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Latest travel advice for Colombia including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-03-01T14:27:36.456+00:00: Latest update: Safety and security section (Air travel) – updated information about air travel; UK government staff have been advised to avoid travelling on INSEL Air due to safety concerns

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

On 19 February 2017, there was an explosion in the La Macarena area of Bogota, near to the bullring, injuring about 30 people. It followed repeated public demonstrations in that area. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.

UK health authorities have classified Colombia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Main roads are generally safe within daylight hours. See Road Travel

The departmental capitals of Amazonas, Vaupes and Guainía are only accessible by air due to the lack of road infrastructure in these departments.

The Venezuelan government has ordered the temporary closure of Venezuela’s border with Colombia. You should avoid crossing from Colombia into Venezuela by land. Seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities if you’re travelling near the border areas affected.

Social protests are common in Colombia and can become violent and lead to disruption to road and transport networks. You should avoid protests and follow the advice of local authorities if you’re in an area where a protest is taking place.

Monitor local media and seek information from local authorities before travelling outside of or between major cities. Dial #767 for the Colombian highway police’s up to date information (in Spanish) on any road closures.

There is a high threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

The security situation can change very quickly in many areas of the country. You should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Colombian authorities. In general, the more remote the area, the greater the potential threat to your safety. You should be particularly cautious and vigilant during any major events and in crowded places.

Despite the high levels of crime, most visits to Colombia are trouble-free. See Crime

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

Despite improvements in security, crime rates remain high in Colombia. Illegal armed groups and other criminal groups are heavily involved in the drugs trade and serious crime including kidnapping (for ransom and political purposes), money laundering and running extortion and prostitution rackets.

Street crime is a problem in major cities, including Bogota, Medellin, Cali and the northern Caribbean coast. Mugging and pickpocketing can be accompanied by violence. British nationals have been robbed at gun point in the Candelaria area of Bogotá. Be vigilant, particularly if you are in public places used by foreigners, or near official buildings. Avoid deprived areas of cities. Take care on city streets, especially after dark or if you are on your own. Don’t carry large amounts of money or wear valuable watches or jewellery. Avoid using your mobile phone in the street.

The British Embassy has received reports of criminals in Colombia using drugs to subdue their victims. This includes the use of scopolamine, which temporarily incapacitates unsuspecting victims. Drugs can be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols and even paper flyers. Victims become disoriented quickly and are vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, rape and other crimes. Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended and don’t take anything from strangers.

Where possible, plan how you will travel to and from your destination. Only use pre-booked taxis. Be wary if you are approached by a stranger.

Express kidnappings - short-term opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim - also occur. Victims can be targeted or selected at random and held while criminals empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards. Most cases in major cities involve victims that have been picked up by taxis hailed from the street. There have been incidents where those who have resisted the kidnappers’ demands have been killed.

Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked. Control of the drugs trade is a major driver of much of the armed conflict. In July 2015 the UN reported that coca cultivation in Colombia had increased. There is evidence of high levels of coca cultivation in the following Departments in Colombia: Nariño, Cauca, Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta,Guaviare, the Catatumbo region in the Norte de Santander department, northern Antioquia, and southern Bolivar. There’s a risk to your safety in any area where coca, marijuana or opium poppies are cultivated and near to cocaine processing labs.

Illegal armed groups and criminal gangs are active in all of the Departments where coca is cultivated, processed or transported, as well as in many cities. The risk is particularly significant in rural areas near to the borders with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador; in the Parque Nacional Natural de La Macarena in the Department of Meta; and the port towns of Buenaventura in the Department of Valle de Cauca, Turbo in the Department of Antioquia and Tumaco in the Department of Nariño.

Local travel

In many rural areas the authority of the Colombian State is limited, and the British Embassy’s ability to help British nationals in trouble in these areas will also be limited. If you travel to remote or dangerous areas, seek professional security advice and make arrangements for your security throughout your visit. You should also seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities before each stage of your journey. Mobile and internet connection in rural areas is often limited.

The Pacific coast of Chocó is a popular eco-tourist destination. However, much of Chocó is remote and unsafe. Illegal armed groups are active and involved in the drugs trade throughout the Department and particularly near the border with Panama. On the coast, the towns of Bahia Solano and Nuquí are considered less dangerous and are well known for whale-watching. If you intend to travel to these towns, only do so by air and don’t travel inland or along the coast out of town.

If you travel to the ‘Lost City’ in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, you should only do so as part of an organised tour.

The archaeological park at San Agustin is located in the department of Huila. The FCO doesn’t advise against travel to this department, but the department is known for activity by illegal armed groups. You should enter and leave the park on the main road through Neiva or Popayán.

The tourist site of Caño Cristales is located in the department of Meta, in the Parque Nacional Natural de la Macarena. If you’re travelling to Caño Cristales, only do so with a reputable tour company, and travel by air to and from the town of La Macarena.

Public buses and coach services

There have been several recent incidents of armed robberies on buses. Avoid displaying valuable items like laptops, cameras and mobile phones. Don’t wear jewellery and only carry minimal amounts of cash. Avoid travelling on your own or at night, especially at border crossings or areas where there are few other people around. When travelling to remote areas it may be safer to travel with others or take part in a tour with a reputable company.

Road Travel

To drive in Colombia, you will need a valid UK or other recognised driving licence and car insurance. Driving standards are poor and traffic accidents are common. Avoid driving at night, which can be particularly hazardous. Don’t hitch-hike. The risk of violence and kidnapping is higher in some rural areas, and there is a risk of being caught in roadblocks set up by illegal armed groups. Main roads are generally safe during daylight hours.

Although the FCO advise against travel to the rural areas of some departments through which the Pan-American Highway passes, the road itself is generally well guarded. Always seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities before each stage of your journey.

Land border crossings

If you enter or leave Colombia by land via Venezuela, you should cross at Cucuta, and not via other routes.

If you enter or leave Colombia via Ecuador on the Pan-American Highway, don’t stop en route between the border and Pasto.

Avoid crossing between Panama and Colombia by land. The ‘Darien Gap’ is a dangerous area renowned for the presence of several illegal armed groups, illegal migration, and drugs trafficking. There’s no road crossing between Colombia and Panama.

See Entry Requirements

Unexploded ordnance

Colombia is affected by land mines and unexploded ordnance. Mined areas are often unmarked. Be vigilant when visiting remote areas or travelling off the main roads.

Air Travel

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.

Political situation

Colombia is a presidential republic with separation of powers. Since 1990 Colombia has had a multi-party system. Colombia’s last Presidential elections took place in 2014; the next Presidential elections take place in 2018.

Colombia has suffered from internal armed conflict for over 50 years. On 24 November 2016, Colombia’s President Santos signed a peace deal with the FARC guerrilla to end the internal armed conflict.

This peace agreement comes after four years of negotiations. In August 2012, the Colombian government and the FARC announced that they would start peace talks, based on 6 main points: agrarian development policy; political participation; the end of conflict; a solution to the illicit drugs problem; victims, and the implementation of the peace deal.

The FARC have upheld a unilateral ceasefire since 20 July 2015. The Colombian government introduced a bilateral ceasefire on 19 August 2016.

The Colombian constitution guarantees extensive rights to indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups over their traditional territories and to protect their culture. Indigenous communities have special jurisdiction within their territories within the bounds of the national judicial system.

Political demonstrations can occur in the capital city of Bogota and throughout the country. These can be confrontational and occasionally turn violent. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism in Colombia, from groups like the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (Ejército de Liberaciόn Nacional) and other illegal armed groups.

The FARC and the Colombian government agreed a bilateral ceasefire from August 2016. However, other illegal armed groups exist and there are still instances of indiscriminate attacks against public transport, industrial infrastructure (eg, oil and energy facilities), government buildings and other state installations. The pattern of these attacks means that incidents in public spaces and other areas visited by foreigners can’t be ruled out. Past methods of attack have included car bombs, grenade attacks and explosive devices left in buildings.

In many areas of Colombia, the security situation can change very quickly. You should pay close attention to warnings issued by the Colombian authorities and monitor this travel advice. In general, the more remote the area, the greater the potential threat to your safety. You should be particularly cautious and vigilant during any major events.

Kidnapping

There is a high risk of kidnap from both terrorist and criminal groups. While Colombians are the primary targets, foreigners can also be targeted, especially those working for (or believed to be working for) oil, mining and related companies.

You should regularly reassess your security arrangements and consider carefully any travel around the country.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Don’t get involved with illegal drugs of any kind. Colombian drug trafficking detection methods are sophisticated and anyone attempting to traffic drugs should expect to be arrested. Conviction leads to severe penalties. British nationals have been arrested for trying to smuggle cocaine out of the country. Pack your own luggage, and don’t carry items for other people.

Carry a colour photocopy of the data page and Colombian visa from your passport at all times for identification.

Homosexuality is legal but not widely accepted, especially in rural areas.

Photographing of military or strategic government sites is not allowed.

It is a serious criminal offence to have sex with a minor (under 18 years old).

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Medical facilities in Colombia vary widely in quality. In large cities and state capitals, private clinics provide good quality care for routine treatments and complex treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Public health facilities and those in smaller cities are generally ill equipped and poorly funded. Ambulance services in remote areas are unreliable and public hospitals often lack adequate medical supplies.

You can find most medication in pharmacies in large cities, but medicine for complex treatment may be unavailable in rural areas and small towns. You may need a prescription from a local doctor to get some controlled medicine.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, you should dial 123 to ask for assistance. Contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

UK health authorities have classified Colombia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever are present throughout the country, although the coastal and southern states with lower altitudes are the most affected, especially during or shortly after the rainy season between April and November. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Cases of Chikunyunga virus have been confirmed in Colombia. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Tap water is safe to drink only in Bogota, Medellin and Cali. You should drink only bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British nationals can enter Colombia for up to 90 days as a visitor without a visa at the discretion of the Colombian Immigration Officer on arrival. You may need to provide evidence of return or onward travel. Check the latest entry requirements with the Colombian Consulate General in London before you travel.

You may be able to extend your stay once you are in Colombia by up to 120 days by applying at the immigration office Migración Colombia. As a visitor, you can’t remain in Colombia for more than 180 days in any 12 month period. Don’t overstay your visa.

If you’re a British-Colombian dual national, you must enter and leave Colombia using your Colombian passport and Colombian identification card (Cedula).

If you enter Colombia by land from either Ecuador or Venezuela, make sure you have your passport stamped by the immigration authorities. Failure to do so may result in a fine on departure. If the immigration office on the border is closed, seek help at the nearest office of Migración Colombia.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Colombia.

Departure tax

Airport tax for international departures for visitors who stay in Colombia for less than three months is US$ 35. For stays in excess of three months the tax is US$72 However, the charge depends on the type of visa with which you are issued. The Colombian Embassy (tel: 0207 637 9893) or Colombian Consulate in London can offer further advice on 020 7589 5037.

Customs regulations

You can carry up to US$10,000 in cash with you when you leave. Anything in excess of this amount may be confiscated.

Travelling with children

Children under the age of 18 years who have resident status in Colombia and who are travelling on a British passport will need written permission when leaving the country without both parents. The non-accompanying parent(s) must write a letter giving permission for the child to leave Colombia. The letter must be authenticated by a notary or by a Colombian Consulate. It must mention the proposed destination, the purpose of the trip, the date of departure and the return date. You can get more information about Colombian emigration requirements from Migración Colombia or by contacting the Colombian Consulate in London.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Colombia. Your ETD should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Colombia.

Natural disasters

Earthquakes

Earthquakes occur regularly in Colombia. In October 2016, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck Colombia in the department of Huila. In the event of an earthquake, monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities. You can find a real-time earthquake map and further information about earthquakes in Colombia on the website of the US Geological Survey. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Rainy season

There is a risk of floods and landslides after heavy rains throughout the Colombian Andes. Seek local advice before travelling on mountain roads after heavy rain in the rainy seasons of April to May and October to November.

Volcanoes

Volcano activity in Colombia is monitored by Ingeominas. If you’re planning to visit areas of known volcanic activity, pay careful attention to all warnings and follow the advice of the local authorities.

The Nevado Del Ruiz volcano erupted in June 2012. The volcano activity level has since been lowered to Level III (changes in volcanic activity).

Since the earthquake on 21 October 2014 in the area of the Chiles Volcano in Cumbal (Nariño department) on the border between Colombia and Ecuador, the Colombian geological authorities have maintained an orange alert in the surrounding area. 12,000 people in southern Nariño were ordered to evacuate their homes because of a possible eruption.

Monitor local media and seek information and advice from the local authorities before travelling on the Pan-American highway, which passes near the volcano. Call #767 for information (in Spanish) from the Colombian Highway Police about road closures.

Money

US dollars and Euros are widely exchangeable.

Use credit and debit cards with care and keep receipts. When using an ATM, try to do so during business hours inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building. Be particularly vigilant before and after using an ATM on the street - robberies are common, especially at night.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy Bogotá

    Title:British Embassy
    Email:embajadabritanica.bogota@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Carrera 9, No 76-49, Piso 8
    Edificio ING Barings, Bogotá
    Bogotá
    Colombia

    Contact: Switchboard: (57) (1) 326 8300
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Consulate Bogota

    Title:British Consulate, Bogota
    Email:colombia.consulate@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Cra 9 No. 76 - 49 piso 9
    Bogota
    Colombia

    Contact: Switchboard: (+571) 3268300
    Visiting:Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00am – 12:30pm
    Closed on Wednesdays.
    All customers must book an appointment in advance.

    (Outside of normal Embassy operating hours our switchboard will direct you to the appropriate out-of-hours number).
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Transferring funds for prisoners / for financial assistance service (Assistance Services)
    Registrations of Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Documentary Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Notarial services (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
  • Department for International Trade Colombia

    Title:Department for International Trade Colombia
    Email:Bogota.UKTIMail@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British Embassy
    Carrera 9 # 76-49 (8th Floor)
    Bogota
    Colombia

    Contact: Switchboard: +57 (1) 326 8300
    Visiting:
    Services:

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