drink in Colombia?
Tap water in some cities such as Bogota is supposedly safe to drink. However, it’s better not to take chances and bring along a water filter such as the LifeStraw or buy bottled water to decrease your chances of getting sick.
4. What is the best time of year to visit Colombia?
Colombia has similar weather year-round. Visiting during the dry season might provide nicer, sunnier weather, but potentially more crowds during the December holidays. The summer months of July and August are usually dry and not too crowded.
5. What is an ideal amount of time to stay in Colombia?
If you want to visit several of Colombia’s highlights then two weeks would be a great amount of time to start with. This will give you plenty of time to explore the beaches, large cities, the coffee region, and stunning nature.
6. Is Colombia safe?
Colombia received a lot of bad press in the past due to Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels. Today, Colombia is a much safer and more stable country that is great for tourists. Take caution in the bigger cities just like you would anywhere else in the world. Don’t walk alone at night and keep your valuables safe and out of sight. Overall, Colombia is very safe and welcoming to visitors.
7. What is the best way to get around Colombia?
With so much to see across Colombia, you don’t want to visit just one place. The best way to travel large distances is by plane. Once you arrive at a destination you can explore the surroundings by local bus or go on a tour.