Tips & Tricks for traveling to Colombia
Things you need to know before visiting Colombia
Prior to travel
- Make sure your passport is still valid before you travel. For more information, visit http://www.colombia.travel/en/practical-information/visa
- Check with your bank if you need to unlock Colombia to make cash withdrawals at ATMs.
- Depending on the activities planned, you should get necessary clothes and equipment before traveling. For example, size 44 and bigger shoes are difficult to get around Colombia.
- Make sure you have the necessary vaccinations
- Colombia has not remained in its history and security has been massively improved. Police and military are numerous and well trained. Especially in tourist places, the authorities have a watchful eye.
- In most regions you can move safely.
- “Dar Papaya” in Colombia, which means “to offer the thief the loot”. One should therefore refrain from wearing jewelry and the like.
- Avoid carrying valuables or protect them accordingly.
- Instead of the originals, it is better to carry a copy of your travel documents.
- A detailed blog on the subject follows
DOS and Don’ts
- The Colombians are extremely friendly people and love foreigners. Even if you do not speak Spanish, try to communicate, even with your hands and feet.
- Pablo Escobar is not a national hero but a dark spot in the history of Colombia. In general, Colombians do not like Pablo Escobar tours and alike. Also the reduction to “Narcos” on Netflix does not come well. Colombians know that the country is one of the main producers of cocaine, so one should not just talk about drugs.
- The same goes for prostitution and the like. Colombia is a very Catholic country and very conservative in parts.
- Football, food, the beauty of the country and women, culture, history and traditions are always good topics to discuss.
- In Colombia, you pay only with the local currency, the Colombian Peso (COP). You can withdraw cash at all ATMs and pay at locations such as hotels, supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. by credit card.
- The network of cash machines is large and cash dispensers are often available even in smaller towns.
- Cash withdrawals at ATMs are limited. Mostly COP 700,000.- is the maximum at once. This is approximately USD 250.-. However, you can withdraw money several times in succession.
- There is no reason to take cash or travel checks from abroad.
- You can change money at the airport after arrival, but this is tedious and you have to give a fingerprint, the exchange rate is also not very good.
- In restaurants one is asked if the tip should be on the bill. With normal service this is to be agreed. The tip is usually 10%.
- The tip is not always requested separately. Check your bill to avoid tipping twice.
- You can also deviate from the 10%.
Clothing and equipment
- There are a lot of shops in the big cities. The fashion industry in Colombia is very well developed but has been in crisis for several years. Therefore, you can get good design for low prices.
- Sizes for dresses and shoes are limited because the average Colombian is not that tall.
- For most nationalities, a tourist visa is granted for 90 days upon arrival in the country without any additional requirements. This can be extended up to 180 days.
- For more information about visas please refer to the homepage of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/tramites_servicios/visa or
Customs and goods declaration
- Personal items and the following items are duty free: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 250 g of tobacco, 2 liters of alcoholic beverages and gifts up to a value of $ 1,500.
- $ 10,000 may be imported duty-free to Colombia. To introduce a higher value you have to fill in the form 530.
- For foreigners, some services are exempt from VAT (19%).
- Tourists can reclaim VAT at the airport prior to check-in. Find out about the exact process in beforehand, as it is a bit tricky.
Optimal travel time / weather
- Colombia has a wide variety of regions due to its geographical location and topography. Generally, it can be differentiated between rainy and dry season.
- Almost in all regions it can rain anytime.
- More detailed weather information will follow in another blog.
- Colombia’s official language is Spanish.
- Colombians generally do not speak foreign languages.
- There are over 50 recognized indigenous languages.
- The national emergency number is 123
- The police and the army are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense.
- On site you can see “Policia Nacional” or “Policia de turismo”, which provide security. “Policia de turismo” usually speak English.
- Check points are partially operated by the army.
- Colombians love food and drinks! The land is very fertile and crops can be harvested several times a year.
- Colombians generally drink beer, wine is not very popular.
- A good party includes scotch and aguardiente.
- The food is divers and varies by region.
- Arepas in various variants are offered throughout the country and are, so to speak, the national dish.
- Colombia is world champion in public holidays. There are 18 public holidays, which are usually celebrated on a Monday.
- During a Colombia vacation or a round-trip, keep in mind the public holidays as Colombians like to travel within the country.
- On public holidays, hotels are generally more expensive and tourist attractions overcrowded.
- Colombia is in South America, clocks run on a different pace.
- Colombians are generally unpunctual.
- In big cities there is usually a lot of traffic and traffic jams.
- The average speed for traveling on roads is about 40 km / h. There are hardly any highways and tunnels, but many mountains and trucks.
- Colombians line up in front of shops and restaurants.
Nightlife and party
- In Colombia, you can celebrate incredible good parties.
- Watch your drink to avoid being drugged.
- Order a taxi or Uber via app or phone for transport.
- Be careful and do not trust strangers.
- Protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases.
- There are official taxis at the airport. At the providers directly at the exits you should pass and visit the official taxi rank.
- In cities and especially at night, a taxi should be ordered by app or phone.
- There are also Uber in the cities.
- If you do not have a phone or app, ask at a store or hotel to order a taxi.
- Cars can be rented in Colombia. For stays of less than 6 months, a foreign driver’s license is valid.
- Road traffic can be described as generally unfriendly.
Blog Frank Spitzer