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> Colombia Starter Kit, All the basic background info about Colombia and travel there
mcguinnessdave
post Apr 7 2009, 09:00 AM
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Introduction

Colombia is located on the Northwest coast of South America and is the point where South America joins Central America making it a traditional trading path and thus resulted in the most ethnically diverse population in South America. Colombia shares a border with Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Panama and Venezuela, and has two important coastlines the Pacific and the Caribbean. It is the world's 2nd largest nation of Spanish-speakers (behind Mexico). In recent times famous for terrorists, kidnapping and cocaine, Colombia has cleaned up its act a lot in recent years bring a new level of security and prosperity to Colombians who have been very happy with the changes they have seen in their country and their standard of living: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5172254.stm. Anyone who has been there will know what I mean. The level of security for travellers has also improved immensely so now is the time to see this fantastic country before the crowds discover it.

People
Religion & Culture
While about 90% of Colombians are Roman Catholic, a religion brought over by the colonial power Spain, people's beliefs are often influenced by other cultures' beliefs from African, indigenous and other regional spheres. Mormons, evangelicals and Protestants have been winning converts in recent times but still only represent a small minority.

Population
Colombia's population is roughly 45 million, giving it the third highest population in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico, and the second highest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico. The capital city Bogota has around 8 million inhabitants. The three main origins of Colombian people are Spanish, African and various indigenous tribes.

Language
Spanish is the official language of Colombia and apart from a small handful of indigenous tribes, all Colombians speak it. English is commonly spoken on the islands of San Andres and Providencia. 65 indigenous languages and over 300 dialects are also spoken within Colombia's borders.

Food
Colombian food is essentially Creole and is quite varied ranging from guinea pig (a favourite in the Andes) to lobster (on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts). A typical lunch or dinner in Colombia consists of meat or chicken served alongside frijoles (kidney beans) or lentils, fried plantain, rice and a small salad. Coffee is tasty and ubiquitous. But the fruit of Colombia is the real surprise treat being both extremely varied and delicious.

Environment
Geography
Colombia covers over 1.1 m sq kms, making it roughly the size of France, Spain and Portugal combined. The Western region is dominated by mountains including 3 Andean chains and there are several peaks above 5000m. 49% of the country surface is forested and the Southeast of the country is dominated by the Amazon lowlands - thick rainforest where access is by river only. Tatacoa, a tiny desert between these two regions, also boasts its own unique eco-system.

Flora & Fauna
Colombia claims to have more plant and animal species per square kilometre than any other country in the world. In fact only Brazil (7 times the size of Colombia) can boast more. Colombia hosts more than 350 mammals (including 15% of the world's primates), over 18% of the world's birdlife and a staggering 130,000 plants. From eagles to anacondas, piranhas to orchids, turtles to condors, Colombia is home to an incredible 10% of the world's biodiversity!

Climate
Being close to the equator, temperatures don't change much throughout the year. Altitude is a major determinant of temperature - with about 6C decrease for every 1000m increase in altitude (though the difference is more at night). The average daytime temperature is around 30C at sea level. Dry and rainy seasons vary from place to place.

History
Colombia's history is as colourful as it can be dramatic - from the ancient peoples of San Agustin, of whom we know very little other than their beautiful statues, through to Spanish conquest and colonisation. From the independence wars through post-independence violence, drug trafficking and civil war, Colombia has known much strife. The last few years have seen increasing stability, security and prosperity however, and most Colombians look forward to a brighter future.

Economy
The Colombian economy has never suffered from the hyper-inflation or economic collapse that many of its neighbours have. In recent years GDP growth has regularly been above 5%, and unemployment has been below 15% for many years. The US is the biggest market for Colombian exports (both legal and illegal!) followed by Venezuela - and its main exports are petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, clothing, bananas and cut flowers.

Travel
Southern Colombia
The South of the country is incredible, and more off-the-beaten-track. I am a huge fan of San Agustin, where you find incredible statues, beautiful scenery and the most friendly people on the planet. Also the Tatacoa desert is an incredible place and one very few tourists visit, though you might need Spanish if you are to get the full value of an independent trip here as there are no English-speaking guides around.

Make sure you stay on a tradtional farm if you go to the coffee district for a beautiful and colonial experience. The hike in Parque Nevado de la Ruiz is also worthwhile, hiking up na active volcano

There are also some brilliant Amazon trips here where you won't see any other tourists (or even any other people other than your guide and tracker) for days. The Amazonian communities are very hospitable too when you cross over into Peru (unofficially).

As for Bogota, the Gold museum is the main attraction along with the walk up to Monserate for stunning views of the city. Do this on the weekend for security or at least check the security. It has gotten at lot safer on other days but take recent advice. The Botero museum is also worth a visit and there are plenty of lovely churches dotted around the centre. Stay in the Platypus for a budget small dorm option, or Casa Platypus for nicer private rooms. And make sure to meet German, the owner, who knows Colombia like no one else.

Northern Colombia
Northern Colombia is more travelled and better documented so I will keep it short here. The main places of attraction in North Colombia are Taganga (good for diving and general chilling out), the Lost City trek is my favourite trek of all time (organised from Santa Marta) , and of course Cartagena is beautiful. Parque Tayrona also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia and is good for a relaxing stay though accommodation is quite basic. La Guajira is also a beautiful and less visited part of North Colombia.

Offshore
If it's a beautiful place to relax you are after you can't go wrong with Providencia. This super-chilled Caribbean island is stunningly beautiful and very relaxing with very friendly locals who do not try to exploit the few tourists they have. The old American taxis move around the island of 400 people at a snails pace and the locals wave and nod to everyone they pass. "Hey man!". "Alright!". If you can't relax here you will never relax! It's also a great place for diving and snorkelling with incredibly clear blue Caribbean seas.

If I can help at all, drop me a message.

Enjoy!
Dave


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starlagurl
post Apr 7 2009, 09:05 AM
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Thanks Dave, welcome to the Local Experts group!


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big_red_truck
post Apr 7 2009, 07:23 PM
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Excellent....thanks for the info!


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mmbcross
post Apr 10 2009, 07:28 PM
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Goodness Dave. You have done Colombia from top to bottom. I see you are a tour operator and have set up some nice itineraries. What brought you to Colombia? Most of Colombia has been off the tourist path for so long it is very refreshing and encouraging to see it finally coming back.

I wish you the best of luck with your endeavour and welcome to Travelpod.


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mcguinnessdave
post Apr 11 2009, 03:09 AM
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Hi mmbcross,

Thanks for your kind words. I first came to Colombia in 2005 and fell in love with the country. I ended up spending half of my South America trip in Colombia and was sad to leave so when we set up the travel business it was always at the forefront of my mind that Colombia would be one of the first destinations. Also when I saw that most operators only offered the same package I knew there was an opportunity to do something a little differently so I travelled out again this year to design some unique itineraries. It was great being back in Colombia, and the security situation was so much improved from my first visit (and even then it was already improving fast). In all my travels I don't think I have seen a country get so universal a thumbs-up from travellers who have been there, and it's somewhere I have been recommending strongly since my first visit. There's so much to see, so much variety and of course the wonderful Colombian people. Viva Colombia :-)

Dave


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mmbcross
post Apr 11 2009, 02:37 PM
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Great. I hope you will keep in touch with the forums and will be able to help travelpodders with their enquiries about Colombia.


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yalka26
post Jun 20 2009, 03:49 PM
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I would like to ask thoes help who has opinion about Colombia. I need it for uni work. ALL comments are welcome. its can be as short or as long as you want. Thanks for the help!

Allothers informations at: www. countryimageofcolombia.blogspot.com
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starlagurl
post Jun 22 2009, 10:21 AM
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Hi Yalka, I voted in your blog.


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yalka26
post Jun 22 2009, 01:24 PM
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_Thanks a lot!!


QUOTE(starlagurl @ Jun 22 2009, 10:21 AM) *

Hi Yalka, I voted in your blog.

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xtashx
post Oct 18 2009, 04:28 AM
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gora.gif Hi

I am going to travel to colombia alone to meet up with friends in 4 weeks. Thank you very much for the information you have given. It has helped me be more aware of the country and put my mind at ease.
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sharonabel
post Nov 20 2009, 10:21 AM
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Hello,

I'm planning a trip to Colombia in February and unfortunately I'll only have 2 1/2 weeks (max 3). So from Bogota I'm planning to head up to see the salt cathedral and also swing by Medellin, then just focus on the north. As it will be carnaval time I imagine I'll spend a few days in Baranquilla and then I was planning to spend the rest of the time around Cartagena, Santa Marta, Tayrona etc - however I don't think I'll have enough days to do the Lost City trek.

So my main question is, is there a way to visit the Lost City without trekking for 6 days? I know it would be amazing but as I have such limited time, I'd rather see other places in Colombia. Please can you let me know if there are tours so I could see it with less time?

Thanks a lot and any other tips are welcome, only just started researching!

P.S. I am a female solo traveller and I speak fluent Spanish, in case that affects any of the options :-)
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starlagurl
post Nov 20 2009, 02:45 PM
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Doesn't look like it, but you CAN get a helicopter tour of the area:

http://www.laheroica.com/ciudadperdida/ciudadperdida-en.php

Check out some of the blogs and read what they did:

http://www.travelpod.com/s/blogs/ciudad+perdida?ob=time


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benjaminsa
post Jan 13 2010, 01:16 PM
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Hi,

I am flying into Caracas on the second of April and want to go straight to Colombia pretty much but there is alot of talk that this is impossible because of border conflict and guerilla activity!? Can anyone say what the situation is like there, and maybe what it may be like come april!? It would be very much appreciated!


cheers


ben
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urbancowboy77
post Feb 19 2010, 01:14 PM
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Can anyone tell me how much it cost to take a bus from Bogota to Cali, well I am really trying to get to Yumbo but at least when I get to Cali I will be closer. Thanks
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urbancowboy77
post Feb 19 2010, 01:21 PM
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Can anyone help me with this: I have a friend who has a daughter and recently her daughters father was murdered and apparently she now has a contract on her head also and I want to go get them and bring them to the United States; I have known her for over a year now and if I have to marry her to do it I will but if someone can give me any help on getting her asylum or a visa to come to the United States it would be greatly appreciated. Her daughter adores me and so does her whole family and I want to make sure they are safe and happy again. I wanted to marry her anyway and I certainly did not want to marry her because this happened but it is what it is and I know that she loves me as much as I love her. I am catholic and so is she and I read somewhere I would need a piece of paper from the catholic church stating I am a member of the church blah blah blah but if anyone could help or give me some ideas it would be greatly appreciated. God brought us together for a reason and now I know it is to help her and daughter to be able to have a better life here in the United States where they will never have to live in fear and I do not know what I would do if something were to happen to my two beautiful girls. Please tell me what to do time is of the essence. I just hope she stays safe until I can get down there next month March 2010.

Thanks and God Bless anyone that can give me some guidance in this situation.
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johannahoerner
post Oct 14 2010, 10:56 PM
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Did the love story end good? Hope for you!

Greets and blessings
Johanna
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kanatran1
post Nov 8 2010, 04:13 PM
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.hi ...

roberto carlos called me tell you, good things are quiet on the borders have traveled and crossed the border to travel to Colombia, Santa Marta, Cartagena.

can your passport without problems on the border and it would be best maracaibo travel across the border and get to Colombia is a short trip and comfortable ... I'm from Maracaibo and if you can travel together no problems with taste.

I will travel in January Tayrona park next to a super parke is in Colombia if you dare welcome.
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