Colombia

Quick Facts

Region: South America & Central America

Population:
45,013,000

Religion:

Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Colombia; about 96 percent of the people are Catholic. There are also small Jewish and Protestant minorities.

Language:

The official language of Colombia is Spanish, which is spoken throughout the country. However, some Indian tribes in remote areas still speak their own languages.

Area (sq. km):
1,138,910 square meters

Time:

Colombia is 5 hours behind GMT

When To Travel

Colombia lies mainly in the Torrid Zone, the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The climate, however, varies with elevation. The low regions along the coast and the deep Magdalena and Patia river valleys are hot, with average annual temperatures of 24° to 27°C. Between 500m to 2300m the climate is subtropical, and from about 2300m to 3000m it is temperate. Above 3000m is the cold-climate zone, where temperatures range from -18° to 13°C. Seasonal variations are slight. In Bogotá the average high temperature in January is 20°C and in July the average high is 19°C. Throughout the year, three-month periods of rain and dry weather alternate. Along the Pacific coast precipitation is heavy. At Bogota the annual rainfall averages about 1060 mm.

The most pleasant time to visit is during the two dry seasons, between December and March, and July and September.

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Bogota’s airport, Aeropuerto El Dorado, handles all domestic and international flights. It is 13 kilometres northwest of the city centre and has two terminals. A taxi to the city will cost about US$10. Cartagena Airport is 3 kilometres northeast of the old city. A taxi to the city will cost approximately US$5.

Telephone:

The international dialing code for Colombia is +57. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Latin America. Most countries in the region operate on the 1900 Mhz system. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.

Electricity:

The electricity supply in Colombia is rated at 110 volts.

Food:

Colombian cuisine is generally described as Creole style. It is good value and served in generous portions. Dishes are varied and tasty with regional twists.The country has no shortage of places to eat, ranging from simple cantinas to quality, fine dining restaurants. Specialities include ‘arepas’ (corn pancakes), ‘sancocho’ (vegetable soup with a choice of meats) and ‘lechona’ (baked pig stuffed with rice and peas). Colombia has a fantastic assortment of fruits, some of which do not have names in English.

Transport:

Colombia has an extensive domestic air network linking most major provincial capitals. For most of the population bus is the main means of travel both in the cities and out in the countryside. There are many different types of buses ranging from old wrecks to modern, air conditioned coaches. Taxis are plentiful in all cities.

Shopping:

Colombia is well known for its emeralds and handicrafts, including hand-woven items, basketry and pottery. Woven shoulder bags and woolen ponchos are also popular as are Colombian hammocks.

Visa: Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Canadians and British do not currently require a visa for Colombia. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.

Useful Words & Phrases

Spanish

1: uno
10: diez
2: dos
3: tres
4: cuatro
5: cinco
6: seis
7: siete
8: ocho
9: nueve
Bicycle: bicicleta
Breakfast: desayuno
Can I take a photo?: Le puedo sacar una foto? Por Favor
Car: auto/carro
Cheaper: Mas barato
Closed: Cerrado
Dinner: cena
Do you speak English?: Habas ingles?
Entrance: Entrada
Exit: Salida
Fine, Thanks: Bien, gracias
Goodbye: Adios/Chau
Hello: Hola!
How are you?: Como estas?
How do I get to_____?: Como puedo llegar a_____?
I don't speak much Spanish: No hablo mucho espanol
I don't understand: No entiendo
I would like_____: Quisiera
I'm looking for_____: Estoy buscando
I'm vegetarian: Soy vegetariano
Information: Informacion
Lunch: almuerzo
Mr/Sir: Senor
Mrs/Madame: Senora
my hotel: mi hotl
My name is_____: Me llamo_____
My names is_____?: Me llamo_____
No smoking: No Fumar
Open: Abierto
Police: Policia
Taxi: taxi
the airport: el aeropuerto
the bank: el banco
the bill: la cuenta/la factura
the post office: el correo
the train station: ka estacuib de ferrocarril
Toilets: Banos
too expensive: muy caro
Turn left: A la izquierda
Turn right: A la derecha
What does_____mean?: Que quiere decir?
What is your name?: Como te Ilamas?
Where is_____?: Donde esta_____?

Further Reading

‘The Fruit Palace’ by Charles Nicholl is a funny account of the author’s wanderings in Colombia in the 1980s. ‘Walking Ghosts’ by Steven Dudley is an up to date account of the war between the government and the FARC rebel movement. Colombia: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture Colin Harding (Latin America Bureau) One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Penguin) The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival and Extreme Horticulture Tom Hart-Dyke and Paul Winder (Corgi)