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Colombia, South America

3 Misconceptions About Colombia: Forget Them and Just Go!

When I started telling friends and family that my next nomadic venture was going to be to Colombia, I was met with a lot of sideways looks and not so enthusiastic comments. And while I genuinely appreciate that these comments come from a place of love, let’s be honest, I’m gonna go anyways. 

I’ve been to a lot countries and I always hold safety is the highest regard especially when traveling solo. Although I prefer to call it common sense but you get the gist. I also prefer to wholly and truly create my own opinions and perceptions of a place, based on first hand experience not television or other media. Trust me I’m not perfect but I always try my best to go in without any preconceived notions or ideas because let me tell you one thing, they’re almost always wrong! 

Here are the top 3 misconceptions about Colombia and why you should ignore them and just go!

Colombia is Dangerous

Yes, Colombia’s past is a tale of turmoil and violence. Even as recently as a decade ago, Colombia was still considered a very dangerous place. But you know what, the past is the past! It’s time to let go of the idea that Colombia is the same place it was 10 years ago, because simply,  it’s not. I was incredibly inspired to bear witness to just how far they’ve come as a country and to feel the energy the Colombian people lead with everyday to make sure they continue to move forward.

As a female solo traveler I never once felt unsafe while in Colombia. Medellin is the 2nd largest city in Colombia and while there are still areas you wouldn’t want to wander alone at night, the city as a whole is really safe.

Being that it’s a big city, of course I used common sense when traveling on the metro or in busier areas. I didn’t leave my backpack hanging open, I carried it on my front and made sure not to travel with anything in my pockets. These are precautions you would probably take in any big city, so really nothing out of the ordinary.
Colombians as a whole are extremely happy you’re there. Your presence in their country is a living, breathing sign of prosperity, growth and transformation. A little over 10 years ago less than 50,000 tourists stepped foot in Colombia and now they see upwards of 5 million tourists a year and have a booming tourism industry. 

“Somos Transformacion” – We are transformation

There is nothing to see in Colombia

Whoa, hold up, what!? Colombia, like many of the South American countries boasts a wide range of climates, ecosystems and landscapes. Depending on the altitude and location of a city you can go from cold (they call Bogota la nevera or “the fridge”) to very hot and tropical. 

Lush Greenery – Salento

Salento is smack dab in the middle of the coffee region of Colombia. This region is known for its amazing valleys, rolling hills and palm tree forests.

I highly recommend the Cocora Valley hike if you’re in this area.

So green!

City Life – Medellin

I lived in El Poblado, probably one of the more popular areas for expats and digital nomads and I couldn’t of been happier with my choice. I loved the accessibility to cafes and good restaurants and that so much was within walking distance. It’s also got a metro stop which is useful for getting anywhere else in the city.

The transformation of Colombia is extremely apparent in Medellin. They have the country’s first metro system, which they are very proud of! The metro system doesn’t just consist of trains, its linked with the bus system and the Metrocable system.

There are 3 Metrocable systems in Medellin. Prior to these being built, the communities that exist in these previously unreachable areas had to ride for 2 hours by bus to get to work in the city. Now their commute is cut in half, making access to the city more attainable and jobs more accessible. 

Medellin’s Metrocable system

Caribbean Vibes – San Andres & Cartagena

I had never heard of San Andres before arriving in Colombia. A friend that I met while traveling told me about it and I’m so glad she did! San Andres is a coral island off the coast of Colombia, its actually closer to Nicaragua than it is to Colombia. Historically a British colony, San Andres is a mix of a lot of influences from Colombian to Caribbean to Haitian which makes for a very unique vibe and great energy.

Cartagena is the 6th largest city in Colombia and is perfectly positioned facing the Caribbean sea on the northern coast of Colombia. Its extremely touristy but the culture, history and extreme cuteness of the streets within the walled city can not be missed.

Shades of blue as far as the eye can see in San Andres

This is Colombia, not Narcos

I don’t watch much TV so I’m glad I never had the opportunity to sit down and watch Narcos, despite the many recommendations I got especially when I mentioned I was going to Colombia. Colombians are not exactly pleased that biggest representation of their past and their country comes from a sensationalized TV show. A TV show that has very few, if any actual Colombian actors or actresses in it.

It’s like dragging Colombia back to the deep, dark past when their present and future looks so amazing and doing a terrible job of it at that. Since I have never seen Narcos I can’t really tell you first hand what’s not accurate about it, but it’s definitely a popular topic if you ask any Colombian.

Of course TV is meant to be dramatized and sensationalized for our viewing pleasure but I’d encourage you to take this at face value.

By echmelik, May 19, 2017
  • 2
  • Cali
    June 4, 2017

    Totally feel you on this post! I spent two months in Colombia earlier this year and I already want to go back. I felt safer in Medellin than a lot of places back in the US. And it is SOOOO beautiful. Love your pics in this post!

  • fran
    June 4, 2017

    I totally agree with you! People are very quick to discourage me from traveling to certain countries and my response is always the same”the world is dangerous”. If I lived my life in such fear I’d never go anywhere

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About Me
Hey there! I'm Erin.
Welcome to Have Compass Will Travel, an adventure and lifestyle blog that follows me from one adventure to another while I share the tips and tricks to living a life of more with less. I'm Erin, a Chicago native who has traveled to over 20 countries. In the last two years I set myself free of material commitments such as rent and car payments to live a flexible lifestyle that allows me to travel, work and save money!
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