What better way to embark on your solo travel journey than with a trip to Colombia? A country full of culture, diversity, and a zest for life. It’s difficult to describe Colombia as a whole. It’s a puzzle molded together by each, unique piece. No part of the country is the same. Medellin, a buzzing city drenched in an unstoppable need to create. Drive a few minutes away from the airport and you’re met with expansive views. A small city nestled amidst a forest of trees. Artists line the suburbs. Music flows throughout the streets.
The beauty doesn’t end there. Take a short flight to the coastal city of Cartagena, where you’ll see an array of rainbow buildings. Quaint streets. Welcoming faces. Some of the bluest waters you’ll find, on the coast of Isla Baru and the regions many small islands.
I describe Colombia as having a little something for everyone. It’s difficult to explain my time in this lively country. A journey of growth, acceptance, and exhilarating moments, especially traveling solo.
Is Colombia Safe to Travel Alone?
Short answer? YES. The meaning of safety has various meanings to different people. 30 countries later, and Colombia was one of the first countries I was slightly apprehensive about visiting. Why was that? Was it because of what people were telling me? The stereotypes that have no doubt carried over from the countries arduos history? I’m a firm believer that one has to experience a place before making a decision. Beauty can often be hidden behind a fragile face, and sometimes the most magical places are those that have worked towards overcoming their past.
Venturing between the blue shores of Isla Baru to the pulsing city vibes of Medellin, it’s safe to say I made the decision. Like any country in the world, you’ll always find neighborhoods not to visit and people not to approach. If you’re street savvy, listen to your instincts, and explore with an open-mind, Colombia is a beautiful oasis waiting to be discovered.
Solo Travel in Colombia; Where to visit
Isla Baru & Cartagena
Stop by the colorful city of Cartagena before making your way to the coast. With a population of around 1,079,000 people, it’s a small but buzzing city surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Cartagena is also home to some of the best marine habitats and floating islands. About 2 hours from the city, Isla Baru is a picturesque getaway perfect to experience the true culture. My full guide to Isla Baru can be found here!
Antioquia & Guatape
A short 2 hour drive from Medellin, is the beautiful region of Antioquia. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of Guatape’s town, lined with storefronts and traditional decor. The colors of the surrounding towns are indescribable, with a masterpiece of umbrellas shading the streets and every building splashed with color and unique art. Cruise along the man-made Guatape Lake, then test your strength by climbing the 740 steps of El Penol rock, for some of the best views in the region.
Medellin & El Poblado
Often known as the buzzing epicenter of Colombia, Medellin offers amazing nightlife, nomad-friendly areas, and the chance to explore the infamous coffee farms. Learn the cities past by visiting Comuna 13 (once the most dangerous neighborhood in Colombia), and admire the graffiti art. Take a trip to La Casa Grande Coffee Hacienda, and learn the start-to-finish process of making the countries beloved beverage. Stay in the quaint and safe area of El Poblado. Full of hostels, boutique hotels, and digital nomad working spaces. If you’re planning to solo travel throughout Colombia, this is your best option.
Traveling alone is both eye opening and rewarding. If you’re BRAND NEW to the world of independent travel, I recommend looking into group trips. Deciding to travel with a group does not defeat the purpose of the solo travel adventure, in any way. You’ll still be meeting people and traveling around solo, but it’ll all be planned for you (nice perk right?)
Is it possible to solo travel Colombia without a group tour? 100%
However, traveling with an organized group offers peace of mind and a planned route. During my time in Colombia we flew from city to city with ease. While there are buses available, these can sometimes be a little tricky to navigate.
Best Companies for Solo Travel
Perks of Group Travel
- Organized itinerary so you get to see as much as possible
- Local guides and experts who know the country inside out
- A group of like-minded travel besties to meet
Safety Tips for Traveling to Colombia
Nights Out for Solo Travelers
Bachata, salsa dancing, music, drinks, and bar crawls. Colombia comes to life in the evenings. During my travels I was in both Medellin and Cartagena, and felt safe in both. As with anywhere at night, it’s important to be aware and take the necessary safety steps for peace of mind.
After dark, it’s best to stay in populated tourist-centered locations. While there’s a higher chance of pick-pocketing here, you’ll have safety in numbers. Before visiting Colombia, I was told by several people that cat-calling was a major concern; however, I didn’t experience this once in either location!
In Cartagena, we spent a majority of our time in Isla Baru (about 2 hours away from the city). Our beach-front property and local bars were extremely safe, and were definitely giving off a family-feel during our stay. We even sat on the beach until midnight some nights, and felt completely safe.
Much larger than Cartagena, Medellin is full of bustling streets and events in the city center. If you can imagine quaint, family-friendly streets, rustic yet modern cafes, traditional dining options, and a digital nomad haven, you’ve found the El Poblado neighborhood of Medellin. Staying in this area made us feel very safe, and there’s plenty of solo travelers to meet! There were 1 or 2 people asking for money, but they were friendly and understanding when we had no change.
If you’re staying in a hostel, choose one that has organized events such as bar crawls! It’s a great way to make friends, stay in a group, and travel with the locals. Hostel workers typically attend too, and know the areas to avoid in each location.
Crime in Colombia
Crime is unavoidable anywhere you travel, and the major crime in Colombia towards tourists is pickpocketing. A friend of mine visiting Cartagena had her phone taken right out of her hands in the street. Be sure not to take it out unless you absolutely need to. “But I need maps!” No you don’t. Solo travel tip; screenshot the direction you’re heading towards and remember the street names. If you need to check your direction again, go into a shop or away from prying eyes to avoid anything possible happening.
Be sure to keep your belongings close by. Day and night, bring a small crossbody bag that sits on your chest. If you want to go the extra mile, consider investing in an anti-theft bag. I LOVE the brand TravelOn, and personally bring my bag everywhere I go. Their bags feature slash resistant straps, a mini-flashlight, locking zippers, and RFID blocking to avoid getting your credit card information stolen.
You’re in a new destination. New foods. Higher altitudes. Winding roads. If you’re anything like me, I always end up getting some type of sickness when I’m traveling. It’s always smart to travel withy your own mini medical kit. Mine consists of; iburprofen, pepto bismol, immodium, motion sickness tablets, metamucil. No one likes to talk about it, but when you’re on a mountain with diarrhea, you’ll thank me later.
Altitude sickness is also to be taken into consideration. Bogota has one of the highest altitudes of cities in the world, at almost 9,000 feet! Pack an extra box of altitude tablets to help combat any nausea you may feel.
This is my chance to drop in a note about travel insurance. If you have a large carrier back home, they typically cover you abroad (but double check!) If you’re backpacking around for awhile, invest in travel insurance. I use Safety Wing (which cost me about $50 for 5 weeks in Europe). This covers health emergencies and travel disasters; from lost luggage to delays.
Getting Around Colombia Safely When You Solo Travel
Careful solo travel can easily be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. You’ll find yourself gaining confidence, independence, and a love for other cultures. It’s important to educate yourself about a destination, show respect, and leave no trace.
Not all, but many local taxis are known for ripping off tourists. If you are taking a taxi, be sure to do some research before traveling to your destination, or ask your accommodation how much you SHOULD be paying from the airport to your drop-off point. If you want a set price and the ability to track your journey, then download Cabify. It’s Colombia’s version of of Uber, and is my choice for solo travel.
If you decide to take the local buses, map your route beforehand, don’t venture too far off the beaten path, have change, and know which stop you need to get off before your ride. In Medellin, the train system is pretty modern, and most routes are pretty self-explanatory.
Plan Money Beforehand
There’s nothing more touristy than counting all your bills in public. Solo travel tip; ONLY take what you need, and lock the rest away. Imagine carrying all the money you have, and then being pickpocketed.. you can see why that’s not ideal. Colombia is a relatively budget-friendly destination (with some beers costing less than $1), so decide how much you need for your daily excursions before venturing out!
If you’re comfortable staying in a hostel, some can be as low as $10/night. Los Patios in El Poblado typically costs $25-55, depending on the month and the accommodation style you choose. Hotels in this area are also relatively cheap, ranging from $90-130/night.
Learn the Language
Knowing a few phrases can really get you out of some sticky situations abroad. While larger cities often have more English speakers, I was surprised when I was met with puzzled looks in both Medellin and Cartagena. Download a conversational translation app, and write down a few phrases! Locals are also very friendly, so if you find yourself in a pickle and there’s an English speaker around, they’ll often jump in to help (thanks for the stranger who helped me get motion-sickness tablets at the pharmacy!) When you solo travel in Colombia, it’s detrimental to be able to communicate.
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