Before you come to Colombia, you should make an appointment with a travel specialist at your local hospital. Make sure you have medical insurance that covers you outside your home country, including evacuation to your home country in case of emergency. Do not travel against medical advice. Take your insurance policy (or a complete photocopy) with you, obtain and bring a yellow fever International Vaccination Certificate Card.
Recommended immunization includes: Yellow Fever, Typhoid (oral vaccine now available), Polio, Tetanus, and Hepatitis A (Hepatitis B is less of a risk for travelers on an organized person), Rabies. Oral and anti-malarial tablets (Mefloquine is recommended because the malarial strains in Colombia are chloroquine resistant). Although Malaria is not a risk up in Los Andes, it is a threat in the region of Amazonas, Chocó, Cordoba, Guainía, Guaviare, Putumayo and Vichada. There is no Malaria risk in Bogotá. In these areas it is wise to protect yourself with insect repellent, long sleeves and pants, and a mosquito net. Other insect-transmitted diseases include sleeping sickness and dengue, but there are no vaccinations against these. Just remember to use a mosquito net in tropical regions, keep your skin covered and avoid sleeping directly on a dirt floor in a mud hut.
IIt is advisable to bring: an extra pair of glasses or contacts and copy of your prescriptions, contraceptives, diarrhea medicine such as Imodium or Lomotil, Band-Aids and moleskin for blisters, water sterilizing tablets such as iodine or a filter, antiacid, aspirin/painkillers, tampons (they can be expensive here), anti-malaria tablets, anti-infective ointments (bacitracin), insect repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, dusting powder with fungicide for your feet, chap stick, cough drops, water bottle, wet wipes, biodegradable soap and other toiletries, a flashlight (head lamp preferable) with extra batteries and an extra bulb.
While in Colombia, avoid uncooked, undercooked, partially cooked or reheated meat, fish or eggs, raw vegetables, tap water, iced cubes, stream water, shellfish and fruits that you can’t peel yourself. While our staff boils the water we give you and prepare the food to an extent that it is hot enough to kill bacteria. Keep the above precautions in mind if you venture out to eat elsewhere. Wash your hands before you eat, especially if you have handled money. Stick to more processed dairy products and boiled or bottled water.
If you get diarrhea, drink lots of fluids (no alcohol or milk), rest and take some medicine.
In terms of altitude, heights in Bogotá reach up to 7500 feet (2.286 meters) above sea level. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, dizziness, lack of appetite, general malaise and/or shortness of breath. Should these symptoms develop into vomiting, migraine, insomnia and/or rasping in the upper chest or coughing unrelated to a cold, tell your guide immediately.
If you need in-patient medical treatment, call the 24-hour hot line on your health insurance policy and write down the time of the call, the person you spoke with and the reference number. Obtain a medical certificate for the attention you received and keep your receipts
Theft & Robberies
Theft is the most common traveler’s danger. In general, the problem is more serious in large cities. The more rural the area, the quieter and safer it is. The most common methods of theft are day-pack, camera or watch snatching, pick pocketing, or stealing gear from inattentive travelers who leave their gear unattended.
Distraction is often part of thieves’ strategy. Thieves often work in pairs or groups; one or more will distract you, while an accomplice does the deed. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible ways to distract you, and new scams are dreamt up every day. Some thieves are even more innovative and will set up a convenient situation to separate you from your belongings. They may begin by making friends with you, or pretend to be the police and demand to check your belongings.
If you can, leave your money and valuables somewhere safe before walking the streets. In practice, it’s good to carry a decoy bundle of small notes, the equivalent of US$5 to US$10, ready to hand over in case of an assault. If you don’t have any money, robbers can become frustrated and, in consequence, unpredictable. Armed hold-ups in the cities can occur even in some up market suburbs. If you are harassed by robbers, it is the best to give them what they are after, but try to play it cool and don’t rush to hand them all the valuables at once – they may well be satisfied with just your decoy wad. Don’t try to escape or struggle – your chances are slim. Don’t count on any help from passers-by. Be careful from drawing cash from an ATM. Criminals may watch you drawing out money, and then assault you either at an ATM or a convenient place nearby. It may be safer to get an advance from the cashier inside the bank, even if it takes a while.
Flight & Arrivals / El Dorado Airport
Aerolineas Argentinas (Argentina)
Air Canada (Canada)
Air Comet (Spain)
Air France (France)
American Airlines (USA)
Continental Airlines (USA)
Copa Airlines (Panama)
Delta Airlines (USA)
LAN (Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru)
Líneas Aéreas Suramericanas LAS
Satena (Servicio Aéreo a Territorios Nacionales)
Make sure you have passport with at least 6 month validity. Airlines give out 90-day tourist passes at no cost, if you show your return ticket. Two extensions of the pass, up to 60 days each are possible. A tourist visa, which is valid for up to one year, may be obtained at a Colombian consulate in your home country.
Dangers & Annoyances
Colombia definitely isn’t the safest of countries, and you should be careful at all times. In fact, it was only few years ago that Colombia was regarded as the “world’s most dangerous country” and the “kidnapping capital of the world”. The situation has vastly improved over recent years but there are still inherent dangers. Whatever you do, don’t let the rumors and urban legends scare you off. Within a day of arriving in Colombia you’ll feel your confidence in the security situation quickly growing.
Colombia’s proximity to the equator means its temperature varies little throughout the year. The temperature; however, does change with altitude, creating various climatic zones from hot lowlands to freezing Andean peaks, so you can experience completely different climates within a couple hours of travel.
As a general rule, the temperature falls about 6ºC / 42,80ºF with every 1000m / 3.280,84 ft. increase in altitude. If the average temperature at sea level is 30ºC / 86ºF, it will be 24ºC / 75,2ºF at 1000m, 18ºC / 64,4ºF at 2000m / 6.561,68 ft and so forth.
The altitude also affects the difference between day-time and night-time temperatures; the higher the altitude, the greater the difference. Consequently, in the highlands there can be warm days but freezing nights, while in the lowlands days and nights are almost equally hot.
Colombia has two seasons: dry or “summer” and wet or “winter”. The pattern of seasons varies in different parts of the country, and has been greatly affected over recent years by “El Niño” and “La Niña”. As rough guideline only, in the Andean region there are two dry and two rainy seasons per year. The main dry season falls between December and March, with a shorter and less dry period between July and August. This general pattern has wide variations throughout the Andean zone. The weather in Los Llanos has a more definite pattern: there is one dry season, between December and March, while the rest of the year is wet. The Amazon doesn’t have a uniform climate but, in general, is quite wet all year-round.
It is wise to obtain travel insurance for lost or stolen properties. You must report damaged goods to the airline right away, and obtain a “property irregularity report” from them. Don’t leave baggage unattended except in a locked hotel or apartment. Store valuables, extra cash and documents in the safe deposit box in the hotel. Should there be no safe deposit box, lock these things in different places in your suitcase. Always carry a photocopy of your passport and leave your actual passport in the safe deposit box except when required to show it. Do not unpack or expose large sums of money in public.
Don’t wear a fancy watch and jewelry, and don’t carry valuables in an open bag or unlocked luggage. Travel light; keep your wallet in your front pocket at all times. When carrying your passport, cash or documents put them in a money belt under your clothes. Don’t travel alone; don’t walk on dark streets or alleys, in poor neighborhoods or isolated places. Report any loss to the police and/or hotel authorities within 24 hours and fill out a written report. Submit your claim before the deadline on your policy, along with proof that you traveled your receipts, a written report of the loss, and your original insurance policy document.
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