Most travelers will arrive in Colombia by plane, or overland from Ecuador, Venezuela, and less often, Brazil. There are also numerous sailboats that bring travelers from Panama via the San Blas Islands.
You'll need a valid passport (with at least six more months of validity) and some nationalities will need a visa. Travelers receive a 90-day tourist visa, which can be extended another 90 days per calendar year.
When arriving by plane (but not overland), you'll be given a customs form which you'll need to fill in and hand to the official after reclaiming your baggage. If you have a connecting domestic flight your bags may be sent right through from Bogotá to your final destination – which is unusual in the region – but you still need to fill out the form and pass customs before heading up to your domestic departure gate.
- Colombian customs looks for large sums of cash (inbound) and drugs (outbound). If they have the slightest suspicion you are carrying either you can expect an exhaustive search of your belongings and your person.
- Expect to be questioned in Spanish or English by a well-trained police officer. The latest method is x-raying your intestines: if you look in any way out of the ordinary, or fail to give a convincing response to the officer's questions, they will x-ray you to see if you are a drug mule.
- You can bring in personal belongings and presents you intend to give to Colombian residents. The quantity, kind and value of these items shouldn't arouse suspicion that they may have been imported for commercial purposes.
- You can bring in items for personal use such as cameras, camping equipment, sports accessories or laptops without any problems.
Nationals of many countries, including Western Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, don't need a visa. Otherwise, expect a nominal fee.
Canadian travelers do not need a visa but will be charged a COP$160,000 reciprocity fee upon arrival at the airport or land border crossing. It can be paid in cash in Colombian pesos or with an international debit or credit card. It is waived for travelers under 14 or over 79. At international airports there is a special immigration line to pay the fee marked with a Canadian flag.
All visitors get an entry stamp in their passport upon arrival and receive a 90-day tourist visa. Double-check your stamp immediately; errors are sometimes made.
If traveling overland, make sure you get an entry stamp or you'll have troubles later. Overstaying your welcome can result in heavy fines, and in some cases can result in being barred entry in the future. Similarly, make sure you get your departure stamp or there will be trouble the next time around.
Migración Colombia handles visa extensions for tourists via Centros Facilitadores de Servicios Migratorios offices around the country. Visitors on a tourist visa may extend up to an additional 90 days at the discretion of the officer. To apply for an extension, known as a 'permiso temporal de permanencia,' you'll be asked to submit your passport, two photocopies of your passport (picture page and arrival stamp) and two passport-sized photos, along with an air ticket out of the country in most cases. The fee of COP$92,000 can be paid by debit or credit card at Migración Colombia offices.
If you're paying in cash it must be deposited into the government bank account, which is often Banco de Occidente but depends on the city in which you are applying. Show up first to fill out forms, then they'll direct you to a nearby bank to pay the fee.
You can also complete the process and pay online and once it's approved pop into a Migración Colombia office to get the stamp.
If you apply for the extension in the office, expect the process to take an entire morning or afternoon. It can be done at any of the Centros Facilitadores de Servicios Migratorios offices in Colombia, which are present in all the main cities and some smaller towns (there's is a list on the Migración Colombia website). You'll usually (but not always) get the extension on the spot.
Fines for overstaying range from half of to up to seven times the minimum salary (COP$737,717 as of 2017), depending on length of overstay.