The Latin America Travel Experts

020 7263 3000

Travelling to Colombia

All the practical information you need regarding your trip to Latin America is found here. From how to prepare before you leave and travelling to your destination, to advice on travelling within your country of choice.

Before you Go

  • Due to its proximity to the Equator, lowland Colombia has a tropical climate; however, temperatures are lower in highland areas, including Bogotá and the coffee region, and vary significantly throughout the country. The coast is usually hot and humid, often with daytime highs of over 30°C, whilst in Bogotá night-time temperatures can drop to lower than 10°C. Therefore, a variety of clothing, suitable for hot and cold weather, is advisable. Rain is possible throughout the year, and can be heavy, so waterproofs are recommended. The wettest months are generally April to June and October to November. The coastal dry season is from December to March, during which there is little rain. Insect repellent is advisable, especially for the coffee region and the Caribbean areas.

    Electricity in Colombia is 110V, and plugs are of the flat two-pin type.

    We recommend you carry a copy of your passport with you at all times.

    Please bring any medication you may require from the UK.

    You can bring whichever luggage you feel most comfortable with: suitcases, soft bags and rucksacks are fine.

  • To enter Colombia, UK citizens do not require a visa. An immigration form must be completed before passing through immigration control upon arrival. On this form, please state the purpose of your visit as Tourism, otherwise you may be liable for a 16% sales tax on hotels.

    For British passports endorsed in any way and all other passports, please ask the appropriate consulate: Colombia (020 7637 9893).

    You need a full 10 year passport valid for 6 months after your return to the UK.

  • Adequate travel insurance is essential. We do not sell or recommend any specific policy. A list of insurance companies that our customers have found suitable is available from us.

    Please advise your insurer of any pre-existing medical conditions and, if you are booking a holiday involving high-altitude trekking, such as the Inca Trail, make sure that you are covered for this.

    If you are planning on carrying out any other activities, please ensure your insurance policy will cover you for these.

    Note that cancellation cover is often only available if insurance is purchased within two weeks of booking your holiday.

  • Some countries in Latin America have strict regulations regarding the entry and exit of children under 18 when not travelling with both parents, or if the child has nationality of the country you are visiting. If you are travelling with children who are not entering or leaving the country with both parents, or if the child has nationality of the country you are visiting, please contact the consulate of the country you are visiting to check requirements.

  • You will receive tickets approximately 10 days before departure, along with information on accommodation, transfers and excursions. Our agents in Latin America will give you your hotel and excursion vouchers when you arrive. Please check airline tickets carefully in case timings have changed after we issued your confirmation.

Health & Fitness

  • For most of our holidays, age is not a concern. However, a reasonable level of fitness is required, as most holidays require some walking, sometimes on uneven ground. Even relatively mild activities can be strenuous at altitude. High altitude trekking is more strenuous than an equivalent length walk at low altitude.

  • Please consult your GP or a travel clinic about health and vaccination requirements. The NHS website www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk gives good advice about travelling in Colombia.
    Malaria and Yellow Fever precautions are usually recommended when visiting the low-lying areas in Colombia, including the Caribbean Coast.

    Some GPs do not recommend yellow fever vaccinations for travellers over 60 years old.

    There have been reports of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus, in various Latin American countries. Please check www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk for latest advice regarding this. If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, it is recommended that you speak to a medical professional prior to travel.

    When visiting Latin America, stomach illnesses are not uncommon due to changes in diet. We suggest you only drink bottled water and avoid ice. If you are unsure if salads and fruit have been washed in purified water, it is best to avoid them.

    Much of Latin America is at high altitude. Most people who travel to altitude do not suffer major problems. However, shortness of breath is common and we advise you to take things calmly during your first day or so at altitude. If possible, rest for a couple of hours when you first get to altitude. Some Llama Travel customers have reported beneficial effects of the herbal remedy Ginkgo Biloba. Many of the places you visit require some walking uphill. Please bear in mind that the altitude means this is more strenuous than equivalent length walks in the UK. If you think you may suffer due to the altitude, please consult your GP before travelling.

    If you have any health problems on holiday, please speak to our local agents or hotel staff. They will arrange for a doctor or hospital if necessary. Illnesses caused by altitude can be serious. If you do experience any problems, please seek appropriate medical attention.

Getting there

  • A holiday in Latin America inevitably means long haul flights, and at least one overnight sector. Air fares vary from date to date and between airlines. Our holidays are scheduled to use the most advantageous air fare.

    You can choose which airline you prefer, we will let you know if a supplement is payable. Levels of onboard service and facilities, such as entertainment, vary by airline and route. Please ask us for details. Opinions change over time, but in the past year, Llama Travel customers’ preference was for Air France, KLM, British Airways and Virgin, followed by United and Iberia. Flights are sometimes operated by another airline in the appropriate airline alliance.

  • Most airlines offer the option of flying from regional airports in the UK, avoiding the need to make your own way to London. Due to the timing of flights, in some cases this may involve an overnight stop in London or another intermediate airport. There is usually a supplement for regional departures. Please note that most of our flights depart from London.

  • You can upgrade to business class or premium economy on most airlines. Prices start from £199 each way for Premium Economy and £699 each way for Business Class. Call us for prices for the route and airline you are interested in.

    Premium Economy
    British Airways World Traveller Plus, Air France Premium Voyageur and Virgin Premium Economy seats are available. These provide more comfortable seats which recline further and have more legroom. There are better meals and a bar service.

    KLM, Iberia and United offer standard economy class seats with extra legroom for additional cost. KLM seats can be booked through Llama Travel. United and Iberia seats can be reserved with the airlines one month prior to departure.

    Business Class
    British Airways Club World has seats which convert into full flat beds and have a privacy screen.

    Iberia Business Plus between Madrid and Latin America offers seats which convert into flat beds. Between the UK and Madrid, seats are usually the same as in economy class.

    KLM World Business Class offers seats that recline to 150 degrees (to Quito) or 170 degrees (to Lima). Between the UK and Amsterdam, seats are usually the same as in economy class.

    Air France Affaires Class offer seats which convert into virtually flat beds. Between the UK and Paris, seats are usually the same as in economy class.

  • Most scheduled airlines have a baggage allowance of 20kg per passenger, especially when taking internal flights within Latin America. Please bear this in mind when packing, as carrying excess baggage will normally incur an expensive additional cost payable at check in. Additionally, certain excursions have a limited baggage allowance. Where this is the case, you will usually be able to leave the rest of you luggage in storage. Llama Travel accepts no responsibility for the delay, loss or damage of luggage.

  • Many airlines now charge a fee to select your seat prior to checking in for your flight, even when travelling in premium economy or business class. Alternatively, you may choose your preferred seat free of charge when online check-in opens 24 hours prior to departure or at the airport. Please ask us about the options available at time of booking.

    We all want a comfortable journey, particularly on long haul flights. If you would like a seat with some extra leg room or a larger recline please let us know. Airlines have introduced a range of “economy comfort” seats that may be purchased in advance. In some cases, these seats may only be purchased online directly with the airline once Llama Travel has issued your ticket approximately 30 days prior to departure.

    For flights within Latin America, and for connecting flights in Europe, it is usually only possible to select seats when you check-in online or at the airport.

    It may not be possible to always use online check-in systems, especially when using a codeshare flight. On occasion, your preferred seat may be changed by the airline for operational reasons such as a change of aircraft or to facilitate a disabled passenger on the day you fly and as such, Llama Travel cannot always guarantee specific seats.

  • If you would like to break your journey to or from Latin America and add a stopover to your holiday, this may be possible.

    Depending on which airline you choose, stopovers may be possible in Miami, New York, Houston, Madrid, Amsterdam or Paris.

  • All people flying to the USA, even if only in transit to Latin America, must comply with US immigration requirements. It is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with these requirements before you travel. Failure to do so may result in you being denied boarding on your flight to the USA and, at best, a last-minute and probably expensive re-routing avoiding the USA. It is important, therefore, that you follow these procedures carefully.

    As your flight to Latin America involves a stop in the US, you will be subject to US immigration control upon entry to the US. If you qualify for the US Visa Waiver Program, you are able to avoid the need to apply for a visa, but still need to enter your details online on the US State Department website. If you do not qualify for the US Visa Waiver Program, you must apply in person at a US embassy for a US visa. Please make sure that you do this in good time.

    If you are a UK citizen and have a UK passport, you may qualify for visa-free travel. You will require a machine readable passport to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (so you do not require a visa to enter the US). A machine readable passport has the holder's personal details (name, date of birth, nationality and passport number) contained in two lines of text at the bottom of the photo page. This appears as two lines of letters, numbers and chevrons (">>>>>") printed across the long edge of the photo page.

    Additionally, if the passport was issued, renewed/extended between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006 it must contain a digital photograph. If the passport was issued, renewed/extended on or after October 26, 2006, it must be also include an integrated circuit chip capable of storing the biographic information from the data page, a digitized photograph and other biometric information.

    Please note, holders of passports indicating that the bearer is a British Subject, a British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen, British National (Overseas) Citizen or British Protected Person do not qualify for travel without a visa. A passport which states that the holder has Right of Abode or indefinite leave to remain in the UK does not quality for visa-free travel.
    If you have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, or if you have a criminal record, you will need a visa.

    If you have any doubts about whether you qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, please check with the US embassy. Full details can be found on the US embassy’s UK website at: http://london.usembassy.gov/vwp3.html

    Many European, Australian and New Zealand passport holders also qualify for the Visa Waiver Program as long as the passport is machine readable and complies with the relevant criteria. Please see the US embassy website for a list of countries which qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. It is important that you check the website of the US Embassy in the country of passport nationality for any further changes before you travel.

    ESTA Visa Waiver Program - **** Action by you may be required ****
    The US State Department has introduced a mandatory electronic system to help speed up the US immigration process for travellers on the Visa Waiver Program. All Visa Waiver Program travellers must fill in a form on the US State department website. This can be found at (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov). Please enter this into the address bar on your web browser. There is a $14 charge per person to apply for this. DO NOT search for this website via a search engine, such as Google, as it will take you to an incorrect website. Although this can be filled in up to 72 hours before travel, we recommend that you fill in this form as soon as possible so any issues can be identified immediately. To apply please scroll to the bottom of the green area and press the apply button on the left hand side of the page. Please make sure that this form is filled out for all the passengers on your booking. If you require more detailed instructions, please visit www.LlamaTravel.com/ESTA.

    If you do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, or if your passport does not meet the relevant criteria, then you will require a US visa before you travel. Even if you are given authorization on the ESTA website, some travellers may not be eligible to enter the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program. If in doubt, please consult the US embassy website.

    Advanced Passenger Information - **** Action by you is required ****
    The US Transportation Security Authority requires anybody flying through the United Sates to supply specific passenger information prior to their international flight. This is in addition to the information to be submitted for the Visa Waiver Program which you may have already completed. Please visit our website where you will find details on how to submit this information using the airlines website. www.LlamaTravel.com/USAPI.

    Please complete this procedure as soon as possible. If your passenger information is not entered into the flight booking we are unable to issue your flight tickets. This may result in your flight booking being cancelled and high charges being incurred.

Travelling in Colombia

  • All hotels include breakfast, and other meals are included on some tours and excursions. However, generally, you will need to arrange your own lunches and dinners. We recommend budgeting approximately US$15 – 20 for a meal, although many restaurants have excellent value set lunches for less than this. Hotel restaurants, especially in superior hotels, can be more expensive. Additionally, there are many upmarket restaurants, particularly in Bogotá and Cartagena, where you should expect to pay up to US$50 per person, or possibly more.

    Bar prices are similar to the UK and a small bottle of beer usually costs around US$2-3 in a hotel bar. This can be higher in more remote areas.

  • Excursions are usually taken together with other Llama Travel customers in groups of no more than 18 people. If we have more than 18 booked, we operate two groups. If we have only one or two people booked on an excursion, the excursion may be operated together with people other than Llama Travel customers. In some places, the excursions are operated by one of our local partners, such as treks in Torres del Paine, so you may be with people other than Llama Travel customers. In these cases, group sizes can sometimes be larger. If you would like to know the likely situation for your holiday, please ask us and we will be able to check. Transfers may be in a vehicle with more than 18 people.

  • Latin America is relatively safe to visit, and most people experience no problems during their stay. However, as is the case anywhere in the world, crime can be a problem. Tourists are often seen as being wealthy, and can therefore appear attractive targets to criminals. To minimise the risk to yourself, use common sense. Do not walk around with obvious signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive looking jewellery or with cameras round your neck. Keep passports and valuables in your hotel safe. When in restaurants, always keep bags (especially if they contain valuables) close to your person and out of sight. Do not walk down empty streets, especially after dark. By taking sensible precautions, you should have a completely troublefree holiday.

    Please use the safe in your hotel room or boat cabin to store your valuables, if this is available. If there is not a safe in your room, there will usually be a safe in reception where you can store valuables. On boats, if there is not a safe in your cabin, you can usually leave valuables with the captain.

    Making sure that you stay safe during your holiday is very important. We bear this in mind when selecting hotels, but please understand that standards of health and safety in Latin America are often not as high as they are in the UK. Enclosed is a sheet with some useful advice on health and safety produced by LATA (the Latin American Travel Association). Please take the time to read this before you travel. Take extra care if you are travelling with children.

  • If you receive good service, you may want to leave a tip. This is completely at your discretion. For general excursions, if you want to tip guides, US$3 – 5 per person per day is usual if you are in a group. Approximately US$2 - 3 is usual for drivers or transfer staff. As tipping is not necessarily normal in restaurants, please give any tips directly to the person you would like to tip to ensure that they get it. In certain restaurants, a 10% service charge may be included in your bill, or the bill may mention that service is not included.

  • In many destinations, you can arrange adventure activities. If you are interested in taking any of these, please make sure you are covered by your travel insurance. Llama Travel does not arrange any adventure activities directly and we cannot verify the safety measures of any local operators.

  • To phone the UK from Colombia, dial the international dialing code for the UK (0044) and then the UK telephone number, leaving out the ‘0’ in the area code. Telephone cards are the easiest way to use public telephones, and can be bought in convenience stores.

    To phone Colombia from the UK, dial the international dialing code for Colombia (0057) and then the Colombia telephone number, leaving out the ‘0’ in the area code. Some UK mobile phones work in Colombia; check with your mobile phone service provider if your telephone will work.

  • Excursions are operated together with other holidaymakers. These will usually be in English, although groups are sometimes a mix of English and Spanish or Portuguese speaking. A minimum of 2 people is required for some excursions. On some occasions, the order of excursions may vary.

  • Whilst in Bogotá it is possible to sample regional specialties from throughout Colombia. Colombian food is quite diverse, with the coast, the Andes and jungle favouring different ingredients, allowing for an interesting mix. Many of these dishes can be found in the historic city centre, and Calle 11 has a number of tourist-friendly restaurants with menus in Spanish and English. One of the most popular dishes from Bogotá itself is ajiaco, a tasty soup containing shredded chicken, potatoes and tubers, and corn on the cob, served with rice and avocado. Another interesting and unique choice is chocolate santerfereño: hot chocolate served with cheese (to melt in the chocolate) and two types of bread. Cheap set menus can be a good option in more traditional restaurants, often with 3 courses and a drink for under £5. Bakeries, fresh fruit juice shops and street stalls are plentiful. Many of the upmarket restaurants featuring international cuisine are found in the newer Zona Rosa district (Zona G, Zona T and Parque 93).

    The most well-known dish to hail from Medellín is ‘bandeja paisa’, a tasty, although not so waist-friendly, plate showcasing many of Colombia’s favourite foods. The dish includes a generous variety of ingredients: red beans with pork, rice, a fried egg, plantain, minced meat, chorizo, an arepa (a type of corn flour pancake), black pudding, pork scratchings, avocado and hogao sauce. The bandeja, or platter in English, originated in the Andean region, so Medellín is the best place to try this much-loved meal.

    Hotel Sazagua in the Coffee Region has a restaurant offering international cuisine with a regional twist, and dishes based on family recipes. There are also reasonably priced restaurants in the area; however, a taxi ride is needed. Trout is the regional specialty.

    The restaurants in Cartagena offer a rich culinary variety, combining flavours and ingredients from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia. Lunchtime set menus offer good value for money, whilst high-end international cuisine is common in the historic centre. Fish and coconut rice are typical of the Caribbean region, whilst snacks include varieties of arepas (corn flatbreads), patacones (fried plantain) and fresh tropical fruit juices.

    There are several restaurants in Tayrona National Park, offering regional snacks, local and international food and drinks at reasonable prices. It is also possible to bring food and soft drinks into the park. Fish and seafood are the specialties of this area.

  • The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (approximate exchange rate: COP4000 – GB£1). Travellers should take local currency or US dollars and not UK sterling, which is not widely accepted in any form. Credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard) can be used in many shops and restaurants, and can also be used to withdraw money from cash machines. There are cash machines in the centre of Bogotá and Cartagena. Please note that it can be difficult to use US dollar notes which have even the smallest tear. When changing US dollars into local currency, always use a reputable place to change: banks, hotels or exchange shops. Do not change money on the street if you can avoid it.

    When travelling to some of the more remote areas (e.g. the Tayrona National Park), it is advisable to take cash, as it can be difficult to withdraw or change money, or change travellers cheques. If taking travellers cheques, a high commission may be charged, especially if changing directly into dollars. Some hotels do not change travellers cheques so you may need to change them in a bank or exchange shop, therefore, please bear in mind opening hours.

    It is always recommended to inform your bank that you are travelling abroad and to which countries. This will allow them to authorise money withdrawals on your account when you are away. Some banks say that this is not necessary; however, we would still recommend contact with your bank as in some cases people have had difficulty in withdrawing currency.