Your Checklist Before Arriving in Colombia

checklist for Colombia 150SQJuly 2015

Michael: My wife and I want to entice people to visit this interesting and exciting South American Country, plus get maximum enjoyment from your visit.

Graciela: We know that a small problem can sometimes hurt an otherwise excellent trip. Therefore Michael and I came up with this list of things you should probably think about before arriving to Colombia. My husband hates lists (honey-do lists as he calls them), so consider this kind of a few things to contemplate to help make for an enjoyable visit.

Check your passport – Under some circumstances a few fellow South American countries can enter Colombia with just their identification. But everyone else, including citizens of the USA, will need a passport. Take a look at your passport. Make sure it is not expired. If it is still valid, to be on the safe side, it should still have at least six months before expiration.

Visa – U.S. citizens and those from many other countries do not need a visa. Upon arrival you can stay for up to 90 days. A 90 extension is possible with a fee, of course. Check the days given at immigration. You may tell them you will be in the country for 90 days, but sometimes they stamp it for only 60 days.

For more information check this Wikipedia page

Have copies of your documentsHave copies of all your documents – Sometimes it is better to leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a copy of it. Just to be on the safe side we recommend also making copies of such things as driver’s license, visa, plane tickets and other important documents.

Taking a photo of these important items on your cell phone or camera is an idea, but you should still have paper copies as the phone or camera is more likely to be lost than paper. And it would not hurt to leave copies with someone you trust back at home.

Call your credit card company – You can travel to many countries and your credit card will work. However many card companies require you tell them ahead of time when making purchases in Colombia. Sometimes they will allow the first purchase, but deny the rest unless you have specifically informed them you will be visiting Colombia.

Know your airport transfers – Many cities in Colombia have direct flights to them from other countries. However there are still a number where you need to first fly into Bogotá then take a national flight. Bogotá has two airports. Some national flights take off from the International airport while others are at the national. There is a shuttle service between the two places, but you should be sure to have enough time to make the flight as traffic is not always the best.

Make sure you have a place to stay – We do not recommend arriving and just picking up any hotel shuttle expecting they will have a room. It is not unusual for better hotels to sell out. If Bogotá is where you are staying then our list of hotels by area may give you some ideas.

Know how you are getting from the airport to where you are staying – Sure the hotel may have a shuttle. But it is best to make sure it is running at the time you arrive. If you plan on taking a taxi have the address written down on a paper. Inside Bogotá the taxi’s have meters and the taxi’s are usually lined up on the outside of the lower floor of the airport. However be aware. Something we believe the government should crack down on are those taxi drivers who stand near the exit door asking if you need their service then grab your bag, lead you to a parking lot and charge much more than you would have to pay in a metered cab. In many other Colombian cities the taxis do not use meters. Be sure to ask the driver how much to your destination first. We have found fares in such cities as Barranquilla differing by as much as $10.

Another way is to have someone reliable pick you up from the airport. There are reliable taxi drivers who speak fluent English in both Bogotá and Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin.

Remember your time zone change – Colombia is the same as the Eastern Standard time of the USA. However the country does not use Daylight Savings time.

Minding your money – Many major stores and restaurants in Colombia take credit cards. But cash if often king in many other places. I have never found any place in Colombia taking Traveler’s checks. ATM cards generally work. However I found out two things the hard one. I had my money in a bank in the USA and their card worked fine there. However their computer did not recognize currency exchanges and did not work abroad. Then I had a bank that decided they needed to attach an $8 USD foreign transaction fee in addition to the ATM fees. The worst part is that when I called the customer service department they had no idea of either of those things.

There are branches of the U.S. based Citibank in Bogotá. But do not depend on it for other cities. For instance, I never could find their office in Barranquilla. Generally though if your ATM card company does not change you exorbitant fees it is a good way to obtain local currency. The malls in gringolandia areas of Bogotá generally have money exchanges at competitive rates.

Regardless of what country you are visiting it is always wise to never keep all your money in one place. And never allow anyone to see where you keep the large amounts. For instance do not remove the stash from your money belt where others can see it.

Do not over pack – Not only will you get hit for those overweight fees by airlines, but you will not have room to return with those wonderful Colombian made products. Have an idea ahead of time what you will need to wear to blend in and not look like a tourist. If visiting Bogotá our article “What to pack and wear to enjoy Bogotá” can help. Many other areas of Colombia are warmer. Of course Colombia manufactures some amazing clothes. It can’t hurt to just purchase while in the country. The good news is you do not have to worry about what season it is, there are no seasons in this South American country.

If you liked this writing you might also enjoy Colombia is a Country for Travelers