One of my favorite things about traveling is being proven wrong – which is what happened on my solo trip to Colombia. As a solo female traveler, many people in my life had thoughts about this solo trip more than others. Colombia is one of those places that women are often told not to visit.
From the stereotypes about drugs and gang activity to people getting their phones snatched, I heard many warnings when I talked about going to Colombia alone. But on my trip, I had some of my most memorable travel experiences alone. And I felt connected to Colombian culture as a Black woman learning more about Afro-Colombian history.
If you plan to visit Colombia alone, and enjoy food, dance, history, and more, this blog post will be your blueprint. So, I am ecstatic to write this guide for your itinerary as a solo female traveler in Colombia! And note, this post focuses on being a solo female traveler in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena.
How to travel to Colombia
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Where to fly into Colombia
If you are based in the U.S., there are multiple ways to travel to Colombia. As a Delta Airlines loyalist, I flew from Milwaukee to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport. But depending upon where you want to start and which airline you choose, you can fly directly into Medellín’s José María Córdova International Airport or Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez International Airport.
How to travel within Colombia
You can visit many cities on your solo trip to Colombia (and you will need to decide what you want to prioritize). Some people decide to stay on the Caribbean side and some travel more inland and south. However, there are also multiple ways to visit these cities. Due to time, I flew through Delta’s Latin American affiliate, LATAM, for my travel around Colombia. Yet you can also decide to take buses for a more sustainable and slower way to travel in some cases.
The best time to visit Colombia
Dry season in Colombia
Many people prefer to visit Colombia in the dry season to avoid rainy days. Colombia’s dry season also doubles as their dry season from December to April and July to August is also popular. Therefore, if you want to get away in winter for some summer-like weather in Cartagena or spring weather in Medellín without the rain, go during those times!
Shoulder season in Colombia
February, March, and June are considered the shoulder season in Colombia. Shoulder season is the time for travel between the peak and off/wet seasons. Many travelers prefer this time to get the benefits of peak season without the expensive prices. These are milder months in Colombia to consider for your solo trip.
Wet season in Colombia
Most people try avoiding the rain on a solo trip to Colombia. There can be some flooding, and activities could get canceled. Yet, if you want lower prices, visit in April, May, October, and November. I visited in mid-October, and there was some rain, but not enough to ruin my solo trip!
Where to stay on your solo trip to Colombia
Selina La Candelaria in Bogotá
Bogotá may not be on every traveler’s list of cities on a solo trip to Colombia. However, if you do decide you should stay at Selina La Calendaria. The neighborhood has several universities, libraries, museums, Plaza Mayor, and more. Selina offers free walking tours to get acquainted with the area, too.
Nomadico Coliving in Medellín
If you are a remote worker and a solo traveler, consider a coliving space like Nomadico! I stayed at their Caobo Eco-Forest Lodge near Laureles and loved it. Caobo is ideal if you are a solo female traveler in Colombia who wants a quieter experience outside of busy areas, such as El Poblado.
Selina Cartagena is for solo travelers who want to be in the heart of Getsemani. As a solo female traveler in Cartagena staying at Selina, you are within walking distance of the best bars, street art, and restaurants in Getsemani. Their rooftop is also to die for, with a gorgeous view and swimming pool! Selina Cartagena is also a solid option for remote workers who want to be social with their activities and co-working space.
FAQs about traveling to Colombia alone
Is Colombia safe for solo female travelers?
Safety in Colombia is a hot topic. If you were to Google if it is safe for solo female travelers in Colombia, you would probably not go. There are a lot of petty crimes like phone theft and robbery, so that is something to note on your solo trip to Colombia.And many people told me that I should not go alone this time.
While I did heed the warnings and read about possible concerns being a solo in Colombia, I did not have any issues. I was most warned about having my phone out and Medellín compared to Bogotá and Cartagena. But phone snatching happens in those cities too. Keeping most of my activities during the day, if possible, not looking down at my phone, and using my Spanish as much as possible were all things I did to be safe as a solo female traveler in Colombia.
How do you stay safe while traveling solo in Colombia?
To stay safe as a solo female traveler in Colombia is similar to other places. I did not walk around late at night nor had my phone out often. Many hotels, hostels, coliving spaces, and other places are gated or guarded in front of it too. This is an extra level of safety so when you leave to walk to your Uber, someone is there by the door.
Other safety tips when traveling in Colombia include not wearing fancy jewelry and not carrying all your cash at once. When taking photos, look at your surroundings, though I found less risk in touristy areas. Yet, this is not the time to bring your tripod and do solo shots; I feel that would make you more of a target.
Things to do alone in Bogotá
Ride the Tren Turístico de la Sabana
Riding this train is only a little popular with foreigners. However, I took this tourist train to the Salt Cathedral on my solo trip to Colombia and loved it. It is a unique way to visit the cathedral and have a local experience simultaneously.
But it is important to note that Spanish is necessary. Since it is not an attraction for foreigners, expect to be surrounded by locals. Therefore, the passengers or the conductors speak only a little English on the train if you are traveling solo.
Visit the Salt Cathedral
About an hour and a half away from Bogotá is the Salt Cathedral. This is one of the major attractions to visit when you are in the area where you learn about the religious aspects of Colombian culture. You can check book your tour with Get Your Guide to Salt Cathedral!
Walking tour in the Candelaria neighborhood
La Candelaria is one of the popular neighborhoods, sprinkled with lots of street art and graffiti in Bogotá. As mentioned above, Selina has a hostel located here, which is primarily an area for university students. But even though it is a younger crowd, my solo trip to Bogotá was not as loud as you may think. This makes it an ideal spot to stay during your solo trip to Bogotá. I recommend taking a walking tour to get acquainted with it all.
Things to do on a solo trip to Medellín
Visit the El Poblado market
While it may be a more touristy market, stop by the El Poblado Market in Medellín. El Poblado is one of the most popular areas in the city. There are vendors selling jewelry, clothing, candy, and more. They do charge gringo prices. However, it is convenient to grab a souvenir on your solo trip.
Eat all the goods on a street food tour
A trip to Colombia is only complete with a street food tour. What I love about street food tours is how you go to places not on your tourist radar. You also learn about Colombian food and culture while getting a taste of the nightlife/bar life in Medellín.
Hike La Piedra on your way to Guatapé
One of the most popular day trips from Medellín is going to Guatapé. A few hours from Medellín, Guatapé is colorful and full of restaurants and bars. On your Guatapé tour, be sure to wear comfortable shoes for the hike of La Piedra Peñol to get a beautiful view, lunch, and a boat ride to end the day.
Indulge in an empanada-making class
A typical Colombian food you will see on the streets is empanadas. One of the best ways to get to know a culture is to get hands-on. Therefore, consider taking an empanada-making class to bring a recipe, a new skill, and a full tummy back home with you.
Learn Colombian history in Comuna 13
Most people are familiar with the drug cartels and violence in Colombia. Narcos and Pablo Escobar are images we, as foreigners, see in the media about Colombia. Yet, that is not all who they are nor the history most Colombians want us to know.
Therefore, on your solo trip to Colombia, you should tour Comuna 13. This once-unsafe neighborhood has transformed into a tourist hub. On this tour, you can learn Colombia’s history, street art, and culture from a local guide.
Seek adventure paragliding
If you are a thrill-seeking solo traveler in Colombia, paragliding is the activity for you. Due to the forest-like nature of Medellín with green rolling hills, it is a perfect location for paragliding. The half-day experience does not require too much time in the air. But it will be an experience that any solo traveler would remember.
Visit Pueblito Paisa
To balance out a busy solo trip in Medellín, consider visiting Pueblito Paisa. This re-creation of a smaller, more colonial version of Medellín is free and cute. Hang out for an hour or so, or stay longer to grab lunch at one of the restaurants. This visit should do the trick if you want some respite or a more low-maintenance tourist attraction.
Things to do as a solo female traveler in Cartagena
Walking tour of the Walled City
One of the best ways to feel comfortable on a solo trip is through a walking tour. Consider taking one of the walled city while on your solo trip to Colombia. You can find these through your hostel or even on Airbnb Experiences and get some photos of yourself along the way. You can visit the city center, Getsemani, La Matuna, Parque Centenario, and La Serrezuela.
Enjoy a champeta dance class
A champeta class is one way to connect with Afro-Colombian culture in Cartagena. Black Colombians created this art form in the early 1980s, even when it was ostracized by larger Colombian society. For context, “champetudo” is a derogatory term for poor Black Colombians. Therefore, champeta music was seen as music for thugs and violence when, in reality, it honored Afro-Colombian culture and history.
On my solo trip to Cartagena, I took a champeta class hosted by Black Legacy Experiences. They are an Afro-Colombian-led tourism company that showcases the history and culture of Colombia through a Black lens. Champeta is fast-paced and fun – I smiled from ear to ear the whole time!
Learn Black history in Palenque
Palenque was the first free Black town in the Americas and a must-do on your solo trip to Cartagena. With Black Legacy Experiences, you take a half-day trip from Cartagena to Palenque to learn more about Afro-Colombians. From dancing to Palenquero rap music and eating the best fish for lunch, it’s a day you will not soon forget.
Hop around the island beaches
Beach hopping as a solo traveler in Colombia is only some people’s cup of tea. However, if you love to be by the water, visit the beaches near Cartagena. The Rosario Islands is the most popular destination for travelers to stay while on their trip. Yet, you can also book multi-beach tours to party and beach hop all day.
Rum and chocolate-tasting
To add to the robust Colombian culture, Did you know they are known for their rum and chocolate? On this Airbnb Experience, you can partake in Colombian rum and chocolate tasting. I recommend eating some food before you go. But it is a fun time and unique activity on your solo trip to Colombia.
Become a chef with a cooking class
Eating is one of my favorite activities to do on solo trips. But I recommend making a solo trip to Cartagena more enjoyable with a cooking class. Cartagena’s food culture is seasoned, vibrant, and flavorful, so why not learn how to do it yourself? I took this cooking class on Airbnb Experiences, and it felt like I was cooking with and learning from family.
Do a street food tour
The food in Cartagena was a highlight of my solo trip to Colombia. There are many foods to try, from plates of whole fish to plantain dishes. A street food tour is one of the best ways to learn about a new city’s culture through food. And you feel well-fed while doing it!
Get messy with a mud volcano massage
Have you ever experienced a mud volcano massage? The Totumo Volcano is one of the world’s most miniature volcanoes; tourists flock to it every year for smooth skin and relaxation. The mud itself has minerals that are divine for your skin, and you can book a tour to visit with Get Your Guide.
Capture memories with a solo photoshoot
Solo traveling in Colombia does not mean you leave with no photos. One of my favorite activities is to schedule a walking tour with pictures or an independent photoshoot while traveling alone. Airbnb Experiences has many options for photos, videos, or both!
Tips to enjoy solo travel in Colombia
Learn some Spanish phrases
As someone fluent in Spanish, it came in handy! While those who work in tourism may speak English, many locals do not (nor should they have to accommodate all tourists this way). If you don’t speak Spanish, bring your phone and download the Google Translate app to help you.
Take cash out of an ATM
It is always handy to have some cash! Take cash out at an ATM instead of the airport on a solo trip to Colombia. You get a better exchange rate at a bank ATM, so you get more bang for your buck. And while many places take cards, you will need cash for tips and other activities like street food.
Do not walk alone at night
A general solo female travel safety tip is not walking alone at night. Many people warn you on a solo trip to Colombia that you are likelier to be vulnerable at night. Nothing happened to me. Yet, I recommend Ubering from place to place at nighttime to avoid bad experiences.
Do not hold your phone in plain sight
As a solo female traveler in Colombia, I was worried about the safety of my phone. Locals and tourists alike warned me about getting my phone stolen or snatched. A Colombian phrase, “no dar papaya,” is often referred to in these situations. It means don’t put yourself in a position to be taken advantage of or vulnerable. Thus, do not have your phone out in plain sight, as it draws much attention, especially if you have an iPhone.
You do not have the right of way
One cultural difference between the US and Colombia is the pedestrian rules. While traveling alone in Colombia, I learned that pedestrians do not have the right of way when crossing streets. For your safety, as a solo female traveler in Colombia, only walk when there is a walking ligh. Or cross the street according to the walking signs when no cars are coming to avoid accidents.
Get travel insurance
Be better safe than sorry and invest in travel insurance! It is a must for any solo female traveler in Colombia who wants an extra layer of protection. As a remote worker and solo traveler, I use Safety Wing for my travel insurance.
Uber is illegal
Yes, the Uber app does work in Colombia. However, one thing I learned while on my solo trip to Colombia was how Uber is illegal. Therefore, do not be surprised if the drivers ask you to sit in the front of the car to look less like an Uber. It may be a little awkward, but all my drivers were friendly, and we had fantastic conversations!
What it’s like being a Black solo female traveler in Colombia
Despite the warnings about my solo trip to Colombia, I was most excited to visit as a Black solo female traveler. After learning about Palenque and diving deeper into Afro-Colombian culture, I knew I wanted to visit. Something unique about learning about other African Diaspora communities excites me and makes me feel seen as a Black solo female traveler.
The only issue I experienced as a Black woman traveling alone in Colombia was a little catcalling. However, that happens at home in the U.S., so it’s not a big issue for me. Most people in all three cities were friendly and welcoming to me.
But Cartagena felt the most open! I think it’s due to the heavy Afro-Colombian presence that I did not stand out as much as I did in other places. There is also lots of street art, including Black Colombians, which I loved. So overall, Cartagena takes first place for me as a Black solo female traveler in Colombia.
Final tips for solo traveling in Colombia
Visiting Colombia has become one of my favorite solo trips thus far. While I do not want to negate the risk of solo female travel nor diminish the dangers that could happen in Colombia, I enjoyed myself! The food, experiences, and conversations I had with locals and tourists made it memorable. My two biggest tips are to use your street smarts and try not to make yourself a target while traveling alone in Colombia. I hope to return and visit more towns and cities in the future!
Are you worried about traveling alone? Check out how to overcome solo travel anxiety here!