Okay, now let’s back it up a bit. Colombia’s official tourism slogan is “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”
The tourist visa allows you to stay in Colombia up to 180 days per calendar year with each stay capping out at a maximum of 180 consecutive days (as per amendments to the immigration law titled "El Decreto 2622 de 2009"). This is a bit confusing so let me explain with some examples:
- Let’s say you enter the country on July 1st, 2011. You can stay until Dec 31, 2011 which is 180 days in the 2011 calendar year. However, you can not claim on January 1st, 2012 that a new calendar year has started and that you now get a fresh 180 days. This is due to the consecutive days stipulation. You may, however, leave the country and re-enter, thereby resetting the consecutive days clock and thus allowing you to take advantage of the new calendar year.
- Another example. I entered Colombia on September 12, 2011. My 6 months expires Monday on March 12, 2012. I have to leave the country to reset the clock on the consecutive days rule but when I return, since I have only been in Colombia for 2 months in calendar year 2012, I have an additional 4 months left.
There are other types of visas that you can obtain that offer longer stays:
I researched all of them and the only other one that would apply at this time would be the student visa. I looked into registering for Spanish classes at EAFIT, the local university.
This was a great option! Not only would I get a longer visa, but I’d also get an intensive Spanish course as well. Unfortunately, the classes don’t start until March 20 and my student visa would not be processed in time.
Which brings us to the last option which many long term travelers become quite familiar with: the infamous border run.
My objective now is to obtain the visa in the least amount of time and in the most cost-efficient way. Here is the breakdown:
Colombia shares land borders with five countries, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Peru. The land border between Panama and Colombia is a little bit sketchy to say the least. The Pacific side is too dangerous as you venture into the Darién Gap, aka 'no man's land' and have to worry about having coffee with the bandas criminales such as the Urabeños or other paramilitary groups like the FARC. I like adventure but I have my limits. The Atlantic side is doable but a little more complicated than I want at the moment due to numerous reasons.
The crossings for Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are either too far or you face the problem of the Amazon, which leaves me with the the crossing at Cúcuta for Venezuela. Since I’m in Medellin, Cúcuta ends up being the closest and easiest.
And that my friends, is why I am going to Venezuela this weekend, in order to stay in Colombia.
These articles might be helpful as well:
My adventure to the wild and crazy frontier town of Cúcuta and how I crossed the border into Venezuela to renew my Colombian visa.
Current requirements for renewing your visa in Medellin, Colombia.