Travel to Colombia – a First Review

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I’m finally back, so waiting time is over. I hope my Instagram Pics already gave you some appetite for more… 🙂

Some of my next postings are going to be about my trip, sight seeing tips and of course some delicious food experiences in Colombia.

Today a review of the overall trip.

First: Learnings. Although I am a frequent traveler and have been all over the world already, there are always new takeaways – or reminders…

1. Always take your basic medicine with you

Since I felt good when starting the trip and did not expect any cold, flu or other sickness, I left my usual first-aid-medicine-travel-kit at home. I regreted it the second week on my travel when I catched a bad cold, going from a sore throat, to coughing, to blocked nose to inflamation to fever… I had it all. The kit would have been so helpful. So, this was a lesson – I will take my kit always along from now on.

2. Invoice and credit card receipt must have the same name to declare tax

Less people are aware that they can get their taxes back on goods like clothes that they have purchased as a non-citizen at the airport. Be prepared for a long queue and staff that will follow their rules exactly. So when they saw that a payment that was done by my co-traveler’s credit card, but the invoice had my name on it (shops will sometimes ask you on which name the invoice should be), we had no chance to get the tax back. Note that you also have to present every item that you are seeking the return of tax for.

 

Second: Language. Having learned Spanish paid off. In Latin American countries (besides Brazil) you will need to have at least some basic knowledge of Spanish. Although my language knowledge is not the best – I noticed in so many occasions that if you have no clue at all – the trip would not have been an easy one. Still many people in Colombia do not speak even a word English. I was proud of myself when I even managed to argue with the tax officer at the airport 🙂 – although I lost the battle (see Nr. 2 above).

 

Third: Typical Food & Drinks. I had the luck to have a Colombian friend inviting me to her home and travelling together with her, so I ate not only local cuisine in restaurants but also some traditional homemade food. To me local dishes are a part of travelling the country itself – food is always a part of the local culture.

Breakfast. I loved the Arepas, Almojabanas and the Colombian Hot Chocolate for breakfast. Fun Fact: It felt to me like almost every food had cheese as an ingredient. Actually Colombians even put cheese into their Hot Chocolate, which seems weird to us, but it’s surprisingly tasty (!), because the cheese they are using is mild and suits the chocolate flavor perfectly.

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National Dish. I also ate Bandeja Paisa, a single dish consisting of various items, such as red beans, chicharrón, patacones, avocado, ground meat, chorizo etc. This is Colombia on a plate.

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Fruits. I read today that Colombia is the country with the most fruit offerings worldwide and indeed the locals are also consuming a lot of fruits together with their meals (e.g. all kind of fresh juices) and fruits that I have never heard of before. I fell in love with one of their fruits called Lulo! A kind of sour fruit that I find myself tasting like pineapple, rhubarb, lemon with a note of strawberry. A waiter from Ecuador also told me that in his country the fruit is named Naranjilla. I also tried the Sapote, Mora and Arazá juice (latter one is an Amazonian fruit) and ate Curuba, Guayaba and Guanabana (sooo yummy! – pic below).  I also had the chance to eat fruits that are already available in our supermarkets, but which are rather expensive: Uchuva, Coconut, Karambole (a lot better than the imported ones!), Granadilla, Mango (they sell green ones and also have a sweet mini-version of Mangoes!) and Tamarillo. Of course I also ate fresh Pineapples, Melons and Papaya for breakfast…but this is maybe not so worth mentioning as they are already very common here.

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Coffee. Colombians are very proud of their coffee and they have every right to be. It is said to be the world’s best coffee and it is mild in taste, but nevertheless enriched with full flavour. Usually being a non-coffee drinker I enjoyed every sip of it and even had it sometimes for breakfast. Colombia has their own coffeehouse chain called “Juan Valdez” which is currently expanding internationally. At Juan Valdez you can get coffee  from different cultivation areas throughout Colombia – of course the taste varies with the region of cultivation.

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Fourth: Shopping. I’m not a fan of buying local handcrafts. I am just not the type of person buying such items. So, on my travels I will do mostly shopping for clothes. As I hardly have time to do shopping at home, my whole warddrobe consists of pieces from e.g. Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, US, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, UK and now also with pieces from Colombia. Technically I am not limited in purchasing local brands, I just go for what I like – no matter if it would be available in Europe or not. This is my kind of Souvenir-shopping, because every time I wear the items I will be remembered of the country I bought it and I have a little story to tell for each piece. However, I also spend time on analyzing the local trends (maybe because I have been into fashion business before and still am a little bit fashion addicted).

In Bogota you can spend your time with buying leather boots (if you are female). Casual Dresscode for this city is skin thight pants with boots. So, to update my wardrobe the Bogota style, I purchased brown leather booties at Montenapoleone, a trendy shoe boutique that offers e.g. flats from Chiara Ferragni or high heels from Sergio Rossi. Many Colombians (even guys) love to wear their Mochilla, a traditional bag made out of woven cotton with colorful patterns. I however opted for a clutch from the local brand Nora Lozza, the bag has been inspired by the traditional mochilla and has woven leather in various light color shades and also the traditional bobbles, but also made out of leather.

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In Cartagena I bought a one-piece bathing suit from Onda de Mar – but you find the same and other shops for bikinis and bathing shorts also in Bogota. Since I was in the mood with all the sunshine and warm weather, I also bought a laced white tunic with some orange bobbles.

Last but not least: Slow Down… Walking pace and traffic seem to be going hand in hand. The car-croweded streets have to be considered in the daily planning – if you want to go somewhere, you need to plan in the rush-hours like in every big city. You should also adapt to the walking pace of the locals which is very slow – otherwise you will be definitely identified as a foreigner – but with this you might also be able to notice the little details, e.g. the wall paintings or street vendors selling fruits and quick meals.

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