The past week has been a rollercoaster, to say the least. I’ve been following the backpacking in Colombia Facebook groups intensely and the main question right now seems to be, should I travel to Colombia right now because of Coronavirus. As I write this post from my dorm room in Medellin Colombia all I can do is hope that this virus disappears as quickly as it came. But, rather than sit here and dwell on how crazy this whole thing is I decided to be a little proactive and jot down some of my thoughts and link up some up to date information about the Coronoviras in Colombia.
Note: I am not a medical professional and in this post, I’m not giving any medical advice. This post is a personal account of what it’s like to be traveling in Colombia right now and where you can find the latest information about Coronoviras in Colombia.
EDIT 18th March 2020: Colombia’s borders are now closed to anyone who is not a citizen or a resident of Colombia. If you are in one of those groups then you can enter by air. Both land and sea borders are closed until the 30th of May. At this moment it is still possible to leave Colombia via one of the international airports if you can get on a flight. We are not sure how long this will last and there is speculation that the airports may close in the coming weeks.
The Facts About Coronavirus in Colombia:
Colombia declared a Health Emergency earlier this week and has put in measures to control people entering Colombia who are at risk of having or carrying the virus. This state of emergency will be in place until the end of May according to this report. Football games have also been suspended for live audiences (they will just be televised) and cruise ships have been suspended from entering Cartagena after a passenger tested positive.
As of today 18th March 2020 there are 93 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Colombia. The phone companies here have been sending regular text messages with lots of information. Claro sent me this page which I found to be extremely helpful in keeping up to date with everything happening here. It is n Spanish but you can easily use google translate.
What it’s like traveling in Colombia right now
Things have been business as usual so far. Although I feel that it is changing. Yesterday March 12th I noticed a few people wearing masks. The hostel is getting quieter with fewer people arriving each day. I’m in Medellin and there have been 4 cases here so far, all from a single source I believe. Locals are being cautious of interaction with foreign tourists.
My friend from France has had to explain to several people that she has been traveling in Latin America for many months and therefore is safe from the virus. Every Asian person I’ve come in to contact with at the hostel has voluntarily told me they aren’t Chinese when introducing themselves, and I’ve noticed a lot of new signs popping up around the city about handwashing.
As far as panic buying and other fearful behavior that I’ve been is going on in the USA and Europe, there is none of that here. There is still plenty of toilet paper and life really is continuing as normal.
Should I travel to Colombia Right Now?
In all honestly, if you are just coming here backpacking or on vacation, no. At least not if you are traveling from a country where there is a high risk of you having (or carrying) the virus. That is unless of course you are happy to arrive and self isolate for 2 weeks. The Colombian government this week announced that all foreign travelers entering Colombia will need to complete a form to let them know where they have been previously before entering Colombia, their current state of health, and how they can be tracked while in Colombia.
If you have recently been in a high-risk area then before you travel you need to fill in this form so that the Colombian health authorities can prepare for your arrival.
If you are arriving from a country not considered high-risk, you do still need to fill in the form but you can do it upon arrival using the airport wifi. This information is vital for the authorities for tracking and also risk assessment which will help keep the virus from spreading here in Colombia.
I’m sad to say that I have seen more than one ignorant person in one of the Facebook groups talking about traveling to a low-risk country to take a flight to Colombia and that they plan on lying to authorities so they can get in here. Please, if you are thinking of doing this, don’t. It is beyond selfish and you are putting people at serious risk. If you refuse or are caught lying you will be denied entry and deported.
For those travelers who do comply and are allowed entry to Colombia during the Coronoviras pandemic, you will be given information about how you can access medical services in case you do fall ill.
Who will be tested on entering Colombia
For those coming from the following countries to Colombia, you will be separated on arrival in Colombia and subject to compulsory medical testing. This is simply to clear you of the suspicion of currently being ill or carrying the virus.
- South Korea
- United States
What you can expect is to be asked a lot of questions about your current health, a quick medical exam, and they will want to know exactly where you will be traveling too and how they can get in touch with you if needed. So long as you pass the exam you will be free to go about your travels.
If on the other hand you fail the medical testing and they suspect you are infected then you could be asked to agree to a self-imposed isolation period or be admittance to hospital.
Who will need to self-isolate when traveling to Colombia:
Now this will vary a bit if you are traveling to Colombia from one of the extreme risk countries which are currently:
If you are traveling to Colombia from one of these countries with an extreme risk of having or carrying the virus then you will only be admitted to Colombia if you agree to a 2 week isolation period in your home or a hotel. Once the 2-week isolation is over you will be free to travel as normal. I would assume you will need to prove this by having a hotel booking for the full isolation period. If you do not want to self isolate, then it’s probably a good idea to postpone your trip until things get better.
I really hope this has been on some help to you in deciding if you should travel to Colombia right now amongst the Coronoviras pandemic. If you do decide to delay your trip be sure to rebook for later in the year as Colombia really is an incredible place to travel to.
What about me?
As for me, I have a flight back to Cancun in Mexico on the 28th of March. As of now, there is a low risk in both Colombia and Mexico so I’m planning to take my flight and if needed I will self isolate when I arriving in Mexico at home. If anything changes in either country then I’ll simply stay here in Colombia until it’s safe to travel again.
Luckily I’m with Safetywing insurance and they sent me an update letting my know I’m still covered if anything should happen to me. This is very important for me as I’m actually in the high-risk category due to having a chronic illness. Knowing I’ll be looked after should I get sick is giving me a little peace of mind during these times.
Wishing you all safe travels, if you are on the move!
Book your trip now
Are you ready to book your trip? To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.
- Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with.
- Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
- Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there.
- Worldpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Worldpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership!
- Book a Way – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then bookaway.com is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and cars.
- RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
- World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review.
- SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here.
- Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration.
- Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.