Packing for Colombia is not easy. Depending on what cities you’re visiting, what you need to pack changes. While we don’t have seasons in Colombia, (and the weather is pretty much the same year round…except for dry and rain), we do have a variety of altitudes that determine each city’s weather. We have tropical rainforests, savannas, desert, grassland and mountain climates. I literally start having anxiety when packing time comes. It’s definitely not easy for me because we don’t go for less than 3 weeks (usually a month), and we also visit more than just Bogotá. Multiply that by 4 people!!! I’m getting anxious as I type. I always think I need to pack EVERYTHING and go nuts.
After a ton of thought, I came up with a list of pieces that I found to be the most useful for Colombia. Obviously, you should pack things you absolutely love and make you feel like yourself….so consider these only suggestions. I typically structure my packing with a core wardrobe for Bogotá…and then a few extra pieces that allow me to tweak my core wardrobe for all of Columbia’s many climates.
Packing: Start With Bogotá
Bogotá’s style facts:
Let’s start with Bogotá which is where I spend most of my time when I go to Colombia.
- Bogotá is NOT tropical. If you saw my tourist guide, you know that Bogotá is NOT a tropical destination. After all, it’s 2,600 meters or 8661 feet above sea level. It can get cold. There’s only one thing I can say about Bogotá’s weather: Be.prepared.for.anything! You’ll get a chilly morning, which will turn into a very hot noon. Were you enjoying that sun? Well get an umbrella and a jacket ready cause it’s going to pour for 5 minutes or more, sometimes it will hail. Yeah we don’t have winter or snow but we experience hail. Nights are chilly. Bring warm pajamas cause there’s not heating system.
- Bogotá is very cosmopolitan. I don’t dress much differently than I do in New York during early spring or fall. Which means: ankle boots or sneakers, skinny jeans, tee or sweater and a leather jacket. Shana’s New York outfit? Perfect! Ok, the gloves, big scarf and bennie are not necessary, but you get the picture.
- A big NO: Flip flops: only if you’re at the beach or pool. Not even in warmer weather cities. Sandals, shorts or too summery clothing either. I see this mistake too often and everybody will immediately know you’re a tourist. At the end I’ll add some pieces you can wear all around Colombia.
- You can bring your tall boots and wear the heck out of them. An outfit you will see in a lot of women is: cute top, jeans and tall boots. If you are only going to Bogotá or have space in your suitcase, pack your beloved tall boots.
- Leave your luxury designer bags or backpacks at home: Ok, people do carry backpacks but it’s one way to make yourself a target. Pickpocketing is real.
- Women in Colombia are fancy: They are very feminine and like to be pretty all the time. They love to have their hair and make up done, even if they are wearing the most casual outfit. Tell my mom to go out without make up. She’ll look straight at your eyes and say “primero muerta que sencilla” which means “first dead than plain” She is something. So, putting a little bit more effort on you appearance is something you can do and not feel weird about it. When I’m there I always take some time for a manicure, waxing, get my hair done, etc. It’s also way cheaper so…why not?
Bogota Outfit Examples
Here are a few outfits that I have worn (and loved) in Bogotá recently…..
My Bogotá Packing List
After going back to what I packed and wore while in Bogotá, I narrowed it down to these pieces. The ones I wore the most, styled as pictured or mixing them to create more outfits. (I apologize for the Madewell Obsession I have right now.)
- Bodysuit – Madewell Wrap Bodysuit – My love for bodysuits is real. 5 and counting. The feature I like the most is the permanent tuck that won’t untuck itself whenever I’m #mommying. I have this exact bodysuit in two colors and I wore it so much in Bogotá that I had to include it. The wrap is perfect. Are you tall? Don’t worry because this one has three rows of snaps to adjust to your need. I love dressing it up and down. I also have a black one from J.crew and love it.
- Denim Jacket – Madewell– A denim jacket will take you anywhere in the world and of course all around Colombia. You can layer over a sweater in Bogotá or over a tank top or dress in Medellin at night. Just saw this boxy cropped one and I can’t get it out of my head.
- Dark Wash or black jeans – Madewell Roadtripper jeans – Dark jeans are a must in Bogotá. I included the Madewell Roadtrippers I wore for my overnight flight and a couple of times during my trip. They are amazingly comfortable and flattering. More dark wash jeans I love.
- Fashion Sneakers – Adidas Superstar Sneakers (currently on sale): I wore these Super Star Adidas with metallic stripes all the time, still I do here in NY. Love the one with metallic pink stripes too.
Outfit 2, On The RIGHT
- Cashmere or Merino Wool sweater – Everlane Mock Neck Cashmere sweater: Breathable and temperature regulating materials will make Bogotá’s unpredictable weather so much better. Cashmere or Merino wool are great. Love the fit and drape of this sweater. It comes in a ton of colors and stripes.
- Leather Jacket – Madewell Washed Leather Jacket: A leather jacket will make you feel great in any big city of the world. It’s a must in my everyday life and you’ll see a lot of people wearing theirs in Colombia. I personally prefer real leather jackets, they are an investment and something you’ll have forever.
- Your favorite jeans – LEVI’S 501 skinny jeans: You will be fine with a dark wash and a lighter wash. Colombia will be the place to wear your favorite most flattering skinny jeans. You’ll see a lot of women wearing skin-tight jeans designed to make the bum look big. Colombia is very famous for that. I personally don’t like them much. So, these are my new favorite and I feel amazing in them. They are TTS but need to be broken in. I also wore my mile high Levi’s skinny’s A LOT.
- Walkable heeled boots – Seychelles Audition Boots – A pair of ankle boots with walkable heel are a must in Bogotá. These burgundy boots have been an amazing addition to my wardrobe. They are incredibly comfortable to walk in and look fancy enough if I need them to be. Another pair that I didn’t have when I went to Colombia but I would have loved to have there were these Marc Fisher heeled combat boots. They would have been great for day and night too. More boots with walkable heel below:
- Simple jewelry – Ear Crawlers: You can either wear minimal jewelry or inexpensive statement jewelry. As a matter of fact, you can get some statement jewelry in craft markets during your visit. I’m more of a minimal person so I love these small ear crawlers.
- Earrings for night-time – Front Big Hoop Earrings: or statement earrings. They are great to keep in your bag so you can put them on for night-time without changing your whole outfit.
- Convertible bag – Rebecca Minkoff Bree Top Zip Satchel: Satchels or crossbody bags are my favorite when I’m in Colombia. I need my bags where I can see them and keep my hand on them. This satchel has a zipper, which is amazing to keep hands off your things. Wear this one as a crossbody during the day and as a top handle at night. By the way I find this color to work great for all seasons. The black one is part of ShopBop Sale.
- Guitar Strap – Rebecca Minkoff Guitar strap: this is the easiest way to get two bags out of one. I only took two bags to Colombia but by switching the straps I was able to get different looks. This rainbow one gives a fun and casual touch to the satchel.
- Sunglasses – Le Specs –Not pictured – But sunglasses are very needed. Remember you’re going to be closer to the sun. Sunlight in Bogotá is very harsh so sunscreen and sunglasses are a must. After stupidly losing my Rayban and Kate Spade aviators, I found these. They are half the price and look amazing. They are also great to disguise pickpockets because they don’t have any visible logo.
Packing: The Rest of Colombia
Even though Bogotá can be colder than the rest of the country, it doesn’t mean that Colombia is super cold. There’s always space for some items that you can wear in different and warmer cities like Medellín or Cartagena.
Outfit Examples (From the Warmer Climates)
Here are a few outfits I wore in some of Colombia’s warmer cities.
Colombia Packing List Extras
Maxi dress – Free people Gorgeous Jess Wrap dress (Shopbop Sale) Have you ever worn a maxi dress in the fall with boots and leather jacket? You can do that in Bogotá and then wear by itself with sandals in warmer cities. This dress is almost identical to one I wore last summer all the time. Great for postpartum and extremely nursing friendly too. Available at Nordstrom too.
Pretty spring tops: There’s no reason to stay away from color or more springy tops. While dark colors are more dominant in Bogotá, bold colors can go great with jeans, sneakers and a jacket.
- Red top – Free People Aster Henley top I’m obsessed with this light and flowy top, although I would have to get the smallest one since it seems to run big.
- Denim Top – Madewell Denim Wrap Top – Madewell did a great job with this top.I just got it and it’s soft, breathable and no too cropped. I wear it with high-waist jeans. It actually comes in a lot of fabrics and colors. All the options below:
Loafers: Everlane Modern Tassel Loafer Mule I love loafers. They are a little more dressed up than sneakers yet casual and comfortable. Women in Bogotá wear a lot of flat shoes: loafers, mules, oxfords. Good thing about them is that they also look good with dresses and shorts in warmer weather.
Colombia Packing List….The Outfits
Now to actually show you how to wear these pieces all around Colombia, I chose two other cities with different weather than Bogotá: Medellín and Cartagena.
- Medellín: is usually referred to as the “eternal spring” Its altitude is a little lower than Bogotá’s which makes the city warmer. With the warmer weather women dress more uncovered. If you’re looking to try crop tops and not feel weird about it do it in Medellín.
- Cartagena: Tropical paradise. Get all your flowy dresses, wide leg pants, maxi skirts. If you’ve been to San Juan, Puerto Rico, you’ll find a lot of similitude with Cartagena. At least I did.
So, this is it. A little bit of Colombian fashion. Don’t forget that you can get all those pretty hand-crafted accessories there. Great summer hats, statement jewelry and even amazing hand crafted leather bags. I always like to grab some hats, single earrings with unique feathers, or some necklaces with very special seashells. You’ll find craft markets in a lot of places. In Bogotá you can find them in La Candelaria and Usaquen. There’s a market next to the Gold Museum too that I love.
Come and let’s hang on Instagram (@theunbosom) for more of this Colombian mom raising two kids away from home and family. More style and just real life. I’m a fan of being raw and vulnerable on social media.