Colombia Travel Information
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Local time is GMT -5.
Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with round grounding pin) plugs are in use.
Spanish is the official language of Colombia.
Tipping is common and expected for most services. Waiters in restaurants should receive 10 percent of the bill if it has not automatically been added. Porters expect around one USD per bag. It is not obligatory to tip taxi drivers, but 10 percent is appreciated. Hotels usually add a service charge of 16 percent to the bill.
Once considered one of the world's most dangerous countries, Colombia has transformed itself into the darling of South American travel. Today, it is statistically safer than big cities in the United States.
That said, visitors should be aware of a few risks. Militias left over from the civil war and those involved in the drug trade still operate in the frontier regions near Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. Travellers can avoid them by sticking to the main routes or going on organised tours. Anyone looking to visit the Lost City in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta should opt for a tour.
Petty theft (mugging and pickpocketing) remains an issue and there are still some volatile areas around the country. Tourists should show good judgement by concealing their money, not wearing flashy clothes and not using ATMs after dark. They should also steer clear of political protests - as they would do when visiting any country.
Floods and landslides are common during the rainy seasons, which occur in April/May, and again in October/November.
With a sensible degree of caution, tourists can join the millions who visit Colombia and enjoy a safe experience.
Homosexuality is not widely accepted, and unfortunately, it is advisable that couples be discreet. It is prohibited to take photographs of military sites. Colombians use both their maternal and paternal surnames. The paternal surname is listed first and is used in conversation if addressing someone by his or her title.
Formality in Colombian business is expected, more so inland than at the coast, and this applies to protocol as well as to dress. Punctuality for appointments is important, regardless of whether the host is there on time or not, and handshakes are customary on arriving and departing. Many business people speak English, although all presentation materials and documentation should be translated into Spanish, and the use of visual aids widely used where possible. It might be necessary to use a translator, but it is best to check beforehand to avoid causing offence.
Business cards should also be printed in both English and Spanish. The importance of building social relationships should not be underestimated, and small talk before and after meetings is vital towards building a sense of trust and goodwill. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for Colombia is +57. The outgoing code depends on which network is used to dial out on, which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00544 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Bogota is 1, but the access code to make a call within the country from another area also depends on what network is used. A local prepaid SIM card can be cheaply purchased to avoid paying high international roaming fees. Wifi connection is available in most cities. Free wifi can also be found in cafes, hotels and wifi zones in major cities.
Travellers to Colombia over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500g of tobacco; perfume for personal use; and 2 bottles of alcohol per passenger.
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