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Solo Colombia Trip

Seattle, Washington
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Solo Colombia Trip

Hi there,

I'm preparing for 12 days in Colombia in early August, landing in Medellin and flying out of Barranquilla. Having read through these forums a bit, I've got a lot of good ideas and general advice, but at this point I figured it would be worth seeing what some of you might have to say about my trip, specifically... (if I'm to be so lucky)

I'm a 32 year old male traveling by myself and I don't speak the best Spanish (a lot closer to the worst). I do travel internationally a lot and have been to Cartagena, briefly, once before (February of this year). I am also a vegetarian. I don't have a set budget but am hoping to keep things relatively inexpensive--my plan is to mostly stay at hostels or maybe rentals from something like Air BNB--seems more fun and social given the circumstances--however I'd spend a little bit more if I knew something was well worth it...

I get into Medellin via Quito on a Friday evening and have been advised that sticking around for the weekend would be pretty worthwhile. I hear Casa Kiwi in Medellin is a good bet and I'm planning on staying there at first. A friend recommended that I consider a couple of day trips out of Medellin, to El Penol and Santa Fe de Antioquia--I'm not committed, but giving both serious thought.

From there I'm not sure if it would be better to take a bus or plane to Santa Marta. And a part of me really wants to see Cartagena again... But something tells me keeping it simple with this amount of time is probably wiser--so right now i'm thinking of posting up in Santa Marta for a little while and possibly setting up a day or so to Tayrona National Park. At some point I need to get to Barranquilla, and really I'm not sure if that should be just to catch my flight home, or for a little more.

Essentially I've more or less ruled out Bogota, Cali, and probably Cartagena so as to keep things less hectic. I travel with groups for work and things are always so scheduled and detailed that, for vacation, I want to keep a relaxed pace. But very little is set in stone yet, as I'm indecisive and just want to make sure that I make the most of my time in Colombia.

It would be cool to meet people, whether Colombian or other, but I'll be happy even if it's just kind of a introspective solo journey. Literally any thoughts, advice or even criticism you might have will be appreciated. I like to be as informed as possible, and appreciate your time.

Thanks,

Rob

Amsterdam, The...
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1. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Sounds good to me: Medellín, some side trips from there, and Santa Marta and Tayrona. Although I haven't been to all these places but read up lots about them.

I liked Guatapé, and Piedra del Peñol was okay. Could be done as a daytrip.

Medellín has loads to offer. I liked going up with the cable car to Santo Domingo and wandering around there. Some parts of Envigado were nice. The square with Botero statues is nice but watch out for pickpockets and hustlers.

I didn't spend much time in Medellín though. Just a few days. The Medellín experts will hopefully tell you more.

Cartagena is quite expensive so probably a good idea to leave that out, since you've seen it already.

I was in Barranquilla for just an afternoon for carnival. Other than the carnival and some nice Colombians who ran the food stand, I disliked Barranquilla (saw loads of parts of the city during two 45 minute taxi rides and the bus). It seemed huge, and daunting. Didn't see much that appealed to me.

I speak basic Spanish but through various reasons I also heard several Colombians who spoke English too. But I don't know the percentage of people who do. I found people very friendly and patient in general so even trying a few words of Spanish will break the ice and earn you points.

And bring a "Point It" booklet, if you don't have one yet it may be one of your best travel investments ever.

I was solo for 2 of my 5 weeks in Colombia and thought it was fine. Chatted with travellers and Colombians. Safetywise I didn't really have different issues as compared to the time I travelled with a female friend. In fact a hotel owner tried to get funny with her when we were staying somewhere. Being two doesn't necessarily make you safer, in my opinion.

Instead of Airbnb or hostels you may also want to consider Couchsurfing, although you seem to have already booked for Medellín. There were quite a few people offering couches there. Don't know if that is the case for Santa Marta or Barranquilla.

Have fun,

Cecilia

…travelpod.com/travel-blog/…tpod.html

Edited: 17 July 2013, 02:58
Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Wow. Thanks, Cecilia! That gives me a lot to consider and I really appreciate it! I'll let you know what I end up doing. Thanks again!

Bogota, Colombia
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3. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Truth is that there is not much to see in Barranquilla. Santa Marta is nicer, it is a big vacation spot for Colombians, especially the Rodadero district. The old town has its charm, and the feel of a small town.

You may wish to make a hop to Taganga, wich was originally a fishermen's village, and became a backpackers spot. There are a number of diving clubs too.

If you want to go to Tayrona, spend at least a night there. There are two camping sites, the most remote one is closer to the nice beaches where you can swim and snorkel. They are renting tents or hammocks for the ones who want to walk light. It is also reachable by boat from Santa Marta, but well, I don't know, I feel the walk through the park is part of the experience.

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
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4. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Try to fly to Santa Marta, or at least to the coast somewhere from Medellin and then bus it, the bus from Medellin to Carategena is 16 hours , probably the same to SM, plane travel within Colombia can be cheap.

Check out parque Arvi when you are in Medellin, very nice metro cabe ride up to it.

If you like to relax a bit, head to Sabaneta on a late Saturday or Sunday afternoon, grab a seat at at one of the numerous bars on the square have a couple of cervezas and people watch, you can grab the Metro to get there, also you can have a very good typica Colombian dinner at Viejo John's - half a block from the park.

If you like a local disco, La Doctora has a bunch if fun ones one the weekends after 10pm -try to avoid Parque Lleras in Poblado, it is the tourist hangout and everything is $$- ok for one visit but dont hang there.

Edited: 17 July 2013, 12:52
Medellin
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5. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Casa Kiwi is a geat option if you like hostels; seems like a party one but has good facilities and an awsome location next to Lleres. Another good one is the Blacksheep. Park Lleres is a great spot to hang out; and it is popular for a reason with Colombians and tourists. It has plenty of places in and around that are cheap if you want to save money. (if 2,500 to 4,000 a beer is considerted expensive, which many places in and around lleres are then......) It also has places that are more up market and more expensive.

If you try the next street up from Casa Kiwi, there are lots of new bars that have opened that are quite popular as well. Sunday in the park below Lleres (next to the Dan Carton there is a market (near the outdoor gym).

Fly to the coast, bus is a long trip as pointed out previously.

Tel Aviv, Israel
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6. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Hello,

Since I am vegetarian myself and I visited recently Medellin, I can recommend you the very good vegetarian restaurant called : Govindas

haztevegetariano.com/restaurante/322/govindas

It is right in the center of Medellin, in the square of the statues of Botero. It is a self service restaurant, Indian style with a lot of food. It operates every day during day time.

The cable cars of Medellin is a no miss tourist attraction, I filmed the full trip (20 minutes) of the San-Javier cable car:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gba9WUOVTA

Seattle, Washington
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7. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Thank you Cecile, Stephane, CDY, Bicks and Capuccino! I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have all of your advice, input and general support. I haven't really posted in any type of forum before and you are all making me rethink the whole concept.

I'll be further solidifying my plan this weekend and all of your responses are going to be a big help.

If anyone has any favorite places to stay in Santa Marta, I'd love to hear it. And any additional thoughts, positive or negative, about Taganga, would also be much appreciated.

Thanks very much!!

Edited: 19 July 2013, 18:12
Amsterdam, The...
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8. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Happy to help. And don't forget to buy a Point It booklet to help you communicate :-)

Bogota, Colombia
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9. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Rob, regarding Taganga:

Pros:

- international feel (English spoken!), easy to mingle

- good diving spot

- relaxed atmosphere

- nice beach

- backpackers' spot

Cons:

- backpackers' spot

- You're definitely in a 3rd world village (poor infrastructure, some dodgy streets)

- Lots of booze and illegal substances

- Nothing much to see, apart from the beach and some tracks to follow to climb the surrounding hills.

Of course others may think differently!

Cartagena District...
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10. Re: Solo Colombia Trip

Adding to tagangas Pros/Cons:

More Pros:

-If you are short on time, you can reach Tayrona's beaches by boat from here. They depart daily at 8 or 9AM right in front of Ballena Azul Hotel. 2 Years ago there and back was 80,000Pesos returning at 3 or 4PM before the ocean gets rough. Bring your own food and drinks and plastic bags (boat ride is rough and everything in the boat gets wet).

-There are (to me at least) a good variety of quality restaurants and bars (and reasonably priced)

-Nightlife is vibrant

More Cons

-Dirty

-it became more dangerous over the years.

-Drugs etc increased since my last trip.

Edited: 21 July 2013, 02:25