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    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    What vaccinations are recommended for a trip to Colombia? What are the health risks? What is the health system like? How can I see a doctor, buy medicine in a pharmacy, and protect myself against the most common diseases?

    When traveling to Colombia, it’s important to be aware of the health conditions at your destination, and the diseases you may encounter. This information is important and useful for preparing your trip.

    Here are a few practical tips to bear in mind about health and sanitary conditions in Colombia.

    We were fed up with paying fees abroad

    So for several years now, we’ve been using a free bank debit card specially designed for travelers, and we don’t pay any more fees abroad – no more!

    Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

    Vaccinations for a trip to Colombia

    Health tips for to travel Colombia

    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Let’s start with the question all travelers ask themselves before leaving for Colombia: what vaccinations are recommended for travel to Colombia? Is the yellow fever vaccine compulsory?

    COVID: THE VACCINATION CERTIFICATE IS NO LONGER required to travel Colombia

    The Covid vaccination certificate is no longer required to enter Colombia. Since April 05, 2023, negative tests for unvaccinated persons are also no longer required .

    Health expert recommendations

    According to the U.S Centers of diseas control and prevention, the following vaccines are recommended (not required) for travel to Colombia:

    • Routines vaccines: Make sure you are up-to-date on all routine vaccines (Chickenpox (Varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Polio, Shingles…
    • Yellow fever: for all travelers (+9 months yo) unless travel limited to the cities of Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Medellín or areas >2,300 m (≈7,550 ft) elevation
    • Hepatitis A: for unvaccinated travelers (+1 yo)
    • Typhoid: for most travelers, especially those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities or rural areas.
    • Hepatitis B: for unvaccinated travelers
    • Rabies: for travelers performing activities that increase risk for exposure to potentially rabid animals and/or might have difficulty getting prompt access to safe post-exposure prophylaxis.
    • Malaria: for travelers going to certain areas. Talk to your doctor about which malaria medication you should take.
    • Chikungunya: for People aged +65 yo and extended stays

    Is the yellow fever vaccine required?

    The yellow fever vaccine is not required for entry into Colombia (except for travellers from Brazil, Angola, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo)

    The yellow fever vaccine is only recommended due to the presence of the virus in high-risk areas.

    In high-risk areas

    In a circular dated June 2019, the Ministry of Health clearly reiterates the terms “vaccine recommended” for travel to at-risk zones. You can also check the maps in the CDC website.

    When should I get vaccinated against yellow fever?

    The yellow fever vaccine should be taken at least 10 days before traveling to high-risk areas. Depending on your itinerary, you’ll need to choose between having it done in your home country before you leave, or having it done at a local vaccination center.

    In Colombia, you can vaccine for free.

    Where can I get vaccinated in Colombia against yellow fever?

    It is possible to have the vaccine administered directly in Colombia, free of charge. For example, at Bogota airport and elsewhere in the country. As we explained above, you’ll just have to pay attention to the 10-day period before traveling to a high-risk area.

    A single dose is enough, so if you’ve already had it, there’s no need to do it again. Don’t forget to take your up-to-date vaccination booklet with you, or any other proof of vaccination you may need, such as a list of vaccination centers in Colombia where you can get vaccinated free of charge.

    So, in the end, what should you do?

    As it’s not required, it’s a matter of choice, a matter of personal choice, a matter of taking risks both for your own health.

    It’s up to you to decide whether or not to follow the health authorities’ recommendations. Once again, if in doubt, we advise you to talk with your doctor

    What did we do?

    We mainly got vaccinated against yellow fever, because we are traveling all year long all around the country including remote areas so it made sense for us.

    IMPORTANT REMINDER

    The information provided here is for information purposes only. You alone are responsible for the choices you make regarding vaccination and the consequences this may have on your health.

    Protecting yourself against mosquitoes

    Health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Mosquitoes are very present in Colombia in areas below 1500 m altitude, particularly in hot, humid regions. That’s where you’re most likely to get bitten.

    Mosquitoes tend to come out in the early morning and at dusk, so it’s at these times that you’ll need to be most careful. Mosquitoes are vectors of diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, Zika and others. That’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated against yellow fever, and to follow prevention advice.

    Here are some tips and practical information on how to avoid mosquito bites in Colombia.

    Use mosquito repellent

    The most effective mosquito repellents are those based on Citriodiol, Deet, IR3535 or Icaridine. We prefer not to use Deet, as the smell is really unpleasant and the toxicity too strong from our point of view.

    According to a Que Choisir study of June 2019, here are the 3 most effective mosquito repellents:

    • Autan Family Care: Icaridine-based: we tested it and adopted it for all our travels! Effective, non-sticky, pleasant smell.
    • Mosi-guard with Citriodiol: we tested it, but it smelled too strong for us.
    • Phytosun Aroms Citriodiol-based: not tested.
    • Autan Botanicals Citriodiol-based: untested.

    If, like us, you have to buy one in Colombia, we can recommend “PicoSin” (it has a funny name, but it’s very good!) It’s based on IR3535, doesn’t smell bad like most mosquito repellents, isn’t greasy and is effective.

    Other protection tips

    Cover up as much as possible

    Even if some mosquitoes can bite through clothing, loose-fitting pants and long-sleeved tops reduce the risk. One option is to spray your clothes with mosquito repellent. There are special lotions for clothes that apparently last for a few washes.

    Sleep under a mosquito net

    This is the best option for avoiding mosquitoes at night. Many accommodations in mosquito-infested areas are equipped with them.

    Vitamin B1 cure

    This is another possible solution, the effectiveness of which has yet to be proven. To be taken one or two weeks before leaving for a mosquito-infested area.

    Relieving bites

    Samuel laughs about it because it’s a magic potion to cure everything in Colombia, but applying Vick VapoRub to bites cools them down and reduces the urge to scratch. If this method doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll find Caladryl, a fast-acting lotion that soothes and calms the skin, in pharmacies and supermarkets.

    Practical vocabulary

    • Mosquito repellent: Repelente
    • Mosquitoes: Mosquitos
    • Bite: Picadura
    • Mosquito net: Mosquitero

    Water consumption

    Health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Until recently, it was only in Bogotá that the water was completely potable. The Colombian Tourist Board still advises against drinking tap water outside Bogotá. That said, we found the water to be drinkable in Manizales, and it would appear that this is also the case in Medellin.

    If you’re generally advised against drinking tap water, the best thing to do is ask your hosts what they think.

    In all parts of the country, responsible restaurateurs take tourists seriously and normally use bottled water for their cold drinks, although there may be surprises ;-). Don’t hesitate to ask what water your fruit juice is made from before ordering.

    We’re very careful with water, especially outside Bogotá. For example, we always brush our teeth with bottled water or filtered water when hotels have filters. We don’t take any risks.

    Water restrictions

    Be aware that if you go to poor, remote areas such as La Guajira or the Pacific coast of Choco, access to water is very difficult and consumption may be restricted. Find out what the locals recommend regarding water and its supply.

    Common illnesses

    Health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    The most common health problems encountered by travelers to Colombia are: altitude sickness, gastro or stomach problems, and the “guayabo” or hangover after a night of partying!

    Gastro and other stomach problems

    Having a stomachache or contracting a gastro is one of the most common travel ailments– the famous “turista”! Eating habits change a lot, and our bodies are not used to the local germs.

    In most cases, gastroenteritis isn’t serious, but it can ruin your trip. If it happens to you: eat rice, bananas… and drink a lot. In Colombia, the tradition in such cases is to eat a “caldo de pollo”, a chicken broth, and take a rehydration solution (Pedialyte).

    Local medicines

    In case of diarrhoea, the Colombian pharmacist advised us to take Diosmit which works in the same way as Furall or Smecta.

    Rehydration: to rehydrate quickly in the event of diarrhoea or vomiting, buy Pedialyte at any pharmacy. This drink compensates for the loss of mineral salts and electrolytes. You’ll find it at any pharmacy in Colombia.

    Of course, if symptoms persist or become severe, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor or go to hospital.

    Mountain sickness

    When you arrive in Bogotá, you’re likely to feel tired, short of breath and nauseous – it’s probably mountain sickness, and it’s normal! Your body will have to get used to the altitude – Bogotá is, after all, 2.600 m above sea level, and the Monserrate peaks at over 3.000 m. Normally, though, it’ll pass quickly, and after 2 days you’ll be feeling fine again.

    If you’re planning to hike in the mountains, you should be aware that Colombian peaks can reach altitudes of over 5.000 m, and that it’s quite common on a typical trek to walk at over 4.000 m altitude. So you too can feel this discomfort, which can be more or less intense.

    Symptoms of altitude sickness: dizziness, headache, nausea, reduced physical capacity, difficulty breathing, vomiting..

    Don’t underestimate the risks of mountain sickness, which can be fatal. Don’t hesitate to tell your guide, who will know how to help you.

    Mosquito-borne diseases

    As a tourist, the risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease is relatively low due to the short stay in the country. However, malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever are diseases you may be confronted with if you visit high-risk areas.

    Prevention

    • Get vaccinated and adopt preventive measures against mosquitoes.

    In the event of symptoms

    • Consult a doctor immediately.

    Yellow fever

    • Symptoms: Intense fever, headache, backache, chills, loss of appetite, vomiting.
    • Regions: Amazonia, Arauca, Caquetá, Casanare, Cesar, Guanía, Guaviare, Meta, Putumayo and Vichada, Magdalena.

    Malaria

    • Symptoms: Fever over 40°C, chills, excessive sweating, weakness, general malaise.
    • Regions: Pacific coast, Choco department, Uraba, Amazonia and Valle del Cauca.

    Dengue

    • Symptoms: Fever above 40°C, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting and rash.
    • Regions: Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, Santander and Meta.

    Zika

    • Symptoms: Fever, not necessarily high, red eyes with no discharge or itching, rash (white or red pimples), joint pain, headache, backache.

    Doctors, medication

    Health tips for a trip to Colombia

    Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia

    As with any trip, it’s advisable to take out insurance to cover any eventuality, and Colombia is no exception. With the COVID crisis, health can be a concern during a trip, and travel insurers have adapted to offer protective measures for travelers.

    Seeing a doctor in Colombia

    As far as medical cover is concerned, Colombia has good health professionals, and hospitals, public and private clinics and health posts are spread throughout the country. That said, it’s to be expected that the quality of care will differ between Bogotá and the Colombian countryside. There’s a big disparity here.

    In terms of price, to give you an idea, a consultation with a general practitioner costs around $50.000 COP and with a specialist between $100.000 and $200.000 COP. However, if you happen to need specific tests, or hospitalization, this can be very expensive, so it’s best to take out insurance for peace of mind.

    To illustrate this, we can tell you that on our last trip to Colombia we had the experience of going to the emergency room, once in Pereira, with a kidney stone attack for Sam, and me in Necocli, with a nice gastro. We were both well looked after in public hospitals. Samuel’s tests didn’t exceed $200.000 COP, but the doctor did mention the possibility of a CT scan, but advised against it if we didn’t have insurance, as it could have cost us millions!

    Travel insurance covers this type of expense, so it’s worth taking one out for your trip to Colombia. If you go through a local travel agency for a tailor-made tour of Colombia, make sure you’re covered.

    You should know that if you buy your plane tickets with your credit card, you have VISA insurance, which covers you in part. That said, the coverage is much less than specialized travel insurance. We therefore prefer to advise you to take out real travel insurance.

    Buying medicines in Colombia

    Common medicines are readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets, and are fairly inexpensive.

    Don’t be surprised, though: pharmacies in Colombia don’t just sell medicines, you’ll also find sweets, toys, make-up, cell phone refills and much more.

    PRACTICAL VOCABULARY

    Pharmacy: Droguería
    Doctor : Médico
    Hospital: Hospital
    Emergency : Urgencias
    Headache: Dolor de cabeza
    Stomach ache: Dolor de estomago
    Head spinning: Mareo
    Envie de vomir: Ganas de vomitar
    Diarrhea: Diarrea
    Mountain sickness: Soroche

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    Authors

    Angélica & Samuel

    We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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    12 thoughts on “Vaccines and health tips for a trip to Colombia”

    1. Wow! I’ve been reading these articles for a while now and the information is really relevant! Thank you so much! I’m about to visit Colombia for the first time and I had a lot of questions. I’ve now answered several of them! Thanks a lot!

      Reply
    2. Hello, I’m writing this message here, I could have done it on one of the many posts I’ve already read on your blog! I haven’t gotten around to it yet… it shouldn’t be long 😉
      Thank you so much, your blog is a gold mine! Even for someone who’s already been to Colombia twice. We’re going back this summer and I hope to be able to return the favor by booking activities with your partners!
      best regards,
      marine

      Reply
    3. Good evening,
      we were inspired by your blog to prepare our trip,

      We are in Armenia with my daughter, who has health problems. She needs to see a gynecologist quickly or a good doctor, but we can’t find one. Can you help us?
      Thank you

      Reply
      • Hi Beatrice, we’ve sent you an e-mail directly. Sorry to hear about your worries, unfortunately we can’t really help you like this from France, we’re just a small travel blog and don’t have contacts of doctors all over Colombia…

        The best thing to do from our point of view is to talk about it with people around you, at your hotel reception, take advice, etc. Finding local help is the best thing to do.

        If no one around you can help you, you can also contact the French Embassy in Colombia to see if they can advise you, or the Alliance française d’Armenia.

        The last option is to go to the Armenia hospital emergency room, where you can be directed to the appropriate hospital services.

        And if you’ve taken out travel insurance, don’t forget to call them before seeking medical attention.

        Hoping that all goes well for you
        All the best

        Reply
    4. Hello,

      Thank you for your answer about whatsapp, I thought I read that in the conditions of the packages did not include calls, nor visio, but my Spanish may not be very good yet..

      I have another question: in terms of health, you only mention yellow fever, whereas the International Vaccine Institute has suggested others: typhoid fever, hepatitis A and rabies. What do you think of this?

      Mercid ‘avance

      Reply
      • Hello, for whatsapp calls they consume from your internet package and not minutes. For normal calls you have a quantity of minutes included in the package as well. It’s up to you to decide which package suits your needs.

        Concerning vaccines, as we said in the article, the only vaccine that’s really compulsory in some places is the yellow fever vaccine. After that, the travel doctor may recommend other vaccines, but that’s up to you. For our part, we only took the yellow fever vaccine.

        Reply
        • Good evening

          Yes, I know it’s very personal when it comes to choosing vaccines, but I was wondering about the rabies vaccine in particular. And if your wife, who I understand is Colombian, had to have it in her country. Is it recommended for the locals? Is it a common disease there?

          Thank you very much, soon the big departure for me 😀😀

          Reply
          • Claire, the only vaccine that is compulsory for certain regions is yellow fever, after that it’s up to you to decide. As for rabies, what can I tell you… there have been 2 deaths in Colombia in the last 2 years, mainly due to care not being provided in time… I don’t know if this will help you make your choice. For her part, Angélica doesn’t remember having been vaccinated against rabies. But it’s the same as for hepatitis A, tetanus, etc. Once again, it’s up to you!

            Reply
    5. Hello,

      I adopted my son in Colombia 17 years ago,we’re going back in February 2019 to visit his country of birth.My husband has medical problems so he can’t get vaccinated for yellow fever.So I’m wondering in what area we can go? Can you give me some information
      Thank you in advance

      Sandrine

      Reply