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Traveling to Colombia

Colombia has good and relatively cheap air links with Europe and North America. Most visitors use Colombia's major International airport in Bogota. Others include Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, Cali and San Andres. There's an airport tax on international fights.

There are road connections with Venezuela and Ecuador only, which are popular and easy. Don't attempt to cross at the Panamanian border, it stretches across the infamous Darian Gap, a hostile area of swamps, jungle and guerrillas. Travelers planning to cross at Araunca/El Amparo or Puerto Carreno/Puerto Paez should consult their embassy for up to date security information before attempting these crossings.

Getting around inside Colombia

Avianca is Colombia's premiere airline, and they are rightly proud of the service it provides. Others include Aero Republic, Aires and Satena. Fares can be high but newer airopines offer cheap promotions. Always reconfirm your booking 72 hours in advance. There is an airport tax on domestic flights.

Although busses are slow and crowded, they provide the main form of transportation and are cheap, efficient and extensive.

Taxis are excellent value, especially when chartered for a long trip.

Car and motorcycle travel can be expensive and dangerous, with theft the main problem.

Water transport is irregular and primitive.

When visiting Bogota, use Transmilenio, a fast urban bus service

In Medellin, Colombia use the city's high-speed metro.

Cycling isn't easy in Colombia. Road rules favor drivers, and you'll fight traffic on main roads. However, most roads are paved and security is improving. Bike rentals are uncommon but you can buy one almost anywhere.

For a different experience try a "chiva" and old style wooden bus, or "collectivo", a cross between a bus and a taxi.

University in Colombia Antioquia

Spending

Money changing

You can use credit cards, Visa is the most widely accepted, for car rental, air tickets, and in most top end hotels and restaurants. Credit cards are also becoming popular for purchasing goods and payment for services in many other commercial establishments. There are an increasing number of automatic teller machines that accept Visa and MasterCard and Cirrus, and pay out in peso.

You can change cash and sometimes travelers’ checks at authorized money exchange offices found in most border towns and major cities. Avoid street dealers except where there's no alternative. In Cartagena, they are particularly notorious for ripping off unwary tourists. Avoid them at all cost. Make sure you know the currency notes, and the going exchange rate, so that if you have to use a street dealer you won't get cheated. Check your pesos carefully before you part with your dollars.

Currency notes in Pesos are 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000. Forged notes exist, so watch exactly what you get. In contrast to forged dollar notes, peso forgeries are usually poor quality and easy to spot.

Currency coins come in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. Beware that there are some fake 1000 coins in circulation, many businesses won't accept them and neither should you.

Only a few banks deal in foreign currency exchange, but you can usually rely on Bancolombia to change US dollars and drivellers checks. Changing travelers’ checks can take a long time as they insist on photocopying each one. Fingerprints must be given, passports inspected, and it's best to ask for large quantities of cash to avoid frequent visits. Dollars are the best currency.

Banco Union Colombiano also provide these services, but there are fewer branches, and there are half a dozen other banks across the country which have ATMs

Tipping

Tipping is essentially limited to upscale hotels and restaurants' and you leave around 10% of the bill. As in most neighboring countries, bargaining is limited to informal trade and services such as street stalls, markets, taxis, and sometimes long distance busses.

Costs

Liter of gas — $0.60

Souvenir t shirt — $10.00

Beer Aguila — $0.35

Sm bottle water — $0.60

Minimum taxi charge — $1.25

Room prices — Low $7 to $15; Med $15 to $25; High $25 to $45; Deluxe $45 upwards

Meals — Low $1 to $4; Med $4 to $8; High $8 to $10