Destination guide: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena de Indias is famous for the beauty of its beaches and its walled city, full of history and location for many important events. In its center, you can still see the colonial influence, especially in the architecture.
In Cartagena de Indias, tourists can also stroll through the San Felipe and Bocagrande castles, visit the walled city, the Botanic Gardens and the Totumo volcano, as well as beginning a trip down the Dique Canal to the islands of Rosario, Baru and Palma.
Fly to Cartagena de Indias and discover one of the most well-preserved destinations in South America.
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Nationals of some countries, including most of Western Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, don’t need a visa to enter Colombia. All visitors get an entry stamp in their passport upon arrival. Most travelers receive 60 days. If traveling overland, make sure you get an entry stamp or you’ll have troubles later. Similarly, make sure you get your departure stamp or there will be trouble the next time around.
Colombian customs are looking for large sums of cash (inbound) and drugs (outbound).
In other respects customs regulations don’t differ much from those in other South American countries. You can bring in personal belongings and presents you intend to give to Colombian residents. The quantity, kind and value of these items shouldn’t arouse suspicion that they may have been imported for commercial purposes. You can bring in items for personal use such as cameras, camping equipment, sports accessories or a laptop computer without any problems.
Be sure to hang onto your receipts for any big-ticket items. Foreigners may request a refund of the 16% IVA (sales tax) on all goods purchased during their stay in Colombia. Get to the airport with plenty of time to submit your receipts to DIAN (Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales; the customs bureau).
The office working day is, eight hours long, usually from 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm weekdays, but offices tend to open later and close earlier. Many offices in the larger cities have adopted the so-called jornada continua, a working day without a lunch break. It’s nearly impossible to arrange anything between noon and 2pm though, as most of the staff are off for their lunch. Most tourist offices are closed on Saturday and Sunday, and travel agencies usually only work to noon on Saturday. The many competing post offices are not open for standard hours across the country. For example, in Bogota most are open from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday, with some branches also open on Saturday morning, but on the Caribbean coast most companies close for lunch.
As a rough guide only, usual shopping hours are from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday; some shops close for lunch. On Saturdays most shops are open from 9am to noon, or sometimes until 5pm. Large stores and supermarkets usually stay open till 8pm or 9pm Monday to Friday; some also open Sunday. Shopping hours vary considerably from shop to shop and from city to countryside. Restaurants opening for lunch open at noon. Those serving breakfast open by 8am. Most of the better restaurants in larger cities, particularly in Bogotá, tend to stay open until 10pm or longer; restaurants in smaller towns often close by 9pm or earlier. Many don’t open at all on Sunday. Most cafes are open from 8am until 10pm, while bars usually open around 6pm and close when the law dictates, usually 3am (although some are open till dawn).
The opening hours of museums and other tourist sights vary greatly. Most museums are closed on Monday but are open on Sunday. The opening hours of churches are even more difficult to pin down. Some are open all day, others for certain hours only, while the rest remain locked except during Mass, which in some villages may be only on Sunday morning.
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