International Travel, Itineraries & Trip Planning

What to Pack for Colombia: the Carry-On Only Colombia Packing List

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As a platinum member of the no-checked bags club, I’m all about packing versatile items that can get squished without a problem. When it came to packing for our 10 days in Colombia, I had to do some extra planning to make it all work because, well, Colombia’s geographical diversity also means a whole lot of weather diversity.

To save you the trouble of trying to figure out what to pack for Colombia, here’s a carry-on only Colombia packing list.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a minimalist packing list, I promise. You’ll have fresh outfits, yet you’ll still be able to fit it all in a carry-on.

What to wear in Colombia 

Despite its relatively small size, Colombia hosts a large range of climates. This list reflects our time in Bogota, Medellin, Guatape, and Cartagena on a trip that mixed active excursions with museum visits and days lounging around doing not much at all.

Your needs may differ depending on the time of year you visit Colombia and the places you go, but here’s a general clothes packing list for Colombia that will take you from the high 40s to the low 100s (Fahrenheit), from the sudden downpours to the sunniest and most humid of days, and from climbing mountains to perusing museums.

Guatape town

Outerwear to pack for Colombia

  1. One versatile jacket – With only a carry-on, you’re going to need to limit yourself to one piece of outerwear. Given the range of temperatures, your best bet is something midweight that can be zipped up for the colder nights and draped for the temperate days. My go-to is generally one of my leather jackets, but this Patagonia Nanopuff is also pretty amazing. (It’s got some water resistance as well, just not for the downpours!)
  2. Rain jacket – Because those downpours definitely happen in Bogota, you’ll want to bring some rain gear as well. I’ve always loved the Marmot PreCip because it is lightweight, versatile, and packs easily.
Botero bird of peace in San Antonio Plaza, Medellin

Clothes to pack for Colombia

I should start by noting that usually I’m very much a wear & re-wear sort of person. But I knew the heat and humidity in parts of Colombia would make that pretty difficult without a trip to the laundromat. So instead, I decided to embrace having a new outfit every day.

Here’s my packing list for 10 days in Colombia + two flying days.

  1. One set of clothes for the chillier days in Bogota – I packed a long-sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans for this.
  2. One set of workout clothes – You’ll want a slightly warmer set of workout clothes for your hike up Monserrate in Bogota. It can get chilly and rainy, especially at the summit. Workout clothes I wore to hike Monserrate in Bogota
  3. 6 short-sleeve shirts or tank tops – Versatility is key here. Look for the solid-colored pieces that will allow you to easily mix and match with bottoms in all sorts of climates. Longline sports bras that double as tops and bras are also fantastic options.
  4. 5 pairs of shorts, skirts, or lightweight pants – Again, think versatility. I packed two pairs of shorts, a pair of lightweight pants, and a jumpsuit, plus a maxi skirt that was breezy and looked good for a photoshoot walk in Cartagena.
  5. 1 indulgent outfit – This is so not how I usually pack (see this 5-month packing list for Asia for evidence), but if you’re looking for a day of glamour, feel free to throw in something lightweight and resistant to wrinkling. cartagena doors
  6. Underwear – Pack more than you usually would because the hot and humid days of Colombia’s Caribbean coast will have you showering multiple times a day. If you want to be more minimalist, bring these quick-drying ExOfficio underwear that you can easily wash in the sink or shower.
  7. 1-2 swimsuits – You should be able to get away with having just one swimsuit, especially if you have a quick-drying one!
  8. 1-2 cover-ups – I got a little extra indulgent on this trip and decided to pack a second cover-up that doubled as a lightweight wrap.
  9. PJs – Old shirts, tank tops, gym shorts, whatever. It can get a little cold at night in Bogota, and if you’re in a hostel, your roommates may not want to see your birthday suit.
  10. 2-3 pairs of socks – For the flying and hiking days.
playa blanca hotel
On our balcony

Shoes to pack for Colombia

  1. Sneakers or lightweight hiking shoes – There are mountains to climb in Colombia! Having closed-toed options will also help keep your feet warm on the colder days in Bogota. I opted for a lightweight pair of dance/walking sneakers that were more amenable to being squished in my bag whenever I didn’t need them.
  2. Comfortable walking sandals – For all the other times when you need to do a lot of walking but want it to be cooler and airier. These Eurosoft sandals are so ridiculously comfortable and versatile, and it’s easy to pair them with a lot of different outfits.
  3. Flip flops – For the beach days and the shower times, especially if you’re staying in hostels!

Other things to pack for Colombia

  1. Camera/smartphone and associated chargers – Who doesn’t want photos of this gorgeous country?
  2. Book or iPad – You’re going to want some reading material for the flights and bus rides.
  3. External battery packs – I feel incomplete if I don’t have at least one backup source of power for my electronics. Anyone else?
  4. Toiletries – Per your personal needs.
  5. Sunscreen and sunscreen chapstick – I sat outside for two beers and got burned. The sun near the equator is strong!
  6. Bug repellent lotion – You’re going to want it in the hotter, more insect-prone Caribbean areas. If you’re DEET-sensitive, this Picaridin lotion works great.
  7. Imodium – One of my travel must-haves because you never know when things may not sit so well.
  8. Any medications or other personal necessities
  9. 1 pair of sunglasses – You’re definitely going to need to protect your eyes from the high-altitude rays in Bogota and the endless sun everywhere else. Plus, who likes squinting everywhere?
  10. Quick-dry towel – Useful for hostels and beach days.
  11. Travel pillow, earplugs, and eye mask – I’m all about getting that sleep on planes these days. I’ve had this machine-washable silk eye mask for 3+ years and I’m always the saddest when I forget it on a trip.
  12. Passport, credit and debit cards, other important documents, and some cash on hand.

Ready for Colombia? Don’t forget to check out my other tips and itineraries for Colombia, and pin this to share it!

what to pack for colombia pinterest image

2 thoughts on “What to Pack for Colombia: the Carry-On Only Colombia Packing List

  1. I am dying to visit Colombia soon. This is such an awesome guide. I love everyone of your outfits especially the skirt in the pin image.

    1. Thanks, Bianca! I’m typically not huge on dressing up when traveling but Colombia was just too good for a dress-up opp to pass up!

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