Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
Always carry a colour photocopy of the data page and Colombian visa from your passport for identification.
Homosexuality is legal but not widely accepted, especially in rural areas. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Photographing of military or strategic government sites is not allowed.
It is a serious criminal offence to have sex with a minor.
Don’t get involved with illegal drugs of any kind. Colombian drug trafficking detection methods are sophisticated and anyone attempting to traffic drugs should expect to be arrested. Conviction leads to severe penalties. British nationals have been arrested and detained for trying to smuggle cocaine out of the country. Prison conditions are harsh. Pack your own luggage and keep it with you at all times. Don’t carry items for other people.
Ayahuasca, or yage, is a traditional plant used in ‘spiritual cleansing’ ceremonies by indigenous communities in Colombia, primarily in Putamayo and the Amazon region. The yage ceremony typically involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions is not well understood. People have suffered serious side-effects and in some cases death after participating in these ceremonies.
Spiritual cleansing or yage retreats are usually some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it.
Click here to view : Local laws and customs
When exporting to Colombia, make arrangements with a Customs Agency to receive the merchandise and clear it through customs. The following are the main steps to be followed:
Customs inspects the merchandise, when they consider it necessary, and then authorizes withdrawal of goods.
Fill out the “Andean Custom Value Declaration” (Declaración Andina de Valor en Aduana) when the import value is equal to or more than USD 5,000.00 FOB.
Fill out the Import Declaration (‘Declaración de Importación’). When the import value is equal to or more than USD 1,000.00 Customs Brokers should do all the paperwork and clear the shipment through Customs.
Go to an authorized financial entity and pay the import duties, VAT, surcharges, and other fees.
Present all documents to customs.
The importer must keep import documents for a period of no less than five years.
Customs officials are responsible for inspecting merchandise to verify that the description and classification are consistent with the importer’s declaration. A customs inspection group often performs after-clearance random investigations to detect fraud, foreign exchange irregularities, and tax evasion. Major customhouse brokers have a customs office in their own bonded warehouses where most clearance procedures are completed before the merchandise is delivered to the customer.
Foreign and Colombian Citizens
Click here to view : Country guides
Free import by passengers of 18 years and older:
Imports of the following products have been specifically prohibited: dieldrin, aldrin, chlordane, endosulfan, heptachlor, lindane, and any preparations containing these products, gasoline that contains lead tetraethylene, and weapon-type toys.
An import license is required for 101 sub-classifications of the Colombian Tariff Schedule. No import licenses are being approved for the following: used vehicles and parts, used tires, used or irregular clothing, clothing closeouts, used bags and sacks, sacks of vegetable fibers, rags, and scrap cordage of textile material wastes. Only the Military Industry Institute (Indumil) (Colombia’s government-owned arms and explosives manufacturer) may import weapons, explosives, and related raw materials.
Click here to view : Prohibited restricted imports
Only one type of major appliance can be imported, excluding televisions (3 maximum)
Prior authorization from regional police departments is required for import and export. Must be declared on arrival and departure.
The import of certain endangered species of plant, live animals and their products is prohibited or restricted under CITES.
For further details please refer to CITES: www.cites.org.
Additional Information on regulations:
Prohibited: vegetables, plants or plant material, meat and food products of animal origin.
Passengers arriving with cats or dogs must obtain approval from the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) at first point of entry and must be accompanied by:
1. original Sanitary Inspection Certificate issued (or endorsed) by the official sanitary authority in country of origin containing all details of the pet. The certificate must be stamped and signed for a period not exceeding 10 calendar days prior to arrival and must state that the pet:
a. is in good health and free of contagious and parasitic diseases and has no fresh or healing wounds;
b. has a current vaccination plan and is suitable for transport;
c. was treated with authorized internal or external antiparasitic products;
2. original and copy of a vaccination certificate showing vaccination against rabies issued at least 60 days before arrival. If the pet is vaccinated for the first time, this must be done at least 21 days before arrival.
Pets imported from the USA must be accompanied by a certificate issued by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA -APHIS).
Imported cats or dogs not complying with above mentioned conditions are subject to quarantine (or other suitable actions) for 5 days at the premises of the transporting company at passenger’s expense. There are no quarantine offices at the airport.
For more information, contact the Quarantine Technical Direction of the ICA at www.ica.gov.co or ICA offices at the airport.
In addition, passengers departing Colombia must obtain a CIS Certificate (Certificado de Inspeccion Sanitario) issued by Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) at El Dorado Airport authorizing the pet to exit. This can be done up to three days before traveling, from Monday to Friday.
The following canine breeds and any cross breeds of: Staffordshire terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, pit-bull terrier, American pit-bull terrier.
Baggage is cleared at the airport of final destination in Colombia.
a. baggage of passengers traveling to Armenia (AXM) or Manizales (MZL), which is cleared at the airport of entry in Colombia;
b. baggage of transit passengers on an international flight to a destination outside Colombia.
Currency Import regulations:
Local currency (Colombian Peso-COP) and foreign currencies: up to USD 10,000.- or equivalent. Amounts exceeding USD 10,000.- must be declared on arrival.
Currency Export regulations:
Local currency and foreign currencies: up to USD 10,000.- or equivalent. Amounts exceeding USD 10,000.- must be declared on arrival.
Foreign and Colombian Citizens
Do not use the biometric because the immigration stamp is needed for customs process
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Airport taxis collected upon ticket issuance or upon embarkation.
Place of payment: Point of ticket sale or airport of departure.
Transit passengers continuing their journey on the same day and not leaving the international transit area.
Exit Tax: USD 19.-, in cash only, is levied on residents of Colombia departing for abroad and on all departing passengers whose stay in Colombia exceeds 2 months.
Place of payment: Airport of departure.
Following an announcement by the Colombian Government, direct flights to/from London have been suspended until further notice. As of 22 December, you also cannot enter Colombia if your journey began in the UK. You will be required to exit Colombia on the next available flight if this is the case. The only exemptions to this are:
Regulations are subject to change at short notice and you should check with your travel provider before your journey.
Arrivals to Colombia are subject to mandatory entry requirements:
Colombia’s sea borders reopened on 1 December 2020. Land and river borders will remain closed until 1 March. Internal travel within Colombia is permitted.
Between 24 hours and 1 hour before departure, you must again fill out the ‘Check-Mig’ form, available on the Migración Colombia website.
Passengers who plan to leave Colombia must enter the airport 3 hours in advance to board the flight, make use of the mask from entering the air terminal, during the flight and at the port of arrival; as well as knowing all the health requirements of the country of destination, such as quarantines or tests.
British nationals can enter Colombia for up to 90 days as a visitor without a visa at the discretion of the Colombian Immigration Officer on arrival. You may need to provide evidence of return or onward travel. If you’re issued with a Colombian visa with more than 90 days’ validity, you must register the visa at a Migración Colombia office or online within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines. Check the latest entry requirements with the Colombian Consulate General in London before you travel.
You may be able to extend your stay once you are in Colombia by up to 120 days by applying at the immigration office Migración Colombia. As a visitor, you can’t remain in Colombia for more than 180 days in any 12 month period. Don’t overstay your visa, you will be fined or risk deportation at your own cost.
If you’re a British-Colombian dual national, you must enter and leave Colombia using your Colombian passport and Colombian identification card (Cedula).
If you enter Colombia by land you should make sure your passport is stamped by the immigration authorities. Failure to do so may result in a fine on departure. If the immigration office on the border is closed, seek help at the nearest office of Migración Colombia.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Colombia.
An airport tax is charged for international departures. The cost is usually included in the price of the airline ticket, but you should check with your airline prior to your travel.
You can carry up to US$10,000 in cash, or its equivalent in any currency, with you when you enter or leave Colombia. Anything in excess of this amount may be confiscated.
Travelling with children
Children under the age of 18 years who have resident status in Colombia and who are travelling on a British passport will need written permission when leaving the country without both parents. The non-accompanying parent(s) must write a letter giving permission for the child to leave Colombia. The letter must be authenticated by a notary or by a Colombian Consulate. It must mention the proposed destination, the purpose of the trip, the date of departure and the return date. You can get more information about Colombian emigration requirements from Migración Colombia or by contacting the Colombian Consulate in London.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website. Under International Health Regulations (2005), a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers aged 1 year or over arriving from Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda and for travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Colombia. Your ETD should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Colombia. If you are a dual British/Colombian national you must have a valid Colombian travel document (passport) in order to be allowed to depart – a UK Emergency Travel Document cannot substitute this requirement.
San Andres Archipelago
If you’re travelling to the Islands of San Andres, Providencia or Santa Catalina you must purchase a tourist card from the airport you are travelling from, usually at the boarding gate, on the day of the flight. Tourists staying less than 24 hours on the islands, and children under 7 years, are exempt. Check with your airline to confirm the details prior to your travel.
Despite improvements in security, crime rates remain high in Colombia. Illegal armed groups and other criminal groups are heavily involved in the drugs trade and serious crime including kidnapping (for ransom and political purposes), money laundering and running extortion and prostitution rackets.
Street crime is a problem in major cities, including Bogota, Medellin, Cali and the Caribbean coast. Mugging and pickpocketing can be accompanied by violence. British nationals have been robbed at gun point in the Candelaria area of Bogotá. Be vigilant, particularly if you are in public places used by foreigners, or near official buildings. Avoid deprived areas of cities. Take care on city streets, especially after dark or if you are on your own. Don’t carry large amounts of money or wear valuable watches or jewellery. Avoid using your mobile phone in the street.
The British Embassy has received reports of criminals in Colombia using drugs to subdue their victims. This includes the use of scopolamine, which temporarily incapacitates unsuspecting victims. Drugs can be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols and even paper flyers. Victims become disoriented quickly and are vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, rape and other crimes. Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended and don’t take anything from strangers.
Where possible, plan how you will travel to and from your destination. Only use pre-booked taxis. Be wary if you are approached by a stranger.
Fake police are known to operate in Bogota and elsewhere to conduct scams, e.g., asking to inspect money to see if it is counterfeit. If approached, you should ask to be escorted to the nearest CAI (‘Centro de Atencion Inmediata’ – local police station).
Express kidnappings – short-term opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim – also occur. Victims can be targeted or selected at random and held while criminals empty their bank accounts with stolen cash cards. Most cases in major cities involve victims that have been picked up by taxis hailed from the street. There have been incidents where those who have resisted the kidnappers’ demands have been killed.
Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked. There’s evidence of high levels of coca cultivation in the following Departments in Colombia: Nariño, Cauca, Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta,Guaviare, the Catatumbo region in the Norte de Santander department, northern Antioquia, and southern Bolivar. There’s a risk to your safety in any area where coca, marijuana or opium poppies are cultivated and near to cocaine processing labs.
Illegal armed groups and criminal gangs are active in all of the departments where coca is cultivated, processed or transported, as well as in many cities. The risk is particularly significant in rural areas near to the borders with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador; in the Parque Nacional Natural de La Macarena in the Department of Meta; and the port towns of Buenaventura in the Department of Valle de Cauca, Turbo in the Department of Antioquia and Tumaco in the Department of Nariño.
In many rural areas, the authority of the Colombian state is limited, and the British Embassy’s ability to help British nationals in trouble in these areas will also be limited. If you travel to remote areas, travel with recognised tour operators, and make arrangements for your security throughout your visit. You should also seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities before each stage of your journey. Mobile and internet connection in rural areas is often limited.The Pacific coast of Chocó is a popular eco-tourist destination. However, much of Chocó is remote. Illegal armed groups are active and involved in the drugs trade throughout the department and particularly near the border with Panama. If you intend to travel to the whale-watching towns of Bahia Solano and Nuqui, only do so by air and don’t travel inland or along the coast out of town.
If you travel to the ‘Lost City’ in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, you should only do so as part of an organised tour.
The archaeological park at San Agustin is located in the department of Huila. You should enter and leave the park on the main road through Neiva or Popayán.
The tourist site of Caño Cristales is located in the department of Meta, in the Parque Nacional Natural de la Macarena. If you’re travelling to Caño Cristales, only do so with a reputable tour company, and travel by air to and from the town of La Macarena.
You should exercise caution when taking public transport in Colombia. Do not hail taxis on the street. There have been reports of express kidnappings, assaults and robberies in unlicensed taxis. Use licensed telephone or internet-based taxi services whenever possible or book through your hotel. Many restaurants in Colombia will book a taxi for you.
El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá only allows authorised taxis to pick up passengers at their terminals. Authorised taxi booths are present in El Dorado and most airports in Colombia.
There have been several recent incidents of armed robberies on buses. Avoid displaying valuable items like laptops, cameras and mobile phones. Don’t wear jewellery and only carry minimal amounts of cash. Avoid travelling on your own or at night, especially at border crossings or areas where there are few other people around. When travelling to remote areas it may be safer to travel with others or take part in a tour with a reputable company.
If you’re visiting Colombia, you can drive with a valid UK driving licence for the duration of your legal stay. If you’re living in Colombia, you will need to apply for a local driving licence. More information is available from the Colombian Ministry of Transport.
If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.
Driving standards are poor and traffic accidents are common. Avoid driving at night, which can be particularly hazardous. Don’t hitch-hike. The risk of violence and kidnapping is higher in some rural areas, and there is a risk of being caught in roadblocks set up by illegal armed groups. Main roads are generally safe during daylight hours.
The departmental capitals of Amazonas, Vaupes and Guainía are only accessible by air due to the lack of road infrastructure in these departments.
All land borders are currently closed due to coronavirus.
The FCDO currently advise against all travel to Venezuela’s border regions with Colombia. You should not use any of the Colombia-Venezuelan land crossings
The ‘Darien Gap’ is a dangerous area renowned for the presence of several illegal armed groups, illegal migration, and drugs trafficking. There’s no road crossing between Colombia and Panama. Avoid crossing between Panama and Colombia by land.
To cross by land between Colombia and Ecuador, you should only use the crossing on the Pan-American Highway, at Ipiales.
Colombia is affected by land mines and unexploded ordnance. Mined areas are often unmarked. Be vigilant when visiting remote areas or travelling off the main roads.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices – IATA Operational Safety Audit and IATA Standard Safety Assessment. These lists aren’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
Colombia is a presidential republic with separation of powers. Since 1990 Colombia has had a multi-party system. Colombia’s last Presidential elections took place in June 2018.
Colombia suffered from internal armed conflict for over 50 years. On 24 November 2016, Colombia’s President Santos signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement to end the internal armed conflict.
This peace agreement comes after four years of negotiations. On 1 September 2017, the FARC announced the launch of their new political party, officially ending their status as an armed group.
The Colombian constitution guarantees extensive rights to indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups over their traditional territories and to protect their culture. Indigenous communities have special jurisdiction within their territories within the bounds of the national judicial system.