1. Understanding the Driving Culture
Driving in Cali can be a challenging experience for foreigners. The traffic can be heavy, especially during rush hours, and local drivers are known for their aggressive driving style. It’s not uncommon to see drivers ignoring traffic rules, such as running red lights or not using turn signals. Therefore, it’s important to drive defensively and always be aware of your surroundings.
2. Choosing the Right Car
Compact cars are recommended for driving in Cali due to the narrow streets and heavy traffic. They are easier to maneuver and park. SUVs or 4x4s could be a good choice if you plan to travel outside the city, especially in the mountainous areas.
3. Parking Situation
Finding parking in Cali can be difficult, especially in the city center. Most of the parking lots are paid, and the cost can add up quickly. It’s advisable to choose accommodation with a parking space or rent a parking spot if you plan to have a car.
4. Driving with an International License
Foreigners can drive in Colombia with an international driving permit (IDP) for up to 180 days. After that, you will need to obtain a Colombian driver’s license. It’s important to have your IDP along with your home country’s driver’s license when driving.
5. Obtaining a Colombian Driver’s License
To get a Colombian driver’s license, you will need to pass a written test and a practical driving test. The tests are usually in Spanish, so a good understanding of the language is necessary. You will also need to provide a medical certificate proving you are fit to drive. It’s advisable to contact the local transit authority or a driving school for detailed information.
6. Safety Precautions
Always keep your doors locked and windows up, especially at traffic lights, to prevent opportunistic theft. Avoid driving at night if possible, as some areas can be unsafe. Also, always have a GPS or a reliable map as street signs can be confusing or non-existent.
7. Car Insurance
It’s mandatory to have car insurance in Colombia. Make sure to have at least the basic coverage, which includes liability for injuries to third parties and property damage. It’s also advisable to have comprehensive coverage, especially if you have a new or expensive car.