If you have booked or are considering The Colombia Meetup Tour, this is where you will find the practical information you need from travel insurance and safety protocols to how much that street cart arepa or menu lunch at a local spot might cost you.
Is this trip right for you?
- As this trip covers a lot of ground, from Bogota to Cartagena and the Coffee Region of Colombia, you’ll need to pack for a variety of climates, including the hot and humid summer-like conditions of the coast and the slightly chill-inducing autumn-like temperatures of the higher altitudes.
- A good pair of walking shoes is a must, as we’ll be wandering everything from cobblestoned streets to coffee farms and nature trails.
- Especially in Cartagena, you can expect to be exposed to the elements at length, so be prepared with a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water, and light, breathable clothing.
For most countries, a visa is not required to enter Colombia for trips under 90 days. You will just need your passport with at least two blank pages and the completed Check-Mig registration. If you are from a country that requires a visa to enter Colombia, please contact your local Colombian Embassy or consulate for more information on the visa application process. You can find out if you require a visa at: https://www.cancilleria.gov.co/en/procedures_services/visa/requirements
As rules and restrictions are constantly changing, please check your government’s foreign travel advisory and visit the following website: https://colombia.travel/en/covid-19-information
Colombia currently does not require a negative PCR test, but you must complete the Check-Mig registration form 24 hours before your flight to Colombia.
Please also ensure you have a travel insurance policy that covers you for travel to and from Colombia as well as medical or COVID-19 related expenses within the country.
On the final day of the Meetup Tour, we can arrange for testing. This is payable in cash on site to our leader or the medical professional. Our team will handle the logistics and be sure your results are in on time and printed before you depart Colombia.
Upon arrival we have an escort meeting you at the airport, just look for the sign with the SoFe logo! Once you exit customs and immigation, the driver will be waiting with a sign. The driver will take you directly to the hotel where they will meet our leader.
You need a valid passport to travel internationally. Most countries require that your passport does not expire for at least 6 months after the date you enter. We require your passport details 45 days before departure. When booking your Meetup Tour, please enter your name as it appears on your passport and contact us immediately if there are any errors.
For this tour, we offer a selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travelers. We recommend to pre-book these activities, to be sure there is availability. It’s rare that only one person signs up for an activity, but you will never have to go alone. A leader or our guide will go with you if no one else has signed up. Last minute booking of optional activities is possible, but depends on availability. Should you choose to book an optional activity while on the tour, we will charge the card we have on file.
We have worked with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed, especially those that are medium to high risk. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator, and therefore, we are unable to help book these activities. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Though the tap water in Bogota and Cartagena is technically safe to drink, we do not recommend drinking it, even in the hotels. All accommodations will have drinkable water, sometimes for purchase and sometimes provided with your room.
Your tour leader will do their best to accommodate any dietary restrictions, but sometimes gluten-free and vegan can be a little trickier. We suggest bringing supplemental snacks like protein powders and bars just in case. It is ultimately your responsibility not to consume anything to which you are allergic. You may wish to speak to your tour leader at the beginning of the tour to make your requirements clear and to ask for your options throughout the tour.
As of April 1, 2021, we have updated our policies to require all travelers to show one of the following upon meeting the group on day 1:
- Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or
- Proof of negative COVID-19 test conducted no more than 72 hours before day 1 of your trip
Colombia has some foodie options that many travelers choose to try. Dishes like mondongo (stomach stew) and hormigas culonas (big-bottomed ants), as examples, are common among locals and available in some restaurants and regions we’ll visit. Please be careful when consuming this food, as some travelers have gotten sick in the past. We do not include these dishes on our tour, and our tour leader can direct you to the most reputable restaurants or ways to find these food items locally, but we do not take responsibility for any illnesses caused by food.
9 nights in hotels
Rooms are twin share with an ensuite unless you upgrade to a private room, based on availability.
The accommodation indicated on the webpage is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to lack of availability. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
In the base cost of the tour, a shared room is included. You may choose to upgrade to a private room for an extra charge as long as there is availability.
Upgrading to a private room once in Colombia is more difficult and may result in a higher cost than advertised on the webpage.
We’ll be staying at several locally-owned accommodations, each with lots of character, color, and comfort. The standard may or may not be less than what you are used to in terms of design, facilities, and inclusions. If there is a problem with your accommodation, always alert your tour leader so it can be remedied if possible.
Do be prepared with bug spray and comfortable, warm clothes for sleeping on the sailboat. We will provide bedding, and there will be a bathroom on board.
Sometimes it is not possible to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels, especially if you arrive before check in time. We can store your luggage and you can explore the surrounding area. Standard check in time is 4:00pm.
Check out is at 11:00am on the last day.
Extra nights at our hotel before or after the Meetup tour are available. You may have to switch rooms at the beginning or end of the tour.
All of our accommodations have air conditioning. Should it not work, we will attempt to replace your room or the unit, dependent upon availability. Evenings can be brisk in Bogota and the coffee region, and most accommodations will not have heating. Bedding is always provided, however if you are extra sensitive to the cold, please be prepared with extra layers or thermals.
Money and finances
Spending money is a personal choice, and everyone will have different spending habits and needs. It is best to budget a reasonable amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping, and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Please have a thorough look at the itinerary and at what is included so you will be prepared for what isn’t included. Our Meetup Tour is very inclusive, however some meals, tips, and extras are not included. This guide should make budgeting a little clearer.
Many meals are included in this tour, but some are purposefully left out so you can experience different restaurants and dishes to your liking.
Lunch at a local restaurant could cost between $2USD to $7USD. However, local street food is relatively safe to eat and is normally much cheaper.
Your leader and guide will help you find local options. Meals will cost between $5USD to $12USD, depending on the restaurant.
Food prices in Colombia range widely from cheap street food to fine dining. If you have a strict budget, be mindful of your choices and let your tour leader know the type of food you are looking for, so she can direct you to the best places.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and towns. We recommend always having a small amount of cash with you for small purchases at places that do not accept credit cards. Credit cards are usually accepted in tourist shops and restaurants. Bring a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express if you want to use credit cards and be sure to have an ID handy as you may be asked to show it when using your credit card. Smaller venues take cash only. Alert your bank that you will be traveling before departure to avoid being locked out of your account while abroad, as they may suspect fraud.
If you want to bring cash from your home country and exchange it, the best place to do this is at the airport. We can not guarantee that there will be time to visit a money exchange place on the tour. The best way to get local currency is by using an ATM with a debit card.
Tipping is not extremely common in Colombian culture. However, if you are satisfied with the services provided, a tip is appropriate and always appreciated. Sometimes, there is a “propina voluntaria” of 10% added to your bill. Though you’re not required to pay it, most people do. Alternatively, you may be asked “servicio incluido?” just before paying. Again, this is typically a tip of 10% added to your bill.
When tipping in Colombia, the amounts are small. Please budget about $3USD per day on average for small tips. If you are worried you may not have small change or feel uncomfortable tipping yourself, your leader might suggest the idea of a group tipping kitty, where everyone contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips as you go. The leader will keep a running record of all money spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This kitty does not include tips for your local guide, but tips for your driver and porters at hotels are included in your tour price.
To help you understand tipping culture, we have provided some ideas for amounts. These are suggestions, as tipping is always a personal choice and at your discretion.
Restaurants: Tipping 10% is acceptable in most restaurants, and it’s often already included in the bill. In upscale eateries look for a 15% service charge already included in your bill. If there is a service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, tip at your discretion. The recommended amount is anywhere from 10-15% of the total bill amount.
Drivers: Our drivers’ tips are included in your tour cost.
Your Tour Guide: You may also consider tipping your tour guide for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is completely at your discretion, however as a guideline $5USD per person, per day is standard practice. Of course, you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
It is not necessary or expected to tip your Tour Leader, but small, sweet gifts, even handwritten notes, are very appreciated if you feel that your Ambassador improved your experience.
The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). Denominations come in notes of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 pesos and coins of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 peso coins.
We recommend always having small denominations for tipping and small purchases.
Our tours are comfortable and very inclusive with premium accommodation. This means you can pack a little lighter. In fact, you will be carrying your own bags to the lobby or at the airport, and you will need to be able to manage.
This is a general list to be used as a guideline. If you think you need more items, pack them.
- A towel for that dip in the Caribbean Sea of Cartagena
- Copies of your travel documents- passport, flight itinerary, travel insurance policy and contact info.
- A hat for the sun
- A light rain jacket
- A coat or layers for Bogota’s chillier temperatures
- Bug spray
- A pair of breathable, solid walking shoes like Keens or Teva, our favorites
- A pair of comfortable and cute sandals for Cartagena
- A pair of hiking shoes or sneakers for your hike under the wax palms
- Jeans or long pants for Bogota
- A casual dress or nice outfit you can dance in
- Short sleeve tops, a few long sleeve tops, tank tops, shorts, and at least one shirt or outfit that’s more conservative
- A sports bra and at least one pair of activewear for the short Salento hike
- A swimsuit and bathing suit cover-up
- Don’t forget underwear
- Earplugs and an eye mask
- Body soap
- Shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush
- Body wash
- Period essentials
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
In Colombia, the climate varies more by altitude than by season. In the high altitudes like Bogota, expect mild and Autumn-like temperatures throughout the year, with average temperatures hovering between 45 and 70°F. Along the coast, you can expect high temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s with lots of humidity. The rainiest months in Bogota are March, May, October, and November while the wettest months in Cartagena are May through November. The rest of the year is almost entirely dry.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables. We recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
For Colombia, there are two associated plug types A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel prongs and plug type B is like type A but with an extra prong for grounding. Colombia operates on a 110V supply voltage and 60Hz. We always suggest bringing a universal adaptor.
Phone and internet access
There is wifi available in most of our accommodations, but it is not always the most reliable. We suggest purchasing a prepaid sim card at the Bogota airport. You will find kiosks there for the three most popular mobile phone providers: Claro, Movistar and Togi Une.
Plans and prices can change but expect to pay between 10,000 to 50,000 COP for a plan that will provide you 1-3GB of data. Your passport may be required for you to purchase and register your new sim.
Alternatively, ask your home service provider for international plans.
Group leader and guide
All tours with The Solo Female Traveler Network are accompanied by a guide who is with the group for the whole trip. The guide’s role is to be the local expert of the destination and coordinate a lot of the on-the-ground logistics. They are not always a native of the country, but they are always experienced expert guides.
Most of our tours also include an ambassador, whose role is to enrich the experience socially. She will help bridge any cultural differences, manage group expectations, and capture the tour in photos and videos for promotional purposes. Some tours will not include an ambassador, and in this case, our local guide will act as both guide and leader.
Traveling as a woman
We believe that every woman should dress as she chooses and should feel free to experience the world without extra worry for her safety. Unfortunately, the rest of the word does not practice gender equality as we wish. It’s important to adapt to local customs to be safer and to respect not only the locals, but also your fellow travelers. The likelihood of anything happening on your trip is quite low, but we recommend being aware of the following safety tips:
Street harassment such as cat calls, stares, invitations to get in a car/bar/restaurant/home are common. These are our tips for responding to this unwanted attention:
- Ignore. Don’t even bother smiling. Just keep about your business.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact.
- Ignore. We mean it, so we said it twice! Ignore them but also ignore your internal commentary on it all. Let it roll off your back and walk on focusing on all the amazing things around you.
- Dress respectfully and you will find both men and women will respond to you in a more respectful manner.
- While it very unlikely to happen, do feel free to stand up for yourself if you feel threatened. Egyptian men you do not know should not be touching you at all and if you’re in public, people will come to your aid if you make a fuss.
Feel free to dress however you’d like in Colombia. No matter what you’re wearing, it’s possible that you will still garner a few unsavory comments and attention from some men. Clothing that exposes your shoulders, legs, and/or midriff is completely fine and you’ll see local women wearing similar clothing, especially in the warmer climates like that of Cartagena. It’s always smart, however, to pack at least a few conservative tops, pants, or dresses just to have that option. When it comes to Bogota, you’ll stand out less if you do stick to more conservative clothing, as that’s what most women wear in the capital.
When not with your guide, we recommend the following:
- Do not walk in isolated areas or at night by yourself
- If hotel staff need to enter your room, arrange to be either on tour or in the lobby, so you are not alone.
- Respect the local customs, which may mean dressing more conservatively than you do at home.
- Do not hire a driver or guide for tours from the street. Always go with a reputable company or ask us to help you arrange any pre or post experiences.
- Do not accept any invitations for anything from random people on the street.
- Always carry your tour guide’s contact information and hotel address with you during solo time.
- Alert your guide of any inappropriate behavior or perceived risk to your safety.
We recommend that you stay up to date on travel safety updates on your home country government website. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, but they are not required to accompany you on solo time, where you can relax, choose an optional activity, or explore on your own. During solo time, we do not vouch for the safety of the experiences you choose, even if our guide or leader recommends them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Our team on the ground is always monitoring the safety situation and reserves the authority to cancel or change experiences at their discretion if deemed unsafe.
Seat belts are always provided and must be worn in accordance with local law.
In Colombia, cars do drive on the right side of the road. Practice extreme caution when crossing the street. Also note that traffic may be much heavier and road rules may be very different from what you are used to. Be careful and aware that pedestrians do not have the right of way.
While most of the tour, especially in major cities, will be with your guide and the group, petty theft is common in any tourist area. Do not walk around alone at night if it can be avoided and hold your belongings close on public transportation. Your local guide will give you some safety tips throughout your tour, and we suggest heeding this advice.
Please do not enter the water without a life vest and a buddy if you are not an experienced swimmer. Alert the leader and guide to your ability level before participating in water activities. Lifeguards are not on duty and our staff are not trained in water rescue.
We suggest checking your government’s advice in relation to the areas you will be visiting for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers.
Travel insurance is mandatory on all our Meetup Tours. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company’s 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank’s name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
With almost all of our travelers coming on the Meetup Tour solo, we have women from different countries, backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions. This is part of what makes our tours so special and what often leaves our travelers with couches to crash on around the world and even long time friendships. Like any group, especially one consisting of people of different ages coming from all corners of the world, this can also cause clashes in culture and disagreements. We promote an environment of kindness, empowerment, and communication, so certain behaviors will not be tolerated for the benefit of everyone’s experience.
A great group dynamic takes effort, patience, and compassion from every member. Bullying, threatening, and violence of staff, locals, and fellow participants will not be tolerated on our trips.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while traveling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The group guide and leader have final say on all matters that affect the safety or well-being of any traveler or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund.