Obtaining my Colombian Work Visa in Ecuador

Nikos, paying tribute to the Lord with a 7-Up, at the Catedral de Sal.
Nikos, paying tribute to the Lord with a 7-Up, at the Catedral de Sal.

Writer’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Wednesday, Dec. 19, the streets of La Candelaria, Bogotá

My sister was about to head back to Los Angeles on Dec. 10 and because I was going to be accompanying her to the airport, I thought: “Maybe I should start my vacation early.”

Again, I chose Bogotá, not only to see friends but for two other reasons this time:

1. I never made it to Zipaquirá on my first two trips there and I wanted to see the Catedral de Sal, the church built in a salt mine.

2. I didn’t see the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) on those trips either, so I would do that this time as well.

Before I could do either, though, I helped my friend Nikos (not to be confused with Nico) find a nice hostel for his parents. Nikos was about to get married on Dec. 29, in Pitalito, and they would all head south together after spending some time in the Colombian capital.

As we walked around, my phone kept ringing, a number I didn’t recognize. The third time, I said to Nikos, “What the hell? This number keeps calling me.”

“Just f*#king answer it already,” he said. “Maybe it’s important.”

It was Maria, the woman Nico went to high school with, and she wanted to talk to me about working with her. I explained to her that I was in Bogotá, that I would be going to the Feria de Cali afterward, then Nikos’s wedding in Pitalito, a New Years celebration with the wedding families in San Agustín, and the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos in Pasto.

I told her I would be back in Medellín around Jan. 12.

“Perfect,” she said.

I love how they wrap the fish around the rice, like a cone, at Hanashi Sushi Bar.
I love how they wrap the fish around the rice, like a cone, for the nigiri at Hanashi Sushi Bar.

Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Bogotá

Nico’s business card was still in one of my bags when I got back from my trip and I emailed him immediately, to thank him for his help, and in subsequent emails we made plans to finally get that beer, something we have yet to do.

Needless to say, the job interview went well and I was on my way to becoming a full-time marketing consultant. I starting working at the company part-time, to get a feel for things and get to know everyone as I made the transition from the job at Urban Buddha Hostel to this one, and the company finished the paperwork for my visa.

Now, I know you might be wondering why I haven’t gotten too specific about what company I work for and things of that nature. Well, the reason is, when it comes to my personal and professional life, I keep a lot of it to myself. I’ll share an anecdote here and there to keep the travel stories flowing on the blog but that’s it. I hope that’s ok.

Anyway, back to the visa.

The woman behind the glass window gave me ticket No. 20, then I went to the booth next door to pay the 90,500-peso fee ($50) for my work visa.

I retreated to one of the many chairs to wait, and noticed the numbers on the electronic board. They were not chronological, so who knew how long the wait would be. It wasn’t as bad as the DMV, but long enough.

At least the government official I met with was warm and friendly. I found out she used to live in Massachusetts for two years, in an old manufacturing town near the upstate New York border called Pittsfield.

“My mom is from Boston,” I told her and she smiled.

She told me, after thoroughly reviewing my application, that she was granting me my work visa, but I would have to go to a consulate outside the country to complete the process.

I nodded, thanked her, then left, beaming as I walked out the door, knowing I was almost there, almost done with all the preliminary things I needed to do to start my new career.

I celebrated by having some great food at Hanashi Sushi Bar near Centro Comercial Gran Estación before heading to Chapinorte Guesthouse in El Chapinero where I found two new favorites in the capital: a favorite hostel and a favorite neighborhood.

Walking away from the presidential palace and toward the capitol in the Old Town of Quito.
Walking away from the presidential palace and toward the cathedral in the Old Town of Quito.

Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, Colombian Consulate, Quito


That means “success” in Spanish. Maybe Rafael Correa was saying the same that weekend because on Sunday he got reelected to a another presidential term. I went to the old town, outside the presidential palace, to take some pictures then quickly left because it was already dark and I was alone.

The process took a little longer than I would have liked, but it’s all good. The main thing was, I had my visa and I was ready to work, but before I got back to Medellín I wanted to see some of the beautiful parts of Ecuador.

I went six years ago but lost all my photos and as my travel blogger friend Troy Floyd says, “If there are no pictures, it never happened.”

Well, allow me to prove that this trip happened by sharing one of my favorite photos and giving you some highlights:

1. Otavalo: This was a new stop. I didn’t go the last time I was here and I wanted to see the big arts and crafts market, one of the most famous of its kind in South America. It was colorful and the woman with the chicken was memorable.

The town is about 3 hours north of Quito, a beautiful drive through the Andes. My trip there and back cost about $5. (Yes, they use American money in Ecuador.)

Otavalo market
It’s not everyday that I see a woman carrying a huge chicken. Then again, I live in Medellín, not Otavalo.

2. La Mitad del Mundo: Also something I didn’t do last time, I made sure I got there this time. I mean, it’s the freakin’ equator, the reason Ecuador has its name, so I had to see it.

I went through the museum at the site and took some photos, then headed back to Quito.

3. Quito’s cosmopolitan transformation: Within a four block radius of the beautiful Hostal Aleida, there was a dim sum bar, a sushi bar, a parrillada (basically, lots of grilled meat), a Mediterranean restaurant and an Italian restaurant, all of them very nice. I enjoyed the grilled steak at El Chacal and loved the dim sum at the Happy Panda.

None of those things were there last time. “Quito’s growing up,” I thought. “If only it weren’t so cold here…”

I was back in Medellín and at the office the following week, and everyone greeted me with a warm smile and either, “Cómo estás?” or one of the many paisa phrases used to say the same thing, such as “Bien o no?”, “Cómo vas?”, “Qué cuentas?”, or, my favorite, “Qué mas pues?”

This time, though, it felt different, I think because I felt that security, that feeling that good things are on the way.

After a brief discussion about my quick trip to Ecuador, it was time to work, so I sat down, put my earphones in, and turned my iTunes on.

It is hard to tell if this is all real.

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Ryan is the former Managing Editor of Medellín Living.



  1. Hi Ryan! Love your blog, but would appreciate more info on the work visa. soon Im moving to Colombia and about the work visa, people tell me to fly to Cucuta and then cross the border to Venezuela to go to the consulate there, but I understand you instead went to Quito?? Is it very easy to do it there aswell? Because I’d rather go see Ecuador too like you have instead of going to some small town in Venezuela on the border.. Ok hope to hear from you thanks!!

    • I’m not familiar with a work visa, specifically, though I do know you need to leave the country to get it. If it were me, I’d rather fly to Quito or Panama City.

      The Colombia/Venezuela border region is not so safe.