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COLOMBIA - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Colombia. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security situation.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to:
- Most rural areas of Colombia due to the presence of illegal armed groups and the evolving security situation.
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.
Consult the Security tab for more information.
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 (see Advisory)
The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla groups—including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army—and other 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. Landmines continue to be used by guerrilla groups.
If you intend to travel to remote areas for eco-tourism or to visit archaeological sites despite this Advisory, you should do so with an experienced and reputable tour guide only. Plan your itinerary well in advance and seek professional security advice. Avoid travelling at night, stay at areas frequented by tourists, and follow the advice of local authorities. Note that you may be denied entry to certain areas by local authorities due to emerging security threats.
There are two known terrorist groups active in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). 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. The Government of Colombia continues negotiations with the FARC to bring an end to the conflict; however, there is currently no ceasefire in place. Remain vigilant, avoid any unattended packages or parcels, and bring them to the attention of security personnel. Follow the advice and instructions of local authorities and monitor media for updates. Avoid travel to the areas of the country listed in the Advisories section.
Although there have been significant improvements to Colombia’s security situation, petty and violent crime, including pickpocketing, assault, robbery, car bombing, hijacking and murder, is still common throughout the country. 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.
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. Muggings and assaults occur even in safer parts of these cities, and some neighbourhoods should be avoided at all times due to high crime rates. 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. 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 avoid areas not covered by the metro system. Although some of the "comunas" (municipalities on the periphery of the city) are serviced by the cablecar system ("Metrocable"), you should avoid them at all times.
In Cali you should remain in the hotel zone and the south of the city; you should avoid all other parts of Cali. 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. Drugs such as scopolamine have been reportedly blown into the faces of victims on the street. Exercise extreme caution when dealing with strangers.
Business travellers and Canadian companies establishing operations in Colombia should take enhanced security measures to protect both personnel and company assets. Choose living accommodations that have significant security measures in place, and modern office facilities. Consult 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 the 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 and normal security precautions in these areas.
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 foreigners working for (or perceived to be working for) oil and mining companies.
"Express kidnappings" are frequent and often occur in affluent areas as well as in tourist areas. Victims are usually kidnapped 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 or killed.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations, major strikes, and acts of violence by terrorist groups may occur. Avoid all large gatherings and demonstrations, especially in large cities, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Road travel in Colombia, including Bogotá, is extremely dangerous. Most roadways are in poor condition and are often congested. Traffic laws are not enforced by police, traffic signs and controls are ignored, and drivers are frequently distracted and can be aggressive and/or drunk. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, including at stop signs.
When travelling by car, place 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.
In some rural areas, illegal armed groups may set up roadblocks targeting 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 during the day using main roads only. 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.
Avoid travelling on the Pan-American highway in the south-west departments of Colombia, where a series of explosions has occurred since late 2014.
Public transportation is not safe; 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 often occur 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. Smartphone applications are available that allow you to order safe taxis, which are monitored by GPS.
See Transportation Safety 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.
See Dual citizenship for more information.
Tourist visa: Not required
Business or work visa: Required
Student visa: Required
The permitted length of stay for tourists is determined by the immigration officer upon entry to Colombia, which can range from 30 to 90 days. You will be fined if you stay in the country longer than is permitted on your entry stamp. You can receive an extension from Migración Colombia—the Colombian immigration authority—in any departmental capital.
As of December 1, 2014, Canadians are required to pay a tax to enter Colombia. Children under the age of 14 and adults older than 79 years are exempted. The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is also excluded. For all other points of entry, Canadians will be obligated to pay 160,000.00 pesos (approx. USD 68) to customs officials, in cash or by credit or debit card.
If you wish to participate in human rights activities and humanitarian assistance programs, you must have a temporary special visa or temporary religious visa.
Canadians entering Colombia on a visa are prohibited from participating in local political activities, rallies or public demonstrations. Political involvement can result in deportation.
You must obtain an entry stamp in your passport if you enter Colombia by land. If you fail to do so, Colombian officials could force you 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. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal
Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine or medication to protect against leishmaniasis.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
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.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention 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. Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in lengthy prison sentences.
It is also prohibited to export certain cultural 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 a car 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
Natural disasters & climate
Colombia is subject to various natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, torrential rains, floods and mudslides, which can cause damage to infrastructure and loss of life. Pay careful attention to weather forecasts and official warnings, 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.
On October 21, 2014, Colombian authorities raised the level of activity of volcanos Chiles and Cerro Negro (Nariño Department) from yellow to orange, which means that an eruption is probable within days or weeks. Follow the advice of local authorities. See Servicio Geológico Colombiano (in Spanish) for more information.
Bogotá - Embassy of Canada
Cartagena - Consulate of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Bogotá and follow the instructions. You may also place a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.
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