Travel guide to Colombia

Passports
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your return date and have a blank page for an entry stamp. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
UK, American and most European passport holders do not require a visa for holidays < 180 days.
Health
Malaria tablets and a yellow fever vaccination are recommended in the tropical regions, including Cartagena & Tayrona National Park - but not for Bogota & the Andean Highlands. As dengue fever is present, a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are also advised. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. At high altitude in the Andes, take precautions against altitude sickness (i.e. moderate alcohol, walk slowly and drink plenty of water). There are no other compulsory health requirements, but you should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters. Always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB.
Currency
Colombian Peso (COP) - remember to ask for small denominations, which are useful for tipping.
Language
Spanish
Time Zone
GMT - 5 hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. Be aware that some rural areas may not have cell phone coverage or Wi-Fi. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. Ensure you have cash when travelling in the countryside, as some places may not accept credit cards. 
 
Clothing – as the tropics are hot and humid, pack in layers according to the season including T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen, swimming costume and flip-flops for the beach. Also pack a fleece, as it can get cold at high altitude in the Andes and in the evening. If you are visiting Tayrona or the Amazon, pack lightweight but long sleeved shirts and long trousers to protect against mosquitos (safari clothing is ideal for this – at least 2 sets). Take proper walking shoes, a day pack, good head lamp and long socks (so you can tuck in your trouser legs and keep the insects out). Take a generous supply of insect repellent to spray on your neck, wrists and ankles and avoid using perfume, as this attracts mosquitos. Also rain gear in the wet season, including both a rain jacket and lightweight waterproof trousers. Sanitising hand cleaner/wet wipes and eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses. 
 
Accessories – pack your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography) and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – mainly Type A (two flat blades as in USA) and type B, so a universal adaptor is recommended. 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide and a Spanish phrase book. Knowing a few simple greetings will go down well. Also pack a generous supply of English reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights, as these will be hard to come by. 
 
Water – tap water is generally safe for brushing teeth, but drink only bottled water. 
 
Food – Colombian cuisine is diverse and varies widely by region. There is a lot of meat in the diet, including local specialities such as gunea pig and roasted ants. Fresh fruit is abundant & you will find delicious seafood along the Pacific coast, often prepared in a sauce made from coconut milk. The main meal is eaten at midday. 
 
Respect the Local Culture – always take into account the wishes of the local people, some of whom do not wish to be photographed. 
 
Taxis – in cities use only regulated taxis. 
 
Self-Drive – driving is on the right, although we do not recommend self-driving in Colombia. 
 
Safety – as this is a third-world country, take all sensible precautions. Leave valuable jewellery/watches at home, wear a money belt and be alert when outside your hotel. In particular, avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash in your hotel safe. 
 
Tipping – this is voluntary and should depend on the level of service received. We suggest the local currency equivalent of the following USD per couple, but this can be reduced for longer stays: 
- city guide & driver: $8/$2 per day ($4/$1 for half day) 
- overland guide & driver: $10/$5 per day 
- tipping box for hotel staff $2 per day 
- waiters: 10% if not already added to your bill 
- porters $1 per bag.
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