Colombia

This extraordinary country has battled decades of turmoil to emerge as one of South America’s hottest destinations. It’s filled with unspoilt mountains, coastline and jungle, stunning archaeological sites and vibrant culture. Those who like to hike can find jungle treks galore along the Caribbean coast, or walks through the rolling hills and mountains. Those who prefer beach life will love the stunning tropical islands off colonial Cartagena.

When to Visit

The dry season from November to May is best enjoyed by hikers and those wishing t enjoy the outdoor activities on offer, while the wet season makes visiting sights such as waterfalls more impressive. For those wishing to savour the local culture, many festivals and fiestas take place during the dry season months of December and March, July and August.

Highlights

BOGOTA Bogota is the capital of Colombia. Discover the Modern Bogota and the Historic Disctric by visiting downtown.

ARMENIA Armenia is Colombia’s coffee region. Live the Coffee Culture and enjoy a magical coffee experience with the possibility of tasting the smells and flavours of coffee in all the different stages of production.

THE SALT CATHEDRAL Visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, a small town 30km from Bogota. Your journey will take you into the heart of an enormous salt mountain. .

SALENTO & COCORA VALLEY Salento is a colourful coffee town and Cocora Valley is home of the Wax Palm Tree, national tree of Colombia.

CARTAGENA The Magical Cartagena with its fine colonial architecture is a beautiful city which was the centre of political and economic activity during the colonial period of the Spanish Empire.

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Useful Information

Visa's

Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz

Customs

Social interaction in the upper class is generally formal and respectful. The members of lower socioeconomic groups from the interior pride themselves on their good manners. Unlike their coastal counterparts, lower class individuals in the interior express mutual respect for each other and their elders; women are treated respectfully and given special attention. Personal space is highly regarded, so conversations take place at arm's length. The violation of this space even in crowded stores and museums is considered disrespectful and hostile. Exceptions occur in crowded bus stations and on buses. Formal greetings among strangers are mandated, whereas salutations among acquaintances are informal.

Health

The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor on (+64) 9 373 3531. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended for travellers to Colombia. Vaccination against Hepatitis B, Rabies (particularly if working with animals) and Typhoid (particularly when travelling to areas with poor sanitation and hygiene) should be considered by frequent or long stay travellers to Colombia. Care with food and beverage selection is recommended. There is a medium risk of Malaria in Colombia and Dengue Fever also occurs, thus insect avoidance measures and anti malarial medication may be necessary depending on your itinerary. As Yellow Fever occurs in Colombia, vaccination may be recommended depending on itinerary. Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. New Zealanders travelling to Colombia should ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay. Medications that are legal in New Zealand may be illegal in other countries. 

Electricity

Electrical Socket type: USA and Japanese Voltage: 110-120 volts (different to New Zealand, voltage/frequency converter required). Modem Plug: USA. Source: Korjo Travel Products. To purchase electrical adapters, or for further information, please go to www.korjo.com.au.

Communications

Country Code for Brazil: +55 International Operator: 0800 703 2111 Offical Travel Advice: Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz Tourist Police: Rio de Janeiro: (021) 2332 2924 São Paulo: (011) 3120 4447 Emergency Services: Police - 190 Ambulance and Fire - 193 (192 some areas) Emergency services may not always have English speaking staff. In this case, you should have a local call on your behalf or contact the New Zealand Embassy.

Shopping

It's not a bad idea to pack light and acquire a Brazilian wardrobe within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist, and give you months of satisfied gloating back home about the great bargains you got whenever you are complimented on your clothing. Brazilians have their own sense of style and that makes tourists - especially those in Hawaiian shirts or sandals with socks - stand out in the crowd. Another good reason for buying clothes and shoes in Brazil is that the quality is usually good and the prices often cheap.  

Similar to the rest of Latin America, hand-crafted jewelry can be found anywhere. In regions that are largely populated by Afro-Brazilians you'll find more African-influenced souvenirs, including black dolls. Havaianas jandals are also affordable in Brazil and supermarkets are often the best place to buy them — small shops usually carry fake ones. If you have space in your bags, a Brazilian woven cotton hammock is a nice, functional purchase as well. Another interesting and fun item is a peteca, a sort of hand shuttlecock used in a traditional game of the same name, similar to volleyball.

Tipping

A service charge (gorjeta) of 10% is usually added to a bill at a restaurant that offers table service. The charge is optional but it is very unusual for a customer not to pay it. Some people choose to give a little more for excellent service, but it's never required. It has become more prevalent for nightclubs to also apply a service charge of 10% to the bill at the end of the night, including not just food and drink consumed, but also the entrance charge (which may often be the majority of the cost). Customer are often unaware of this charge, and it is common for the nightclub to remove it upon request. There is rarely any tipping in other situations. It is believed that tips are often not paid out to servers/staff and restaurant owners pocket the money.

Getting around

Local travel in Brazil is always easy. Public transport outside of the Amazon is generally by bus or plane, though there are a few passenger trains, too. However you travel, services will be crowded, plentiful and, apart from planes, fairly cheap. Car rental is possible, but driving in Brazil is not for the faint-hearted. Hitchhiking, over any distance, is not recommended.

Language

Spanish.

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