Colombia is blessed with an astounding biodiversity, metropolitan cities, colourful villages and so much more. Colombia is no longer a hidden gem destination and tourism numbers increased significantly over the last few years. Tourism is a great boost for Colombia’s economy, but we must remember that a trip can also have negative impacts. To limit your negative footprint I compiled 9 do’s in Colombia for a sustainable and unforgettable trip.
1. EAT STREETFOOD
Whether you are in a big city, a colourful village or in a natural environment, there’s no way you will not find streetfood in Colombia. Finding vegan and vegetarian meals on street markets are challenging. Take the time to look and you’ll find that there’s a meal for any diet. Colombians know what great food is so you’ll definitely enjoy your meal, but eating streetfood also contributes to growth of the local economy. And lets not forget its fun to grab a bite with locals. It is recommended to bring cutlery and tupperware to avoid using single-use items on streetfood markets.
2. LEARN SPANISH
If a trip to Colombia is on your bucket list, learning a wee bit of Spanish should be too. Spanish is king in Colombia and it’s the best way to connect with locals. A little bit of Spanglish also prevents you from ‘shouting’ at locals in English when they don’t understand you. There are easy ways to master your Spanish basics with for example a language App like DuoLingo.
3. SPEND THE NIGHT IN A HAMMOCK
Can you think of anything better than waking up lying in a hammock with a phenomenal view? Colombia has it all. Sleeping in a hammock is very common in Colombia and an affordable experience you can’t miss out on during your trip. Another plus is that staying in a hammock leaves a small carbon footprint.
4. DON'T DO A PABLO ESCOBAR TOUR
As a result of the popularity of the Netflix series Narcos a new market developed in Medellín: Pablo Escobar tours. Undoubtedly you will be offered a tour to one of the houses of Pablo Escobar during your stay in Medellín. Some tours include activities such as paintball, you might be dragged to his grave or will be offered to take a photo with ‘relatives’.
The key issue here is that Pablo Escobar’s story has many versions from different perspectives. What happens with tours in Medellín is that stories are altered to make them even more interesting. These made up versions make it difficult to distinguish the truth. In these stories some individuals that were involved are presented as heroes, which is as far from the truth as it can be. For that reason going Pablo Escobar tour might not be the right way to learn about Colombia’s history.
When you visit a larger city like Bogotá or Medellín I always recommend to book an overnight stay in advance. But in smaller villages it is more fun to wander through the village past the residencias and hostales looking for the most special place to spend the night that may not even be on Booking or Hostelworld. It is the best way to meet locals, pay a fair price and have an amazing breakfast. It is also a great way to support the local economy.
6. TRAVEL BY BUS
National flights in Colombia are reasonably priced. Sometimes the prices are equal or lower than the price of a bus ticket. However, it is important to note that you have to pay a commission for your luggage and arrange a taxi or other transport to and from the airport twice. And lets not forget you save a night of accommodation if you travel by a night bus. Often when you do the math with these considerations travelling by plane is far more expensive than by bus. More importantly, air travel amplifies your negative footprint significantly. Save money and limit your negative impact by traveling by bus as much as possible.
7. GET WET AND WILD
Another do in Colombia is getting soaked by one of the great water sports that you can practice here. Get your diving license in Capurganá, surf in Palomino or at the Pacific coast or go kitesurfing in La Guajira. Inland you can do canyoning, rafting, kayaking and much more. These are all adventure water sports with a small carbon footprint that you don’t want to miss out on.
8. LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY
Colombia has a unique and intriguing history. Almost everyone is familiar with the influence that drug lord Pablo Escobar has had on Colombia but there are so many stories about Colombia’s heritage that we know very little about. Put your nerdy glasses on and visit a museum, read about Colombia’s history and ask questions to locals about their heritage.
9. TRAVEL BEYOND THE CARIBBEAN COAST
Postcard white beaches with palm trees and a clear blue sea, it is the idyllic picture that comes to mind when you think of the Caribbean coast in Colombia. Along the Caribbean coast you will find many highlights flooded with tourists. Help spread tourism and allow yourself to be astounded by the less visited places in Colombia. Are you wondering what my favourite off the beaten track hotspots in Colombia are? Check them out here.