Survival guide: Colombia

Colombia has many visitors every year. Business, visiting friends, learning Spanish or just traveling, no matter the reason, the way you experience Colombia is up to you. You should keep in mind that South America is very different than Europe or the States: nonetheless, please don’t think you will just find chickens running everywhere, fields where cocaine is grown, jungles and temperatures up to 40°C in the entire territory.

Colombia has big cities as any other country and if you take a look at the atlas you will realize that beyond jungle we have also a desert, two oceans and a plain. Due to its geographical position, there are no real seasons there; we have some rainy months and some sunny ones. Besides that, the temperature changes from one city into another. Bogotá is for example far colder than Cali, Medellín is warmer than Pasto; and Santa Marta, Cartagena and Barranquilla are warm cities since they are on the cost. If you are planning to travel to many cities, I’d suggest you enjoy the weather as much as possible – the temperatures won’t be more than 35°C – unless you are in the desert, La Guajira- and they won’t go down more than 2°C. In any case you can buy a jacket, clothing is quite cheap there.

The traditional Colombian food is also very different from zone to zone. You will find mainly fish in the North, if you are interested. We used to eat many fried foods, as well as potatoes, beans, rice, plantains, yucca, or manioc; in spite of this fact, Colombians are not obese. You may also discover all the fruits we have – you will love them.

Regarding the language I must say that you shouldn’t expect people on the street to understand English. They will do their best to help you. Some of them might get what you mean, but it’s not for sure. In order to avoid this uncomfortable situation and to enlarge your knowledge, I’d suggest you to learn some basic Spanish, don’t be lazy, it’s pretty easy.

Good Morning: Buenos días or buen día in some cities like Cali.

Good afternoon: Buenas tardes

Good evening or Good Night: Buenas noches (we don’t have “evening”, our “night” starts at 19H)

Hi or Hello: Hola

How are you? : ¿Cómo estás?

Fine and you? : Bien y ¿tú?

Hi (at the phone) Aló

Bye: Chao

We have two personal pronouns that make difference between formality and informality. However, no one will get upset if you used tú (informal) instead of usted (formal). In some regions, we use “vos” which can substitute “tú”.

There are some many other things to say about Colombia. So I hope you find useful this short information when traveling to Colombia and don’t forget to let yourself be surprised by my country.

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