Need to Know

Santa Marta

Language: Spanish

Currency: Peso ($ COP)

Time: GMT-5 / Eastern Standard Time

Visa: Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of certain countries need to present a tourist visa to gain entry. These can be processed at the Colombian embassies and consulates abroad. You can check if you need a visa or not in the link below. Check countries requiring visas at

High season (Dec – Jan / Easter week / June – Aug / Oct recess week) 

  • Queues and crowds at beaches and destinations, especially in holidays.
  • A good period for spontaneous cultural events and festivals in tourist areas.
  • Lower intensity rainy season in July and August 

Shoulder season (May / Nov)

  • Good deals on accommodation 
  • Weather is great for outdoor adventures 

Low season (Feb – Apr / Sept – Oct) * 

  • Easter and October recess week are high occupation periods
  • Rainy season in September and October
  • Affordable deals on accommodation

Bringing money and goods into Colombia

  • In addition to their personal effects, each visitor is entitled to bring money and goods into Colombia. Whether or not these are tax-free will depend on the following conditions:
    • Maximum of US$ 10,000 or equivalent in any other currency
    • Items for family or personal use in non-commercial amounts up to US$ 1,500
    • Items for domestic, sports, art, professional or work-related use by the traveler, up to a maximum of 3 items of each type, with a value of up to US$ 2,500


  • The Colombian peso (COP$) is the unit of currency in Colombia.
  • Paper notes in circulation are the following: COP$2,000, $5.000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000 and 100,000. 
  • And the coins are $100, $200, $500, and $1000. $50 coins are rarely used.
  • Currency exchange is limited in the city, so use ATM cards (exchange rate won’t vary substantially.
  • Credit and debit cards can be used almost everywhere except for some rural areas. Visa and MasterCard are widely recognized. 
  • ATMs (cajeros) are everywhere and usually work with foreign cards (check transaction fees).
  • Maximum cash withdrawal limits range from $400.000 to $600.000 per transaction, but it varies. 
  • If you must use an ATM after dark, always use one inside a shopping mall or touristic places. 
  • Carry sufficient cash for payments in rural areas or outdoor activities. 
  • Passport is required for any banking transaction. You’ll also have to provide a thumbprint.

VAT Refund

All foreign tourists are entitled to VAT refunds on products purchased, such as local crafts, toys, linens, household appliances, footwear, leather goods, jewelry, emeralds, etc.

International transfers:

  • Efecty and Western Union are the main options for international transfers. Banking intermediation requires heavy paperwork and timing.
  • Always carry photo identification and the numbered password they’ll give the sender when you are on the receiving end.
  • Both services have offices in all the major cities and most smaller towns.


  • Bargaining is limited to informal commerce, street stalls and food markets.
  • Taxis have customary fixed fees but are not generally metered so bargaining may be possible in certain long-distance services.


Local regulation establishes that service charge, must be previously authorized by customers. Waiters in mid/high end restaurants usually ask you if they can add the 10% service charge to the bill.

Exchange rate (as of Dec. 20, 2021)

Colombian Peso1 COPinv. 1 COP
US Dollar002504001.323045
British Pound001885305.411927
Indian Rupee0.01892752.835740
Australian Dollar003502855.477028
Canadian Dollar003233100.211308
Singapore Dollar003412932.287548
Swiss Franc002314331.089457
Malaysian Ringgit01053949.875514
Japanese Yen0.02851935.064940

Daily costs (COP)

Budget: Less than COP$100,000

  • Dorm: $25.000–$50.000
  • Lunch (corrientazo): $10.000–15.000
  • Bus ride: $2.000
  • Beer: $0.75 – $2

Midrange: $100.000 – $250.000

  • Double room in midrange hotel: $70.000–$200.000
  • Main dish in midrange and touristic restaurants: $20.000–30.000
  • Short taxi ride: $6.000 – $8.000
  • Airport taxi: $25.000 – $35.000

Top end: More than COP$250,000

  • Double room in 4/5-star hotel: $250.000 – $800.000
  • Multicourse meal with wine for two:  $250,000+
  • Private day tours: $350.000 – $800.000
  • One day boat rental: $900.000 – $2.000.000

Air traveling with pets

After arriving in Colombia and completing the DIAN form, registering the pet’s entry, traveler must proceed to the ICA Health Office in the airport with the following documentation:

  • Health certificate signed by a veterinarian within the last eight days.
  • Current certificate of vaccination.
  • Veterinarian certificate that guarantees that the animal has not presented symptoms of rabies in the 48 hours prior to embarkation.
  • For domestic flight: internal travel certificate and vaccination certificate issued by a veterinarian.


  • Most hotels and restaurants offer Wi-Fi.
  • Internet is limited in rural areas. Download essential information to ensure availability

Mobile Phones

  • Buy a Colombian SIM card for cheap and fast data almost anywhere in Colombia ($10.000 + data plan).
  • Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked international phones.
  • The main operators are Claro, Movistar and Tigo.

Opening hours

Attendance hours are standard throughout the year:

  • Banks: 8.30am–12 pm & 2.00–4.00pm. Exceptionally 8.00am – 12.00 pm on Saturdays
  • Restaurants: 12.00 pm 10.00 pm / midnight on weekends
  • Cafes: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
  • Clubs: 9:00 pm – 2:30 am
  • Shops: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Spanish language

  • Like other Latin American countries, English is not widely spoken in Colombia. 
  • High end restaurants, tour operators and accommodations may have English customer service in main tourist areas 
  • As lonely planet guides mention, in the countryside and off the tourist track, you’ll need to master a few basic phrases to travel around and improve your experience.
  • Efforts to speak Spanish are appreciated by locals and are a nice way to connect.


  • Greetings – Shake hands and say hola (hello), buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening) to strangers.
  • Introductions – When members of the opposite sex or two women meet it is customary to exchange a single kiss on the right cheek. Men shake hands.
  • Use usted (you) in polite company; use tu (you) with friends and children.
  • Asking for help – Say disculpe (excuse me) to attract attention; use permiso (permission) when you want to pass by in a crowded space.

Important numbers

From outside Colombia, dial your international access code, Colombia’s country code (57) then the number.

  • Colombia’s country code 57
  • International access code 00
  • Directory assistance 113
  • Ambulance, fire & police 123

Document Checklist

  • Carry valid passport for at least six months past your arrival date.
  • Check if your insurance covers all planned activities and northern coast region.
  • Buy extreme-sports insurance.
  • Yellow fever certificate is recommended.
  • Inform your debit-/credit-card company to avoid security preventive blocks.
  • Check Covid-19 regulations (see section below). 

Bag essentials

  • Sunscreen.
  • Rain poncho.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Hiking/all-terrain footwear.
  • A small day and waterproof pack.
  • Flashlight.
  • Combination lock.
  • Medical kit.
  • Universal electricity adapter

Lonely Plante: Colombia Guide

What to wear

  • Santa Marta is very casual, and you’ll encounter few dress-code restrictions. 
  • Social standard rules apply when referring to high end restaurants and religious places, among others. Bring a few nice shoes and outfits if you plan on fine dining or dancing the night away at any higher-end dance club.

Booking tips

  • Don’t book tight connections to reach Santa Marta. Most international flights arrive through Bogota, Medellin, or Cali. You will need to book an extra flight to reach Santa Marta.
  • Barranquilla and Cartagena also have international arrival airport. To transfer to Santa Marta, you can choose one of the following options (from Barranquilla / from Cartagena)
  • Bus: $15.000 / $30.000
  • Door to door van service: $30.000 / $60.000
  • Taxi / private driver: $250.000 / $500.000
  • Rent a car: one day rentals start at low end fees ($120.000) and may include additional fees when the delivery destination is not the same as the pickup place.
    • Always check flight prices when leaving Santa Marta.  Local flight prices don’t vary substantially when compared to intermunicipal bus tickets prices.
  • Book in advanced.  Popular activities such as the Ciudad Perdida trek and highly ranked accommodations fill up fast in high seasons.

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