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Travel guide to Colombia

Passports
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after your return date and have two blank facing pages. If you do not have these, you may be denied boarding at your departure airport. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
UK, European and American passport holders do not require a visa for holidays < 180 days.
Health
There are no compulsory health requirements for travel to Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and the Coffee Region. Malaria tablets are usually only recommended when travelling to the Amazon, Choco and the Pacific Coast (not Tayrona). A yellow fever certificate must be produced when entering national parks including Tayrona, Crystal Canyon and Amazon. It is also compulsory if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission (eg Brazil, Panama or East Africa) in which case a valid certificate must be presented at the airport to gain entry. Airport transits of < 12-hours are exempt. The vaccination must be done at least 10 days before travel. If you are over 60 years of age and your doctor advises against a yellow fever vaccination, you must carry a letter from your doctor that states this. 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. As Bogota is high in the Andes, if you have any medical conditions you must consult your doctor regarding the suitability of high-altitude travel before booking your holiday. Also take precautions against altitude sickness (e.g. restrict alcohol, walk slowly and drink plenty of water). If you are prone to travel sickness, remember to take preventative tablets before any light aircraft flights. 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. Credit cards are widely accepted, but always ensure you have cash when travelling in the countryside as some places may not accept them.
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, as any device that does not switch on cannot be check and may need to be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and if you plan to use travel apps such as Google Translate (which is invaluable when travelling in Latin America) or Google Maps, ensure you check your data package with your provider in advance. Alternatively turn off date roaming to avoid lage phone bills. Be aware that some rural areas may not have mobile or WiFi coverage. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. 
 
Clothing – because of the difference in altitude between the Andean Higlands and the hot and humid tropical coast, you need to pack in layers for all seasons. Take T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sunhat, sunglasses, bio-degradable sunscreen, swimming costume and flip-flops for the beach, as well as a fleece. 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). 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 and eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses. 
 
Medicines - if you travel with prescription drugs, carry an adequate supply in their original bottles/packaging & keep them in your hand luggage, as if lost they may be difficult to replace. 
 
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). 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. 
 
Coffee & tea - unlike in Europe, do not expect coffee facilities in your bedroom (and certainly not tea). 
 
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 – 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, passport and a spare credit card in your hotel safe. 
 
Indemnities - please be aware it is likely you will be required to sign indemnities for any potentially hazardous activities. 
 
Pack for a Purpose - if you have a little space in your suitcase, local schools & communities always appreciate gifts of pens & pencils, stationery, deflated footballs etc. Specific requests from communities can be seen on the 'Pack for a Purpose' website. 
 
Tipping – this is not compulsory, but if you want to tip because you have received good service, we suggest the following: 
- specialist guides & drivers: C.20,000/10,000 = C.30,000 per adult/per full day. This can be reduced for longer stays. 
- housekeeping: C.6,000 per room per day. 
- waiters: 10% (if not already added to your bill). 
- porters: C.3,000 per bag. 
It is not necessary to tip drivers doing short transfers (eg to the airport). 
 
Your Safety - consult the UK Foreign Office website for the latest travel advice www.fco.gov.uk.
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