Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 20 July 2022, 08:17 NZST
  • Still current at: 21 March 2023

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If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here, alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

Do not travel

Do not travel to the cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco, and in the border areas with Ecuador (except the border crossing at Ipiales), Panama (within Chocó) and Venezuela due to high levels of criminal activity and the threat of kidnapping (level 4 of 4).

Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to the departments of Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca (except the city of Popayán), Chocó (except Quibdó, Nuqui, Bahia Solano and Capurganá), Guainía, Guaviare, Meta (except Villavicencio and Caño Cristales), Nariño (except the city of Pasto and the border crossing in Ipiales), Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Vichada and rural areas of northern Antioquia, southern Bolívar, southern Cordoba and Valle del Cauca (except Cali) due to the presence of illegal armed groups, and drug-related criminal activity (level 3 of 4).

Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution elsewhere in Colombia due to violent crime and the threat of terrorism (level 2 of 4). 

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Domestic travel
Illegal armed groups are active throughout Colombia and present a significant risk to safety. Armed groups have been linked to kidnapping, terrorism and violent crime. In some parts of the country, the authority of the Colombian state is limited and travel can be dangerous. The risk is highest in remote and rural areas and in any area with drug production.  

We recommend New Zealanders avoid travel outside the main routes and to remote areas. Main routes are generally safe during daylight hours although we advise against travelling them at night. We recommend flying between major cities and to more remote tourist sites and minimising the use of vehicles for trips through rural areas. Stay in reputable accommodation with good security. In addition, we recommend you seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities before you travel to remote areas and monitor local media as the security situation may change quickly.

Travellers are also advised to avoid crossing the borders into and out of Colombia by land (except to/from Ecuador at Ipiales). The presence of armed groups means the border areas can be subject to armed security activity and may be closed at short notice. Due to large numbers of migrants using the Ipiales crossing into Ecuador, travellers should be prepared for longer than usual wait times.

Unexploded landmines and ordnance present a danger in Colombia in certain rural areas of the country. We recommend you remain on well-used roads and paths as mined areas are often unmarked. Be vigilant when travelling in remote areas.

Despite significant reductions in kidnappings for ransom recent years, there is still an ongoing risk of kidnapping throughout Colombia. Foreigners may be specifically targeted, held for ransom or killed. If you decide to travel to areas of high risk, we strongly advise seeking professional security advice, and maintaining a high level of vigilance.

Express kidnappings also occur in Colombia, where individuals are forced to withdraw funds from automatic teller machines (ATMs) to secure their release. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs which are located indoors within bank branches, shopping malls and other public locations and during daylight hours only. Many cases involve victims that have been picked up by taxis hailed from the street - we recommend you use pre-booked taxis or ride hailing apps.

Violent Crime
Crime rates are high in Colombia. Violent crime such as assault and armed robbery remains prevalent. Firearms are widespread in Colombia and mugging or robberies can quickly turn violent.

We advise against travelling alone or at night and recommend you avoid wearing or displaying valuables, such as jewellery, expensive watches and mobile devices. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery, mugging or carjacking as this could lead to an escalation in violence. Victims have been killed and injured while resisting perpetrators.

There have been cases of criminals in Colombia using drugs to temporarily disorientate victims (such as scopalomine) and commit robberies or assaults. These may be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols, and even paper flyers. Victims are affected quickly and are vulnerable to crime, including robbery and assault. Do not leave food or drink unattended or accept any food or drink from strangers or recent acquaintances. If you suspect you have been affected by such drugs, seek immediate medical attention.

Travellers have been robbed at gunpoint on walking trails, including around Bogotá. Consider hiring a reputable tour guide to reduce risk.

There have been reports of individuals posing as police officers asking to verify documents or foreign currency with the intention of robbing them. Unless you are threatened with violence, request to show documents or currency at the nearest CAI (Centro de Atencion Inmediata – local police station).

Foreigners will need to go to a local police station to report a crime as the online police reporting system does not currently accept foreign forms of identification (work is under way to offer this option to foreigners in the future).

Petty Crime
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, mobile phone and bag snatching, is common in Colombia, particularly in larger cities such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Cartegena. This occurs in major tourist areas, including at the airport in Bogotá and near hotels. Be alert on public transport. Avoid leaving luggage unattended or out of your sight, including in compartments underneath buses or in overhead lockers.

Traditional plant usage
Ayahuasca, or yage, is a traditional plant used in ‘spiritual cleansing’ ceremonies by indigenous communities in Colombia, primarily in Putumayo and the Amazon region. The yage ceremony typically involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions is not well understood. People have suffered serious illnesses, and in some cases have died after participating in these ceremonies.

Spiritual cleansing or yage retreats are usually some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it.

Terrorists could carry out attacks in Colombia, and there remains an ongoing threat. The most prominent terrorist group is the National Liberation Army (ELN). This threat extends to major cities and public places, where there have been a number of explosions in recent years, including in Bogotá.

•        On 7 January 2022 – numerous coordinated attacks against military bases in Norte de Santander and Cesar, killing one solider and injuring dozens.

•        On 8 January 2022 – a police truck in Cali was attacked. 13 officers were injured.

•        On 12 January 2020 – a car bomb exploded at the highway entrance of Yopal, Casanare, close to the police station.

New Zealanders in Colombia are advised to be particularly cautious around government buildings, military and law enforcement establishments, transport infrastructure such as airports and public transport, commercial facilities and entertainment centres, all of which are potential targets for terrorist attacks. We recommend being security conscious at all times and following the advice of local authorities. Take official warnings seriously.

Temporary ceasefire agreements between the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) occurred in 2018. Despite this, the ELN has carried out several terrorist attacks since .  Be vigilant and alert to your personal safety and follow the advice of local authorities. Further attacks are likely, particularly in areas of ELN presence as they continue to put pressure on the Colombian government.

On 24 November 2016, former Colombian President Santos signed a final comprehensive peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) guerrilla group to end the armed conflict. On 30 November 2016 an amended peace agreement received Congressional endorsement. There are still  attempts to disrupt the peace process, and the security situation in some regions may rapidly deteriorate.

Civil Unrest
Protests, demonstrations and strikes are common in Colombia, especially in large cities such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartegena. Localised civil unrest can often be accompanied by roadblocks and disruption to transport networks. Clashes have occurred between police and demonstrators and tear gas may be used to disperse protestors. New Zealanders are advised to avoid all rallies, protests and demonstrations, as even those intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn violent. You should monitor local media for any upcoming demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities.

General travel advice
New Zealanders travelling or living in Colombia should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. We recommend you contact your insurance provider to ensure you have appropriate cover for Colombia.

We advise carrying colour photocopies of your identification at all times, as authorities often want to verify your identity.

New Zealanders in Colombia are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Bogotá, Colombia

Street Address Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, Calle 81 #11-08, Office 802, Edificio 8111, Bogotá, Colombia Telephone +57 601 439 1666 Fax Email Hours Mon-Fri: 09:00-12:00 (Please note that in-person appointments are required to be scheduled in advance)

See our regional advice for Central/South America

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New Zealand Embassy Colombia

Street Address
Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, Calle 81 #11-08, Office 802, Edificio 8111, Bogotá, Colombia

Telephone: +57 601 439 1666



Hours: Mon-Fri: 09:00-12:00 (Please note that in-person appointments are required to be scheduled in advance)

Related advice from other countries

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