Colombia Tips

 

Dear Colombia visitor,

On behalf of the staff of EcoAmerica Tours, we wish you a most pleasant experience exploring this exciting destination. Its ever-changing geography, a history loaded with mystery and adventure, its people and cultures, have fascinated the world for centuries.

Although its excellent coffee and the purity of its emeralds have made the country famous, Colombia is also the homeland of the El Dorado legend and the magical universe of Garcia Marquez’s Macondo. Coming to Colombia is discovering a completely new world.

In Colombia the visitor can enjoy lovely tropical beaches, the grandest adventures, the wonders of nature, scintillating culture, all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. Tourists who travel to Colombia should not face too many inconveniences when staying in the country. However, there is some important information to keep in mind:


Visas and permits

Citizens from the US and Canada visiting Colombia as tourists, don’t need a visa to enter the country. Passengers from countries that have a restriction need to apply for a tourist visa in the Colombian consulate of their country of origin to be able to travel to Colombia.

Visitors from countries that have no restriction when they travel to Colombia, if they travel only for tourism, may stay in the country for up to 90 days from the date of entry, which is indicated on the immigration seal and will be stamped on the passport by the official at the port of entry.


Travel Documents

Before living your city of origin, please take a few moments to review all your documents for accuracy.

US and Canada Citizens must present proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport.

We will provide you a master voucher, which will be exchanged at your first point of contact, when applicable, for a series of individual service orders for each and every one of the different travel services contracted, booked, confirmed, and prepaid by our office and to be provided by different suppliers throughout your adventure.

After deplaning, you will need to go through Immigration and Customs before exiting the airport. Our associates are not allowed into the Immigration/Custom areas. If you are to receive an arrival transfer, please look for our representative with a sign with your name and our company name on it. At this point, you will exchange your master voucher for an individual voucher packet (if necessary). The suppliers involved in the handling of your travel arrangements also aim to provide you with the finest possible service, and to make sure that your travel needs are to your satisfaction.


Geographical location

Colombia lies between latitudes 4º south and 12º north, and between 67º and 79º longitude west. It is an equatorial country whose climatic variations are determined by trade winds, humidity and especially by altitude: the higher up you go, the colder it is. Please consider this information when you travel to Colombia.

There are only two seasons and virtually throughout the country there are two rainy periods from April to June and from August to November and two dry periods. However, the country enjoys constant luminosity throughout the year, with an equal number of daylight and nighttime hours.


 Local time

Time in Colombia is based on Greenwich Mean Time with a difference of five or six hours, depending on the season. When it is 12 noon in Colombia, in London it is 5pm, in Madrid 6pm, in New York 12 noon and in Los Angeles 9AM. In summer the difference increases one hour.


Currency

The official currency of Colombia is the peso ($). Entering or taking out money, in this denomination or in any other, is restricted and should be declared on entering or leaving the country.


Currency exchange

The exchange of foreign currency should be made exclusively in hotels, banks and bureau de change, never on the street. The exchange rate fluctuates from day to day and has the U.S. dollar as the official reference rate, which is also the currency most used in the market. Payment is made on the basis of the official daily rate, after discounting commissions and services, which vary between 2 and 3%.
For your convenience, below you will find a currency converter. Please keep in mind that this is an external third-party tool and it is provided for illustrative purposes only.

Cash points

The capital cities of the country have an extensive network of cash points. The majority is in service 24 hours and they have the option of the English language. The transactions generally permitted are: credit/debit balance, withdrawals, transfers and cash advances. Avoid giving the card to strangers or revealing your personal PIN code. Cash points are strategically located, particularly on thoroughfares and in shopping malls. Some, such as Cirrus, Visa and Master Card, permit international debit and credit transactions.


Debit cards

The larger stores and shops, supermarkets, and higher-class hotels and restaurants accept such cards.


Credit cards

The majority of hotels, restaurants and commercial establishments accept international credit cards. The most frequent are Visa and Master Card. Only some places accept American Express and Diners Club.


Traveler’s checks

Before acquiring them in the country of origin, it is advisable to check on the existence of representations or branches in Colombia. The traveler’s checks most used are those of American Express and Citicorp. In the more exclusive hotels you can make payments with them but they are not commonly used in commercial establishments.


Public phone services

There are widespread public phone services for making both local and countrywide calls. Public call boxes are available throughout the country and operate with coins and pre-paid cards.


Internet

The majority of the hotels in capital cities provide Internet service. In the large and intermediate cities, there are cyber cafes where you can rent a PC with an Internet connection for an hour or fraction of an hour at a reasonable price.


Health tips

Most frequent illnesses are mountain sickness, stomach problems, malaria and yellow fever in some forest areas. Before travelling to jungle regions, you must have the yellow fever and tetanus vaccines at least 15 days in advance.


Drinking water

Although major cities have excellent running water services, we recommend you to avoid taps, and rather drink bottled water.


Packing

Pack wise, pack light! Pack only what you know you will use and avoid unnecessary items, such as hair-dryer, basic toiletries (soap or body wash, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion), unless of course, you prefer a specific brand; the hotels we choose for your program will provide you those items and much more!


Clothing

The dry season between December and March is the best time to visit the country. Not only is there less rain, but most festivals and celebrations take place during these months. The dress code is consistent across the country, with only slight variations because of the changes in climate and elevation.
Items you will need:

  • Loose cotton and linen clothing
  • Cocktail dress
  • Jeans
  • Business suit
  • Guayabera
  • Money belt

Dress for the weather: Changes in elevation create widely varying temperatures and rainfall amounts. Regions under 3,000 feet in elevation are hot, while those over 6,000 feet are considered cold. Most of the country is in the hot zone, so unless you’re traveling to the mountains, wear loose cotton or linen clothing in informal situations. It rains almost daily in the hot zones along the Pacific Coast, less so on the Atlantic Coast. Rain gear of some sort is a necessity.

Pack a cocktail dress for social occasions and loose-fitting blouses and skirts for day-to-day wear. Women dress up for parties and lunch dates. Have your hair done and get a manicure and a pedicure if you’re wearing open-toe shoes. Wear hosiery with skirts or dresses.

Avoid sloppy shorts and flip-flops; they will make you stand out as a tourist.

Dress up for business meetings, particularly in Medellin, Bogota and Cali. A suit, preferably dark blue or dark gray, conservative tie and polished shoes are appropriate for men. Women should wear a dress with a jacket or a suit with a knee-length skirt, makeup and stylish heels. A guayabera, or traditional embroidered shirt, and pressed slacks for men and a less-formal dress for women are appropriate in rural areas.

Wear a money belt or a purse with a secure strap in urban areas to avoid street criminals, such as purse-snatchers or pickpockets. Leave expensive jewelry and watches at home.


Safety

For your safety and convenience, we recommend that you exercise caution (as you would in any part of the world) with the handling of large amounts of cash or showing off expensive jewelry. It is a good idea to leave your jewelry at home. Always make photocopies of your passport, and place the passport in the hotel safe while carrying the photocopy with you all times. Exercise the same degree of caution in Colombia that you would at home.

Scan your passport and air tickets (if not the e type). Store this (in an email sent to you) in your web based email account. You can also store the details of your emergency ‘lost card’ telephone numbers in your web based email account so you know who to contact if your credit card or ATM card is lost or stolen. This way, even if you lose everything, you have immediate access to your all important information.


Voltage

The electrical current for Colombia is the same as in the US (110 volts). No adapter needed.


Tipping

At Restaurants: Check the bill to see if the tip is included. If it is, it’s usually 10 percent, and it’s still common to tip more, up to 15 to 18 percent total.

At Hotels: If you’re staying in a small rural hacienda, a family staff usually cooks, cleans, and tends the gardens, so leave a pooled tip of $5 to $10 per person per night at the end of your stay. In standard hotels, the usual tipping rules apply: about $1 to doormen and cleaning staff per bag or daily cleanup.

Guides and Drivers: Tip $10 per person per day for guides and $5 per person per day for drivers. You don’t need to tip taxi drivers unless they really go out of their way to help you.

Are Dollars Accepted? Yes, but they’re harder for locals to use because governmental restriction, so whenever possible, try to tip in Colombian pesos.

Important Note: When you put your dinner on a credit or debit card, you’ll be asked, “Cuantas cuotas?” meaning over how many months you do want your bill payment broken up; just reply “una” (one).


What to Bring Recommendations – Summary

The following is a general list of those items that we, at EcoAmerica Tours, have found to come in handy while traveling.


Clothing

  • Aqua socks or river sandals
  • Bandana
  • Casual resort-wear for the beach resorts, including men’s long pants for dinner time.
  • Cotton or synthetic blend socks
  • Cotton shirts, some long and some short sleeved
  • Light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Lightweight water resistant hiking boots
  • Lightweight water resistant jacket or poncho
  • Long pants (cotton or synthetic blend; avoid jeans since they do not dry fast)
  • Shorts (cotton or synthetic blend)
  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Swimsuit
  • Tennis or walking shoes
  • Warm jacket (for higher elevations only)
  • Windbreaker

Health Kit

  • Antibacterial ointment (Neosporin)
  • Band-aids
  • Cortisone cream
  • Imodium A.D.
  • Insect repellent
  • Moist wipes
  • Presciption medication
  • Solarcaine lotion or gel

Gear

  • Backup prescription eyewear and medication (if needed)
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with fresh batteries and large capacity memory card (or lots of film)
  • Day pack or fanny pack for nature walks and a plastic water bottle
  • For natural history enthusiasts, we suggest you bring a field guide, such as birds of Costa Rica
  • Insect repellent (waterproof)
  • Lip balm (waterproof)
  • Resealable plastic bags in assorted sizes to keep your cosmetics and/or toiletries from spilling
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen or sunblock (waterproof)
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid Passport (original and photocopy) of everyone in your party
  • Waterproof disposable camera

Traveling with small children? Here are some additional recommendations

  • An interesting book or a coloring book with crayons and color pencils
  • Some table or electronic games to play
  • Rubber boots and a lightweight poncho

Important Notice:
Since the information provided above has been collected from several sources and even though we attempt to keep it updated, it tends to change, and we cannot guarantee its accuracy.