The Top Six Dangers You Face When Travelling To Colombia

By: Paul Giles

There is an outrageous claim going around the interwebs and elsewhere, which states that the only risk one will encounter when coming to Colombia is that you’ll want to stay. Although this danger is a clear and present one, and one that’s befallen all of us foreigners here, I’m going to come out and say that this is a campaign of falsehoods and fabrications. There are veritable bucketloads of risks associated with the simple act of taking the Colombian plunge, and we’re here to alert you to the ones we ourselves have been exposed to in this terrifyingly dangerous country.

Fruit Will Never Be the Same Again.

We’ve had a crack team of international scientists working around the clock on this first risk, and now the results are in. On average, the fruit in Colombia is 125,387 times more delicious than it is in your country. Now, don’t even try to argue with science; it’s just not going to happen. You might think you know what a pineapple or a mango is, but you really don’t. The preposterously dangerous phenomenon that is fruit flavour here will make your sad and sorry fruit back home seem… well… sad and sorry. And probably a little remorseful as well.

But that’s only the beginning. You might think English is a pretty good language. Well, usually it’s alright, even if “filling IN” a form is pretty much the exact same thing as “filling OUT” a form. The sad, dangerous, and slightly boring truth is, though, that English is absolutely PATHETIC when it comes to fruit. When it comes to such delicious words and objects as “lulo,”  or “feijoa,” I’m afraid that the English language sucks just a little bit: there are just no English words for them. And then there’s that massive mouthful of a fruit called “guanabana.” Doo doo dah-doo-doo. Guanabana. Doo doo dah-doo. Once you get your laughing gear (as mouths are referred to by my dad) around the High Definition Fruit in Colombia, the stuff in other countries will seem like it’s in black and white. Fuzzy black and white at that. So, just be careful out there, kids!

You Will Be Forced to Move Your Hips in a Terrifyingly Sensual Manner.

Back in Oz, dancing consists of carefully balancing your beer schooner in one hand while nodding your head in a vigorous fashion, and occasionally pointing at the DJ as a signal of polite encouragement to continue performing the DJ duties in such satisfactory fashion. This entails a particular skill-set, but I’m afraid this kind of dancing won’t really cut it in Colombia. This country is dangerously, frothing-at-the-mouthingly dance-mad; particularly Cali, which just happens to be the Salsa Capital of The World and Quite Possibly the Universe. Even if your hips, like my Australian pair, are the filthiest liars you’re ever likely to shake a maraca at, the music-saturated atmosphere may just teach them how to tell the truth. Especially if you’re exposed to the substance we warn of in the next category.

You Will Have to Try Aguardiente.

What better way to connect with the locals than sharing their local tipple? WRONG! In Colombia, the people purport to enjoy a dangerously horrific drink, aguardiente, which translates literally as “fire-water.” Yes, please; I would like another shot. And if you suspect that the name is a result of that famed magical-realist imagination of this country, you’re in for a particularly impolite awakening, unless you enjoy the sensation of being bitten in the throat by an army of bull-ants. It’s as rough as old guts, and that’s how you’ll look and feel the next morning. That’s when you’ll learn the terrifying significance of the Colombian word, guayabo.

Your Preconceptions About Food Will Be Challenged.

There are some things you can always rely on in life. The internet largely consists of pictures of kittens. England performs poorly at the World Cup. Main meals are savoury. Cheese is only used with specific kinds of food. One kind of carbohydrate is enough. Slipping on a banana peel yields hilarious results.

Well, the existence of Colombia shoots your preconceptions right out of the water, as if they were in a Michael Bay film. Fruit sneaks itself into lunch mains. I’m not talking about fruit with controversial statuses such as tomato or avocado. Here in Colombia, mango and strawberry unashamedly make their presence known as part of the perfunctory lettuce, tomato and onion salad. Then there’s plantain, which is said to be lovable. Believe me: don’t believe everything you read, Gentle Blogger.

And then there’s the cheese danger. Cheese goes with everything in Colombia. Hot Chocolate. Fruit salad. Caramel. Comedy. The Colombian rule of thumb is: if a dish appears to be missing something, add some cheese. Genius. Further, in Colombia, one kind of carb is never enough. It’s not too uncommon to see potatoes backed up by rice and yucca. But just three kinds of gut-busting carbohydrate is kind of unsatisfactory. Where’s the arepa, huh? It’s lucky that the biggest meal of the day is lunch. I never thought about it, but why do people back home stuff themselves stupid just before going to bed? That’s just asking for a Dutch Oven Event, especially if you’re carbed up to the max.

People Will Smile At You For No Reason.

In other countries, somebody that smiles at you spontaneously is probably a bit simple - and/or  trying to sell you Amway. Not in Colombia. People here are so genuinely, guilelessly polite, friendly and helpful that you start to wonder what’s wrong with other countries - and yourself. It’s a little outrageous how much time and good-will so many Colombians, particularly in the smaller towns, have for visitors. Watch out: you might just start to smile back. Be careful when you get back home; people might mistake you for one of those guys who carries around little booklets of cartoons of religious figures. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You Might Start to Think That Other Countries Suck a Little.

Countries are generally fine. There are things to do, and places to see, and there’s usually chocolate. That’s all well and good, but Colombia is scientifically-certified amazeballs. I’d go so far as to say that it’s totes amazeballs. I don’t take such terms lightly, just so you know. There might be countries that are diverse, but Colombia is mega-diverse. And that is a real word, torn sarn it! In what other country of the world can you go from snow-capped peaks to a balmy, jungle-fringed  beach? A honest-to-blog desert to the Amazon rainforest? Bustling, buzzing cities to an immaculately time-trapped, whitewashed colonial town? Caribbean and pacific coasts? Sorry, that was a trick question. There isn’t another country. Colombia - with regards to its dazzling array of different landscapes, as well as its exuberantly smiling people and their richly diverse cultures, has a bit of everything, and a little more amazeballs than is fair, really. To be dangerously honest, Colombia does start to make other countries seem a little bit boring. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingPaul Giles is a British expat living in Colombia. Blog description: Colombia Travel Blog : An International perspective about travelling in Colombia by world travellers.
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Contest Comments » There are 34 comments

Azzam wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent article Paul, all of your points are really valid! As an expat living in Colombia I think you've got them spot on, love it!

Richard P wrote 10 years ago:

Paul Giles is NOT a Brit expat... But he writes well enough to be one, so I guess I'll let it pass! His words make me want to experience the non-translatable wonders of Colombian fruit!

Sarah Duncan wrote 10 years ago:

Oh Paul, how right you are. How I miss the magic of Colombian fruit and I wish I could smile at people with no reason without them thinking I'm a weirdo.

Paul wrote 10 years ago:

I was told I have to write more than 10 words, so to ensure this I figured I should start with a long sentence. Really, though, I'm sure I could have written more than 10 words about Paul Giles, who is one of the finest bloggers on this here planet, writing for one of the finest blogs about the finest countries. I can think of few more deserving people.

Dan wrote 10 years ago:

I completely agree with your cheese observations. No cultural conditioning would ever convince me that a fruit salad topped with grated cheese is a tasty combo.

Danny Boy wrote 10 years ago:

Well Paul, as a fellow expat living here in Colombia I can honestly say that you have hit the nail on the head, for the most part anyway. The only thing I don't agree with is your analogy of aguardiente as being like an army of bull ants biting the back of your throat..tequila wins that award (well in my eyes anyway)

Redes Colombia wrote 10 years ago:

Colombia is Everything You Cleverly wrote and a Million times more. Colombia is a Unique Country, it is Paradise on Earth! That is why We are the Happiest People in an Extraordinary Place. Everyone should visit us at least once to know the Truth first hand!

Andres Piedrahita wrote 10 years ago:

As a Colombian citizen living outside (Colombian expat?), I can't even explain how much I miss "living on the edge" with such risks. There are many more things that really enhance that bigger risk of wanting to stay, but I guess I won't talk about it. Let the expats find them on their own way, that makes it even better :) Great article my friend, you really made me think longingly on that beautiful land ^_^

Jorge wrote 10 years ago:

Great article! my favorite Colombian treats: fruit and the simles. Least favorites: being asked to dance and aguardiente...

Charlie Edmonds wrote 10 years ago:

As an Aussie living in Australia, not quite the dangers I was expecting, but hey, I'm always up for a challenge. Great blog Paulos and I can't wait to experience some, if not all, of these dangers when we visit the place that you now call home - I'm sure you will be well versed in them by that time:)

Sonia Giles wrote 10 years ago:

Well written as always. A very good overview of what one might expect while in Colombia. Keep on entertaining us with your informative blogs!

JL Pastor wrote 10 years ago:

Great post Paul , those are indeed the dangers you will find in Colombia, specially the last two!

Jamez El Suave wrote 10 years ago:

I agree with Jorge, I love the simles in Colombia, especially the ones that come with extra chorizo. Thats what she said... Vote Paul.

CMT wrote 10 years ago:

This was soooooo much fun to read! I used to live in Maracaibo, which isn't quite in Colombia but almost ... And reading your post made me crave arepas, platanos Fritos con arroz y carne mechada. Loved this!

Eliana wrote 10 years ago:

Amazing Article Paul, Its so good to see lovely comments from Colombia rather than the common drug related ones. I would like to add another fact my partner found dangerous... when speaking of food.. Food Courts will never be the same.. In oz when deciding what to eat in a shopping centre food court the decision is easy since there is not much variety. Most of the food courts in Oz have a fast food joint,(maccas, hungry jacks, kfc, red rooster) a sushi place, a kebab shop, and probably a healthy food joint such as zumo salad. When going to Colombia and walk into a food court the overwhelming feeling will invade you! yes there is so much variety that you wont know where to start. From home made food, to mexican, roastbeef sandwiches, Char grilled meats, tipical soups, Amazing Empanadas, Hot dogs, Creps n Wafles.... to mention a few... Thank you very much once again for giving more people a new perspective of what Colombia is and what to expect.

Jonathan Dussot wrote 10 years ago:

As a fellow expat living in colombia, i agree with all of the points above.I'd have to say that paul has spectacularly observed and pinpointed colombia's cultural treasures.

Jeremy wrote 10 years ago:

Nicely done Paul. I too am an expat here in Colombia and I say almost all of your points are spot on. Personally, I am a big fan of aguardiente, but that might say something about me. Other than that, however, I think these are all great reasons for why people should experience the wonders of Colombia.

Carolina Parra wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Paul, Thanks for entertaining us with your amazing posts. We're glad you've fallen in love with Colombia and that you've decided to spread the word. I enjoy the way you describe things. Great job. Looking forward for more posts like this. Happy writing!

Laura Sesana wrote 10 years ago:

Paul, I am a Colombian living abroad (for almost 16 years now) and your post made me miss home! My husband is Greek and your piece reminded me of the first time he visited- all he can talk about still is Surtifruver and aguardiente. Thanks for a great post- hope you win the prize

Harry Smith wrote 10 years ago:

As an expat myself I would say experience everything Paul has mentioned in one place and that is Cali's Feria starting next week. Women, parades, Salsa dancing, cultural events and did I mention the women?

Indiana wrote 10 years ago:

I have at least one experience with foreign people in Colombia for each of those "dangers!: from Danish going back to their childhood when trying granadilla, to Irish confused because people in bars and clubs actually dance, to almost anyone who is not colombian asking why o why do we put cheese on everything, to Aussies looking amazed by how fast can you go from a huge modern city to a small colonial town or go from 6 degrees to 30 in less than 3 hours; or germans and frenchs comparing aguardiente to schnapps and pasties… But as a Colombian who has lived in 3 contents I can only reassure that cheese DOES goes with everything and that the number of fruit you know is not even half of what you find here…

Dora Muñoz wrote 10 years ago:

Queso con bocadillo veleño y obleas con arequipe: Gran peligro!

Richard N. Cote wrote 10 years ago:

Having had the enormously good sense to marry a Caliena (woman from Cali), and having made seven visits there with my Colombian family, all I can say is that the blogger was being very conservative in his praise. Viva Colombia! El Gringo Grande (Richard N. Cote'), in South Carolina USA

Alex Stan Campnell wrote 10 years ago:

Thirteen years ago, I fell in love with Colombia about 10 minutes after I fell in love with a Colombian. I'm still in love...with both. We're coming back next month and we're bringing friends.

Jack wrote 10 years ago:

In English 'Guanabana' is Soursop! But as a colombian I am still awed by all the fruits I have note yet tasted: mamoncillo, pomarosa, el chontaduro, and there is nothing better than a salad with mango or strawberries (or both!). Also, all the fruits taste better than in other parts of the world (especially oranges and bananas).

Rde wrote 10 years ago:

Great article. Not even when the threat of narco terrorism there was a true threat to travel to Colombia.

Madeleine Münzer Ch. wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent article Paul, all of your points are really valid and true. We can also mentioned: the typical soup in Bogotá: ajiaco, Chocolate santafereño, with tamal, arepa or mojicón. Our typical dances: cumbia, mapalé, salsa,Porro, bunde tolimense and many other things. Colombia is a nice and beautiful country, with different climates, different kinds of birds, and different kind of good people. Hope you win the prize.

LUIS FERNANDO AMAYA wrote 10 years ago:

Your article is a quite creative glimpse of some of the things of which most colombians like me are proud. Of course, as in many countries we have a bunch of problems, however, always we found out the ways to smile (and sometimes to mucho forgetting some bad things that happen). Thanks for share your impressions about our custumes in such funny way.

Henry Cadena wrote 10 years ago:

As a Colombian expat, I have to admit the author is absolutely right about these dangers few people are aware of--when traveling to Colombia. To me, diversity in its full meaning of the word describes what Colombia is all about--for sure one of the least boring countries in the world. I miss going from the cool and chaotic cosmopolitan ambiance that is Bogotá to a hot tropical climate just an hour away!,..365 days a year. Of course, where else in the world do people smile at you for no other reason than to be friendly?

Katherinne wrote 10 years ago:

Thanka for such lovely compliments. As a colombian living in NZ I feel nothing but happiness to read articles like this. Thank you very much.

Pao wrote 10 years ago:

Paul, I enjoy reading your article, as happy Locombiana (lol) I mean, Colombian, I am delighted by the perception you have of my wonderful country, I would like to add something you forgot and I think is very important: the Colombian Spanish, I do not exaggerate when i say that we have one of the world's richest vocabularies,for example: chimba is a word you can use to say that you like something, that´s so chimba! this babe is one chimba!!, when you want to do something or you are feeling undignified for something: the chimba!!, if you're lucky: I save the math partial examination of pure chimba !! and words that you would never imagine .... Here the magic is real and nothing is impossible in Colombia we will be waiting for all of you.........the only true risk is wanting to stay!!!!!!

Robert P. Hart wrote 10 years ago:

My wife (a Colombiana) and I moved to Santa Marta in May 2013.I retired a little early with limited resources and am living well here.Sure, there are more beautiful places in Colombia but we have the Caribbean and Parque Tyrona. I think SM is ready to become a great spot for expats. My comment directed at the article is that not only do strangers smile at you but everyone, even the ''street'' people say ''Buenos dias''! That's very refreshing. Even those with little or nothing are not victims, they've got a beer in there hands and song in their ears and ... Their heart!

Gerardo Buitrago wrote 10 years ago:

I MUST say thank you very much to Paul. 99% of the world population think that we Colombian are only Cocaine and marihuana producers and users. I lived in the UK for over 35 years, and most of time when I met someone, the question was have you got some "stuff"? meaning coke. I am aware not everything is rossy, there are other real dangers, but we can show the world we are very hard working people, and we can enjoy and have a nice time over a beer and an empanada. Thanks Paul. You are me Hero.

Jen wrote 10 years ago:

I really enjoyed your post! Traveling in Medellin now and I agree this place is fantastic. You can also visit my blog for information about things to do and enjoy about Medellin Happy Travels!

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