Colombia is a wonderful, colorful and friendly country to visit. It is, however, a very different culture. So to ensure that you are fully prepared for the trip and enjoy your stay here we provide the following travel tips:
GENERAL (TRAVEL IN A DEVELOPING COUNTRY): Colombia is a developing country and many regions still live in poverty. Although the tourism infrastructure is reasonably good considering that this is very new industry. Though it is growing and improving each year, it can still be difficult at times to travel.
You will often be needing a little patience as things tend to run on “latino time” – buses often depart late, people often arrive late to meetings, and things generally happen more slowly and with less urgency than in other countries.
The best way to deal with these differences is to look on the bright side and take each challenge as part of your travel experience. Relax and enjoy these sides to Latin culture.
ETIQUETTE & BEHAVIOR: Colombia is one of South America´s most hospitable nations. Even in the overburdened metropolis of Bogota, people are happy to give directions, chat, and ask a question. You´ll often hear “De donde vienes?” (“Where are you from?”). Colombians can be extremely knowledgeable and proud of the history of their country.
In the cities women who know each other often greet each other with a single kiss on the cheek, while men shake hands.
SHOPPING & BARGAINING: Colombia has many colorful markets – both for handicrafts and local products. Before buying you should always bargain in price as this is the custom and the locals often try to charge extra to the tourists. There is no general guideline as to how much you should pay for any individual item – you should decide how much you are willing to pay, start your offers lower than that amount and compromise little by little trying to get the seller’s price down to your ideal price. Bargaining can be fun, and a great chance to improve your Spanish while interacting with the locals!
When in regular shops/malls you should pay the quoted price as it is considered rude to bargain.
CAMERAS & PHOTOGRAPHY: Colombia, with its majestic landscapes and varied city scapes, is the dream of every photographer. However, you should respect the locals and follow these simple rules when photographing them:
Always ask permission before taking someone´s picture. People in remote villages often don’t like being photographed.
TIPPING: It is recommended to Tip our Drivers and Guides as this is not included in the price of the trip, for drivers we recommend $3 USD per person per day and for the guides $10 USD per person per day.
Tipping is also standard practice in most cafes and restaurants – 10% is normal.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS: Soroche (altitude sickness) affects some visitors in the Colombian Andes. Headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath are common.
To avoid such effects it is recommended to take it easy on your first day, drink plenty of water or coca tea, and eat chocolate. Always inform your guide or hotel staff if you feel any symptoms and they will help you out.
FOOD & DRINK: Another health risk in Colombia is traveler´s diarrhea caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. It is therefore very important to watch what you eat - do not eat anything from street vendors, avoid ice unless you are sure it is made from purified water, avoid uncooked or under-cooked food and unpasteurized milk, drink bottled and boiled water, even when brushing your teeth. In the case of illness always inform your guide or hotel staff who will help you deal with it and ensure that you drink enough water to maintain hydration.
HYGIENE: Hygiene standards are generally lower than those you are used to in North America or Europe. One very important difference is that the sewage system cannot cope with toilet paper being flushed into the toilet. There is usually a basket next to the toilet which should be used to deposit used toilet paper, and although unpleasant, this method is more pleasant than the toilet overflow that will occur if paper is flushed!
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Safety and security is an important issue as pick-pocketing and robbery of tourists can and does occur. It is important not to be paranoid when traveling as most Colombians you meet will be very honest and friendly people, but there are some basic precautions that you should take: Unless necessary never carry anything valuable with you (i.e. expensive watches / jewelry) or large amounts of money. Guard your cell phone and keep zippers zipped and pockets closed when out and about.
EXTRA IMPORTANT DETAILS
ITINERARY DISCLAIMER: It is our intention to adhere to the itinerary described; however, due to our travel style, on occasions, it may be necessary or desirable to make small changes. Weather conditions and unpredictable local circumstances may lead us to make alterations to the route and/or travel times. Hotels and flight schedules might change according to availability. Any mention of specific wildlife in the itinerary or trip details is not a guarantee that it will be seen during the trip.
SEASON: All year.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy to Moderate - We consider this expedition as a soft adventure, so children and adults can do it with no problem and for people that want to take a break or just avoid any of this adventures can always hang out with the driver doing something else. For people that may want to do a bit more challenging, our guides will be happy to coordinate something to help them.
NOTE - For specific details of activities please view the Full Itinerary.
ACCOMMODATION: All prices are based on double-occupancy. If you are traveling solo, you will be matched with another participant of your same sex. If you prefer to have a single room, please contact AJ prior to your departure to arrange your accommodation at an extra cost, it is very important to notice that the hotels listed on the Itinerary description may change according to availability so we do not guarantee you stay there, but we will make sure you will stay in a similar one of the same category.
MEALS: Traveling with ADVENTURE Journeys you will have the possibility to experience and taste local food and snacks. Your guide will help you identify typical food and suggest the best places to enjoy it. Some meals are not included in order to give you some flexibility about where, what and with whom to eat. You have the option to share these meals with the group, however there is no obligation to do this. If you have any allergies or food restrictions, please inform AJ prior to your departure.
Vegetarians, Vegans and Gluten Free people are very welcome in our trip, our guides are always ready to coordinate with chefs and restaurants fantastic meals for them, as Ecuador is very well known for its great diversity of gastronomy.
YOUR TRIP LEADERS AND GUIDES: All AJ guides and trip leaders are highly experienced, licensed from the Tourism University to operate in Ecuador and certified as Wilderness Adventure First Aid respondents. They all have approved several extra training courses for kayaking, rafting, biking and horse riding, besides this they all are Ecuadorian and have a fantastic personality. We always carry a complete first aid kit in our trips.
In some locations and for some activities, local guides join the trip leaders to provide an added service and make sure we practice sustainable tourism involving local indigenous people in our operation.
In the Galapagos Islands, minimum 4 participants for the AJ trip leader service are required.
SUSTAINABLE ECO AND CULTURAL TOURISM: Clients receive interpretation and education about the ecology and conservation of the Andes, Amazon rain forest and Galapagos Islands, and learn about the factors that threaten it. We aim to promote long-term conservation of both local people cultural identity and the environment. We transport out and recycle all non-organic garbage and we prefer to work with local suppliers. Your visit will encourage the local communities to support responsible eco-tourism as a sustainable alternative for their living.
HEALTH INFORMATION: Please inform AJ of any existing medical conditions (i.e. pregnancy, diabetes, etc). Yellow fever, Hepatitis B vaccination and Malaria Medication are recommended when traveling to the tropics. Please ask your doctor for advice.