How can I book a tour with Birding Tours Colombia?
- For personalized tours, we will first agree on a given itinerary and quote. Then, we will mail instructions to wire money through our bank in Colombia.
- To book a tour, we require a 50% deposit with 60 days in advance. The other 50% should be paid 30 days prior to the first day of tour.
Which requirements apply to enter, visit and leave Colombia?
- Citizens from nearly all European countries (UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, others), Canada and USA do not need to apply for a visa in order to enter Colombia. They only need a valid passport issued by their country. Colombian immigration authorities will issue a 30, 60 or 90-day visa on entry. You should make sure that your passport is stamped upon arrival and exit, and you should hold a return or onward ticket to prove intention to leave the country.
- Citizens from countries with restrictions will need a valid visa to enter Colombia. Since regulations may vary in short time, all travelers are advised to check in advance with the Colombian Embassy and/or Ministry for Foreign Relationships.
- Visitors from abroad are allowed to carry a maximum of US $10,000 in cash. Money in excess can be confiscated.
- There is a mandatory airport tax on departure (on March 2014, COL $68,000 pesos or aprox. US$38). Visitors staying for less than 60 days can obtain an exemption by presenting their passport at the front desk of Aerocivil. This is a fast and easy procedure that is done prior to your check-in.
Which luggage restrictions apply for domestic (internal) flights in Colombia?
- For internal flights with Avianca, one (1) piece of carry-on is allowed, not exceeding 10 Kilograms. For check-in luggage, a maximum of two (2) pieces are allowed, not exceeding a total weight of 23 Kilograms (the sum of both pieces). Regulations may change in short notice and travelers should always verify the information with the airline before traveling. Other Colombian airlines may differ in their regulations and should be checked before traveling.
What type of lodges, cars and restaurants are used in your tours?
- Accommodations we use are not luxurious since we prefer to invest resources in traveling and seeing the birds. We use birding lodges when available at nature reserves and medium-priced hostels or hotels when lodges are not available. Most of the time we sleep directly in birding grounds, in other cases there might be a 20-30 minutes commuting time by car between the resting and birding area.
- A few areas like Jardín, Chingaza & Los Nevados National Park will require a 50-90 minute approach by car. Thus, in these days we wake up a bit earlier than usual.
- A few areas like Colibrí del Sol will require horse-back riding for 60-90 minutes before reaching the very best birding spots.
How is the weather like in Colombia and which are your clothing recommendations?
- The Andes in Colombia has amazing altitudinal ranges that can be quickly covered in short distances. Thus, temperature and weather can fluctuate greatly and it is a good idea to carry on a light jacket, coat or sweater with you. When visiting high-altitude sites such as Chingaza & Los Nevados National Parks (above 3000m), a good warm coat, gloves and hat are a must.
- Altitudinal gradient will vary most of the time between 800-2,600m (2,625 – 5,531 feet) and most birding areas will be somewhere in between. Chingaza & Los Nevados are the higher birding spots, reaching a maximum height of 4,000m (13,124 feet). Bogotá is at 2,600m (8,531 feet) and so does Río Blanco. Manizales and Rionegro are at 2,170m (7,120 feet), Medellín at 1,500m (4,921 feet), Cali and Buga are at 1,000m (3,281 feet) and Pereira at 1,410m (4,626 feet). Barranquilla, Santa Marta & Riohacha are at sea level.
- Sunshine can be bright and strong both in the lowlands and highlands. Thus, a good hat or cap is necessary, as well as sunshade and protective creams.
- Rain is very unpredictable in the Andes. We may encounter short frequent showers or even pouring rain at humid lowlands and montane forests. Thus, a small umbrella and a good rain coat are a must, as well as protective coating for expensive equipment such as cameras, GPS, etc. Plus a fair number of socks to keep your feet dry.
- Most trails will be dry, but there are instances when wet and muddy terrain is nearly unavoidable. Rubber boots are very good and appropriate for most days.
- Avoid shoes with slippery soles, and have a light shoe (tennis, sandals or similar) for interiors.
- Traveling in the tropics means exposure to insects. Thus, bring your personal repellent and prefer wearing shirts with long sleeves. It is a good idea to avoid wearing short pants.
Which are the energy (electricity), internet & mobile phone services available in Colombia?
- Energy outlets in Colombia are at 120 Volts (never 220V as in Europe).
- Internet is usually available at hotels and lodges in main (Bogotá, Medellín, Cali) and intermediate cities (Santa Marta, Riohacha). Most birding lodges provide no access to internet (Río Claro, Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve, Colibrí del Sol, Las Tangaras, Río Blanco, Otún-Quimbaya). Small towns may or may not have internet.
- Mobile phone signal will be available for most of the time, but please have in mind that it may not be functional at specific sites or in mountainous and curvy roads. Movistar, Comcel & Tigo are the main companies covering Colombia. For optimal coverage, our guides carry mobile phones with service from at least two of the above companies.
Which vaccines and public health precautions are needed in order to travel to Colombia?
- The only advisable vaccine for travelers from abroad visiting Colombia is against Yellow Fever. This vaccine is advisable for visitors traveling to the Amazon, Santa Marta Mountains and La Guajira.
- The single most important advice is to drink bottled water. Always avoid drinking tap water.
Which gadgets and special traveling tips are applicable when traveling through Colombia?
- Drink only bottled water. Always avoid drinking tap water.
- Health services can be very expensive in Colombia. Thus, bring your personal medicines and supplements, and a good health insurance plan & ID cards.
- Bring a small flashlight with you, since some lodges have short trails between dorms and dining rooms.
Is it safe to travel to Colombia?
- Colombia has done amazing progress handling safety issues and political insurrection. Drug smuggling is not an issue for ordinary citizens and everyday life. As testified by the many touring companies visiting Colombia today, our country can be regarded as a safe destination for birders and nature travelers from abroad.
- All areas covered by our tours have seen order reestablished. We do not tour areas in Colombia that are not regarded as safe to travel.
- As in all Latin American countries and throughout the world, common delinquency is best handled by avoiding unsafe localities & neighborhoods in cities and towns. Do not leave your luggage and equipment unchecked or on places that are not safe.
Is Birding Tours Colombia a registered company?
- We are a fully registered touring company that meets all Colombian laws and regulations. We are bound to Colombian laws and to strict requirements of the National Tourism Office.
- Legal note: Birding Tours Colombia is against any form of sexual tourism and adopts voluntarily the code for prevention and action against pornography and sexual exploitation, according to Law 679 of 2001 and in agreement with Article 44 of the Colombian Constitution. Birding Tours Colombia adopts the code of conduct and legal compromise for the protection of young women and boys from any form of sexual exploitation and violence originated by national or foreign tourists. In consequence, we will communicate to authorities all behaviors related to sexual exploitation and abuse. Our policy is zero tolerance on sexual tourism.
Basic recommendations issued by the Colombian Ministry of Environment when visiting protected areas.
The national & regional environmental authorities of Colombia have requested ground agents & tour operators to transmit to all visitors the following basic recommendations when visiting protected areas:
1. Please do not remove nor extract native plants & wild animals from the areas.
2. Please do not disturb nor feed wildlife during visits.
3. Refrain yourself from introducing exotic species (plants, animals, microorganisms) into neither the protected areas nor anywhere else in the country.
4. Please follow the instructions and recommendations given to visitors by park personnel.
5. Always use established trails & roads within the park and its surroundings, and do not hike or drive motorized vehicles through protected zones within the reserve.
6. Keep consumption of plastics, cans and all types of rubbish to a minimum, and dispose them in designated containers. Recycle & reuse whenever possible.
7. Provide support & understanding to local communities whenever possible, increasing their benefits derived from ecotourism activities & expenditure.
8. Be respectful of the local culture, traditions and history.