Is Colombia safe for travelling ?
It is quite possible that if you are going to undertake your trip to Colombia, you have been assaulted by these questions and all their derivations, or your friends and family have asked you these questions.
Well, I’m going to tell you what you need to know to enjoy the country to the fullest, and that security in Colombia is something that does not worry you.
However, you should take into account some advice and not get lost.
Colombia Safety : Tips & Tricks
When I told family and friends that we were going to Colombia on vacation, the first thing that some people told us was that we were crazy. That there they were killing people in the street, or kidnapping them, or the Medellin cartel, or…infinity of things, let’s go.
It is true that during the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s, things were not easy in Colombia, and violence was almost the only thing known about Colombia. Fortunately, this has changed and a lot, well, more than a lot, a lot.
Medellín was the most dangerous city in the world, and a neighborhood within Medellín was the most dangerous in the city, imagine how crazy that was. Well, now Medellín is not an unsafe city, and that neighborhood, Comuna 13, is one of the most visited places in the city.
This is one of several examples of how security has changed in Colombia, how it is no longer as dangerous to travel to Colombia as it was a few years ago. Another example is the guided tours in Bogotá.
I was told before I went that a few years ago, to take the guided tours of the city centre, you were accompanied by soldiers armed to the teeth. Now no, there is no problem because you can move around the centre of Bogota at your own pace.
We did a free tour, and it was all great. But… since not everything that glitters is gold, and it’s better to cure than to prevent, I’m going to tell you some tips so that you can be careful, and nobody spoils your vacation in a spectacular country like Colombia.
Colombia Safety Facts
Here is the truth :
There are millions of travellers in Colombia that haveno problem at all, quite the contrary ! But it is true that we have to keep certain precautions and common sense.
- No Dar Papaya : This phrase, “Don’t give away papaya, they’ll eat it all”, means don’t go around flaunting your expensive items, such as your mobile phone or camera (especially if it’s a reflex) on the street, especially in cities.
- You can carry your camera in a bag, and when you want to take a picture you take it out and put it back.
- Do not carry it around your neck : This applies mainly to cities, we were in Bogota, Medellin and Santa Marta.
In the more rural areas, like Salento, Guatapé or Tayrona National Park, you don’t have to worry, they work at a different pace. What applies to the camera, also applies to your next generation mobile. Don’t show off your valuables and nothing will happen to you
Colombia Safety : Public transport in the cities
Use public transportation, but don’t lose sight of your objects. Well, this advice I’m going to give you, applies to almost any big city in the world, not just Colombia. We use the Transmilenio in Bogotá and the Metro in Medellín.
What’s more, I encourage you to use them, since, besides cheap means of transport, they work really well. Well, if you have your valuables in your backpack, keep an eye on the zipper, to see if some pickpocket is going to take advantage of an absent-minded tourist. The same with bags, keep an eye on the zipper so that no one opens it.
Colombia safety Walking around the cities
In the rural areas, at least where we were, we didn’t see that there were the typical areas where you can’t go. But in the cities, things change. The truth is that outside the tourist areas, and if you’re not going to spend many days, I doubt you’ll move.
Well, both in Bogota and Medellin, the tourist areas are quiet, but with the precautions you would take anywhere. If you are going to walk somewhere farther away, I recommend you talk to the people at your accommodation, they know better than anyone where you can move, and where you can’t.
Taxis in Colombia and the Paseo del Millonario
Perhaps because I have spent seasons in cities like Mexico City, Guatemala City or Johannesburg, where taxis are one of the greatest dangers to suffer from kidnapping, millionaire rides, etc, my obsession with taxis is beginning to be pathological.
Well, here’s another piece of advice you should keep in mind. If you are going to take a taxi from the airport (any airport in Colombia), do it with an official taxi. How do you know if a taxi is official? Well, it’s simple, ask airport security (police or staff who work there).
They will tell you without any problem. We only take official taxis. And this is one of the recommendations you should take into account about security in Colombia. If you are going to take a taxi from your accommodation to anywhere, ask the people at the accommodation, as they always work with reliable taxi drivers.
In case you need a taxi, and be on the street, you can always go to a shop, hotel, etc, and let them ask you for a taxi of their confidence. They will be happy to do so.
Conclusion, be very careful with taxis, because the millionaire’s ride (taking you from ATM to ATM until you leave your bank account without money) in Colombia does exist. And for me, this is one of the points of security in Colombia where you have to be more careful.
Travel Safety in Colombia : care at night
Don’t move around alone at night, especially not in non-tourist areas. In the case of Bogota, we stayed at La Candelaria, and the truth is that we were never on the streets after midnight. At night there weren’t many people, but we didn’t have any problems.
And of course, we didn’t walk down any alleys. However, in Medellín it’s different if you stay in the Poblado area. We had a much greater sense of security, we didn’t find it dangerous at any time.
It is also true that we were not beyond midnight on the street, but I can assure you that Village is another world. Anyway, avoid areas where there are not many people at night, alleys, etc… If you have the slightest doubt about an area or street, ask at your accommodation, they can give you the best information to avoid getting the wrong street.
In the rural areas we were in, Guatapé and Salento, everything is different, since they are small towns where tourism is a lot. In these places there is a feeling of zero danger.
Withdrawing money from ATMs
Is it safe to withdraw money from ATMs? Well, I think the rule you should follow in Colombia is the rule of discretion. That is, don’t give out papaya… don’t be seen coming, don’t be the clueless tourist, etc.
We withdraw money from ATMs several times during the trip, but always with the same premise, 100% safe places and where we would go unnoticed. The best places for this are the airports.
Yes, we take advantage of the different airports where we fly. But we also take out money in the big supermarkets, they usually have ATMs. And except in Leticia (Amazon) where we did get money from an ATM, but that was inside the bank, we always did it in airports and supermarkets.
Is it Safe to Travel in Colombia with children ?
As far as security is concerned, since you must watch over your child, you cannot pretend to let your child alone as if it were nothing.
Here is the thing :
Make sure you don’t hang out on the streets at 2am with your kids, or attract attention with valuable devices, and nothing will happen.
On the contrary, Colombians love children, and this will be a vector of encounter, everyone will come to talk to you and ask you questions.
Colombia works very hard on its security, especially when it is a country that is visited by many foreigners every year.
So, Is it dangerous to travel to Colombia?
After our trip to Colombia and the experience in the country, I believe that it is not dangerous, far from it. But it is true that you must take the precautions I have mentioned above, to enjoy the security in Colombia. Unfortunately, violence still exists, and there are areas of Colombia where travel may still be in some danger.
But as long as you do it within the tourist areas, or other areas where Colombians themselves see it as safe, you won’t have any problem. For us the biggest danger was missing the plane back because we were loving the country and didn’t want to leave.