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IMPORTANT INFORMATION BEFORE TRAVELING TO CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, COLOMBIA

I. Brief overview of Cartagena de Indias:

Cartagena de Indias, or simply known as Cartagena, is the capital of the Department of Bolívar. It was founded on June 1, 1533, by Pedro de Heredia. Cartagena was declared a Tourism, Historical and Cultural District in 1991. The city is located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea and is the second most important urban and industrial center on the Colombian Caribbean coastline. Cartagena is the 5th largest city in the country.

Since its founding in the 16th century and during the Spanish colonial era, Cartagena de Indias was one of the most important ports in America. Most of its artistic and cultural heritage originates in this period.  On November 11, 1811, Cartagena declared its independence from Spain.  This day is a national holiday in Colombia and is celebrated in the city with four days of festivities known as the “Fiestas de Independencia,” (Independence Celebrations).  Ever since 1933, Miss Colombia has been elected and crowned in the National Beauty Pageant on November 11.

With the passage of time, Cartagena has developed its urban area, conserving the historical centre and becoming one of the most important ports in Colombia, the Caribbean and the world, as well as a world-famous tourist destination.  The total population of Cartagena’s central core is 944,250, and its metropolitan area, comprising the municipalities of Turbaco, Arjona, Turbana, Santa Rosa, Santa Catalina, Clemencia, Maria La Baja, Mahates, San Estanislao and Villanueva has 1,288,490 inhabitants.  Its historical centre, the 'Walled City,' was declared a Colombian National Heritage site in 1959 and a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984. In 2007, its military architecture was declared the “Fourth Marvel of Colombia.”

II. Immigration requirements:

a) Countries that do NOT require a visa to enter Colombia: Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Colombia as tourists:

Germany

Fiji

The Netherlands

Andorra

The Philippines

Palau

Antigua and Barbuda

Finland

Panama

Argentina

France

Papua New Guinea

Australia

Granada

Paraguay

Austria

Greece

Peru

Bahamas

Guatemala

Poland

Barbados

Guyana

Portugal

Belgium

Honduras

United Kingdom

Belize

Hong Kong

Czech Republic

Bolivia

Hungary

The Dominican Republic

Brazil

Indonesia

Romania

Brunei

Ireland

Russia

Bhutan

Iceland

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Canada

Marshall Islands

Samoa

Chile

Solomon Islands

San Marino

Cyprus

Israel

Saint Lucia

South Korea

Italy

Holy See

Costa Rica

Jamaica

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Croatia

Japan

Singapore

Curacao

Latvia

South Africa

Denmark

Liechtenstein

Sweden

Dominica

Lithuania

Switzerland

Ecuador

Luxembourg

Suriname

El Salvador

Malaysia

Taiwan

United Arab Emirates

Malta

Trinidad and Tobago

Slovakia

Mexico

Turkey

Slovenia

Micronesia

Uruguay

Spain

Monaco

Venezuela

The United States

Norway

 

Estonia

New Zealand

 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia.

Note: This table is merely informative, so it is recommended to consult directly with the Embassy or Consulate of Colombia in your country of origin. See the addresses of Colombian embassies in the rest of the world here.

Visitors from the countries listed in the table above who are visiting Colombia as tourists, can remain in the country for up to 90 days of the date of entry stamped into their passports by the immigration official. Visitors who wish to extend their stay for more than ninety (90) calendar days, must apply for the extension in the offices of the Immigration Service (Asuntos Migratorios), located in Calle 100 No. 11 - 27, Bogotá, Colombia.

All visitors from the countries listed in the table above will require a valid passport and identity card (except for citizens of Chile and Ecuador, who will only require their identity card).

b) Countries whose citizens DO need a visa to enter Colombia: The citizens of the following countries do need a visa to enter Colombia as tourists:

Afghanistan

Equatorial Guinea

Nigeria

Albania

Haiti

Oman

Angola

India

Palestine

Saudi Arabia

Iran

Pakistan

Algeria

Iraq

Qatar

Armenia

Jordan

The Central African Republic

Azerbaijan

Kazakhstan

Rwanda

Bahrain

Kenya

Santo Tome and Principe

Bangladesh

Kyrgyzstan

Senegal

Benin

Kiribati

Serbia

Belarus

Kuwait

Seychelles

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kosovo

Sierra Leone

Botswana

Laos

Syria

Bulgaria

Lesotho

Somalia

Burkina Faso

Lebanon

Sri Lanka

Burundi

Liberia

Sudan

Cape Verde

Libya

Swaziland

Cambodia

Macau

Thailand

Cameroon

Macedonia

Tanzania

Chad

Madagascar

Tajikistan

China

Malawi

East Timor

Comoros

Maldives

Togo

Congo

Mali

Tonga

Korea DPR

Morocco

Tunisia

Ivory Coast

Mauritius

Turkmenistan

Cuba

Mauritania

Tuvalu

Djibouti

Moldova

Ukraine

Egypt

Mongolia

Uganda

Eritrea

Montenegro

Uzbekistan

Ethiopia

Mozambique

Vanuatu

Gabon

Myanmar

Viet Nam

Gambia

Namibia

Yemen

Georgia

Nauru

Zambia

Ghana

Nepal

Zimbabwe

Guinea

Nicaragua

 

Guinea-Bissau

Niger

 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia.

Note: This table is merely informative, so it is recommended to consult directly with the Embassy or Consulate of Colombia in your country of origin. See the addresses of Colombian embassies in the rest of the world here.

If you are a citizen of one of the countries requiring a visa to enter Colombia, you must visit the Colombian Embassy in your country to apply for a tourist visa. See the addresses of Colombian embassies in the rest of the world here.

Visitors from countries that do and do not require visas to enter Colombia will be required to have a valid passport and identity card.

III. Climate

Cartagena de Indias has + 90% relative humidity, with the rainy season occurring typically between April - May and October - November.

It is worth mentioning that although it is usually hot all year round, a prevailing breeze makes the climate very pleasant and bearable. The months between November and February are the windiest months of the year.

In April, the month in which the XI FIAP International Seminar 2013 – Sixth FIAP- ASOFONDOS Congress will be held, the average minimum temperature in Cartagena de Indias is 24.6º Celsius, with an average maximum temperature of 31.5° Celsius.

IV. Local taxes:

In Colombia, and therefore in Cartagena de Indias, the value added tax (VAT) is 16%. This tax is 16% for lodging and there is an additional 10% service charge on food and beverages, which is voluntary. Note than hotel tariffs published on this web site (valid only for participants of the Assembly and the XI FIAP International Seminar 2013 - Sixth FIAP-ASOFONDOS Congress) do not include this tax (foreign visitors are exempt from this tax, but Colombian nationals are not).

V. Tips:

In Colombia, and hence in Cartagena de Indias, tipping is voluntary, and you can pay tips included in your bill (typically 10% of the total) if you are satisfied with the service given to you.

VI. Dress code:

The following dress code is recommended for different occasions:

(i) Academic activities of the seminar: casual business attire (business casual). For men, this includes a shirt, pants and dress shoes, no jacket or tie.  For Ladies it includes dress trousers or skirt, a blouse and open-toed shoes.

(ii) Tourist activities: informal tropical climate attire and beach wear. The use of cotton or linen garments is recommended, since they are cool for the normal temperatures in the month of April.

For other social activities participants may engage in, we suggest wearing informal business attire (business casual).

VII. Transport:

Cartagena de Indias has multiple and economic means of urban transport. You can get around using taxis and different types of bus services: city buses, minibuses, vans. There is also an air-conditioned Metrocar bus service operating from the transport terminal to the different neighborhoods of the city, including the tourist area and the northern zone.

If you require transport for your outings and visits to tourist sites, the best option is to take a taxi or hire a specialized tour service. In the latter case, we recommend you contact Mr. Alexander Reales at the Seminar’s Official Tour Operator, Gema Tours S.A. (Tel.: (571) 3465025 Ext. 127; E-mail: congresos@gematours.com - alexreales@gematours.com).

If you wish, you can also rent a vehicle for any amount of time to move freely around the city.  

VIII. Currency, exchange rate, banks, ATMs and means of payment:  

i. Currency

Official legal tender in Cartagena de Indias is the Colombian peso (COP), issued by Banco de la República.  Banknotes in circulation are for $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 and $50,000 denominations, and coins for amounts of $50, $100, $200 and $500. The entry and exit of money, in this denomination or any other, is limited and must be declared on arrival or departure from the country.

ii. Exchange rate

Since this is a tourist-oriented city, commercial establishments accept dollars in payment. It is recommended to change only small amounts to Colombian pesos for minor cash purchases (taxis, etc.).  The offices of commercial banks or authorized exchange houses provide foreign exchange services.  Some hotels also provide these services to their guests. Of the hotels shown on this website, only the Capilla del Mar hotel offers this service. For your safety, never change money with informal dealers or on the street. The exchange rate fluctuates daily and is pegged to the US dollar. The exchange rate is the official rate of the day with a commission and services discount of between 2% to 3%.

iii. Banks

Regular banking hours are from 8: 00 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. and from 2: 00 p.m. to 4: 00 p.m. Banking hours are extended to 4: 30 p.m. on Fridays. Banks are only open until 12: 00 a.m. on the last day of the month.  

iv. ATMs

The provincial capitals of Colombia have an extensive network of ATMs which mostly operate 24 hours a day, with English language options. The most common transactions permitted are: account balance requests, withdrawals, transfers, and cash advances. It is recommended not to hand your ATM card over to strangers or to reveal your personal password (PIN).  ATMs are strategically located, particularly on main roads and in shopping malls and hotels. Some ATMs such as Cirrus, Visa and Master Card, allow international debit and credit transactions. All hotels listed on this website (Hilton, Caribe and Capilla del Mar) have ATMs that accept these types of transactions.

 v. Means of payment

In general, all department stores, shops, supermarkets, and higher category hotels and restaurants accept payment with debit cards.

International credit cards are welcome at most hotels, restaurants and commercial establishments in Cartagena de Indias. The credit cards accepted in the majority of establishments are VISA, MASTER CARD, AMERICAN EXPRESS and DINERS.

IX. Telephone services, mobile phones and post office:

Cartagena de Indias has public phones distributed throughout the city for use at any time. Phones vary according to their collection mechanism: free phones, coin phones, and those that use prepaid cards. You can purchase these cards at authorized sales points, chain stores or companies specializing in mobile phone services.

You can check with your cell phone operator whether your cell phone will function in Columbia, or if necessary, request the necessary adjustments before entering the country.

The post office and national and international parcel and courier services are located in the center of the city.

 X. Customs:

Visitors must clear customs at the first port of entry to Colombia.  The “Visitors’ Declaration of Baggage And Securities Representative of Money" will be provided on board the aircraft for handing over to the customs officer on arrival at the airport.  

XI. Electricity:

Domestic power supply throughout Colombian territory is 110 volts of alternating current at 60 Hertz (110V AC, 60 Hz).  In industrial or specific-use installations it is 220 volts AC at 60 Hz (220V AC, 60 Hz).  It is easy to find power adaptors and voltage regulators on the market, although it is always advisable to check the technical specifications of devices to be used in Colombia.

The electrical connectors or plugs used in Colombia are of the American type, with two flat input blades (plug type A) or with a third round pin (plug type B). Adaptors can be found for these plugs on the market, especially for devices with European power plugs (plug type C or Europlug), although it might be necessary to resort to specialized electrical dealers for other types of plugs.

XII. Water:

The tap water at the host hotel is potable and save. People sensitive to changes are recommended to consume bottled water.   

XIII. Personal safety:

Cartagena de Indias is a safe city. However, we suggest you take the normal safety precautions recommended worldwide to prevent incidents:

  • Carry your identity document with you at all times.
  • Take only the amount of money you need for the day’s activities; men are advised to keep their wallets in inner pockets.
  • Do not change money on the street; do so in exchange offices or banks.
  • Use taxis from the hotel where you are staying to the official event hotel.
  • It is not advisable to walk through desolate, dark places with little pedestrian traffic.
  • When you are out shopping or strolling through the city, do not carry the credentials of the event, since they will identify you as a foreigner.
  • Do not give your hotel room number or invite strangers to your room.
  • Do not leave valuables unattended in restaurants, swimming pool areas, etc.
  • Always use the hotel’s safe for storing valuable objects (in all the hotels shown on this webpage, the rooms are fitted with electronic safes).