Whether you’re looking for nature, the party scene or quality coffee, Colombia will not fail to deliver. This South American treasure is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the cities are hopping with culture and of course, the nation gave us Shakira.
Colombia’s appeal as a tourist destination has blossomed over the past decade or so. Backpackers love it for its affordability but luxury ecotourism has skyrocketed too. Home to monkeys, jaguars, sloths, and tapirs, and hundreds upon hundreds of birds, it catapults you right into a David Attenborough documentary.
We can ramble on about the delights of Colombia all day. But today, we’ve prepared a special treat for you. Our topic of the day is (drumroll, please), Colombia travel insurance!
Do I Need Travel Insurance For Colombia?
Part of the allure of Colombia might be down to its reputation for being just a teensy bit dangerous – it certainly appealed to me anyway. We’re not going to deny that the nation has a sketchy reputation for crime, but in reality, things in Colombia have come a long way since the bloodthirsty days of the 80’s. Travel insurance is not a mandatory requirement for entering the country but you should certainly think about it.
Civil unrest and protests do occur in Colombia but overall, the nation is currently more stable than neighbouring Latino countries. As a tourist, any political activity shouldn’t affect you much, but the FCO recommends steering clear of such events. Note that getting involved can void travel insurance.
Express kidnapping (secuestro exprés) used to be an issue in Colombia but reported instances have decreased significantly since 2016. Nowadays in Colombia, you’re far more likely to be the victim of pickpocketing. Or twisting your ankle while trying to salsa after too many shots of aguardiente…
Healthcare in Colombia
Good news for accident-prone wanderers planning on hitting up Colombia! Healthcare in Colombia is rated to be the best in Latin America. It ranks at #22 in the world, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) coming in at way ahead of the US at #37. Furthermore, 18 of the top 44 Latin American hospitals can be found in Colombia! So if you do need to flex your Colombia travel insurance in Bogotà, you’re in safe, hygienic hands. However, whilst the statistics may say one thing, the on the ground reality can be quite different.
The healthcare system in Colombia is three-tiered. Colombians living in poverty receive free, government-subsidised attention but the standard is pretty low and access to care can be non-existent in rural parts of the country. Medicina Prepagada is Colombia’s private healthcare system and is available to tourists in Colombia who require it and can pay for it.
Medical care in Colombia is much cheaper than in the US or Europe and a consultation with a general practitioner will start at around COP$40,000 ($10- USD). Specialists will set you back from around COP$150,000 ($39 USD). But diagnostics, treatments, and medicines can soon add up, making that travel insurance in Colombia look pretty tasty.
Note that you may be asked to pay upfront even when you are bleeding, I was refused help at an emergency hospital because I did not have my insurance certificate on me so either carry it with you, or make sure you have a major credit card to show.
Your final takeaway is that making an appointment at a Colombian hospital or clinic is easy as pie, and the Colombian way is that healthcare is available for everyone. Some hospitals will request proof of your Colombian travel insurance or payment upfront before non-emergency treatment.
Crime in Colombia
When in Colombia, ‘don’t give papaya’. This is a Colombian saying which basically means, don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Don’t flash your cash, don’t waggle your new iPhone around, and don’t sport too much bling. Theft is rife in Colombia and is the main crime to be wary of as a tourist. This might be from sly pickpocketing or more aggressive tactics.
Be very cautious about ‘Devil’s Breath’; tourists are spiked by this horrible drug in bars and clubs and then robbed by the perpetrator – sometimes they lead their victims to ATMs and instruct targets to flush their bank accounts. Covering your valuables on your travel insurance in Colombia is therefore well worth thinking about.
We’ve all heard about Pablo Escobar and know that Colombia is famous for its relaxed approach to drugs that are illegal in most countries. Carrying a small amount of marijuana or cocaine on your person isn’t a crime in Colombia but selling and buying drugs IS illegal. Dealers target holidaymakers, particularly the backpacker crowd, by loitering around hostels, nightclubs, and tourist attractions. Scams are common; don’t be lured in by ‘free samples’ offered on the street.
Kidnappings have reduced by a whopping 92% since 2000. Plus, the homicide rate in Colombia is on the decrease and has stabilised since 2014. In 2019, there were approximately 25.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in Colombia. Gun violence is rare enough not to raise an eyebrow, and the risk of terrorism is lower than, say, London. The influx in tourism and Colombia as a digital nomad utopia has certainly helped polish up Colombia’s shady side.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you - pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it's perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Issues Facing Travellers in Colombia
Things can go wrong on the road in any country, and Colombia is no different. These are the main issues where snapping up that travel insurance for visitors to Colombia can come in handy.
- Theft – we’ve covered this already but just to hammer home that this is the situation that is most likely to arise in Colombia. Pickpocketing, muggings, spiked drinks, and withdrawing cash from ATMs up your risk. We’ve rounded up the best insurance for your trip to Colombia should this happen.
- Natural hazards – 15 active volcanoes are found in Colombia. Activity rarely causes much of a disturbance, but visitors to Colombia might do to seek protection travel insurance. Same goes for earthquakes (which happen regularly) and flooding that can impact tours and transport.
- Infectious diseases – dengue, Zika and other mosquito-borne infections are common in Colombia. Wear protection and get your travel jabs. Be mindful of heat exhaustion and altitude sickness, which can make you feel unwell although rarely warrants hospitalisation.
and let us not forget misadventure. The rum flows freely and a certain white powder is very popular amongst backpackers. We’re not here to preach but take it from us, it is easy to get carried away and cardiac arrests from over-indulgence are pretty common. Note that most travel insurers, will not want to pay out if your claim is related to drink or drugs in any way.
Common Activities in Colombia
Marvellous Colonial architecture, cultured cities, Latino charm, and fresh coffee beckons wanderers to Colombia. You can fill your days with a myriad of activities that are totally safe. But most visitors want to encounter the great outdoors and try a couple of activities – such as…
- Trekking – One of the main things to do in Colombia is lace up your hiking boots and move your legs. The nation is littered with dense rainforests, national parks, cascading waterfalls, and scenic valleys. There’s the phenomenal Lost City trail. Colombia is best explored on foot, so try not to break one.
- Wildlife tours – Including whale watching cruises, birdwatching in the Amazon, and scuba diving in Colombia’s Caribbean coastline. Stepping into the jungle increases your risk of being bitten by something, and diving may or may not be in your Colombia travel insurance by default
- Surfing – One of the most popular things to do in Colombia is hit the surf. It’s not a bad place for beginners, and it’s a great way to cool down from the Latino heat!
Once you’ve sussed out what you want to do in Colombia, look at your travel insurance options closely. We know it’s dreary, but the cheapest travel insurance might not cover your Colombia wishlist. Bear in mind you might need to tick a couple of optional extras.
What Should Travel Insurance in Colombia Cover?
As a rule, most Colombia travel insurance will include the following;
- Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses
- Baggage and Personal Property
- Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
- Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
- Trip Cancellation
- Trip Interruption
These are key terms to look out for when comparing insurance policies. Let’s take a closer look at what each one of these actually means.
Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses
The headline for most travel insurance policies is emergency medical costs. If you are in a car crash or come down with meningitis, you want to rest easy knowing that any ensuing medical costs will be taken care of.
In case you have never seen a medical bill, let us assure you that they can be expensive. Our founder Will Hatton once racked up costs of $10,000 in Costa Rica and then a nasty infection in Thailand cost him $2,000.00 for just 2 days in hospital. Ouch.
Pre-existing medical and health conditions may not be covered or may come at an additional premium.
Ideally, Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical insurance should offer at least $100,000.00 of coverage.
Baggage and Personal Property
Baggage and Personal Stuff coverage covers the value of your personal property. It’s most common application is for lost luggage and. Many policies also extend this to cover “on the ground” theft.
The limits on this vary between policies but rarely exceed $1000 with a maximum item value between usually up to $500.
This is fine for many travellers but if you travel with a lot of electrical gear (laptop & camera), you may also wish to think about taking out a separate gadget cover.
Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency evacuation covers the cost of sending you back to your home country in a sickbed. Let’s say that the above mentioned car crash is a nasty one and the decision is taken to send you home for further treatment; this will take care of the high, associated costs.
Repatriation is the cost of sending your earthly remains home in the tragic event you die overseas. The costs of this are generally huge, and it is not a burden I would want to leave to my family. Whilst this is rare, every now and then I do come across a Facebook or “Go Fund Me” page for somebody’s body to be flown home.
Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
Non-medical Emergency Evacuation is when you have to be evacuated from your destination because of some unexpected crisis. Classic examples are outbreaks of war/civil unrest and earthquakes that decimate infrastructure. In recent times, the Corona COVID-19 outbreak created the biggest international emergency evacuation situation ever. (FYI – it straddled both the medical and non-medical evacuation boundaries).
Emergency evac insurance covers the costs of having to book a last minute flight (which can be expensive) and will also cover accommodation costs if you end up being flown to a random, “safe” country rather than going straight home.
Being forced to cancel a trip you were looking forward to sucks. But being left out of pocket just rubs salt into that festering wound. Trip Cancellation cover can help you recover non-refundable costs such as booked flights and hotel costs.
Note that you can’t claim under this simply because you changed your mind or broke up with your boyfriend. Acceptable cancellation reasons are things like sickness, family emergencies, bereavement, natural disaster and war – you get the gist.
Trip Interruption is when something goes wrong with a part of your trip leaving you out of pocket. For example, when your hotel burns down and you are forced to book another one. Or when your flight home is cancelled and you need a few extra nights at your hotel. These are just a few examples of when you may need to reply on trip interruption.
The above is what we consider to be the basic, bare-bones of travel insurance policies. However, some policies do offer a few more aspects and the best Colombia travel insurance policies may also offer the following;
Adventure Sports and Activities
Note that some travel insurance policies do not cover adventure sports and activities. The definition of adventure sports and activities does vary between providers but for example, can include;
- Muay Thai
- Soccer practice….
If you are even considering doing anything physical or outdoorsy on your trip, it is wise to check that your insurance provider is covering it. Broken ankles hurt enough without having a $5k Doctors bill attached to them.
Accidental Death and Dismemberment
This one doesn’t cover any travel related expenses but instead it basically provides you, or your family with some compensation in the event that something awful happens to you. If you die, your loved ones get a payout. Or, if you lose a finger or something, YOU get a payout.
It’s like having a bit of life cover attached to your travel insurance. I know that not everybody is altogether comfortable with the concept of pay-outs for life & limb – I guess it kind of goes something like this;
“Well dear, I’m afraid there is good new and bad news. The bad news is that our beloved son little Jimmy died on his trip to Colombia. The good news is that we get $10k! Colombia here WE come!”
Gear and Electronics Cover
Some insurance policies cover electronic gadgets and some don’t. Those that do, may charge an additional fee, and they generally limit the maximum item value. If you only travel with a phone or tablet, your travel insurer may well cover it entirely. On the other hand, if you are traveling with a decent laptop then you may wish to consider obtaining gadget cover.
I have personally had gadget cover on my MacBook Pro for years.
What Is The Best Colombia Travel Insurance?
Whilst they may all seem the same, not all insurers are. Some insurers offer lower prices than others and others offer higher coverage amounts. Some are infamous for not paying claims whilst others are celebrated for being fair and helpful.
Travel insurers – always the same yet always different. It isn’t possible (or legal) for us to say that anyone of them is the best, or is “better” than the others. No. Insurance is a very complex product and any policy takes into account a whole lot of data and a wide set of variables.
Remember that the “best” travel insurance always depends on where you are going, when you are going there and ultimately upon you and your needs. The best travel insurer for one trip, may not be the best for a different trip.
Below, we will introduce a few of the many travel insurance providers on offer. These are all firms we have used ourselves over the years.
|What is Covered?||World Nomads Standard Plan||World Nomads Explorer Plan||Iata Seguros||SafetyWing||Columbus Direct|
|Emergency Accident & Sickness||$100,000||$100,000||$200,000||$250,000||$1,000,000|
|Baggage & Personal Property||$1000||$3000||$1000||$3000||$750|
|Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation||$300,000||$500,000||100% of cost||$100,000||$1,000,000|
|Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation||$25,000||$25,000||$0||$10,000||$0|
|Trip Interruption||$2500||$10,000||100% of cost||$5000||$750|
Named after one of history’s greatest (and most divisive explorers), Columbus Direct also specialise in insuring adventure-hungry explorers like us. They have been providing award-winning insurance for 30 years. What we like about this plan is that it does cover small amounts of personal cash. However, Gadget Cover is not available.
Columbus Direct actually offers a number of different travel insurance plans. Below we have focused on 1 of these and have set out the coverage amounts for the Globetrotter plan. As Colombia is name after Columbus, it would be plain rude not to even consider these guys!
If you need more information or want to get a quote, then you can visit the website for yourself.
World Nomads have been insuring backpackers for years now. World Nomads specialise in backpacker travel insurance and their policies cover long way travel on one way tickets, trips to multiple countries and a whole lot of adventure activities. These guys are well used to dealing with backpackers like us, and they are regularly recommended by travel bloggers and industry insiders. We love them.
They offer 2 different policies depending on your needs. The Standard Plan is standard & the Explorer Plan covers a whole host of high risk, high fun activities. World Nomads are also one of the few travel insurers who will write you a policy after starting your trip. The one downside for us is that they don’t cover Pakistan.
Let’s look at the maximum coverage amounts with both the Standard & Explorer plan.
If you want more info or to get a quote then visit the World Nomads site for yourself and take a look.
Iati Seguros is a Spanish based travel insurance company who we have personally used and loved. You will notice that they provide competitive cover amounts for the key travel insurance areas, and are competitively priced. So far we have heard nothing but good things about them.
They also offer multiple ones, but we have focused on the Standard Plan although we wholly encourage checking out all plans for yourself to identify the best one for your needs.
If you need more information or want to get a quote, then you can visit the website for yourself.
SafetyWing are a relatively new player in the travel insurance space but are already making big waves. They specialise in cover for digital nomads and they offer open ended cover on a monthly subscription basis. Because they primarily cover digital nomads, they don’t offer much in the way of trip cancellation or delay so do take that into consideration.
However, SafetyWing really excels on the health side of travel insurance, covering dental and some complimentary treatments. In fact they even allow young children to be covered for free.
If cancellation and delay is not a concern for you or if you will be spending some considerable time on your trip, then maybe SafetyWing are right for you
If you need more information or want to get a quote, then you can visit the website for yourself.
Insuremyequipment.com does precisely what the name suggests. They are an online insurer for expensive equipment (like camera gear & gold clubs). You can use them to get specific pieces of gear insured but please bear in mind this policy is only for your specified gear.
An Insure My Equipment policy works well in combination with other travel insurance. Insure My Equipment policies are an excellent choice for professionals and backpackers with more $0000’s worth of camera equipment, expensive laptops or fishing rods.
I also know a few travelling musicians and DJs who use these guys so you are in cool company.
How To Choose The Right Colombia Travel Insurance For You
Choosing the right travel insurance for your Colombia holiday is like choosing a pair of shoes. Only you can really say how well they fit, and how many miles you can manage in them.
To decide who the right insurer for you is, you need to add up how much your trip is worth, how much equipment you plan to take with you and what activities you intend to engage in.
You also need to ask yourself how much you can afford. This means how much you can afford to pay for cover but also how much you can afford to be out of pocket in the unlikely event of an incident. Sometimes, the cheapest Colombia travel insurance will be enough and sometimes it will be worth spending a bit more.
Hopefully the information provided in this post will help you to decide. If not, then I guess I just wasted 7 hours of my life in writing it.
Final Thoughts on Colombia Travel Insurance
So that’s it, your comprehensive guide to health, crime and safety in Colombia. By now, you should know what you need to look for when scouting out the best insurance for your Colombia adventure.
Now, breathe in a great big sigh of relief. Time to turn your attention to planning your trip! We’ve got tonnes of insider guides and travel tips for Colombia. Where to stay, what to do, the whole works. Whether you’re travelling on a shoestring or fancy ducking into a deluxe eco-resort, you'll have a blast! Happy travelling, and remember what the Colombians say - don't give papaya!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I've actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.