Safety Tips in Colombia

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Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in Colombia

  • MMC

    by MauricioR2 Updated Jul 10, 2014

    I live in Bogota and for tourists we always give the same advices:
    1. Pickpockets: the would try to take your wallet, money or phone in crowded places.
    2. If you want to party or just walk at night, ask a colombian (at hotel or restaurants) first the places where you plan to go. There are great safe areas, and also lonely ones.
    3. Don´t walk showing cameras or expensive items, put them on a bag.
    4. Before your are going to pay, no matter the place, ask someone else how much that should cost, otherwise they will charge you twice. (Taxi, people selling on the street, at the beach, etc).
    5. If you want to go to a small town ask a colombian how should you go. Remember that we still have in really remote places some trouble, but far far into the Country.
    6. You are not going to be kidnapped, not raped or killed in any city.
    7. Have common sense, any country have not so nice people that would take advantage or tourists.
    8. Take a taxis only if someone call them on the phone or use an apps for it. Never on the street (a few of them could robbed you, charge you extra money).

    These advices are just precautions, is not for a daily situation. We love to see tourists enjoy 100% the trip.

    And the most important: Enjoy Colombia and the incredible people and food you will find here. Everybody is going to try to help you anywhere, anytime.

    ´Must´ cities: Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena (magical), Santa Marta!

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  • JessieLang's Profile Photo

    Generally safe

    by JessieLang Written Apr 5, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Colombia is no longer a scary place. Use common sense, as you would anywhere else. And big cities anywhere can have problems. I felt comfortable and safe in all the places I visited. I wouldn't wander alone at night in Bogota, but I don't do that in the city I live in either.

    Don't let what Colombia was like 10 years ago keep you from visiting now.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Is Colombia safe?

    by richiecdisc Written Feb 13, 2011

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    It was not too long ago that the mere mention of going to Colombia would raise more than a few eyebrows due to safety concerns and even today it is likely to at least elicit the good-intentioned question “is it safe?” Bogotá's reputation as the kidnapping capital of the world dies hard and though the country has gone through many changes in the last two decades, it is not easy to shed such a strong aura of danger that has pervaded the country since the days of wanton drug lord wars. One of the big problems is misinformation or should I saw old information. The truth is the average person was probably very unlikely to be kidnapped even in its heyday, such crimes are generally reserved for political figures, their families or at least the more well-heeled. Still, when the country was under siege it was not wise to venture into areas disputed by guerrillas and paramilitaries. Just what those areas were or more importantly are is what has kept travelers to Colombia at bay for so long. For instance, the simple bus trip from Bogotá to the charming colonial town of Villa de Leyva was considered questionable in guidebooks as recently as 2005 and it was suggested to fly the short route rather than take any chances. This is certainly not the case now and my guess is it was already fine to do in 2005. Ten years prior might have been a different story. The key is to try and find out current information.

    We traveled almost exclusively by bus around Colombia for two months in early 2010 and had no incidents whatsoever. We generally stayed to the main tourist areas but we did venture to El Cocuy, Mompós, and Ipiales in the far south. We did stick to day buses as much to see the scenery as for safety reasons though in the case to Ipiales, it was still being recommended to do so. The trip to Mompós probably felt the most unsafe to me but it was an odd trip, broken up in the middle of the night with a change to 4x4 vehicles. I have never read of any problems on this route but when you are tired and disoriented, it is easy to feel vulnerable. There is no easy day route for this trip if coming from points east so unless you want to it from Cartagena in both directions, you will have to travel at night or break your trip in a very small town en route. El Cocuy was considered very unsafe until perhaps five years ago due to guerrilla activity in the area. It was this unsureness of the safety of this very area that kept me from going to Colombia for so long as it was the main area I wanted to explore. I can say that in 2010 I felt entirely safe in this area, perhaps more so than trekking in my own country. Aside from the possibility of getting lost due to poor signage on the trail, the park's only danger is likely its remoteness if an accident was to occur.

    So, is Colombia safe? I would have to say yes. Can you wander around like in the Garden of Eden with not a care in the world? I would have to say no, but that is what I would say about most places on the earth we inhabit today. Having grown up in the northeastern United States in a big city, I have always kept my guard up especially at night so it doesn't feel so odd to do it when traveling to me. To be honest, I don't tend to go out late at night when traveling around in South America and after four long trips to the continent I have had only three questionable encounters which I escaped from easily enough by acting with purpose and moving away from it quickly. But to not travel to Colombia strictly for safety reasons is like not going to New York. You will miss a lot in so doing and it also does a disservice to a wonderful country and people who have a lot to offer.

    early mornings=early night=safe
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  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    Changing the dollar

    by tampa_shawn Written Oct 19, 2009

    Colombia is a very good place to buy dollars. Why? Because of the huge amount of blackmarket dollars coming into the country
    from sales of cocaine abroad there are way to many dollars in the country. As such one can buy dollars cheaper than the market
    price. Conversely Colombia is not such a good place to bring dollars to buy pesos. Better to take the money out of an account
    or use travellers checks. In summary NEVER change dollars to pesos in Colombia

    advise from the Black Sheep Hostel. Exact link is below

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  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    Military state and check points

    by tampa_shawn Written Oct 19, 2009

    Colombia is a very well armed country. Anything of importance has armed guards...buildings, bridges, even country roads. I must see hundreds of military all heavily armed each day. I find it comforting since I know this presence is what is keeping me and the country safe. Actually...its also important to know that the entire country is not safe. Many of the country areas and borders with other countries and near the pacific which are all key for the drug trade are not yet controlled by the country but are controlled by rival guerrilla gangs. I have been told that in some areas one out of every 10 buses are seized by the guerrillas. This is why I did not visit some of the sights that were on the top of my list. I will have to go back and see Saint Augustin and its amazing stone statues and terrain some other time.

    However, many of the cities in Colombia are actually the safest in all of Central and South America and in a country that I truly believe has some of the nicest people in the world the contrast is striking and hard to comprehend at times. The guns are just one reminder though. I got an absolutely wonderful picture the other day...no guns or drugs in the restaurant-bar. I cant think of another country where you have to put that sign up. Ines said there are a lot of signs like that in the buses in Botgota too.

    We got stopped yesterday at another police check point. This is my third in three weeks. These are random checkpoints that the police set up to help stem to flow of drugs and guns and of course the violence. They really use police dogs and most checkpoints the dogs will go down the line checking and sniffing everyone. For the most part they use German shepherds and labs. I have been told that some dogs specialize in drugs and others in the smell of ammunition. I have never felt threatened or scared at these check points and the guards are quite polite.

    The normal procedure is the bus is stopped. A police-military man gets on the bus and gives a polite greeting and a little speech about country safety and then asks everyone to leave the bus. He then walks to the back of the bus to make sure everyone leaves. The men go to the back of the bus and are all patted down and the women just go to the front of the bus. Sometimes are bags are checked other times we are asked for our IDs and each ID is entered into a satellite computer. The dogs are walking around sniffing us the entire time. The random stops always have banners up advertising the militaryś role in keeping the country safe.

    Once the IDs are checked the military men read off the names and you come to collect your ID. The womens ID seemed to be checked immediately and personally given back to us. The mens IDs are all confiscated and kept till the end. then the names on the IDs are read out loud and the men come to check their id.

    I am normally free to walk around and take pictures and have even taken pictures of the guards (trying not to be too obvious) without problems. The one time I totally got caught taking pictures they all laughed at me.

    Bogota PlazaBolivar Saliento Guards Security Check Bus

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  • bighock58's Profile Photo

    fake carnaval tickets

    by bighock58 Written Mar 13, 2009

    be careful of buying tix for caranval in baranquilla from men in the streets leading up to the parade route as the insist they have discount tix only to leran after you bought them that hte the are fake and these men are long gone

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  • RobyG's Profile Photo

    Nite time in Bogota'

    by RobyG Written Aug 13, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    As a big city Bogota' may get a bit dangerous in the night time. Please consider that soldiers are always around the tourist area during the whole day but there is less control in the night time. Basically stay in the tourist area of La Candelaria and Plaza de Bolivar
    (there is no need to visit all the wide city, particularly the west area) where you can find several Hotels and Hostals.
    The night life is quite busy with many options in different part of the city, but ALWAYS TAKE A TAXI to go back home after your fun.

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  • Be Aware

    by Fernando1959 Updated Mar 20, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I have been visiting Colombia since 2002. At that time Colombia was a very dangerous place not only to visit but also to live. Since then the government has made the cities a little bit safer, but it is far from secure. The poverty level is very high. There is no middle class. Unemployment is also very high. Like in many cities throughout the world, poverty is rampant and where there is poverty there is crime. Do not go to the bad neighborhoods. Do not travel with large amounts of money. Travel with someone who knows the area, the customs and the language. It is also helpful to dress like the locals. Don't try to stand out. Don't make yourself a target. This advice is not only for someone visiting Colombia, but even in your own neighborhood. Practice common sense. Stay away from the rural areas, this is where the guerrila forces abound. There are also armed paramilitary groups that are everywhere. Avoid getting into political discussions, because you do not know who is who. Overall Colombia is a very beautiful country. The people are very nice and are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation.

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  • clmetal's Profile Photo

    Taxis

    by clmetal Updated Nov 14, 2006

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The department of state and locals will warn you about flagging a cab. They should instead be ordered or picked up at a reliable location (hotel, . . . ).

    Otherwise, the city is relatively safe looking. FARC bombings have occurred, but the city has lots of police and cars pulling into lots are subject to bomb sniffing dogs and underside mirror inspections.

    I wanted to take 1 picture of an officer with his machine gun out, and a large group came over asking for me to take their picture. I was sorry I did not go into the picture, and later, my friend posed with a police officer (that was not carrying a machine gun)

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  • WaRPer's Profile Photo

    Altitude Sickness

    by WaRPer Updated Jul 21, 2006

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Bogota is named the World’s Highest Capital,
    over 8300 feet above the sea level!! Like the rest of the Western cities, there’re all mountainous, approximately 3000-4000 feet ASL.

    When your body couldn’t get enough Oxygen for the blood cells, you’ll easily get tried, dehydrated and hardly catch your breath. Before getting to this country, please consider your health as the priority issue; do a little check-up with your blood pleasure and heart rates cuz you would never want to have a heart attack while traveling for sure!! Like couple of years ago, when Sir Elton John was having his big concert here in Bogota, after 15 minutes of his performance on stage suddenly he just got fainted, the ambulance needed to take him to the ER, all because of this Altitude Sickness.

    Helga
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  • WaRPer's Profile Photo

    Guerrilla/Passport check

    by WaRPer Written Jul 21, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    If you’re on a Road Trip, it’s always a chance running into both the Guerilla or police’s check point especially if you’re heading to Bogotá. Have your passport and other documents (Int. Driver’s License, Work Permit or whatever) ready, don’t be panic if they ask you to get out of your car and take you to their ‘BOSS’. If you are from foreign countries (except for some Americans – you know Colombian don’t like the Americans that much – Why? You’ll figure out!!) just present them your passport and they’ll let you go in less than 10-15 minutes, actually they really love to have tourists visit their country. All you’ve gotta do is answer some general questions and try to be polite to them.

    Juntas
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  • WaRPer's Profile Photo

    Dangerous East

    by WaRPer Written Jul 21, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Colombia is a great country and the Colombian are among the nicest people in the world. Though it’s just a slight chance you’ll get involved with the terrorist or political incidents, but for whatever reasons, Eastern Colombia is totally NOT a place for tourists. The remote flatland on the East is where the Guerilla Troop gathers round and is the center where drug trafficking / smuggling and other forms of illegal activities going on. Sorry to say this, but most of these lands are too dangerous and uncivilized. From Bogotá, please just go West ,North or South, but NOT East.

    Actually even in Bogotá, it’s very common to see armed soldiers carrying guns & rifles around but that is just for security reasons they’re not likely to shoot you or anyone!!

    Murillo
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  • WaRPer's Profile Photo

    Kaki Clothes

    by WaRPer Written Jul 21, 2006

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    You may think this is a bit ridiculous, but for your own safety DO NOT EVER WEAR ‘KAKI’ (green, military-like) CLOTHES OUT especially in most of the remote areas and off-the-beaten tracks. This is quite a serious issue in Colombia, since the Guerillas wear Kaki as their trademark and whenever the police suspect someone (in that color), he has a permission to shoot!! This is no kidding, my Colombian friend warned me about this herself. Don’t ignore those little details, they might cause you a really big trouble!! BETTER BE SAFE THAN SORRY, right?

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  • jungles's Profile Photo

    Highway Bandits

    by jungles Updated Jun 25, 2006

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    While travelling in Colombia, we went everywhere by public transport overland, including some night buses, and had no problems. However, certain routes are said to be more dangerous than others, and in some places it is not advisable to travel at night. Inquire locally (or on the forum) about the current situation. Highway robbery is a reality not just in Colombia but in other Latin American countries as well, particularly Mexico and Guatemala. Luckily we never ran into bandits, but we always took precautions nontheless.

    Whereas I would normally keep my valuables with me in my daypack when travelling by bus, in Latin America I locked them up in my large bag instead, which went underneath the bus. I figured if bandits did attack, they would simply take whatever people had on them and not worry about the luggage underneath. I also sewed a secret pocket on the inside of my pants leg, where I kept our credit cards and most of our cash. I kept with me a decoy wallet filled with a wad of one-dollar bills, and also used the money belt as a second decoy, where I kept a small amount of local currency and enough travellers checks to make it look like that was the remainder of our stash.

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  • mariacardenas's Profile Photo

    colombia dangerous no is true

    by mariacardenas Written Apr 17, 2006

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    the true about colombia,,,,,, i was in colombia the past week and colombia is the country more beutifull that the people say ,,,,have the problem nothing is perfect ,,,but the guerrilla no is in the city is in the town to far away ,,,,and they don`t have any problem with you this is apart ,,,dont thing if you go to colombia some want try to kill you ....please !!!! this don happen i think usa is more dangerous colombia have the best culture,people,beautifull girls,foods,music everything you want you can fine in colombia,,,,off course if you go to colombia is better if you know some one there and go to the different and wonderfull place this country have,,the people say colombia is dangerous is because don`t know colombia maybe you think that take the chance to know and and change the opinion
    about colombia!!!!!

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Colombia Warnings and Dangers

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