Colombia Travel Information

Photo Colombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and Venezuela). A 40-year insurgent campaign to overthrow the Colombian Government escalated during the 1990s, undergirded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. An anti-insurgent army of paramilitaries has grown to be several thousand strong in recent years, challenging the insurgents for control of territory and illicit industries such as the drug trade and the government's ability to exert its dominion over rural areas. While Bogotá continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.

PEOPLE

Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy. The urban population increased from 57% of the total population in 1951 to about 74% by 1994. Thirty cities have a population of 100,000 or more. The nine eastern lowlands departments, constituting about 54% of Colombia's area, have less than 3% of the population and a density of less than one person per square kilometer (two persons per sq. mi.). Ethnic diversity in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and Africans. Today, only about 1% of the people can be identified as fully Indian on the basis of language and customs.

HISTORY AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

During the pre-Colombian period, the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. The Chibchas, who lived in the Bogotá region, dominated the various Indian groups.

In August 2000 the capital's name was officially changed from "Santa Fe de Bogotá" to the more usual "Bogotá." On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogotá created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Full independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.

ECONOMY

Colombia is a free market economy with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transition from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than a decade. In 1990, the administration of President Cesar Gaviria (1990-94) initiated economic liberalization or "apertura," and this has continued since then, with tariff reductions, financial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and adoption of a more liberal foreign exchange rate. Almost all sectors became open to foreign investment although agricultural products remained protected.

U.S.COLOMBIAN RELATIONS

In 1822, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the new republic and to establish a resident diplomatic mission. Today, about 25,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. embassy living in Colombia, most of them dual nationals.

Currently there are about 250 American businesses. Despite the strain which decertification and related issues placed on bilateral relations during the Samper administration, the U.S. and Colombian Governments continued to cooperate and consult. In 1995-96, the U.S. and Colombia signed important agreements on environmental protection and civil aviation. The two countries have signed agreements on asset sharing and chemical control. In 1997, the U.S. and Colombia signed an important maritime ship-boarding agreement to allow for search of suspected drug-running vessels.

Important: Travel to Colombia may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Colombia visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Republic of Colombia
Capital city: Bogota
Area: 1,138,910 sq km
Population: 45,239,079
Ethnic groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
Languages: Spanish
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, other 10%
Government: republic
Chief of State: President Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon
Head of Government: President Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon
GDP: 471.9 billion
GDP per captia: 10,200
Annual growth rate: 5.9%
Inflation: 3.4%
Agriculture: coffee, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane, cocoa beans, oilseed, vegetables
Major industries: textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, hydropower
Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
Trade Partners - exports: US 38%, EU 15%, China 3.5%, Ecuador 3.4%
Trade Partners - imports: US 25%, China 15%, Mexico 11%, Brazil 5%