By the Uncover Colombia team
Surely you’ve heard one or two things about Colombia. Maybe you’ve seen or read news about the country or have seen movies supposedly filmed there (most films portraying South America are actually filmed in Mexico or US).
Either way, we believe that you should take the chance to see Colombia by yourself and form your own opinion. This is the main reason why we are passionately working to bring you the opportunity to experience Colombia in an authentic but hassle-free way through Uncover Colombia. As people who have travelled up and down Colombia, we are confident that if you decide to visit, you will not be disappointed.
In the mean time, we thought it would be a good idea to ask people who have visited Colombia and have experienced the country first hand to share their impressions of their journeys with us. This is the first of a series of interviews with travellers from diverse backgrounds that have actually been to Colombia. We hope you enjoy it.
We would like to thank Nienke and Larry for taking the time to answer our questions and share their experiences with our readers. As you can see from their answers, they are experienced travellers that decided to journey through Colombia as part of their trip around the world.
-Hello, Tell us something about yourselves (Where are you from, who you are and/or what you do?)
Our names are Lawrence and Nienke. We are 34 and 27 years of age, and got married 2 years ago. Originally we are from The Netherlands but we have lived in New Zealand for most of our lives.
-Why did you decide to visit Colombia?
We set out to visit each country in South and Central America, so Colombia was part of our trip.
-What sort of things did you like?
We spent 6 days in Colombia, but we spent time in Bogota and Cartagena in that time. We found Bogota to be a very organised city, with a lot more modern architecture than we expected. We travelled by bus within the city, and were pleasantly surprised by this well organised system – they even had small bus stations at every stop. No need to wave down a bus!
Bogota (around Christmas) reminded us of Regent St in London! It was beautifully decorated as well as markets and singing on the main street. We also did a trip to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira.
1 The Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira. Copyright Uncover Colombia 2012
We did this trip using local buses by advice from our hostel. The bus which dropped us off in Zipaquira was named ‘Rapido’ which was quite fitting as it sounded like it had a jet-engine under the hood! We got there in record time, and one of the locals kindly advised us when we had arrived since we anticipated a much longer trip! The people we met were very friendly and helpful, although they spoke very little English.
2 The Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira. Copyright Uncover Colombia 2012
-What didn’t you like?
There are quite a few homeless people lingering the streets at night –they tend to sleep on benches during the day.
-What was your favourite experience?
Arriving in Cartagena at the airport, we met a taxi driver who was 70 years old. Although he spoke only a little bit of English, he was the most friendly taxi driver we met on our travels, and spoke about the history of the walled city.
3 The walls of Cartagena. Copyright Uncover Colombia 2012
Whilst in Cartagena we went on a day trip to the Rosario Islands. We learnt about the history of Cartagena’s pirate attacks, and went to a few very picturesque islands where we spent the day snorkelling. Although a lot of the coral was dead, we still saw some very colourful fish. It was definitely a highlight of Colombia for us.
4 Cartagena. Copyright Uncover Colombia 2012
-Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc?
We always tried to arrange to be picked up by our hostel when arriving in a new place at night. These attempts usually failed and we were left waiting at bus stations or airports a few times, including in Colombia. There is always a taxi ready to help, so have your destination address written down. We also struggled with the language at times because very little English is spoken in South and Central America, but you learn the important words fairly quickly!
We had no problems finding food, in fact, we found some great little cafes where you could find the ‘delicacies of home’ rather than the more traditional ‘rice and beans’ which you can get for every meal in South and Central America. It was nice to have variety sometimes.
We didn’t have any problems finding accommodation, but we are very ‘easy’ travellers and generally stay in cheap hostels. Getting a shower to give hot water was sometimes a bit of a challenge though!
-Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and How does Colombia compare with these countries?
Colombia has its own unique sphere. We found it to be a lot more developed than we expected, and it felt a lot safer than its neighbouring country, Venezuela. It has its hustle and bustle moments, but you need to be alert in all countries in that part of the world.
-Which image did you have about Colombia before going there?
We heard many stories about the dangers of visiting Colombia, particularly with gang and drug problems. But we also heard along the way that these issues were improving. We remained cautious, and vigilant.
-Did this image change after your trip?
We did not see any of the dangers that we had been warned about. As long as you take the ‘normal’ travelling precautions, I would not hesitate to encourage anyone from travelling to Colombia. It is a beautiful country with a great culture and friendly people.
-Would you like to come back?
-What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination?
Colombia has so much to offer! But also, when travelling, take the time to interact with locals, and really get to see how they live on a day to day basis.
-Any final thoughts?
Happy travels! J
- Uncover Colombia interview: Tom’s experience learning Spanish and touring the country (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)