Main Claire's Itchy Feet logo

What To Wear In Colombia

Wondering what to wear in Colombia? Packing for Colombia can be a bit of a daunting task because of the sheer diversity of the country. So my advice to you before you go any further is to make sure you know where in Colombia you are planning to travel to.

This will help you decide what to pack for Colombia

For example, if you only plan on visiting Cartagena and perhaps traveling along the Caribbean coast for a while, then you will just need to pack clothes for warm weather. I wrote a packing list specifically for the Caribbean coast you can read here.

If however, you are going to be spending months traversing the whole of Colombia from the Amazon to the desert and everything in between. Then your what to pack for Colombia list is going to look very different from someone only visiting Cartagena.

Then you, my friend, are going to need to pack smart as you will need clothes for warm weather as well as clothes for the cold and damp mountains and cities.

If you are traveling with kids, you should be prepared with other stuff, click here to know what Moms on Flipflops recommend.

In this Colombia packing list, I’ve covered everything you need to know to help you decide what to wear in Colombia and make sure you pack smart for your Colombia adventure.

I’ve also included some city and place-specific what to wear in Colombia information about general dress codes in these areas.

It can be so difficult in my experience to decide how to dress in Colombia because it really does depend on where in Colombia you are, But I’m going to do my best to break it all down in this how-to-dress in Colombia guide.

Feel free to use the links below to skip to the relevant sections you need.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 

Best Colombia ToursClick here to check out the top Colombia tours
Best Colombia Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Colombia
Best Colombia Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Colombia

Pin For Later

packing for colombia
Packing for colombia

What to wear in Colombia

It’s pretty impossible to tell you exactly how to dress in Colombia. But what I can do is offer you some first-hand observations and share with you how I packed and dressed in these particular areas. 

Also at the end of the day, dress how YOU feel comfortable, just because I choose not to wear hotpants and a crop top in Medellin doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you are comfortable doing so. 

What to wear in Cartagena

Wondering what to wear in Cartagena, or anywhere in the Caribbean part of Colombia? There isn’t much of a dress code in Cartagena really as it is very touristy. Like the most touristy place in Colombia. So the locals wouldn’t pay you much attention to wearing whatever you want to wear.

Cartagena is a little more upscale than other places in Colombia though so many dress up in the evenings and make a bit more of an effort than in other cities and towns in this area. 

When I was in Cartagena I wore shorts, dresses, and anything else I had in my bag that was cool (it’s very hot and humid there). Pack clothes that will keep you cool.

If however, you don’t want to look like a tourist and prefer to blend it, then sweat it out in jeans like the locals.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

What to wear in Medellin 

Medellin dress code is similar to most big Colombian cities… wear jeans.

Now if you aren’t used to the heat this may be difficult for you as Medellin can get very hot during the day. But I personally prefer to blend in a bit more and not look like a backpacker here.

Trust me if you are walking the streets of El Poblado watering denim shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops then everyone is going to know you’re a backpacker. If your cool with that then wear your backpacker uniform with pride, my friend!

Nights out in Medellin anything goes. But generally, that means jeans or a dress for ladies. If I’m having a night out in Medellin I’m normally going dancing so I always pack a few outfits perfect for dancing salsa.

This includes a cute dress (with shorts under), jeans and a crop top, or something like this jumpsuit. Denim shorts can also work. Then I either bring my dancing shoes with me, or I just wear these cute pumps from Roxy.

Always keep an umbrella and/ or a rain jacket/ poncho close as it does have a habit of raining a lot in Medellin… normally in the middle of the day without warning.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

What to wear in Bogota

Bogota is quite possibly one of the most difficult places to pack for if you are spending a lot of time here. The weather in Bogota is crazy so I suggest never venturing outside without a warm coat, and umbrella and possibly a hat and scarf too. No matter how sunny it may look when you walk outside in the morning, by the mid-afternoon, it could feel like winter!

In Bogota, most people will be wearing jeans and a jumper. I also used to wear a wooly hat to try and cover my blonde hair so I would blend in a bit more. Not that it ever worked as I’m so tall. 

A golden rule for how to dress in Bogota is to dress for all seasons in a day and wear jeans with shoes if you want to blend in.

What to wear in Cali

Cali is very similar to Bogota and Medellinjeans! You will also need your salsa outfits in Cali if you plan on going out at night. It is the salsa capital of the world after all!

Three women learning salsa and enjoying beer and snacks at a table.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

What to Pack for the Amazon in Colombia

I wanted to add in a little extra info for you if you are planning to travel to Amazonia while in Colombia.

You will need some good hiking boots or quick-dry shoes like these. I would also strongly advise you to take a dry bag to protect all of your things from the damp. You are also going to need a lot of good bug spray and quick-drying clothing.

What to Pack for the Lost City

I’m not going to go into that here as I wrote this whole blog post about it here. I even have a printable packing list you can download.

Did You Get Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything!

The Insurance companies I personally recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here where I go into detail about the companies. 

Colombia Travel essentials

Sunglasses

Does anyone actually leave home without sunglasses? I personally always travel with 2 pairs. One for day to day use that I normally just throw in my bag. Then a second pair that are a bit nicer which I wear when I want to take some nice pics for the gram. I always get my sunglasses from Blenders, Glassesshop, or Knockaround as they are good quality, have UV protection, and are really reasonably priced.
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packingReusable Water Bottle

Having a good reusable water bottle is essential. If you are still a little worried then get a water bottle with a filter like this for peace of mind. For a bottle with extra tech this one is self-cleaning via UVC light, is USB rechargeable, and turns any water into drinkable freshwater. It is also vacuum insulated to keep your water cold for up to 12 hours.
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packingpacking list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Hand Sanitizer

Let’s face it, 2020 changed the way we travel, and there is no going back. Hand sanitizer is something you can no longer travel without and I’m obsessed with this hand sanitizer holder my friend designed. You can buy them in a pack of 2 and the bottles come with it so you can top them up. Not only are they super practical so they clip on o your purse, or luggage but you can also clip your mask on there too, save throwing it into your backpack! It’s vegan leather and you can choose the cute florals (which I have) or a brown and black combo.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Bug Spray

I suggest getting an eco-friendly one for your body and then getting something a little more aggressive like this to spray on your clothing.
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packingpacking list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Vaccines

You may need to prove you have had any specific vaccines and for some places, you may need malaria pills. There are many vaccines that are strongly advised for travel depending on your location. So a few months before you travel to speak to a medical professional and make sure you were immunized with all of the suggested vaccines.

Please never take medical advice like this from a blogger! Go see a medical professional…

Luggage for Colombia

The first time I traveled to Colombia I just had a backpack and a day pack. The last time I was there I opted for a small hand luggage suitcase and a daypack. Both options worked well for me. But I would say though that going into the Amazon with a suitcase would be a terrible idea.

If you plan on covering a lot of ground then I would personally suggest a 60L backpack and a small daypack that can easily be packed when traveling. 

I’ve added images and links for the luggage I have tried and tested in Europe below. 

If security is a concern for you then I highly recommend getting in Pacsafe backpack for added security and peace of mind. I also wrote this blog post on the best digital nomad backpacks and this one about carry on luggage, just in case they are useful to you. The KnackPack is great for digital nomads with specific space for your tech and all your essentials.

If backpacks are not your thing, this suitcase with a 20″ laptop pocket will do wonders for you, and with this coupon LEVEL8Claire10 you get a 10% discount!

You are also going to need some packing cubes to help keep all of your things organized (and squeeze in a few extra items of clothing). Plus a good laundry bagtoiletry bag, and of course a shopping bag. Alternatively, get a backpack with built-in packing sections like this one. It hangs like a mini wardrobe too which can be helpful instead of using hotel storage. It’s what I’m personally traveling with these days.

Last but not least, this travel pillow with memory foam will be your best friend for long periods of traveling.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing
packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Other Useful Things to Pack for Colombia

Over the years backpacking the world I’ve got packing down to a fine art and I have some essential items in my backpack that you might not think of. So here are some things you are going to need that you might not think of!

Laundry Soap and a Nail Brush – Unless you want to be doing laundry every few days, it’s best to just wash out your underwater in the shower each night. To do this I always travel with a bar of laundry soap and a nail brush. It also comes in handy to clean off marks and stains from clothes you are washing.

A Travel Washing Line – I love mine, it’s so handy and takes up no room at all.

A Sewing Kit – When you are traveling sometimes you need to make-do-and-mend.

Mini First Aid Kit – Goes without saying really! I also add in some extras like activated charcoal and other useful pharmaceuticals. 

Carabiner clips –  So useful for attaching things to your backpack!

Head torch – Equally as useful for camping as it is for reading in bed, or trying to find your way home in the dark.

Ear Plugs – If you are planning on staying in hostels you are going to need these!

A Whistle – I know many people worry about safety and want to protect themselves. I like to carry a whistle just in case I need to pull attention. It might not be as effective as pepper spray, but as that is illegal to fly with too many countries, this is a good alternative.

A Door Stop – Worried about safety in your room at night? Use the doorstop to block the door from the inside and make it harder for someone to enter the room.

Silk Sleeping Bag Liner – Another thing that doesn’t take up so much room, but will give you a lot of peace of mind if you need it. Sometimes you might either find yourself chilly or just not wanting to sleep in the bedsheets. So hopping inside a sleeping bag liner helps you get a good night’s sleep, wherever you are…

Umbrella – If you are traveling somewhere tropical it’s likely to rain, but still be hot. Having an umbrella in your bag will keep you dry without making you feel like you will collapse from heat exhaustion!

A padlock – I recommend getting one of these locks so you don’t need to worry about keys. They are TSA approved so you can use them to lock your luggage when flying as well as using it to lock your locker at the hostel.

USD – I always keep an emergency $50 USD hidden somewhere, just in case. USD is the most widely accepted currency, but you will need to ensure the notes are clean and crisp. Many places won’t accept them if they are marked at all.

Quick-dry towel – I have 2, a large one and a small hand size one that I keep clipped to my backpack.

A sarong – I never travel anywhere without at lease 2 sarongs. I use them to replace my towel, hang over my bed in a hostel for privacy. Wrap around my hair when it’s wet, sunbathe on… I could go on and on. I even make a dress out of mine when I’m at the beach.

A scarf – Another multi-use item that doesn’t take up much room. Scarfs are great for covering shoulders from the sun, or when entering churches. It will also help keep you warm, and they look cute!

Yoga Mat – I never travel without my yoga mat. I wrote a whole post to help you choose the best travel yoga mat here.

Spice Bag – If you are planning to do some cooking then I recommend making a spice bag so you don’t end up wasting lots of money or herbs and spices, or eating bland food for the whole of your trip. I put my spices into ziplock bags and then keep them in one of these clear bags

Ziplock Bags – I know, I know, more plastic. But they do come in really handy when traveling and you can wash and reuse them so you aren’t throwing them away.

Coffee Flask – Great for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. It also saves you having to use disposable cups when you buy a takeaway coffee.

Aeropress – I do love my coffee, so traveling without my Aeropress is not an option haha. This is also another great portable coffeemaker/ mug if you aren’t a fan of the Aeropress. 

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Clothing to Pack for Colombia

You can see my full Colombia packing list here on Amazon, and you can also download my free Colombia packing list here. So I’m going to try and keep this section brief.

For the Caribbean Coast – It’s hot and humid, so pack accordingly. Shorts, lightweight dresses, sandals, etc. Oh and don’t forget your swimwear!

For the main cities (Bogota, Medellin, and Cali) – Jeans and comfy shoes. Make sure you have a rain jacket and warm layers as it can get chilly, especially in Bogota

For the coffee region (Salento, Jardin, etc) – You will need warm layers, clothing suitable for hiking and horseback riding like these leggings and this t-shirt. Hiking boots are great but I got by with these travel shoes (which I’m obsessed with). You will need a coat here, something like this one.

For the Amazon – you are going to want some good hiking boots, quick-dry socks, and other quick-dry hiking clothing.

A favorite for me in terms of staying nice and cozy is the Gamma – Graphene Heated Jacket that works in both warm and cold weather. Use the code CLAIRE10 to get a 10% discount!

If you are planning on doing some scuba diving then check out this essential diving gear to pack list.

For salsa dancing I recommend these shoes as they are lightweight, go with everything, and they look cute.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Quick Tip: View my full Colombia packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Colombia Essentials shopping list here.

Toiletries to Pack for Colombia

You can see all of the travel toiletries I recommend here on this Amazon list. Many things you can actually buy in Colombia easily, so I wouldn’t stress too much about buying a lot of toiletries to travel with. But there are some things that are harder to get hold of and expensive in Colombia, so I always try and travel with my own.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Technology to take to Colombia

If you are stressing about taking your smartphone to Colombia, don’t. Most Colombian do have smartphones, so you aren’t going to stand out having one too. You will need to be careful about flashing your expensive digital gear around Colombia though. Take a read of these posts to help you prepare if you are worried.

The last time I visited Colombia I took my DSLR camera, my drone, GoPro, AND my smartphone. I used the drone a few times, the GoPro a fair amount, my smartphone camera a lot, and my DSLR once taking some selfies at Cocora valley!

Here are some digital things I’d recommend packing for Colombia.

Smart Phone – If you don’t want to take your fancy iPhone traveling, then this is a great phone with a very good camera for under $300. It’s what I personally have and shoot a lot of my vlogs on.

Kindle – Save space by investing in a kindle and kindle unlimited. You will find most of the lonely planet travel guides are available to read for free with the plan. 

Lightweight laptop and external hard drive – I have a MacAir which is perfect for traveling. After losing all of my photos a few years ago I also always travel with a heavy-duty external harddrive.

Camera and Tripod – I travel with this DSLR but I also have this mirrorless camera which I often take if I want to use something more discreet. I also love this tripod as I can use it with all of my cameras (even my phone), plus it’s small and light enough to fit in my daypack.

Backup charger – I have these two and always keep one in my bag.

Travel adaptor – Get a worldwide one like this so you can use it wherever you travel to.

Portable WiFi – I never travel without my TEP wireless device. If you can’t live without WiFi I recommend buying or renting one. Or another of my favorites is the GlocalMe G4 because of its versatility.

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

Colombia Travel Guide planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Colombia?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Colombia which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Colombia on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Colombia?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Colombia?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack

Books to Read in Colombia

Héctor Abad’s Oblivion is one of the most touching and beautiful books I have ever read. It’s a heartbreaking, well-written memorial to the author’s father, Héctor Abad Gómez, how was murder by paramilitaries in 1987.

It took Héctor 12 years to write this book and it’s probably one of the most impactful things I have read about the war in Colombia.

If you are going to be spending time in Medellin and want to know more about the history from a personal point of view you must read this book.

I couldn’t not include this Lonely Planet Guide to Colombia in the reading list. 

I’m not always a fan of these kinds of travel guides as they are oftern out of date. But they do serve a purpose and it’s always nice to have one actual book that you can use to plan before your trip as well as having something to read when the battery dies on your kindle

Although you can also get most of these Lonely Planet Guidebooks free as part of a kindle unlimited subscription.

If you buy Colombiano it will probably take your whole backpacking trip to Colombia to actually read it! The book is HUGE. 

It’s a blend of fact and fiction that paints a vivid picture of one of the darkest times in Colombia’s history. 

“From innocent teenage love to barbaric torture…from cruel despots to cocaine traficantes…from seedy drug markets to brutal battlefields…Colombiano is a blockbuster revenge thriller and an electrifying coming-of-age story.”

Looking for a light funny read while in Colombia? Dancing Feat is the book for you. It’s a story of one Englishman’s attempt to dance his way around Colombia.

The book is a fun light story that weaves in insight into Colombian dance, ranging from social dance in nightclubs, to more traditional folkloric dances. 

“But can such a bad dancer really make the necessary transformation? Is it even possible to remember so many dances? And is there a window backstage big enough for an adult male to fit through?”

 

Check out My travel books

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

The Solo Girls Guide to Traveling Without Fear

packing list for the Caribbean Coast of Colombia,caribbean coast,colombia,caribbean coast packing

The solo girls guide to becoming a digital nomad

Madison

Monday 20th of November 2023

Thanks for the post, just so you know it automatically scrolls to the bottom of the page on mobile and won't let me scroll up. Very annoying!