Visiting events in Colombia – 6 important tips

Colombia-MICE is part of the Pelecanus Travel Group. We are based in Bogota, Colombia. We specialize in business travel and all services related to meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

In recent years, Colombia has become increasingly important in the global economy. Sectors such as industry, trade and tourism are growing, as is foreign investment. Therefore, there are already a variety of events in Colombia.

So, attending a trade show in Colombia is a good opportunity for foreign companies. Visitors who are not yet familiar with Latin America may be a little confused from time to time. In this article we will explain some aspects you need to consider when attending a trade show in Colombia.

Getting to the venue (transportation)

Convention centers or fairgrounds are usually located near the airport and the city's hotel zone. The venues can be about 20 minutes by car or even walking distance from your accommodation. However, if the fairground is further away, this may well lead to practical problems.

This is mainly a problem in the biggest cities, namely Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla and Medellin (at least Medellin has a decent public transport system). In these cities, traffic is sometimes catastrophic and a planned 20-minute trip can easily turn into a 2- or 3-hour trip. This depends in each case on the routes chosen, the time of day and the climate. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to allow enough time to travel to the venue or to choose accommodation strategically. The same is true for the return trip to the hotel or airport.

Organization and culture

If you are used to Swiss precision and punctuality, Colombia might probably stress you out a bit. Believe me, I grew up in Zurich and have been in Colombia since 2015. Latin American culture is generally more spontaneous and everything is a bit less strict than that of Europeans, North Americans or Asians. This is no different in business life. Therefore, you may be confused or uncomfortable about how a trade show or meeting is organized in Colombia.

Punctuality is a foreign word in Colombia. It is not unusual to be sitting alone in the hall at the official start of an event. Events usually do not start at the specified time of day. This can be due to different reasons, for example the audiovisual aids have not been prepared in advance or the host has met an old acquaintance shortly before his appearance and had a chat. Despite everything, not all events start late though and not all Colombians are unpunctual either.

Also, Colombians do not possess a natural need for organization and order as do residents of other countries. You will notice that people and groups like to form blockades where the flow of visitors should be. Also, the personality space or boundaries is interpreted differently here. People sometimes get very close here, sometimes too close for other cultures. Or who is used to finding a stranger's foot between his feet while standing in line?


Although there are over 60 recognized indigenous languages in Colombia, with about one million speakers, the official language is Spanish. Colombians barely speak English, let alone French, German or Japanese, which can be a major problem when making contacts. You will find bilingual staff in major airports, large hotels, businesses, and maybe even good restaurants, but other than that, it is difficult to have anyone understand you.

Because of this barrier, it is advisable that you learn important expressions to communicate basic needs or business jargon and a more professional vocabulary. If this is not possible, a local interpreter can be a great help, as there are very different accents and slangs depending on the region in the country. In any case, Colombians are friendly people and will find a way to communicate with you.


There can be a sense of danger in Colombia and other Latin American countries for a variety of reasons related to general crime and guerrillas. However, since the signing of a peace agreement in 2016, which includes a ceasefire with both the largest local armed group and the military, the situation in Colombia has improved massively. There's no denying that there are still vestiges of conflict in remote rural areas, but Colombian cities are safe for business travel and tourism in general.

However, as in any other country, crowded events are prime targets for thieves. As a local would say, you should "not give away papaya". What is meant by this is that you should not make it easy for thieves to steal anything. Don't wear expensive accessories and watch your cell phone. It is ultimately a matter of common sense. Leave your expensive items in the safe in your hotel room and take enough cash with you for the day or your credit card. You can also use your bank card to withdraw money from ATMs everywhere.


If you're attending the show as an exhibitor, it's a good idea to plan your travel and logistics for the show well in advance. As always, unexpected events can happen and you need to be prepared for them. If you e.g. flying into a city in the coffee triangle, your flight may be delayed or canceled due to weather conditions. Or your local supplier for transportation, support or decoration of your booth might not be able to do their job or arrive on time. It is therefore advisable to build in enough time reserves in each case.

A little tip, bring promotional materials as well, Colombians love free stuff – and it could be a chance to raise your profile locally.

A lot of fun!

Finally, participating in a trade show in Colombia is an unforgettable experience, no matter what sector or industry you are in. The people are so warm, friendly and helpful and there are also so many cultural aspects to learn about, places to visit and activities to do. Just keep in mind our mentioned recommendations and enjoy your time in Colombia.

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