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Archive for May, 2010

Tips for Colombian visa applications

by Alex on May.26, 2010, under Blog

So you’ve decided that Colombia is such a great place that the six months that your tourist visa gives you is not enough (click here for info on how to extend your tourist visa). You now want to set up a business, work for a Colombian company, become an ‘entrepreneur’, invest (at least USD 100,000) or study here – great decision…

Details of the myriad visa options are available here

Below are my top tips for the process of applying for a Colombian visa:

  • Do not pay for anyone to ‘help’ you with your visa application, this is a waste of your money, the process is not difficult
  • Some visas require that a public accountant provide you with a certificate of funds or monies invested in Colombia (along with a notarised copy of his or her licence). To acquire a certificate does not necessarily mean that you have to have these funds in Colombia, or indeed have said funds… In Bogotá, there are a plethora of accountants with very very small offices in a mall on the corner of Carrera 8 with Calle 16, diagonally opposite the Cámera de Comercio. There you may find that a foreign bank statement showing that you have access to funds will suffice for the acquiring of your certificate
  • To apply for many types of visas you have to do so from a Colombian embassy or consulate outside of Colombia. Before leaving Colombia, take everything you need for your application (detailed per visa via the link above) to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (MRE) where they will verify that everything is in order, or advise you of any changes you need to make. MRE in Bogotá is on Carerra 13 between Calles 93 and 93a, about half a block south of Parque 93. Go early in the day, it closes at 13:00
  • If your visa application requires that you leave Colombia it will cost you much less in Venezuela than in other countries. My visa had a published cost of USD 175. In for example Ecuador or Panamá I would have had to pay, obviously, USD 175. In Venezuela the official exchange rate at the time was 2.6 Bolívares Fuertes (2,600 Bolívares) to the dollar and thus the cost in Bolivares was 455 Bolívares Furetes (455,000 Bolívares). The exchange rate that you get when buying Bolívares in the casas de cambio or in the street either side of the border is much much better than the official exchange rate, the 455 Bolívares Fuertes cost me about 120,000 pesos which is about USD 60
  • To get your visa in Venezuela fly to Cúcuta (Colombia). It may be safer to book a one-way ticket as you don’t know how long it the process will take, if you’re insistent about booking your return then allow 3 days to be in the safe side. Aires do one way flights for about COP 90,000 it is no cheaper pro rata to buy a return. From Cúcuta you cross the border to San Antonio (full name San Antonio del Táchira)
  • If you are trying to save your pennies do not get a taxi from Cúcuta airport, you will likely be over-charged. Walk to the main road outside of the airport where you can get a bus to the terminal for COP 1,300 (and from there a bus to the border for a further 1,300) or negotiate the taxi fair to the border – 12,000 COP is a fair price to pay
  • Cross the border early, visa applications are accepted between 07:00 and 12:00
  • Once across the border, although it’s not far to the Colombian consulate, a motorbike taxi will cost you about COP 2,000. The address of the consulate, according to a website I’ve just found, is Calle 5 No. 12 – 39
  • You need a photocopy of your passport page(s) that show your exit stamp from Colombia and entry stamp to Venezuela, there is a place opposite the consulate that will do copies (at an inflated price)
  • If you are lucky the ‘nice lady’ in the consulate might process your visa on the day you arrive, or she might not… If you need to come back the next day then consider travelling the hour or so by bus to San Cristóbal (Venezuela) – a chance to see a bit of a different country and a for a great night out head to Barrio Obrero
  • It costs to leave Venezuela, at the time I went 65 Bolívares Furetes
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Santandercito – a day trip from Bogotá

by Alex on May.14, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

Or a couple of days in the countryside, either way, it’s a great place to go to escape the hecticosity of the city…

The first part of the journey across town to Portal del Sur on Bogotá’s transmilenio is as quick as you might like, dedicated bus lanes avoiding the seemingly constant congestion of the capital:

transmilenio

OK, so that picture was taken on the only day sans congestion, that’s not the point…

From Portal del Sur take a green ‘alimentador’ (feeder bus) to the Terminal del Sur, the cost of the journey is included in your Transmilenio ticket, buses leave every 20 minutes and the journey takes about 4 minutes. Alternatively, it’s a 10 min walk west along the autopista. At the Terminal del Sur get a bus towards Mesitas del Colegio to Bella Vista, price 8,000 COP. It’s not long before you pass the city limits and the views start to pick up…

salto-de-tequendama-1

The Salto de Tequendama (above) is stunning to say the least. There are plenty of eateries at viewpoints opposite the falls and in fact it would not be a bad idea to get a ticket to the falls, hang there for a while soaking in the view and smells of barbecuing meats mixed with the stench of most of Bogotá’s sewerage that it seems flows over the falls, then catch another bus the twenty or so minutes on to Bella Vista.

Although only an hour out of Bogotá it feels as if it could be 5, 10, 15, whatever. Warm (18-22 degrees year-round) and with beautiful views of the mountains to east and west, Bella Vista is a one horse town with two petrol stations and half a dozen or so purveyors of food that probably exists only to service passing traffic – muy tranquillo indeed:

bella-vista

Just uphill of the Santandercito road is a great arepera that does arepas in the Boyacense style, if you’re after a snack. If you are not going to stay in Santandercito, you might want to wander the 100 or so metres down the main road to the Parque Temático Orquideas del Tequendama and continue your relaxation with some prettiness. Entrance is 7,000 COP which includes a guided tour and a tinto.

orquideas-1

If you are going to stay then walk down the Santandercito road from Bella Vista. After about 10 minutes you pass the Alto de la Palma hotel on the right hand side, it’s expensive and I’ve read some pretty dire reviews. About two minutes further on you come across a road on the left (this is the first turning since taking the Santandercito road from the highway). This road leads to Santandercito village and a few buildings down on the right hand side is Hotel El Prado run by Carlos Ortega (tel. 316 613 9972). Double rooms cost 50,000 – 60,000 COP per night. Continue down the road from the hotel to get to the village centre:

santandercito-plaza_0

The highlight of the town square is spectacular hand-made ice cream from a shop opposite the square from the church. There are a few bars and eateries and down-hill from the church is a shop/cafe run by Gustavo, a friendly Venezuelan who speaks good English. There is also a pizzeria in town.

You can usually get a bus back to Bogotá from Bella Vista, if you are visiting over a bank holiday weekend or other busy period it is worth the effort to book a bus from the office on the left hand side of the road that leaves the square opposite the church – during busy periods buses passing through Bella Vista can be full and a long wait can be had waiting to get back to town…

Click here for orchid garden pictures and here for pictures of Santandercito.

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