One of the most common questions we receive from travelers before their trips are regarding vaccinations. It makes sense, it is an important topic when preparing a trip abroad and unfortunately, the information online is usually vague, contradictory or exaggerated.
Moreover, we know there are some “Tropical Institutes” (entities in charge of giving healthcare related advice to travelers going to “tropical countries”) that are extremely exaggerated when advising travelers what vaccinations or medications to take before coming to Colombia.
The truth is that Colombia is a big country with a great variety of ecosystems. Describing Colombia as “tropical country” is not always correct. Bogotá, for example, is located at 2.600 meters above sea level. Far from the tropical jungles.
Therefore, your preparation regarding vaccinations and medications should consider the destinations of the Colombia tour packages that you want to visit.
If you are only visiting destinations located high up in the mountains, such as Bogotá, Medellin, Popayan, San Agustin, Tierradentro, Villa de Leyva or Cocuy, you do not need any special vaccination or medication for tropical diseases (like yellow fever or malaria).
In fact, yellow fever vaccination, which is the perhaps the most important of all, is only recommended if you are visiting remote jungle areas such as Casanare, Cerros de Mavecure, Bahía Solano, Ciudad Perdida, Caño Cristales or the Amazon Jungle.
Even though the yellow fever vaccination certificate is not mandatory to travel to Colombia at this moment, we do recommend you bring it with you. Especially if you are planning Colombia tour packages that involve visiting any of the above-mentioned destinations.
In contradiction to what some “Tropical Institutes” in Europe and the US recommend, we do not think it is necessary to take malaria pills during your trip to Colombia. The risk of getting malaria in Colombia is extremely little while the side effects of the pills might actually ruin your trip by not letting you sleep well and giving you horrible nightmares.
That being said, it is very important to note that it is essential you use a good mosquito repellent at all times while you are on the risky areas. We recommend you bring a repellent with a high level of Deet from your home country. Otherwise, local brand “Nopikex” is an excellent option and you can find it in any pharmacy throughout the country.
To summarize, the vaccinations we advise you to have if you are traveling to Colombia are Yellow fever (only for if you are going to remote jungle areas), Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, and Diphtheria (which you probably already have).
One of the most common diseases travelers gets while visiting Colombia is the so-called “travelers´ diarrhea”. This usually happens due to the fact that your stomach is not used to the type of food we eat in Colombia.
If you get “travelers´ diarrhea” during your trip, we recommend you try eating bananas, dry crackers and drink lots of water until diarrhea stops.
Another typical health condition that affects travelers, is sunburn. Most people are careful about this while they are at the beach or in hot places. However, many tourists don’t know that in high-altitude places, the radiation is a lot stronger and you can easily get badly sunburned even in a cold and cloudy day.
The best advice we can give you for your trip to Colombia is to use sunscreen every day. Ideally, one that is above 30 SPF. Believe me, you don’t want to be sunburned on day 2 of your holidays and have to travel 2 more weeks with a painful skin.
Luckily for tourists, Colombia has a very good healthcare system. Perhaps the best one in South America. Doctors are very well trained (even those working in remote areas and little villages) and there are good hospitals almost everywhere in the country. In bigger cities such as Bogotá, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena or Bucaramanga, there are excellent and modern hospitals that have nothing to envy those in the USA or Europe.