Once known solely for its drug and crime statistics, Colombia has worked hard over the last decade to rid itself of its old reputation. These days, Colombia's eclectic cities, ancient archaeological sites and lush landscapes (the world's most biodiverse) make it a top travel destination. However, there are still a few things visitors should keep in mind before heading to the country for the first time. Read on for our list of 12 rookie mistakes you should avoid on your Colombia vacation.
1. ASSUMING EVERYWHERE IS SAFE IN COLOMBIA
One thing we don't want to encourage in visitors to Colombia is to be too guarded. You should certainly open yourself up to strangers (in the right context, of course) and get out of your comfort zone, but be aware that not everywhere is as safe as the cities and destinations on the tourist trail. Even though cartel violence is rare in the cities these days, there are still areas that visitors are advised to avoid, like the territory along the Colombian-Peruvian border. Before your trip, check the U.S. Department of State guidelines to stay up to date on which regions should be skipped.
2. HAILING CABS ON THE STREET IN COLOMBIA
Yes, it's the hot new travel destination, but that's not to say you shouldn't take extra care in Colombia. On top of the usual traveler's common sense, tourists should be wary of hailing cabs from the streets, especially after dark. Try to book reputable firms through your hotel or restaurant to be on the safe side.
3. ONLY STAYING IN THE CITIES IN COLOMBIA
While Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota all offer a different picture of Colombia, it would be a shame to leave without visiting the smaller communities and different regions. Beyond the well-run tours that take tourists to the Lost City, the Amazon and the Coffee Axis, there are plenty of small towns and other attractions worth seeing. For example, the Mavecure Hills, Buenavista and Cocorna are all good additions to an itinerary. Even if it means heading to famous stops on Colombia's well-trodden Gringo Trail, visitors should make it a point to leave the cities and explore.
4. LEAVING YOUR SPANISH PHRASE BOOK AT HOME
If you brush up on your Spanish before arriving in Colombia, you will find it easier to navigate the country. It's not uncommon to encounter few English speakers outside of the cities. Plus, sharing the language - or at least making an effort to do so - is a great way to engage with locals. So, make sure to pack that phrase book.
5. MISJUDGING THE WEATHER IN COLOMBIA