Colombia - Formalities
Yachts must clear in and out between major ports, and will be given an outward clearance (zarpe) for the next port. Visiting yachts must clear in with the Port Captain in each port. Customs and Immigration formalities are completed only in the first and last ports.
Yachts clearing in or out of Colombia must use an approved agent to complete the formalities for Customs, Immigration, Port Captain and Health. On departure, the agent will take the papers and return them with a zarpe.
Clearance can take between 5-7 days in Colombia 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. If staying less than 5 days however, a Temporary Import Permit is not required. If staying between 5 and 15 days (this amount of time can differ from port to port), then a Permanent Permit is required which can take up to 20+ days to acquire. 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. See cruiser's report 2012 on Colombian Formalities and Procedures for further details.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org This can be updated on route if necessary.
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).
Clearing out of Colombia can take 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 one day and a half before leaving.
Last updated November 2012.
A valid passport is required.
Visas are not required for visitors from most countries whose stay does not exceed 60 days; 15 day extensions may be issued by the DAS (Security Police), up to a maximum of a further three months. An exit stamp from the DAS must be obtained on departure.
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.
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 November 2013.
Temporary Import of vessel within Colombian Territory
The Customs process for this can take up to five working days and must be done on initial entry into the country. 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. The temporary importation will be given for the same amount of days as the visa you were granted.
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.
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 May 2012.
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.
The document required for clearance are:-
Current Boat Registration Document
Zarpe or previous port exit document
Name of Owner
Address of Owner
A letter of permission will be required should the owner not be present on board
Colombia has again recently changed their charges for private vessels and foreign cruisers. See 2011 report: Fees for Formalities in Colombia
The following charges are being applied in Cartagena from October 2011, but those in other ports may vary.
Vessel staying less than 8 Days: US$90
Vessel staying longer than 8 Days but less than 2 Months: US$205
Vessel staying longer than 2 Months: US$290 + US$40 (Monthly Immigration fee per passport).
Last updated December 2011.
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.
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