Colombia… I’ll visit you some other time

Colombian visa for Indian citizens

Colombia is one of the few Latin American countries that requires a tourist visa for Indian citizens who have a permanent resident status in Canada.

Therefore, earlier this week, I applied for a Colombian visitor visa. I was going to be in Ecuador and I wanted to checkout a border town which is easier reached from Quito than from Bogota.

Colombian consulate in Toronto

Besides the usual characteristics associated with a consular service, namely having dated or incomplete information on the website, chaotic consulate offices, language issues, etc. what surprised me was how two officers on two separate occasions gave me the wrong information.

I enter the ‘open concept’ Consulate of Colombia in downtown Toronto, to find a large hall with about 30 chairs facing a TV screen and a desk. There is a crowd of 8-10 people standing in front of the desk, randomly oriented and chatting away (PS: This is so different from the Russian consulate, where nobody speaks anything). I notice an officer behind the desk, seemingly oblivious to the crowd at the front. The TV screen is displaying some numbers so after observing other people, I go to the opposite wall of the consulate and draw a stub from the token dispenser. It looks like a raffle ticket. I put my stuff on the floor and sit on a chair. Quietly. Patiently.

After an hour or so, my number is called. The office is ill-equipped to deal with non-Spanish speakers, so I tell them in broken Spanish that I am applying for a visa. The guy looks at me with puzzled expression: either he didn’t understand me, or he didn’t know that they issued tourist visas. I think it was the later.

I get called for an interview. The officer asks me to bring a letter from my employer and pay a visa fee. In cash only, and in US dollars only.

I go back to the embassy with the letter the next day. This time I see another officer, a charming lady. We have a pleasant conversation in Spanish and she seems more interested in the fact that I am learning Spanish. The documents I attached to the file barely get a glance.
“Pay the fee and come after 2 days.”
Off I go.

Later that day, I get a call from the consulate. They want additional 50 dollars. I am kinda annoyed. I tell the lady (in Spanish, ofcourse) that it was too expensive and that I just wanted to check out the border city for a day. Why didn’t the consulate tell me before? Why does their website show incorrect information? I ask my application to be returned.

Yeah yeah I hear you. Sometimes I can be high maintenance too. ^_^

So I go back to the consulate to collect my passport. This time I don’t take the raffle ticket. I get my passport back and the fee refunded. The staff at the consulate are apologetic and cooperative. I even get a nice Spanish “sorrry” with a rolling R.

Las Lajas

The Las Lajas Scanctuary is a Catholic church that was built on a bridge on the Guáitara river. The cathedral is located at the Ipiales (CO) – Tulcan (EC) border and I would have loved to visited the place even if it was only for a day.

I am not going there this time and I don’t know when I will go to this part of Colombia next. If you visit Las Lajas, please send me a post card!

Too bad Colombia, I cannot visit you during this trip to Ecuador. Rather, I choose not to.