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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution overall in Colombia because of the threat of terrorism and criminal activity.
  • Since 20 September 2017, industrial action at Avianca Airlines, Colombia's largest airline, has caused significant delays and cancellations for Avianca passengers. Domestic flights have been most affected, but some international Avianca flights to and from Colombia have also been cancelled. You may experience disruption to air travel. Contact your airline or travel agent before you travel.
  • The risk of travel in some parts of Colombia is higher. For this reason, we recommend that travellers fly between most Colombian cities and minimise the use of vehicles for trips through rural areas.
  • On 17 June 2017, a bomb exploded in the Andino shopping centre, in Bogota, killing 3 people, including a foreign national, and injuring others. Be vigilant to your personal safety. Follow local authorities' advice. Monitor the media for developments which may affect your safety and security. See Safety and security.
  • Negotiations between rebel groups and the government of Colombia towards a peace agreement continue. Some small factions may attempt to disrupt the peace process with targeted attacks on government buildings and security forces throughout Colombia.  See Safety and security.   
  • We recommend against hailing taxis on the street as there have been reports of robbery, express kidnapping and extortion. See Local travel​.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the departments (provinces) of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Chocó, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Valle de Cauca and Vichada. See Safety and Security for specific advice about the levels of some towns, cities and tourists sites within these departments, for which we recommend travellers exercise a high degree of caution.
  • Exercise a high degree of caution in both the Caño Cristales river tourist sites and the township of La Macarena. If planning a visit to the tourist location of the Caño Cristales river, we recommend you fly to the gateway township of La Macarena. 
  • Do not to travel to areas within 20 kilometres of the Venezuelan or Ecuadorian border (except the Pan American highway), the port cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco due to the high threat of terrorist attack and high levels of violent crime.
  • Since August 2015, there have been increased tensions on the Venezuela-Colombia border. The Venezuelan Government periodically closes the border with Colombia for extended periods due to security and smuggling concerns. Do not attempt to cross the Venezuela-Colombia border by land.
  • Terrorists, insurgents, paramilitary groups and armed criminal organisations are active throughout Colombia and there is a risk of kidnapping, including of foreigners.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • the Australian Consulate-General in Bogotá has moved to new premises. See Where to get help for the new address.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Australian nationals can enter Colombia for up to 90 days as a visitor without a visa at the discretion of the Colombian Immigration Officer on arrival. You may need to provide evidence of return or onward travel. You will be fined if you stay in the country longer than is permitted on your entry stamp.

Colombia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Colombia.

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, check the yellow fever entry requirements for Colombia and all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

For Australian children who have resident status in Colombia or dual nationality and are travelling alone or with one parent, Colombian law requires a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) authorising travel and a copy of the child's birth certificate. Both documents must be translated into Spanish and notarised and certified by the Colombian Embassy or Consulate in Australia. These documents may be requested by airline staff or immigration officials. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Colombia well in advance of travel.

If you are travelling through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Colombia for the most up to date information.

The Puente Internacional de Rumichaca border crossing, located between Colombia and Ecuador, is closed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. Allow enough time for border-crossing formalities. An entry stamp at this border crossing can only be processed within the Migration Colombia office, in a face-to-face interview with at least one of the travellers. Do not pay a facilitator to undertake this process for you as you may be provided with a forged entry stamp which could result in being charged with a criminal offence.

An airport tax is charged for international departures.

Passports

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

You must obtain an entry stamp in your passport if 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.

Emergency Passports are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Colombia. Your Emergency Passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Colombia.

Safety and security

Overall, exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia, including the islands of San Andrés and Providencia. Higher levels apply to some departments and regions within Colombia.

Crime

There is a high level of crime in Colombia.

Fly between Colombian cities and minimise road travel in rural areas. Stay in reputable accommodation with appropriate levels of security.

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, occurs in major tourist areas in Colombia, including at the airport in Bogotá and near hotels.

Violent crime and gang activity occurs across Colombia, including in major cities. Remain vigilant and attentive to the security environment at all times while in Colombia.

Organised criminals operate in urban areas, including Bogotá and Medellín. Where possible, arrive at Medellín's Jose Maria Cordova airport during the day in order to avoid travelling at night.

Robbery of taxi passengers is a serious problem in Colombia. Theft frequently occurs when a passenger is travelling alone and has hailed a taxi on the street. It is safer to use a telephone dispatch service, taxi service apps, or to seek assistance from staff at hotels, hostels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book a licensed taxi. Do not share a taxi with strangers.

Take particular care when travelling alone, using automatic teller machines (ATMs), or travelling in or near tugurios (slum areas). Avoid using ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas such as within banks and shopping centres.

The number of 'express kidnappings', where victims are abducted, often in taxis, and forced to withdraw funds from ATMs before being released, has increased. Victims have been killed or injured while resisting perpetrators.

There have been reports of harassment, theft and extortion by criminals posing as police officers, both in Bogotá and in towns frequented by tourists.

There have been reports of robberies and assaults taking place after victims have accepted spiked food, drinks, cigarettes, or chewing gum. Do not accept such items from strangers and do not leave food or drinks unattended. Thieves have also used drugs, such as scopolamine, either by aerosol spray or paper handouts, to incapacitate travellers. Drugs used for robbery and assault can cause serious medical problems, including loss of consciousness and memory loss. Incidents have occurred in nightclubs, bars and restaurants, and also on public buses and city streets. If you suspect that you, or anyone you are travelling with, have been affected by these drugs, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention.

When travelling by bus between cities do not leave your bags or belongings unattended on the overhead bins or under your feet, as this is the most common way of being robbed.

Hikers, including on trails in and around Bogotá, have been robbed at gunpoint. An experienced and reputable tour guide may reduce the risk of attack while hiking.

Reconsider your need to travel areas:  Overall, due to the threat of terrorist attack and criminal activity, reconsider your need to travel to the departments (provinces) of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Chocó, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Valle de Cauca and Vichada. Within these departments (provinces) travellers are advised to exercise a High Degree of Caution in Medellín, Popayan, Quibdó, Villavicencio, Pasto, Ipiales and Cali.  Exercise a high degree of caution when visiting the whale watching towns of Nuqui, Bahia Solano and Capurganá.  Reconsider the need to travel by road between these towns and fly instead.

Do not travel areas:  Do not travel to within 20 kilometres of the Venezuelan or Ecuadorian borders (except for the Pan American highway crossing at Ipiales) and the port cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco due to the threat of terrorism from guerrilla organisations and presence of drug-related criminal activity. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings, and damage to infrastructure in these areas. There is a risk to your personal safety in these areas.

Terrorism

On 17 June 2017, a bomb exploded in the Andino shopping centre, in Bogota, killing 3 people, including a foreign national, and injuring others. Be vigilant to your personal safety. Follow local authorities' advice. Monitor the media for developments which may affect your safety and security.

While the security situation has improved in recent years, there is still the threat of terrorist attack. The primary terrorist threat to Westerners, including Australians, stems from local guerrilla groups. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and may be aimed at government targets (including military and police), transport infrastructure such as airports and public transportation, or places such as nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls or corporate facilities.

The most prominent terrorist groups are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN). These groups use terrorist-style tactics and conduct small scale attacks that mainly target Colombian Government and economic infrastructure, though some Western companies and employees have been targeted in the past.

Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of terrorists and criminal elements, including armed gangs (referred to as "BACRIM" in Spanish). Violence associated with the BACRIM has spilled over into major cities. These groups are heavily involved in the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping and robbery.

Explosions occur throughout Colombia on a regular basis, including Bogotá.

Recent examples of attacks include:

  • On 17 June 2017, a bomb exploded in the Andino shopping centre, in Bogota, killing 3 people, including a foreign national, and injuring others.
  • In early 2017, several bomb attacks occurred in Bogotá, including one outside the Santamaria bullring in the La Marcarena neighbourhood, which injured around 40 people, mainly police officers.
  • In early July 2015, several small bomb attacks occurred in Bogotá.
  • In November 2014, attack on Gorgona Island off Colombia's Pacific coast killed one police officer and injured six others.
  • In January 2014, a bomb exploded outside a police station in Pradera, Valle de Cauca, killing at least one person and injuring many others. This incident coincided with the end of a one month unilateral ceasefire.

Pe​ace process

The Government of Colombia and the FARC have been negotiating a peace agreement during the past 4 years to end decades of armed conflict. In September 2016 the agreement was signed with the FARC. Although the peace agreement was rejected by a slim majority of voters during the 2 October 2016 plebiscite, on 30 November 2016 an amended peace agreement received Congressional endorsement. The peace agreement is being implemented across Colombia.

There continues to be a high threat of terrorist attacks and high levels of violent crime from terrorists, insurgents and paramilitary groups including some FARC elements that have not signed up to the peace agreement.

Negotiations between rebel groups, other than the FARC and the government of Colombia towards a peace agreement continue. Some small factions may attempt to disrupt the peace process with targeted attacks on government buildings and security forces throughout Colombia.

There may be regions where the security situation could deteriorate rapidly. Follow local media for relevant news and remain vigilant in all areas of Colombia.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Kidnapping

While there has been a reduction in the number of kidnappings in major cities, the risk to travellers remains. Colombia still has one of the highest rates of kidnappings in the world. Foreigners have been targeted. Most kidnappings are for ransom, and are often perpetrated by groups such as the FARC and the ELN in rural areas. Foreigners, including children, have been kidnapped and murdered. In recent years, a number of Australians have been kidnapped. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times when travelling in Colombia and avoid travel to areas listed in this travel advisory. (See crime section).

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

Since August 2015, there have been increased tensions on the Venezuela-Colombia border. The Venezuelan Government has periodically closed the land border with Colombia for extended periods due to security and smuggling concerns. Australians should not attempt to cross the Venezuela-Colombia border by land. Gangs and terrorist groups are also present in the Venezuela-Colombia border region.

Localised and country-wide protests and strikes occur from time to time and can turn violent. Ongoing protests by taxi drivers against ride-sharing service 'Uber' have caused disruptions in the capital, Bogota, and other cities. Local transportation services can be affected and protesters or criminal groups may establish roadblocks, particularly in rural areas. Tourists visiting areas affected by strikes and roadblocks have found themselves unable to leave, sometimes for days or weeks. Advice on current road closures can be obtained from the Colombian Highway Police information line on #767.

Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings, including political rallies and election related events, because of their potential to turn violent. Monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. Protests and demonstrations may become more frequent during election periods.

Ongoing political tensions with neighbouring countries mean border closures could occur at short notice. Australian citizens should monitor local news and be alert to any changes.

Electricity availability

Scheduled power rationing for northern Colombia, including Atlantico, Bolivar, Cesar, Cordoba, La Guajira, Magdalena and Sucre provinces will commence on 9 November 2016. Power will be cut for 21 hours every day from 9 November to 16 December 2016. From 17 December power will be cut for 20 hours per day. Authorities have yet to announce which hours will be covered by the rationing and when power rationing will cease. Seek local advice.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Due to security concerns, we recommend that travellers fly between Colombian cities and minimise the use of vehicles for trips involving movement in rural areas. Driving in Colombia can also be hazardous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles, aggressive driving practices and inadequate road lighting. For further advice, see our page on road travel.

Taxis and Public transportation

Public transportation is not always safe. Buses and taxis are frequent targets for criminals. A number of Australians have been affected by criminals acting as staff from the bus companies, leading the tourists to place their personal belongings in the overhead bins and as soon as they get distracted, the criminals steal all their belongings. Do not leave belongings unattended.

Consider booking a vehicle from a reputable provider for all ground movements. We recommend against hailing taxis in the street as there have been reports of robbery, express kidnapping and extortion. If you hail a taxi on the street do not enter if it is already occupied by anyone but the driver. Booking taxis by telephone, through hotels or authorised taxi centres, is a way to reduce risks.

Road travel

Driving in Colombia can be hazardous. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), you are three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Colombia than in Australia.

Roadblocks on major transit routes may cause significant travel disruptions. If you are planning to travel by land in Colombia, you should review your itinerary and follow instructions of local authorities. Within Colombia, advice on current road closures can be obtained from the Colombian Highway Information line on #767.

Do not travel outside of main routes at night by road due to the risk of armed robbery and kidnapping. Use reputable companies when travelling by bus and remain alert. There is a risk of violence, kidnapping and being caught in road blocks set up by illegal armed groups when travelling by road outside main routes, including to rural tourist destinations such as Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City). Consider the advice of local authorities before travelling to such areas. When travelling to Parque Nacional Tayrona, you should only visit beach areas and resorts advised as safe and not venture inland because of the presence of illegal armed groups. Avoid travelling at night.

There is a risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance in rural areas of Colombia. Not all mined areas are marked. Do not stray from well-travelled roads.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Many parts of Colombia experience heavy rainfall. Landslides and flooding are common and may affect travel to some parts of the country. Monitor local media for the latest information and seek local advice before entering affected areas.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Colombia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Colombia, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails. See our Drugs page.

Photography of military establishments and strategic sites is prohibited.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Colombian male dual nationals over 18 may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Colombia.

The Colombian Government expects Colombian citizens, including dual nationals, to enter and exit Colombia on a Colombian passport or other valid Colombian travel document. Dual nationals may face delays at immigration if they do not have a Colombian travel document.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health pages also provide useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Bogotá and other major cities is reasonable. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment or confirmation of travel insurance prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.

In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a location with suitable facilities, usually the United States, would be necessary. Costs are considerable (in the tens of thousands of dollars).

Colombia has three hyperbaric chambers, found in Cali (Camaras Hiperbaricas Leader Life), Palmira (Centro Medico San Agustin) and Bogotá (Vide Plena – Instituto Medico De Terapia Ceular Suiza).

Colombia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Colombia. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria is a risk in all areas below 800 m but is not a risk in Bogotá. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Colombia. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas. Further advice for both females and males is available from the Department of Health. Also see our Zika virus travel bulletin.

Many areas of Colombia are above 2500m, including Bogotá (2640m). Travellers who ascend to altitudes greater than 2500m, particularly if the ascent is rapid, or who at higher altitudes make further rapid ascents, are at risk of developing altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even the physically fit. Those more at risk include people who have had altitude sickness before, who exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting (acclimatising) to the altitude, or who have health problems that affect breathing. If you plan to travel to high altitude areas, you should see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In rural areas, we recommend that you boil all drinking water or that you drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes. You should also avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police on 112. The national emergency number is 123. You should obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas.

The Australian Consulate-General in Bogotá offers full consular services. Visiting the Consulate-General is by appointment only. Contact details are:

Australian Consulate-General, Bogotá

Edificio Tierra Firme
Avenida Carrera 9 No. 115-06
Oficina 2003
Bogotá, Colombia
Email: consular.bogota@austrade.gov.au
Telephone: +57 1 657 7800

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Consulate-General or Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Colombia is subject to earthquakes. There are also a number of active volcanos in Colombia. Hikers and trekkers should seek current advice on recent volcanic activity from local authorities.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches.​

Many parts of Colombia experience heavy rainfall. Landslides, mudslides and flooding are common and may affect travel to some parts of the country. Monitor local media for the latest information and seek local advice before entering affected areas.

Coastal areas of Colombia are subject to hurricanes. In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify a local shelter.  Follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended and available flights may quickly become full. Hurricanes can also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who have chosen to stay. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

In the event of any severe weather or natural disasters, monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources