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Colombia Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Colombia Map

Introduction

Background

Colombia was one of the three countries that emerged after the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others are Ecuador and Venezuela). A decades-long conflict between government forces, paramilitaries, and antigovernment insurgent groups heavily funded by the drug trade, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), escalated during the 1990s. More than 31,000 former United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries demobilized by the end of 2006, and the AUC as a formal organization ceased to operate. In the wake of the paramilitary demobilization, illegal armed groups arose, whose members include some former paramilitaries. After four years of formal peace negotiations, the Colombian Government signed a final peace accord with the FARC in November 2016, which was subsequently ratified by the Colombian Congress. The accord calls for members of the FARC to demobilize, disarm, and reincorporate into society and politics. The accord also committed the Colombian Government to create three new institutions to form a 'comprehensive system for truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition,' to include a truth commission, a special unit to coordinate the search for those who disappeared during the conflict, and a 'Special Jurisdiction for Peace' to administer justice for conflict-related crimes. The Colombian Government has stepped up efforts to expand its presence into every one of its administrative departments. Despite decades of internal conflict and drug-related security challenges, Colombia maintains relatively strong democratic institutions characterized by peaceful, transparent elections and the protection of civil liberties.

Geography

Location

Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama

Geographic coordinates

4 00 N, 72 00 W

Map references

South America

Area

total: 1,138,910 sq km

land:1,038,700 sq km

water:100,210 sq km

note: includes Isla de Malpelo, Roncador Cay, and Serrana Bank

country comparison to the world: 27

Area - comparative

slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Land boundaries

total: 6,672 km

border countries (5):Brazil 1790 km, Ecuador 708 km, Panama 339 km, Peru 1494 km, Venezuela 2341 km

Coastline

3,208 km (Caribbean Sea 1,760 km, North Pacific Ocean 1,448 km)

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone:200 nm

continental shelf:200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Climate

tropical along coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands

Terrain

flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains (Llanos)

Elevation

highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,730 m

lowest point:Pacific Ocean 0 m

mean elevation:593 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 37.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.6% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 34.5% (2018 est.)

forest:54.4% (2018 est.)

other:8.1% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10,900 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

2.36 trillion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

the majority of people live in the north and west where agricultural opportunities and natural resources are found; the vast grasslands of the llanos to the south and east, which make up approximately 60% of the country, are sparsely populated

Natural hazards

highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes; periodic droughts

volcanism: Galeras (4,276 m) is one of Colombia's most active volcanoes, having erupted in 2009 and 2010 causing major evacuations; it has been deemed a Decade Volcano by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Nevado del Ruiz (5,321 m), 129 km (80 mi) west of Bogota, erupted in 1985 producing lahars (mudflows) that killed 23,000 people; the volcano last erupted in 1991; additionally, after 500 years of dormancy, Nevado del Huila reawakened in 2007 and has experienced frequent eruptions since then; other historically active volcanoes include Cumbal, Dona Juana, Nevado del Tolima, and Purace

Environment - international agreements

party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified:Law of the Sea

Geography - note

only South American country with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea

People and Society

Population

50,355,650 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 29

Nationality

noun: Colombian(s)

adjective:Colombian

Ethnic groups

Mestizo and White 87.6%, Afro-Colombian (includes Mulatto, Raizal, and Palenquero) 6.8%, Amerindian 4.3%, unspecified 1.4% (2018 est.)

Languages

Spanish (official)

printed major-language sample:
La Libreta Informativa del Mundo, la fuente indispensable de información básica. (Spanish)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Religions

Roman Catholic 79%, Protestant 14% (includes Pentecostal 6%, mainline Protestant 2%, other 6%), other 2%, unspecified 5% (2014 est.)

Demographic profile

Colombia is in the midst of a demographic transition resulting from steady declines in its fertility, mortality, and population growth rates. The birth rate has fallen from more than 6 children per woman in the 1960s to just above replacement level today as a result of increased literacy, family planning services, and urbanization. However, income inequality is among the worst in the world, and more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Colombia experiences significant legal and illegal economic emigration and refugee outflows. Large-scale labor emigration dates to the 1960s; the United States and, until recently, Venezuela have been the main host countries. Emigration to Spain picked up in the 1990s because of its economic growth, but this flow has since diminished because of Spain’s ailing economy and high unemployment. Colombia has been the largest source of Latin American refugees in Latin America, nearly 400,000 of whom live primarily in Venezuela and Ecuador. Venezuela’s political and economic crisis since 2015, however, has created a reverse flow, consisting largely of Colombians returning home.

Forced displacement continues to be prevalent because of violence among guerrillas, paramilitary groups, and Colombian security forces. Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations are disproportionately affected. Even with the Colombian Government’s December 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the risk of displacement remains as other rebel groups fill the void left by the FARC. Between 1985 and September 2017, nearly 7.6 million persons have been internally displaced, the highest total in the world. These estimates may undercount actual numbers because many internally displaced persons are not registered. Historically, Colombia also has one of the world’s highest levels of forced disappearances. About 30,000 cases have been recorded over the last four decades—although the number is likely to be much higher—including human rights activists, trade unionists, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, and farmers in rural conflict zones.

Because of political violence and economic problems, Colombia received limited numbers of immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly from the Middle East, Europe, and Japan. More recently, growth in the oil, mining, and manufacturing sectors has attracted increased labor migration; the primary source countries are Venezuela, the US, Mexico, and Argentina. Colombia has also become a transit area for illegal migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean -- especially Haiti and Cuba -- who are en route to the US or Canada.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 7,012,306

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:14.23 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 66,283,175

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:134.47 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: 

Colombia’s telecom infrastructure has improved through a government program of competition to upgrade services based on LTE and 5G, focusing on infrastructure in small urban centers and rural areas; national ICT Plan increased broadband and fiber connectivity; operators testing 5G and completed 20k terrestrial cable connecting 80% of the country; benefit due to access to commercial submarine cable (2021)

(2020)

domestic:fixed-line connections stand at about 14 per 100 persons; mobile cellular telephone subscribership is about 132 per 100 persons; competition among cellular service providers is resulting in falling local and international calling rates and contributing to the steep decline in the market share of fixed-line services; domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations (2019)

international:country code - 57; landing points for the SAC, Maya-1, SAIT, ACROS, AMX-1, CFX-1, PCCS, Deep Blue Cable, Globe Net, PAN-AM, SAm-1 submarine cable systems providing links to the US, parts of the Caribbean, and Central and South America; satellite earth stations - 10 (6 Intelsat, 1 Inmarsat, 3 fully digitalized international switching centers) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

combination of state-owned and privately owned broadcast media provide service; more than 500 radio stations and many national, regional, and local TV stations (2019)

Internet country code

.co

Internet users

total: 29,990,017

percent of population:62.26% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 6,949,852

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:14.1 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 26

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 12 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:157

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:33,704,037 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:1,349,450,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

HJ, HK

Airports

total: 836 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 8

Airports - with paved runways

total: 121 (2017)

over 3,047 m:2 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:9 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:39 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:53 (2017)

under 914 m:18 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 715 (2013)

over 3,047 m:1 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:25 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:201 (2013)

under 914 m:488 (2013)

Heliports

3 (2013)

Pipelines

4991 km gas, 6796 km oil, 3429 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 2,141 km (2015)

standard gauge:150 km 1.435-m gauge (2015)

narrow gauge:1,991 km 0.914-m gauge (2015)

country comparison to the world: 72

Roadways

total: 206,500 km (2016)

country comparison to the world: 26

Waterways

24,725 km (18,300 km navigable; the most important waterway, the River Magdalena, of which 1,488 km is navigable, is dredged regularly to ensure safe passage of cargo vessels and container barges) (2012)

country comparison to the world: 6

Merchant marine

total: 120

by type:general cargo 22, oil tanker 8, other 90 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 81

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean) - Cartagena, Santa Marta, Turbo

oil terminal(s):Covenas offshore terminal

container port(s) (TEUs):Cartagena (2,663,415) (2017)

river port(s):Barranquilla (Rio Magdalena)

dry bulk cargo port(s):Puerto Bolivar (coal)

Pacific Ocean - Buenaventura

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Military Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Militares de Colombia): National Army (Ejercito Nacional), Republic of Colombia Navy (Armada Republica de Colombia, ARC; includes Coast Guard), Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea de Colombia, FAC); Colombian National Police (civilian force that is part of the Ministry of Defense) (2021)

Military expenditures

3.2% of GDP (2019)

3.1% of GDP (2018 est.)

3.2% of GDP (2017)

3.1% of GDP (2016)

3.1% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 24

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Military Forces of Colombia (FMC) have approximately 295,000 total active troops (235,000 Army; 45,000 Navy, including about 22,000 marines; 14,000 Air Force); approximately 185,000 Colombian National Police (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Colombian military inventory includes a wide mix of equipment from a variety of suppliers, including Brazil, Canada, Europe, Israel, South Korea, and the US; Germany, Israel, and the US are the leading suppliers of military hardware since 2010; Colombia's defense industry is active in producing air, land, and naval platforms (2019 est.)

Military deployments

275 Egypt (MFO) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18-24 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; conscript service obligation is 18 months (2019)

Military - note

the Colombian Armed Forces are primarily focused on internal security, particularly counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and counterinsurgency operations against drug traffickers, militants from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) terrorist/guerrilla organizations, and other illegal armed groups; the Colombian Government signed a peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, but some former members (known as dissidents) have returned to fighting; the Colombian military resumed operations against FARC dissidents and their successor paramilitary groups in late 2019; in 2017, the Colombian Government initiated formal peace talks with the ELN, but in January 2019, the government ended the peace talks shortly after the ELN exploded a car bomb at the National Police Academy in Bogotá and resumed counter-terrorism/counterinsurgency operations against the group; operations against both the FARC and ELN continued into 2021; the military is also focused on the security challenges posed by its neighbor, Venezuela

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

National Liberation Army (ELN); Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

in December 2007, ICJ allocated San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina islands to Colombia under 1928 Treaty but did not rule on 82 degrees W meridian as maritime boundary with Nicaragua; managed dispute with Venezuela over maritime boundary and Venezuelan-administered Los Monjes Islands near the Gulf of Venezuela; Colombian-organized illegal narcotics, guerrilla, and paramilitary activities penetrate all neighboring borders and have caused Colombian citizens to flee mostly into neighboring countries; Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and the US assert various claims to Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla Bank

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 729,361 (Venezuela) (economic and political crisis; includes Venezuelans who have claimed asylum, are recognized as refugees, or received alternative legal stay) (2020)

IDPs:8,137,396 (conflict between government and illegal armed groups and drug traffickers since 1985; about 300,000 new IDPs each year since 2000) (2021)

stateless persons:11 (2020)

Illicit drugs

illicit producer of coca, opium poppy, and cannabis; world's leading coca cultivator with 188,000 hectares in coca cultivation in 2016, a 18% increase over 2015, producing a potential of 710 mt of pure cocaine; the world's largest producer of coca derivatives; supplies cocaine to nearly all of the US market and the great majority of other international drug markets; in 2016, the Colombian government reported manual eradication of 17,642 hectares; Colombia suspended aerial eradication in October 2015 making 2016 the first full year without aerial eradication; a significant portion of narcotics proceeds are either laundered or invested in Colombia through the black market peso exchange; Colombia probably remains the second largest supplier of heroin to the US market; opium poppy cultivation was estimated to be 1,100 hectares in 2015, sufficient to potentially produce three metric tons of pure heroin

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