why we got insurance for colombia

Why we Got Travel Insurance for Colombia

Colombia is a pretty safe country to travel to for visitors, but it is a mecca for adventure sports and activities.  Unlike in other countries, it’s not a mandatory requirement to have travel insurance to enter the country, but it’s a sensible move.  Whether you plan on hiking at altitude, heading out on multi-day treks, or even just heading to the capital city, Bogota, then having medical cover is a sensible precaution.  Even Bogota is at an altitude of 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) above sea level. In this article, we’ll share why we considered and bought Colombia travel insurance.

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How Does Travel Insurance Differ from Regular Health Insurance?

You’ll need to check the specifics of what your own regular health insurance covers and then look at what additional coverage you might want.  Travel insurance can cover you for cancellations, emergency medical treatment, and the loss of personal belongings.  This could mean coverage if your flight is canceled through no fault of your own, or your bag is stolen, your wallet is pickpocketed or you fall ill while you’re in Colombia, then travel insurance can cover you. It all depends on the specifics of the policy that you buy.

Why do I take out travel insurance for Colombia?

Travel insurance gives me peace of mind – that if my bag is stolen, that if I get sick, that if my flight is canceled that I’ll still be able to either continue with my trip or return home without being significantly out of pocket.  We’ve had to return home early, twice in the last few years for family emergencies and I can tell you that last-minute tickets are not cheap.  Luckily our claims were dealt with quickly and efficiently – without which we’d have been nearly US$10,000 out of pocket

TLDR:  Get a quote for Colombia travel insurance here.  Even if you’re already traveling.

And while if you get sick in Colombia, the local medical care isn’t that expensive, should you require transport back home, well that can be expensive.  Really expensive.  Losing your laptop or phone?  Yeah, that’ll hurt too. 

So for me, taking out travel insurance for Colombia certainly gives me a lot more confidence to go out and enjoy Colombia – to take the trek that we wanted to, to go diving, and to explore the street food scene.

I try to avoid unforeseen costs with travel insurance

This is the primary reason I buy travel insurance – to travel without worrying about unforeseen costs that we can’t afford.  I don’t have US$10,000 sitting in my account on the off chance that I have to return home in an emergency.  And that’s why we buy travel insurance.

I buy travel insurance in case my gear goes missing, gets stolen, or breaks

Colombia is generally quite a safe place to travel to these days, but opportunistic thefts do happen.  Wallets get pickpocketed.  It could be focusing so much on taking amazing photos, that you don’t zip up your bag.  Or, for us, our camera got sand in it. (that was in Mui Ne, Vietnam)  I don’t advise running down a sand dune with a camera in an unzipped pocket. Really.  Things like this always happen at the worst possible times. 

Our policy included accidental damage for our gadgets, including specifically our camera.  You’ll need to check specific coverage details for gadgets and the policy that you buy to confirm that you’re covered.

Travel insurance can cover you if you need to cancel your trip

And heck we’ve had a lot of cancellations over the last couple of years, right?  There are policies available whether you need to cancel because of weather, or because of family issues.  That’s where travel insurance for Colombia can help you out.  You won’t be out of pocket for something out of your control, again this all depends on the specific policy that you buy.

You’ll notice that I use the word “can” all the time.  That’s because each policy is different.  And policy wording is really important.  I can’t give you advice on which specific policy to buy, you need to check that for yourself, what I can do is share what decisions we took and what was important for us.

So, I’ll continue.

There is a high risk of road traffic accidents in Colombia

The number of road traffic accidents in Colombia increased to 13.5  people per 100,000 population in 2017.  An increase of 20% from 2010 to 2017. In 2020 the rate had risen to 14.72 per hundred thousand people.  It’s not the worst country in the world for road traffic accidents, but it’s not the best either.

We spend a lot of our travel in Colombia on buses that drove down roads that were pretty awful compared to what we’re used to at home. 

Serious crime is low in Colombia, but opportunistic robberies can be a problem

While the rates of serious crime amongst foreign visitors are low you should still be aware of your surroundings and protect valuables, regardless of whether you have travel insurance or not.

We always travel with a portable safe from Pacsafe and secure our valuables in it in the room when we leave.  Our 15-liter Pacsafe can fit two laptops, two kindles, a camera, passports, and money in it. 

Some insurance policies require that your valuables be locked securely away when you’re not with them, and as I’ve mentioned we’ve had gadgets replaced during our travels because of accidental damage, but for me, using a Pacsafe to prevent opportunistic theft is worth it because the hassle of losing something while you’re away is a huge pain.

That’s the same with our online information.  Losing your personal digital data is a nightmare and an even bigger hassle, than breaking a camera.  That’s why we always use a VPN. I wrote about the best VPNs for Colombia here.

We lost a passport on one trip.  And I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that makes it.  Luckily, we were on a one-country trip at the time and were due to return home at the end of it.  Emergency documents basically get you home, where you have to apply for a new passport.  So if you’re on a multi-country trip and lose your passport, then you’ll (most likely) be heading home before you can continue.

But yes, Colombia travel insurance should cover you for this, but again, this will depend on each individual policy – so read the small print and check!

Adventure activities come with higher risks of injury

If you’re anything like us, then you’re coming to Colombia to experience the whole country and the great outdoors. I imagine you’ll want to hike, perhaps the Cocora Valley?  Or maybe the Lost City Trek?  Perhaps there’s a volcano that you want to hike?  Or you want to go canyoning or white water rafting, snorkeling, or diving.  All these activities come with higher risks of injuries than more sedentary activities. 

You can get a quote for travel insurance here.

Colombia is a malarial and dengue fever area

Malaria is endemic in lower-lying areas of Colombia.  I can tell you from experience that in the Colombian Amazon the mosquitoes are vicious and I was miserable trying to avoid them.  Areas of Colombia are also dengue fever areas.  Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease that may cause a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle, and joint pains.  Treatment for dengue may require hospitalization.

(Always check with a health professional for antimalarials)

Safe drinking water is not always provided in Colombia

Tap water is usually relatively safe in many of the cities in Colombia, however, it’s not so in the more rural places.  And just because your hotel or hostel has filtered drinking water it doesn’t mean that the guys selling arepas on the street that you absolutely have to buy have used safe water.  Or that the fresh fruit smoothie that you’ve bought from the market has filtered water in it. 

I’m cautious when I travel over food, but that doesn’t stop me from eating it.  But I always make sure that I have medical coverage on my travel insurance in case something does go wrong.  I’ve had weeks of antibiotic treatment, including several hospital visits because of dodgy water in the past.  It’s not nice and it’s not cheap either. I always travel with a filter water bottle and control my own safe water. Trust me it’s worth it.

Consider Colombian Travel Insurance to cover for Altitude Sickness

Soroche or altitude sickness is common with visitors to Colombia, especially if you arrive in the capital city, Bogota.  Bogota is at 2640 meters above sea level and there are some amazing things to do in Bogota.  And then you’ll want to hike up Monserrate, at 3,152 meters. (it’s one of the best day trips to do from Bogota)  If you plan to hike Nevado del Tolima, then the summit is 5,200 meters. Even Volcán Puracé is 4650 meters.  

If you get sick at altitude, then you’ll need rescuing, and getting rescued at altitude is expensive.  When we hiked in Nepal and one of our group became ill from the altitude, the rescue helicopter wouldn’t set off until they’d charged his credit card for the trip. 

Colombia Travel Insurance can cover you for adventure sports

Trekking, white water rafting, paragliding (it’s an awesome way to see places!), and diving are fabulous sports to try while you’re away.  But accidents do happen. And they’re expensive to deal with if they happen.

What do we take into account when we’re buying Travel Insurance for Colombia?

Wherever we travel, when we make our plan for a trip, we have a list of items that we check off before we buy our travel insurance.  Here’s what we take into consideration when buying travel insurance for Colombia.  I’ve detailed these below.

The altitude in Colombia to which we plan to travel

Let’s start with Bogota and go from there.  Believe me, if you arrive in Cartagena, spend time there, and then fly to Bogota you’ll feel the altitude.  Many insurance policies cover you to 2,000 meters.  Colombia’s capital city is at 2,640 meters. Problemo numero uno.  

We knew that we wanted to hike Montserrate, which is higher up from Bogota.  So when then took a look at all the places that planned on visiting in Colombia and what altitude they were at, so we knew what to look for in our coverage.

The activities in Colombia we plan to undertake

Colombia is a delight for adventure junkies.  You can bungee jump, white-water raft, go canyoning, you can go to the Amazon. You can swim in a lake with piranhas (we didn’t).  You can swim with dolphins, go mountain biking, rock climbing, paraglide, zip line, and paraglide.  In Colombia, you can even play with gunpowder. If you plan to undertake any of these activities, then it’s worth considering your insurance coverage.

Where you are when you take out the insurance policy

The vast majority of insurance companies will ONLY provide travel insurance if you are at home when you take out the policy.  AND many others require that you have been resident in that country for at least six months AND that you need to be registered with a local doctor.

We found this out when we started our travels in 2014.  We returned to the UK after 4 years of living and working in the USA.  We were not registered with a doctor, and had been in the country 6 days not 6 months!   Our purchase of a travel insurance policy was severely influenced by this.

If you’re considering travel insurance for Colombia, then you can get a quote from World Nomads for your travel insurance for Colombia

Our age and the age of travelers on the same policy

Nigel hit 59 this year.  And that means that our insurance policies need a review, as many companies will no longer cover us as he’s over 55.  When you get a quote for travel insurance it’s one of the first questions you’re asked, your age and the age of travel companions on the same policy.

Pre-existing medical conditions

If you live with existing medical conditions or have had surgery within the last 6-12 months you usually have to declare it before buying a travel insurance policy. And yes, this included my badly broken wrist (that was Dunstanburgh Castle in the UK)!

Read the forms carefully while you are buying insurance.  And if you have questions, the only people who can answer them are the insurance company or their agents. 

We’re a World Nomads affiliate and World Nomads provides travel insurance.  We do receive a fee for any quotes generated via our links to World Nomads, but if you want information specifically about their policies – then you must take this directly from World Nomads.

FAQS on why we took out Colombia Travel Insurance

Got questions about why we use travel insurance for Colombia? Check out our frequently asked questions that we had on insuring for travel to Colombia below, or ask us yours in the comments.

Is insurance mandatory in Colombia?

Travel insurance is NOT mandatory in Colombia like it is in countries like Cuba.  If you don’t have travel insurance and have an incident when traveling in Colombia then you’ll just be responsible for paying the costs of repatriation and your medical bills yourself.  Equally, if your gear is stolen and it’s not covered by your policy, then you’ll have to replace it at your own cost. If you’re considering travel insurance, check what World Nomads can offer.

What happens if I don’t have travel insurance in Colombia?

If you don’t have travel insurance that provides you with return home coverage while traveling in Colombia and something happens then you’ll just need to cover the costs yourself. 

Travel Tips for Exploring Colombia

Our Final Words Why we Chose to Buy Travel Insurance in Colombia

So there we have it.  Our guide to why we took out travel insurance for a visit to Colombia.  And what we looked out for when we were buying Colombian travel insurance.  Colombia is a fabulous country and we have loved it each and every time we’ve visited.  However, you choose to travel and wherever you choose to visit in Colombia I hope you have a fabulous time!

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