Overview

Colombia sits at the junction of Central and South America—a location symbolic both of the nation’s cultural and geographic confluences. Its territory is bordered to the north by the Caribbean Sea, with the Panamanian forest and Pacific coast marking its east. In the west, you will find the grasslands of Venezuela and Amazon Basin of Brazil.

Trips to Columbia:

8 Day Ecuador Multi-Sport

10 Day Galapagos Adventure

11 Day Best of Ecuador & Galapagos

Colombia is the only American nation that is named for Christopher Columbus, the “discoverer” of the New World. Colombia was a major channel for human migration to the rest of the continent even before the Spanish arrived to the continent. With its connection to the isthmus of Panama, Colombia was a major center of migration between Central and South America. The different groups who settled what is now called Colombia include the Tairona, the Quimbaya, and the Muisca. By the time of the Spanish arrival in the 1500s, the Muisca were especially prominent in the area and controlled a great deal of valuable land. As with most other Spanish conquests in the Americas, the conquistadors exploited local rivalries and tensions to their advantage. In the case of the New Granada colony, they forged alliances with competitors to the Muisca Confederation. After conquering the Muisca and settling Bogotá, Spain was largely uncontested in the region.
After a 14-year struggle, during which time Simón Bolívar’s Venezuelan troops won the battle of Boyacá in Colombia, independence was attained in 1824. Bolívar united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador in the Republic of Greater Colombia (1819–1830), but they lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists. Colombia lost its claims to Panama in 1903 because it refused to ratify the lease to the United States of the Canal Zone, this same year Panama declared its independence.

Few countries boast such striking physical variety as Colombia does. Its broken, rugged topography, together with its location near the Equator, creates an extraordinary diversity of climates, vegetation, soils, and crops. The lofty snow-tipped peaks of the country’s interior cordilleras tower high above equatorial forests and savannas where surviving Indian groups still follow the lifeways and traditions of their ancestors. In the cooler mountains, at intermediate elevations, modern cities are juxtaposed with traditional rural landscapes where mestizo farmers cultivate their small plots of coffee, corn (maize), and other crops. The more accessible Atlantic lowlands, dominated by large livestock haciendas and a tri-ethnic population, have a distinctively different character.

Entry Requirements

A valid passport is required for entry to Colombia and re-entry into the United States. Each passenger should be sure that his or her passport has at least six months of remaining validity from the date of return to the USA. Three blank pages are required (although this rule is applied capriciously).
Currently, no advance visa is required for US citizens traveling to Colombia. Prior to arriving at your destination, the airline flight attendants will give you an immigration form that must be completed and presented to a national immigration officer in order to be granted a tourist visa.
You must save a copy of this stamped form, as you will have to surrender it to immigration officials when you check in for your flight home.
A customs declaration form for both the outbound and inbound international flights will also be handed out by the airline flight attendants and should be completed before landing. You only need to fill out one form per family.

Vaccines

No unusual immunizations are required for travel in the majority of Colombia. Yellow fever vaccine is mandatory for those travelers arriving in the Amazon (Leticia) and suggested on the Caribbean (Santa Marta, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada). If you have questions regarding immunizations or a health concern, contact your personal physician or local County Health Department.

Climate

The climate is very warm and tropical on the coast and in the north, with a rainy season from May to November. It is cooler in the upland areas and cold in the mountains, and in the cooler times of the year the nights can be freezing. Bogota is always spring-like, with cool days and crisp nights, though when the sun is shinning it can get quite hot. 

Communication

The international access code for Colombia is +57, and the outgoing code 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00 57 for Colombia). City codes apply (e.g. 00 57 1…) for Bogota. The telephone system in Colombia is modern and works well for both domestic and international calls. Cellphone and mobile data coverage is excellent. Public telephones exist in cities and large towns, but they are few and far between, and most are out of order. In their place you’ll see shops, kiosks and street vendors selling ‘minutos’ or phone minutes. Internet cafes almost always have a few cabinas (telephone booths) where you can make both local and international calls.

Currency

The currency is the Peso. Currency should be exchanged at banks, hotels and exchange bureaus. Most charge a commission. Do not change money in the street. Clean, crisp, un-torn US Dollars are the easiest currency to exchange. Do not be offended if the exchange examines your bills closely; this is a necessary precaution and nothing personal.
ATMs are available in Bogotá, Cartagena and most other cities and towns. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted and can be used for ATM withdrawals. American Express and Diners Club are less recognized. Please confirm your travel dates and destinations with your card issuers before you leave the USA.
Travelers’ Checks are not widely accepted. They are most likely to be accepted by hotels, banks and exchange bureaus. They are not generally accepted as a form of payment by restaurants or stores.

Electricity

Electrical current varies throughout the country, but is 100 volts AC, 60 Hz in most locations.
Most outlets are American-style with two pins. We recommend bringing a small universal surge protector.

Government

Colombia is a Republic.

Religion

Roman Catholic 79.0%, Protestants 13.0%, other 2.0%, unspecified or none 6%

Ethnic Groups

The majority of Colombians identify as being of either European or of mixed European and American Indian ancestry. About 53.5% are Mestizo, 10.5% African Colombians, 3.4% Native South Americans, 1.9% account for other ethnicities. Against a backdrop of great ethnic diversity, minority groups in Colombia experience some degree of economic and social marginalization. This situation has seen Colombian society accused of having an undeniable presence of racism.

Languages

Spanish is the official language in Colombia. However, the number of individual languages listed for Colombia is 88. Of these, 85 are living and 3 are extinct. Of the living languages, 80 are indigenous and 5 are non-indigenous.

Economy

Colombia is Latin America’s fourth largest economy measured by gross domestic product. Petroleum is Colombia’s main export, Manufacturing makes up nearly 12% of Colombia’s exports. Modern industries like shipbuilding, electronics, automobile, tourism, construction, and mining, grew dramatically during the 2000s and 2010s, however, most of Colombia’s exports are still commodity-based. 

Safety

Safety is a real concern in Colombia and should be taken seriously. Although the incidence of kidnapping has diminished from its peak near 2000, armed groups are still active.
As in most large cities, petty criminals in Bogotá and Cartagena sometimes target tourists.
Leave jewelry at home, keep an eye on your valuables, and stay away from dark streets after sunset. Special care should be taken at ATMs, which should be visited during daylight hours.
Drive, rather than walk, to an ATM. Taxis should only be arranged through hotels. Follow any other cautions provided by your guides or drivers.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling the US Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada or by calling a regular toll line, 001-202-501-4444, from outside the USA. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except on U.S. federal holidays).

Travel Advisories

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travelers’ cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
Be sure to inform your credit card company as well as your bank you will travel internationally into South America. This will eliminate any credit card holds for fraudulent activity.

Insurance

We strongly recommend travel insurance for each traveler. Travel insurance is not provided in your tour package.