What we’ll tell people about Colombia

We spent almost three and a half months in Colombia. It was excellent. As the (somewhat contrived) tag line says: the only risk is that you won't want to leave.
We spent almost three and a half months in Colombia. It was excellent. As the (somewhat contrived) tag line says: the only risk is that you won’t want to leave.

  • Go. And go now. There’s plenty of tourist infrastructure and plenty to see – jungles, beaches, ancient ruins, deserts, sparkling cities, mountains to climb. But there aren’t that many tourists yet. It’s still recovering from a reputation for drugs and violence. Plus, few Colombians seem to have figured out that tourists can be cheated and exploited.
  • Go to the coast and the highlands because they’re different countries. On the coast life is slower, but more chaotic. And the people have a lot less. The highlands feel much more developed to western eyes, because they feel a lot more like home.
  • It’s safe, by and large, though many human rights were sacrificed to create the ‘security platform’. But don’t think that everywhere is safe, and don’t think that the war is over.
  • The people look different: African, indigenous, European, mixed. Charmingly, ethnic look seems to be treated like eye or hair colour in New Zealand. Just a physical feature, not an issue of identity. Actually, they think similarly about fat and thin too.
  • Travel is pretty cheap, though further South in South America is cheaper. We’ve been spending about $45NZD per person. Even splashing out on a Western luxury should be at least a third cheaper than at home.
  • A little Spanish goes a long way. It doesn’t take much before your Spanish is better than the English of most people you talk to. And Spanish is refreshingly easy to learn. It makes you feel sorry for hispanohablantes learning English.
  • There is no country on earth with such abundance of fruits and juices. Some, like lulo, are only found in Colombia.
  • The fruits are the highlight of the cuisine. Otherwise prepare to carb up.
  • Colombian people are some of the friendliest, and happiest that you will ever meet. And we’re not just saying that, Colombia consistently performs highly in surveys of subjective well being. It’s much happier than its level of wealth and its violent history imply.

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