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How to Act Like a Local on Colombia's Caribbean Coast

How to Act Like a Local on Colombia's Caribbean Coast

No one wants to look like the fumbling tourist during a vacation. You know the type – peering at a large map, perpetually lost while a huge camera dangles from the neck. It might not be possible to be mistaken for a local along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, but you can at least make an attempt to blend in. Here are some ways to act like a local during your trip:

Eat and Drink at Mom and Pop Spots

Cities along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast such as Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Cartagena and Palomino are known for boasting delicious gastronomy. Expect to fill your belly with dishes such as ceviche, seafood bisque, fried plantains, fried fish, coconut rice and fish soup. But you don’t have to hit the high-end restaurants to get a lip-smacking experience. Many locals eat corrientazo, a lunch special offered at many small restaurants that usually costs between 3 and 6 USD. Even when the lunch specials aren’t available, you can bet these small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve authentic food for a reasonable price.

When it comes to bars or getting drinks, walk a bit away from the main plazas in the cities. Many locals along the coast drink at neighborhood corner stores. It’s the perfect place to watch a futbol match and practice your Spanish in a relaxed environment.

Learn to Dance to Vallenato

Vallenato, pronounced with the “b” sound at the beginning, is a type of Colombian music that originated on the coast. While the genre is popular in many regions of Colombia, Costeños (people from the coast) have a special place in their hearts for this type of music that features an accordion, drums and an instrument that produces of jovial scratching sound. Vallenato isn’t the trickiest Latin music genre to dance to, but it does take some practice. Learn to dance then hit a club that plays this unique Colombian music, you will be sure to be surrounded by locals also enjoying the lively tunes.

Get Accustomed to Coastal Mannerisms and Culture

Costeños are pretty relaxed people. Don’t be surprised at the informal way business is conducted. Punctuality isn’t imperative and things often happen at a slower pace. Well, except for the way people from the coast talk. Expect to hear some rapid-fire Spanish with a lot of clipped words on the coast. In general, Costeños are warm, friendly and ready for the next party. As you can imagine, they are a fun group of people to encounter during a vacation.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

Since the coast of Colombia is hot and humid, locals tend to dress to keep cool. While you won’t catch people in Bogota wearing flip flops, opened-toe shoes are normal on the streets of Cartagena, Santa Marta and other coastal cities. Be sure to pack light, breathable clothes for your trip. The locals know how to stay cool and you’ll want to as well.

Colombia’s Caribbean is such a uniquely wonderful part of Colombia. Be sure to enjoy the nature, culture and people during your visit.