Facts for visitors: Useful information for newcomers


CURRENCY: The Colombian peso is the national currency. Banknotes come in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 pesos, while coins are also available from 10 to 1000 pesos. The majority of airport exchanges handle foreign currencies, but it is advisable to convert less common currencies into dollars or pounds before arrival. Credit cards are widely accepted; however, travellers should keep some cash on hand for taxis and local vendors.

HEALTH: Public and private health facilities in major cities are adequate and high-end clinics can be found, but quality varies in rural areas. Visitors to the country’s national parks (along the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast and the Amazonas) should obtain a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before travel. A plethora of pharmacies can be found in all major cities, and prices are affordable.

TRANSPORT: While Colombia's big cities have mass transit services (such as the high-capacity bus lines TransMilenio in Bogotá, Mio in Cali, Metrolinea in Bucaramanga and Transmetro in Barranquilla), the only city with a subway is Medellín. Taxis are available at all major hotels. Due to traffic conditions and security concerns, it is advised that business travellers contract hourly taxi services, car services with drivers or use the “radio taxi” service. Taxis can also be ordered via various smartphone apps, such as Tappsi. Car hire establishments can be found at the airport or at several locations throughout the country. Most large cities have traffic restrictions, locally known as Pico y Placa. Drivers should consult the local Pico y Placa programme to know when they can drive with their vehicle based on the licence plate’s number.

TRAFFIC: Bogotá is a very congested city. It is recommended to leave plenty of time to get to business meetings, as travelling by road during rush hour can take up to four times longer than at off times. Peak hours are between 6.00am and 9.00am and between 3.00pm and 8.00pm. Traffic is less intense in other cities like Medellín, Bucaramanga, Cali and Barranquilla.

DRESS: The business dress code in Colombia has many similarities with Western business attire. While wool sweaters or jackets are necessary for men for meetings in Bogotá and Medellín, men in warmer cities like Cali, Cartagena and Barranquilla do not usually wear a tie or even a jacket at times. For women, a suit or dress is appropriate for business, although women dress more casually in warmer cities.

LANGUAGE: Spanish is the official language, and it is spoken throughout the country. However, more than 60 indigenous languages are also spoken, including Arawak, Caribbean and Chocó languages from more than a dozen different linguistic families. While many senior executives and government officials speak English as well, visitors should brush up on some basic Spanish before arrival.

VISAS: Nationals from most EU countries, the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to enter Colombia. The National Security Department issues nationals from these countries an entry stamp upon arrival, which is valid for up to 90 days. All such nationals can stay for a maximum of 180 days in any 12-month period without a business visa. Business visas are easily obtained upon proof of job position and company tax situation through the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogotá.

BUSINESS HOURS: Office hours are between 8.00am and 6.00pm. Lunch is flexible and takes place between 12.00pm and 2.00pm. Some offices and factories also operate on Saturdays for half a day. Meetings should be avoided during holy weeks – the week before Easter and the week during Christmas – which are usually when families take their holidays.

COMMUNICATIONS: The country code for Colombia is +57, followed by the national codes (1) for Bogotá, (2) for Cali, (4) for Medellín and (5) for the Caribbean coast. Prepaid SIM cards can be obtained by providing a valid passport through any of the numerous operators: Claro, Movistar, Tigo or virtual operators Uff! Móvil, Éxito Móvil and Virgin Mobile.

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The Report: Colombia 2013

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