Corona tore apart my world travel plans. Now the point is no longer to travel to countries that are on my wish-list, but to those that I am allowed to travel to. After taking a look at the Balkans region, I had to clarify one question: which continent is best for me to reach? There is still so much I would like to see in Asia, but most of the countries there have closed themselves off. This condition may last for months due to a lack of vaccinations.
During my research, I was amazed to find that Mexico is open to tourism. I almost booked a plane ticket there, but then I saw that another country in Latin America was open: Colombia.
Since I’ve been backpacking, a number of backpackers have raved about the country. And because I wanted to travel South America to Asia anyway, Colombia will be my ticket there. All that is required is a negative PCR corona test, which must not be older than 96 hours. You also have to register online with the Colombian health authority. Only those who do not have a negative notification with them upon entry have to be quarantined.
Still, my arrival in Colombia was exciting as I hadn’t booked a return flight ticket. When I checked in at Madrid airport I was advised that this could be a reason to turn me away. But where should I book an onward ticket if the travel conditions change almost weekly worldwide?
So I risked it without. If necessary, I would have quickly booked something online at the airport if it had been an obstacle to entry. I speculated that the corona test evidence and registration with the Colombian health authority would be more important. And indeed: the border officer was happy about my evidence, stamped a 90-day tourist visa in my passport and waved me through. Done!
Trouble tipping the Uber driver
I am in Medellín. From the airport, the Uber service takes you downtown to my accommodation. It is shortly after 10 p.m., and the driver boldly races past police vehicles. After almost 40 minutes, the journey to hell is over.
Amazingly, the driver insists on a tip that is the equivalent of 25 percent of the fare. He even gives me his internet in the car so I can enter it into my app right away. I’m confused, after all, Uber is usually safe from such scams.
Then I accidentally hit the eight percent tip suggested by Uber. The driver doesn’t find that particularly funny. He falls silent. There is no Goodbye, no Thanks. Without a word he lets me get out and take my luggage out of the trunk alone. Since I am exhausted from the eleven hour flight, I post the situation under “Communication problems”.
The next morning I wake up in La América, that’s the name of the middle-class district in which I live. When you look out of the window, everything is forgotten, all the Corona flight stress, the travel warnings, the almost eleven hours of flight time.
Now the sun is shining towards me, palm trees adorn the terrace of the accommodation, and a singer in my little side street provides the right musical backdrop with a first-class voice and Latin American songs. No joke, talented street singers perform here every day, probably because they have hardly any income opportunities due to Corona.
Bogotá or Medellín – where to go in Colombia?
For a long time I thought back and forth in which big city in Colombia I should settle for a few weeks: Bogotá or Medellín? In the end, Medellín won because the climate here is difficult to beat. The weather app constantly shows daytime temperatures between 26 and 28 degrees Celsius. At night they drop to a pleasant 16 to 17 degrees. No wonder that Medellín is nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring”.
The Colombian capital Bogotá is cooler, rainier and, with a good seven million inhabitants, twice the size of Medellín. It also has a traffic problem because, unlike in Medellín, there is no metro system there. Construction began only a year ago, and the first metro line will probably not run through Bogotá’s underground until 2026 at the earliest.
And another aspect was important to me: Similar to Chiang Mai in Thailand, Medellín has developed into a hotspot for digital nomads and emigrants. Low cost of living paired with a good infrastructure for living, working and celebrating make Medellín a popular adopted home.
In the next few weeks I want to find out whether the quality of life here is really that good. But above all, whether the cliché is true that the former home of drug lord Pablo Escobar is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Read more parts of the world tour series “One Way Ticket” here. The column appears every two weeks.