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Is Colombia the millennials’ travel hot spot in South America?

Colombia’s dangerous reputation can’t be denied if we’re still talking about the 80s to early 2000s. It’s the biggest reason Colombia is not a top South American travel destination. It doesn’t help that Hollywood recently glamorized its national villain in the TV series Narcos, whose name should never be said aloud in public. Brings back all those horrible and painful memories for Colombians who lived through those decades.

Transformation is well underway.

Nowadays, more media and especially travelers are starting to experience and write about the positive transformation that has taken place. Here are excellent articles that do a better job at highlighting the changes than I ever could.

Food, wilderness, art, history and infrastructure. Photos by the author.

I’ll simply summarize the positive transformation and list the existing attractions to provide some insights. Let’s start with the two most significant changes of all — the peace deal in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla fighters ending over 50 years of war, and the death of the infamous drug lord in the early 90s. These created an environment of hope and transformation that inspired a trendy art scene, a growth in the culinary scene and investment in infrastructure in the largest cities.

In addition, Colombia’s wealth of history and culture and incredible wilderness has moved it to the top of many young travelers’ list.

The young globetrotters are coming.

A backpacker walking on the beach
Can you hear the waves? — Photo by the author.

I’ve visited Colombia three times since October 2018 before deciding to make it my new home. It could have been at least a couple of more visits if it wasn’t for the COVID pandemic.

During my travels in Colombia, I met and saw many millennial backpackers exploring this diverse and beautiful country. This leads to my question and the title of this article. “Is Colombia the millennials’ travel hot spot in South America?”.

Based on my conversations with these young and adventurous travelers, wise beyond their years. The need for adventure, visiting new places off the beaten path, and the possibility of an extended trip due to the extraordinary currency exchange rate are significant factors in their decisions.

1 USD equals 3,800 COP (Colombian Pesos), or 1 Euro equals 4,100 COP.

Some friendly advice.

Whenever the travelers discover that I live in Colombia, I usually get asked for travel advice or tips. Here are two.

  1. An essential expression that all visitors to Colombia should learn and understand is “Dar Papaya.” The literal translation in English is “to give papaya.” In this instance, papaya is not a delicious tropical fruit; it’s your valuables. All travelers are advised not to display their valuables in public, such as storing their phone in their back pocket or any places that can be easily pickpocketed, wearing expensive watches and jewelry, keeping their bags or backpack where it is visible in their car, etc.
  2. Make every effort to connect with the locals by trying to speak the language. The goal is not to impress them with your language fluency but rather to show respect and that you’re willing to learn about their culture. You’ll be amazed at how generous and kind the Colombians can be; more importantly, you’ll create lasting memories.

By Bryan Bui

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