Last year over six and a half million tourists travelled to the ‘Gateway to South America’, and there’s no surprise. With prosperous economic ability, exclusive attractions and stunning landscapes, Colombia is earning recognition as a hotspot for business travel.
Occupying the northern tip of South America, Columbia is the fourth largest country in South. It has borders with five nations; Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. It is also the only South American country with both Caribbean and Pacific Ocean coastlines, enabling easy tourist and trade access. Its landmass is over 420,000 square miles, consisting of many islands, and is overall populated by nearly fifty million people. Particularly popular amongst travellers is exploration of the Andes mountain range along western South America, among the longest of its kind. Attractive business prosperity is central to Bogotá, the third most populous city in South America and Colombian capital.
Colombia’s ‘crossroad’ geographic position meant the populous was extremely diverse since at least 12,000 BC. Although named after Christopher Columbus, the explorer never even landed on the country. Instead, the Spanish converted Colombia into the New Granada colony up until the 1800s. The heroics of Venezuelan rebellion leader Simón Bolívar meant the Spanish were defeated in many of its own territories, leading to attained independence in 1824. Columbia, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador were all united under Bolivar, but over the next century, the Republic of Colombia (1885) lost all these countries to their independencies. Into the twentieth century, drug trafficking and internal violence were common, plunging Colombia into political corruption and social unrest. Since however, the only way has been up, and smarter presidential elections have allowed modern-day political and economic stability.
Colombia has the third largest economy in South America. Recent times has seen gradual economic growth, with a reliance on natural resources such as oil, coffee and gold. In fact, petroleum makes up almost half of the country’s exports. Aware of reliance on global commodity prices, Colombia has actively made effort to involve itself in trade agreements and diminish foreign tensions. Signing agreements with ANC and MERCOSUR countries, as well as a peace arrangement between the government and rebel group FARC, has shown positive signs of stability and future progression.
Scoring above average on the economic freedom index, Columbia has the sixth-freest economy in the Americas region. Foreign investment has been essential to economic progression in Colombia, with the nation receiving the second highest flow of overseas investment of Latin America in 2016. The ‘4G’ infrastructure scheme and an ambitious reform program launched in 2016 has seen sectorial opportunities expand and corporate tax cuts. Conditions are better than ever for serviced apartment living and business travel. The capital Bogotá has particularly benefited from these schemes, now recognised as a hub for investment projects and supposedly the fifth best city to do business in Latin America. Our corporate accommodation enables travellers the best chance of gaining access to the quarter of national GDP that Bogotá possesses.
Residents of every African and most southern Asian countries require a visa for entry to Columbia. If you are however a citizen of the European Union, America, Canada or Australia, along with around one hundred other countries, you can enter Columbia visa-free. It is not a bad idea though to visit www.columbia.travel before your trip for more specific visa requirements.
In Colombia, the residents drive on the right-hand side of the road. For foreign visitors, their national driving license, accompanied by an international driving permit, is valid for only a month before a local license is required. Driving in Colombia can be fulfilling, but we advise avoiding late-night driving and not drifting too far away from tourist locations. Instead, you could take advantage of the massive taxi populace. We advise using apps such as Tappsi, Easy Taxi and Uber, which have all greatly improved taxi security. Although many taxis accept currencies such as the Euro or American Dollar, it is worth having some of the Colombian Peso (COP) just in case. The currency has been steady recently, and you can check exchange rates at www.xe.com.
Colombian security improvements have been dramatic, and the supposed ‘gangsta’s paradise’ is non-existent. With the heightening of these security measures, it’s worth carrying identification with you always, such as your visa and passport, whilst in Colombia. Furthermore, we also advise refraining from photographing military buildings and disrespecting local cultures. On the whole, Colombians are welcoming to tourist, so you should not encounter any issues. As mentioned before though, worth considering is the erratic climate. Come well prepared with clothes suitable for any weather conditions!
Undoubtedly a land of contrasts, there is so much to explore in Colombia. Travellers, therefore, have opposing opinions on where to visit, but common ground can be found in Bogotá. The nation’s largest city, Bogotá possesses a unique combination of urban elegance and colonial enchantment. History enthusiasts will admire the central La Candelaria, jam-packed with colonial remnants and architectural beauties. Completely distinctive too is the Museum of Gold, containing 55,000 pieces of gold and attracting around 500,000 tourists each year. However, if it is business leisure you want, the northern neighbourhoods of North Bogotá include classy eateries and a top shopping experience. SITU’s serviced apartments in Bogotá put you within touching destination of both business and tourist luxury.
Of course, Colombia has alternatives to urban life too. Islands are immensely popular with tourists. Options include San Andrés island, Rosario island and Providencia island, all showcasing beautiful Caribbean Sea views and incredible marine biodiversity. The beaches are equally amazing, but the perfect place for arching sand dunes is La Guajira Peninsula. Not only is the land a quiet oasis, but it was one of the only areas untouched by Spanish colonialism. Indigenous laws dominate the land, and there is no better expression of native culture than here. Also, completely distinctive to Colombia is the newly renovated complex of famous Pablo Escobar. Incredibly, his lavish estate has been converted to a place of recreation containing a safari and amusement park, whilst still maintaining fascinating aspects of the former drug lord’s remains.
SITU’s corporate accommodation in Colombia assists any profitable business trip, prioritising convenience and easy access to Colombia’s economic and attraction exclusivity.
Serving the capital Bogotá, El Dorado is the largest airport in Colombia. Winner of best airport in Latin America over the last two years, it is also the second busiest in South America.
The airport is only a twenty-minute drive from Bogotá city centre. Public transport and taxi services are also frequent outside the airport, enabling transit to your serviced accommodation.
Despite an infrastructural program underway in Colombia, the country only has one metro system. Medellín metro is efficient, helping over 160 million passengers each year avoid traffic and reduce CO2 emissions.
The rechargeable Civica Card is useful for regular users of the Medellin Metro, helping residents avoid long ticket lines and pay cheaper fares.
Train travel for passengers is almost non-existent. The only available trains are tourism-related, enabling visitors to the Turistren railway travel between Bogotá and Zipaquira.
With such limited railway services available in Colombia, buses are critical for both foreigners and locals. Therefore, some buses can get busy, particularly in ‘colectivos’, but for a slightly pricier fare, you can enjoy luxuries such as air-con, Wi-Fi and connections to almost every town. Almost every large town or major city has a terminal entirely dedicated to bus travel.
The best way to travel around the capital, Bogotá, is via the bus service TransMilenio. Generally intercity travel is safe, cheap and quick on these services.