COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Colombia is a medium-income nation of 46 millionpersons. Its geography is very diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rainforests to rugged mountainous terrain. Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location. Based on Colombian statistics, an estimated 60,000 U.S. citizens reside in Colombia and 280,000 U.S. citizens travel, study and do business in Colombia each year. Read the Department of State's Fact Sheet for Colombia for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Colombia, please take the time to tell the U.S. Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. Embassy Bogota
Calle 24 Bis No. 48-50 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.
Mailing address: Carrera 45 No. 24B-27 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.
Telephone: (571) 275-2000
Emergency after-hours telephone: (571) 275-2701
Facsimile: (571) 275-4501.
U.S. Consular Agency Barranquilla
Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico
Telephone: (575) 353-2001
Facsimile: (575) 353-5216
For hours and services, please visit the U.S. Embassy Bogota website.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: All U.S. citizens who do not also hold Colombian citizenship must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia. According to Colombian law, U.S-Colombian dual nationals MUST present a Colombian passport to enter and exit Colombia. Be aware that any person born in Colombia or of Colombian parentage may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such. Colombian citizens who naturalized as U.S. citizens before 1990 are deemed to have lost their Colombian citizenship as of the date of naturalization and do not need to show a Colombian passport. Colombian Immigration authorities suggest that these passengers travel with proof of their date of naturalization.
U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 90 days or less. Travelers entering Colombia are sometimes asked to present evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a plane ticket.
Entering the Country by Road: U.S. citizens traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing. If you’re taking a bus to Colombia, make sure prior to boarding that your bus will cross the border at an official entry point, because if you enter Colombia at an unauthorized crossing, you may be fined or even face a jail sentence. If you plan to enter Colombia over a land border, be sure to read our information on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below.
The length of stay granted to travelers is determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport. Before the visa expires, travelers may request an extension of up to 90 days. Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority (Migración Colombia) after arrival in Colombia. Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized, and the traveler cannot leave Colombia until the fine is paid. Any traveler possessing a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at the Migración Colombia office within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines. The Migración Colombia office in Bogota is located at Calle 100 and Carrera 11B-29, telephone (571) 511-1150. This office is open from Monday to Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Fridays from 07:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Exit Tax: No arrival tax is collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax at the airport, in cash. Most airlines include all or a portion of this fee in the cost of your airline ticket. Check with your airline beforehand to find out how much you will have to pay at the airport. According to “Aeronautica Civil”, the authorities in charge of the airport tax, the exit tax is divided in two categories: the Tasa Aeroportuaria of US$35.00 and Timbre Aeroportuario of $US37.00 (both of these fees are updated annually). In some instances, an additional administrative fee of US$15.00 may be charged. Some foreign travelers who’ve been in Colombia for less than 30 days have obtained an exemption from this tax by taking their documents immediately upon arrival to the Aeronautica Civil desk in the El Dorado international terminal and requesting the exemption.
Lost or Stolen Passport: If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Colombia, you must obtain a new one before departing the country. You must then present the new passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to a Migración Colombia office. Information about obtaining a replacement passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy Bogota’s website. The Embassy in Bogota or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla will provide guidance on contacting Migración Colombia when you apply for your replacement passport.
For further specific guidance on Colombian entry requirements, including information about Colombian visa, contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; or the nearest Colombian consulate. Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Tampa, and San Juan, Washington, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Colombia has no travel restrictions on travelers with HIV/AIDS.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Additional Exit Requirements for Minors: To prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented special exit procedures for Colombian children under 18 who depart the country alone, without both parents, or a without a legal guardian. These procedures apply to U.S. citizen children only if they are dual nationals or if they are legal residents of Colombia. The procedures can be complex and time-consuming, especially if the absent parent is outside Colombia, so advance planning is essential.
The procedures are as follows: When exiting the country, a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with a written, signed, and notarized authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian must be presented. The authorization must be notarized by a Colombian authority and explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a named third party. If a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of a death certificate is required. If one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent’s written authorization. In cases where a Colombian citizen or dual national child has been adopted in a U.S. Court, the adoption decree must be legalized (Exequatur) by the Colombian Supreme Court.
If the documents originated in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then signed in front of a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate. Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certification of the consul’s signature.
Alternatively, the documents can be translated into Spanish, then notarized by a notary public in the United States, and authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared. They can then be sent to the Department of State in Washington for a federal apostille. The document, translation, and apostille should be presented to immigration officers at the airport when the child travels.
If the documents originated in Colombia and are written in Spanish, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required. For documents originating in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian Embassy serving that country.
In cases where the absent parent refuses or is unable to provide consent, the other parent can request assistance from the Colombian child protective service, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF). In appropriate cases, ICBF will investigate and may issue a document that will allow the child to travel without both parents’ consent. This process may take a significant amount of time and is not within the control of the U.S. government.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Please read the current Travel Warning for Colombia. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such
as Cartagena and Bogota, but violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large
Stay up to date:
Take some time before you travel to consider your personal security. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Violent and petty crime remains a significant concern in Colombia. Robbery and other violent crimes, as well as scams against unsuspecting tourists, are common in urban areas. Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist. Firearms are prevalent in Colombia and altercations can turn violent. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence ofof illegal armed groups and narcotics trafficking gangs. Theft also remains a significant problem in many urban and rural areas. There has been an increase in petty crime, including a significant increase in pick pocketing of passports in the El Dorado Airport in Bogota, Colombia, and at luxury hotels, especially during Colombian holidays, Christmas, Easter Week, and summer holidays (July and August).
Some of the most common methods used by criminals in Colombia are noted below:
ATMs: People are sometimes robbed after using automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the street. In some cases, robbers use motorcycles to approach their victims and then flee the scene. For your safety, only use ATMs inside shopping malls or other protected locations. Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection. When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone watching or following you and be extremely cautious about displaying cash.
Taxis: Robbery of taxi passengers is a serious problem in Bogota, as well as in Cali and Medellin. Typically, the driver – who may be one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger and then stop to pick up one or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings. If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators may force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations. Such ordeals can last for hours.
In most taxi-related crimes, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed taxis off the street. Rather than hailing a taxi, you should use the telephone dispatch service that most taxi companies offer. Many hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi for you. When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi. The taxi company provides the caller with the license plate numbers and a security code to present to the taxi driver before departing.
When taking a taxi, note of the license plate, company and other ID for the car and driver. Also, the Colombian Tourist Police recommend checking to make sure that your taxi has inside handles and latches before committing to the ride.
Airports: U.S. citizens arriving at major Colombian airports have occasionally been victimized by armed robbers and rogue taxi drivers while en route from the airport to their hotel or home. There are taxi booths both in El Dorado (international) and Puente Aereo (domestic) airports. You may go to the booth, request a taxi, and provide the address of your destination. The person in the booth will give you a ticket indicating the amount of money you will pay for the service. Dispatchers are right outside the exit to organize the waiting line. Authorized taxis are located in the designated area, close to the booth. Give one part of your ticket to the driver and retain one for your records.
Criminals also sometimes identify potential victims at the airport and then follow their vehicles before robbing the occupants at a stoplight. Remain vigilant at airports and inform the local airport police if you suspect you may be under surveillance.
Hiking Trails: Several U.S. citizens have been robbed in recent years while hiking on nature trails in and around Bogota. Hike in groups for safety, especially in isolated areas.
Hostels: The Tourist Police in Bogota specifically caution about crimes in backpacker hostels in the Candelaria area of Bogota, noting many attacks in recent years, including a sexual assault of a U.S. citizen. Be careful when selecting a hostel- consider not just the price, but the general safety of the area.
Disabling Drugs: The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals in Colombia using disabling drugs to temporarily incapacitate unsuspecting victims. Perpetrators may offer tainted drinks, cigarettes or gum at bars, restaurants, and other public areas, especially those that cater to sexual tourism. Typically, victims become disoriented or unconscious, and are thus vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault and other crimes. Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.
Counterfeit Money: U.S. citizens in Colombia routinely fall victim to a scam in which purported undercover police officers approach them on the street and request to examine their money, supposedly to determine if it is counterfeit. The “officers,” who are in fact criminals, then flee with the money. In a variation of this scam, the thieves may ask to see your jewelry. Legitimate Colombian police officers do not make such requests. Colombian police officers will always be in uniform. If someone claims to be working “undercover” (out of uniform), they are not legitimate since undercover police are not authorized to intercept tourists on the street.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Bogota or the Consular Agency in Baranquilla. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Colombia is 123 for police, ambulance, and fire. There will not be an English speaker answering the telephone.
The Government of Colombia does not provide monetary compensation to foreign victims of crime. However, a U.S. citizen residing in Colombia who is a victim of violence by illegal armed groups may apply for compensation. More information is available at the Agencia Presidencial Para La Accion Social y Cooperacion Internacional.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Colombia, all persons including U.S. citizens are subject to its laws and jurisdictions. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. The purchase of pirated goods may lead to prosecution under U.S. law. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Colombia, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what is legal and what is illegal in the countries you visit.
If you are arrested, the U.S. government cannot request your release. Colombia and the United States do not have a prisoner transfer agreement, and so any sentence for a crime committed in Colombia is ordinarily served in a Colombian prison.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions, with significant expense and great hardship for themselves and their families. Colombian police make multiple arrests daily for drug trafficking at major airports, and have sophisticated means for detecting illegal drugs in baggage or on your person. Travelers are sometimes requested to undergo an X-ray to ensure that they are not smuggling narcotics within their bodies. There are currently more than 40 U.S. citizens incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country.
The hardships resulting from imprisonment do not end even after release from prison: Colombian law requires that serious offenders remain in the country to serve a lengthy period of parole, during which the offender is given no housing and may lack permission to work. As a result, family members must often support the offender, sometimes for more than a year, until the parole period expires.
Arrest Notification: Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Colombia, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Colombia employs strict screening procedures for detecting narcotics smuggling at its international airports. Travelers are occasionally questioned, searched, fingerprinted, and/or asked to submit to an abdominal X-ray upon arrival or departure. Most airport inspectors do not speak English, and travelers who do not speak Spanish may have difficulty understanding what is asked of them. Please refer to the section on Criminal Penalties for further information on the strict enforcement of Colombia’s drug laws.
Customs Regulations: Travelers generally must not enter or exit Colombia while carrying cash or other financial instruments worth more than 10,000 U.S. dollars. If you do, you must declare it and be able to prove the legal source of the financial instruments. Colombian authorities may confiscate any amount over $10,000, and may initiate a criminal investigation into the source of the money and the traveler’s reasons for carrying it. Recovery of the confiscated amount generally requires a lengthy, expensive legal process and may not always be possible.
If you need to send large sums of money to or from Colombia, contact the nearest Colombian consulate, or speak with Colombian customs officials and seek advice from an attorney or financial professional.
Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia. Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration.
Artifacts: Colombian law forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes. Under an agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork if they are brought into the United States.
Contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, D.C., or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance. Please refer also to our Customs Information.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Colombia, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Colombian law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government seeks to enforce these prohibitions. No law mandates access to public buildings for persons with disabilities, thus limiting the power of the government to penalize schools or offices without access. National and local governments are addressing this issue with programs aimed at improving access.
Access to buildings, pedestrian paths and transportation is extremely difficult for persons with disabilities. A few major shopping centers and residential buildings in the wealthier neighborhoods of Bogotá have access ramps and elevators. Most hospitals in major cities are also wheelchair accessible. However, sidewalks (if they exist) are very uneven and rarely have ramps at intersections. Pedestrian crossings are also very infrequent and traffic almost never give pedestrians (disabled or otherwise) the right of way. Most, but not all, cafés, restaurants, hotels and residential buildings have stairs at the entrance without wheelchair ramps. Buses and taxis do not have special accommodations for disabled persons.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies greatly in quality and accessibility elsewhere. Emergency rooms in Colombia, even at top-quality facilities, are frequently overcrowded and ambulance service can be slow. Many private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care before treatment, even in an emergency. Some providers in major cities may accept credit cards, but those that don’t may request advance payment in cash. Uninsured travelers without financial resources may be relegated to seeking treatment in public hospitals where the standard of care is below U.S. standards.
Elective Surgery: The Department of State regularly receives reports of U.S. citizens who have died or suffered complications from liposuction and other elective surgeries overseas. Before undergoing such a procedure in Colombia, consult with your personal physician, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider your ability to access emergency medical care if complications arise. It is important to confirm that your medical insurance provides coverage in Colombia, including treatment of complications from elective procedures or medical evacuation if necessary. If you suffer complications as a result of medical malpractice, collecting damages from your surgeon may be difficult.
Unregulated Drugs: Colombia has seen a recent increase in the use of unregulated drugs that purport to enhance sexual performance. Some tourists have died after using these substances, which come in liquid, powder, or tablet form. You are urged to seek guidance from a physician before ingesting such substances in Colombia.
Altitude Sickness: Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level, and cause mild dyspnea with exercise, headaches, sleeplessness, and other discomfort. Drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration, and avoid strenuous exercise until you have acclimated to the altitude. If you have circulatory or respiratory problems, consult a physician before traveling to Bogota or other high-altitude locations.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You should not assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Colombia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Due to the security environment in Colombia, U.S. government officials and their families are not permitted to travel by road between most major cities. They also cannot use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. You are encouraged to follow these same precautions.
Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are often ignored and rarely enforced, creating dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians in major cities. Under Colombian law, seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle. Car seats are mandatory for children, and a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat. It is against the law to talk on a cellular phone while driving in Colombia, and violators may be fined. While driving outside major cities, you must drive with your lights on.
If you are involved in an accident, you MUST remain at the scene without moving your vehicle until the authorities arrive; this rule is strictly enforced, and moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.
If you want to import your own vehicle into Colombia, consult with the nearest Colombian consulate for information on Colombian taxes and licensing rules, which can be complicated and bureaucratic.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Colombia dated January 31, 2012, to update the Country Description and the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, and Crime.