5 Resources for Colombian Travel

I adore ColombiaIt surprised me more than any country I’ve visited, as its reputation is so different than the reality I experienced.  Not once, in four weeks of travel, did I feel unsafe.  That said, I also highly advise anyone wanting there to research Colombia prior to traveling there.  With its violent history & ongoing drug trade, I feel that going in naive to Colombia is not the wisest course, particularly if you’re a solo female traveler.  As such, I’ve pulled together five resources for Colombian travel that will give the traveler a much deeper understanding of the country. 

5 Resources for Colombian Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

I love Colombia! But research with me first before traveling there..

5 Resources for Colombian Travel

  1. Check the U.S. State Department Travel Website. One of your best, most up-to-date resources for Colombian travel will be to check the U.S. State Department’s travel website prior to your trip, & look up travel warnings specifically for Colombia.  Become aware of common schemes & other up-to-date information or warnings about travel in Colombia.  This is a good place to start.

  2. Read “The Guardian” Article on Medellin. Read the article entitled, “Medellin, Colombia: Reinventing the World’s Most Dangerous City,” by Ed Vulliamy, published June 9th, 2013.  This article will give you a tremendous sense of what Colombia is actually like ~ in terms of politics, drugs, negotiating with drug lords, rebuilding cities, & how the Colombian people are affected by it all.  I have read, & re-read, this article numerous times.  In a 15-minute read, you’ll get an incredible amount of insight into the complicated place that is Medellin.  I discovered this article while in Medellin, & it informed my time there dramatically ~ even changing what I was interested in seeing.  Prior to reading the article, I was fascinated by Pablo Escobar.  I wanted to visit the jail he built (& escaped from), & his Medellin residence.  After reading the article, however, I was much more interested in meeting the actual people of Colombia, instead of chasing Escobar’s ghost.  I became curious to visit the barrios he once controlled, to meet the kids who live there now, & to feel the true tone of the city.  If you do one thing on this list prior to visiting Colombia: read this article.

  3. ReadNews of a Kidnapping,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  If you wish to understand more of Colombia’s violent history, as seen through the eyes of its most famous author: read this book.  Though Marquez is best known for fiction novels such as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” & “Love in the Time of Cholera,” he actually began his career as a journalist.  In this book, he examines a series of kidnappings that occurred in the early 90’s in Colombia by the Medellin Cartel ~ the cartel made famous by Pablo Escobar.  This book is fascinating not only because it gives accounts of those kidnapped, some who survived and some who did not ~ but because it describes the dealings between the government & Escobar, during the time when he was essentially negotiating his surrender.  It’s a sobering look at the reality of violence in Colombia, during a time when the violence was near its worst.  Reading this book will give you a better understanding of what Colombia has been through ~ what its people have been through.

  4. Visit Museo Casa de la Memoria.  Visit the Museo Casa de la Memoria while in Medellin.  The museum is dedicated to the victims of armed conflict, & its main purpose is to educate the public about this conflict: to understand it, reflect upon it, & to heal from it.  I sat on a bench inside the museum’s cool, dark walls, & time ceased to exist, as I put on headphones & began listening to personal accounts of the Colombian people.  They spoke in a straightforward manner, no matter how horrible, mostly without tears ~ though I came to have tears in my eyes.  The resilience & strength of the Colombian people struck me greatly, & stays with me to this day.  A visit to this museum is moving, informative, & of the highest value to anyone who seeking to better understand this country.

  5. WatchNarcos” on Netflix.
    Or “Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal.”  Or, “The Two Escobars.”  If you’re American, “Narcos” will probably resonate most with you.  My Spanish-speaking friends, however, prefer “Pablo Escobar.”  Watch what appeals to you.  All will give you a better understanding of Escobar, & in some sense, of Colombia itself.  I watched “Narcos” just before arriving in Colombia.  Though it depicts much graphic violence, it didn’t necessarily frighten me or make me not want to visit Colombia.  It did help me understand how Escobar operated, how he negotiated, how he used the threat of violence ~ both in subtle & also horrible ways, and in general, gave me a far better understanding of the drug trade & the history of Colombia.  Though it’s a terrible history, it’s also fascinating.  They are great resources for Colombian travel that will entertain as well as educate.

  6. Watch “Romancing the Stone.” 
    Last…a bonus!  Since everything above is so heavy, I’m including a Colombian reference that is much more like my actual Colombian experience.  If you’ve never heard of this movie (which makes you a millennial ; ), it’s a romantic comedy set in Colombia, full of jungle adventures & (humorous) run-ins with drug lords. It takes what could be scary about Colombia ~ & makes it fun.  My mom loves this movie so much, this was her response to learning I’d be in Cartagena: “That’s where they filmed “Romancing the Stone“?!  Great!”  It made her excited I was visiting Colombia, instead of terrified.  And that’s why I suggest you watch it.  It’s a breath of fresh air after all the darkness, & accomplishes in some ways what the Colombian people have themselves: which is to take their pain & darkness, & channel it into music, dance, & laughter. 


5 Resources for Colombian Travel

Have you been to Colombia?  If yes, what resources helped give you a better understanding of the country?  Let me know in the comments below! 

Happy & safe travels, my friends!

xoxo Noelia

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