"You are going to Colombia? Won't you get kidnapped?" or "Isn't it really dangerous?" These are questions I often get since I've been living in Colombia. Here is what you should know before coming to Colombia.
Living in Colombia has been a wonderful experience and I will for sure be back. The knowledge I had was based off of YouTube videos and general research. I knew it wasn't as dangerous as people make it out to be, but you never know until you go. I've put together a list of things I think you should know before coming to Colombia.
1. Is Colombia Dangerous?
The answer is mainly NO. However, are parts of Chicago dangerous? Like any large cities, there are parts that are more dangerous than others. I've lived in Medellin, Colombia for three months and have not once had any scares. I've been all over Colombia and haven't seen crime. Keep in mind, I've heard of horrible stories from other people. Keep your eyes out, be smart, and don't be ignorant.
2. You will need to learn at least some Spanish.
Most people in Colombia do not speak English. Which makes sense...since you know.. their main language is Spanish. Lucky for Americans, we learn basic Spanish in High School and can pick it up fast. You will need to learn at least numbers, general conversation, directions, and food related terms.
I have found that most people here expect you to know Spanish. So, get to it.
3. Colombia has a wide variety of landscapes to explore.
Colombia is a very diverse country in terms of landscape. Medellin is surrounded by mountains and is spring time everyday. Bogota is cold and has a big city feeling. Outside of Bogota is jungles/mountains and the temperature can change based on the elevation of the city. Cartagena is hot and has a Caribbean culture. Cali is mildly hot and is the capital of salsa dancing.
Adventure around Colombia and discover the amazing things it has to offer.
4. Medellin is pronounced Medejjean not Medeyyin.
Trust me.. Paisas (People from Antioquia) will correct you. The Paisa accent is much different than other parts of Colombia. You will find out pretty quick once you arrive.
5. Don't talk about Pablo Escobar.
Pablo Escobar died in 1993. That was 25 years ago. The country has changed drastically and the only thing people ever know about Colombia is Pablo. If you mention Pablo Escobar to a Colombian chances are they will roll their eyes at you. It's old and no one cares.
6. The buses can take a while.
Sometimes you will be on a 1 hour bus ride for an hour and 45 min. The buses along the mountain routes will stop and pick up people along the way. Be patient, you will get to your destination soon enough.
7. Dancing is a large part of the culture.
Yep, if dancing is scary to you as it is to me.. going out with a large group to a salsa bar can be frightening. Don't be afraid though. Just take a few shots and let loose. Colombians are big on dancing, you will often look into a bar/club and see people swinging about and having fun. If you are like me, I watch from a safe distance and hope not to be forced into a dance routine.
8. Social groups are big.
If you are a single male looking to go to a bar and "pick up chicks"... Good luck. You will quickly discover that people go out in groups and close themselves off. This makes it a bit hard to meet Colombians on a night out if you are by yourself. Make a friend at a coffee shop or something and see about going out with them and their friends.
9. People are often late.
I call it CT.. Colombian Time. If someone says I'll be there in an hour.. expect 2 hours. If the Bus is leaving at 2:30pm Expect 3:00-3:30pm. Flights can often be delayed and boats will sit at dock for hours. Learn to love it... otherwise you will be upset quite a bit.
10. Colombia can be inexpensive but not as cheap as you may think.
Yes, compared to the United States, Colombia is priced better. However, you will find some items are much more pricey than they are in the States. For a week in Medellin I recommend a $600 USD budget or if you really want to have fun $1,200 USD. ;)
Often times you can find a meal at a nice restaurant for 30,000-50,000 COP or at a local restaurant for 8,000-15,000 COP. Both are pretty well priced.