As you plan your next gay holiday, here’s what you need to know about navigating the new normal while traveling to -- and through -- Colombia.
Welcome to 2021! It’s more than just a brand new year; it’s a time for transformation. Both people and places will be trying to re-invent themselves. As much as we yearn for a return to those pre-new-normal days, that ship has sailed. Here we are in a new year with vaccines on the horizon as well as an undeniable pent-up passion to get out and experience…life!
We here at OUT in Colombia are starting off the year with a new website (welcome!), a new blog (hi, again!) and new, exclusive gay travel experiences to welcome in what will be a transformative year. We predict travel will evolve into a much more personal decision in the immediate future, with specially-curated and one-of-a-kind experiences in very high demand, much more so than ever before. These are just the kind of experiences OUT in Colombia can offer to gay travelers looking for exceptional, authentic journeys.
Why Colombia, you are asking? Well, the country has got loads of features, something for everyone, no matter what you’re seeking. Nature? City? Art? Architecture? Shopping? History? Culinary? Adventure? Relaxation? Beaches? Museums? Check and more check. We enjoy consistently good weather. Damn, we’ve even got hot springs and volcanoes, too! Colombia is a paradise of changing landscapes and diversity. And the country is a wonderfully gay-friendly destination.
You wouldn’t be reading this unless you were at least just a tiny bit interested in visiting Colombia and, likely, you owned at least one letter in the LGBT+ initialism. You might just be curious. Either way, you’ve still come to the right place. At OUT in Colombia, we’re a set of diverse travelers curating one-of-a-kind experiences for diverse travelers, just like you.
Colombia is one of the world’s best gay travel destinations. There are so many features to appeal to so many different interests in rather a small country. Most of our South American neighbors are much bigger. And, true, our neighbor to the southeast (Brazil) wins awards for the size of their….ahem, Pride Parade, but our major cities have their own Pride celebrations as well. Barranquilla even has a gay parade as part of its week-long Carnival celebration. The capital of Bogotá is home to Theatron, the largest gay bar/dance club complex in the Americas, perhaps even the world. With 13 different themed rooms of dance floors on 5 different levels, this must-see club sets a rhythmic pace to the heart of the city’s gay Chapinero neighborhood. And while Colombia cannot technically lay claim to being the birthplace of salsa, our third largest city -- Cali -- is the undisputed capital of salsa dancing. The Colombian version is faster than the Cuban style, and we make sure you enjoy opportunities to either learn or to hone your dance skills. We offer several dance-themed experiences to get your pulse racing when you visit, as if Colombia itself wouldn’t do that on its own.
We love living in Colombia and that shows in the experiences we curate for gay travelers: those that are part of our standard tour portfolio as well as the more personalized ones we custom create on request. If your travels don’t put you in direct contact with the Colombian people themselves, you are missing out on the most rewarding part of your visit here. To travel well, you have to get out. The experiences we curate for our guests allow you to travel out and travel well. Many of our curated experiences even provide you with the opportunity to make a difference in the local community during your visit.
You have just under 6 hours‘ flying time from the metro NYC area, 4 hours or so from Florida, and plenty of easy connecting flights from the West Coast, making your flight to Bogotá or Cartagena faster than, say, Europe (a current no-go zone), and certainly more diverse. A huge plus: there are exceptionally reasonable fares to Bogotá or Cartagena right now, along with direct flights on major US carriers like United, Delta, and American Airlines. There are also discounted carriers like JetBlue and Frontier that have Colombia on their routes, too. Plus, we have our own international carrier, Avianca! And, because of the pandemic, most cancellation fees have been eliminated. Silver lining bonus! Please check with your carrier before pressing “buy.”
There’s an App for That Colombia opened its borders to international flight arrivals in September last year. Arriving passengers must have negative PCR test results taken within 96 hours of traveling. Colombian Immigration also requires you to register online between one day and up to one hour before your flight departure which your airline will help you with, so no papers to weigh you down, lose, or mess. You just carry the electronic registration confirmation on your phone. You will need your passport, of course. If visas are required for the country in which you hold a passport, then you will need that, too. After you arrive, you are encouraged to download an app. Although it’s not a requirement, everyone here uses it: CoronApp. It’s for contact tracing. Controlling outbreaks successfully in Colombia comes down to science and real-time data.
Colombia is still considered a developing country, although its largest cities are home to thriving expat communities. Strong Wi-Fi and other little luxuries you need for your digitally nomadic lifestyle are a given. This is part of what has helped most of us get through the last year. There are apps in abundance here. In fact, a former Vice Minister of Information and Technology, Daniel Quintero, is now mayor of Medellin, It has been his background and efforts in this city, known as the Silicon Valley of Colombia, that have made successfully living and working here during the pandemic as safe and as optimal as possible.
Municipalities and businesses alike are using technology to help make things accessible and safe. For example, in many restaurants, you can register on a restaurant’s app, you get a QR code to access the menu on your phone, they bring you a bag to place your mask in while you enjoy your food. In some restaurants, you can even pre-order so you can limit your up-close interactions with restaurant staff if you want to. And, so, the restaurants here are pretty full, actually. There is lots of outdoor seating. Medellín, for example, shut down traffic in the restaurant areas, so eating establishments could take over the streets. People walk and dine outside and it’s actually quite nice. Every restaurant takes your temperature when you get there, everyone wears face masks, and there are no physical menus changing hands. It allows people a little more flexibility and deeper sense of security.
Colombians have embraced wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Wherever you go there are bio-security protocols in place for every venue, business, and activity. You need to wear a mask and you will be asked if you have any symptoms when entering an establishment. At OUT in Colombia, we’ve always included basic Colombian medical insurance into all our packages so you’ll have access to the country’s excellent medical system, without any red tape. Naturally, we still encourage our guests to purchase their own travel insurance before they get here, for added protection.
Over the last few months, the OUT in Colombia team has worked very hard to experience what it’s like to travel in Colombia and to see how all the new safety protocols are being implemented. And, damn….are we exhausted! Sightseeing, activities, and excursions all run like clockwork. From rum-tasting in Cartagena (my personal fave), to chocolate tasting in Bogota, to visiting a coffee finca, authentic Colombian experiences are available and waiting here for all travelers. You’ll find more spaces and more mask-wearing, but the experiences with slight adaptions are the same. If anything, COVID has given the travel industry here a break to reflect on its growth, standards and practices, as well as the communications between suppliers and local authorities. Ultimately, this has made the experience for all travelers to Colombia more safe, seamless, and secure.
Out and About
And, oh, the people you’ll meet! Colombians are warm, welcoming, and friendly. It has been quite an experience living here. Ironically, the year after I arrived, the historic peace agreement was signed and same-sex marriage was legalized. And then, there was OUT in Colombia!
All kidding aside, we offer what we like to call a new definition of “all-inclusive” which is about the furthest place from endless buffets and watered-down alcohol you can be. It’s a phraseology gay travelers would all hope to see incorporated into the travel mainstream worldwide and soon. But for right now, we use it signal to every gay, lesbian, or transgender person that Colombia is a welcoming place that allows you to travel just as you are, enjoying authentic experiences you can treasure forever, while being your authentic self. Come with your partner, we will show you a Colombia that is romantic, sensorial, and satisfying. Come alone or with friends, we will show you a Colombia that’s fun, exciting, and enlightening. Come with the kiddos, we’ll make sure it’s educational for them as well as relaxing for you. Most of our experiences include some option to meet and interact with members of the local gay communities wherever you go.
There is something for every traveler here in Colombia. There are quite a lot of remote areas, all with abundant, authentic experiences to enjoy, all in uncrowded splendor. In Colombia, you have beaches and deserts, colorful villages, and even more colorful birds. There’s diversity of climate, wildlife, and landscapes: hot Caribbean coast, cool Pacific coast, cooler mountain regions. There are rainforests, cloud forests, coffee farms, vineyards, and gorgeous fields of flowers growing for export. There are striking, modern cities and exquisite colonial architecture, often side-by-side. And you can have this all, in one trip.