Colombia - Formalities
Laws in Colombia are ever-changing and these laws are sometimes interpreted or applied differently from one port jurisdiction to the other. Noonsite endeavours to keep abreast of all new developments, however, if you encounter something different to the guidance outlined below, please do contact us to help us keep this information accurate.
In Colombia, yacht must clear in and out between major ports (i.e. separate port authorities such as Santa Marta & Cartagena), and will be given an outward clearance (zarpe) for the next port. Visiting yachts must clear in with the Port Captain in each port (via an agent who is authorised to deal with the Port Captain). Customs and Immigration formalities are completed only in the first and last ports visited.
An approved agent is only required when dealing with the Port Captain. Neither DAS (immigration authorities) nor DIAN (customs) require an agent to do the paperwork. The agent is only needed to deal with the Port Captains, as they refuse to be contacted directly by the cruiser and demand the mediation of an agent.
However, unless you speak very good Spanish, it is not recommended to do the remaining clearance by yourself as it is very complicated and all paperwork is in Spanish.
Be sure that the Colombian port of entry you have stated on your zarpe, is the one you are clearing in at. Officials will be very suspicious as to why you have gone somewhere else than what was on your paperwork.
International clearance can take between 5-7 days in some Colombian ports and it can be slow and frustrating having to wait for your paperwork to be in order. Immigration and Port Captain must issue their paperwork first, before Customs can be visited to arrange for temporary import, hence the slow process.
Both local authorities and service providers are working together in an effort to ease the procedures and reduce the costs of clearing into the country. In fact, places like Marina Santa Marta and Marina Puerto Velero in Barranquilla, work with their own agents to avoid abuse and avoid charging agent fees by acting as agents for their customers.
Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
If staying less than 5 days, a Temporary Import Permit is not required.
If staying more than 5 days, then a Temporary Import Permit is required. There is no charge for the TIP – but lots of paperwork. As the TIP only applies to boats that stay more than 5 days, application for a TIP are not started until the 5th day. Once paperwork has been submitted by the agent, receipt of the TIP can take anything between 48 hours and 20+ days.
In 2015 the period of validity of temporary importation increased from 6 to 12 months, with renewal available for a further 12 months.
Be sure to check with your agent if moving on to another port that import papers can be finalised in your next port of call.
A Cruising Permit is required by all visiting yachts that stay more than 5 days in Colombia, whether they stay in one port/marina/anchorage or plan to cruise around. The permit is valid for the whole country for 2 months, renewable for a further 10 months.
See Fees for full details.
Note that clearance costs went up in January 2015, due to the transport cost of officials to the harbour/yacht now being the responsibility of the yacht owner. If entering Colombia at a port where officials are all situated in different offices, it might be advisable to arrange clearance with a group of several yachts using the same agent so that costs can be shared.
Alternatively, make clearance at a marina where officials are all on-site.
Clearing out of Colombia can take at least 24 hours. When you decide to leave, you must contact your agent to get the clearance to sail out of Colombia. You should request the zarpe 2 days before leaving.
It is important that the zarpe lists your next port of call - as stopping at a port not listed (or missing out on one) can cause severe difficulties. This applies even when entering the country.
Remember that if moving to a port in a new port authority, you will need to use an agent again to complete the port arrival procedures. When you leave Colombia you can anchor off the coast or islands en route to your next destination providing that you do not go ashore.
In order to improve the security for yachts cruising this coast, the Port Captains have requested that a voluntary float plan be lodged with the Captain when a zarpe is issued, by email to email@example.com This can be updated on route if necessary.
Anchoring in Colombia before clearing-in
It is no longer possible to anchor along the Colombian coast prior to clearing into Colombia. Five Bays and the Tayrona Park are now open to cruisers, however a permit is required and there are associated fees, all easily acquired via an agent (see restrictions for further details).
Last updated February 2015.
Editor's Note: As we understand it, based on research to date these formalities are now up to date. We are however checking all points with the Colombian authorities via the government agency ProColombia, and will advise once all has been confirmed/amended by them.
A valid passport is required valid for 6 months from date of entry.
Visas are not required for visitors from most countries whose stay does not exceed 90 days. Note: Canadian citizens are now charged a "reciprocity" visa fee. It's 171,000 pesos (about $85 CDN) per person.
Extensions may be issued by the DAS (Security Police), up to a maximum of a further three months. Such extensions must be applied for before the previous visa expires.
Visas, if required, can be obtained on arrival, and, especially for those who have retained the services of an agent, there seems to be no difficulty in obtaining one.
An exit stamp from the DAS must be obtained on departure.
Identification must always be carried; as a precaution against theft, authorised copies are acceptable, and the Security Police will witness and photocopy passports and other documents for US$20.
A Colombian cruising permit and visas can be obtained from any Colombian embassy or consulate in one of the countries in the vicinity, such as Venezuela or Panama. There is a Colombian consulate in Colón in Panama, which is used to dealing with yachts intending to visit Colombia.
Last updated October 2016.
Temporary Import of vessel within Colombian Territory
This is required if you plan to stay more than 5 days in Colombia.
The Customs process for this can take some time. Some cruisers report 48 hours, others five working days and others 20+ days! Bear in mind however that in general agents will not submit the paperwork for a TIP until you have been in the country five days, so be sure to organise in advance with the agent if you plan to move on and collect your paperwork elsewhere once completed.
As soon as your agent gets the Visa from Immigration and "Permit of Official Visit" Certificate from the Port Captain, the agent will then proceed with the application for Temporary Importation of your Vessel.
After the application has been delivered and registered in the customs office a Customs Officer will come within the following 48 hours to verify the vessel.
There is no charge for temporary importation – but lots of paperwork. The period of validity of temporary importation has now increased from 6 to 12 months, with renewal available for a further 12 months.
As of February 4, 2015, there is a new amendment to the customs procedures in Colombia and which is mainly enforced at the port of Santa Marta. The temporary import procedure now can be submitted by the captain/master of the vessel only if he/she is either listed as the owner on the boat's registration or if he/she has an authorization from the owner which MUST be stamped at a Colombian embassy or consulate in the country where the owner is present. A notarized letter will not be accepted.
Note: If you already plan on staying more time than your visa (i.e. extending your visa), it’s a good idea to let your agent know so he can make everything clear with customs and it won’t take extra effort, time and money at a later date.
Other Customs Rules
Yacht parts can, theoretically, be imported free of taxes if marked "Yacht in Transit", but it seems, in practice, this does not happen and a duty of 28%, plus various fees, is charged.
Firearms must be declared.
Vegetables, plants or plant material; meat and food products of animal origin are prohibited.
Last updated March 2015.
An Ebola check is now required so expect a visit from the ICA (Ministry of Agriculture).
Vaccination against yellow fever is recommended and malaria prophylaxis for the coastal and eastern jungle regions. Cholera is a risk in certain areas. Hepatitis is common.
ZIKA VIRUS ALERT: There have been recent safety alerts from the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, and Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding travel to parts of Central and South America, Africa, southern Asia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific islands. Colombia is an area of interest with multiple reported cases and active virus transmission. There is growing concern about the rapid spread of the ZIKA Virus and the impact of the virus on pregnant women and babies. ZIKA is transmitted by mosquitos in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and there is currently no cure or vaccine. This situation is evolving rapidly, so please refer to the CDC’s dedicated website if you are intending to cruise in one of the effected areas.
Last updated September 2016.
The document required for clearance are:-
- Current Boat Registration Document
- Zarpe or previous port exit document
- Name of Owner
- Address of Owner
As of February 4, 2015, if the owner (i.e. the person named on the boat registraion) is not present on board, authorisation for another person to be in charge of the vessel must be provided and must be stamped at a colombian embassy/consulate.
Note: In January 2015 we understand fees were increased (see comment at bottom of page). Noonsite is awaiting confirmation of the details.
Cruising Permit: (approx. US$95)
This permit is valid for two months, renewable for a further 10 months at the same charge. It is valid for the whole country.
Agent Fee: (approx. US$100)
Last updated February 2015
Cruising Permits around Santa Marta including Tayrona Natural National Park
If you want to cruise around the Park (including 5 bays) you should ask your agent for a permit when first clearing into Colombia. It is not permitted to anchor in the park if you do not have a permit, even if you are heading to Santa Marta and want to just stop-off.
The permit costs 175.700 Pesos Colombianos (around U$95.00) and includes cruising both day and night with a sailboat in the park, anchoring within the park and the local clearance you must have to move your boat around Colombia.
Last updated May 2012.
Also see Cartagena General Marine Services.
Recommended by cruisers.
PET REGULATIONS - Dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to travel to Colombia. Rabies Vaccination Certificate not required for pets coming from rabies free country (US is not rabies free) Pets must be vaccinated agains Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Pavovirus A Health Certificate is needed from recognised Veterinarian to confirm pet is healthy, free of parasites and there is no evidence of communicable diseases to humans and it is highly recommended that pets are on a flea and tick prevention program when entering Colombia. Certificate should have been issued as close as possible to date of travel but not more than 14 days. Further details can be obtained from www.pettravelstore.com - forms from www.pettravelstore.com/store-pet-immigration-forms1-html