If you are planning a backpacking trip to Colombia’s Caribbean coast you may be wondering what to pack? Well, look no further. In this post, I have put together a complete Packing List for The Caribbean Coast of Colombia, including a video so you can see what’s in my bag and learn some of my packing tips.
Packed beaches, fried fish, Coco Frios and Reggaeton music blasting out. They say that Colombia is several countries in one, and it is along this coastline that this is more evident than anywhere else. If you decide to travel from Cartagena all the way to the most northern point of the country – Punta Gallinas – you will find yourself swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean sea, hiking through the jungle in Parque Tayrona, exploring the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and exploring the desert in La Guajira.
With a landscape this diverse and so dense with an adventure you are going to need to pack smart. Before I left for the coast I made this video so you could see exactly what is in my bag.
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What to wear in the Caribbean coast of Colombia
It’s pretty impossible to tell you exactly what you should and shouldn’t wear in Colombia. But what I can do if offer you some first-hand observations and share with you how I pack and dress 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.
Did You Get Insurance Yet?
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So when looking for travel insurance it’s important to check it covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, Hey Mondo, Passport Nomads, Safety Wing, and Travel Insurance Master all provide cover for this.
HeyMondo 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. You even have the option to start the cover when you are already on your trip, although you won’t be covered for the first 72 hours. For me my favourite feature is their app which offers you a 24/7 Dr chat and the ability to file a claim direct in the app.
Passport Nomads provides the most comprehensive cover for Digital Nomads. The game changer with them is that you have a red card and if you find yourself in need of medical care you just contact them and they will pre load your card with the funds to cover your treatment, meaning you won’t need to pay out of pocket and then put in a claim later.
Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. They have an excess of $250 and it’s simple to make a claim through their website. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy and I like that it renews on a monthly basis, so I don’t have to pay out a big lump sum up front.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation-type trips.
If you are doing shorter trips or an extended backpacking trip then Hey Mondo or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for Passport Nomads or SafetyWing.
Caribbean coast of Colombia Travel essentials
Does anyone actually leave home without sunglasses? I personally always travel in 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.
Reusable 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.
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.
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.
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…
Download my packing list
Luggage for The Caribbean Coast of Colombia
It’s totally up to you if you prefer a backpack or a suitcase. Personally, when traveling in The Caribbean Coast of Colombia I opt for a suitcase these days, but if you are planning on doing a lot of bus travel and planning on visiting some of the smaller pueblos or beach towns, then you might want to opt for a backpack instead.
For example, Holbox is somewhere that I would never travel to with a suitcase as the roads are terrible and even worse when it rains. My things are much safer on my back, and you can’t pull a suitcase there anyway.
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 bag, toiletry 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.
Other Useful Things to Pack for The Caribbean Coast Of 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.
Clothing to Pack for the Caribbean Coast of 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.
A favorite for me is the Gamma – Graphene Heated Jacket that works in both warm and cold weather. Use the code CLAIRE10 to get a 10% discount!
No matter the case, whatever you are looking for, you can find it at NxTSTOP. From comfy socks to travel kits with essential clothing like sweat pants, t-shirts, and towels. Think of anything you’d need for your next trip and you’ll find it with these guys.
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.
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,
- 1 or 2 nice dresses
- 1 pair of hiking pants or leggings
- 2 pairs of lightweight pants
- 1 pair of jeans
- a pair of denim shorts
- a pair of quick-dry sports shorts
- Quick-dry sports top
Toiletries to Pack for The Caribbean Coast of Colombia
You can very 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.
Technology to take to The Caribbean Coast of 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 used to use before I invested in the iphone 13 pro max.
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. My camera geer has grown with my blog and my essential travel cameras now include this DJI Osmo and this mini drone. If you need a tripod, I love this one 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.
What 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?”