Colombia, fast becoming South America’s hottest travel destination, not only offers beautiful colonial architecture and Caribbean resorts, but is a country with a rich and fascinating history.
From the beautiful town of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast to Salt Cathedrals and archaeological parks, not forgetting the country’s vibrant capital, Bogota, cradled by the Andean mountains, Colombia will not disappoint.
A pre-arranged visa is not required to enter Colombia for citizens of the following countries:
For other nationalities please visit the website of the relevant consulate.
Please be careful when withdrawing money from ATMs as muggings do occur. Only take money
out during the day and if possible be accompanied by someone you know. Where possible use
the ATMs within banks. Be aware of any suspicious looking people nearby and check the ATM for
possible criminal interference as card cloning is a problem in Colombia.
The unit of currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP).
Please check websites such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date exchange rates prior to your departure.
ATMs are widely available in the main cities, but you are advised to only take out money during the day and where possible use the ATMs located within the banks. Most banks make a charge for overseas ATM withdrawals. The maximum withdrawal amount seems to vary between different banks. You should also be aware that ATMs often run out of money at the weekends.
Foreign currency bureaux (casas de cambio) are generally the best places to change foreign currency. US dollars and Euros attract more favourable exchange rates than Pounds sterling.
LDD, Emergency Numbers, Internet
Country code: + 57
National Emergency No. (24 hour general line): 123
Internet cafes are widespread in all major cities in Colombia and smaller towns tend to have at least one internet cafe. Connections tend to be fast and cheap. Wi-Fi is also becoming increasingly common not only in hotels but also in shopping centres, restaurants and cafes with Wi-Fi zones in major cities.
Colombia, being equatorial, has no real seasons other than wet and dry. The temperature varies little throughout the year due to Colombia’s proximity to the Equator, but it does vary with altitude. It is cooler in the upland areas and cold in the mountains and snow is not unknown. Along the coast and in the north, the climate is warm and tropical, with a wet season from May to November.
Bogotá has a spring-like climate, with cool days and crisp nights, and the city has been known to reach temperatures below 0°C, but when the sun is shining it can get quite hot. Coastal cities such
Traveller’s cheques are accepted in Colombia, the most commonly used being American Express and Citicorp, but most Colombian banks will only change US dollar traveller’s cheques. Many hotels will also change foreign cash and traveller’s cheques but at lower exchange rates.
Credit cards are accepted in all major shops, hotels and restaurants in major cities but you may be asked to provide some kind of ID (such as a photocopy of your passport) to allow a credit card transaction to go through.
We recommend that you travel with a supply of US dollars, as well as small amounts of local currency as the US dollar is readily accepted across the continent in major department stores, hotels and tourist areas. Use local currency for small purchases.
Colombia’s cuisine is diverse and dishes and ingredients vary according to the region. Common ingredients include rice, maize and tubers such as cassava. Meat is popular but in coastal areas there is a good variety of fish and seafood often cooked with sauces made with coconut milk. Fresh tropical fruit is also plentiful.
Popular dishes include:
Ajiaco – This is a type of soup made with chicken, potatoes, corn, sour cream, capers and guasca. Guasca is a locally grown herb that gives the soup its distinct flavour.
Arroz con Coco – This is a common side dish of the Caribbean coast of Colombia and is white rice cooked in coconut milk with water, salt and sugar.
Buñuelos – These are ball-shaped fritters made with a dough of white cheese curd, fried until golden brown.
Bandeja Paisa – This is a traditional dish consisting of white rice, red beans, ground beef, plantain, chorizo, morcilla, chicharron, arepa, avocado and a fried egg.
Patacones - Fried green plantains.
For drinks, don’t forget to try some famous Colombian coffee, renowned for its high quality. There are also many delicious fruit juices and smoothies on offer.
Spanish is the first language of Colombia and is spoken by over 99% of the population. Other languages include 2 Creole languages, 65 Amerindian languages and the Romani language. In San Andres, Providential and Santa Catalina Islands, English is also stated as an official language.
Colombia does have some local dialects which have different meanings for the same words. There are three main dialects, each one having local dialects within it. For example, the second person plural (you) is ‘ustedes’ but on the Caribbean coast, ‘tú’ is used for colloquial situations and ‘usted’ is more formal. Inland, ‘usted/ustedes’ is not only used in formal situations, but also between members of the same family and friends. In some other places, ‘voseo’ is used.