Colombian Peso (COP) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of COP50,000, 20,000, 10,000 and 5000. Coins are in denominations of COP1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50.
The exchange rate tends to be lower on the Caribbean coast than in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. The US Dollar is the easiest currency to exchange at hotels, banks, shops and travel agencies, but all establishments charge an exchange fee. Travellers are advised to only use reputable exchange houses.
Credit / Debit Cards and ATM's
All major cards are accepted.
Travellers Cheque Advice
These are not always easy to change in the smaller towns, except at branches of the Banco de la República. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars which can be exchanged at banks, foreign exchange and large hotels.
The import and export of local currency is unlimited. The import of foreign currency is unlimited subject to declaration on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to US$25,000.
Bogota: Mon-Fri 0900-1500. In other cities: Mon-Fri, 0800-1130 and 1400-1630. On the last business day of every month, banks close at 1200.
Duty free:The following goods may be taken into Colombia by people up to 18 years of age without incurring customs duty:
200 cigarettes and 50 cigars and up to 500g of tobacco; two bottles of alcoholic beverage; a reasonable quantity of perfume; one ordinary camera and one video camera.
Note: Emeralds and items made from gold or platinum need a receipt from the place of purchase that must be presented to customs on departure.
Ammunition and firearms, unless prior authorisation has been obtained, and
item(s) are declared on arrival. Vegetables, plants or plant material; meat and food products of animal origin.
• GDP: US$81.3 billion.
• Main imports: Industrial equipment, transportation eqipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels and electricity.
• Main exports: Oil, coal, coffee, textiles, software, sugar, bananas, cut flowers, cotton products, emeralds and gold.
• Main trade partners: USA, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Mexico and China.
Agriculture is extensive and varied; it accounts for 75 per cent of export earnings. Coffee has traditionally been the principal crop (Colombia is the world’s second-largest producer) but as production has declined and prices fallen. Illegal farming of cocoa is also widespread in the more remote parts of the country. The country is self-sufficient in consumer goods and exports of manufactured goods – textiles, leather goods, metal products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cement – have been steadily increasing. Colombia has sizeable oil reserves, which are now on stream. Coal deposits are the largest in Latin America, although development of these has been slow. Recent economic performance has been moderate, with annual growth of just over 1 per cent during 2002. In the same year, inflation was 7 per cent, although official unemployment is still close to 20 per cent (the true figure is probably rather higher). The ongoing internal conflict, which shows little sign of resolution at present, is a huge millstone around the country’s neck, as far as prospects for economic development go. Colombia is a member of the Andean Pact and of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración (ALADI), which is seeking to regularise tariffs throughout South America. In addition, Colombia is establishing a three-country free trade zone with Venezuela and Mexico.
Businesspeople are expected to dress smartly. English is widely understood in many business circles; the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an official translation service, and there are a number of commercial interpreter services. A command of Spanish is always appreciated. Business visitors will sometimes be invited out to dinner, which may be preceded by a long cocktail party, with a meal starting around 2300. The best months for business visits are March to November. The business community generally takes holidays from September to February, the driest months. It is advisable to avoid Barranquilla in June and July. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800.
Confederación Colombiana de Cámaras de Comercio (CONFECAMARAS) (National Chamber of Commerce)
Apdo Aéreo 29750, Carrera 13, 27-47, Oficina 502, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: (1) 346 7055.
Edificio Bancafe, Calle 28, 13A-15, Piso 37, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: (1) 341 2066.
Colombian Government Trade Bureau in the USA
1901 L Street, Suite 700, NW, Washington DC, 20036, USA
Tel: (202) 887 9000.
CORFERIAS (National Centre of Trade Fairs)
Carrera 40, 22C-67, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: (1) 381 0000.