Country guides South & Central America
Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with round grounding pin) plugs are in use.
Spanish is the official language of Colombia.
The unit of currency is the Colombian Peso (COP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Banks have no fixed policy on exchanging cash. Some provide the service, some do not, and different banks can differ on this from day to day. Cash can be exchanged at casas de cambio, or money exchange bureaux, located in cities and border towns.
US Dollars are preferred for most exchanges. Visitors are warned to beware of fake US Dollars, which are printed in Colombia. Credit cards, especially Visa, are widely accepted and are welcome at top hotels and restaurants, travel agents and car rental agencies. In the main towns and cities ATMs are prevalent, but cards should be used with caution for security reasons.
Tipping is common and expected for most services. Waiters in restaurants should receive 10 percent of the bill if it hasn't automatically been added. Porters expect around a dollar per bag. It's not obligatory to tip taxi drivers, but 10 percent is appreciated. Hotels usually add a service charge of 16 percent to the bill.
Mosquito borne illnesses like dengue fever, Zika and malaria are prevalent in Colombia. Visitors must be sure to take preventative measures, pack enough mosquito repellent and wear concealing clothing. Visitors should not drink tap water, unbottled beverages or drinks with ice.
Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere so travel insurance is essential. If you require prescription medication while travelling then it is best to take your medication with all the necessary documents from your doctor to help you get it through customs.
Once considered one of the world's most dangerous countries, Colombia has transformed itself into the darling of South American travel. As is the case in most countries with big urban sprawls, petty theft remains an issue so sensible precautionary measures should be taken.
Militias left over from the civil war and those involved in the drug trade still operate in the frontier regions near Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. Travellers can avoid them by sticking to the main routes or going on organised tours. Anyone looking to visit the Lost City in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta should opt for a tour.
Family is a core aspect of Colombian society, and traditional household roles are widely celebrated. Family will also always take precedence over business or friends, so it's important not to take offence if sidelined for a family matter. Religion, particularly Christianity, is also an important facet of Colombian culture.
Homosexuality is not widely accepted and it's sadly advised that same-sex couples couples be discreet. Colombians use both their maternal and paternal surnames, with the paternal surname listed first and used in conversation if addressing someone by his or her title.
If visiting a local in their home, the usual dinner party gifts like wine or chocolates. Table manners are important too, so guests should always keep their hands above the table; refrain from sitting or eating until invited by your host; and avoid eating with your hands.
Formality in Colombian business is expected, more so inland than at the coast, and this applies to protocol as well as to dress. Punctuality for appointments is important, regardless of whether the host is there on time or not, and handshakes are customary on arriving and departing.
Many business people speak English, although all presentation materials and documentation should be translated into Spanish and the use of visual aids used where possible. It might be necessary to use a translator, but it's best to check beforehand to avoid causing offence.
Business cards should also be printed in both English and Spanish. The importance of building social relationships should not be underestimated, and small talk before and after meetings is vital towards building a sense of trust and goodwill. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Travellers to Colombia over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500g of tobacco; perfume for personal use; and 2 bottles of alcohol per passenger.
The international dialling code for Colombia is +57. WiFi is widely available in most cities, with free access usually found in cafes, restaurants and hotels.
Passport & Visa
All tourists visiting Colombia must hold valid passports, tickets, and documents for onward or return travel, and sufficient funds to cover their stay. Tourists must have confirmed accommodation on arrival. We recommend that passports be valid for six months after the intended period of travel. Visitors traveling to San Andres (ADZ) are required to purchase a Tourist Card. Fee: approx. COP 108,974. Visitors traveling to Leticia (LET) are required to purchase a Tourist Card. Fee: Varies between COP 8,400 and COP 21,000.
US nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay, but do not require a visa for tourist stays of up to 90 days.
British nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
Canadians must hold a passport valid for the period of intended stay, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
Australians must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
South Africans must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. South Africans require a visa which can be obtained online before departure, at www.cancilleria.gov.co. Passengers must have printed e-visa confirmation.
Irish nationals must have a passport valid period of intended stay, but do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days.
New Zealanders require a passport valid period of intended stay, but no visa is necessary for a touristic stay of up to 90 days.
Useful contacts123 (general emergencies), 1 337 4413 (tourist police)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Embassy of Colombia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 387 8338.
Embassy of Colombia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7589 9177.
Embassy of Colombia, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 230 3760.
Consulate-General of Colombia, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9955 0311.
Embassy of Colombia, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 012 362 3106.
Embassy of Colombia, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 563 7727.
Consulate of Colombia, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 499 5534.
Embassies / consulates in Colombia
United States Embassy, Bogota: +57 1 275 2000.
British Embassy, Bogota: +57 1 326 8300.
Canadian Embassy, Bogota: +57 1 657 9800.
Australian Embassy, Bogota: +57 1 6577800.
South African Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela (also responsible for Colombia): +58 212 952 0026.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Bogota: +57 1 432 0695.
New Zealand Consulate, Bogota: +57 1 4391666.