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Colombia

If you’re travelling to Colombia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution

Latest travel alerts

There have been heavy rains across South West Colombia causing flooding, landslides and mudslides. Putumayo province and the provincial capital Mocoa have been particularly affected.

There has been damage to local infrastructure, including roads and bridges, affecting transport routes.

If you are in South West Colombia, or planning to travel to the area, please monitor local news and follow the authorities' advice.

Zika Virus

There is currently an outbreak of Zika Virus (a dengue-like mosquito-borne disease) in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Irish Citizens are advised to follow guidance available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/Zika/.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Colombia before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems when you’re in Colombia, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency series in Colombia by dialling (123).

There is no Irish Embassy in Colombia, we are limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you require assistance, you can contact the Honorary Consul in Bogota or the Irish Embassy in Mexico City in Mexico.

If you phone outside of working hours, leave us a message giving:

  • Your name
  • The nature of your problem
  • Where you are now
  • Your contact details (mobile phone number or phone number of where you’re staying)

We regularly monitor these messages and one of our staff members will be in contact with you.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Safety and security

Political unrest

Politically-driven and criminal violence is a serious problem in Colombia. Attacks, including bombings, continue to take place. 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.

Kidnapping

There is a high risk of kidnap from both terrorist and criminal groups. 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 perceived to be working for) oil, mining and related companies. Take particular care when travelling alone, using ATMs, or travelling in or near tugurios (slum areas).

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

Landmines

Colombia is affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Mined areas are frequently unmarked so be aware of potential dangers when visiting remote locations or venturing off the main roads.

Border security

The Venezuelan government has closed several major border crossing points between the Venezuelan states of Tachira and Zulia and the Colombian departments of La Guajira and Norte de Santander until further notice due to concerns about security and smuggling. You should avoid crossing from Colombia into Venezuela by land.

Crime

Crime is prevalent in Colombia and you should take sensible precautions.

Street crime is a problem in major cities, including Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Santa Marta. Mugging and pickpocketing can be accompanied by violence.

There have been reports of criminals in Colombia using drugs to subdue their victims. Drugs can be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols and even paper flyers and can temporarily incapacitate the victim leaving them vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault and other crimes.

Where possible, plan how you will travel to and from your destination. Only use pre-booked taxis. Avoid travelling on your own or at night, especially at border crossings or areas where there are few other people around.

Serious crime

A high level of caution should be exercised against street crime in major cities such as Bogotá, Medellin and Cali.   You should avoid unnecessary visits to deprived areas of all Colombian cities. In Bogotá, you should be vigilant in areas to the south of Candelaria and to the west of the airport road as these parts of the city are particularly dangerous. You should be cautious on city streets, especially after dark.

Petty theft

Petty crime, such as pick pocketing and bag-snatching, occurs in Colombia, including at the airport in Bogotá and near hotels. Take care of your personal belongings and avoid obvious displays of wealth.

Foreigners have been robbed and assaulted after accepting ‘spiked’ food, drinks, cigarettes or chewing gum and after being sprayed by aerosols containing incapacitating chemicals.

Tourist scams

There have been reports, including in Bogotá, of bogus policemen approaching foreigners to inspect documents or foreign currency. If approached you should avoid handing over money or documents, unless threatened, and try to stay in busy areas.

Lost or stolen passports

If your passport is lost or stolen, it can take up to three weeks to get a replacement, due to time and distance factors. So please take extreme care with your passport and other personal documentation. Getting a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one, so keep photocopies of your passport.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Colombia, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Mexico City if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Colombia, you should be extremely careful. Driving and road standards are variable. Travel by road outside the major cities, including by public transport, is dangerous. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Taxis

You should avoid hailing taxis on the street and should book them through hotels or by phoning a reputable taxi company.

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Illegal drugs

Drug trafficking is a serious crime in Colombia and drug smugglers face severe penalties, usually receiving long term of imprisonment. Don’t handle drugs in Colombia. Pack your luggage yourself and keep it with you at all times. Don’t carry anything through customs for anybody else.

LGBT travellers

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

Military or strategic government sites

Photographing of military or strategic government sites is not allowed.

Age of consent

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

Natural disasters and climate

Earthquakes

Colombia is in an active seismic zone, which can prove dangerous. If you’re travelling to or living in Colombia, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Volcanos

Colombia is also subject to volcanic activity. If travelling to volcanic zones e.g. Nevado Del Ruiz, the Galeras Volcano in the Nariño Department or the Cerro Machin in Tolima Department, you should pay careful attention to any warnings issued and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Flooding

Colombia can be prone to heavy rains, which can affect large areas of the country.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

You don’t need a visa to visit Colombia temporarily. However, entry requirements change from time to time, so check these requirements with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Colombia. You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for.

Yellow fever

If you intend to travel on to neighbouring countries in Latin America from Colombia, you may not be allowed to do so without production of a Yellow Fever Certificate. You should confirm with the authorities of you next destination whether they require a certificate following your visit to Colombia.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport and the Colombian visa from your passport at all times.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance (8weeks) of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Colombia.

Foreign nationals who violate immigration laws in Colombia (e.g. by overstaying a visa) will not be permitted to access Colombia's public health system.

Malaria

There’s a high incidence of malaria in low-land tropical areas, particularly in Choco and north-western Antioquia. You are advised to take medical advice on anti-malarial medication prior to travel, and after arrival, take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by using bed nets and repellents, and wearing closed shoes, long sleeves and trousers.

Dengue fever

Dengue fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Take precautions against being bitten by Dengue-carrying mosquitoes, which are active throughout the day.