Guide to Driving In Colombia - Drive Safe in Colombia

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Colombia?

Driving in Colombia

Colombia has been a very dangerous country in the past, mainly because of drug trafficking. Whilst it's still very relevant, the related crime is less than it has been. That said, it's best to stick to only the tourist areas and don't travel too far at night; on foot or in a car.
 

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

The law states that everyone in a moving car in Colombia must wear a seat belt. The law is rarely followed by rear seat passengers and often not by the driver.

Drinking and Driving

The drink driving laws in Colombia are stricter than in the UK. You can have only 40 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. This is half the allowable amount in the UK and means that even a single drink will take you over the limit. Don’t risk it, leave the car keys at home when you go out for a drink.

Must Have Documents

You can drive for a month with your domestic licence accompanied by an international driving permit. After a month you must apply for a local licence by taking a test. You must also have a minimum of third party insurance and a health insurance card, both issued by a Colombian insurance company. 

Speed Limits

The speed limits for Colombia are as follows:
 
Open roads:   80 km/h
In Town:        60 km/h  
Highways     100 km/h

Minimum Driving Age

You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Colombia. If you're renting a car the minimum age is 23 and some companies will insist that you have at least a year’s experience of driving. Under 25 and you’re likely to have to pay a premium for your lack of experience and age.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Safety camera warning devices are legal in Colombia but we do not recommend their use – instead, stick to the speed limit.

On the Spot Fines

Colombia is trying to stamp out corruption across all areas of government and is making progress in the police force. Theoretically, you should be given a ticket for any motoring offences and be told where to pay the fine. Some police will try to ‘collect the fine’ on the spot but if you can safely refuse you should do so.

Child Safety Rules

In Colombia, there are no specific rules for child safety in vehicles, it is up to the adults to take adequate precautions. If you are intending to travel with children in Colombia, tell us your requirements when you book and we’ll ensure that the appropriate seating system is fitted for your arrival.

Insurance

A minimum of third party insurance, purchased locally, is compulsory in Colombia and you must carry proof of it by way of a valid certificate. You must also have medical cover, also from a Colombian insurance company.

Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road
 
Standard international driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
 
Colombia loves speed bumps
Petrol or gasoline is sold in US gallons
You should use dipped headlights during the day on Colombia’s highways
Colombians drive on the right

Towing Regulations

There are no specific rules for towing a vehicle in Colombia, just use your common sense and make sure the vehicle is securely attached and that you have good visibility.

Speed Cameras

Colombia is increasing the number of fixed cameras monitoring it’s road network and are often poorly signed, the police are also very fond of mobile traps. If you are stopped, try to avoid paying a fine there and then, instead, ask for a ticket and pay it where indicated.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

It’s illegal to talk or text on a mobile phone in Colombia whilst driving unless you have a hands free kit.

Parking

Parking regulations
 
Parking is simple in many towns in Colombia but in the business and commercial districts of the larger cities, you’ll face more regulation. This usually means the use of parking bays controlled by meters and ticket machines or areas where you cannot park, usually demarcated by white or yellow lines.  
 
Paid parking
 
In the main cities you’ll find a lot of ‘pay for’ parking and it’s best to use these for safety of your car and yourself. Better still, use a commercial attended parking area or garage where you’ll be a lot safer.
 
Enforcement
 
Enforcement of parking is not widespread and it’s only if you cause an obstruction or overstay your ticket by a substantial period that you’ll encounter problems. 
 
Disabled parking
 
Parking concessions for the disabled are limited in Colombia. You’ll find special parking spaces in many of the garages and especially the hotels but they’re often used selfishly by able-bodied drivers. If you need significant help, ask the garage attendant to assist you.

Motor Way Signs

The majority of the roads in Colombia are two-way highways with one lane for outbound and one lane for inbound traffic. You may come across the Autopista Norte, which links Bogota and the towns of Sogamoso and Tunja. There are also several dual carriageways but on the whole the road network is currently fairly underdeveloped. 

Phrases

  • Give way - Ceda el paso
  • Traffic lights - Semaforas
  • Right of way – Prioridad
  • Exit – Salida
  • Danger – Peligro
  • No parking - Prohibido aparcar
  • Slow – Despacio
  • Lane – Un carril
  • City centre – Centro ciudad
  • Carretera – Local Highway
  • Roadworks – Obras
  • Where is the nearest petrol station? – ¿Donde es la gasolinera la más cercana?
  • Excuse me, I’m lost – Por favor, estoy perdido…
  • Go straight on – ‘Siga todo recto’
  • Turn right – ‘Toma el giro a la derecha’
  • Turn left – ‘Toma el giro a la izquierda’
  • Detour - Desviacion
  • Toll Road – Carretera de Peaje
  • Road Closed – Cerrado.
  • Road Open – Abierto
  • Motorway – Una autopista
  • One way street – Direccíon unica
  • Dual Carriageway - Autovia

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are commonplace in the cities and larger towns, less so in rural areas. They follow the same sequencing system as in the US and are familiar to most drivers. It’s common for drivers to jump red lights but this should only be considered at night when there’s the risk of carjacking and even then you must proceed with caution and realise that it is against the law.

Toll Roads

Camino Colombia is the name of the 22-mile stretch of road which is electronically tolled. Also known as the State Highway 255, tolls are paid for automatically meaning you do not have to stop. They are pre-paid with either a TxTag or a Camino Colombia day pass. Using this highway can help travellers avoid traffic congestion. The day pass is the best option for international travellers and can be applied for over the phone. A standard 2-axle vehicle for a one-day pass will cost $3.99. 

An additional prominent toll road in Colombia is the Rio Magdalena Toll Road. As there are several toll roads through out Colombia it is always advisable to plan your trip in advance and ensure you have the correct means of paying the toll. 

Emergency

In almost all parts of Colombia, the emergency number is 112 but in Bogota, Medellin and Cucuta the number is 123

What to do in an emergency

If you have a problem with your car you should first contact the number given to you by the local agent who should be able to assist. If you are driving a private car, make sure you take a number of an emergency assistance company with you. 
 
In the event of an accident you must call the police. Do not move the vehicles unless they are causing a danger to other road users. The police will issue a report which you will need for your insurers or for the car hire company.

Fuel Costs

As of October 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Colombia is 70p whilst diesel is 62p. Prices can vary between the cities and towns and the smaller villages.
 

Comments

  Pavel
Hello there, i just got in Peru, but 14 days ago i was driving in Colombia with AVIS rent-a-car, today 1000$ was blocked from my bank acc from AVIS because of a tickets from speed cameras. According to the info here there is no cameras static devices in Colombia at all. Please give me some more info if you have. kind regards
3/8/2016 2:43:37 PM
  Matty
That statement is definitly incorrect. In Cali they have static speedcameras all over the place, many unmarked or poorly marked so look out or it will cost you.
1/18/2017 8:57:48 PM
Cian
Lots of bad information. Theres loads of toll roads. Has been for years. 10000 pesos is very common. Very high. It doesn't mean a better road. Petrol/gasoline is sold in US gallons - not imperial which is bigger than US. I dont think the author ever drove here. Motorway? Jajaja.. where? I've driven all over. 
2/18/2017 10:48:01 PM

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