Below I have compiled a packing guide for teaching abroad in Colombia. Keep in mind, these are my personal suggestions and what I wish I had known before packing.
Backpack or rolling suitcase?
I’ll admit, we over-packed. Between Kon and I, we both used our travel packs and shared a large, rolling suitcase. However, it is difficult to try to fit everything inside a travel pack. If you do opt to use a rolling suitcase, make sure to bring a backpack for weekend trips! (I use Osprey’s Farpoint 55 pack with a detachable day pack. I’m obsessed. BEST.PURCHASE.EVER. I even made Kon get one.)
First, a few tips about Colombia
– Colombians are stylish! People here take pride in how they look. Dressing like a backpacker didn’t seem appropriate for me.
– Clothes here are not cheap! You won’t find fun, cheap clothes like the markets of Thailand. Think $20 USD minimum for a shirt.
– Shoe sizes here are small. Ladies and gents with the big feet (me included), don’t rely on finding some new sneakers once you arrive.
* Jacket- Bogotá stays around 60-65 Fahrenheit (15-19 C).
* Jeans– or a pair of pants (something you can also use for school, like cropped jeans)
* Layers– light sweater/hoodie or a light, long-sleeved top.
– Teaching– Most schools require semi-conservative dress. Think knee-length or longer pants and dress. Sleeveless is okay but avoid anything low-cut or back exposing. You don’t have to dress fancy– don’t worry about heels, ties, etc.
* Sleeveless dress shirts
* Breezy dress shirts
* Linen pants!
* Capris or long skirts
– Coastal Climate
* Jeans – GASP- what?! In hot, humid weather? Yep. Everyone here wears jeans. I have a cropped pair with and I wear them to school often.
* Tops– Colombian women love wearing the off-the-shoulder look. I brought a few to wear outside of school.
* Dresses/rompers– throw one on, outfit=done.
* Swimsuit– (hell, I brought 3. But don’t be me)
* Plenty of underwear– did I mention its HOT? To prevent swamp ass, you’ll want enough fresh undies.
* Optional: Nice out fit. I brought a few for the nights we went out dancing. Think cute, black dress that can be dressed up or down. You don’t need full-on clubbing clothes.
– Athletic shoes
– Flats (“school shoes”)- It was okay to wear sandals (NOT flip-flops) at my school but I was happy to have my Converse with.
– Sandals (x2)- I brought a brown and black pair of gladiator-style sandals and have almost worn them out.
– Optional: fun shoes. I packed a pair of black, strappy heels (SHORT heel) and I don’t regret it. There were plenty of nights where I wanted to dress a little nicer for dinner or clubbing.
– Prescriptions– We weren’t approved for the Colombian insurance (EPS) until our third month in Colombia. Bring enough for a month or two.
– Sleep-aids– The only medication we could find was way too expensive. We couldn’t even find melatonin so we resorted to LOTS of “sleepy-time” tea.
– Ear plugs– You’ll be sharing a room with at least three people at orientation.
– Contraceptives– I’ve heard you can find birth control pills in Colombia, but I didn’t try. Condoms are also quite expensive here.
– Make-up: I brought a fresh batch of everything. However, you can find brands like Covergirl here for about the same price as the U.S.
– Razor and refills– Most razors here are cheap, disposables. If you prefer a stubble-free shave, I’d bring a decent one from home.
Bottom line: You can find most toiletries in Colombia. I chose to bring most of mine so I didn’t have to spend the stipend on stocking up. But if you forget something, it’s not the end of the world.
– Portable charger– We use ours ALL.THE.TIME.
– Laptop (Optional)- I used mine to write lessons for school, to work on my Spanish, to work on our blog, and catch up on Netflix.
– Flash drive (if you have a laptop)- Useful to bring worksheets, music, documents, etc to school.
– EXTRA IPHONE CHARGER– Apple products are scarce here. If you have an iPhone, I would suggest grabbing an extra charger, just in case.
– Optional: Portable speaker. We didn’t have one and regretted it. It would’ve been useful in the classroom, to play music at home, or hanging out by the pool.
Bottom line: We also brought a DSLR camera and GoPro to document our travels but they are, obviously, unnecessary. My Kindle has been nice to have along. (Hint- you can download ebooks from your local library at home to read while you’re here!)
– Sunglasses– You can find sunnies cheap here but the quality isn’t ideal.
– Pens (black ink)
– Optional– Trinkets for students. Some fellows brought small things like stickers or pencils with English writing.
What can I (easily) get in Colombia?
– Crocs (Hah! But seriously, it’s the coastal Colombian shoe of choice. Not that you should follow suit)
– Bug spray
– Yellow Fever vaccination (At the airport (for FREE) or clinics in your placement city)
Have any questions on what to bring? Comment below and we’ll help guide you!