After the shutdown of tourism for much of 2020, international tourism to Colombia is now being allowed again. Here you can learn about the requirements to travel to Colombia and what to expect once in country once you have met the entry requirements for Colombia. So read on to learn all you need to know about the travel requirements for Colombia in 2021.
Note that I will do my very best to keep this up to date, but, as we have all seen over the past year, things can change quickly and unexpectedly, so it may be worth verifying this information, especially if it has been a while since the last update noted below and especially as it relates to other cities besides Cartagena. Any information you see that is inaccurate, I’d much appreciate you letting me know in a comment!
Date of last update: January 23, 2021 (*added that a negative test result is now needed for domestic flights to San Andres and latest on restrictions in Cartagena)
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Is Colombia Open to International Tourism?
Colombia officially reopened international flights on September 19, 2020, with the first flight arriving here in Cartagena from Fort Lauderdale. This, along with the end of domestic travel restrictions, effectively reopened the country to tourism.
There are requirements for entry to Colombia, and I will explain them below. However, local governments also have considerable power in determining restrictions on the operation of businesses.
*Note: This post is about the entry requirements for Colombia. With the new US (and many other countries) requirement for a negative Covid Test, I notice lots of questions coming up about where to get a Covid Test in Colombia. If you are leaving from Cartagena, you can see a list of places to get a Covid test here.
Generally, most places in Colombia that rely on tourism are eager to open up and are doing so gradually, trying to balance reactivating the economy and preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Still, given the fluidity of the situation and differences in local policies, you should verify the situation in the cities you plan to visit.
For a good example of that above, note that some places had lockdowns around New Years, while others operated more or less normally. Below, I will give you the best info I can on Cartagena, but with things so fluid and varied, you should look into local restrictions to the city or cities you plan to travel in Colombia.
Here you’ll find information on what you need to enter Colombia from abroad, what to expect in Cartagena, and some general tips and links for what restrictions to expect elsewhere. As noted above, if anyone notices any inaccurate or out of date information, please let me know in the comments.
*Note that if traveling to Colombia, you will need to comply with mask mandates in public in Colombia. According to this article, cloth masks may not be as effective against new strains of the virus, so you may want to consider getting some KN95s, FFP2s, or at least some medical grade masks. Also, you can compare prices on the range of high quality PPE equipment at C2W Health.
It’s also more important than ever to have travel insurance. World Nomads is a leader in international travel insurance. You can get a quote here or in the tool below. You can compare their prices with those from VisitorsCoverage here. You may also want to check out travel insurance from Expatgroup.co, who offer plans specifically tailored to travel in Colombia.
*Planning your trip to Colombia?
Check out the options below to book your accommodations:
How to Travel to Colombia
As of the last update (date at the top), the only way to enter Colombia from abroad is via air. Land and sea borders had been declared to remain closed until at least March 1, 2021 (source in Spanish here). As of this update, neither the border with Ecuador or Venezuela is open. It remains unclear when Colombian land borders will open.
Which airports in Colombia are receiving international flights?
Currently, the following airports in Colombia have international arrival flights:
- Rafael Nuñez in Cartagena
- El Dorado in Bogotá
- José María Cordova in Medellín
- Alfonso Bonilla Aragón in Cali
Are domestic flights in Colombia operating?
Yes, and a number of other airports have biosafety protocols and flights in addition to the ones listed above. I’m not going to try to keep an up to date list here as they are likely to change depending on how things go not only with the virus but also with demand.
Whether you’re looking for international or domestic flights, it’s always a good idea to compare prices, and in these times, it’s worth reading the fine print on cancellation policies and refunds as well. See the below options for what your best option is for flights to Colombia currently operating:
*If you’re a frequent flyer, check out Points.com to manage all your frequent flyer points across airlines.
Is a Covid test required for domestic travel in Colombia?
For both places, no. In fact, there was nowhere, with the exception of the island of Providencia, that was requiring tests. However, with the increase of case counts, its possible some places may require it. My understanding is there are certain thresholds where tests for domestic arrivals may be implemented, but it’s not entirely clear.
As of the last update of this on January 23, domestic travelers arriving to the island of San Andres must have a negative antigen test result within 48 hours. Information out there on this is somewhat sparse, and a google search brings up lots of press releases about the elimination of the requiring back in September, but this website is a San Andres specific one and looks to have been updated in January 2021 and states you need the test, as does this article from Semana.
For what it’s worth, we flied domestically over the holiday season, flying from Cartagena to Bogotá, from Bogotá to San Andres, and from San Andres to Cartagena. Overall, we were pretty impressed with biosecurity protocols in the airports in Cartagena and Bogotá. San Andres was so-so as we saw some lax enforcement generally in town and at the airport and some airport workers with things like masks not pulled up fully over their nose.
Still, overall, we felt pretty good traveling and most travelers, airport workers, and businesses (we also went to Villa de Leyva) were very good about following or having measures in place.
We flew LATAM on all the flights, and also thought they did a good job, boarding a few rows at a time and properly enforcing masks and the like.
What are the requirements to enter Colombia?
The Colombian national government has set a number of requirements that international travelers must meet to enter Colombia. Here I’ll go over the requirements to travel to Cartagena and the rest of Colombia.
Do I need to take a Covid test to travel to Colombia?
Yes. To enter Colombia you must present documentation of a negative Covid-19 test.
*Update: The testing requirement had been discontinued but a judge declared it should be reinstated along with a 14 day quarantine. At first, the Colombian government effectively pulled an Andrew Jackson and ignored it (source here).
However, as of a resolution on December 31, the PCR negative test requirement to enter Colombia has been reinstated. The negative PCR test as a requirement to enter Colombia applies to all ages (even infants and children). There will not be a 14 day quarantine required with the negative test, however.
This Covid testing requirement to enter Colombia is now in effect.
What if I can’t get a PCR test before traveling to Colombia?
The Ministry of Salud has released guidance that allows immigration officials to accept international travelers to Colombia into country who provide a verbal statement that they were unable to get the test before traveling due to unavailability where they are traveling from. The guidance specifically says that includes citizens of other countries.
Travelers who arrive without documentation of a negative PCR test will be allowed to conduct the test in country at their own expense, while practicing self-isolation until a negative result is received. They may also opt to complete a 14 day quarantine.
Whether for the time it takes to get the test result (likely 48-72 hours) or the complete 14 days, quarantine is also at the travelers expense and can presumably be done in a hotel. Officials may check compliance and failure to comply may result in fines and most certainly deportation.
That means that as of this last update (date at the top), there is a Covid-19 negative test or quarantine as part of the entry requirements for Colombia. However, that may be subject to change if further legal debates play out and if the world starts to get a better handle on the virus.
I will do my best to update as more comes out. I would highly suggest double checking via Colombian newspapers and MinSalud just to be on the safe side.
Upon arrival (and I would imagine before boarding as well), you will be screened for fever and symptoms and could be denied entry to the country if you show them as well as meeting the test requirement.
What kind of Covid test do I need to take to enter Colombia?
The test must be a PCR test, and it must be completed 96 hours before your entry into Colombia.
I have heard stories of people being turned away either at check in by their airline or not being allowed to enter by immigration officials if their test is not a PCR test. I have also heard of people being given a hard time if the date is within 4 days but there is not a time stamp that shows it is specifically within 96 hours of your arrival. Furthermore, the results of the test cannot be hand written and must specifically have the letters PCR on it.
Therefore, you should take extra care to get the correct PCR test and not an antibody test or a rapid test and ask those administering the test to put not only the date but also a time stamp and ensure the letters PCR appear.
I am not particularly well versed in the types of testing, but my understanding is that the PCR test is the one done with a nasal swab and not a blood sample. My understanding as well is that so called “rapid tests” do not comply with the requirements, even those that are PCR rapid tests.
From what I understand, the 96 hours are from when the test is administered, not when you receive results, so do be sure wherever you do the test they are able to give you the results before you fly.
Can I enter Colombia without a Covid test?
As noted above, as of most recent developments after January 7, yes, you may enter Colombia without a negative Covid test but will need to complete quarantine until you complete a test in country or for 14 days.
The government guidance says travelers may make an oral statement to immigration officers upon entry that PCR tests were unavailable in their city of origin. Whether that is something that is verified or not is unclear.
So, if you are traveling to Colombia for tourism, I would strongly recommend getting the test before departing to Colombia. Available times to complete the test and how quickly results are returned may be unpredictable, but you’re likely looking at 3 days at least where you will be isolating. That doesn’t seem worth it in my opinion, not to mention, if you happen to test negative, you would be looking at 14 days.
So unless you are coming from somewhere where there just isn’t testing available or you have multiple legs of flights that make meeting the 96 hour requirement impossible, it would be best to make sure you have test results when you arrive.
Do I still need a negative test to enter Colombia if I have gotten a vaccine?
There doesn’t appear to be any documentation related to travelers to Colombia who can show proof of having received a vaccine.
Perhaps that will change sometime in the future as the vaccine becomes more widely available, but for the time being, even people who have gotten a a vaccine will need to show the negative PCR test as a requirement to enter Colombia.
What are the other requirements to travel to Colombia?
In addition to the negative Covid test requirement to enter Colombia, there are still several travel requirements for Colombia. You’ll need to complete a screening form for Migración Colombia, download the official tracking app from the Colombian government, and follow all local rules related to biosafety. Here is a quick rundown of each.
Migración Colombia Form
You will need to complete the Check-Mig Form from Migración Colombia within 48 hours of your departure time. You can complete it up to 1 hour before your departure time.
The form asks you to fill out your flight information and appears to be similar to the type of paper form you would get handed to on a plane and hand immigration officials normally.
You can find the form here (you can change it to English with the button at the top).
Colombian Government’s CoronApp
This is a cell phone application created by the Colombian government that tracks outbreaks of the virus and public health. You must download it before your flight and keep it on your phone for at least 14 days afterwards.
You can download the app here or in the app store on your phone (be sure it is the app from the Colombian government). It is free.
Note, I have heard of stories from people in my Facebook group that have had trouble getting this to download successfully on their phones from abroad and/or with a non-Colombian phone number. I’ve also heard that they don’t always ask to see it.
My suggestion would be to try the best you can, and if you can’t get it to work, take a screen shot showing the error so if they do ask, you can show them that. I tend to think it’s something to do your best to be rather than safe than sorry about but not stress out too much.
Based on our experience traveling domestically during the holidays at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, we were only asked to show the app in the airport when entering the airport in Bogotá, not in Cartagena or in San Andres, nor when arriving anywhere.
Still, it’s best to download it and have it in case you are asked for it.
Wearing a Mask and Social Distancing
Across the country, you are generally expected to have a mask on at all times when in public. In places where restaurants and bars have reopened you can remove it when eating and drinking with your group, and in some other places, like the beach, you may also be able to remove it when away from other people.
*Need some masks for your travel? Check out these reusable masks, these reusable, moisture wicking neck bands and face masks in a variety of colors, or, if you prefer single use, these N95 disposable masks. You’ll also want to make sure you bring along plenty of hand sanitizer.
Follow All Local Biosafety Protocols and Regulations
Local governments in Colombia have considerable ability to determine regulations related to the operation of businesses, restaurants, tours, and the like. You will need to follow all of those regulations.
In most cities restaurants have opened to some capacity, although restrictions on the limit of people and whether alcohol can be served may vary from city to city.
Beaches and local attractions are also opening back up, but many require pre-booked reservations to prevent overcrowding, but this is different in every city, so you should be sure to do your due diligence on what’s open and the process for reserving.
In much of Colombia, there were restrictions on who could be out of the house except to work for much of 2020. People who were not commuting to what had been deemed essential jobs were not allowed out except for on certain days based on the last number of their ID.
This included even to go shopping in supermarkets. There were also restrictions on the sale of alcohol and consumption of alcohol in public, even in restaurants. This continued here in Cartagena until the start of October. In some places, curfews and or dry laws were implemented for parts of the end of year holidays.
Now, most places have relaxed that to some extent or another and everyone is allowed out while being encouraged to follow best practices of social distancing and personal sanitation.
Still, it’s possible that these types of measures could return if there is a resurgence of the virus in certain areas. These rules likely would not apply to tourists, but again you should verify. You should also make sure you keep a copy of your entry credentials on you just in case.
Strongly Suggested: Travel Health Insurance
This year has shown us that having access to health care is more important than ever. Having travel health insurance is something I would strongly suggest.
Larger companies like World Nomads have started selling travel insurance again, but I encourage you to check out the options offered by our partners Expat Group. They have health insurance especially tailored for travelers in Colombia that you can feel confident will be accepted without complications should you get sick or injured during your time in Colombia. Learn more about their policies here.
If you are planning a longer stay and need a visa, whether for study, work, opening a business, retiring, or joining a significant other, Expat Group also offers visa services. Learn about their visa services here.
Recap: Requirements to Travel to Colombia in the Times of Covid
- Negative PCR test 96 hours before entry
- Completion of the Check-Mig Form before departure
- Download of the Colombian Government’s CoronApp
- Wear a mask in public at all times
- Respect local social distancing rules and regulations
What kinds of local regulations and social distancing rules are in place in Colombia?
The truth is, local requirements vary, and have been subject to change in unpredictable ways with announcements often coming a day or two before. Thus is the way things go in Latin America and Colombia.
Most places have now eased up considerably in an effort to jump start the economy, and you should expect hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions to be open with reduced capacities. On the other hand night clubs and large gatherings indoors are likely to be off limits everywhere for a while longer.
Here, I’ll try to give you some idea of some of the main cities and what you might expect, but you should also do your own research on what things are open for tourists in Colombia and what is not.
*Update: There was a national decree from the president ordering all discotecas closed and prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in establishments open to the public on November 28 (source here). However, the decree also allows local governments to allow businesses like bars to operate and sell alcohol under so called pilot plans where businesses have to apply and get licenses after showing they have biosecurity protocols in place. So, I guess in practice, local rules are what matters.
What are regulations like in Cartagena?
Restaurants are allowed to operate at limited capacity. Food and alcohol sales are allowed, but people are not meant to dance or crowd together, and masks are expected to be worn when not eating or drinking or moving outside your or your group’s “bubble” for things like going to the bathroom.
For places with indoor seating, you are meant to be there for a maximum of 2 hours. Many restaurants and bars may also require a reservation. Checking out their Instagram or Facebook pages is a good way to see how to do this. Places are also supposed to close by 1 am and many are closing earlier.
Many attractions have also reopened, like the Castillo San Felipe and San Pedro Claver Church. The beaches also reopened in early October. Find out how to go to the beach in this guide to the reopening of Cartagena beaches.
Some hotels in the Rosario Islands and Tierra Bomba have opened as well. Those that have beach areas are allowed to make use of them, and if they have the proper permission they can serve food and alcohol. Boat rentals are also allowed and the party spot of Cholón has recently been allowed to reopen.
You should also expect to have to show your id, apply hand sanitizer, wipe your shoes in disinfectant, and have your temperature taken everywhere you go.
Update: Due to a surge in cases, the mayor of Cartagena has declared restrictions on entry to malls, supermarkets, large stores, and the city’s Bazurto market. These restrictions apply to alternating permission to enter based on the last number of your ID (for international travelers, this is presumably your passport). (right now even days=even numbers, odd days=odd numbers) There is also a curfew in effect throughout the city from 12 am to 5 am and alcohol sales are prohibited from 12 am to 10 am.
These measures will be in effect until at least February 1. However, the reality is they are unlikely to be felt much by travelers to Cartagena with the exception for the requirement to be back to where you are staying by 12 am.
I plan to do my best to keep at least the info on Cartagena up to date (date of the last update can be seen at the top of the article), but they are often subject to change with short notice. You can consult the most recent decrees toward the bottom of this page. The Facebook group Expats in Cartagena, CO is also a good place to ask for updated info. And I’d also love for you to check out and help grow my Facebook Group Cartagena and Colombia Travel Forum!
What are regulations like in Medellín?
Medellín allowed restaurants and indoor seating to open up more quickly than Cartagena. It had been doing quite well with the virus but has seen a bit of resurgence more recently. That has led to more stringent measures there.
What are regulations like in Bogotá?
Bogotá, as the country’s largest city, has borne the worse of the pandemic Still, restaurants and cafes have been allowed to reopen on a very limited basis. I would think that is likely to continue in more upscale and touristy areas. However, as of early 2021, cases are surging in Bogotá and schools have been shut down and more mandatory quarantines have been declared on the weekends.
I’d recommend checking out the Bogotá Post for up to date information on Bogotá. You can also ask in the Facebook Group Expats in Colombia as there seems to be a pretty large contingent of Bogotá based people there.
What are regulations like elsewhere?
It appears that many of the smaller destinations in Colombia have reopened, including places like Palomino and the San Bernardo Islands. Smaller towns and places like Minca and Tayrona have, as of this writing, still not reopened.
Many of the smaller destinations in Colombia in particular are caught between a rock and a hard place with this virus as there are usually not reliable health facilities but these towns rely on tourism. I’d be sure to look into the situation anywhere and reach out to hotels and hostels to have an idea of what thing are like before planning any trips.
Last Words of Advice for Traveling to Colombia Post Covid
Finally, I understand that for better or worse in the world we live in today, the issue of lockdowns and regulations has become politically charged. I also recognize there is no good answer or silver bullet and that there is room for debate over whether we should or should not allow tourism, should or should not allow restaurants to open, should or should not allow bars to open, etc.
All that being said, we should keep in mind, even someone like me who has residency and has lived here for nearly a decade, Colombia is not our country, and it is a privilege not a right to be here. We don’t have to like the rules, but we should follow them.
Hopefully by doing so, we will help things continue to open up and people get back to work while letting more people come and enjoy all Colombia has to offer and at the same time preventing the propagation of the virus.
Also, this is probably the time to not get too terribly annoyed with street or beach vendors, even the frustrating ones, to be a little less of a hardcore stingy negotiator, and to perhaps give a tad bit extra tip if you feel you had good service. Lots of people have been out of work for much of the year, and it’s worth keeping things in perspective that those of us able to travel right now are among the most fortunate in the grand scheme of things.
And there you have it, a complete guide to the travel requirements to enter Colombia due to Covid-19. I hope this was helpful and that you are able to come visit Colombia sooner rather than later while also keeping yourself, your loved ones, and the people of Colombia safe and healthy!
Cheers and Happy (and safe) Exploring!
Have you traveled or plan to travel to Colombia during Covid?
Let us know about your experience in the comments below! It will help me keep this page up to date and give others valuable insight!