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Colombia Travel Guide

Despite the travel warnings issued by many governments Colombia can safely be visited and lived in providing you follow certain guidelines… Here’s how to avoid the kidnappers and live it up in Loco-mbia.

Colombia probably doesn’t top most people’s list of vacation spots. With Amazon jungle, forest-covered mountains, beautiful women and Caribbean beaches it ought to but there’s a small snag: the civil war that’s been tearing the country to pieces for the last 50 years.

Yet despite the travel warnings issued by many governments Colombia can safely be visited and lived in providing you follow certain guidelines. Colombians are very proud of their country and with good reason. The people are educated and so full of life that the country is affectionately known as ‘Loco’-mbia.

The civil war is conducted between the government, the various guerrilla factions and the right wing para-militaries. It’s an absolute mess like a wound that was left to fester for half a century. The conflict is unspeakably violent and you don’t want to go anywhere near it.

That said, you can travel in Colombia and have a great time in a way that you’d be hard pushed to find in much of Latin America. It’s as cheap as Thailand to live, the people are smart and engaging and the country is beautiful. There’s hardly any tourism in most of the country and so you’ll be something of a novelty wherever you go. Just keep your eyes open.

The big cities are Bogota, Medellin and Cali in the center; Baranquilla and Cartagena on the coast. The center is predominantly white and is of course where the money is. The coast has more African influence and there’s some social rifts between the cachacos, the inland people and the costenos, the coastal folk.

Bogota is the capital and parts of it feel like Europe. It’s set up high and can be quite cold and dry. This is the richest city and is more orderly with the slums lying out to the south of the city.

Medellin and Cali are hotter and more chaotic. The good and bad neighborhoods are more intermingled here and there’s still plenty of mafia action. Both cities effectively belonged to drug lords in the early 90’s but have calmed down a good deal now.

Cartagena is the most beautiful city to visit and is a UN World Heritage Site. It’s full of colonial architecture and has a beach though you’ll be pestered to death there.

Colombia is only recommended for most if you speak Spanish or have friends there who can make sure you stay safe. Yes, you may get around on your fine without speaking a word – ignorance is bliss for as long as nothing happens to you.

The cities are flooded with refuges from the civil war and many of these soon fall victim to drug addiction. Life can be ruthlessly cruel here.

The country is rich in natural resources and has an educated population. By rights it should be a prosperous country but the civil war means that it only excels internationally in cocaine production. This suits the guerrillas, the drug lords and the US Government down to the ground.

It’s a very cheap country with terrible inequalities of wealth but what else is new.

Road Junky

Road Junky specialises in provocative, off-the-cuff travel writing that isn't meant to be taken too seriously. Come and meet us in Morocco each winter for our Sahara Retreat.