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Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 12/15/2003 3:10 PM

The Republic of Colombia (about 440,000 square miles), roughly the size of Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico combined, is in northwest South America. Its location on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, proximity to the Panama Canal, and economic potential give it a position of international importance.

As well as its frontier with Panama on the northwest, Colombia shares borders with Ecuador and Peru on the south, with Brazil on the southeast, and with Venezuela on the northeast.

The Andes mountains dominate the western two-fifths of Colombia, giving it a very different character from the remaining eastern three-fifths. The Amazon Region of southeastern Colombia lies below the Equator.

Greater than 90% of the population are concentrated in the mountainous west and along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The rest live in the Eastern Llanos, a large plains area, that constitutes 54% of the area.

Most live on plateaus and mountain slopes, where elevation reduces the equatorial heat and contributes to the people’s health and vigor. By concentrating people in isolated pockets at high elevations, the mountain ranges determine not only settlement patterns, but also lines of communication and travel, which parallel the ranges in a north-south direction. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy, and nearly three-quarters of the population are now urban.

Colombia’s climate varies with its different altitudes. Its three climatic zones are called: “hot country,” “temperate country,” and “cold country.”

Population Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:38 AM

According to Colombian Government statistics, the 2001 population was 43 million. The population growth rate is 2.1%. Colombia is unique in Latin America in that 26 cities have populations greater than 100,000.

Settlement is divided into several broad regions. Each has been rather isolated by geologic obstacles to travel, so each has a high degree of economic independence of essential raw materials and fuel. Much of the prevalent regional sentiment can be traced to early settlement patterns.

When the Spanish Colonists entered what is now Colombia, they found a well-organized Indian population on the plateaus and high valleys of the Eastern Cordillera. A moderate climate, adequate natural resources, and Indian labor allowed the Cundinamarca-Boyaca area and parts of Tolima and Huila to develop into an economic entity, which today has the country’s heaviest concentration of people. Here, Bogota became the economic, political, and cultural center of Colombia.

In the early 19th century, another population center developed along the northern end of the Eastern Cordillera when the export of cinchona bark became highly profitable. White settlers then appeared in significant numbers in what are now Santander and Norte de Santander.

A third population center developed in the area of the Departments of Antioquia and Caldas, usually called the Antioquia Region. Other major population concentrations are in the Cauca River Valley (from Popayan to Cali and Cartagena) and the ocean ports: Buenaventura and the Pacific coast and the Cartagena-Barranquilla-Santa Marta Region along the Atlantic shore.

Among the countries of Latin America, Colombia is commonly described as a mestizo nation, rather than a white or an Indian one, with a mixed and diverse society. An estimated 17,000 U.S. citizens live in Colombia.

Colombians describe their society as triethnic, due to mingling between Caucasians and peoples of African descent with the original Indians to form a new combination. This fusion has taken nearly four centuries and, consequently, most Colombians are of mixed origin. However, ethnic boundaries have not been completely erased. Colombians still attach importance to ancestral characteristics, although these no longer demarcate distinct social groups.

Spanish is spoken throughout Colombia, except by small groups of Indians who still speak aboriginal languages; however, these groups are becoming increasingly bilingual. San Andres, a small island Department in the Caribbean, is another exception; San Andreans speak English as a first language. Colombians are proud of their Spanish and consider it, especially that spoken by the upper classes in Bogota and other large cities, as the purest form of that language in Latin America today.

Colombia is overwhelmingly a Catholic country (some 80%). Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, the Catholic Church receives some Government funding and exercises considerable, if diminishing, influence over education. The church is the major social force in Colombia.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:40 AM

The Republic of Colombia was established in 1823. That same year, the U.S. became one of the first countries to recognize the new Republic and establish a resident diplomatic mission.

Unlike many Latin American countries, Colombia established an early tradition of civilian governments and regular free elections. Despite this background, Colombia’s history has been marred by periods of violent political conflict. The period known as “La Violencia” in the 1940s and 1950s claimed between 100,000 and 200,000 lives. More recently, drug- and guerrilla-related violence have plagued Colombian society. Since the early 1980s, the Colombian Government has engaged in intermittent peace talks with guerrilla groups. In 1990, the guerrilla group M-19 (Movement of April 19) delivered its weapons to the Government and stood well in elections as a legal political party. Two older and larger guerrilla armies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), remain in armed conflict with the Government.

A military coup in 1953 brought General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power. Initially, Rojas enjoyed wide popular support, partly for his success in reducing La Violencia. When he did not promptly restore democratic government, however, he was overthrown by the military with the backing of the two major political parties (the Liberals and the Conservatives), and a provisional government took office in 1957.

In July 1957, the last Conservative president, Laureano Gomez (1950–53), and the last Liberal president, Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945–46), proposed the formation of a “National Front,” under which the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly. Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the two parties every 4 years; the parties would also share all other elective and appointive offices.

The first three National Front Presidents brought an end to La Violencia and the blind partisanship which had afflicted both parties. They committed Colombia to the far-reaching social and economic reforms proposed in the Charter of the Alliance for Progress, and, with assistance from the U.S. and international lending agencies, achieved major economic development.

A 74-member Constituent Assembly amended the 1886 Constitution substantially in 1991. On July 4, 1991, a new Colombian Constitution was enacted. The new Constitution, one of the largest in the world, expanded citizens’ basic rights. Among others, the most relevant is the “tutela” (immediate court action at the request of a citizen if he/she feels his/her constitutional rights have been violated and no other legal recourse is available). Keystones to the constitutional reform in 1991 were the need to reform Congress and to strengthen justice administration. Other relevant amendments were the approval of freedom of religion (in the past, Colombia’s official religion was Roman Catholic), civil divorce for all marriages, the election of a Vice President, the election of governors, and dual nationality.

Colombia remains a democratic republic under a Presidential system with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Elected for a 4-year term, the President is chief of the executive branch. He may not be reelected. The Vice President runs for election on the same ticket as the Presidential candidate, and both should be members of the same political party. The Vice President fulfills the presidential duties in case of the President’s resignation, serious illness, or death. The Vice President may also be assigned other special responsibilities, hold public positions, and even fulfill special presidential functions at the President’s request. During the President’s temporary absences, such as international trips, the Minister of the Interior or another minister in order of precedence performs his duties. The President elected from the May 2002 elections will be inaugurated in August 2002.

Colombia’s bicameral Congress consists of a 102-member Senate elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, and a House of Representatives whose number, currently 161, is elected proportionally by adult residents (age 18 and over) of the Departments and the Capital District. Congressional elections are held every 4 years, on a different date from the Presidential election. If a Member of Congress is absent temporarily, or permanently, an alternate elected at the same time as the member takes the seat. Congress meets in two sessions annually, from March to June and from July to December. The President may convene special sessions at other times.

The country is divided into 32 departments, 1,025 municipalities—of which 30 cities have over 100,000 inhabitants—and the Capital District of Bogota. Governors and mayors are elected for a 3-year term.

Judicial power is exercised by subordinate courts and four high tribunals: The Constitutional Court (9 members elected by the Senate), the Supreme Court (20 members, the highest criminal, civil, and labor tribunal), the Council of State (26 members, the highest tribunal for contentious administrative matters), and the Superior Judiciary Council (13 members, the highest tribunal for justice administration, and disciplinary issues of the judicial branch). The high court justices are elected for an 8- year term. Justices of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State may not be reelected.

The Office of the Prosecutor General (Fiscalia General de la Nación) was created under the 1991 Constitution and serves as the driving force in Colombia’s model of criminal investigation. The Prosecutor General is elected by the Supreme Court from a list proposed by the President for a 4-year term and may not be reelected.

The Office of the Attorney General or Public Ministry (Procuraduria General de la Nación) oversees the performance of public servants. The Senate elects the Attorney General from a list proposed by the President for a 4-year term.

The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo) under the Attorney General is elected by the House of Representatives for a 4-year term from a list of three candidates provided by the President. The office has the constitutional duty to ensure the promotion and exercise of human rights.

Colombia is addressing its narcotics, security, and economic and social development problems in an integrated fashion known as “Plan Colombia.” The U.S. Government is providing more than US$ 1.4 billion to help Colombia campaign against production and the international trafficking of illicit drugs, and new programs of alternative development and humanitarian assistance.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:44 AM

Bogota is a cultural center with thriving theaters, orchestras, operas, museums, and art galleries. Other major Colombian cities also support the arts. Visiting dancers, musicians, and actors from all parts of the world perform in Bogota and other regional centers. Films from around the world are also screened in the many cinemas, including current U.S. movies in English with Spanish subtitles. Bogota’s bookstores, among the finest in Latin America, offer titles in English, French, and German as well as Spanish.

Colombia’s literacy rate is greater than 87%. The basic structure of education in Colombia includes 2 years of preschool, 5 years of primary school, and 6 years of secondary school. The Ministry of Education develops curricula for public and private elementary and high schools. Under the 1991 Constitution, education is compulsory up to age 15. Previously, only the first 5 years were mandatory. The student population, including 500,000 at the university level, is estimated at more than 4.5 million. Some 230 institutions of education in Colombia offer programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Different types of institutions grant degrees at the technical and/or professional levels. The biggest public university is Universidad Nacional de Colombia, with the main campus in Bogota near the Embassy, and others in Medellin, Manizales, and Palmira. Some of the oldest and most reputed private universities are Universidad de Santo Tomas, founded in 1580; Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, founded in 1622; and Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, founded in 1653. Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota and Universidad del Valle in Cali are among Colombia’s leading universities and are known internationally for their academic excellence.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:46 AM

Chronic political and drug-related violence notwithstanding, Colombia has for decades enjoyed a stable economy and consistent growth, characterized by responsible macroeconomic policy and entrepreneurial savvy. However, Colombia’s economy was flattened between 1997 and 2000 by the worst recession in 70 years, bringing peso devaluation, severe unemployment, and business paralysis to a country accustomed to more than 40 years of steady growth.

Knowledgeable U.S. firms are continuing to pursue major projects, or offer niche projects and services to take advantage of market opportunities. Many U.S. firms assign local agents and distributors, or out-source services to limit their own physical presence. They are counting on long-term economic prosperity and eventual success of the peace process and counternarcotics campaign.

More than 120 important U.S. firms with offices in Colombia are active in a wide variety of activities (oil, gas, electric power, mining, food processing, pharmaceuticals, air transportation, consulting and accounting, finance and insurance, petrochemicals, paper products, etc.). Most of the U.S. firms in Colombia belong to two important associations: the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce that has offices in five of the most important Colombian cities and the Council of American Companies which has its office in Bogota.

As a result of the economic recession and the devaluation of the peso, imports decreased from US$ 13.7 billion in 1998 to US$ 9.9 billion in 1999. For 2000, the downslide stopped and total imports accounted for US$ 11.5 billion, about an 8% increase from 1999. During the 1980s, the top five sources of Colombia’s imports were the United States followed by the European Union, Japan, Venezuela, and Brazil. During the 1990s, the U.S., the European Union, and Venezuela increased their participation, while Japan’s share declined.

On the other hand, in 2000, Colombian exports totaled US$ 13.1 billion, a 13% increase over 1999 exports that had grown only around 7% over 1998. The correction in both the real exchange rate and international oil prices and the dynamism of the U.S. economy, Colombia’s main export market, spurred this recovery process. Likewise, the slowdown of the U.S. economy is likely to adversely affect Colombia’s exports for 2001. During the 1980s, the major destinations for Colombia’s exports were the European Union (39%), United States (31%), Venezuela (6%), Japan (4%), and Central America and the Caribbean (4%). However, the development of the integration process in the Americas and the unilateral preferences granted by the U.S. to Colombia led to an important change in the composition of Colombia’s exports by country of destination. For example, between 1996 and 2000, the U.S. led with 40% of the market, followed by Venezuela and Germany with 9% and 6%, respectively. By 2000, the European Union’s market share, as a whole, was about 20%. Likewise, trade with the Andean countries almost doubled in the 1990s compared to the 1980s, reflecting the progress achieved in regional trade agreements. Colombia’s principal exports are coffee, oil, coal, bananas, cut flowers, textiles, leather products, fruits and citrus, cotton, sugar, tobacco, cement, lumber, shrimp, rice, cowhides, and precious metals.

Colombia is rich in natural resources and fertile agricultural land. It is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of coffee. Other agricultural products include sugar cane, cotton, rice, bananas, flowers, corn, potatoes, cocoa, barley, and tropical fruits. Livestock accounts for a large share of agricultural output, although the cattle industry has declined in recent years due to the security conditions prevailing in the countryside. Additional products include petroleum, gold, platinum, silver, coal, iron, lead, limestone, and salt. Nickel exports are also an important source of foreign exchange. Colombian emeralds are world famous.

In addition, Colombia has major oil reserves. The two largest oil fields are Cusiana-Cupiagua and Cano Limon. This market has been very dynamic since 1992 when the development of the Cusiana-Cupiagua fields, with reserves of about 1.5 billion barrels (the largest ever discovered in Colombia), was initiated. British Petroleum (U.K.), the Colombian National Oil Company (ECOPETROL), Triton Energy (U.S.), and Total (France) are the partners in this endeavor. In 1985, Occidental Petroleum Company and ECOPETROL jointly initiated the development of Cano-Limon, a major oil field in the Llanos near the Venezuelan border with over one billion barrels in reserves. Production from these fields has helped make Colombia self-sufficient in crude oil and a significant Latin American oil exporter (an average of some 300,000 BPD during 2000).

An affiliate of Exxon and the former Colombian National Coal Company (Carbocol) together developed Colombian’s giant north coast Cerrejon coal mining project that required an investment of US$ 3.2 billion and represents the largest U.S. investment in Colombia. Production began in 1985, and total Colombian production of coal increased from 8.7 million tons in 1985 to 38.2 million tons in 2000.

Colombia has also liberalized and modernized its foreign investment, foreign exchange, labor, tax, and foreign trade regimes. Changes include legalization of 100% ownership of financial institutions by foreign investors, a reduction in currency controls, increased profit remittance ceilings, and more flexible hiring and firing practices. Prior licenses for imports have been virtually eliminated. Tariffs, although still high for luxury goods, have been reduced substantially. These laws will improve the already close financial and commercial ties among Colombia, the U.S., and Europe.

Foreign investment is allowed in all Colombian sectors with the exception of those related to national security and to the disposal of hazardous waste products. In Colombia, foreign and domestic investments generally receive the same legal and administrative treatment. U.S. investments in Colombia are valued at around US$ 4.3 billion, a 28% share of accumulated foreign direct investment (not including portfolio and petroleum).

Colombia has already sold most of its state-owned assets to private investors. Only a few energy companies and the Bogota Telephone Company remain to be privatized. However, the Colombian Government still owns shares in more than 130 companies in the real and financial sectors. The Colombian Institute for Industrial Development also manages several smaller enterprises that are available for privatization.

Most of Colombia’s economic activity is spread among several modern and urbanized industrial centers. The cities of Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Pereira, among others, play a significant role in the country’s economy. Four major seaports and six international airports guarantee that goods flow freely to and from Colombia.


Automobiles Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:48 AM

The Colombian Government limits each diplomatic family, including tandem couples, to one imported vehicle.

All U.S. Government personnel may bring vehicles to Colombia, subject to certain restrictions. The U.S. Embassy prohibits flashy, ostentatious vehicles. The Colombian Government places the following restrictions on UAB, HHE, and personally owned vehicles:

1. For diplomats — combined cost of UAB, HHE, and personally owned vehicle may not exceed US$ 50,000 (vehicle alone may not exceed US$ 33,000).

2. For non-diplomats — combined cost of UAB, HHE, and personally owned vehicle may not exceed US$ 30,000 (vehicle alone may not exceed US$ 18,000.)

All shipments must be routed through the U.S. Despatch Agent in Miami. All U.S Government personnel must have an import license and customs clearance before taking possession of the vehicle in Colombia. Obtaining these documents takes about 3 months from the time the Embassy receives all the information on the vehicle. It is essential that the following information on your personally owned vehicle be cabled or faxed to GSO prior to shipping your vehicle even though the importation process cannot start until you arrive at post: 1) make of vehicle, 2) model, 3) year, 4) type including number of doors, 5) vehicle serial and motor numbers, 6) color, 7) purchase price, 8) gross weight, 9) number of cylinders, 10) shipper (e.g., U.S. Despatch Agent Miami), and 11) port of embarkation. Also list if the vehicle has the following equipment: 1) automatic transmission, 2) air-conditioning, 3) radio (specify, AM FM stereo, tape, etc.), 4) power brakes, 5) adjustable steering wheel, 6) spare wheel and tire, 7) jack, 8) clock, 9) heavy-duty battery, 10) shoulder harness, 11) other (specify). A mistake in the serial number or color voids the import clearance paperwork and requires that the entire process begin again.

All vehicles are shipped via air from the U.S. Despatch Agent in Miami once the import process has been completed. The Despatch Agent can help with the details of getting the car to Miami.

All Mission employees may sell their car upon completion of their tour. Only one car imported under diplomatic privileges may be owned at a time.

Automobile insurance is expensive in Colombia. Although Colombian law requires that every vehicle be covered by a minimum limited third-party-liability policy and a medical policy written by a Colombian insurance company, some vehicle owners buy only those policies locally and augment them with comprehensive, collision, and additional liability coverage from a U.S. firm that will honor claims from Colombia. Other owners buy all their coverage from Colombian firms, some of which offer a discount upon presentation of evidence of an accident-free record for 5 years (letters from your previous insurance companies will suffice for this purpose.) Proportionately smaller discounts are available for clean records of shorter duration.

Before shipping your vehicle, remove accessories and ship them separately to prevent theft. Popular targets include cigarette lighters, radios, antennas, ashtrays, digital clocks, hubcaps, and electrical relay cubes from sophisticated vehicles. Bring a supply of filters and small spare parts, as they are costly here, if available.

In 1994, Colombia began using unleaded gasoline, which is widely available. All vehicles must have a catalytic converter, which must be installed in compliance with the regulations established by the Ministry of Health. As the Colombian Government is enforcing use of unleaded gasoline, do not remove catalytic converters from your car.

Note: Gasoline is sold by gallons. Currently, the average cost is about US$ 1.55/gallon for premium, US$ 1.35 for regular.

It is a good idea to equip vehicles with anti-theft devices. Devices which are desirable include an inside hood-locking device, an alarm system and a locking gas cap. Anti-theft devices may be installed after the vehicle arrives in Colombia. Newly arrived personnel receive a detailed briefing from the regional security officer (RSO) about vehicle safety and other security measures.

Most U.S. and some European and Japanese manufacturers have automobile agencies and repair facilities in Colombia. Elaborate systems or parts uncommon in earlier models may not be serviceable by local mechanics; however, generally there is available locally the expertise to repair most makes and models of U.S., European, and Japanese cars. Vehicles assembled in Colombia under license from foreign manufacturers include Chevrolet, Renault, and Mazda.

The Embassy will obtain Colombian drivers licenses for U.S. Government permanent employees and dependents with valid U.S. licenses. The minimum driving age in Colombia is 18.

Colombian drivers are very aggressive and often do not obey local traffic regulations. Traffic is heavy, and road conditions are often bad due to numerous potholes. Minor accidents are frequent. Maintenance and bodywork are normally good, but parts and labor are expensive.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:48 AM

At present, transportation to and from work for American employees is available via Embassy shuttle. Although parking at the Embassy is severely limited, some employees drive to and from work.

Taxis are easily available, and rates are reasonable. You may call via telephone, and one will be radio dispatched. As in most large cities, your wait may be long during rush hours and on rainy days. All taxis are metered and inexpensive by U.S. standards, except the green-and-white tourist taxis, which provide transportation to and from the first-class hotels.

Special arrangements can be made to hire taxis by the hour for local shopping trips, sightseeing tours, etc. Bogota and most other cities in Colombia have bus service, but its use is currently prohibited because of poor security and safety.

Traffic moves on the right. All distances and speed limits are given in kilometers, and international symbols are used for stop signs, railway crossings, etc.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:49 AM

Airline service within Colombia is good, ranging from Avianca’s modern jet fleet to some “budget” airlines’ DC-3’s. Fares are expensive by U.S. standards for jet service. Connections between major cities are frequent and generally on schedule. Bogota has a major international air terminal, with daily flights to the U.S., Europe, and other parts of Latin America. Barranquilla and other major cities also have adequate airport facilities with many international flights. Airfares for international routes are expensive; a round-trip excursion between Bogota and Miami between June and August and December through February, including taxes, can range over US$700. At other times, the fare is about US$500. Off-season special fares are currently offered twice annually. Both Continental and American Airlines provide daily service to Colombia, and Delta has initiated service between Bogota and Atlanta. The Colombian Government imposes a departure tax (US$26) on international travelers, which can be paid in local currency or U.S. dollars.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:55 AM

Long-distance, general telephone, and cell phone service is quite good throughout bustling Bogota, Colombia. Long-distance charges to the U.S. average about 75 cents/minute. Discounted longdistance rates are available, in some cases at about half the basic rate. Connections via the IVG are in use from American Embassy Bogota. Connections to many locations worldwide are available on a priority basis to other American Embassies and the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Their respective 3-digit code dialing sequence is published on the Department’s Intranet. However, IVG access should not be used for personal business.

Internet Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:18 AM

Internet access is readily available in Bogota through commercial services. One of the most popular home Internet services is a flat rate connection via a fiber optic line.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:57 AM

All U.S. Government personnel who have duty-free privileges in Bogota, Barranquilla, and Cartagena have access to APO. Contract personnel do not receive APO privileges.

All regular classes of postal service are available except REGISTERED and COD (cash on delivery) mail.

The largest Priority Mail package cannot exceed 108” in length plus girth, with a maximum weight of 70 pounds. Space Available Mail (SAM) cannot exceed 130” in combined length plus girth, with a maximum weight of 70 pounds. Average delivery time for Priority and First Class mail is 5–7 days.

SAM and other classes of mail take 2–4 weeks. Several other international mail carrier companies provide service to Colombia: Federal Express, DHL and United Parcel Service.

Diplomatic Pouch Service may not be used for personal mail except important documents such as bank drafts, wills, and deeds. Reasonable quantities of prescription medicines, orthopedic supplies, and other similar personal items may be accepted. The largest parcel for the unclassified pouch cannot exceed 48”, and 72” in combined length plus girth. Other methods should be arranged for shipment for bigger packages. Transit time is usually about 9–14 days to receive parcels sent through the unclassified diplomatic pouch.

The APO address is: Name American Embassy Bogota Unit (#) APO AA 34038. (Avoid using Bogota, Colombia in the address for the APO).

For the Diplomatic Pouch please use: Name American Embassy Bogota 3030 Bogota Place Washington, D.C. 20521–3030

There are several international mail addresses to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. These addresses are also used for correspondence within Colombia.

For international mail please use: Name Embajada de los Estados Unidos Carrera 45 #22D–45 Bogota, Colombia


Name Embajada de los Estados Unidos A. A. 3831 Bogota, Colombia

Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:22 AM

Colombia has many commercial FM and AM radio stations. Programs are primarily Latin American music; however, a variety of stations broadcast classical music, jazz and cultural programs as well as American and international pop music. All broadcasts are in Spanish. Numerous FM stereo stations operate in Bogota.

Colombian television includes Government and commercially run broadcasters. The leading commercial broadcasters are Caracol TV and RCN TV. They enjoy the largest audiences and the greatest popularity. Government broadcasters include Canal Uno, Canal A and Señal Colombia. Programming includes national and international news, sports, telenovelas, and films.

Cable and Direct TV services are widely available commercially in Bogota. Programming includes a wide variety of international news and feature programming, including CNN and C-SPAN. All television broadcasts in Colombia are in NTSC (U.S. standard). VCR's (VHS) are popular and tapes of U.S. movies, both subtitled and dubbed in Spanish, are widely available for rental (about US$4 a day.) Surge protectors are recommended.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 9/17/2003 2:42 PM

Most major cities have daily newspapers; the major daily in Bogota, El Tiempo, provides excellent coverage of national events and good coverage of international news and also has an Internet edition. Major U.S. dailies are available by subscription, but subscriptions are expensive and arrive the next day, at best.

The leading Colombian news and feature magazines are the weeklies Semana, Cambio 16 and Cromos. The Latin American editions of Time and Newsweek magazines are regularly available in all major cities.

Internet access is readily available in Bogota through commercial services. One of the most popular home Internet services is a flat rate connection via a fiber optic line.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:58 AM

The Embassy Health Unit is staffed daily by a registered nurse, and ½-day per week by the post consultant physician. It is open during regular working hours, and a nurse is available on call afterhours for emergencies, through Post 1. The regional medical officer (RMO) and regional psychiatric medical officer are currently stationed in Lima. The RMOs visit post 3 or 4 times a year and are available via phone and e-mail for consultations as required.

Reputable and reliable doctors, dentists, and other health professionals practice in Colombia. Many have been trained in the U.S. and speak English. The Health Unit will help you select the specialist who best fits your needs, and make appointments and/or referrals. Vaccinations and immunizations are available in the Health Unit.

U.S. Embassy employees usually use the Santa Fe Clinic (Hospital) when hospitalization is necessary, although several other local facilities offer excellent care as well. Equipment and technology at the Santa Fe Clinic, which is located close to the area in which most American personnel live, are equal to those available in good hospitals in the U.S. Nursing care is also good. Support services, such as laboratory services, are also above average.

Barranquilla and Cartagena have a University Hospital and private facilities, where good-quality medical attention can also be obtained. Doctors and support services are also adequate.

Frequently prescribed medications are available in Colombia and cheaper than in the U.S. However, we recommend that you bring specific prescription medications (allergy, etc.) in airfreight or HHE, since many brand names are unavailable locally.

Community Health Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:25 AM

The Colombian environment is generally healthy. Sanitation varies, depending on the area, from adequate (in the area where American personnel live) to lax (in the surrounding areas). Just as in the U.S., viral infections are frequent here. Diarrhea, amebiasis, infectious hepatitis, and other diseases caused by contaminated food and water are more prevalent among the general population than in the U.S. Water is considered safe in Bogota, but not always in other cities, villages, or rural areas. Pasteurized milk and milk products of high quality are available in the supermarkets in large cities, as is bottled water. Rabies is prevalent in some remote, rural areas of Colombia; however, at present, cases of rabies transmission to humans are very rare in the cities. Rabies vaccine and serum are available through the Embassy Health Unit in case of an emergency. Anti-rabies campaigns are ongoing in Colombia.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:26 AM

Be sure to check with M/MED or your military medical facility regarding immunizations before departure.

Recommended inoculations include typhoid, tetanus, yellow fever, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis A. Have your shot record checked before departing for post, and keep it current.

Bogota’s high altitude sometimes may cause short-term breathing difficulties, insomnia, and headaches in healthy individuals. Normally, these symptoms quickly subside. Those with known significant heart or lung problems will generally not be assigned to Bogota. You will not be assigned to post without a medical clearance.

Malaria suppressants (i.e., Aralen, mefloquine, etc.) are unnecessary in major cities, but are recommended for personnel who travel to eastern Colombia, the Pacific coast, and the lower Magdalena River Valley. Please check with the Health Unit to receive supplies and instructions regarding travel to these areas.

Most foods can be freed from contamination by cooking, boiling, or peeling. Lettuce and leafy vegetables are treated by washing them well. Soaking for 30 minutes in an iodine or chlorine solution provides added protection, though it is not considered necessary if food is purchased in supermarkets in Bogota and other major cities. Details are given in a health and medical orientation you receive from the Health Unit soon after arrival.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:26 AM

Employment opportunities for an accompanying spouse are available. Local bilingual schools employ qualified teachers whose first language is English.

A reciprocal work agreement with the Colombian Government allows spouses of diplomatic personnel to seek jobs on the local market.

Embassy employment opportunities are good, and include mostly secretarial and clerical jobs for adult dependents of U.S. Government employees. Many agencies desire Spanish-language skills. There is a good Summer Hire Program for dependent teenagers. The Embassy Human Resources Office administers the Dependent Employment Program. Notices are published for each available position, and spouses are required to submit a current SF-171 or OF-162 application for each position of interest with a memo highlighting their qualifications.

American Embassy - Bogota

Post City Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:28 AM

Bogota is considered a high threat post for both terrorism/insurgency and crime. All U.S. Government personnel and their dependents must exercise caution and follow effective security measures to minimize risks and vulnerabilities while in Colombia. Although the security situation is closely monitored, caution must be exercised at all times.

Travel by official Americans within Colombia is restricted and generally limited to air travel to major urban areas. Mission personnel must obtain approval by post management before travel outside of Bogota.

The American Embassy, the U.S. Military Group, and other U.S. agencies are in Bogota, as well as Defense and Army, Coast Guard, Air, Naval, Commercial, Agricultural, and Legal attachés.

The city of Bogota is nearly 8,700 feet above sea level, on a plateau of the Eastern Cordillera (range) of the Andes and is surrounded by peaks rising to 10,500 feet. The climate is cool and there are only two seasons, wet and dry; however, it is frequently wet in the dry season, and there can be lengthy dry periods in the wet season. The weather resembles early fall or spring in the north-central U.S. with an average temperature of 55°F. The San Andres Fault Line also runs through Colombia, and there are occasional earthquakes.

Besides being the capital and largest city (population 6,004,782), Santa Fe de Bogota is also Colombia’s cultural and economic center.

Although a modern metropolis in many respects, the city’s infrastructure has failed to keep pace with its growth. Traffic jams are common. On the other hand, well-kept residential areas, world class shopping malls, excellent supermarkets, restaurants and movie theaters make Bogota a very enjoyable city.

The city has a mixed look from Old World Spanish architecture, which dominates the southern part of the city, to modern high-rise apartments, which dominate the north. Bogotanos are proud of their cultural achievements. The city boasts museums, universities, art galleries, and many bookstores. For more information about Bogota and the Embassy, check the Embassy Web site:

Security Last Updated: 9/8/2003 2:07 PM

Security Briefing

All official visitors and assigned personnel (including dependents) must have a post security briefing. For Bogota-based personnel, this will be provided by the Regional Security Office within 2 workdays after arrival (for employees) and provided in writing in the post welcome book for dependents. For temporary duty personnel outside of Bogota, this briefing will be provided by the sponsoring office/agency in coordination with the Regional Security Office.

By virtue of certain characteristics, such as dress, speech, mannerisms, cars, and homes, Americans are susceptible to criminal attack. Consequently, practice common sense security precautions always when touring and sightseeing in Bogota and elsewhere in Colombia. For example, women should not wear costly jewelry while in crowded shopping areas of the city. Carry as little money as possible and guard your wallet, purse, watch, and valuables carefully. This topic is discussed in detail during the incoming security briefing.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 12/16/2003 9:59 AM

The U.S. was the first country to recognize Colombia, and opened a diplomatic post in Bogota in 1823. The post was closed from 1829 to 1939.

The U.S. Mission in Bogota is organized traditionally. The Ambassador is responsible for all U.S. Government activities in the country. One of the Ambassador’s chief functions is to provide leadership and coordination to all Mission elements. Embassy offices are headed by counselors for political and economic, public, administrative, antinarcotics and consular affairs.

Colombian-U.S. cooperation to control the cultivation, production, and distribution of drugs is supported by an office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, headed by the country attaché, and the Narcotics Affairs Section, headed by the Counselor for Narcotics Affairs.

The USAID Office in Colombia is one of four missions in advanced developing countries in Latin America (the others are Mexico, Paraguay, and Brazil). USAID activities in Colombia are geared toward strengthening Colombia’s democracy through programs in administration of justice, human rights, local governance, and anti-corruption; providing social and economic alternatives to illicit crop production through alternative development; and offering economic and social opportunities to vulnerable groups, particularly internally displaced persons. In addition, USAID/Colombia continues to assist in the reconstruction of Colombia’s coffee belt, which was devastated by a January 1999 earthquake.

Other U.S. Government agencies represented in Bogota under the authority of the Chief of Mission include Department of Defense (USMILGP, DAO, and TAT), Department of Agriculture (FAS and APHIS), Foreign Commercial Service, Department of Justice (LEGAT, OPDAT, ICITAP, and JUDATT), Department of Treasury (USSS, IRS, ATF, OFAC, and USCUSTOMS).


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:30 AM

The General Services Office makes every attempt to house families upon arrival, although on occasion newcomers may be housed in a transient apartment or hotel until permanent quarters are available. Apartments are part of the regular Embassy housing pool and are fully furnished. A Welcome Kit, including plates, sheets, towels, and other basic items, is also provided. It can be difficult to find apartments that accept pets, and they are not accepted in hotels. Anyone traveling with an animal should let the Embassy know as far in advance as possible, and should be prepared to place the animal in a kennel until the permanent apartment is ready, if necessary.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:00 AM

The Ambassador’s residence, owned by the U.S. Government, is a three-floor house built on a hillside in 1951 and surrounded by six acres of lovely gardens and woodland. The DCM’s three-floor penthouse apartment, also Government owned, is on the same street as the residence. Both are located in a lovely neighborhood about 30 minutes from the Embassy. The U.S. Government owns four other apartments in Bogota.

All other housing is in U.S.- Government-leased apartments, and is government furnished (depending on agency). Government-leased apartments are found by the Embassy housing office and leased after approval by the RSO.

Housing assignments are made by the Inter-Agency Housing Board for all agencies at post (except USMILGP) and are equipped with stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. For security reasons, most do not have balconies. Additionally, apartments have neither heat nor air-conditioning. Size is in accordance with A171 housing guidelines.

Pet owners are reminded that keeping pets is a privilege and not a right. Many buildings do not allow animals, and it is becoming harder each year to find apartments that accept pets. Also, Bogota suffers from a severe flea problem. If housing cannot be found to accommodate a pet, the employee will have to make other arrangements to house the animal. If you plan to bring a pet to post, notify the GSO as early as possible. Pet owners should be aware also that due to the limited number of apartments that accept pets, they may have to compromise in other areas, including apartment size. (See Pets under Notes for Travelers.)

Furnishings Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:34 AM

Department of State employees are usually issued a basic set of furniture. Supplemental pieces of furniture are often in short supply. Employees are encouraged to bring their favorite rocking chair, desk, end table, lamp, bookcases, or similar items. Other agencies have different policies and their employees should check with their headquarters. Apartments are adequate for full HHE in most cases, but the Embassy has no additional storage space available.

The wide variety of locally made furniture ranges from wicker to very good hardwood furniture (both at prices equal to or lower than U.S.). Local furniture in the mid-price range is adequate.

Cabinetmakers make and repair furniture at moderate prices. Some specialty items, such as mirrors, are made here for sale in luxury shops in the U.S. Special discounts to diplomats are widely available.

Most apartments have curtains or draperies. Window sizes and shapes vary; do not buy readymade curtains before coming to post. Locally made curtain fabric and hardware are sold at prices higher than in the U.S.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:35 AM

Apartments do not have central heating, though most have a fireplace, and inside temperatures range from 65°F to 75°F. Two heaters of U.S. manufacture are provided for government-furnished quarters.

Electric blankets or electric mattress pads and additional space heaters are extremely desirable and comforting.

Apartments have modern bathrooms, with showers more prevalent than tubs, and are equipped with one or more electric water heaters, but water pressure is variable. Most apartments have wall-towall carpeting.

You will want to bring all the usual small appliances for kitchen, bathroom, sewing, home entertainment, and repairing. Electrical current is 110v/60 cycles as in the U.S., but electrical items are expensive here.

Most kitchens have only one oven, so a small toaster oven or microwave is handy. Do not forget vacuum cleaner bags and a supply of clothes hangers.

Bogota has experienced problems with electricity and brief outages are fairly common. Voltage stabilizers are also highly recommended. Bring battery-operated clocks, radios, and flashlights. Candles and batteries are available locally at reasonable prices, but you may wish to bring some extra with you. Post tries to provide auxiliary lighting in the form of small battery-powered lanterns, but runs short of them quickly. Many apartment buildings have generators, but most service only the elevators, garage doors, and lighting in common areas and stairwells.

Food Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:36 AM

Bogota has abundant fresh food and many varieties of fruits and vegetables; the better stores carry frozen seafood. Meat markets have large assortments of fresh meat. The quality is adequate, although meats are usually not aged and cuts often differ from those in the U.S.

Pasteurized milk is available in any supermarket and powdered milk is available, but it is expensive. Long-life milk is also widely available.

Local supermarkets are similar in style to those in the U.S. The variety of local and imported items is smaller than in the U.S. There is usually a full stock of staple items. Some local supermarkets sell such high-quality imported foods as paté and smoked oysters, at high prices.

The Embassy cafeteria serves breakfast, lunch, and snacks. It is operated by a concessionaire selected by a committee representing both American and Colombian employees.

The altitude affects preparation of cakes, muffins, and breads, as well as the temperature at which water begins to boil. Consider purchasing a high-altitude cookbook before coming to post.

The Embassy commissary sells American groceries of all kinds: liquor; canned fruits and vegetables, fish and meat; entertainment items such as olives, cherries, and nuts; dairy products; and a variety of frozen foods. It also stocks cleaning supplies, paper products, soaps, detergents, and many other items, some of which are more expensive or unavailable locally, or of lesser quality here. The commissary can place special orders in case any item is not carried. Plates, silverware, and glasses are available for rent for dinner parties. Membership is open to all U.S. employees.

A video/souvenir store is located near Post 2 in the Embassy. The video store carries a large selection of new video releases for rent. They also sell snacks, candy, postcards, Embassy logo souvenirs, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, leather articles, and a wide variety of Colombian handicrafts.

Clothing Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:37 AM

Clothing needed in Bogota is similar to that worn on the east coast in fall. The weather can be crisp and temperatures chilly. All-weather coats and umbrellas are a good idea. Styles for both men and women are fashionable and similar to that worn in the U.S.

Men Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:37 AM

Diplomatic-list officers need a tuxedo or dinner jacket. Tuxedos can be rented locally. (See Official Functions.)

Colombian men dress conservatively. Suits are worn more than sports coat-and- slacks combinations. Colors are also conservative-grays, dark blues, and black predominate. Lightweight wool suits are recommended.

A wide variety of readymade 100% wool and fine-blended fabric suits and sports coats are available locally. You will experience difficulty in obtaining readymade suits in long sizes larger than 42.

Men’s shirts are available locally. However, shirts must be tailor-made for sleeve length greater than 34.

Several tailors do excellent work and hand-tailored suits can be made with either imported or locally made material. Repair services are also available and reasonable. Socks and underwear are available, but do not equal U.S. quality.

Shoes are manufactured in Colombia, but it can be difficult to find a proper fit and the variety of styles is limited. Shoes and boots can be made to measure at reasonable cost. Bring lightweight sports clothes for weekends or vacation trips to warmer climates.

Women Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:39 AM

Diplomatic-list officers and spouses will need at least one formal evening gown, and several cocktail dresses. Most women find that long-sleeved dresses, or dresses with jackets, are necessary, as homes are unheated. Colombian women dress well, and U.S. styles are popular. (See Official Functions.)

Shorts are rarely worn in Bogota, but are useful for tennis and trips to the “hot country.” Skirts, pants, and sweaters or blouses are popular for daytime wear, as are lightweight suits and skirt-blouse-blazer combinations. Jackets and short coats are often worn.

Some name-brand lingerie is sold, but at higher prices than in the U.S.; locally manufactured lingerie is available at very reasonable prices. Although nylons are sold, sizes are not U.S. standard. There are tailors and dressmakers who do good to excellent work at reasonable rates. Some women prefer to bring fabric and have it sewn here. Beautiful fabrics are available locally. Zippers, thread, and other sewing notions are also available.

Locally made shoes are not made to American specs, and sizes vary. Narrow sizes and larger sizes are especially hard to find. Shoes can be made to order at prices similar to good quality, readymade American shoes.

Children Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:04 AM

School children and preschool children are required to wear uniforms which can be purchased either at the school (for those children attending Colegio Nueva Granada) or locally at Irmi, Calle 129 # 45-64, phone: 613–2392 or 613–1686 (for those attending Gran Bretaña). You will need to ask at the individual preschools to find out where to purchase their uniforms.

Children wear the same type of clothing worn in early spring or late fall in the U.S. Heavy clothing is not necessary, but a supply of sweaters or jackets is recommended. Wool sweaters and locally manufactured blue jeans are available locally (prices are higher than in the U.S., and quality is poorer.) Children’s tennis shoes compare with U.S. makes and sell for similar prices. Children’s underwear and socks are sold here.

Babies. Due to lengthy airfreight and HHE arrival times, bring as checked luggage your baby stroller, portable crib, and high chair. Diapers and such baby needs can be purchased locally.

A few important notes: Remember that the average temperature in Bogota ranges from 55 to 70 degrees. The temperature within your apartment may depend on how much direct sunlight comes through your windows. Often times it might seem colder inside your apartment than it actually is outside. Since many apartments have marble and tile floors which are cold on your feet, bring slippers. Raincoats and umbrellas are also recommended. You will find that the Colombians (including the children) dress well. An occasion appropriate for jean attire to an American would merit nice slacks and a dress for a Colombian.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:48 AM

Many popular American brand-name cosmetics and toiletries are sold in Bogota at high prices. Toothpaste and shaving cream are reasonably priced and many U.S. name brands can be found.

Paper products such as cocktail napkins, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, and sanitary products are sold locally and available in plentiful supply, but the quality might not be to your liking.

High-quality film can be purchased locally at higher than U.S. prices. Both black-and-white and color film are readily available. Other items available locally include batteries, kitchen utensils, and small hardware items. Quality is acceptable, and prices are reasonable.

Stationery supplies, including seasonal gift wrapping paper and greeting cards, can be purchased locally. Wrapping paper is available, and all local greeting cards are in Spanish. You should bring a supply with you or order them via APO.

Christmas decorations are widely available as well as other family type occasions; however, Easter decorations are not available.

Basic Services Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:49 AM

Bogota has several good drycleaning establishments. Since quality of work varies even in the best establishments, it is often necessary to repress clothing which has been cleaned. Most laundry is done in the home by domestics.

Bogota has many good beauty shops, and barbershops. Major hotels give inexpensive, quality haircuts.

General Electric, Whirlpool, Black and Decker, Oster, Windmere, Kenmore, and Phillips are represented locally, but appliance repairs are generally of fair quality and the items cost much more than in the U.S.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:50 AM

Servants are generally considered a necessity. Usually, maids and cooks do not live in, although several Embassy employees have live-in domestics. Wages are reasonable (about US$9/day with an annual increase decreed by the Colombian Government). For full-time employees, the employer furnishes food costs, uniforms, shoes, and medical services.

Live-in, full-time, and part-time domestics come under the Colombian Government social security plan and employers are obligated to make contributions. Also employer must pay fringe benefits according to Colombian labor law. The post security officer will conduct appropriate security checks on domestic employees.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/17/2003 11:50 AM

The many Catholic churches in Bogota offer frequent services during the week. There is one English-speaking Mass on Sundays at 10:15 a.m., with an order of Franciscan nuns offering religious instruction to the children.

English-language Protestant, nonsectarian services are held in the United Church of Bogota on Sundays at 11 a.m. They also offer Sunday morning adult Bible study, Sunday School for children, and a nursery service. The United Church of Bogota is located at Carrera 3a No. 69-06.

Bogota also has three Jewish Synagogues, as well as a Baptist Chapel, Christian Science Church, and many Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapels as well as a temple.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:14 AM

Bogota has several English-language schools available. American Embassy dependents attend the U.S.-accredited American school Colegio Nueva Granada and the British school, Gran Bretaña. Parents should note that all private schools in Colombia are Colombian oriented and administratively controlled by the Colombian Ministry of Education. Therefore, these schools are not, in the true sense, international in nature.

If you require special schooling for your child or desire some special type of education, curriculum, or extracurricular activities, contact either your agency or the school directly in Colombia for more information.

The director of Colegio Nueva Granada (at the time of this writing) is Barry McCombs. Colegio Nueva Granada is located at Carrera 2E No. 70-20, and has the following mailing address:

Colegio Nueva Granada A. A. 51339 Bogota, Colombia

Leonard Nabe is the current director of Colegio Gran Bretaña. Colegio Gran Bretaña is located at Carrera 51 # 215-20 and has the following mailing address:

Colegio Gran Bretaña Carrera 51 #215-20 Bogota, Colombia

Instruction is in English, but Spanish is a required course for all students. The school is divided into elementary (Kindergarten through grade 5); middle school (grades 6 to 8); and high school (grades 9 to 12).

Each section has its own principal and counselor. The school director is a U.S. citizen and U.S. trained, as are most of the administrative staff.

Nearly all the staff are trained teachers—about 70% hired locally (both American and Colombian) and 30% brought from the U.S. The school is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

All prospective students must take a placement exam before they are enrolled. It is given frequently during summer months and at various times throughout the school year, which runs from late August to June.

Some 1,300 students attend the coeducational school. About 75% of the students are Colombian, 10% North American, and 10% dual citizenship (U.S./Colombian); the remaining 5% represent some 25 other countries.

1. For Registration

To register at CNG, do the following: (Contact the Community Liaison Office at post for help)

• Contact the Admissions Office and determine if space is available. • Complete the application form. • Attach a recent picture of each student. • Include a signed health certificate from your family doctor. • Provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate. • Attach a transcript of the previous year’s grades. • Pay all the testing fees. • Schedule and complete the testing. • Await the response from the registrar from the Admission Office.

2. Uniforms

Uniforms must be purchased at school. Parents may supply white turtlenecks. Middle school and high school boys and girls need a white button-down oxford shirt. (On special occasions, they are required to wear a school tie and the button-down oxford shirt).

As of the 2001–2002 schoolyear, the Colegio Nueva Granada uniform consisted of:

• White polo shirts, white turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks, or white oxford shirts with the CNG monogram. • Navy blue V-neck sweaters with two white stripes on the right sleeve. • Navy blue gabardine trousers for boys and girls. • Navy blue gabardine culottes skirt for girls (optional). • Navy blue CNG jacket, school tie for boys/girls for special occasions (middle and high school). • Navy blue blazer with school emblem for boys and girls in middle and high school (optional). • White, blue, or black tennis shoes or black, navy, or brown leather shoes to be worn with white or blue socks. • A navy blue sweatsuit with CNG emblem required for elementary school.

3. School Supplies

A list of school supplies will be issued to the students within the first days of school.

4. Colombian Social Studies

The Colombian Ministry of Education requires a “Colombian Social Studies”class for all students. The course is taught in Spanish, with assistance for those who do not speak Spanish.

Colegio Gran Bretaña. Colegio Gran Bretaña was founded in September 1997 with the aim of offering children in Bogota a high quality education in a challenging international environment for learning. The school follows the National Curriculum of England and Wales, with the addition of a global approach to social studies, the Colombian “Sociales” program. Classes are grouped in Key Stages and numbered in years. For example, Key Stage 1 Primary Ages from 4–7, Key stage 2 Ages from 7–11. Please note that Colegio Gran Bretaña is not U.S. accredited. Parents need to check the tuition rate at Gran Bretaña against the educational allotment set forth by the State Department to determine if there is any difference that they will need to pay.

Nearly all the staff are trained teachers from Great Britain and Colombia. At the moment 27% are American students and the rest are British and Colombians.

The school is a distinct choice for members of the English-speaking community in Bogota, and for children of all nationalities who have or desire to have, a working knowledge of the English-language curriculum.

1. Uniform:

• White school shirt • Dark blue pants or culottes for girls • School tie • Black or dark blue lace-up shoes • School socks • School sweater • Blazers are optional for Years 5 and 6, but mandatory Year 7 and above • For PE School tracksuit, white polo shirt, white socks and trainers, shorts may be worn with the tracksuit top

2. Supplies:

Children will receive a supply list within the first days of school.

3. For Registration: Applications for admissions accepted throughout the year (See the Community Liaison Officer at Post for help).

• Contact the Admissions Office and determine if space is available. • Complete the application form. • Attach a recent picture of each student. • Include a signed health certificate from your family doctor. • Provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate. • Attach a copy of the previous report cards.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:22 PM

Currently, the Embassy is providing excellent Spanish-language instruction for Embassy employees, dependents, and Marine Security Guards. Post language instructors provide Spanish lessons by field trips to local museums and offer cooking classes and immersion courses. Locally, both the Universidad de Los Andes and the Universidad Javeriana provide instruction in Spanish and other languages using the most modern teaching techniques. The Embassy language instructor can provide information regarding private language instruction at reasonable costs.

Those interested in linguistics will find the Instituto Caro y Cuervo one of the best of its kind in the world.

Classes in painting, sculpture, and music can be arranged at the following institutions: Universidad de los Andes, Universidad Javeriana, Galeria de Arte Moderno, and Conservatorio de Musica. Piano and guitar teachers are available at reasonable fees.

Bogota has several good universities in addition to Andes and Javeriana. Worthy of special mention are Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Senora del Rosario, Universidad Externado de Colombia, and Universidad de la Sabana. Special extension and night courses in many fields are offered at each. Instruction is in Spanish. The RSO must approve attendance at these universities.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:27 PM

Sports facilities are limited and expensive. Although several country clubs have excellent golf and tennis courts, memberships are expensive. There is a tennis court, basketball court, and track on the Embassy grounds.

Club Carmel allows all American Embassy employees to play golf without a membership; employees are required only to pay greens fees of about US$25. Bogota has few public golf courses or public tennis courts. The Embassy and the Ambassador’s residence have tennis courts available to the Embassy employees.

Embassy employees use two pools. The Red Cross has a pool located near the Embassy and there is a newly built Olympic-sized pool at the Gimnasio Moderno located close to Embassy housing.

There is a “ciclovia” in which certain main roads are blocked in the city to vehicular traffic on Sundays and local holidays for jogging, biking, and skating from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Arrangements can be made for horseback riding, and expert instruction is available at a reasonable cost.

Many families make periodic weekend trips to the lower, hot country where swimming is available at hotels and clubs. Spectator sports include soccer, boxing, wrestling, horseracing, and bullfighting. Plaza de Santa Maria, the bullring in the city center, has bullfights on Saturdays and Sundays between December and February. Soccer is very popular and fans avidly follow various local teams.

Deep-sea fishing is possible off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and fishing enthusiasts will find trips to these areas rewarding. Although fishing tackle is available in Bogota, it is expensive, so bring your own.

Sailing is done on two of the manmade lakes near Bogota.

Scuba diving and snorkeling can be done on the coast in Cartagena (1-hour flight from Bogota) or on the nearby islands of San Andres or Santa Marta (both about a 2-hour flight from Bogota).

Hunting in Colombia requires a certain amount of planning and time. Dove hunting is popular, but the current security situation has resulted in closing many traditional hunting areas. Official American personnel are required to pay for a hunting and fishing license. (See Firearms and Ammunition for post’s weapons policy).

The hills surrounding Bogota offer ample opportunity for the mountaineer, and the snowpeaks of the Andes are a real challenge to the serious climber. Check with the RSO before hiking. Several areas, with limited facilities for picnics and outings, are within easy driving time of the city. The Laguna de Guatavita, origin of the legend of El Dorado, offers a delightful 1-day adventure.

Additionally, several gyms and spas offer weightlifting and aerobics. Monthly or yearly membership fees are similar to those in the U.S. Many have saunas and/or steamrooms, and some offer massages, facials, and other cosmetic features.

Several museums display the historical, cultural, and artistic heritage of the country. A fascinating collection, consisting of gold objects fashioned by the Indians who lived in Colombia before the arrival of the Conquistadors, is in the Museo de Oro at the Banco de la Republica.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:16 AM

By virtue of certain characteristics, such as dress, speech, mannerisms, cars, and homes, Americans are susceptible to criminal attack. Consequently, practice common sense security precautions always when touring and sightseeing in Bogota and elsewhere in Colombia. For example, women should not wear costly jewelry while in crowded shopping areas of the city. Carry as little money as possible and guard your wallet, purse, watch, and valuables carefully. This topic is discussed in detail during the incoming security briefing.

On a mountaintop, 1,500 feet above the city, stands the Spanish-style church of Monserrate, considered the characteristic landmark of Bogota.

The original church, built in 1650, was destroyed by fire. About 25 years old, the present church commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding plains. You can reach the church by the old, almost perpendicular “funicular” railway or the newer Swiss-built aerial cablecar both of which take about 3 minutes.

A neighboring mountain peak, higher than Monserrate, is the site of the Chapel of Guadalupe. This peak was the location of several earlier chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Latin America. The present chapel, with its huge dominating figure of the Virgin, is a 20th century work.

Many attractive travel opportunities are available to Bogota residents. Before you travel outside of Bogota, check security notices issued by the RSO.

At the Falls of Tequendama during the wet season, the Bogota River plunges 475 feet into a narrow gorge below. Only 15 miles southwest of Bogota, this waterfall can be reached by road.

Some 30 miles north of Bogota by train or car lies the salt mine of Zipaquira, a solid mountain of rock salt. The mine has been worked since before the Spanish arrived, and although its tunnels penetrate deep into the mountain, the supply of salt has hardly been touched. On this site a massive Gothic-style cathedral has been carved out of the mountains. Illuminated by indirect lighting and severely simple in its decorations, the cathedral is impressive and unique. An interesting, colonial-style inn with a restaurant is on the grounds of the salt mine.

For a change of scenery and relief from the altitude and cool climate, the warm, tropical valleys that lead to the Magdalena River are ideal. Several resorts are within a few hours of Bogota. Girardot, 30 minutes by air or 3 hours by car, is one of the most popular warm weather spots. Here, a large variety of tropical fruits and unusual pottery can be purchased in the town's center plaza.

Paipa, at about the same altitude as Bogota, can also be reached in about 4 hours by car. The Hotel Sochagota, in addition to its excellent conference facilities, is a popular first-class hotel fronting on a small lake. Activities center around the thermally heated swimming pool but also include horseback riding, pool and billiards, and ping-pong. The hotel also has 12 detached cabanas, each with sleeping facilities for six, fireplace, efficiency-type kitchen, two bathrooms, and private thermal bath facilities.

Barranquilla, with a population of more than 1.4 million is the principal seaport on the mouth of the Magdalena River. One hour by jet from Bogota, the city is popular for its February carnival. Its famous Hotel del Prado is a large country club-like hotel with air-conditioned rooms, swimming pool, tennis courts, and exercise facilities including a sauna. The hotel also maintains the Prado Mar Beach Club at Puerto Colombia for ocean bathing and fishing.

In March, Barranquilla is the site of the international tennis tournament called the “South American Wimbledon.”

Cartagena, population 550,000, is about 70 miles southwest of Barranquilla on the Caribbean Coast. The walled city dates back to the days of the Spanish Main. Its famous fortress of San Felipe de Barajas and ancient churches, including the Shrine of St. Peter Claver, make Cartagena one of Colombia’s most interesting cities. The city boasts a number of modern beachfront high-rise hotels as well as the older, colonial-style Hotel Santa Clara. Most hotels have swimming pools; some have tennis courts. Nearby restaurants offer good seafood. In November, Cartagena commemorates its independence in a carnival atmosphere, which includes the national beauty contest for the crown of “Miss Colombia.”

Leticia is Colombia’s principal town on the Amazon River, 670 miles southeast of Bogota. Accessible by air, Leticia provides tourists with such attractions as Amazon River excursions, visits to primitive Indian villages, and trips through dense rain forests. Leticia is located at the northern end of the Peru-Brazil border, and it is easy to cross over to one country for lunch and then to the other for dinner, and return to Leticia for the night.

Entertainment Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:31 PM

The National Symphony has regularly scheduled concerts during most of the year, often with world-famous guest artists. Dance companies, chamber music groups, and concert artists perform seasonally. Theater is available from time to time, but its enjoyment is limited to those fluent in Spanish.

Movie theaters and video rental shops are numerous; those in the downtown section and better residential areas are equal to theaters in the U.S. First-run American films are shown with Spanish subtitles, 3–4 months after their U.S. premiere. Movies at the best theaters cost about US$ 4–5 per person. Bogota has few American-type nightclubs; however, several clubs have floor shows and dancing and offer a welcome change on a night out. Many restaurants serve continental and regional dishes.

The changing of the guard outside the presidential palace at 5 p.m. every afternoon is a colorful ceremony. Soldiers dress in 19th century-style uniforms, including spiked helmets. Various festivals are held throughout the year in Colombia. Cartagena has a world-famous film festival, and annual fairs are held in Barranquilla.

Social Activities Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:35 PM

Social life in Bogota depends greatly on your own initiative. Because of the large number of Americans and educated Colombians, it is possible to have a wide, varied circle of friends.

Good social contacts can be established in both the Colombian and foreign communities. Most informal entertaining is done at home in the form of cocktail parties and dinners. However, more formal entertaining is done in restaurants and local hotels. There are also invitations to nearby farms (“fincas”) for barbecues. Though less formal than in Bogota, these social events have a formality and protocol all their own.

Among Americans Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:17 AM Entertainment among Americans is generally informal. Buffet dinners, cocktail parties, and picnics are common. The American Women’s Club admits all American women in Colombia and meets monthly. The American Society is open to all Americans living in Colombia. This club sponsors monthly social activities and a number of charitable programs.

International Contacts Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:37 PM Numerous opportunities exist for meeting Colombians officially and socially. Contacts through work lead to a wide group of acquaintances. Social contacts among Colombians who enjoy having foreign friends can be also be made through the Bi-National Center (BNC) and its various groups and activities and through a number of charitable, religious, and social organizations.

Bogota has some resident business representatives from countries friendly to the U.S. as well as about 53 other diplomatic missions. It is relatively easy to develop a circle of friends from among these groups.

The Bogota consular corps and AMCOSAD (Asociacion de Ministros, Consules, Attaches) provide valuable professional contacts for consular and diplomatic officers.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:38 PM

Dress for receptions and dinners are dark business suits for men and cocktail or short dinner dresses for women. Suits or simple woolen dresses are the usual luncheon dress. All officers should have dinner dress (black tie or formal gown) for occasional formal dinners.

All officers need dinner clothes. Black tie can be rented here. Evening dress for males (white tie) is almost never worn, except at “galas” given by the highest Bogota society. Thus, only the most senior male officers might ever have occasion to wear white tie. Women wear long formals at functions where white tie is specified.

No social calls are made within the diplomatic community or government, except by the Ambassador (and his or her spouse if the spouse wishes to do so) who call on a number of top government officials. The DCM as well as Agency and Section heads (and their spouses should they wish) are also encouraged to pay courtesy/social calls on their counterparts in other embassies and their principal contacts in the Colombian Government. Diplomatic Notes announce the arrival of an officer to the Colombian Government and the diplomatic community.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:39 PM

The rules of social conduct in Bogota do not differ substantially from those in the U.S.

Department of State personnel of all grades take part in numerous social affairs. Those occupying higher positions on the diplomatic list have more representational responsibilities than junior officers or those not on the list. Section chiefs in the Chancery and the top one or two officers in other U.S. organizations are generally invited to large receptions (400 guests), such as the Fourth of July reception given by the Ambassador. The most senior officers often are invited to social functions. For junior officers, the frequency of inclusion in social affairs varies with the amount of representational responsibility held.

Calling cards are used in Bogota. Printed and embossed cards can be procured quickly after arrival, soon enough for most calls if you are unable to purchase them prior to arrival.

Special Information Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:24 PM

Post Orientation Program

The post periodically conducts an orientation program for the benefit of newly arrived U.S. Government employees and their spouses. Sessions include brief talks on the work performed by Embassy Sections and by other government agencies as well as important security information.

Country Clearance Requirements

All official visitors to post must request, and be given, country clearance 10 days in advance of their travel to Colombia. The request for country clearance must be sent by cable captioned Sensitive but Unclassified/SBU or higher, which states the names of the visitors, their proposed itineraries, and the reason for the visit. The sponsoring office sends requests for country clearance to the Deputy Chief of Mission through the regional security officer.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:42 PM

Air travel to Colombia is recommended; all major cities have airports, and persons with diplomatic and official passports easily clear customs. American Airlines, Continental and Delta are currently the only U.S. flag carriers serving Colombian cities.

Airfreight or unaccompanied baggage normally arrive within the month, although they can be delayed as long as 2–3 months after shipment from the U.S., with customs clearance taking about 4 weeks after the effects have arrived incountry. To ensure prompt release of air shipments, provide the Embassy as soon as possible with the name of the air carrier, copy of the airway bill, packing lists, bills of lading, and date shipped. The Embassy has recently initiated a new program for airfreight shipments and oftentimes, can clear customs within 72 hours but one should plan on living without your airfreight for a while after arrival.

The consignee for all shipments should be “American Embassy, Bogota, Colombia.” All shipments of airfreight, HHE, and vehicles are shipped by air to Bogota, most via the U.S. Despatch Agency in Miami. Since it rains frequently in Bogota, all containers must be completely waterproofed.

The Embassy strongly urges that all effects arriving in Colombia be covered with a marine or a floater insurance policy adequate to cover replacement of all items shipped. Pilferage in transit is a real possibility. All shipments should be prepaid.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:43 PM

The Government of Colombia places the following restrictions on HHE, unaccompanied baggage (UAB), and personal vehicles: For diplomats, the combined cost of HHE, UAB, and personal vehicles may not exceed US$50,000 (vehicles alone may not exceed US$33,000). For non-diplomats, the combined cost of HHE, UAB, and personal vehicles may not exceed US$30,000 (vehicles alone may not exceed US$18,000.) Non-diplomatic personnel must import HHE within 6 months of arrival to avoid customs duties.

Under such extenuating circumstances as abnormal delays en route, the Foreign Ministry, on request of the Embassy, grants exceptions to this rule. The Embassy in all cases must receive a detailed packing list of HHE. The list prepared by the packer will suffice, provided that contents of cartons are identified.

Passage Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:20 AM

To enter Colombia, you need a diplomatic or official passport with an appropriate visa, and the usual inoculation certificate. Bring eight small pictures of each adult family member, 1“ x 1”, with a light blue background and 4 pictures for minor dependents.

Pets Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:45 PM

Vaccination and health certificates certified by a Colombian consul must accompany pets. It is recommended that pets not be shipped as unaccompanied baggage. In any case, submit the following information to the Embassy’s General Services Office as soon as possible before departure for post:

• Kind of pet and breed (i.e., dog, poodle; bird, canary) • Point of origin of shipment; • Port of entry; and • Date of arrival of pet and flight number, if coming by air.

Note: Pets arriving at the airport as unaccompanied baggage after 2 p.m. cannot be cleared for entry until the next business day. Unfortunately, the customs warehouse has no facilities for their proper care.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:21 AM

The Chief of Mission may authorize the importation or acquisition of personal firearms-rifles, shotguns, and pistols by Mission employees. Any employee, contractor, or dependent who wishes to import or acquire in-country any firearm must forward a written request to this effect to the Chief of Mission through the RSO. The Regional Security Office may be contacted in advance to obtain the appropriate forms used to request Chief of Mission permission. Justification for the importation or purchase of a weapon must be given. Importation of personal firearms is limited by Colombian law to one (1) long gun (rifle or shotgun) and one (1) handgun (pistol or revolver).

Prior to the importation or acquisition of any firearm, the employee must receive specific written approval from the Ambassador. All government or personally owned firearms must be registered with the RSO. All firearms must be shipped within your HHE. Permission to import firearms into Colombia or acquire them in-country does not in and of itself authorize U.S. Government employees or dependents to carry firearms outside their homes. Further specific authorization by the Chief of Mission is required, along with a registration permit (“Salvo Conducto”) from the Colombian Government. When authorized, official American personnel are required to pay a firearms registration fee.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:21 AM

The basic monetary unit in Colombia is the peso, a decimal currency. In writing, the same sign is used for both the peso ($) and the U.S. dollar ($) so they are often written either Col$, CP, or Ps. Both paper currency and metal coins are used; the most common bills are in denominations of 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 pesos. Coins are minted in values of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 pesos. The exchange rate in July 2002 was 2,543 pesos per dollar. The Colombian Government devalues the peso to maintain its value in line with that of the U.S. dollar. The 2000 devaluation was roughly 18.97%.

Local checking accounts are convenient for making local payments; most stores and businesses readily accept checks. The banking industry is highly developed in Colombia and most banks have branches in the residential districts of the cities. Most banks offer credit cards that are accepted throughout Colombia, and some maintain automatic tellers for transactions outside banking hours.

Among U.S. banks with partially owned subsidiaries in Colombia are the First National City Bank and Bank of America.

Colombia is officially metric, with all distances measured in kilometers, heights in meters, and temperatures in Celsius. Many bulk commodities, however, such as coal and wood, are sold in “cargas,” which vary according to the material weighed. Generally, it is the amount that can be loaded on a horse or burro. Bulk foodstuffs, such as fruits, vegetables, etc., are sold by the pound rather than by the kilo, and gas is sold in gallons.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 9/17/2003 1:49 PM


No restrictions are imposed on the exchange, importation, or exportation of normal household-use amounts of either pesos or dollars.

Sales taxes paid by U.S. Government and diplomatic personnel on goods and services will eventually be reimbursed by the host government, after the Embassy Budget and Fiscal Office processes the receipts for submission to the respective Colombian entity. No taxes are placed on the sale of personal property, except vehicles. The airport departure tax (currently, US$26 for holders of diplomatic passports) is not reimbursed by the host government, but is an allowable expense to those on U.S. Government orders.


The Banco Union Colombiano provides check-cashing services within the Embassy from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The bank also sells travelers checks and accepts payment for personal telephone bills.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:25 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Bogota: Cost of Living Survey. Rector, 1995.

Bushnell, David. The Making of Modern Colombia, A Nation in Spite of Itself. Berkeley University California Press: 1993.

Clancy, Tom. Clear & Present Danger. Putnam Publishing Group: 1989.

Colombia in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics & Culture. Monthly Review: 1996.

Colombia: A Country Study. U.S. GPO, 1990, 4th Ed. (Area handbook series).

Colombia: Financing Foreign Operations. Rector: 1995.

Decker, David R. & Duran, Ignacio. The Political, Economic, & Labor Climate in Colombia. University of Pennsylvania the Wharton School, Center for Human Resources, 1982.

Dix, Robert H. The Politics of Colombia. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 1986.

Dydysnski, Krzysztof. Colombia: A Travel Survival Kit. Lonely Planet Publications: 1988.

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Harper & Row: New York, 1970.

Giraldo, Javier. Colombia the Genocidal Democracy. Common Courage: 1995.

Gudeman, Stephen & Gutierrez, Alberto R. Conversations in Colombia: The Domestic Economy in Life & Text. Cambridge University Press: 1990.

Gugliotta, Guy & Leen, Jeff. Kings of Cocaine: An Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money, & Corruption. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.: 1990.

Hartlyn, Jonathan. The Politics of Coalition Rule in Colombia. Cambridge University Press: 1988.

Henao, J. History of Colombia. Gordon Press Publishers: 1976.

Henderson, James D. When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violence in Tolima. Univ. of Alabama: 1985.

Hutchinson, William, R. Poznanski, Cynthia A. & Todt-Stockman, Laura. Living in Colombia: A Guide for Foreigners. Intercultural Press, Inc.: 1987.

Kline, Harvey F. Portrait of Unit & Diversity. Westview Press: 1983.

Lael, Richard L. Arrogant Diplomacy: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia, 1903–22. Scholarly Resources, Inc.: 1987.

Lang, James. Inside Development in Latin America: A Report from the Dominican Republic, Colombia & Brazil. University of North Carolina Press: 1988.

Oquist, Paul. Violence, Conflict, & Politics in Colombia. Academic Press, Inc.: 1980.

Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy in Colombia: Clientelistic Politics & Guerrilla Warfare. Transaction Publishers, 1989.

Parks, Taylor E. Colombia & the United States. Gordon Press Publishers: 1976.

Washington Office on Latin America Staff. Colombia Besieged: Political Violence & State Responsibility. Washington Office on Latin America: 1989.

Wiarda, Howard J. The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics & U.S. Policy. Holmes & Meier, 1990.

Wickham-Crowley, Timothy P. Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America. Princeton Univ. Pr., 1992.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/16/2003 10:26 AM

New Year’s Day January 1 Epiphany January* St. Joseph’s Day March* Holy Thursday March/April* Good Friday March/April* Labor Day May 1 Ascension Day May/June* Corpus Christi June* Feast of the Sacred Heart June* Sts. Peter & Paul June* Colombia Independence Day July 20 Battle of Boyaca August 7 Assumption Day August* Columbus Day October* All Saints’ Day November* Independence of Cartagena November* Feast of the Immaculate Conception December 8 Christmas Day December 25 *

*Exact date varies.

In accordance with Department of State Regulations, American personnel are only authorized a total of 20 combined American and Colombian holidays.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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