The purpose of this page is to provide information to help you prepare for your group’s mission trip to Medellín (pronounced ‘Med-uh-jean’) with The Emiliani Project. It is designed to help you with the basics for all phases of your travel.
Medellín is a safe and beautiful city, but with all international travel, there are things you need to know in order to minimize the logistical challenges for your group. This guide, along with The Emiliani Project staff will help you do just that. We want your group’s mission trip to be safe and easy so you can focus on doing the important stuff!
Generally speaking, it is more cost-effective and efficient to travel from larger international airports, such as LAX. There are many airlines that service Medellin from the U.S.: Copa Airlines, Spirit Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Avianca, LAN, AeroMexico, and more. All are tested and generally offer decent options for getting to Medellin. Direct or 1-stop flights should be available from the larger international airports in the U.S.
You will be travelling into the Jose Maria International Airport (MDE) in Rio Negro – 30 minutes outside of the city of Medellín. We highly recommend that you travel to MDE by way of Panama City (PTY), San Salvador (SAL), Mexico City (MEX), Miami (MIA) or direct to MDE from the U.S. if you can. We do not recommend travelling to MDE via Bogota (BOG). Bogota is a very large airport and is prone to delays that may interrupt your arrival. PTY and SAL are small, convenient and easy to travel through. Also, U.S. dollars are the currency in Panama, which is nice for transit. Be advised that gate changes are very common in Latin American airports. Be sure to expect and plan for it by checking flight status boards on your layovers.
If you choose a flight that has a layover/connection in a city in the U.S. on your return, is important that you understand that when you return, you will need to retrieve your checked luggage, go through U.S. customs, recheck your luggage, then go back through security before you can get to your connecting gate. This process can take hours and can easily lead to you missing your connection. Customs will not be concerned that you are in a hurry. If you decide to go this route, just be sure to give yourself ample time in between flights for this process (at least 2 hours). If your first stop in the U.S. is your final destination (e.g., LAX, MIA), then you won’t need to be concerned with this additional burden. In short, if you are going to have a stop on your return, it tends to be quicker and easier to make that stop outside of the U.S. (e.g., PTY, SAL). Mexico City also requires you to pass through immigrations, however, the process is much faster than in the U.S.
If you are flying from Miami (MIA), there are plenty of direct flights into MDE as this is a popular route for Colombians and Colombian-Americans. If you are flying from New York, most flights tend to connect through BOG, MIA or Houston (IAH). So, you’ll need to choose your lesser of evils.
The Emiliani Project does not work with or recommend a particular insurance carrier. However, travel insurance can be wise – especially if you are planning your mission trip well in advance of your travel. Injury and illness can always affect your plans and it’s nice to have a way to recover the money you have spent on airfare, etc.. The Emiliani Project does not handle monies associated with your travel. Deposits and payments are between your group and the companies you contract. We only assist you in making arrangements.
If someone in your group has special medical needs or is considered high-risk in some capacity, there are many travel insurance companies that offer special medical policies for travel abroad. You should check with your insurance company and your doctor to review your circumstances and requirements.
Whenever travelling abroad, you should be up to date on a number of common immunizations. It is important that you consult with your doctor well in advance of your mission trip to ensure you have all recommended immunizations for Colombia and/or South America. Some immunizations require multiple visits over a period of time. These immunizations are precautionary, but recommended at your doctor’s advice. Most large health care providers (Kaiser, Blue Shield, etc.) offer free international travel services. They will speak to you about your destination, review your medical history and provide you with recommendations for your trip.
For the latest U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisories on travel to Colombia, please visit their CDC Colombia page.
For the latest U.S. Department of State’s advisories on travel to Colombia, please visit their Colombia Travel page.
U.S. citizens do not require a visa in advance of a visit to Colombia. You will obtain it when you arrive in the form of a stamp in your passport. There are a few things your should know about your arrival in Colombia that will make your entry very smooth and easy:
You will receive an immigration form from your flight attendant on the last leg of your flight in (see picture below). This DIAN 530 declaration form asks the same questions that the U.S. asks its visitors. The form is generally self-explanatory, but some guidance is offered below. It will ask you for an address where you will be staying. The Emiliani Project staff will provide you with this address ahead of time.
Once you are at the airport in Medellín, you will go to Immigration (Inmigracion). You will provide the 530 form along with your passport to the Immigration Clerk. He or she will ask the purpose of your visit and where you are staying. Answer “tourism” and the address provided by The Emiliani Project staff. If you say those things, and say them in English, you will be waved through. If you say you are on business you may be there for a long time, as they will likely flag you to customs for inspection in the event you are entering with commercial items. Also, it is recommended that you not use this opportunity to practice your Spanish. The more Spanish you know, the longer you will be there. Generally, the Immigration Clerks know very little English, so you will be waved through once their English is exhausted. The Immigrations Clerk will provide you with a Visa stamp in your passport, good for 30 days. This is sufficient for your mission stay. However, know that a U.S. citizen can obtain a tourist visa for up to 60 days, free of charge, if you ask.
Once past Immigration, you will enter the baggage (equipaje) area. Retrieve your bags, and then have your baggage receipt and passport ready for customs. They will briefly inspect both, and then wave you through. If you are asked how much cash you are carrying, tell them. They may decide to inspect you, so it is wise to have the same amount you are declaring.
After clearing customs you will pass through a door that leads to an open area, normally filled with people trying to get your attention. A simple smile and the phrase “gracias” is normally enough to ward them off. Here you will be met by our English-speaking staff. We will have a sign with your group’s name.
The country of Colombia is very large – almost three times as big as California and twice as big as Texas. This is shocking to most people because when you look at a typical Mercator world map, the country appears very small relative to the U.S.. This is due to the distortion induced by the Mercator map projection. But, enough about that.
The country is broken up into Departments (like states in our country), then further into municipalities. Large municipalities are referred to as cities (ciudades). There are few “ciudades” in Colombia to include Medellín. The smaller municipalities are referred to as towns (pueblos). This may seem obvious, but the distinction in Colombia is much more formal – to the point where if you refer to a pueblo as a ciudad, it is confusing to a Colombian. Many pueblos in Colombia are relatively large, and would normally be referred to as cities in the U.S. – adding to the confusion.
The city of Medellín, and the town of Caldas are both located in the Department of Antioquia – which extends from the mountains to the Caribbean coast. The people from Antioquia, (called ‘Paisas’), are among the most polite people in the world. Try to be EXTRA POLITE in all your interactions with Colombians. It will pay big dividends.
The expressions “Muchas gracias”, “Por Favor” and “Perdón” go a long way here to
demonstrate to the Colombians that you are not just another ¨Grosero Gringo¨ (i.e., ¨Rude North American¨). Speaking of which, the term “Gringo” is commonly used in Colombia to refer to North Americans. It is not considered disparaging, so don’t be offended if someone refers to you as one.
Nothing and no one is on time in Colombia. Expect every meeting to start late—sometimes over an hour. Paisas think it is odd when someone comments about this. It is just the way it is here. Our staff, of course, will be on time.
Colombians love to be helpful. This is normally a great attribute. But you need to be wary of what you hear—it could be a little wrong or it could be totally wrong. The point is, don’t believe everything you hear regardless of how much conviction the person has. Of course the reasons for this are as varied as the personalities involved. But it is safe to say that you should always “check the authoritative sources” on all matters that are important.
Tourism is still a very new thing in the Medellín area. The people of Antioquia are still learning how to adjust to the growing presence of foreigners. This generally works in your favor, as Gringos tend to be a bit of an anomaly – especially in the rural areas. The further you get from the city, the more “exotic” you become. It is not unusual for you to be the only Gringo a rural Colombian has ever seen. And you can tend to be a bit of a celebrity in some less travelled pueblos.
Cell phones. If you want to use a U.S. cell phone, be sure to notify your carrier before you leave the states. They all offer international voice and data plans. If you wish to use a local cell phone, please notify The Emiliani Project staff in advance of your mission trip. We will gladly arrange to equip you with local prepay SIM cards for your unlocked phone. Or, we can arrange for phones when you arrive if you wish. Note that most “unlocked” phones offered by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.; or those sold at local technology stores (e.g., Best Buy) generally do not work with international SIM cards as they are not truly “unlocked”. You must buy an unlocked phone directly from the manufacturer in most cases (e.g., directly from the Apple Store in the case of an iPhone).
Making phone calls in to and from Colombia requires knowledge of a few rules. Some, are simply generic international calling rules, but other are specific to Colombia, the city you are in, and often the phone service you are using. It can be VERY confusing. Below is a quick guide. There are enough rules that you might want to print this page for your visit.
To call the U.S. from Colombia using a U.S. cell phone you’ll need to add “+1” then the 10 digit U.S. phone number. For instance, (503) 330-1234 would be +15033301234. If you are calling the U.S. from Colombia using a Colombian phone, you have to first dial the Colombian operator for one of the phone services in Colombia. “005” is Orbitel and “009” is Telecom, but there are others as well. You can choose which to use. For example, if you are dialing U.S. (503) 330-1234 from a Colombian phone using Orbitel, you would dial 005 1 503 3301234.
To call Colombia from the U.S. land line, you need to add a few more things. First, “011” (the U.S. exit code), then “57” (Colombia country code), then the city code, then the Colombian number. Landlines in Colombia have 7 digit numbers and Colombian cell phones have 10 digit numbers. Every city has a different city code, but it is “4” for Medellin and “1” for Bogota. For example, if the Colombian land line number is 3134576, then dial: 011 57 4 3134576. Note that the number is a Medellin number because it starts with a “4”. If it is a cell phone you are calling in Colombia, then just 011 57, then the 10 digit number. If you are calling a Colombian cell phone from a US cell phone, just dial +57 then the 10 digit number.
Couple of other rules for making calls within Colombia.
If you find yourself without these rules, another page that is helpful is: http://www.howtocallabroad.com/colombia/
Credit/ATM cards. Generally speaking, all major credit cards are accepted in Medellín (Mastercard, Visa, Amex). However, you will need to place a travel notification with your bank before you leave, or your card will be denied and locked. The same generally goes with ATM cards. There are plenty of cash machines and major banks in Medellín, to include BanColombia (Wells Fargo affiliate) and Citibank. As long as you notify your bank before you leave, you should have no problem getting cash. Note, however, that you will be limited to $400,000 pesos per day at the cash machine (approximately $250USD).
Currency/exchange. The ONLY currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). This is a cash based society and no one will accept U.S. Dollars (USD). Generally speaking, the best rate of exchange can be found in country. If you buy Colombian Pesos at your bank before you leave, you will likely pay exorbitant fees. Our staff can take your group to safe, trusted exchange companies once you are in Medellín. Keep in mind, too, that you will receive an excellent exchange rate through the ATM machine, so if $200USD per day is sufficient for your needs, you may not need to bring U.S. Dollars at all. The conversion of the Peso to the Dollar is a bit tricky, but you can use a quick trick to help guide you on making everyday decisions about money. The exchange rate is roughly 3000 Pesos to 1 U.S. Dollar. Most of the Colombian currency is in “mils” or thousands of Pesos. For example, a $50mil COP bill is 50,000 Colombian Pesos. To convert to U.S. Dollars, drop the 000, and then divide by 3. So, a $50mil COP bill = 50,000 – 000 = 50/3 = about $17 USD.
Also note, the further away from the city you get, the fewer credit card machines you will find. Remember, cash is king in Colombia. In the rural areas, plan to have cash.
Clothing. The climate in the Medellín area is temperate all year. You can expect temperatures during the day of 70-80 degrees and 60-70 degrees at night. However, in the Caldas region it is slightly cooler than in the city. Shorts and flip-flops are certainly acceptable from a temperature perspective. However, Gringos are a bit of a rarity in some parts and Gringos are the only ones that wear shorts and flip-flops. Generally, Colombians only wear flip-flops when they can’t afford shoes. In an effort to blend into your environment, we recommend pants/jeans and shoes. You will not NEED a jacket. If you feel uncomfortable with that idea, bring one anyway. You can use it to wrap gifts in your luggage on the way home.
Medical/Dental Emergencies. Colombia has excellent health care, and there are ample emergency clinics and hospitals around to handle any scenario. If you have any particular questions about your insurance or any special health conditions, please alert our staff so that we can help identify the nearest and best facility to meet your needs. Any travel in South America should warrant caution with regard to hospital cleanliness. Your doctor may advise you to receive Hepatitis immunizations prior to your trip as a precautionary measure. It is always advised to consult with your doctor before you leave.
Security/Safety. Medellín is a beautiful and metropolitan city. Of course, no city of 4 million people is “perfectly safe”. Although nothing like the bad-old-days, Colombia can still be a very dangerous if you’re not careful. Like any large city, there are good parts and bad parts. The key to remaining safe is simple. Stay out of the bad parts and behave in a manner that is appropriate for international travel. Wearing clothing and expensive jewelry that stands out from the crowd will make you a target, just like it would in inner city Los Angeles or New York. If you make an effort to blend into the culture, even a little, you will lower your risk of problems. The Emiliani Project staff will ensure that you and your group stick to the safe areas and away from the bad.
If you ever find yourself in need of emergency help or are in a situation where you feel there is danger to your personal safety, you need to seek immediate help from the authorities. Here is a quick guide to the uniforms you will see around town.
Colombian Military. You will often see military in Medellín in uniform very similar to the combat uniforms the U.S. military wears. If you see them milling about, they are probably someone who is off duty and having a café or a meal before heading to work or to home. If they are standing a post (usually on a street corner) and are armed, they are probably on duty. It is rare to see them on duty in tourist areas, but it does happen. Their mission is public safety from threats such as armed bands and terrorism. If you suspect there is such a problem, they can help. They may or may not help with a robbery or individual assault depending on their mission and focus at that minute. Frankly, these crimes are for the police and not part of the military reason for being there.
National Police. The national police look like military to those who are not from Latin America. They wear two basic uniforms. One looks almost identical to the U.S. Army day-to-day non-combat uniform: A military-style hat, a light green shirt, and dark green pants with black shoes. The other uniform is similar to the army combat uniform except it is all dark green (not camouflaged) but does include combat boots. The most recognizable feature is that they almost always wear a ball cap with the word “Policia” on it in iridescent green. Often, they also wear a bright international iridescent green vest or jacket. These are the ones you will see on motorcycle in pairs. National Police enforce the law. They will absolutely assist you in any situation where you are in danger, have been assaulted, or are otherwise endangered.
Electricity/Internet. 110v with wall jacks identical to the U.S.. You won’t need inverters or adapters of any kind. Although WiFi is not available on the job site in Caldas, there will be plenty of opportunities to connect. Skype is a great way to stay in touch with the states if you don’t want to use your cell phone.
Taxis. You will find that is generally very easy to get around Medellín. The city has probably the best public-transportation system in Colombia and certainly one of the best in Latin America. If you need to hail a cab, simply stand on the curb facing traffic and point with two fingers in the road. Many cabs will pass you by probably because they have a fare or are in route to a fare. There are many cabs, so only a little patience is needed.
A preferred option is to call a cab dispatcher using one of the numbers on the last page of this guide. These are reputable companies who offer safe rides to all. Most locals are happy to help with these calls (they are all in Spanish) or all restaurants and hotels can obtain safe cabs for you as well. No ride should be more than $20,000 Pesos unless you are going to the far end of town. The minimum they will charge, even for a block, is $4200 Pesos (this is the legal minimum established by the local government). So cab fares should normally be under $10,000 Pesos in the city. Every cab has a meter, so you can see how much the ride is costing as you go. Do not stay in a cab that does not have a meter. All riders in the front of cars, cabs included, must be buckled in. Passengers in the back do not need to. In fact, many cabs don’t even have access to belts in the back. Tipping of cab drivers is highly unusual. If you want to tip, you will get one of two reactions – confusion or a sudden increased willingness to help you further.
Traffic rules for pedestrians are just the opposite in Colombia—cars have right of way, NOT pedestrians. So take great caution when crossing the streets here. Be sure to hurry across if you see an oncoming vehicle—they will NOT slow for you. The traffic rules are generally the same as in the U.S. (cars drive on the right), but there are many one-way streets in the city, so be sure you understand the direction of travel of the traffic before you cross a street.
Toilets. Toilets are bit unusual in some places. In almost all public men’s restrooms the seat has been removed. Toilet paper can be an issue for both men and women. If you are going into a stall and need paper, make sure the stall has paper in it. Many restrooms have dispensers in the common area in front of the stall— you’ll need to take a sufficient amount in with you. Other places actually have a vending machine and charge for this paper. Whatever the case, the worst time to remember is obviously after you are committed to action in the stall, so pause long enough to prepare. One last point, in many rural areas in Colombia, the sewage systems cannot handle paper, so many Colombians are in the habit of throwing soiled toilet paper in a trash can or box in the stall—they don’t flush it. Just be prepared for the obvious issues associated with this behavior. There is no problem with flushing the paper in the city. If you are out in the countryside at a small hotel or are a guest at a house, ask. It would be too much embarrassment to handle if you were responsible for shutting down the septic system of your host.
Stray dogs. There are dogs everywhere in the city. They all seem to be friendly enough. However, don’t attempt to interact with them or pet them. Just let them go on their way unless they interfere with some activity you are doing. They could be carrying any number of serious diseases and could change demeanor quickly without much provocation. Be safe—don’t pet.
Water. Colombia is in the tropical zone, and can get up to 10 inches of rainfall in a month. Especially in the spring and fall – this is as much as Southern California gets all year! So, availability of water is not an issue for the Colombian people. The concept of ‘rationing water’ is completely foreign to them. In fact, they will laugh at the suggestion. Water is generally potable in both the city and country. The rural areas tend to fall behind the city in terms of water systems, but this is nothing like rural Mexico. That said, whenever you are in a foreign country, you are exposed to microorganisms that are unusual to your body as an American. Paranoia is not needed with regard to water, but caution should always rule the day. Colombians (like many Latin-American countries) love carbonated water. So, when you purchase a bottle of water in a grocery store, market, or from a vendor; you will have the option of carbonated (“con gas”), and regular (“sin gas”). If you want regular water, order “agua sin gas, por favor”.
Doors. Doors normally open inwards here. This is just the opposite of the States so your “muscle memory” will work against you here. Just try to remember: “Hale” means pull (normally on the inside of doors); “Empuje” means push (normally on the outside of doors). If you get this wrong on a glass door, it will likely result in an unpleasant loud noise and a glare from the shop owner. An apologetic look with a “lo siento” will go far to ease the tension.
Food. Like most countries, you can get just about any type of food you want here. In Medellín, you can have everything from sushi to hamburgers. In the rural areas, your menu options tend to decrease a bit, but generally speaking, Colombian food is very familiar to Americans. Of note, however, this is nothing like Mexico. You won’t find taco stands on the corner and Colombians (culturally) do not eat spicy food. The typical food of the Department of Antioquia (Paisa food) consists of a plate with: red beans cooked with pork, white rice, ground meat, chicharon (like a fatty piece of well-cooked bacon), fried egg, patacones (made from plantain – similar to a banana, which is smashed and deep fried), chorizo (sausage), arepa (pan bread), hogao sauce, morcilla (black pudding), avocado and lemon. Yes, all piled onto one plate. That’s what you’ll get if you order “plato tipico”.
Restaurants. In many restaurants, they recognize that people come to visit and to have a social encounter. So, they will happily seat you, take your drink orders, then bring your drinks. When you are ready, you must ask for the menus. This is not always the case, but happens often enough to be something you should know. “Menú, por favor” or “Carta, por favor” will get you what you need. Most restaurants, however, will not bring the check until you request it. “La cuenta, porfa” and running your index finger across the palm of your other hand (like you’re writing in a notepad) will work just fine. In general, there is no tipping of service people. There is a growing trend in many restaurants to add a European-like service charge to the bill (on your check it may read, “servicio voluntario” or “propina”), but it is always optional. 10% is plenty for a tip if you wish to tip on your own.
Colombians will generally love it when you try to speak Spanish—regardless of how meager your skills are. Very few Colombians speak fluent English, so give it a shot and embrace that perspective-building experience of being the dumb Gringo. Indeed, Colombians give Gringos and our culture way more credit than we merit. So no matter how goofy your attempt to speak Spanish is, they will automatically forgive you and still hold a natural high esteem for you.
When it comes time to decide if/when you are going to use your language skills, consider a couple of tips. First, Colombians are VERY humble when it comes to their language abilities. When a Colombian tells you that they speak “a little” English, it generally means that they speak enough to have a conversation. This is in contrast to Americans. When Americans (especially Californians) say they speak “a little” Spanish, they generally mean that they know how to ask for directions to the bathroom. So, if you tell a Colombian that you speak “a little” Spanish, expect that person to begin speaking Spanish with the anticipation that you will understand. If you do not wish that to happen, best to say “no” when someone asks you. Again, if you feel comfortable, always TRY your best, as your efforts will be appreciated. However, as a rule of thumb, if you are speaking with someone in an official capacity (police officer, immigrations official, customs official, etc.) it is always best to speak English. These are generally not the best times to practice your Rosetta stone Spanish skills. If the situation is important enough, they will bring an English speaker to you.
Paisa Vocabulary and Pronunciation. Paisa Spanish is uniquely different than many other forms of Spanish. Here a “y” or “ll” is not pronounced as in Mexico, (as in “yell”) Here, the “y” and “ll” are pronounced with a distinct “j” sound (as in “judge”). Thus, Medellín is pronounced “Med-uh-jean” with the accent on the “jean.” If you say, “Med- uh-yine,” people will look at you funny. Some uniquely Paisa expressions that you may want to try out:
¿Que mas, pues? = So, how you doin’?
Todo bien = Everything´s cool.
Quanto Vale? = How much does this cost?
¿Bien, o no? = So, you good?
Chevere = cool
Bien, bien. = I´m cool.
¡Hagale, pues! = Let´s do it!
No entiendo = I don’t understand.
Lo siento = I’m sorry.
Muchas gracias = Thank you very much.
Por Favor = Please.
Porfa = Slang for “Por Favor.”
Perdón = Excuse me (if someone is in your way and you need to pass).
Tranquilo = No problem (for use when someone apologizes for passing in front of you, for bumping into you, or for some other minor incident).
Buenos dias = Good Morning.
Buenas tardes = Good afternoon.
Buenas noches = Good evening/night.
Buenas = “Hey” or “Howdy”
When leaving Colombia, it is a little different from when you entered. If you can check in online, do – as most Colombians don’t and it will save you a great deal of time. The Medellín airport is very small, but is normally a VERY busy place. Give yourself ample time to get through the process. We recommend arriving at the airport at least 2-3 hours before your flight. Most times you will end up doing a lot of waiting. But, if you miss your flight it can be very difficult to find other options – and you will need to navigate that process in Spanish. This isn’t the U.S.
Checking luggage. Luggage security is a problem in Colombia. This will be evident when you arrive at the airport as you will see that many people have their bags wrapped entirely in plastic (think Saran wrap). If you brought a TSA-approved luggage lock with you, you will be fine. But if you didn’t, look for the wrapping station in the airport. It’s normally right next to the lines leading to the airline counters. For $15,000 Pesos the guy will wrap your bag for you. Not a bad idea. U.S. customs will even tear off the plastic when your bag hits the U.S..
Airport Security. After you get your boarding pass at the airline counter, they will recommend a time to go to security. Best to heed this time as it sometimes takes a while. The entry point is to the far left as you enter the airport. They will examine your passport and boarding pass, then direct you to the queue for security. When you reach the police officer at the X-Ray belt, he/she will begin engaging you regarding the contents of your bags and your visit. Unless you are very proficient in the Spanish language, it is best to speak only English. The reason is that they normally speak very little English and will only ask you questions to the extent of their language skills. If they know you speak Spanish, you will be there MUCH longer. It is very normal that they will perform a hand inspection of the entire contents of your bag. Expect it and pack accordingly. Be prepared to answer questions about your stay and your destination. If you are speaking Spanish, be prepared for many more questions.
After you leave security, you will enter another queue for immigrations. This process is normally very easy and quick. They will stamp your passport and you can proceed to your gate.
Some numbers that may help you in the event of an emergency or unexpected event:
112 National Police
U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia
Calle 22D-Bis # 47-51
Carrera 45 # 22D-45
Bogota, D.C. Colombia City: Bogota
Phone: (571) 315-0811
Some helpful local numbers:
Copa airlines (571) 3209090 (Bogota)
Spirit airlines (574) 2505125 (Medellin)
American airlines (571) 439777, or (01) 8000522555 (Bogota)
Taxi services (Medellin)
Taxi Individual 444 44 44
Taxi Belen 222 22 22
Coopebombas 444 00 00
Taxi Poblado 335 30 30
Taxi Super 444 11 11
Flota Bernal 444 88 82
Wash cloth. Wash clothes are not super common in Colombia. If you are accustomed to using one, you should bring one.
Luggage lock. Security with checked luggage is a problem in Colombia. If you are checking bags, use a TSA-approved luggage lock on all bags. This is also helpful if you decide to stay at a hotel as you can lock your bag in the room if no safe is available.
Copy of your passport. Normally Americans are not asked for identification when paying for things with a credit card. However, it does occasionally happen. We do not recommend carrying a passport on your person (secure it with your luggage or in your hotel room), but it is handy to have a copy of your passport or your drivers license with you. Sometimes a photocopy of your passport can serve as identification and is generally always a good idea to have in the event you lose your passport – as you will need identification to provide the U.S. Embassy.
Contact names and numbers. Carry these with you on your trip down in case something goes wrong. A list of important numbers is included at the end of this travel guide.
Laptop/iPad. It is normally very easy to find WiFi services in the Medellín area. If you have an iPad with cellular services, the international data plan works wonderfully.
Umbrella. Yes, it rains a lot in Colombia. Wise to be prepared.