Colombia: Bogotá to Cartagena
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Travel Documents & Tour Preparation
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 617-619-1411. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
- Visa: U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a tourist or business stay of 90 days or less.
- Travel Insurance: While travel insurance is not required, we strongly encourage all travelers to obtain coverage before departure. Check out cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers here.
- Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
- Traveling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
- Request a roommate: Double-check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan for your mobile device so you can stay connected while on the road. Free Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
- Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
- Wi-Fi is not available on the bus.
- Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Arrival Information & Transportation
International and Domestic Travel Flights
When preparing for your international flight to Colombia, check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. With this information, you can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get re-booked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time.
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
- Internal flights: Travel between cities on this tour takes places on smaller commercial flights, and you’ll receive information for your internal flights from your Tour Director on tour.
Note: All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.
Arriving in Bogotá
If you booked flights with EF Ultimate Break, your transfers to and from the hotel when you arrive in and depart from Bogotá are included. When you land in Bogotá, an EF representative will meet you in the airport.
Note: The El Dorado International Airport is the main international airport of Bogotá. If you have difficulty finding your group or representative to bring you to the hotel, call our team at 617-619-1411.
Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers
Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.
Transportation & Sightseeing
On this trip, you’ll take a private bus and internal flights between cities which can take anywhere between 2-8 hours depending on distance, local traffic, and bathroom or photo-stop breaks. The beauty of travel is that you get to explore a new place, but note that it takes time and energy to see everything worth seeing!
- Prepare to walk between 4-6 miles per day, especially when sightseeing. We’ve packed a lot into this trip, so be ready for a fast-paced adventure!
- Internal flights are more volatile than large international routes, so remain patient in the event of delays or cancellations. We’ll work with your Tour Director to rearrange accordingly in the event of a delay or cancellation on tour!
- Bring motion-sickness medicine with you if you’re prone to getting carsick. Some roads in Colombia are in more run-down conditions than you may be used to.
- We recommend you ask all taxi drivers to use their taximetro (meter). If they refuse, you should get out and find another taxi.
Note: It’s a good idea to bring a great book with you, or download your favorite Spotify playlist with you for transfer days!
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:
- Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon nap, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Be Prepared: We recommend bringing a small first aid kit including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
- Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
- What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
- Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.
There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Colombia, however, we recommend you consult your physician or local travel clinic, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) at lease 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and vaccine / entry requirements.
- Consult your doctor or healthcare provider at least 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and entry / vaccine requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
- Drink bottled water. The tap water is technically safe to drink in Colombia, but we recommend travelers purchase bottled water when given the chance.
- Take proper care with sun exposure, the sun is very strong in some of the areas you are visiting
- Insect repellent: Hot temps and humid air are a perfect recipe for wildlife and insects. Prepare to encounter bugs in the air, beach, hotels, and more, but don’t let this harsh your vacation vibe! Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance.
- Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Public restrooms in Colombia can be quite bare. We suggest carrying bathroom tissue and hand sanitizer with you.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Pick-pocketing is fairly common in bigger cities. Always watch your belongings and keep an eye out for one another.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi, and always have cash on hand.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
Women in Colombia
Female travelers should be prepared for some degree of cat-calling and harassment in Colombia. EF Ultimate Break and the Tour Director will do everything in our power to prevent and preempt this kind of behavior. We understand it’s easier said than done, but ignoring most verbal harassment is usually the best policy. Act confidently and keep walking forward, but always exercise caution and stay with a buddy or group.
Colombia is considered to be one of the countries at the forefront of acceptance in Latin America, with discrimination protections in place based on sexual orientation, as well as legal same-sex marriage and adoption. However, there are less protections in place based on gender identity.
All that being said, this is a conservative Catholic country, and not everyone is accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Consider exercising similar cautions to those you might while traveling through less familiar parts of the United States.
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (typically 27" x 21" x 14") but double check the luggage size requirements on your airline’s website. We recommend traveling with one small backpack or purse, and a smaller carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9”) or bag. See more packing tips below:
- 1 light wind/rain jacket
- Comfortable walking/active shoes
- Waterproof shoes or sandals
- 1-2 pairs shorts, skirts, pants
- 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
- 1-2 nice outfits for Welcome Dinner, Farewell Dinner or a night out
- 1-2 bathing suits
- Beach – we love the Microfiber travel towel ($5-$20, Amazon.com)
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
- Reusable water bottle
- Phone or camera
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
Note: We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. Comfortable, casual clothing and a sturdy pair of walking shoes are a must for sightseeing.
Plugs in Colombia are typically 2-pronged and flat so US travelers do not need a converter or adapter, unless you plan to bring a 3-pronged device such as a hair dryer. A staff favorite is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com).
Money & Tipping
We at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
Remember that you know your spending habits best and not everyone’s spending habits are the same. These recommendations are based on a traveler who says yes to any and all activities while on tour.
The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP$). Many restaurants and stores accept major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard), but cash is preferred for smaller markets or local food experiences.
See more money tips below:
- We strongly recommend exchanging your cash into the local currency before you arrive in Bogotá. Once you’re on the tour though, ATMs are available and they’re the easiest way to get cash while abroad.
- There are paper notes of COP$1000, COP$2000, COP$5000, COP$10,000, COP$20,000, COP$50,000 and COP$100,000.
- Bargaining is limited to markets and street stalls. if there are prices marked, bargaining is not practiced.
- Tipping at restaurants is common; we recommend leaving 10% tip if it’s not already added to the bill. Tipping for taxis is not common or required, rather, you should round to the nearest 500 or 1000 pesos.
- Budget around $50-$60 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities.
- We recommend tipping your Tour Director $40-$60 at the end of the trip, plus additional tips for local guides.
Note: Let your bank and credit card companies know your travel plans ahead of time to avoid potential complications while abroad.
It’s fun and helpful to try your hand at the local language, Spanish! Try out some of these popular words and phrases:
- Hello: Hola
- How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
- Goodbye: Adiós
- Thank you: Gracias
- Please: Por favor
- I’m (your name): Soy (your name)
- I’m from (country of residence): Soy de (country of residence)
- How much? Cuánto cuesta?
- Where is the..?: Dónde está...?
- the bathroom: el baño
- the bus stop: la parada del autobús
- the pharmacy: la farmacia
You may be familiar with Colombia’s violent past, but it has made great efforts to move away from that history and focus on its endless cultural offerings. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about its history on guided tours and enjoy the modern paradise it has become today. Locals in Colombia are laid-back and friendly. Music is playing in every restaurant and on every street corner. Aromas of fresh arepas are floating through the air. Color is everywhere. Read on for more local tips!
- When members of the opposite sex or two women meet it is customary to exchange a single kiss on the right cheek. Men shake hands.
- It's polite to greet everyone in the room when entering with a simple "Buenos dias" or "Buenas tardes". This also applies when approaching someone on the street for directions or information.
- Be considerate when taking photos of locals, and know that some people might not want their photo taken at all, or will ask for a payment in return for the photo. When in doubt, just ask the person if you can take a photo of them.
- Nightlife in Colombia doesn’t typically begin until 10 or 11pm. You’ll find lots of locals and tourists in the same places, dancing to reggaeton, electronic, and more!
- “Hot water” really means temperate water in Colombia. Prepare for lukewarm showers!
Food & Drink
You’ll sample a variety of other local dishes on your trip, but read on for all the tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.
- Coffee: Where else to drink coffee than in Colombia, the country with one of the world's largest productions? Colombians usually drink coffee called tinto, a small, cheap and sweet cup you can buy along the road.
- Empanadas: A perfect on-the-move snack! Empanadas are stuffed pastries with choice of chicken, beef, cheese, or veggies.
- Ajiaco: Popular in Bogota, this is a warm, hearty stew that compliments the surrounding chilly mountainous city.
- Arroz Con Coco: A specialty in Cartagena, this is coconut rice, typically served with a veggie salad and grilled fish.
- Ceviche: Raw seafood ‘cooked’ in lime and chili - trust us, try it!
- Sancocho: A traditional Colombian stew. The heartiest is made with tripe.
- Chocolate con queso: Chocolate and cheese. Insanity? Or brilliant? Try it for breakfast or an afternoon snack and decide for yourself!
- Cazuela de mariscos: A hot seafood soup made with coconut milk, veggies, spices, prawns, and more! We recommend you try it as a beach treat… seriously.
- Fruits & Veggies: Bananas, passion fruit, avocados, tomatoes, pineapple, lychee, these aren’t the fruits and veggies your mom told you to eat. They’re 1000x better.
- Mango Biche con Sal y Limon: Mango with salt and lemon. A popular street food in Cartagena!
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account for available add-ons.
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.