Staging, in Colombia, for a 2024 cycle tour around South America

Okay, this is my 2nd attempt (with proper spelling).


I am planning on traveling to Colombia and to spend some time there, and in Ecuador, as I prepare for a cycle tour throughout South America, that would begin around this time in 2024. I plan on spending this time to improve my Spanish language skills (pretty basic at the moment), preparing my bike and gear, cycling to gain familiarity of possible routes, and basically getting comfortable with the culture & climate.


If I understand the current visa guidelines correctly, I can stay in each country for 90 days (180 with an extension). I have a place to live lined up in Ecuador, but I will need to find a place to rent while in Colombia. Does anyone have advice on the best process for finding/renting an inexpensive & safe place to live? I do not intend to rent a property ahead of arrival, because I don't know enough to trust sending money in advance. So, I'm posting here in hopes that an expat might be able to give me some insights on their experiences and that have a trustworthy person who might be able to help get me set up.


Also, as you (expats) have a foot-on-the-ground there, how is the current environment for foreigners (an American) in Colombia. I have Ecuadorian friends here in the U.S. that have filled me in on the tensions in that country, but I do not know much about Colombia's current state of affairs.


I've watched a number of videos, of other bike travelers, and have a basic understanding of what I can expect as far as geography and weather. However, any additional thoughts/advice/warnings on my plans to bike in South America would be greatly appreciated.


My arrival will either be in Cartagena or Bogota, but I'm hoping your opinions will help enlighten me further.


Thanks in advance!


Jim

Regarding where to stay in Colombia, it will make a big difference where you want to stay.

if you want to be in a big urban metro area: Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Santa Marta, or Baranquilla, rents will be higher.

my suggestion would be to look in the 2nd tier cities of Colombia, Pereira, Armenia, Manizales, etc and rather than look for an apartment perhaps check out spending a month in a hostel, then moving to another location.

Also, speaking one cyclist to another, be ready for insane traffic, particularly the motos. Be prepared for some horrendous rains, and be ready to ride thru construction zones that would almost qualify as off road racing venues from time to time.

Obviously, these things are the exception rather than the rule, but if you spend 3 months riding in Colombia I can almost guarantee you will experience all of them.

2 final thoughts: 

have your security system worked out, how will you handle a robbery if it occurs, where will you stash your finds and valuables, what kind of security will you have for you bike and gear?

Be ready for BIG STEEP hills if you leave the coastal region and venture into the mountains.  You will need low gears, excellent tires and wheels, and damned good brakes!

I live in Medellin, and the road up to my apartment tops out at a kneebusting 27.5% grade, and that isn't unusual in eje cafetero, thats why I now ride a nice ebike. 


This isnt meant to discourage you.  if you are adventureous you will find Colombia to be a wonderland of sights, smells, sounds, and experiences.  the culture is open and welcoming, and Colombia is a cycling hotspot.

Good Luck,

preparation=luck!

@Marquezdl  Thanks for this input. It's good to hear from a fellow cyclist and to get the "real story" about what to expect. I am in the habit of never letting the bike out of my sight and, if I have to, I go early and lock it up thoroughly. I am a bit intimidated by the extreme climbs, since my last tour was in 2019 and my climbing legs are a bit out of practice, but that's why I wanted to move down early and spend time acclimating. And, thank you for the advice about accommodations! I do not want to pay "American" prices, so the hostel idea is is a good option. As well as finding a place in a 2nd tier community. Thanks again! I'm not 100% sure I'm ready to commit but, if I do, maybe I'll see you on a ride.

Although I am not a cyclist per se I have traveled everywhere in Colombia and been doing so since my first long stay in Bogota in the winter of 1990............so 33 years of visiting every city and pueblo and coastal town (both Colombia and Ecuador) doing mainly road trips in my personal Medellin registered car, have driven almost every region in Colombia, I know the roads very well........Marquezdl comments are spot on:


"𝑨𝒍𝒔𝒐, 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒄𝒚𝒄𝒍𝒊𝒔𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒂𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓, 𝒃𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒚 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒊𝒏𝒔𝒂𝒏𝒆 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒇𝒇𝒊𝒄, 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒕𝒐𝒔. 𝑩𝒆 𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒅𝒐𝒖𝒔 𝒓𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒃𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒚 𝒕𝒐 𝒓𝒊𝒅𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒓𝒖 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒛𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒂𝒍𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒒𝒖𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒚 𝒂𝒔 𝒐𝒇𝒇 𝒓𝒐𝒂𝒅 𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒗𝒆𝒏𝒖𝒆𝒔 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆.


𝑶𝒃𝒗𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒍𝒚, 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒙𝒄𝒆𝒑𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒓𝒖𝒍𝒆, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒊𝒇 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒅 3 𝒎𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒉𝒔 𝒓𝒊𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒊𝒏 𝑪𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒎𝒃𝒊𝒂 𝑰 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒂𝒍𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒈𝒖𝒂𝒓𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒎."

@South American Voyager  Thanks! I've cycled through 25 countries to date and have experienced much of what you've both attest to. I've been researching various vBlogs (& [link moderated]) from other cyclist and have seen what you both speak of, but it also appears that once you get out of the major cities and tourist destinations, there is much less traffic (unless you are on a trucker's route). The reason I was looking at coming down months early was to explore and get a feel for the traffic, roadways, and best routes. 


I've seen how inexpensive it is to rent a space, so I'm really hoping to gather information as to how to avoid places that wish to charge higher prices when they see I'm from the U.S.   I agree that the hostel option, to start, would be best. But even some of those charge higher prices in tourist area. Since I have to have some sort of accommodations lined up before flying in, I will most likely have to pay that price. But, then, I would hope to quickly locate a better, inexpensive living arrangement. That's my goal, anyway. Thanks again!

I'm a lifetime cyclist, hiker, and walker, and for about 10 years now have lived in Colombia, I have visited, and backpacked, seven other South American countries. I have visited and spent time in more than 200 towns and a few cities in SA. Of the countries I have visited-Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with a few very brief incursions into Brazil, you will find Colombia is the only one that can be called 'cyclist friendly'. But even at that, it is nothing like what you are accustomed to in North America. The other countries are in no way cyclist-friendly. Throughout SA the majority of roads have little or no paved shoulder, and if there is a shoulder it will be a not-pleasant place for your bike's tires. Drivers of any type of motor vehicle in SA simply don't know how to share the road with cyclists.


The route I preferred, as a backpacker, was the eastern side of the Andes while in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Northern Chile is simply boring and not pleasant (all Atacama Desert). The drawback to the eastern side of the Andes, called La Selva, is there are just about no flat, level, stretches of road of any decent length. You will be going up/down constantly. The coasts of those countries will be flatter, but not flat, and will be littered, very littered. I don't like the Pacific Coast of those countries. Then you get into Argentina (I backpacked through Northern Arg) and it will be quite mountainous, and before long will flatten out on the way to Paraguay, which will be more flat with some hills, no big mountains. Then Uruguay, mostly flat, with no mountains at all, some rolling hills, and lots of wind. I did not enter Bolivia due to not meeting the entry requirements and not being able to do so at the border crossing I was at. And, speaking of Bolivia, I have read many blogs/sites about how the border people will help you obtain everything you need to enter the country. Don't believe a word of it. At the Salvador Mazza border crossing, they didn't help me with anything at all, they simply gave me a list of requirements and that was the end of it.


I really enjoyed South Paraguay and visiting the various Jesuit ruins, and will go back to that region again.

I was in Uruguay during May and it was cold, especially at night, single digit temps. The Northern Hemisphere summer = the Southern Hemisphere winter. Keep that in mind for your schedule.


As for hostels, if you rely on a book or google maps or online sites you will find only a small fraction of the hostels that exist. The vast majority of hostels have no internet presence. When you arrive in a town simply ride up/down every road and look for hostel/habitación/residencia signs. Residencias are the cheapest, but usually really crappy places. Habitaciones are often the same as residencias or sometimes a room in a house.

Hope that helps.

My website/blog: wiegand.org