Is Colombia Safe to Travel ?

So you are wondering “is Colombia is safe to travel”? In this article you will learn all about safety in Colombia:

what to do, what no to do, safety at night, safest cities & regions, and more

Let’s dive in.

Is colombia safe to travel ?
Table of Contents

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.

Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

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.

Safety in Colombia

We spent two weeks travelling around Colombia and had no problem at all, quite the contrary.

But it is true that we had 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, you don’t have to worry, they work at a different pace.

What applies to the camera, also applies to your next generation mobile.

Here I tell you that, most of the photos I took in the cities, I took them with my mobile, for not carrying the reflex, except in the Comuna 13 (Medellin) and Cerro de Monserrate (Bogota), where I walked without any problem with my reflex camera.

Well, if you’re going to take a picture with your cell phone, do the same, take the picture, and cell phone into your pocket.

If you have to make a call with your mobile phone, you can go to a shop or supermarket and make it from there quietly.

In Colombia people don’t go in zombie mode with their mobile phones like we do here.

Don’t show off your valuables and nothing will happen to you.

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.

Travel insurance

Don’t forget to take out your travel insurance for Colombia.

Don’t risk it, travel calmly and without worries, so that a mishap doesn’t spoil your holidays or leave you with your wallet shaking.

We always carry the IATI travel insurance, we tell you in this article what is the best travel insurance to Colombia that suits your trip.

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.

Gabriel García Márquez’s mural in Bogotá

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.

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.

What to see in Medellín

Drinking in Medellín

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.

Conclusion 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.

Conclusion
Now Your Turn

 

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Do you have any questions about Colombia ?

Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite tips to stay safe in this destination ?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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Is Colombia safe to travel : Complete Guide

So you are wondering “is Colombia is safe to travel”? In this article you will learn all about safety in Colombia: what to do, what no to do, safety at night, safest cities & regions, and more Let’s dive in.

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.

Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

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.

Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Safety in Colombia

We spent two weeks travelling around Colombia and had no problem at all, quite the contrary.

But it is true that we had 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, you don’t have to worry, they work at a different pace.

What applies to the camera, also applies to your next generation mobile.

Here I tell you that, most of the photos I took in the cities, I took them with my mobile, for not carrying the reflex, except in the Comuna 13 (Medellin) and Cerro de Monserrate (Bogota), where I walked without any problem with my reflex camera.

Well, if you’re going to take a picture with your cell phone, do the same, take the picture, and cell phone into your pocket.

If you have to make a call with your mobile phone, you can go to a shop or supermarket and make it from there quietly.

In Colombia people don’t go in zombie mode with their mobile phones like we do here.

Don’t show off your valuables and nothing will happen to you.

Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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.

medellin colombia
Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Travel insurance

Don’t forget to take out your travel insurance for Colombia.

Don’t risk it, travel calmly and without worries, so that a mishap doesn’t spoil your holidays or leave you with your wallet shaking.

We always carry the IATI travel insurance, we tell you in this article what is the best travel insurance to Colombia that suits your trip.

Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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.

Gabriel García Márquez’s mural in Bogotá

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.

bogota colombia
Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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.

Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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.

What to see in Medellín

Drinking in Medellín

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.

bogota colombia
Is Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

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 Colombia Safe to Travel ? – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Conclusion 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.

Useful Links

 

 

Conclusion Now Your Turn

 

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Do you have any questions about Colombia ?

Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite tips to stay safe in this destination ?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

Safety: precautions and advice

The advice that local people all over Colombia will give you most regarding security is: Don’t give papaya! It’s an expression they use to indicate that you don’t become an easy target: don’t go around showing off things of value (smartphone, camera, money) and thus avoid attracting attention.

Obviously, as tourists/travelers, we like to photograph the places, look for information on our smartphone, etc., and this doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Just be more cautious than usual and try to limit the camera hanging out in the street.

In any case, always travel with travel insurance: medical expenses, theft or problems with your plane on a trip can make you a lot of money, so ideally you should take out travel insurance.

We always use IATI and we recommend it (in this 7 month trip through Latin America we bought the IATI Estrella Premium).

If you take out your insurance through this link you get a 5% discount 

What is giving papaya?

 If you give papaya they eat it whole, this is how this Colombian expression usually ends.

To give papaya is to show valuable objects in the street, to make ostentation of them.

Be sure that if you go with your reflex camera hanging around your neck all the time, if you wear a very flashy watch, or if you show off your state-of-the-art phone, it may be stolen.

We took all the pictures we wanted, both with the mobile and with the reflex. 

But once the photo is taken, the camera in the bag, and the phone in the pocket, there’s no more walking around as if nothing could happen.

And of course, as in every big city, watch your wallet. 

That doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about getting mugged or robbed. Don’t worry about that, just have some sense and don’t give out papaya.

If you follow these tips, the most that can happen to you in Medellin is that the robbery will give you with its gastronomy, a good calorie robbery eating paisa trays. 

Safety in Colombia

The foreign media and people you know who have never set foot in Colombia tend to be very alarmist about the situation in “the country of FARC and cocaine”.

However, the armed conflict in some rural areas and the insecurity in the large urban centres is undeniable.

Yes, the ELN guerrillas and criminal gangs are still very much present.

But they are unlikely to attack a passing tourist if he does not look for it himself (for the taste of adrenaline or white powder).

The situation has improved considerably over the last ten years: the number of kidnappings has been divided by ten (less than 1 kidnapping per day on average in Colombia in 2017, compared to 10 in 2005), and the homicide rate is steadily decreasing.

The police are also well present and generally behave cordially towards foreigners.

They will recommend a minimum level of vigilance, but do not become paranoid: to avoid problems, it is enough, as everywhere, to have common sense and to respect basic rules, such as :

  • No dar papaya: don’t attract attention by displaying your valuables (camera, jewelry, smartphone, etc.), don’t lose sight of your luggage, don’t leave your purse lying around when you go dancing…
  • At night, take a taxi.
  • Don’t hail it on the street: call a taxi radio company or use an application like Easy Taxi.
  • Don’t go just anywhere: in tourist areas, don’t go far from lighted streets.
  • In Bogotá, be careful at night in the Candelaria district.
  • Do not carry parcels or luggage for a recent acquaintance, however friendly.
  • Avoid going out at night with your passport (a photocopy is sufficient) or credit card.
  • Take the money you need for the evening.
  • In case of an assault, keep calm, do not play the hero, give what you are asked. It is advisable to always have some money to give just in case.
  • Avoid withdrawing money on the street, preferably during the day and in shopping malls.
  • In bars and discos, keep control of yourself and stay in groups; most reported problems with tourists are due to alcohol abuse by tourists.
  • Don’t accept drinks, food, cigarettes or chewing gum from strangers, and don’t leave your drink lying around unattended, it could be laced with scopolamine, a burudanga-based drug, leaving you with no conscience.
  • Ask the right people and get several opinions: local authorities, Foreigners people living on the spot, hotel manager can all offer you valuable advice.

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