After the shutdown of tourism for much of 2020, international tourism to Colombia is now being allowed again as of late September 2020. Here you can learn about the requirements to enter Colombia for tourism and what to expect once in country. So read on to learn all you need to know about the requirements to visit Colombia as a tourist in 2020.
Note that I will do my very best to keep this up to date, but, as we have all seen in 2020, 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, 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: October 17, 2020 (*updated to note that negative Covid test to enter Colombia should taken 96 hours before your entry into Colombia not your departure)
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Is Colombia Open to International Tourism?
Colombia officially reopened international flights on September 19, 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.
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.
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 As noted above, if anyone notices any inaccurate or out of date information, please let me know in the comments.
*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 have been declared to remain close until at least November 1.
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.
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.
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.
Without the proof of a negative PCR test, your airline may not let you board, but even if they do, immigration officials will detain you and hold you until you can be deported (this has already been reported as having happened to a number of people who did not have correct documentation or had other types of tests).
In addition to a PCR test, what are the other requirements to travel to Colombia?
In addition to documentation that you have a negative PCR test, you’ll also 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 24 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 (in English) here.
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.
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 the year. 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.
Now most places have relaxed that and everyone is allowed out while being encourage 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 or less before departure
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, although you are not allowed to disembark anywhere, even to swim in the ocean. Gatherings like at the popular boat party spot Cholón are prohibited for the time being.
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.
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 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 some speculation that it could go back to temporary lockdown or quarantine measures, although that shouldn’t be seen as guaranteed, nor is it clear that it would apply to tourists.
What are regulations like in Bogotá?
Bogotá, as the country’s largest city, has borne the worse of the pandemic. Some protests against the killing of a man in police custody and against the government’s policies more broadly have only complicated the situation an already difficult situation.
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.
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 recognized 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 back to work while letting more people come and enjoy all Colombia has to offer and 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 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 scheme or 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!
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