Saturday, September 23, 2017

COLOMBIA - the complete travel guide

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Almost three decades ago when I used to do Public Relations for the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, part of my job was putting together a press map with articles published on Colombia in Germany. Believe me, besides one or two short notes on Gabriel García Márquez and Fernando Botero, this was not pretty: whether FARC, whether the cartels, the government or the paramilitaries - kidnapping and bloodshed everywhere. And this is the stigma the country is still suffering from. Over the years the country changed for the better a lot, but in the heads of most of us it's still this dark place where you cannot take a bus without ending up in a dark hole somewhere in the jungle while your relatives are collecting money for your ransom.

Treasures at the Gold Museum in Bogotà - not Colombia's only treasure...

Well, let me tell you, it's not like that any more. I travelled in April 2017 to a dozen places and felt perfectly safe.

I don't know whether it's because people are still suffering from the stigma of the past or because they are simply super-friendly, but I was impressed again and again how they try to help and support you instead of tricking and cheating and taking advantage (which I experienced a lot in other countries where people are also very pleasant - cheating with a friendly smile). Colombian people are grateful that you 'dare' to visit their country that has so much to offer. It's very touching when an old lady in the streets of Cali greets you "Bienvenida en Colombia". So if you wanna go, go. And go now, before flocks of travellers' spoil the people's warm and welcoming attitude.

Colombia has a population of about 49 million people and a size of 1,138 million sq km (approx. 440,000 sq mi). Due to the different altitudes the climate is very varied, mostly tropical and subtropical. People speak obviously Spanish (you might brush up yours on babbel) and pay with pesos (that you can convert e. g. on XE).

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Colombian Diary

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  1. I've yet to go Colombia but I'd love to! I've heard such great things and your diary confirms a lot of them

  2. My dad has spent some time in Colombia and I've been wanting to go! Your guides look so helpful!

  3. Thanks for sharing about Colombia. I am gradually getting a greater appreciation for it the more I research and read. Your description of the people and the prevailing attitudes encourages me to come and see it for myself.

  4. Thanks for your comments, everybody! Yes, it was easy and pleasant to travel Colombia and people tried to make us feel very comfortable and safe.
    If you have any questions - you know where to find me (at least online...).
    Happy travels to you guys,

  5. In Europe, people often think Columbia as a dangerous country but as you mention, the people is super friendly. At the moment I will travel to SEA but South America is on my bucket list. Columbia is one of the countries. Thanks for the post.

  6. Yes, that's right, but like I explained at the beginning - because of the dreadful past I also had this image in my head. Then I reconsidered: when was actually the last time that I've heard something really bad about Colombia?! It's bad that stigmas stay for so long. Happy travels to you!

  7. Its true. We shape our opinions based on what we learn and hear from others. People do carry a certain impression about Columbia, but articles like yours can change what people feel. Bogota is a fascinating place, from whatever I have read about it.

  8. Thank you so much for your comment, it would actually make me very happy if I could ease a little the stigma Colombians are still suffering from.

  9. I'm glad to hear that the people are so great and that it's safe to travel there. One of my biggest dreams is to visit Medellin soon. I would even consider living there for a while. I have heard such great things so hopefully I will visit and get to travel around like you as well!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, but to be honest, particularly the center of Medellin had a sketchy vibe to it. We stayed close to San Joaquin and that was much cooler. However, I hope your dream soon comes true. Happy travels to you! Renata

  10. I agree that there is a bias. The media I think can really skew an opinion. You just have to remember that people are just out living their lives like the rest of us. Great post!

  11. You couldn't have written this better. I was speaking to a friend about Colombia while reading your post, and viola, she thinks traveling to Colombia is a bad idea. We need substances like this to educate the world.

  12. Thank you, Kate, thank you, Lydia, your comments encourage me to not limit myself to write only on a country's happy go lucky touristy aspects and where to get the best deal for accommodations and food.

    As a matter of fact the media were right about Colombia about 30 years ago - it was a very tough time, even Colombians remember it with a shiver. The problem is that nobody writes an article "Big news: nothing bad happened in Colombia", so the old image never gets corrected and sticks in our heads for a long time.

    This fact should be a warning to take the blooming phenomenon of fake and 'alternative' news lightly. Once it's out there, it's difficult to correct it.

    Have a great weekend, ladies!

  13. I've not thought of going to Colombia indeed because of those old stigma. But yes I've read and hear more and more good things about Colombia in recent years. Would love to see the country and Latin America in general in the future!

  14. Colombia - like every other Latin American country - is certainly not Switzerland: There are social and economic problems and you have to look after your stuff - and yourself. But as long as you behave carefully, don't hang out at certain times in certain places, do not get involved in drug matters you probably have nothing to be afraid of. Since Colombian people are happy that they slowly get rid of the stigma, they are extremely friendly and helpful.
    Happy travels - to Latin America or elsewhere - Renata

  15. You know, you're completely right, the stigma of Colombia's past really has stuck to many around the world and it's not until you go and see it for yourself that you see just how much this country has tried to shed it's old skin and re-invent itself. I spent 3 months in Colombia in 2016 and I love this country so much.

  16. Oh wow! Really? I hosted a couple of Argentinians and they also said that Colombians are so polite - almost formal-polite. I confess that I still feel a little nervous about visiting Colombia, and I think my mom would have a heart attack if I did!


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