As a follow-up to Kristen’s earlier post about transportation in Colombia, I thought I would share some helpful tips about flying within the country.
Many visitors to Colombia are surprised by how check-in and security work at Colombian airports. The process is simple, but is quite different from flying in the U.S.A.
Here are a few tips about what to expect.
First of all, no matter where you are flying in Colombia, it is always a good idea to arrive at least 2 hours early before a domestic flight and 3 hours early for an international flight.
If you are flying domestically and you have a Colombian ID, you will not need your passport. If you do not have a Colombian ID, you will definitely need a passport.
Once you arrive at the airport, you may have to wait to check-in, especially for international flights, because airlines only allow check-in at certain times.
Arrive early anyway—a line often forms near the check-in desk before it opens, and you definitely want to be one of the first people in line.
After check-in, you may need to pay an airport tax if you are flying internationally. Be prepared to pay it in cash.
The most important difference between flying in Colombia and the States is when you are allowed to go through security.
In the United States and Europe, we usually go through security immediately after we check in for a flight. After security there are restaurants and food vendors, and we may wait for two hours (or more if the flight is delayed) after we pass through security. This is not how it works in Colombia.
Instead, after you have checked in you will have to wait until your flight is allowed to enter the “waiting room.”
Watch electronic boards, listen to announcements, and ask the staff to find out when your flight is allowed to enter the waiting room. (It is usually 1 hour to 30 minutes before, but may be earlier if it is an international flight.)
You go through security when you enter the waiting room. You will not be allowed to go through security before your flight is allowed to enter the waiting room.
Most airports do not have food available in the waiting rooms, but there are always bathrooms. When it is time to board your flight, someone will make an announcement in the waiting room and will then lead you to the plane.
Don’t be surprised if you are lead across the tarmac—only a few airports in Colombia have walkways connecting the plane to the gate.
Finally, if you are flying within Colombia, make sure you keep the stickers for your luggage.
Baggage claims are secure in Colombia, and only people who have just disembarked from a flight will be allowed to enter. You will need to show your baggage sticker (which you receive at the check-in gate) to take your luggage out of the airport.
In addition, if you are flying into Colombia from an international destination, a customs officer may search your bags.
After you have shown your luggage sticker and someone has checked your bags (if necessary) you are free to go. If someone is waiting for you, it will be just after baggage claim.