- We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia because of the high threat of terrorism and criminal activity. Terrorist, insurgent, paramilitary groups and armed criminal organisations are active throughout Colombia and there is a high risk of kidnapping, including of foreigners.
- Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
- You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent.
- Government buildings, embassies, public transport, and commercial and entertainment centres are potential targets for terrorist attacks. Places frequented by foreigners could also be targeted.
- Colombia has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world. Foreigners, including children, have been kidnapped and murdered.
- Many parts of Colombia have experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall. Landslides and flooding may affect travel to some parts of the country. Travellers should monitor local media for the latest information and seek local advice before entering affected areas.
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the city of Cali, the departments of Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin) and all rural areas of Colombia, other than those below for which we advise against all travel, because of the uncertain security situation.
- We advise you not to travel to the departments of Arauca, Caqueta, Cauca, Choco, Cordoba, Guaviare, Huila, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo and Valle de Cauca due to the very high threat of terrorism from guerrilla organisations, drug related criminal activity and recent border tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. There is a high risk to your personal safety in these areas.
- Australia does not have an Embassy in Colombia. The Australian Consulate-General opened in Bogotá in July 2012. It provides limited consular services. The Australian Embassy in Santiago, Chile, provides full consular assistance to Australians in Colombia. See Additional information: Where to get help for more information.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. For up-to-date visa information, Australians should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Colombia well in advance of travel.
Colombia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Airlines require passengers to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. If in doubt, check with your airline.
If you have visited Colombia in the last six days prior to your date of return to Australia, Australian Customs officials will ask you to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Australia.
For Colombian children or children who have resident status in Colombia and are travelling alone or with one parent, Colombian law requires a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) authorising travel and a copy of the child's birth certificate. Both documents must be translated into Spanish and notarised and certified by the Colombian Embassy or Consulate in Australia. These documents may be requested by airline staff or immigration officials. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Colombia well in advance of travel.
If you are travelling to Colombia through the United States of America (USA), or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other USA points of entry, you are required to meet USA entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia because of the high threat of terrorism and criminal activity.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Despite improvements in security, we advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia at this time because of the high threat of terrorism and criminal activity. Terrorist, insurgent, paramilitary groups and armed criminal organisations are active throughout Colombia and armed clashes involving security forces and drug traffickers occur frequently. There is a high risk of kidnapping, including of foreigners. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
Incidents that have occurred include:
- On 15 May 2012, a car bomb exploded in central Bogotá killing a number of people and injuring many others. Another explosive device was dismantled by local authorities.
- In early February 2012, a number of explosions occurred across Colombia resulting in deaths and injuries. Police stations were targeted in Tumaco and Villarica, while a bomb exploded in a hotel in Cajamarca, Tolima province.
- On 5 October 2011, a grenade was thrown into a restaurant in Bogotá, injuring four people.
- On 14 August 2011, a bomb exploded on a public bus in southern Bogotá killing two people and injuring six.
- On 16 June 2011, a satchel bomb exploded in Bogotá, damaging buildings.
- On 13 January 2011, in San Bernardo de Viento, Cordoba, 2 students from Los Andes University were shot and killed. A police officer was also killed by an armed gang in the same region in January 2011.
- On 30 November 2010, a car bomb was detonated in the Department of Huila. The attack killed three police officers and one civilian, and injured 16 people.
- On 1 September 2010, 14 Colombian police officers were killed when a roadside bomb was detonated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The attack occurred in Magueré, Department of Caquetá in southern Colombia.
- On 12 August 2010, a car bomb exploded near the studios of Caracol Radio Station in the northern part of Bogotá.
In planning your activities, consider the types of places that are known to be terrorist targets. These include commercial and entertainment centres such as nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, bars, supermarkets and shopping centres. Infrastructure associated with the government such as public buildings, embassies, public transport, airports and sea ports could also be targets. Commercial interests of multinational companies and places frequented by foreigners may also be targeted. Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere and at any time.
The city of Cali, the departments of Cesar and La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin) rural areas of Colombia: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the city of Cali, the departments of Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin) and all rural areas of Colombia, other than those below for which we advise against all travel, because of the uncertain security situation.
Do not travel areas: We advise you not to travel to the departments of Putumayo, Arauca, Cauca, Caqueta, Guaviare, Valle de Cauca, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Meta, Chocó, Córdoba and Huila due to very high threat of terrorism from guerrilla organisations and presence of drug related criminal activity. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings, and damages to infrastructure in these areas. There is a high risk to your personal safety in these areas.
Civil unrest/political tension
You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings because of their potential to turn violent.
Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia were restored in August 2010, following a meeting between Presidents Chavez of Venezuela and Santos of Colombia. However, tensions continue between Colombia and its neighbours. Border closures could occur at short notice. Australian citizens should monitor local news and be alert to any changes.
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia because of the high threat of terrorism and criminal activity.
Violent crime, including robbery, continues to be a serious threat in Colombia. There has been an increase in criminal activity in urban areas, including Bogotá. The murder rate in Medellin and Cali, in particular, has significantly increased. Foreigners staying in hostels have been the target of robberies and assaults.
You should, where possible, arrive at Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova airport during the day in order to avoid travelling at night.
You should take particular care when travelling alone, using automatic teller machines (ATMs), or travelling in or near tugurios (slum areas). Avoid using ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas such as within banks and shopping centres.
Criminals posing as police officers have been known to rob foreigners.
The number of 'express kidnappings', where victims are abducted, often in taxis, and forced to withdraw funds from ATMs before being released, has increased. Victims have been killed or injured while resisting perpetrators.
Foreigners have been robbed and assaulted after accepting 'spiked' food, drinks, cigarettes, or chewing gum. Do not accept food, drinks or cigarettes from strangers and do not leave food or drinks unattended. Thieves have also used drugs, such as scopolamine, either by aerosol spray or by paper handouts, to incapacitate travellers. Drugs used for robbery and assault can cause serious medical problems, such as unconsciousness and loss of memory. Incidents occur in nightclubs, bars and restaurants but have also been reported on public buses, and on city streets. If you suspect that you, or anyone you are travelling with, have been affected by these drugs, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention.
Robbery of taxi passengers is a serious problem. Theft frequently occurs when a passenger is travelling alone and has hailed a taxi on the street. It is safer to use a telephone dispatch service or to seek assistance from staff at hotels, hostels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book a licensed taxi. Do not share a taxi with unknown passengers.
Colombia has one of the highest rates of kidnappings in the world. Most kidnappings are for ransom, and are often perpetrated by groups such as the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in rural areas. There has been a reduction in the number of kidnappings in major cities but the risk remains. Foreigners, including children, have been kidnapped and murdered. In recent years, a number of Australians have been kidnapped. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times when travelling in Colombia and avoid travel to areas listed in this travel advisory.
For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping Threat travel bulletin. The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, occurs in Colombia, including at the airport in Bogotá and near hotels.
Hikers, including on trails in and around Bogotá, have been robbed at gunpoint. An experienced and reputable tour guide may reduce the risk of attack while hiking.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques (USD only), cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Many parts of Colombia have experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall. Landslides and flooding may affect travel to some parts of the country. You should check with your travel operator for up to date information on your destination. Travellers should monitor local media for the latest information and seek local advice before entering affected areas.
You should not travel outside of main routes at night by road due to the high risk of armed robbery and kidnapping. Use reputable companies when travelling by bus and remain alert.
You should avoid side trips when travelling outside of Popayan, the capital of Cauca Department. Troops, security forces, protest groups and the FARC sometimes block side roads in the area.
There is a risk of violence, kidnapping and being caught in road blocks set up by illegal armed groups when travelling by road outside main routes, including to rural tourist destinations such as Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City). Consider the advice of local authorities before travelling to such areas. When travelling to Parque Nacional Tayrona, you should only visit beach areas and resorts advised as safe and not venture inland because of the presence of illegal armed groups. You should avoid travelling at night.
There is a high risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance in rural areas of Colombia. Not all mined areas are marked. You should not stray from well-travelled roads.
We recommend against hailing taxis in the street. Booking taxis by telephone, through hotels or authorised taxi centres, is a way to reduce risks.
Driving in Colombia can be hazardous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles, aggressive driving practices and inadequate road lighting. For further advice, see our page on road travel.
Please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
When you are in Colombia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Colombia are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.
Photography of military establishments and strategic sites is prohibited.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Australian/Colombian male dual nationals over 18 may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Colombia.
The Colombian Government expects Colombian citizens, including dual nationals, to enter and exit Colombia on a Colombian passport or other valid Colombian travel document. Dual nationals may face delays at immigration if they do not have a Colombian travel document.
Our Dual Nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for staying travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Bogotá and other major cities is reasonable. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.
In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a location with suitable facilities, usually the United States, would be necessary. Costs would be considerable (in the tens of thousands of dollars).
Colombia has three hyperbaric chambers, found in Cali (Camaras Hiperbaricas Leader Life), Palmira (Centro Medico San Agustin) and Bogotá (Vide Plena – Instituto Medico De Terapia Ceular Suiza).
Malaria is a risk in all areas below 800 metres but is not a risk in Bogotá. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever, Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers. You should consult your doctor or travel clinic before leaving and we encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Many areas of Colombia, including Bogotá (2640m), are above 2500m. Travellers who ascend to altitudes greater than 2500m, particularly if the ascent is rapid, or who at higher altitudes make further rapid ascents, are at risk of developing altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even the physically fit. Those more at risk include people who have had altitude sickness before, who exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting (acclimatising) to the altitude, or who have health problems that affect breathing. If you plan to travel to altitude, you should see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In rural areas, we recommend that you boil all drinking water or that you drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes. You should also avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Where to get help
A new Australian Consulate-General is being established in Bogotá. The Consulate-General is able to offer limited consular services. You can contact the Australian Consul-General through the Australian Embassy in Santiago de Chile or via email.
Australian Consulate-General, Bogotá
Telephone: (57 1) 657 8714
You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Santiago, Chile. Contact details are:
Australian Embassy, Santiago de Chile
Isidora Goyenechea 3621
13th Floor, Las Condes
Santiago de Chile, CHILE
Telephone: (56 2) 2550 3500
Facsimile: (56 2) 2331 5960
If you are travelling to Colombia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Many parts of Colombia have experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall. Landslides and flooding may affect travel to some parts of the country. Travellers should monitor local media for the latest information and seek local advice before entering affected areas.
Colombia is subject to earthquakes.
There are a number of active volcanos in Colombia. Hikers and trekkers should seek current advice on recent volcanic activity from local authorities.
Coastal areas of Colombia are subject to hurricanes and heavy rain can cause flooding and mudslides. In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify a local shelter. We encourage Australians in affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended and available flights may quickly become full. Hurricanes can also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who have chosen to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.