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For this edition of Locals Approved Packing Lists two Colombia residents have assisted in providing a reliable account of a locals view to help us determine what to wear in Colombia.
Jasmine, originally from Tampa Florida, has been on the road since 2007. After stints in New Zealand and Australia and traveling across Southeast Asia and Latin America, she fell in love with Medellin, Colombia. She now calls the city home where she lives with her puppy Luna. You can catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook or check out her travel blog Jasmine Wanders.
Our other Colombia correspondent is Andres Rodriguez, the co-editor of international street fashion blog Iconia Magazine. He’s lived in Colombia for 37 years, and is not only capturing images of the latest fashions in his home country but also around the world including Paris, Milan, and New York. The photographs featured on this article give you a sneak peak at what Iconia Magazine has to offer so check it out for more international street style.
Thank you for your helpful insight guys!
What to Wear in Colombia
Edited by Chantelle Mallin
Colombia Clothing Style
The clothing style in Colombia mainly depends on the city, in the tropical places such as Cartagena the style is chic, elegant and more relaxed, think lots of white and light fabrics. Medellin is more sexy, think Latin, the women wear light dresses, tight jeans and bright colours – don’t be afraid to show a little skin here!
How to choose the best fabrics for travel? Read this post!
Medellin is hot during the day and cool at night, however it’s not a tropical destination, dress light, but not as if you’re going to the beach. Medellin is considered the fashion capital of Colombia, people dress considering trends. Bogota is a colder city, think New York in the springtime, it is more formal and sophisticated: scarfs, coats, heavy jackets and dark colours. Cartagena is a tropical city with very hot weather, dress accordingly with loose t-shirts, shorts, flowing dresses, maxi skirts and sandals.
Read these tips on how to avoid a boring all-black wardrobe when you travel!
There are no rules in general for dressing in Colombia, however to avoid sticking out it is recommended men wear trousers and closed-toed shoes, especially at night. For the girls opt for skinny jeans, a pretty shirt, sandals (not flip-flops), flats and heels if you fancy dressing up your outfit. If you decide to wear shorts, pair it with a conservative top.
Check out our round-up of comfortable walking sandals that don’t sacrifice style!
Jasmine suggests that here is more conservative and formal that her home state of Florida, it is not common to see men in shorts or people wearing flip flops, the local’s value presenting themselves well. Wearing shorts, sandals and a t-shirt to go shopping, out at night, at a restaurant or clubbing will get you pegged as a tourist, if you plan to go to chic places dress up to avoid feeling under dressed.
When planning what to wear in Colombia, the top advice from Andres is to dress for the diverse weather conditions across the country, if your go to Cartagena and Medellin and then travel to Bogota, be prepared to pack 3 different kind of clothing for each city’s climate.
Read this tips on how to pack for different climates!
- Cartagena – As Cartagena has a tropical climate be sure to pack your favourite pair of sunglasses, a hat and plenty of sun cream to protect you from the suns glare, light coloured flowing maxi dresses and skirts are perfect for women, men should purchase a ‘guayabera’ for a local clothing store, it’s kind of like a safari/camp shirt, popular in South America. Don’t forget to pack a printed swimsuit/bikini and cute cover-up to hit up Cartagena’s beaut sandy beaches.
- Medellin – For this fashionable city pack your favourite printed dresses and colourful tops team these with a pair of on trend jeans and you’ll fit right in, oh and don’t be afraid to show a little skin.
- Bogota – Think slightly conservative and sophisticated clothing (if you want to fit in, maybe you don’t though!), essentials include sunglasses for during the day, a pair of jeans or dark pants, a printed scarf and a light coat and jacket, dress up not down!
Colombia is the country with diverse weather so try to bring clothing to cover all weather conditions.
If you’ve forgotten an item or just fancy updating your holiday wardrobe Colombia has got it covered, there are lots of clothing stores in the major cities including international brands such as Zara, Diesel, Mango and Forever 21 and designer brands such as Carolina Herrera and Louis Vuitton. Other cool clothing brands include ELA, Ragged, Stradivarius, STOP Jeans and Arturo Calle for the men, hit up one of the local malls to find possibilities for every budget or browse the outdoor markets for unique crafts and budget clothing, ask at your hotel for the nearest market.
Colombia is a country with a buzzing fashion scene check out some of their local designers such as –
- Franca Lovely Chus – A shoe brand noted for its production of quirky, clunky-cool leather shoes created in bright colours and extravagant shapes, the shoes are entirely manufactured in Colombia.
- Maria Luisa Ortiz – The Red Label is a lower-cost alternative to the Maria Luisa Ortiz couture line, the brand has a contemporary feel.
- Leal Daccarett – Colombia’s most cutting-edge young apparel brands, think hippy-chic, featuring traditional craftsmanship and an edgy design.
Colombia is located very close to the equator – typical seasons aren’t present, however the weather changes as you travel through the country due to the range of altitudes and geographic conditions such as humid forests, tropical plains and deserts. The weather is consistent throughout the year with slight variations due to the dry and wet seasons. You can experience totally different climates within a couple hours of travel; the general rule is that the temperature will decrease by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by every 1000 feet increase in altitude, also the higher up you are the more of difference you will notice between day and night temps.
Read these tips on what to wear on a rainy day!
Dry/Verano (Summer) Season
Dry season usually runs from June – August and December – February, average highs are around 20 ºC and it is commonly sunny, pack light and relaxed clothing, a pair of sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. The dry season is the most pleasant time to pay a visit to the country, many festivals and fiestas take place during this season, and it is the perfect time to go hiking.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for summer travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Summer
- Summer Maxi Dresses
- Lightweight Jackets for Easy Layers
- The 10 Best Sandals for Travel this Summer
Wet/Invierno (Winter) Season
Wet season generally runs from March – May and September – November, the average temperature is again around 20 °C, fog, cloud and hailstorms can be common, pack light and comfortable clothing for during the day and a sweater and light jacket for chillier evenings. Oh and remember to pack waterproof shoes and an umbrella and rain jacket with hood.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- How to Pack for Cold Weather
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
What to Wear in Colombia: Bogota
Bogota is the capital city of Colombia, the weather in Bogota is quite consistent all year round. The typical temperature hovers around 14ᵒC rarely rises above around 20ᵒC and falls below 5ᵒC, the city has quite a cool climate compared to other Colombian cities. The driest months are commonly January, July, August and December, whilst the wettest run between April to May and September to November.
Read this tips on how to pack for different climates!
Be prepared, in Bogota you can experience all four seasons in one day. The best advice would be to layer, taking off or adding clothing depending on the weather! Pack your favourite pair of jeans or dark coloured trousers, simple coloured jersey t-shirts and blouses, a thin knit sweater, it gets cool at night, and a cute printed tea dress paired with tights to add a sense of femininity, pair with a cute cotton scarf and a chic waterproof jacket.
Take a look at these stylish and Insta-friendly water-resistant jackets!
Don’t let the cooler weather fool you; due to the country’s closeness to the equator you still need to pack your favourite sunnies and sun cream to protect you from the sun’s rays.
Shoe wise; pack a comfortable pair of waterproof boots or hiking shoes to combat the impulsive weather, also include a printed pair of sneakers and cut out closed toe sandals for when the weather is mild, don’t forget to pack an umbrella to face the wet season.
Looking for comfortable and cute walking shoes for travel? Read this post!
Don’t let the cooler weather put you off; check out all the beautiful cosmopolitan city has to offer, combat the weather and try a traditional Bogota drink – to warm up taste a hot chocolate and cheese portion or cool down with a glass of agua de panela (unrefined whole can sugar) with lime juice.
Street Style in Bogota
Photo: Diana Trujillo Neme with IconiaMagazine.com
What to Wear in Colombia: Caribbean Coast
The weather on the Caribbean coast is hot and humid; the temperature ranges from 24 to 33 in places such as Cartagena, Baranquilla and Santa Marta. The wet season typically runs from September to October; however there is significantly less rain that in Bogota.
Benefit the glorious weather and pack accordingly. Include natural coloured tunics and short sleeved tee’s to pair with button down maxi skirts, a cute pair of cut off denim shorts and a pair of printed loose trousers. Include a pretty printed maxi and tea dress and embellished playsuit to complete your wardrobe.
Here’s a list of tunics that you can shop now and wear all season long!
Opt for a vintage style kimono jacket and crocheted shawl as cover up options and don’t forget your swimwear to take advantage of the beautiful coast! The coast can get pretty hot and humid in the day, so the best advice would be to dress light, oh and don’t forget your sunscreen!
Here are the twenty-three best one piece swimsuits of the season!
Comfy shoes are a must as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking and sightseeing, pack a cute pair of pastel coloured sandals for relaxing on the beach. Pack a pair or good walking/hiking boots if your itinerary includes trekking to the lost city, in the mountains or through the amazon, a strong insect repellent would be useful for the latter.
Check out our comfortable walking sandals that don’t sacrifice style!
The coast is the perfect place for ‘fun in the sun’ offering you the idyllic slice of summer any time of the year. Colombia has a tasty selection of fruits – try the lemonade de coco a lemonade made with a Piña Colada coconut mix.
What to Wear in Colombia: Amazonas
It’s the rainforest, so it rains A LOT! The rain is generally all year round, however January to May is the most extreme, and the region is also insanely humid, with temperatures throughout the year in the high 20s.
Read these tips on what to wear on a rainy day!
Light, casual clothing that can be layered would be the best choice for the amazon, because of the heavy rainfall and humidity clothes are hard to dry (jeans would be a nightmare), bring enough clothes to last you all your trip and stick to polyester and nylon fabrics that dry quickly, be warned though, these fabrics can get humid in warm weather,
Stick to light-coloured clothing that reflect heat and sunlight and help avoid insects, think cottons and silks that are light and breathable and will absorb sweat and release body heat.
Read this tips to stop overpacking!
Be prepared for the extreme weather and pack accordingly, opt for a variation of short and long sleeved t’s and tunics, a selection of neutral trousers and printed shorts, a cute sweater, a printed kimono to be worn if planning a nice outing for a meal or drinks, oh and don’t forget you swimsuit and water shoes for bathing.
A lightweight waterproof jacket is a necessity for this region, perfect for keeping you dry on a cool evening, yet one that can be stuffed away on a warm clear day.
Find out why we love these lightweight jackets for travel!
A pair of comfortable waterproof walking shoes is essential for the amazon; bring a pair that dry easily.
What to Wear in Colombia: Coffee Region
The coffee region of Colombia is known for being pleasant, with temperatures varying between 17 and 25 degrees. Areas such as Medellín are considered to have the ‘perfect’ temperature. Again, there are two main seasons rainy and dry. If you plan on visiting areas around Medellín, check the altitude, for instance Santa Fe de Antioquia is warmer and Santa Elena is cooler.
Style in Medellin is quite casual, becoming more stylish in areas such as Poblado and Tessoro, good advice would be to layer, adding and removing clothing according to the heat, pack your favourite pair of skinny jeans, printed trouser, a light panelled sweater and a variety of neutral tee’s, blouses and tunics, skirts and dresses aren’t so common, apart from in the younger generation.
Learn how to pack lightly stylishly!
At night, women are more inclined to dress up. Pack an embellished cami top and cropped trousers, during the rainy season it can get chilly at night, pack a flowing cardigan or printed kimono, the ladies of Medellín are well presented with groomed hair, nails and clothing.
You rarely see shorts, sandals and flip flops whilst out and about, opt for cut out boots, cute brogues and printed sneakers and shoe choices; Medellin is a good place to buy shoes as many are manufactured locally.
Medellin feels like spring all year round, with pleasant weather and beautiful blooms, it is the perfect place for outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking and walking, be sure to pack some high factor sunscreen, the area had a high level of UV penetration.
Street Style in Medellin
Photos: Andrés Felipe Ramírez with IconiaMagazine.com
Colombia Travel Tips
The best tip when planning what to wear in Colombia would be to pack different types of clothing to cater for the diverse climate conditions. Check out the weather and temperature for the places you are visiting before travel, and pack accordingly, remember – don’t wear sandals and shorts in Bogota, even if you are a very casual traveller, not only will you feel cold, you will feel under-dressed for most occasions.
When visiting you may also want to consider the country’s holiday period, the high periods run from December to mid-January, Semana Santa (Holy Week: March or April) and from mid-June to mid-July, also take into account the three day weekends and regional celebrations such as Baranquilla de Carnaval. These are the best periods to interact with traveling Colombians in chilled, holiday mode, however transport can become more crowded, hotels fill up quicker and the price of a holiday may rise.
Enjoy Your Colombia Vacation!
For more South America packing list, please read:
- 6 Packing Tips for Traveling to South America
- Packing List for Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador
- What to Pack for Trips to Brazil: Packing List and Fashion Tips
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