Jose Marie Cordova International Airport Medellin Reviews
What to expect for international arrival and departure during construction Nov 12, 2009
Jose Marie Cordova Medellin International Airport is located about 50 kilometers outside of the city, near Rionegro. As of this writing, it is currently undergoing a massive renovation, and has strict security measures in place, which does have some effects on international travel, especially departures to the United States.
The first thing one notices upon arrival are the presence of large numbers of police and sometimes military, in addition to the immigration and customs (DAS) agents. Don't be alarmed; remember that Colombia is still continuing to improve it's security situation after years of internal conflict, terrorism, and a tenuous situation with it's neighbors. While all of these should present no threat to the average tourist, they are all present and the effects must be tolerated.
For arrivals, expect to spend about 45 minutes going through immigration and customs. There are five lines for immigration, the fifth of which is reserved for diplomats. However, as not many diplomats come through on average, this station will take normal travelers from line four; therefore, line four generally moves more quickly.
Generally, if you are a non-resident of Colombia, the DAS agent will take your passport and ask you the following:
-su occupacion? (your occupation)
-trabaja o turismo? (work or tourism)
Generally, they understand and speak enough English to be able to go through these matters.
After your passport is stamped, next is baggage and customs. Hand your customs form to the customs agent as you enter the checkpoint, along with the stub from your boarding pass. Generally, you shouldn't have any problems unless you are declaring anything unusual.
Next, you will place your bags through the x-Ray machine, and many times an agent will pat you down. Also, do not be surprised if an agent opens your bag (this seems to be more common with large bags).
And then...bienvenidos a Colombia! As you exit, there is a booth at which you can exchange your money. The staff is generally bi-lingual and will ask for your passport, your occupation and your hotel info. After they complete their form, and photocopy your passport, you will be asked to provide your thumbprint. This is due to the problems with counterfeit bills in Colombia. Then, you get your Colombian Pesos!
Next stop is ground transportation. For taxis, which I always use, exit and turn left; there you will see the waiting taxis. The first one in line is yours. Transport to Medellin via taxi is generally around $50.000 COP. One time I was charged $40.000 and another time it was $52.000. It is ok to tip about $2000-5000 extra for good service, but this is completely volluntary.
Taxi drivers in Medellin generally do NOT speak English. Be prepared to know how to tell the driver where you want to go in Spanish; include hotel name and be prepared to give the neighborhood name (such as el Poblado) and street number. It is a good idea to have all of this info typed out and printed in case the driver does not understand you.
The drive to Medellin will take about 45 minutes, and goes through many windy mountain roads. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride! Colombian drivers zip through these roads at speeds that shock first time American visitors. But if you're not car sick, don't forget to check out the amazing views as soon as Medellin and the Aruba valley come into sight!
So your trip in Medellin is coming to a close. Most people do not like to return home once in Colombia. Leaving the scenery, the nice people and beautiful women to go back to reality is always hard to do. However, most of us must do it, so here's how it works.
The taxi ride is the same price, however have your hotel call one so you know for sure you are getting one who will actually drive all the way out to the international airport. It's always a good idea it ask the price as you are getting in the car so there is no confusion. $52.000 COP should be the maximum rate to accept going from the city limits. Suburbs like La Estrella, Envigado, Itagui and Copacabana will be slightly more.
Again, hang on tight and enjoy the ride through the mountains, looking back for one last view of the city.
For international departures, you should allow three hours, at least. One time the airline emailed me the day before a flight to the United States and requested four hours due to multiple international flights ocourring that afternoon.
International departure check-in is to the left, except for Spirit Airlines, which is located to the right with the domestic carriers. Do not attempt to get in line until your airline has opened it. The police will shoo you away.
If traveling back to the USA, before attempting to get in line, go to the tax office to either pay your exit tax or get a waiver. Most outbound travelers to he USA who have been in Colombia for less than a month will get a waiver. The clerk will look at your passport, stamp it, and then fill out a form and stamp it and give both back to you.
Once the line for your airline opens, you will be asked to check in with an airline employee at the entrance to the line, under the watchful eye of a police officer. You will have to show your passport, and hand over the tax form.
If you are checking bags, be prepared for a police officer to open it, look through it a little and possibly have a dog sniff it. They prefer to do it this way so they can immediately detain you in case of issues. Sometimes, they will ask to lift your carry on bags, poke them a little and open them breifly as well.
The next part is simple: check in!
The next part is not so simple. So that they can attempt to keep order, the airport designates specific emigration times for international flights. On the tv screen with departure information, this time is listed as REAL, and is to the left of the actual departure time. The fights status will also be listed as "emigration" when they are ready for you. In addition, your airline will tell you this time, and highlight it on your boarding pass at check-in. It is important!
Before entering emigration, there are a few kiosks and stands to get snacks, pastries, sodas, juices, beer and liquor. So stop and have that one last empenada, postobon, coke in a glass bottle (with real sugar), Pilsen or aguadiente. Due to the construction, once you enter emigration, there is nothing! And due to the fact that you cannot purchase refreshments beyond the "safe zone," your bottles of water or other liquids over 3.5 ounces will be confiscated if you are going to the USA.
As you enter emigration, have your boarding pass and passport out so that the security guard can verify it. Then, stand in line and wai for the next agent.
Hand over your passport. You may be asked the following:
-how long were you in Colombia?
-where are you traveling?
After getting stamped, time for security! As always, it is a strict experience. Ensure all of your metal objects are in the tub; however, at this time shoes are generally sent through unless they set off the metal decectors.
You will probably be asked to identify your bags on the other end by a police officer, even if the screener did not indicate anything. They also seem to open every other bag and root around for a few minutes.
Finally, prepare to be frisked by a final officer. When finished, you're free; well, almost.
While the construction is going on, most international flights will be boarding at gate 12, which is all the way down the hall. While walking down, you will see bathrooms on the right; use them now! Because you may not have a chance to come back if you are flying to the USA.
On some flights to the USA, or on particulaly busy travel days, there are some additional security precautions done by both the airline employees and the police, at least while the construction is going on. If this is the case, you will have to show your passport and boarding pass to an airline employee before entering the waiting area. They will take their portion of the pass, as if you were already entering the airplane. Then, if it a USA flight, they will do an additional spot check om your baggage for liquids, per US TSA regulations. At this point, you will have to remain in the immediate waiting area of the gate. So, remember to eat, and use the rest room before going this far! Otherwise you're stuck until the plane boards.
I will try to keep this up to date, because of course, processes are subject to change and construction doesn't last forever!
Buen viaje! Hopefully you enjoy this wonderful city as much as I have!
Part of the Colombia y Ecuador, November 2009 travel blog
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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