Colombia - Facts

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  • Colombia is located at the NW extreme of South America and is the only country in South America with coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is bordered by Panama to the northwest, Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the south and Peru and Ecuador to the southwest.
  • Colombia is divided into three distinct regions by the Andes mountain range which runs southwest to northeast through the country dividing the eastern plains from the Caribbean coast. Most of the coastal development is on the Caribbean side, which has the large towns of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.
  • The country has a population of over 45 million and 99% speak Spanish.
  • Currency is the Colombian Peso (COP). See more details in the Money section.
  • Time zone in Colombia (GMT-5)
  • With its close proximity to the equator, the climate in Colombia tends to be consistent with hot and humid weather on the coast and drier, cooler air in the mountains. See Weather for more details.
  • Most cruising boats visiting Colombia do so on their way from the Eastern Caribbean islands to the Panama Canal, while those heading in the opposite direction use Colombia as a convenient stepping stone in their battle with contrary winds and current.
  • Cartagena is a popular landfall, with a safe anchorage for extended stays and excellent haul out/repair facilities. For a shorter visit, Santa Marta has a modern marina that offers the most efficient and organized yachting facilities and is a good base to explore Colombia, for day-trips or beyond. There are also good repair facilities at Barranquilla with both haul-out and repair services, but the approaches to the port, which lies on the bank of the River Magdalena, are very difficult. Barranquilla is also considered a high-security risk area. There is now a new marina at Puerto Velero, approx. 25nm SW of Barranquilla.
  • The Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres are visited by boats on their way north from Panama. Repair facilities and provisioning are good on San Andrés Island, but more limited on Providencia.
  • Some of the cays and reefs further north, such as Serrana, Serranilla and Roncador also belong to Colombia, which maintains a military presence on these cays. Boats that have sought shelter there have been visited by the military, but have been allowed to stay.
  • For details of services for cruising boats see Yachting Essentials.

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  1. January 24, 2024 at 9:34 PM
    profile photo
    Speed Queen says:

    Unable to pre-register using the URL provided. Documents don’t come up in English even after you press the English button.

    1. January 25, 2024 at 12:19 PM
      profile photo
      Sue Richards says:

      Hi Speed Queen, the URL has changed – https://apps.migracioncolombia.gov.co/pre-registro/en – however this year the maritime tick box is not active (I’ve just checked). So no need to complete if arriving by boat, only if arriving by air. Thanks for picking up on this. Do let us know how your clearance experience goes.

  2. January 19, 2024 at 7:34 PM
    Leo Noel says:

    A the marina of Puerto Velero, there is a haul out and dry storage . We have to take a taxi to go out and buy foods and boat pieces.
    The place is safe , quiet and have beach, a pool , a hotel.

  3. June 14, 2022 at 6:08 PM
    duurzaam-jacht says:

    Since the ships agent for clearing in and out is mandatory, please be aware of the agent you pick. We first had the Cartagena Sea Agency, Miss Maria de los Angeles Torres Gonzales. In advance we made a price appointment, confirmed by mail, but once in the harbour, her price suddenly rose from 150 to 330 dollar. She already put us in the government’s administration, but that is no hard reason to terminate the relationship, which we did.
    Then we were advised to take Nicole Rymar of Apemar Agency, but she didnot confirm our email with appointments, and she didnot show up when we made appointments, not even 1 sngle time. On our 4th day (last day to clear in and get the Temporary Import Permit without problems) we changed to Jose Bonilha of White Light Colombia. He appears to work adequate and straight forward.
    The original price for all paperwork, inclucing the Zarpe, is 230 dollar, but the agents are aware that they are mandatory, and, although they combine trips, they want “taxi money” or so, and charging an extra 40 or 50 dollar. We swallowed that.
    The harbour master John (English and Spanish) of the Club Nautico has been of great support.

  4. September 25, 2021 at 2:31 PM
    keywflyer says:

    I’m starting the process of sailing and looking for a cat as a live a board. I’m a US Citizen and I want to keep the boat in Santa Marta Colombia. My girlfriend is Colombian that lives in Bogotá and agrees to try the boat life with me. I frequent Columbia often this would be a great way to stay in the country, it’s cheaper and out of hurricane zone. I’m curious about insurance requirements and registration for the boat. Any information others have or know of anyone full-time doing this in Santa Marta? Thanks.

    1. October 5, 2021 at 7:04 AM
      profile photo
      Sue Richards says:

      Hi – Santa Marta marina themselves are very helpful and used to helping international yachts – suggest you speak with them. Also a good place to tap into local cruisers is the Colombia cruisers FB page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2240990919491981. Please do feedback what you find out, for those following in your wake. All the best.

    2. October 16, 2021 at 1:50 PM
      keywflyer says:

      Thanks !

    3. July 29, 2022 at 5:16 AM
      englishincolombia says:

      Hey Chris, just stumbled across your post. I’m literally almost in the same boat apart from I’m English and live fully time in Colombia with my Colombian girlfriend. I’m just starting out with sailing also and planning on sometime getting a live aboard but of course as I live here I’d plan to keep it probably in Santa Marta (not keen on Cartegena). Drop me a line and maybe we can chat – be keen to know of you found out anything re insurance. Also I guess you’d be looking to import a boat here … I’m unsure of that but many more boats for sale in USA. Cheers Dave

  5. August 18, 2021 at 1:20 PM
    pbrownrigg says:

    Thinking of leaving your boat at Marina Santa Marta for a while? We left Oneiro for 15 months and she was safe and well cared for. We used the services of a trustworthy local man called Danilo Salazar Monterrosa who kept her clean and all moorings in good shape. He is also a diver and kept the bottom and prop clean for us. He will do anything provided the owner gives clear, step by step instructions. If you need to contact him use WhatsApp +57 310 4374549. Marina security is very good and the security guys quickly learn who is who and will challenge unauthorized visitors at night.

    1. September 25, 2021 at 4:03 PM
      keywflyer says:

      Hi. I’m curious how hard it is to keep a boat insured in Colombia. Also in Santa Marta.

  6. March 6, 2020 at 1:37 PM
    elgatoannie says:

    Whatever you do, DO NOT use DHL to ship anything to Colombia. DHL held our sail that needed warranty work hostage. After 2 months they destroy the goods if you don’t get them out of customs. After hiring 2 agents and still not getting our sail, we flew to Bogeta in a last ditch effort to rescue our precious cargo only days before the deadline. It worked. But not without a pile of cash. Need repairs? Go to Shelter Bay Marina and look for Bill Coles loft on site. He can fix anything. That nightmare will stay with us awhile. The upside is we kept our boat at Ferroalquimar for 5 months during hurricane season and had boat sitters and workers replace our team and side rails. All the work was beautifully done. Alvaro Simancas +57 300 7486276 can be reached on WhatsApp and is a local who speaks English well enough and also uses Google translate as needed. He helped us a lot and even took us for a day tour around Cartagena. Kenny Simons is an American who has lived in Cartagena for many years and can help as well. +57 300 7486276 Clearing in and out we used Maria de las Angeles of Sea Cartagena and was awesome. +57 317 5161714 Ferroalquimar is a safe shipyard that handles large cats easily. It’s a $10 cab to the city. Boat got dirty but compared to Panama no lightning and a lot less rain. Spent a few weeks in the old city and loved it! Think Caribbean colors with a European flare. Club Nautico is a great place to stay or anchor off of too. From there you can walk to the city!

  7. February 7, 2020 at 7:48 PM
    nepper says:

    We left our yacht in Puerto Velero Marina for 6 months is 1999! Marvelous place. We felt more like family than customers. We were pleased with the staff! The pool was fabulous. Yes it is a bit out of the way, but they were seriously looking at weekly grocery, hardware, bank runs like in Granada! Also a weekly BBQ near the docks. The workers lunch daily is a treat! The chef is good. She would get simple groceries when we needed them. It’s a newer marina and they listen well to our ideas. We met some good cruisers there!
    We would of course return there if our plans change. We saw how they really went to bat with a cruiser who was having trouble with immigration ! Nice to know they have our back !
    Bless then all !!

  8. January 30, 2019 at 10:56 PM
    Lynda Lim says:

    Reported by the Caribbean Safety & Security Net (CSSN)- Unlocked Dinghy Theft

    DATE: 2019-01-25 21:00
    Country Name: Colombia
    Location Detail: Cabo de la Vela
    EVENT: Theft
    HAND: 2
    Stolen Items: dinghy/2.5HP outboard
    SECURED: Not Locked
    DETAILS: An in-the-water and not locked dinghy/2.5 HP outboard was stolen from an anchored yacht at about 9 PM. The owner upped anchor to look for his dinghy and found a local fishing boat nearby with 2 men and a boy and saw his deflated dinghy/outboard inside their boat, before the fishing boat motored away. A second yacht anchored in the same bay discovered that their in the water and chain locked dinghy had been slashed. The third boat in the anchorage had lifted and locked their dinghy and had no issues.

  9. February 22, 2018 at 12:22 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Report from Mary Bock

    Regarding TIP.
    We are using an agent, that is OK with us.
    However, it is costing 1700.00. USD
    Something to do with this being the second year our boat is here.

  10. January 5, 2018 at 2:19 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    I would like to advise cruisers who need to receive spares into Santa Marta not to use DHL as they do not acknowledge the ‘Vessel in Transit’ status and charge the import duty and local VAT which are 29% in total plus high currency uplift.

    Advice is to use FedEx and keep the value of shipment under US$1000.00.
    Have the package delivered c/o Marina Santa Marta and ask the friendly office staff to point out to the FedEx delivery person the ‘Vessel in Transit’ status of the shipment, to avoid paying the import taxes.

  11. October 26, 2016 at 3:10 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Posted on behalf of Evan Gatehouse & Diane Selkirk (Canadian Cruisers):

    We got a surprise when visiting Cartagena recently. Because Canada’s government charges a fee to Colombia’s for a biometric identity check when they apply for a visa, Columbia charges Canadians a “reciprocity” visa fee. It’s 171,000 pesos (about $85 CDN) each and we got a nice official sticker in our passports to prove it. Otherwise, we loved Cartagena.

    More details in this older news report.
    http://colombiareports.com/colombia-begins-charging-canadian-visitors-80-entry/

  12. May 31, 2016 at 2:07 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Posted on behalf of Javier Palacios Fenech:

    Colombia
    1 – Stolen Caribe dinghy with Yamaha motor in Islas del Rosario, Isla Grande. Thieves from Baru go at the weekends to Rosario Islands. Many related events there in the last few weeks. Thefts on the rise.
    2 – Bureaucracy getting worse and more expensive for boaters in Colombia. Get ready to pay 200 Euros to enter the country for import permits and so many more permits to feed the agent and Colombia bureaucracy.

  13. February 26, 2016 at 8:25 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Posted by Scuppers under San Andres:
    I used Julian Watson from Agenport as my clearance agent. I cannot say enough great things about Julian. He speaks great English, answers all e-mails quickly, he met me at the wharf on arrival to sort the clearance and even showed me around town on his scooter to get my bearings.

    He was always on time and never kept me waiting. He also organised good tradesmen for work that I required onboard and even stayed for translation as my Spanish is minimum. He is professional and does all this with a big smile on his face. Thanks, Julian, we couldn’t have achieved what we did without you. I would highly recommend Julian and will definitely be using him again.
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Ph: 3204899772
    VHF: 16

  14. October 9, 2015 at 7:11 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Recently entered Colombia at Santa Marta, we would like to give a big recommendation to Dino of CSC-shipping agency. [email protected]. Dion is prompt efficient and wealth of knowledge. Santa Marta is an excellent stop with major hiking opportunities and travel. Email him before you com or ask for him when you arrive.

  15. February 14, 2015 at 6:58 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Posted on behalf of Frank VIrgintino from Marina Zarpar, DR:
    13 February 2015

    We have received a few boats, the most recent today, Canadian flagged, that sailed directly from Cartagena to Ile a Vache Haiti. I have never heard of boats being boarded by the authorities in Haiti, but in this case, the Haitian Coast Guard assisted by what appears to be United Nations military or police boarded the boat and retained the owner and crew a number of days while the boat endured extensive checking.
    I would recommend that boats coming from Colombia to Haiti, clear first at Jamaica at Port Antonio before proceeding east to Haiti.

    1. October 21, 2017 at 12:32 PM
      Lynda Lim says:

      I did the operation with the PNH coast guard that day. I worked for the UN. The women on the boat had no ID plus crew did not check in with immigration. THAT’S THE REAL STORY

  16. February 5, 2015 at 1:36 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Colombia Cruising Guide: A PDF copy of the Colombia Cruising Guide in Spanish and English can be downloaded from the following link: http://we.tl/2RaEnQGclW – note this is a large file (300MB).

  17. January 20, 2015 at 3:31 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Prices have gone up for “clearance” in January 2015 due to transport costs of the officials to visit the harbour or your yacht to be paid by the yacht owner(new 1/1/2015). And there is an Ebola check now so also ICA (ministery of agriculture) is involved now. Total price (up to 2-month stay) has gone up to us$280-$350 ( Jan 2015) Agent costs are just about $100. It really is a lot of work. (23 forms) White Light agency (Manfred +57 311 400 6394) in Cartagena did his work well. You have to show up several times( different days) to sign papers If you are with a group of several yachts you can negotiate as “travel cost” and ” propinia” can be shared.
    We sailed from Aruba with next port of call “Cartagena”.

    We stopped 4 to 5 times in Colombia and even were visited by the coastguard for ” inspection” No trouble at all”. Do not say “your motor broke down” or they order a mechanic for repairs. Only the captain can decide or he is too tired or it is blowing too hard) We were 3 weeks on route to Cartagena. We did not stop in Santa Marta but just anchored in Taganga 2 miles north and went by public bus. If you cleared in Santa Marta (Marina is also Agency to clear you in now) you have to pay again in Cartagena only for the Port registry and Agent fee in Cartagena). (Cartagena port control have an AIS receiver and sent you a request to contact them) .

    Nb The port captain legally only deal with agents. Other officials can be done by yourselves but I certainly do NOT recommend this as is see how time-consuming this is (days) even for a professional as your agent
    !!! White light Agency gave us a sound bill with all costs specified). Nb the noonsite info ” New Fees” dates from November 2011 so is not up to date anymore!)

  18. July 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    contractor recommendation
    we had recently 3-month refit of an 85 ft motor yacht, all new paint stainless steelwork, new teak decks, hydraulic piping, anchor and chain galvanizing
    work was very satisfactory done by ” Cartagena Caribbean Boat Repair”,
    [email protected]
    tel0057 318 272 2458

    Alvaro is an American trained manager, fluent in English, always on time, and gets the impossible done, reliable and honest
    I was there 3 years ago and got already some good work done
    all prices are app. one-third of the USA standard
    300ton new travel lift available
    wip Hepfer
    m/y contina

  19. July 7, 2014 at 2:06 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Just to let you know we are now hosting both the Colombia Tourism’s Cruising Guide Book as well as our Pacific Lesser Known Coast of Colombia cruising guides on our website:
    http://www.svsarana.com/free_guides.php#COL

    The tourism’s book is a massive 300Mb so we encourage only people who really plan on cruising there to download it. Otherwise, it costs us a lot to host such a big file.
    Eric & Sherrell – SV Sarana

  20. May 2, 2014 at 10:05 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    When arriving in Colombia you must use an agent to clear in and out. You cannot do this on your own. I cleared in at Providencia and I would like to take the opportunity to recommend Bernardo from the “Bush Agency” email: [email protected] or go directly to his office in town after you anchor in the bay. He is easy to find, from the dinghy dock (next to the commercial dock) turn right and goes to the only intersection, makes a left and walks a couple of hundred yards…his office is above his store on the right side of the street.

    Mr Bush provided me with a friendly, professional and easy clearance. Not only did he handle my entry into Colombia and my exit for San Andreas but he was most helpful with my Temporary Import Permit. He did not charge me for the TIP and made arrangements for me to pick it up in San Andreas with Mr Rene who was also quite helpful. Mr Bush speaks English excellently and his fees were totally transparent. Mr Bush does a great job and gets it done quickly. The reports of long waiting times were not what I experienced at all. If you go to Provedencia, Mr Bush is the agent to see.

  21. February 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Arrived at IGY marina in Santa Marta on Nov 1st 2013 and stayed until mid-January 2014 whilst we travelled extensively in Columbia and Ecuador. We had the marina highly recommended to us and we also had our agent Dino also highly recommended and both were absolutely right. The staff at the marina were courteous, friendly and very helpful at all times, and facilities were excellent with showers, laundry, lounge and clean toilets.
    Dino was superb.

    He handled all the customs and immigration requirements efficiently and effectively, keeping us informed throughout, and even attempted to teach us Spanish! Sorry, we weren’t such good pupils Dino!
    Santa Marta is a great base to travel from in this corner of SA. Cartegena is one of the prettiest cities you could imagine, but make sure to stay in the old town.

    Bogota is a ‘must’, very cosmopolitan, with many museums (particularly the Gold Museum), opera house and much more – get a guide, it’s a good investment.
    Barichara is a short flight and taxi ride from Bogota but is another ‘must see’ place. Stay in one of the fabulous little boutique guest houses, and do the walk from there to Guane – fantastic!
    We moved on to Ecuador to do Quito, Cotopaxi, and a week in the Yasuni National Park experiencing pristine Amazonian rainforest – stupendous! Then the easy trip back to Santa Marta via Bogota.

    Peter and Helen
    S/V Common Crossing
    Tatyana 48cc