Colombia will always have a special place in my heart, because it was my first "backpacking" trip. To be fair, I defined "backpacking" very loosely, because our time in Colombia really only makes the cut due to the fact that I was using my massive new backpack and we stayed in hostels.
It would have been fairly easy to do our Colombia trip using carry-on suitcases, but I wanted to dip my toes into the nomadic, two-free-hands travel lifestyle. So I started the packing process with my aforementioned 40L Columbia Sportswear backpack. This was the perfect size for my two weeks in Colombia, and has proved to be a great backpack on two other trips since.
Clothes to pack for Colombia, by city
Next, you'll want to plan out your clothes. The weather in Colombia is known for being fairly mild, but that doesn't mean each city is the same in terms of what you'll want to wear. Each city has its own personality, distinct climate, and set of activities that deserve their own mini-checklist.
Below, I've tried to encapsulate some of the key differences between the regions that I visited:
- Bogota: cloudy & grey
- Light jacket
- Medellin: warmer & trendier
- Cute tops
- Maxi dresses
- Brighter colors
- Tayrona: hot & humid
- Swim suit
- Cover up
- Flip flops
- Tennis shoes
- Sun glasses
- Cartagena: tropical & beachy
- Sun dresses
- Flowy pants
- Tank tops
Personal care items to pack for Colombia
This section is pretty easy. My best advice is to try to anticipate everything that could go wrong on the trip (jet lag, sunburn, bug bites, common cold, etc.) and try to pack preventatively. Colombia is becoming a rapidly developed nation where most of the below items are in quick reach, but nothing beats good old fashioned preparation.
- Bug spray
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- Hair ties
- Hair brush
- Prescriptions (regular & preventive)
Electronics to pack for Colombia
Again, a pretty universal travel list, and one that is highly customizable. I personally brought a camera to Colombia, but now that I have the latest iPhone, I dont think I'll be lugging around another camera. I also dont bring my laptop on trips like these, as I generally use travel as a way to disconnect from tech. Again, personal preference.
- Universal adapter
Important items to pack for Colombia
Some exciting news for travelers; you don't need a visa to travel to Colombia! As long as you have an American passport and plans to stay in Colombia less than 90 days, you're golden. However, if you've had all kinds of passport woes like myself, you'll be extra careful to bring multiples copies of your passport, ID, and any other important documents.
- Passport + photocopy
- Passport photos (in case you lose your passport)
- Colombian pesos & dollar bills
- Student ID!
- Small travel lock
- Travel journal
- Backpack (for day travels)
- Ziplock bags (to keep things dry)
- Regular glasses
Other items to prep for Colombia
Finally, these last few tips are just some that I tend to follow for all travel prep.
- Scan all of your important documents in advance and mail the copies to your email, so that just in case they get lost or stolen, you'll have quick access.
- Write the phone numbers down you need to block your credit card in case of loss or theft.
- Call your bank & cell phone provider to let them know you'll be traveling internationally.
If you're staying in hostels, consider packing...
The hostel life is a special, minimalist kind of life. Most places I stayed at in Colombia offered towels, soap, and shampoo. Make sure to check each reservation for what will and will not be provided. Some common items that your hostel will not provide include the following:
- Travel towel
- Hand sanitizer
Other helpful Colombia packing lists
- For fellow backpackers & hostel-stayers: What to Pack for Colombia: The Ultimate Packing Guide
- For the style-conscious: What To Pack For A Trip To Colombia