This week we bring you another edition of our monthly interviews. This time we talked to Daniel, who travelled to Colombia with his friends. Daniel and his friends didn’t know much about the country when they decided to travel to Colombia, it was a quick decision based on flight tickets price. Let’s find out if their gamble paid off!
We would like to thank Daniel for taking the time to answer our questions and share his photos of Colombia with us and our readers.
The Uncover Colombia team
Tell us something about yourself (Where are you from? who you are and/or what you do?)
I am a grad student currently living in Madison, WI. I don’t get to do a whole lot of international traveling, but my friends and I managed to find a short window of time when we were all free to get out and go somewhere. So we did.
Why did you decide to visit Colombia?
Our decision was based primarily on price and availability of plane tickets. We knew very little about the country at first, and only began to learn after we purchased the tickets. In retrospect, I’m convinced this was an excellent decision.
What sort of things did you like?
The street food (pretty much all just balls of fried dough with various ingredients inside) were cheap and plentiful. I didn’t eat nearly enough. I also enjoyed hearing about Colombia’s interesting and sometimes rocky history, from the Spanish conquests and independence movements of a few centuries ago to the tumultuous conflicts of the last few decades. Evidence of this history, old and new, is present throughout the entire country.
What didn’t you like?
Taxi rides could be a little harrowing at times, both because of the driving style and because of the stories I had heard about robberies on cabs. Whenever I got into a taxi I held my breath waiting to see if we’d make it to our final destination all in one piece. In reality, I think that the rate of incidents is very low, and I was blowing things out of proportion. Nonetheless it’s always good to take precautions (like calling for a cab instead of hailing one off the street) and to trust your intuition.
What was your favourite experience?
We rented a couple of hammocks at Playa Blanca and spent a night on the beach. All the vendors cleared out once the last tourists boats left around 4pm, and the beach became the peaceful and secluded spot we were hoping it would be. We ate amazing food, met some other travelers, and generally took it pretty easy.
Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc?
We stayed in Bogota and Cartagena, both of which had plenty of hostels and plenty of room, so that wasn’t a problem. We also managed to figure out how to navigate Bogota’s Transmilenio (which is basically like a metro in bus form), which was confusing at first, but once you understand the system it works quite well. Food was generally pretty easy to come by, either from street vendors, restaurants, or grocery stores (we used all three). People were very patient with our broken Spanish. A member of our group was also vegetarian, and though she sometimes had to settle for just rice and plantains, a fair number of restaurants offered a broader range of vegetarian options.
Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and How does Colombia compare with these countries?
Colombia was our only destination.
Which image did you have about Colombia before going there?
I’m ashamed to say that pretty much the only information I knew about Colombia before going was either about the drug trade or about guerilla warfare and unstable politics. I knew that there was more to the country, but I wasn’t all that sure what it was.
Did this image change after your trip?
Of course. There are millions of people in the country that are living just like anyone elsewhere on the planet. That said, there are elements of a tumultuous past. There was a strong police presence almost everywhere we went. This shouldn’t be intimidating, though. The officers we talked to were generally quite friendly and willing to offer us directions, and they seem to do an excellent job of keeping things safe.
Would you like to come back?
Definitely. There’s a lot that we weren’t able to do, especially outside of the major cities. Colombia has an amazing amount of diversity, and I would love to be able to explore some of it’s more out of the way places, like the Amazon, high up in the Andes, or Tayrona National Park.
What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination?
If you don’t know any Spanish, try to learn a little bit before you go. Not many people we met could speak English, but all were pretty willing to answer questions and provide some help. A little bit of knowledge of the language can go a long way.
Any final thoughts?
Colombia is a country of contrasts and transitions. You can often find wealth and poverty right next to each other. It also seems to be changing quite rapidly. It would be interesting to go back in a few years and see what kind of differences there are.
- Uncover Colombia Interview: Elaine’s voyage across the Colombian Caribbean coast aboard the Mar Azul (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Uncover Colombia Interview: Erin’s experience in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- A Few Tips for Travelling in Colombia (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Suggestions for a two-week holiday in Colombia (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Colombia: mountains, plains, beaches, desert and jungle, all in one country (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Weird and wonderful Bogota, a walking tour (notesfromcamelidcountry.net)