Useful information for visitors to Colombia
Colombia may very well be South America’s best-kept secret as it is considered as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the Western Hemisphere. In this country, one can go from perpetual snow to the beaches of the Caribbean, enjoy the company of friendly country folk in the Andean highlands, or in warmer climes, participate in the fiestas of the local inhabitants.
Archeology and History
Colombia has a long history going back before the Spanish Conquest, and there are several sites that bear testimony to its fascinating Indian past. In San Agustín, in the southern part of the Colombian Andes, monoliths of volcanic stone representing gods and warriors are preserved, and nearby, in the area of Tierradentro, the visitor can enter a complex of underground burial chambers.
From one of the bays of Tayrona National Park, on the Caribbean coast, one can ascend the foothills of the Sierra, following a path of stone slabs that leads to the ruins of Pueblito, a settlement built by the Tayrona people that was one of the most advanced cultures of pre-Hispanic America.
Many businessmen speak English. But executives at middle and lower level speak only Spanish.
Spanish translators are available in India from institutions such as JNU in Delhi and free lancers.
The visitors can hire local free lance interpreters. The price depends on qualification and experience.
Since Colombia is in the Yellow Fever zone, vaccination should be taken ten days before starting the trip in India. Without the Yellow Fever Certificate, travelers on return to India might face quarantine.
On Arrival at Airport
On your arrival at the El Dorado International Airport, please take the prepaid taxi service from the Airport counter or taxis from the Hotel where you would be staying through prior reservation. This is safe and reliable. While traveling within the city, one should call for taxis by dialing (031) 3111111, 3333333, 4111111 or 222222 from any Mobile. From any fixed phone or land phone do not dial 031; you could also use use hotel taxis and web apps.
In the baggage arrival area, one can hire porters with trolleys costing pesos 5000 per trolley or its Dollar equivalent. There are free trolleys in the Airport.
Airport is about 15 km. from the city. It takes between 20-35 minutes, depending upon the traffic.
Airport Tax at the time of departure is 66 US dollars.
Visitors can change foreign currencies into Colombian Pesos at any Bank or Casa Cambios in Colombia along with their Passports. (1 USD = 1920 Colombian Pesos— July 2014).
Public Transport in Colombia’s main cities
Bogota and other prominent cities of Colombia like Medellín, Cali, Cartagena and Pereira have excellent system of buses and Medellín has metro. Buses run from 5:30 to 24:00 hrs Tickets go from 1.000 to 1.500 Colombian Pesos . Auxiliary buses transport passengers from different regions to the Metro network.
Getting around in Bogota
Like many other Latin American cities, Bogota also has its share of crime and violence. The visitors have to be extremely cautious everywhere. Exposure of valuables such as jewelry and expensive watches is not advisable. If confronted by muggers and criminals, it is advisable to give away whatever is demanded, without any resistance.
Bogota has a rich variety of cultural, touristic and nightlife activities, besides a number of international restaurants. The visitors can certainly enjoy these, while taking precautions.
Sufficient allowance of time should be given for reaching the offices of clients taking into account the usually congested traffic. Please be prepared for delays and last minute cancellations of meetings. It is advisable to reconfirm just before the meetings.
Most restaurants include ten percent service charges. Additional five percent can be offered if the service is good.
Postal system is average in Colombia. Courier agencies are used for dispatches. Postage for normal letter within Colombia is Pesos 2700 (approx US $ 1.4 dollar).
Culture and Society
Colombians have adapted to modern life and its towns express a dynamic culture. An indication of this are the International Film Festival of Cartagena, the Theater Festival of Manizales, the Book Fair of Bogota, museums, important art exhibitions that are mounted annually, fashion shows that are held in Cali, Medellín and in the capital, and a proliferation of lively nightclubs and elegant restaurants.
Bogota, the capital, which stands on a highland plain at 2.600 meters above sea level, has become a popular tourist destination. It is a modern and cosmopolitan city that enjoys an excellent quality of life. Medellín, in the central mountain chain, which justifiably boasts its title of City of Eternal Spring, is the epicenter of textile production and design, and a reference point for fashion. The city is known for the friendliness of its people, their hard-work, and the beauty of its women. To the south of the country, in a valley of sugar cane plantations, lies the city of Cali, cheerful and party-loving, whose women rival those of Medellín in charm and beauty. Barranquilla and many other cities have been modernized to provide culture and entertainment for inhabitants and tourists alike.
For details please visit: www.turismocolombia.com
Colombia has adequate air links with India via USA (New York, Miami, Houston, Atlanta), Europe (Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, Amsterdam), Africa (Sao Paulo, Johannesburg) and Caribbean (Cuba, Moscow). The fastest way to reach Colombia is via Europe.
Colombian international airlines, Avianca, fly to Europe and the USA. Colombia is well connected to the other major cities in Latin America.
The national (Puente Aereo) and the international (El Dorado) air terminals in Bogota are within ten minutes drive from each other.
Banks: Monday to Friday – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Offices: Monday to Friday – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Shops: Monday to Saturday – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Shopping Malls: Monday to Saturday – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday—9 a.m. to 8 p.m.