Is a Colombia vacation on your list when it’s time to branch out again? Or are you looking to move to the country and take advantage of the great living expenses value there? As with almost anywhere you might want to go now, the environment has changed in the last few years. You need to check the Colombia travel requirements and restrictions before you get ready to hop on a plane.
I’m a big fan of Colombia myself. I’ve been there three times and I’ve got another trip planned for this September if the stars align as I hope they will. I’m heading to a conference in Bogota, but I’ll head to Medellin after that, maybe Cartagena, maybe Santa Marta.
There are misty mountains, colonial towns, and beaches to explore, plus a jungle, a coffee region, and a lost city to hike to as well. It has an abundance of natural beauty and plenty of wildlife to spot. The country’s diverse culture offers a wide variety of music and dance styles that are performed at parties throughout the country.
It won’t cost you a fortune to get back and forth either: Colombia has some of the cheapest flight prices south of Mexico. You’ll often see round-trip deals to Cartagena or Bogota for $500 or less.
Visa Requirements for Colombia
In order to enter the country, you will need a valid passport and visa. The passport must be valid for at least six months after your arrival date in Colombia. You can get a tourist visa from the Colombian consulate or embassy in your country of residence. There are more than 100 countries that are visa-exempt, however, including most in the Americas, most European ones, and Australia and New Zealand. Passengers traveling from these countries do not have to get a visa in advance, just arriving with a valid passport. They can stay there for 90 days without an extension. (See the expat section further down if you want to stay longer.)
This means about half the countries have to look at travel requirements for Colombia differently. A Colombia visa for Indians, Malaysians, and all Africans must be secured in advance.
If you are looking to travel to here in the near future and need help with getting your visa, the local Colombian embassy or consulate can assist you. They have a team of experts who will guide you through the process and make it as smooth as possible for you. Contact them for more information.
Colombia Entry Restrictions
Check the following entry restrictions at the official tourism site or one of the travel sites updating these regularly before leaving on your Colombia vacation, but here’s what you’ll likely need to visit.
Proof of COVID Vaccination for People Aged 18 or Older
Yes, you must be vaccinated! This is true for most of South America now, so if you’re going to travel in the region, you’ll need to have your shots, including for Colombia. All visitors aged 18 or above are required to show proof of COVID vaccination before entering the country. As with most other countries with similar requirements, they are trying to create a safer traveling experience for the visitors but also for the residents of the country who are affected by who enters as well.
Right now there are five approved vaccinations by the Colombian government:
1. Pfizer / BioNTech
4. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
5. Oxford / AstraZeneca
If less than 14 days have elapsed since the last vaccination shot, you must present a PCR test with a negative result taken within 72 hours of boarding.
Health Check Form
You will also need to fill out a “Check Mig” form online 24 hours before arrival and you will also have to submit the form once again when you are departing the country.
Do I Need To Quarantine If I Am Traveling To Colombia?
For many travelers, this is the dealbreaker question when deciding where to go on vacation. If you are traveling to Colombia from a high-risk country then it is possible that you may need to quarantine if your flight does not stop in an intermediate airport or at least change planes during transit. Otherwise you are free to move about the country–with your mask on.
Colombian Mask Requirements
Assume that you’ll need to wear a mask indoors in public places and in many areas you’ll need to have one on outside as well. Anyone over the age of two is required to wear a mask on flights and public transportation. Most residents are happy to comply if it allows them to be social after spending a lot of time dealing with a public gathering ban.
These details are constantly changing so it’s important to regularly check for updates leading up to your Colombia vacation. Natvisa wrote an interesting article regarding visiting the country. Read here.
“The COVID lockdowns and curfews here have mostly been lifted, although they require face masks when out and about,” says resident Ryan Shauers of Desk to Dirtbag. “Larger public venues like restaurants and bars and such are supposed to ask for vaccination cards. That is mostly hit and miss, some places do and others don’t.”
Local authorities have a lot of latitude in terms of capacity controls, gatherings sizes, and the serving of alcohol in public. Assume that if cases spike and the local intensive care units get close to full, higher restrictions will go into force.
For more information please visit the website of Migracion Colombia.
Living in Colombia as an Expat Now
If you’re looking to move to the country in the future, some things have changed since I wrote this article on the cost of living in Colombia, which came out pre-pandemic. Now Numbeo estimates that Colombia’s living costs are 25% below those in Mexico, with the cost of living in Medellin specifically having rent costs that are more than 40% lower than Mexico City or Guadalajara.
From a local economic standpoint, the business shutdowns put a lot of local people out of work and had an especially large impact on those who work in the underground economy.
“I have seen more overall poverty than before the quarantine and I have read the economy had a huge effect on about 30 percent of the overall population,” says Steve McPeek, who lives in Medellin. He believes that the lower class has gotten larger than before the quarantine as some families have slipped out of what could be considered middle class.
“I’ve heard that robberies and such increased during the pandemic with more desperate people out there, but I can’t say for sure whether that is true or not — it doesn’t “feel” any different,” says Ryan. “The only noticeable thing was more people asking for food or money on the streets with musical performances or selling knick-knacks. But they are often from among the many Venezuelan refugees that have arrived.”
On the other hand, if you’re coming in with savings or earnings in a foreign hard currency, items and services produced locally may just be the cheapest they have ever been. The peso is trading near a record low against the dollar and euro. Steve says he has seen a drop in non-import prices in dollar terms and he lives on around $1,100 per month for his expenses.
“Prices for goods like electronics seem to go up hand-in-hand with the exchange rates,” Ryan adds. “But on a day-to-day basis in terms of going out to restaurants and buying little things, Colombia is cheaper than ever.”
As usual, eating and drinking what’s produced locally will lead to the biggest impact. “The peso has devalued a lot, but in the day-to-day it hasn’t impacted costs that much,” says Peter Lombard of GlobeGuides. “What we consume in the country is really only impacted by exchange rates when it comes from outside, so there is only a limited impact on the food supply in pesos according to what comes in from overseas, like condiments.”
If you are a location independent worker or nomad, you can get a three-month visa upon arrival and extend that once, but then you have to leave until the next calendar year. Colombia has 17 visas to choose from if you want to move there for longer. The easiest to work out is a pensioner visa if you’re old enough and can meet the minimum income requirement, which is very low. These days it’s only about $700 per month. That’s good for three years and can be renewed. Otherwise there’s an “independent activities visa,” a business visa, a civil one (if you marry a local), a work visa, an investor visa (if you’re buying property), and more.
Whether you’re planning a Colombia vacation or got smitten and want to plant yourself there for longer, you might want to go sooner rather than later. Traditionally, this country was more expensive than most of Central America and Mexico, but now you can find $3 taxi rides, $4 movie tickets, and three-bedroom apartments in a prime area for less than $500 per month.