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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 high levels of crime.
Regional advisory - Avoid all travel
Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to the following areas due to the risk of kidnapping and violent crime posed by the presence of illegal armed groups and other criminal organizations:
- the area within 20 km of the border with Venezuela;
- the area within 20 km of the border with Panama; and,
- the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco.
See Safety and security for more information.
Regional advisory - Avoid non-essential travel
Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to the following departments due to drug-related criminal activity carried out by illegal armed groups and other criminal organizations:
- Antioquia (excluding the cities of Medellín and Carmen de Viboral, the José María Córdova International Airport and the airport road);
- Cordoba (excluding the capital city of Monteria);
- La Guajira (excluding the area north of Highway 90 between Riohacha and Paraguachón);
- Huila (excluding the city of Neiva);
- Meta (excluding the capital city of Villavicencio);
- Nariño (excluding the capital city of Pasto);
- Norte de Santander;
- Santander (excluding the cities of Bucaramanga, Barichara, Socorro, San Gil and Girón);
- Tolima (excluding the city of Ibagué);
- Valle del Cauca (excluding the capital city of Cali); and
If you intend to travel to the above areas that are excluded from this regional advisory, and where you should exercise a high degree of caution, do so by air.
See Safety and security for more information.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Colombia. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Illegal armed groups (see Advisory)
The presence of armed drug traffickers, illegal armed groups—including the National Liberation Army (ELN)—and other criminal groups such as GAO (Grupos Armados Organizados) pose a major risk to travellers in some areas (see Advisories). These groups engage in terrorist activity and perpetrate armed attacks, extortion, kidnappings, bombings and damage to infrastructure, activities that often result in deaths and injuries. Violence can occur with little or no notice, and there is a risk in being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Exercise a high degree of personal security awareness at all times, maintain a heightened level of vigilance and be aware of your surroundings.
Landmines continue to be used by illegal armed groups. Mined areas are frequently unmarked, so remain on well-used roads and paths when visiting remote locations.
For decades, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) posed a significant threat to the security situation in Colombia. On June 23, 2016, the Government of Colombia and FARC signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement, and on November 30, 2016, a final, comprehensive peace agreement was ratified by Congress. The demobilization and disarmament process is underway and only a small number of FARC groups have not demobilized under the terms of the agreement and therefore remain a threat.
There is a threat of domestic terrorism. Targets could include military and police vehicles and installations and public areas. Remain vigilant at all times. Avoid any unattended packages or parcels and bring them to the attention of security personnel. Follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media for the latest updates.
Illegal armed groups, such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and organized criminal groups carry out violent attacks throughout Colombia, including in Bogota. While public peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the ELN began in January 2017, there is no ceasefire agreement in place.
Although there have been significant improvements to Colombia’s security situation, crime remains a problem throughout the country. Street crime, including pickpocketing, bag-snatching, assault and robbery, is common, particularly in larger cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Santa Marta. Muggings and assaults occur even in safer parts of Colombia’s cities, and can be accompanied by violence. Firearms are prevalent in Colombia, and armed robberies may take place on streets, in buses and in taxis.
Remain vigilant, be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid travelling alone after dark. Dress down, avoid wearing jewellery or watches and keep cell phones, cameras and other electronic equipment out of sight. Do not carry large amounts of cash and refrain from using your cell phone on the street. Use automated banking machines (ABMs) inside banks, shopping malls and other public locations during business hours only.
Whenever possible, leave your passport and other travel documents locked in your hotel safe, but always have a photocopy on you, as local authorities often conduct identity verifications. If taking an overnight bus, keep your belongings close to you, not on the floor (or in upper compartment), as they could be taken away while you sleep. Stay in reputable accommodations with good security.
When travelling by car, place all belongings under your seat and keep your doors locked and windows closed at all times. Carry a cellular telephone and park your car in a guarded parking lot when in the city.
Thieves posing as police officers have approached 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.
In Bogotá, numerous thefts occur in the following areas: the neighbourhoods of Ciudad Bolivar, El Codito (between calles (streets) 174 and 182 from Carrera 7 to Carrera 1 and in the northeastern hills from calle 182 to 200), Kennedy and Soacha; Monserrate and its surroundings; and the downtown area of Candelaria and surrounding neighbourhoods. These areas should be avoided after dark, unless you are accompanied by a guide or a private driver.
In Medellín, thefts occur frequently in the city centre and areas not covered by the metro system. Avoid the Metrocable. Try to arrive at Medellín’s José María Córdova International Airport during the day to avoid the road from the airport to the city after dark. In Cali, remain in the hotel zone and the south of the city. Violent crimes have recently occurred, even in wealthier neighbourhoods and shopping malls.
Violence directed at tourists is much lower in resort areas such as San Andrés Island, Providencia Island, Cartagena, the Rosario Islands, Baru Island, the Amazon resorts near Leticia and the coffee-growing area called Eje Cafetero (Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda). Assaults against tourists have occurred on Taganga’s beaches near Santa Marta. Note that these are all located in departments where we advise you to exercise a high degree of caution.
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 Trade section of the Embassy of Canada to Colombia in Bogotá for more information and advice.
Scopolamine is a drug that temporarily incapacitates unsuspecting victims, who become disoriented quickly and are vulnerable to crime. Drugs such as scopolamine are blown into the faces of victims on the street. Exercise extreme caution when dealing with strangers offering pamphlets, requesting addresses, locations or information and selling perfumes.
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 the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment and verbal abuse. See Her own way - a woman’s safe-travel guide for travel safety information specifically for Canadian women.
There is a risk of kidnapping for ransom in Colombia. While this type of kidnapping is primarily aimed at Colombians, foreigners can be targeted by illegal armed 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 or from taxis hailed on the street and forced to withdraw funds from an 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. Do not hail taxis from the street and if threatened by armed criminals, stay calm and do not resist.
If you intend to travel for eco-tourism or to visit archaeological sites, plan your itinerary in advance of your arrival to Colombia. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance, and that sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition. Many operators do not conduct regular safety checks. Consult the Ministry of Tourism website (in Spanish) for a list of tourism services certified by local authorities.
Do not practice extreme sporting activities alone. Know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal. Sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation.
Demonstrations and major strikes occur regularly throughout the country, especially in large cities. Transportation services may be disrupted. Ongoing protests by taxi drivers against the ride-sharing service Uber have caused traffic disruptions in Bogotá and other major cities in the country. Avoid all large gatherings and demonstrations, as they can turn violent without notice. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Canadians entering Colombia on a visa are prohibited from participating in local political activities, rallies or public demonstrations. Political involvement can result in deportation.
Road travel in Colombia, including Bogotá, can be dangerous. Most roadways are in poor condition and road signs are difficult to see. Traffic laws are not enforced by police. Drivers are frequently distracted, ignore traffic controls and can become aggressive. Motorcycles are prevalent and are often involved in traffic accidents. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, including at stop signs.
Any road travel should be done during the day and using main roads only. Note that you may be denied entry to certain areas by local authorities due to emerging security threats. Military checkpoints outside cities are common.
Labour strikes by truck drivers and agricultural workers are common in Colombia and associated roadblocks on major transit routes may cause significant travel disruptions. If you are planning to travel by land in Colombia, review local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. Dial 767 (from cell phones only) to receive advice (Spanish only) on current road closures from the Colombian Highway Police information line.
Due to a break in the Pan-American Highway caused by dense, mountainous jungle referred to as the Darién Gap, it is not possible to drive between Colombia and Panama. Vehicles must be shipped between Colón, Panama, and Cartagena, Colombia.
Never hitchhike in Colombia.
Border with Ecuador
The Puente Internacional de Rumichaca border crossing, located between Ipiales, Colombia, and Tulcán, Ecuador, is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Border wait times can vary, so allow enough time for border crossing formalities.
Public transportation is not safe in Colombia. City and rural buses are frequent targets for theft. Rural buses are often stopped by illegal armed groups.
Do not hail taxis on the street, as express kidnappings and assaults often occur in unlicensed taxis. Book taxis through your hotel or an authorized and controlled taxi centre. Take note of the licence plate number. Smartphone applications are available that allow you to order safe taxis, which are monitored by GPS. Many restaurants and stores will call a taxi for you. If you have no other option than 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 other than the driver. Note the licence plate number and name of the driver, and communicate this information to family or friends, if possible.
The El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá only allows authorized taxis to pick up passengers at their terminals. Consult their website to obtain their recommendations for transportation services. It is recommended that you arrange pickup in advance with your travel agency/hotel.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Colombian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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 for tourism purposes, or for at least six months for other purposes for which a visa might be required. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Tourist visa: Not required
Business or work visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadians do not need a visa to visit Colombia for tourism purposes. If you are visiting Colombia for other purposes, you may require a visa and, therefore, a passport that is valid for more than six months. Please consult the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the types of visas and relevant requirements.
You must obtain an entry stamp in your passport when 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.
Canadians are required to pay a tax to enter Colombia. Children under the age of 14 and adults older than 79 years are exempted. Canadians travelling only to the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina are also excluded. For all other points of entry, Canadians will be obligated to pay 171,000 pesos (approx. CAD$77) to customs officials, in cash or by credit or debit card. You will be issued a platinum card (Tiquete Platinum). Customs procedures may be delayed by the processing of payment of the tax. You must keep the platinum card in order to show it upon exit from Colombia. Consult Migración Colombia (in Spanish), the country’s immigration department, for more information.
Length of stay
The permitted length of stay for tourists is determined by the immigration officer upon entry to Colombia; a tourist stay 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. If planning to extend your stay, you must go to Migración Colombia’s office for authorization.¬ The length of stay for tourists can be extended up to a maximum of 180 days per year; the final decision remains with the immigration authority.
Dual citizens (Canadian and Colombian) must enter and exit Colombia using their Colombian passport.
Consult Laws and Culture for more information.
An airport tax is charged for international departures. The cost is usually included in the price of the airline ticket. However, it is advisable to confirm directly with the airline prior to your trip.
Colombia employs strict screening measures for detecting narcotics smuggling at its international airports. You and/or your luggage may be searched and you may be fingerprinted. In some cases, you may be required to undergo an X-ray upon arrival or departure. Most airport inspectors do not speak English or French.
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 - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* 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.
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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers 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 , yellow fever and Zika virus.
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.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- 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 private clinics offer emergency services, but payment in advance in cash is often expected. If you do not have proof of travel insurance, you may be transferred to a public hospital, where medical care does not meet Canadian standards.
Make sure you have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, including hospitalization abroad and medical evacuation, in case of illness or injury. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care, so ensure you have access to sufficient funds. Contact your insurance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. See Travel insurance for more information.
If you take prescription medications, you are responsible for determining whether the medication is prohibited in Colombia. Medications should be kept in the original container and packed in carry-on luggage. Bring sufficient quantities of prescription drugs, as the same medication might not be available in Colombia.
Other health tips
You may experience health problems caused by high altitude. Altitude sickness can be life-threatening and may require medical evacuation from the area. A health-care professional can advise you on how to prevent or reduce the effects of altitude sickness.
The quality of tap water in Colombia is better in colder regions than in warmer zones, but might not be up to Canadian standards.
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 and 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 and prison conditions are harsh. Monitor your luggage closely at all times. Never transport other people’s packages. Never exchange money for strangers, as this is a common practice for money laundering.
Travelers must not enter or exit Colombia with more than US$10,000, unless they declare the amount and can provide proof of its legal and financial source.
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. Consult our booklet entitled Child Sex Tourism: It’s a Crime for more information.
An international driving permit is required.
In the event of a car accident, the drivers involved are required by law to remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities (Policia de transito) arrive. Failure to do so may result in serious consequences.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Colombia. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Colombian citizen. While you must enter and exit Colombia with your Colombian Passport and identification card, you should carry your Canadian passport with you and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
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 ABMs accept most Canadian bank cards, making it possible to withdraw Colombian pesos.
Natural disasters and 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.
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.
Colombia’s rainy seasons normally last from March to June and from September to November. Incidents of flooding and mudslides occur, especially in rural areas.
On August 2016, Colombian authorities raised the level of activity of volcanos Nevado del Ruiz (Departments of Caldas and Tolima) and Cerro Machin (Department of Tolima) from green to yellow, which means that there are fluctuations in volcanic activity. In the event of an eruption, follow the advice of local authorities. See Servicio Geológico Colombiano (in Spanish) for more information.
Colombia is located in an active seismic area. Earthquakes occur frequently, yet most seismic events pass unnoticed. Review official warnings and modify your travel arrangements in the event of an earthquake.
Dial 123 for emergency assistance.
Bogotá - Embassy of Canada
Cartagena - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the the Embassy of Canada in Bogotá and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are 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 to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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