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U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

Consular Information Sheet

 


Please click on this link to read important information you should see before you travel abroad

This information is current as of today,

Colombia

Americans planning travel to Colombia should read Travel Warning for Colombia Intercountry Adoption Colombia and Worldwide Caution  Public Announcement available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov

August 17, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  Colombia, the second most populous country in South America, is a medium-income nation with a diverse economy.  Its geography is also diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rainforests to rugged mountainous terrain.  Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location.  Security is a significant concern for travelers, as described in the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Colombia.  Please see the Department of State’s Background Notes on Colombia for additional information about Colombia’s geography, economy, history, people, and government.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  U.S. citizens who are not also Colombian citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia.  Dual-national U.S-Colombian citizens must present a Colombian passport to enter Colombia, and both a Colombian passport and U.S. passport to exit the country and return to the United States.  Be aware that any person born in Colombia may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such.  If you are an American citizen who was born in Colombia or who otherwise has Colombian citizenship, you will need both a Colombian passport and a U.S. passport during your trip. 

U.S. passports issued in Colombia generally take at least seven days for processing and in some cases considerably longer.  To avoid delays in your return to the United States, it is recommended that you obtain your U.S. passport before departing the United States.  Instructions for obtaining a passport in the United States can be found at www.travel.state.gov.

U.S. citizens do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less.  Tourists entering Colombia may be asked for evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a round-trip ticket.  Americans traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing.  Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point.  Fines or incarceration may result for travelers who enter Colombia at unauthorized crossings.

The length of stay granted to travelers will be determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport.  Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority, known as DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) Extranjeria, after arrival in Colombia.  Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized.  Any foreigner who possesses a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at an office of DAS Extranjeria within 15 days of arrival in Colombia, or face fines.  There is no arrival tax collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax of up to $53 at the airport.

U.S. citizens whose U.S. passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new U.S. passport before departing.  They must then present the passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to an office of DAS Extranjeria.  Information about obtaining a replacement U.S. passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov.  Contact information for DAS Extranjeria is available in Spanish at www.das.gov.co.  The Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla can provide you with additional guidance when you apply for your replacement passport.

See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Colombia and other countries.  See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.  Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

For further information regarding entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; Internet website - http://www.colombiaemb.org; or a Colombian consulate.  Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and San Juan.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS:

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented exit procedures for any Colombian or dual-national child under 18 who is departing the country without both of his/her parents or a legal guardian.  Upon exiting the country, the person traveling with the child (or the child him/herself) must present a copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian.  The authorization must explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party.  When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization.  When one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent’s written authorization.  If the decree was issued by a Colombian court, it must grant the custodial parent a form of custody known as patria potestad.

If the documents to be presented were prepared in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then authenticated by a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate.  Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Ministry of External Affairs for certification of the consul’s signature.  Alternatively, the documents can be notarized by a notary public in the United States and then authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared.  For more information on apostilles and a state-by-state list of competent authorities, please see our information on Legalization of Foreign Public Documents.

If documents are prepared in Colombia, notarization by a Colombian notary is required.  For documents prepared in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian embassy serving that country.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Travel to Colombia can expose visitors to considerable risk.  The Secretary of State has designated three Colombian groups – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) – as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  These groups have carried out bombings and other attacks in and around major urban areas, including against civilian targets.  Terrorist groups have also targeted critical infrastructure (e.g., water, oil, gas, and electricity), public recreational areas, and modes of transportation.

During the past two years, kidnappings and other violent crime have decreased markedly in most urban areas, including Bogotá, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.  Nevertheless, Colombia continues to have a high rate of kidnapping for ransom.  Approximately 370 kidnappings committed by terrorist groups and for-profit kidnap gangs were reported to authorities in 2005.  There was at least one kidnapping of an American citizen in 2005.  The FARC continues to hold three U.S. government contractors as hostages – all U.S. citizens – who were captured in February 2003 when their small plane went down in a remote area of Colombia.

Kidnap or murder victims in Colombia have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers and businesspeople, as well as tourists and even small children.  No one can be considered immune.  Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of American hostages, and the Colombian government has had some success with hostage-recovery teams, rescue capabilities are limited.  Colombian law requires that private persons coordinate efforts to free kidnap victims with the Colombian Office of Anti-Kidnapping (Ministerio de Defensa/Programa Para la Defensa de la Libertad Personal).

Official and personal travel by U.S. Embassy employees outside of most urban areas is subject to strict limitations and reviewed case by case.  U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air, but inter- and intra-city bus transportation is off-limits to them.

The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Colombia of all U.S. government personnel.  Such travel is approved only for essential business.  Personal travel by U.S. military personnel to Colombia also requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy.  Military personnel requesting permission for personal travel should contact the office of the Embassy’s Defense Attaché, through the Embassy switchboard at 011-57-1-315-0811.  Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should consult the Department’s Internet web site at, where current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747, toll free in the U.S. or Canada, or from outside the U.S. and Canada, by calling a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday except U.S. federal holidays.

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own security while traveling overseas.  For general information about protecting yourself overseas, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:  Armed robbery and other violent crime are common in major cities.  Several recent robberies of American citizens have occurred while victims were walking to their hotels or apartments after using automatic teller machines.  In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene.  American citizens are urged to use ATMs only during daylight hours and only inside shopping malls or other protected locations.  Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection.  When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone who may be watching or following you.  Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist.  Robbery victims have recently been shot and killed while resisting.

Robbery of people hailing taxis on the street is a particularly serious problem in large cities and especially in Bogotá.  In one recent case in Bogotá, an American citizen was seriously wounded.  Typically, the driver – who is one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger, and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings.  If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators will often force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations.  Such ordeals can last for hours.

In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed their taxis off the street.  Rather than hailing a taxi, you should take advantage of the telephone dispatch service that most taxi companies offer.  Most hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi company for you, and the taxis usually arrive within minutes.  When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi.  Additionally, the passenger receives a code from the dispatcher, which helps ensure that the correct taxi has arrived. 

The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals using the drug scopolamine to incapacitate tourists and others.  At bars, restaurants, and other public areas, perpetrators offer drinks, cigarettes, or gum that they have treated with the drug.  Perpetrators have also approached victims requesting directions and blown scopolamine powder toward the victim from a piece of paper.  The drug renders the target disoriented or unconscious, and vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, or other crimes.  Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.

American citizens should be aware of the danger of traveling on inter-city and rural roads in Colombia, including on buses, due to the risk of kidnapping and other activity by criminal gangs.  Buses within cities also present a risk of robbery and other crime.  U.S. Government employees in Colombia are prohibited from taking buses anywhere in the country.  They are also forbidden from driving outside many urban areas, and they cannot drive on roads outside of urban areas at night.

Like other airports in high crime cities in South America, passengers at Eldorado International Airport in Bogotá have reported having their luggage and passports stolen.  Travelers should keep a careful eye on their belongings at all times."

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:  The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere.  The Embassy occasionally receives reports of U.S. citizens who have died or suffered serious medical complications while undergoing cosmetic surgery such as liposuction.  Before electing to undergo such procedures in Colombia, the Department of State recommends that you consult with your physician in the United States, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider the availability of emergency medical facilities in the event that complications should arise.

Most private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care at the time of treatment.  Some providers in major cities accept credit cards.  Uninsured travelers without funds may be limited to seeking care in public hospitals, which are well below U.S. standards. 

Travelers to the capital city of Bogotá may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level, and can cause headaches, sleeplessness, dehydration, and other discomfort.  Travelers with circulatory or respiratory problems should consult a physician before traveling to Bogotá or other high-altitude locations.

Information on vaccinations and other health recommendations, including food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:  The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad, to confirm that their policies apply overseas and that they have coverage for emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Colombia is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate in all locations or circumstances.

Major accidents involving inter-city buses are a regular occurrence in Colombia, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.  In December 2005, a bus carrying an American citizen plunged from a road into a river outside Medellin, resulting in many fatalities.

Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are sporadically obeyed and rarely enforced, creating chaotic and dangerous conditions for both drivers and pedestrians in major cities.  Seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle.  Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat.  If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive.  Moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.

Although road security has improved in some areas, including in and around Bogotá, the Embassy strongly recommends against most road travel outside of major urban areas, whether by bus or car.  The Government of Colombia has instituted extra security to promote road travel during holidays, but outside of these periods, the possible presence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups and common criminals in rural areas makes travel on these roads dangerous.  In regions where the government has not established full authority, guerrilla groups have been known to set up roadblocks to rob or kidnap travelers.  Government or guerrilla control in a given area is subject to change, sometimes quickly and without notice.  Travel between major cities should be done by airplane.

For additional information about road travel in Colombia, see the U.S. Embassy home page at http://usembassy.state.gov/Bogotá.  Please refer to our RoadSafety page for more information. 

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Colombia’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia.  Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration.  In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available; buying or selling such products is illegal in Colombia, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and fines. 

Colombian law also forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes.  Under a recent agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork when they are brought into the United States.

Travelers departing Colombia must declare to Colombian officials if they are carrying cash or other financial instruments worth 10,000 U.S. dollars or more. Please see our information on Customs Regulations.You should also contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance from the Colombian government.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford protections available under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  American citizens who violate Colombian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  If you are arrested, consular officers cannot request your release.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences in harsh conditions, heavy fines, and great hardship for themselves and their families.  Colombian police make many arrests for drug trafficking at international airports and elsewhere in Colombia.  There are more than 35 American citizens incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country.  Many of them ingested capsules containing drugs and were captured after being subjected to X-ray exams.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime under U.S. law and is prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. 

STATE OF EMERGENCY: On occasion, the Government of Colombia has declared a state of emergency in portions of the country.  During these times, American citizens may find their movements or civil liberties restricted due to curfews, registration requirements, or other security-related measures.  American citizens are advised to stay alert to changes in emergency status.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country.  Flooding and mudslides also sometimes occur in parts of the country.  U.S. citizens in Colombia can find information on coping with natural disasters on the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://Bogota.usembassy.gov/.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website, and the publication International Child Abduction in Colombia.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá through the State Department’s travel registration website.  Registrants can also sign up to receive emailed updates on travel and security within Colombia.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of a family emergency or other problem.

The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office is open for routine services, including registration and application for passports, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays.  The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida El Dorado and Carrera 50; telephone (011-57-1) 315-0811 during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or 315-2109/2110 for emergencies during non-business hours; fax (011-57-1) 315-2196/2197; Internet website - http://Bogota.usembassy.gov/

The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (011-57-5) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216; e-mail: agrpersonal@enred.com.

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated August 15, 2005, with updates throughout.