On different forums I read that Colombia is a beautiful country and safer to travel than a lot of people think. I would like to know if it's a good destination to visit with kids. They are now 9 and 2.
We will have 6 weeks (2012) to travel around the country, although I'm also looking for a way to combine it with Panama. With our oldest daughter we travelled through Argentina for 6 weeks, also visiting Torres del Paine in Chili. Two years later we went to Australia and Tasmania. We only booked a hostel for the first few nights and domestic flights. We would like to do the same in Colombia, arranging most of the accommodation as we go.
I hope that someone can give me tips on visiting Colombia with children, where to go and if it's easy to find accommodation. And are there "coche cama's", as in Argentina?
Colombians are one of the most friendly people I have ever met. Educate, interested, curious, always willing to have a chat with you. The food is excellent.
Colombia is indeed much safer than most people think and not any worse when it comes to security situation than most latin american countries.
Of course, you will have to follow and keep security warnings/advice seriously. Guidebooks, wikitravel, fco.gov.uk and travel.state.gov
As anywhere else, my main concern with young children would be taking long haul buses. But if you book flights and don't travel long hours on buses, i guess you should be fine.
It is always better to call and arrange taxi from a reliable source, i.e. from your hostel.
Things to avoid: walking around in big cities at night time (small towns are generally safe until 10-12pm), any areas that might potentially be dangerous even at day time, night buses and display/carry any valuables).
Of course, these are precautions you will have to take without children too.
Hostels/hotels: Colombia has some of the best value for price accommodation in the world. They are tidy, and fairly priced, especially in the countryside. In big cities, tourist town prices at least double. I think you should be able to find a relatively decent place for US$15 in small towns but in big cities and very popular (especially in high season) tourist areas you may have to pay $30 or more for a comfortable place for the four of you.
Hostels are good places to get general information, meet others and sign up to tours. With children, you will be less flexible, so I would definitely book the next place ahead or at least have a very good idea how to get there and what to expect. Do some research about the hostel, as some hostels do have crazy backpackers who prefer partying to sightseeing.
In Colombia, we found that local hotels were much better value for the price than the hostels with foreigners. We always tried to find family run places that are secure, friendly, clean and comfortable.
Most tourists go to the northern and coastal part of Colombia: Cartagena, beaches, trekking, etc. I haven't been there, but probably it is the best area to visit, as the different places are relatively near eachother, tourist facilities are good.
Medellin and trip south to Cafe region is also very popular. Surprisingly, Santa Fe de Antoqia or Salento are almost unknown among foreigners but very popular amongst locals.
South of Colombia is also very nice, however it may fall too far from your route.
I am not sure if it makes much sense to travel to Panama. Colombia is much richer in cultural heritage and natural beauty. It's a nice country, but you will get much more in Colombia. The Colombian border with Panama (Capurgana, Sapzurro, Playa Miel) is a heaven. However, getting there by bus and boat would be too much for the children, unless you can afford expensive plane tickets.
But again, Colombia is a beautiful country, with lovely people and great food. "The only danger is that you may want to stay longer" - says their national advertisement.
Have a very nice time in Colombia!
Wow, thanks so much for your reply!
After reading it, I think it's best to just focus on Colombia, and not Panama.
When we take trips like these, we prefer to stay in one place for at least 3-4 days. I think that's also more relaxed for the kids. We pick the places we really want to go to, read about what we can see and do there. We also take enough time to relax and go to playgrounds and swimming pools.
We still have a lot of reading to do before we decide which places we want to visit, but it would be nice to not just visit the tourist area's, but also places that are less known. I agree with you that, with kids, it's better to fly than to take the bus.
Anyway, I thank you for all the information! I always love the reading, searching the internet and planning the trip, so I will probably be back for more information!
If you want to go off the tourist trail from time to time...
We were cycling across Colombia and we enjoyed the small towns in Colombia probably much more than any tourist area. Maybe there wasn't much to see, but they were lovely, absolutely safe day and night, with very friendly people, with a small plaza and coffees and restaurants, and sometimes with festivals or weekend markets. That's where we found the romantic side of the country.
Colombia has also plenty of farms/guest houses with beautiful landscape that offer swimming pool, lodging and food. These farms usually have very nice gardens, horses, pets and anything that both adults and children can dream of. These places are usually reasonably priced too.
Unfortunately, none of these places are in the guide books. It was easier for us to bump into them, so I am not sure how you could find them. Maybe, the best is to ask locals if they know any nice town or upcoming festival in the region.
Those nice farms are located usually along the main roads/highways and marked clearly.
Should you go to Medellin, I also remember there is a large amusement/waterpark between Santa Fe and Medellin.
[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jun-2011, at 11:15 by Piecar ]
I've lived in Colombia and wish I was still living there. (stupid, stupid...) It is a fine place for kids and a lovely place in general. You'll be fine with kids, though a stroller for your two year old could be tough in a lot of places. I cannot say that EVERYONE there is super educated, but they are great and considerate for the most part.