Colombia is a country very much overlooked by female travellers but the majority of Colombia is surprisingly safe for women. That's why we've given it 3 stars. Being part of Latin America, it is still a very machismo society but the only place you may feel uncomfortable here is on the Caribbean coast where cat calls are common.
Spend time in the big cities and you’ll be surprised by the tight clothing that women wear especially in Medellin. This is one city where you can wear what you want without worrying about attracting the wrong type of attention.
There is crime here so only take out as much money as you need and use ATMs during the day especially in Cali. Flashing jewellery or your phone or camera is not wise so be careful with your valuables and only carry the minimal items with you. Be careful in the evenings and try to avoid night buses across the border with Ecuador. Take day buses if you can. If you are backpacking alone in Colombia you're guaranteed to find others to team up with.
There is still trouble between the government and the Farc Rebels, so check the latest updates for areas and routes to avoid. If you learn some Spanish phrases and stay clear of the comunas (the poorer areas), Colombia will capture your heart.
Below is our guide to how to travel solo in Colombia as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place. All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article.
- Places to Visit in Colombia
- Where to Stay in Colombia
- Colombia Tours
- Travelling Around Colombia
- Colombia Itinerary
- Best Time to Visit Colombia
- Learn Spanish in Colombia
- Airports in Colombia
- Travelling Onwards
- Frequently Asked Questions about Colombia
- Map of Colombia
- Plan a Trip to Colombia
Places to Visit in Colombia
Although stereotyped with drug cartels and violence, Colombia’s reputation is gradually changing to one of entrepreneurship, transformation and hope. Admittedly, parts of the country are still out of bounds for tourists but Colombia has come a long way in the last decade and is now a place of magical realism with coffee plantations, Caribbean cities and mountain landscapes.
Bogota is the capital of the country and although it does have its street crime, it also has a large student population making areas such as La Candelaria perfectly safe for a woman travelling alone to enjoy a coffee and listen to live music. It’s also one of the most colourful areas with impressive street art and walls dedicated to graffiti. Take the street graffiti art tour to learn more about the city’s art.
There is not that much to do here so three to five days is enough to see all that the city has to offer. Once you’ve spent a few hours wandering around the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum, join one of the city’s tours.
Bogota does have great nightlife, although it’s more expensive than you would expect for Colombia and is a fair taxi ride away from La Candelaria. Team up with others to sample the bars and latin clubs of Zona T, Zona Rosa and Parque 93.
Two hours outside of Bogota, you’ll find the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, a quaint Colombian town. You have to take two buses to get here so taking a tour is much easier. If haunted houses are more your style, take the 2 hour bus journey to Tequendama Falls, a 157 meter high waterfall with a spooky abandoned hotel. Raquira is definitely worth a visit. This colourful town has friendly locals and a South American charm and is reachable by minibus from Bogota.
Colombia Coffee Region
Travel West and you’ll arrive in Colombia’s coffee country. Colombia is one of the world’s top producers of coffee and although it exports most of its quality beans, taking a finca tour (a coffee farm) in this region is the best way to try the best of the local produce. You can even stay overnight in one.
Salento is a cute little town with a country feel with old men wearing cowboy hats and a colourful artisan market that draws in Colombians as well as tourists. This is a great place to hike but choose company to do so as there have been cases of people getting held up and robbed.
Valle del Cocora has a striking landscape with waterfalls, hummingbirds and giant wax palms and is safe for hiking alone. To get there take a shared jeep from the town square early morning and allow enough time to catch a jeep back at 3pm. The top of the hill in Salento offers a viewpoint of the town which is safe for solos to visit, even at dusk, and because the town is so small there is no risk of getting lost.
Manizales is a university city with a cooler climate and a European feel and the parks here offer beautiful views overlooking the city. Chipre is the highest point in Manizales with a lookout tower to admire the views. Similar to the rest of Colombia, people congregate in the plazas so it’s easy to meet others here.
There are multiple hot springs near here with Termales Tierra Viva the most natural pool made of natural stone. If you didn’t visit the Gold Museum in Bogota, there is a smaller one here to explore.
Head north from coffee county to Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city and once the most dangerous city in the world. Medellín is now one of the biggest success stories and even won the Most Innovative City Award in 2013 for its turnaround.
Situated in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Medellin is smaller and more contained than Bogota, and is known as the City of Eternal Spring because of its year-round warm temperature (27’c). Nearly everywhere you go in the city has amazing views and the city is vibrant with a latin culture with Al Fresco dining and locals socialising in the many parks.
For a great view of the city, take the Metrocable, a clever transport system designed to reach the suburban areas of the city. Take the second cable car to Parque Arvi, a natural reserve where you can go horse riding but make sure you hire a guide here instead of exploring on your own.
Other places not to be missed are Plaza Botero with the famous over-sized sculptures, and the Botanical Gardens, an area of 40 acres of tranquility in the city. For the adventurous, paragliding gives you a bird’s eye view of the city and is one of the cheapest places in South America to experience it.
Medellin is safe if you don’t have your valuables on show and don’t venture into the pueblos alone. Pueblito Paisa is a cute mock up of a Colombian Pueblo with fantastic views of the city so you won’t miss out on visiting one of the more authentic areas. Although the outdoor escalators of comuna 13 are in a poorer area, if you visit with others you’ll be able to explore this fascinating re-generated area of street art in safety.
Medellin is one of the best places to party and the area of Parque Lleras is perfectly safe for women at night and is a great place to meet others, especially as the park is a hive of activity with locals and tourists hanging out before hitting the bars.
From Medellin you can easily get to other places in Antioquia. Just 45 minutes away is Santa Fe, a historic town with colonial architecture and a romantic charm, and the tiny town of Amaga has the friendliest locals you’re ever likely to meet.
Guatape is one of the most beautiful areas in Colombia and a two hour bus ride from Medellin will take you to Penol Rock where you can climb to the top for amazing views of the lake below.
When you’re ready for a different vibe, travel to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. Cartagena is a colourful old town with cobbled streets. You’ll find street performers and other travellers and tourists enjoying the friendly vibe at Plaza Trinidad, the square where everyone hangs out.
If you are here on a Tuesday night, pop down to the Tuesday night language exchange at Latin Explosion to meet others and learn some Spanish. You’ll find many tours here from chiva tours to culture and history, and boat trips to the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca.
Cartagena gets incredibly hot and at times the humidity can be overbearing. As pretty at it is here, it is also very touristy so be prepared to barter with the vendors trying to charge you tourist prices.
Santa Marta is only an hour away and not only has a nicer beach than Cartagena but also a nicer vibe. There’s not that much to see so take a day trip to Minca for waterfalls, or spend a couple of nights at nearby Taganga on a more secluded beach.
Tayrona National Park is one of the most beautiful sights in Colombia. For the adventurous solo, the Lost City Trek is a four day strenuous challenge through jungle to an ancient ruined city built by the Tayrona Indians.
Pacific Coast of Colombia
Most people avoid the Pacific Coast, where the ocean meets the jungle, as it doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure of the Caribbean side but if you’re looking for a more rustic travelling experience and have the time and patience to explore this region, you’re be able to escape the crowds.
Choose the sleepy town of Bahia Solano for deserted beaches and whale watching, Nuquí for its cultural and ethnic diversity, El Valle for surfing, and Parque Utria – a national park for rainforest beauty. Escape to this side of Colombia and you’re guaranteed to be travelling solo.
If you love dancing you’ll love Cali. This city does have its crime problems so as women traveling alone be careful at night and also when taking money out of ATMs. Situated in a valley with the Cauca River, Cali is the salsa epicentre of Colombia, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a salsa club or two, as salsa is in the Caleños' blood. It’s also known for its shopping so after a night of being spun around the dance floor, some retail therapy is a respite from the city’s heat.
Cristo Rey is Cali’s version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, where you can catch a great view of the city but team up with others for this route or choose Estatua instead, a safer area for a vista. The city was once populated by many indigenous tribes and has a rich cultural history. For the adventurous, just 1.5 hours from Cali is Calima Lake, a great place to windsurf. Or head to Pance for some birdwatching and trekking, just 30 minutes away from Cali.
Did you know that Colombia has a desert? Two in fact. La Tatacoa is a 30 minute flight from Bogota and the desert of La Guajira lies in the north of Colombia. Saving the very best for last, the Caribbean islands of San Andres and Providencia although nearer Nicaragua, are definitely Colombia with a Caribbean feel.
Although San Andres can get quite touristy, Providencia is lesser-known with empty beaches and golf buggies for getting around the island. Airlines fly from the larger Colombian cities to San Andres.
Other places to visit in Colombia are: Santa Elena for tropical flowers, Popayán for colonial architecture, the Rio Claro Valley for cave tubing, Raquira for colourful pottery, Barranquilla for its party and carnival atmosphere and Jardin – one of the most beautiful towns in the country.
As Colombia moves into the future, it is no longer about Pablo Escobar and the days of the cartels. Travel to Colombia and the only risk is wanting to stay.
Where to Stay in Colombia
Accommodation here is a fraction of the cost that you may be used to in the UK or USA. There are no shortage of places to stay and you’ll find plenty of accommodation on Booking.com such as hostels, boutique hotels, apartments and all inclusive resorts on the islands. There’s even a chocolate hotel in Cartagena.
Book a room in a penthouse and other accommodation through Airbnb where you can stay with a local and save $20 off your first stay with this link.
Homestay is an alternative to Airbnb. They connect you to hosts in over 160 countries and give a real homestay experience instead of just handing over keys. They offer a unique mix of stays such as a stay at a Buddha wellness lodge in Medellin, or a coffee farm in Sonso. You can even video call your host family before you go to find the perfect host. Check homestays and prices here.
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement.
If you want to be close to the bars and restaurants, the Republica Hostel is situated near the famous T Zone so you’re close to all the action. The interior is very contemporary and although some of the rooms may be small, they have great views and comfy beds. The front desk is open 24 hours and there’s a terrace and a lounge so you can meet others over a cocktail in the bar.
Breakfast is included too! Although it isn't close to the historical centre, it is close to the metro bus so you can easily get around the city. There isn’t any heating so wrap up if you visit during the colder months. Choose from a bed in a 4 bed, 5 bed or 8 bed dormitory room, or opt for a double room with your own private bathroom.
- Prices from £7 per night for a bed in an 8-bed dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for Republica Hostel Bogota
Located in the centre of the historical area, this colonial-style hotel with an inner courtyard is perfect for those seeking an authentic Colombian stay. You’re close to the Candelaria where you can find musicians within walking distance. The staff speak English and make you feel really welcome. Because of the layout of the hotel you may need ear plugs but all rooms come with a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer (plus free toiletries). Choose from a standard double room or suite with a garden or mountain view.
- Prices from £40 per night for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability for Hotel Casa de la Vega
This hostel is in a great location just a short walk from the waterfront. The staff are friendly and helpful and there is a 24 hour reception which is good if you are arriving late in Cartagena. The beds are comfortable and there is air conditioning in the rooms which is a welcome break from the humidity. The Wifi is good and breakfast is included in the price. What more could you need? Choose from a 4, 6 or 8 bed dorm room or a double room.
- Prices from £10 per night for a bed in a 6-bed dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for One Day Hostel
If you want to treat yourself, this hotel is beautifully designed and has a rooftop swimming pool with views of the gorgeous city of Cartagena. There’s a gorgeous sun terrace and each room has its own TV and toiletries in the bathroom. The staff speak English too. It’s just a few hundred yards from the Castle and the Gold Museum and you can walk to the historic centre from here. Choose from a double room, a superior double room or a junior suite.
- Prices from £60 per night for a double room on the first floor
- To book, check prices or availability for Hotel Boutique La Artilleria
Situated in the popular area of El Poblado, the Purple Monkey is a cool, arty hostel where you are guaranteed to meet other travellers. The rooms are clean with coffee machines and there is plenty of hot water. You can sun yourself on the terrace or just make new friends in the bar or common areas. Some of the staff speak English and can book any tours you want to do or arrange an airport shuttle. If you are looking for somewhere sociable to stay, Purple Monkey is a great choice. Choose from a 4, 6 or 12 bed dorm room.
- Prices from £10 per night for a bed in the largest dormitory
- To book, check prices or availability for Purple Monkey Hostel
This hotel has everything that you need for a luxurious stay. Designed using natural elements, the rooms are stunning with large windows and lots of light and decorated with local handicrafts. You don’t even have to leave the hotel as there are restaurants and bars in the lobby. The spa has views of the city and you’ll find a sauna, hot tub and Turkish steam bath to relax in. There’s a wide choice for the breakfast buffet which is included and the hotel is just steps away from Parque Lleras, one of the liveliest areas in Medellin. Choose from a standard double room, twin room or suite.
- Prices from £71 per night for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability for Diez Hotel
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit.
Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there. Adventures start from 7 days Lost City Trekking to an epic 60 day Colombia, Andes & Galapagos Tour. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more costly than G Adventures. Get to know the country on an 8 day coffee tour from or experience Colonial Colombia on a 9 day group tour from £828.
With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
- Bogota Graffiti Tours – This original graffiti tour is just great. The tour takes 2.5 hours and leads you around some of the city on foot learning about its street art scene. It's a free tour and you give a donation at the end.
- Bogota Bike Tours – Offers group cycling around the city, an ideal way to meet others and explore Bogota safely at the same time.
- Andes Eco Tours – Offers sustainable tours in Bogota.
- Expotur – If you decide to do the Lost City Trek this company is well recommended for the 4 day trek. It leaves from Santa Marta.
- Real City Tours – Explore Medellin on a city tour with a local guide who gives amazing insight into the city. They also offer barrio and exotic food tours too.
- Hotel Amazon B&B – Offer accommodation and full-day tours to the Amazon Jungle as well as jungle packages from Leticia.
Travelling Around Colombia
Travelling around Colombia by bus is cheap but if you suffer from travel sickness it may be worth taking a flight instead as some of the regions are mountainous. Some bus routes are not recommended at night such as Popayan to Pasto, and Cali/Bogota to Ecuador so do your research before you take a bus and either travel during the day or by plane instead.
Viva Colombia flies internally to various airports in the country (charging more for baggage). This can work out just slightly cheaper than taking a bus and reduce your 12 hour journey to just 1 hour or under. Other Colombian airlines are Aerolinea de Antioquia who also fly internally.
Medellin has a good transport system with a metro service and Bogota is also connected by good bus routes. If you are going to the islands flights operate to the Caribbean island of San Andres. The Pacific coast is more challenging to get to with some areas only accessible by boat and plane.
To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
With Viva Colombia flying internally, you no longer need to worry about long bus journeys. A week here is too short unless you just want to see Bogota and Medellin and Cali and fly between the two cities. Two to three weeks is perfect for exploring the cities, the coffee region and the Caribbean coast.
One week itinerary: Bogota – 4 nights, Medellin 3 nights (visit Guatape for 1 day).
10 days itinerary: Bogota – 4 nights, Medellin – 3 nights, Cartagena – 3 nights.
Two week itinerary: Bogota – 4 nights, Medellin – 3 nights, Manizales – 2 nights, Cartagena – 3 nights, Tayrona National Park – 1 night.
Three week itinerary: Bogota 3 nights, Desierto de la Tatacoa – 1 night, Medellin – 4 nights, Salento – 2 nights, Manizales – 3 nights, Cartagena – 3 nights, Santa Marta – 3 nights, Tayrona National Park – 1 night.
One month itinerary: Bogota, Desierto de la Tatacoa or San Gil, Bogota, Cali, Manizales, Medellin, Guatape, Cartagena (day trip to Playa Blanca), Santa Marta, Minca, Tayrona National Park, Lost City 4 day trek, fly to Pacific Coast or San Andres.
Best Time to Visit Colombia
Depending where you go in Colombia the climate can differ. If you stay in the semi-desert it will be a dry heat compared to the Caribbean coast which is very humid. Medellin has Spring temperatures year-round whereas Manizales can be cooler as well as Bogota which gets cold in the winter months.
Colombia’s peak season is December to March so prices may be higher during these months. If you are travelling around the whole country then pack summer clothes and take something warmer for different regions. The best time to travel to the capital for weather is December and January.
This chart shows the average maximum day temperatures for Bogota (from January to December). Find out the weather for other areas here (go to ‘All destinations’ at the bottom and choose your destination).
Learn Spanish in Colombia
Colombians have one of the clearest Spanish accents making it a great country to visit if you want to learn the language. There are many language schools offering normal and intensive classes to get you started or help to improve your Castellano.
Before you arrive in Colombia, I definitely recommend Colombian Spanish, it’s a guidebook for learning conversational Spanish for Colombia that teaches you how to speak like Colombians. There is also a course to help you get the most out of your time in Colombia. And the best thing about it is, it’s taught by someone who learnt the language himself after years of being in Colombia so he’s easy to relate to.
Airports in Colombia
Bogota – Taxis cost approx £8 from El Dorado International Airport for the 15 minute journey. The TransMilenio (the bus) costs £1 to Calle 19 or Carrera 10 and runs every 5 minutes until approximately 10pm.
Cali – From Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport buses run every 20 minutes. The 40 minute journey takes 40 minutes and costs £15. Check Expreso Palmira for schedules. Taxis cost £15 and take only 20 minutes.
Cartagena – From Rafael Núñez International Airport you can take a taxi into Cartagena for £8. The journey is only 10 minutes. The bus company TransCaribe take 30 minutes and cost only £2. Check here for schedules. From Santa Marta Airport, taxis cost £14 and take 20 minutes.
Medellin – There are two airports in Medellin but most flights leave from José María Córdova International Airport which is outside of the city. As you leave the airport go to the right-hand side to find minibuses into the city. The buses cost approx £3 and take 45 minutes. Ask for the bus to San Diego where the bus drops you at the side of the road near the shopping mall and taxis are waiting for you to take you to your address. Taxis leave from outside the airport and cost approximately £15 into the El Poblado area.
Getting to Medellin Airport – To get to the airport you can either take a taxi from your accommodation for £17 or take a shared taxi which is only £5.00. For a shared taxi go to Centro Comercial San Diego to the Falabella building which is near the petrol station. From here you can take a white taxi which fills up once it has 4 passengers. You do share the ride but the fare is split making it cheaper than getting one on your own.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
Colombia To Panama – There is no overland border so either fly with Viva Colombia or take the 3/4 day sailing trip, stopping off at the stunning San Blas islands with the indigenous Kuna tribe. A great way of combining a border crossing with a sailing adventure.
Colombia To Ecuador – From Popayan there are direct buses to Ipiales, the border town which takes 8 hours and usually stops in Pasto, or cross via Tulcan and Ipiales. Avoid crossing into Ecuador at night and travel during the day.
Colombia To Brazil – Spend 4-5 days crossing the Amazon from Leticia to Manaus by riverboat for US $65 (payable in Colombian pesos). Boats depart Wednesdays and Saturdays or there is a faster service which takes 36 hours departing Saturdays and Sundays for US $150 (in local currency). Check here for the boat information.
Colombia To Peru – Similar to crossing into Brazil, take the riverboat from Leticia to Iquitos in Peru along the Amazon. If you don’t have 3 days to cross on the slow boat (Cabin = US $80 including 3 meals a day) which leaves daily except for Thursdays, there is a fast boat for just 12 hours for a few dollars more. This departs Santa Rosa (same as the slow boat) every day except for Saturdays and Mondays.
Colombia To Venezuela – Not recommended to visit at this time due to political unrest.
Where can I go from here?
Panama – 1 hour
Ecuador – 1.5 hours
Peru – 3 hours
- Can I drink the water? In most cities yes. Choose bottled water in smaller towns.
- Is tipping expected? No, a service charge is included. In a supermarket, it is polite to tip the people who are packing your bags.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price.
- Any ATMs? Yes, but they don’t all work with international cards. Salento only has one ATM so be prepared and have extra cash with you.
- Which side of the road do they drive? The right hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? The staple Colombian diet is rice, beans, meat and arepas but more and more vegetarian places are popping up in the cities.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
Map of Colombia
Plan a Trip to Colombia
If you are ready to plan a trip to Colombia here are some useful links to help you plan your trip including airlines which fly there, eco accommodation, and places to volunteer.
Budget – £25 a day
Capital – Bogotá
Population – 48.3 million
Language Spoken – Spanish
Best Time to Go – January and December for Bogota.
Ecohabs – It isn't cheap but if you want to treat yourself, these echohabs comes complete with a restaurant, spa and jacuzzi, and are located in the beautiful Tayrona National Park.
Mawasi Finca – Located in the historic Villa de Leyva, this bed and breakfast provides an eco stay with mountain views. They also offer Spanish language lessons so you can practice some lingo under the stars.
Angeles de Medellin – Angels of Medellin helps poor and displaced children and families in the city of Medellin. Teach English to the children and adults or take part in the sports learning such as football and baseball.
Work on a Coffee Farm in Salento – If you've ever wanted to work on a coffee farm, this is the ideal experience. The plantation house offers an authentic tourist experience and includes lunch, drinks and all necessary equipment you need to pick or plant coffee.
The Emiliani Project – The Emiliani Project is a non-profit charitable organisation committed to the support and education of Colombia's abandoned children and orphans. Their mission is ‘to give a child an opportunity to dream,' and you can help by buying a pack of their locally-produced coffee with proceeds helping the kids.
Ciudad Refugio – Part of the Ministry of Times Square Church this organisation helps the homeless within Medellin with rehabilitation programs and overnight shelter. Offering new skills and micro-enterprise opportunities they are providing vital services to the city's most vulnerable people.
Social Impact Projects
The Dreamer Hostel – Dreamer Hostel set up an organisation in Santa Marta, Palomino that agrees and enforces certain ground rules that such businesses now adhere to. Coupled with their various charitable work for the children of Palomino, such as a scholarship that helps send kids to university, Dreamer is a great example of how a Hostel can and should interact with its environment.
Mind Body & Soul
Issues in the Country
As tourism rises in Colombia so does sex tourism. Prostitution is legal here and is very open in the cities of Cartagena and Medellin. Read more here…