COLOMBIA - Exercise a high degree of cautionThere is no nationwide advisory in effect for Colombia. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security situation.
Regional AdvisoryForeign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to:
- Most rural areas of Colombia due to the presence of illegal armed groups, to the constantly changing security situation and to the fact that securing the entire extent of Colombia’s national territory remains a challenge.
The exceptions are some parts of the coffee-growing area southwest of Bogotá (Risaralda, Quindío and Caldas) and resort areas with established tourist industries, such as the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, the Rosario Islands off of the Atlantic Coast and the Amazon resorts near Leticia.
- The Departments of Antioquia (excluding Medellín), Arauca, Cauca, Caquetá, Chocó, Cordoba (excluding Monteria), Guaviare, Huila, Meta, Nariño (excluding Pasto), Norte de Santander (excluding Cúcuta), Putumayo, Santander (excluding Bucaramanga), Tolima, Valle del Cauca (excluding Cali), Vichada and southern parts of La Guajira due to the presence of illegal armed groups.
- The city of Buenaventura due to the presence of illegal armed groups.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Illegal armed groups
The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, and post-demobilization armed groups pose a major risk to travellers, especially in rural areas. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings and damage to infrastructure in these areas. Landmines continue to be used by guerrilla groups, especially in rural areas.
There is no specific information about future terrorist activities or threats against Canadian citizens in Colombia, however, the January 20, 2013 end of the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest illegal armed group, may result in an increase in the terrorist threat. Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants, underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities. You may travel to most urban centres and major cities serviced by commercial air transportation if you exercise extreme caution. Remain vigilant, avoid any unattended packages or parcels, and bring them to the attention of security personnel. Avoid travel to the areas of the country listed in the Advisories section.
In spite of recent improvements, petty and violent crime, including pickpocketing, assault, robbery, car bombing, hijacking and murder, is common in urban and rural Colombia. Exercise extreme caution -- dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and keep cameras and electronic equipment out of sight. Carry minimal sums of money and leave your passport and other travel documents locked in your hotel safe.
For security reasons, arrive at Medellín’s José Maria Córdova International Airport during the day to avoid the road from the airport to the city after dark.
Remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings at all times when travelling in larger cities, such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. Some neighbourhoods should be avoided at all times due to higher crime rates; however, muggings and assaults occur even in safer parts of these cities. Check with your hotel or other reliable contacts in the city you are visiting to determine which areas should be avoided.
There has been an increase in assaults and robberies against foreigners at hostels in Colombia, particularly in Bogotá and Cartagena, where some thieves are armed and violent. If you opt to stay at hostels, be highly vigilant and carefully evaluate your personal security situation.
Avoid the southern parts of Bogotá, especially the neighbourhoods of Soacha and Ciudad Bolivar. Avoid the downtown area (Candelaria and surrounding neighbourhoods) after dark, and avoid the neighbourhoods of Kennedy and Usaquen (north of calle 153) at all times.
In Medellín, avoid the city centre after dark, and try not to frequent areas that are not covered by the metro system. Although some of the "comunas" are serviced by the cablecar system ("Metrocable"), you should avoid them at all times.
Tourists in Cali should remain in the hotel zone and avoid all other parts of the city. Violent crimes have recently been reported even in wealthier neighbourhoods and shopping malls.
Avoid going to bars alone. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Travellers are typically approached by someone asking for directions. The drug scopolamine is concealed in a piece of paper and is blown into the victim’s face. Exercise extreme caution, as the drug causes prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems.
Business travellers and Canadian companies establishing operations in Colombia should take enhanced security measures to protect both personnel and company assets. Select living accommodations with significant security and modern, secure office facilities. Consult with the Commercial Section of the Embassy of Canada in Bogotá for more information and advice.
There have been reports of thieves posing as police officers and approaching foreigners to verify their documents or foreign currency. If approached, do not hand over money or documents unless you feel threatened -- in which case you should not resist -- and then request to do so at your hotel or other public place to maximize your safety.
National parks, wildlife refuges, and city outskirts are often convenient hideouts for illegal groups . Armed clashes are frequent in such areas. If visiting these destinations, remain in tourist areas, as they are usually safer and are more frequently patrolled by police.
In tourist resort areas of San Andrés Island, Providencia Island and Cartagena, criminal activity and violence directed at tourists is low, compared to other destinations in the region. Exercise common-sense precautions.
Colombia has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. While kidnapping is primarily aimed at Colombians, foreigners can be targeted by guerrilla groups in all parts of the country, especially persons working for (or perceived to be working for) oil and mining companies.
"Express kidnappings" are frequent and often happen in wealthier areas, and areas with a lot of tourist traffic. Victims are usually picked up from the street and forced to withdraw funds from an automated banking machine (ABM). Victims are sometimes held overnight so that a second withdrawal can be made the next day. Victims may be sexually assaulted during the kidnapping. Uncooperative victims have been injured.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations, major strikes, and acts of violence by terrorist groups may occur. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, especially in large cities.
In some rural areas, illegal armed groups may set up roadblocks, where they target the well-off for robbery or kidnapping for ransom. Roadblocks may disrupt local transportation and affect travel to and from airports.
Travel by air when covering long distances and do not enter or leave Colombia over land borders. Any road travel should be done using main roads only, and always during daylight hours. Road closures may occur between Bogotá and Villavicencio and in the Magdalena Medio region (Barrancabermeja), and are more frequent in the departments of Guajira, Bolívar, Antioquia, Santander, Norte de Santander and Putumayo.
Road travel in Colombia, including Bogotá, is extremely dangerous and roads are usually congested. Most roadways are in poor condition. Traffic laws are not enforced by police, traffic signs and controls are ignored, and drivers are aggressive and dangerous. Pedestrians do not have the right of way.
When travelling by car, lock all belongings in the trunk and keep your doors locked at all times. Carry a cellular telephone and park your car in a guarded parking lot.
Public transportation is not a safe alternative; buses and, to a lesser extent, taxis are frequent targets for criminals. Rural buses are often stopped by guerrillas. Do not hail taxis on the street, as express kidnappings have occurred in unlicensed taxis; rather, book them through your hotel or through an authorized and controlled taxi centre and take note of the licence plate number. If you have to hail a taxi on the street, avoid cabs without licence plates and do not enter a cab if it is already occupied by anyone but the driver. Many taxi drivers are armed.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Dial 123 for ambulance services.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Colombian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Colombia or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Colombia, which must be valid for the duration of their stay. Before you leave, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Dual citizens (Canadian and Colombian) must enter and exit Colombia using their Colombian passport or Colombian identification card.
Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Tourist visa: Not required
Business or work visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadian citizens entering Colombia for tourism purposes do not require a visa. However, those travelling for other purposes must apply for the appropriate visa. Failure to have the proper type of visa could result in deportation.
Canadians wishing to participate in human rights activities and humanitarian assistance programs must have a temporary special visa or temporary religious visa.
Canadians entering on visas are prohibited from participating in local political activities, rallies or public demonstrations. Political involvement can result in deportation.
Canadians entering Colombia by land need to obtain an entrance stamp in their passport. If they fail to do so, Colombian officials could oblige them to go back to the border to obtain the stamp.
The Puente Internacional de Rumichaca border crossing, located between Ipiales, Colombia, and Tulcán, Ecuador, is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Allow enough time for border-crossing formalities.
An airport tax is charged for international departures.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Travellers to Putumayo, Meta, Gorgona and Caquetá must produce proof of yellow fever vaccination, as it will be required by airlines for flights to these departments.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Colombia.
Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. Many clinics offer emergency services, but payment in advance is often expected. Clinics include the Clínica del Country (530-0470), Fundación Santa Fé (603-0303) and Clínica Marly (343-6600). Call 258-6569 to contact the Trasmédica ambulance service.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
There is no Transfer of Offenders Treaty between Canada and Colombia. Jail terms must be served in Colombia.
Sentences for drug-related offences are severe. Monitor your luggage closely at all times. Never transport other people’s packages or change money for strangers.
Colombian law prohibits travellers from bringing firearms into Colombia. Penalties for illegal importation or possession include heavy jail sentences.
It is also prohibited to export certain cultural patrimony artifacts.
It is a serious criminal offence to have sex with minors in Colombia. Conviction may result in a lengthy prison sentence.
In the event of an accident, the drivers involved must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive. Failure to do so may result in problems with Colombian law enforcement.
An international driving permit is required.
The currency is the Colombian peso (COP). Canadian traveller’s cheques and cash are not accepted in Colombia; however, U.S. currency and traveller’s cheques are widely accepted. Colombian automated banking machines (ABMs) accept most Canadian bank cards, making it possible to withdraw Colombian pesos.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Colombia is subject to various natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, torrential rains, floods and mudslides, which often result in the loss of lives and disruption of travel. Pay careful attention to weather forecasts and warnings issued, and modify your travel arrangements accordingly.
Hurricanes and rainy seasons
The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.
Rainy seasons normally last from March to June and from September to November. Incidents of flooding and mudslides occur, especially in rural areas.
The Nevado Del Ruiz volcano has recently erupted. Although the eruption did not result in damages or injuries, Colombian authorities have issued an alert for the areas surrounding the volcano. Follow the advice of local authorities and avoid affected areas. More information is available on the website of the Servicio Geológico Colombiano (in Spanish).
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