Is Colombia Actually Safe? (A Scaremongering-Free Guide) • Indie Traveller


Of all of the international locations that I’ve traveled, Colombia certainly has by far essentially the most misconceptions about security.

The misconceptions go each methods. Some individuals’s minds are clearly nonetheless caught prior to now, associating Colombia solely with drug cartels or Pablo Escobar, although Colombia of right now is nothing prefer it was within the Nineteen Nineties.

But then there are additionally these on journey boards or blogs who, in making an attempt to right the outdated picture, will overcompensate approach an excessive amount of. They declare Colombia is ‘completely safe’ or ‘safer than most Western countries’.

This too is sadly incorrect. The reality is someplace within the center.

To make it easier to put together for your Colombia journey, let me clarify each the nice and the unhealthy about security in Colombia.

(Yeah, prepare for some uncooked and unfiltered NUANCE!)

Safety in Colombia: what you really want to listen to

Before I get misplaced within the particulars about security in Colombia, I feel it’s essential to start out with the positives. Numerous security guides skip over this half and so I imagine they find yourself giving a very fallacious impression.

The backside line is that Colombia is principally a protected nation (however with an emphasis on ‘mostly’). You can journey round Colombia as a vacationer simply fantastic, however it does include a little bit of an instruction handbook, so to talk.

To be clear: Colombia is an superb journey vacation spot. Colombians are extraordinarily pleasant, the environment is tremendous enjoyable, and you may discover most components with comparatively few worries. Travelers in Colombia are sometimes shocked by simply how simple and welcoming it’s.

Colombia occurs to be one in every of my high favourite international locations out of the 60+ I’ve been. It has among the most fascinating cities in South America, its biodiversity is the world’s second-highest making it unimaginable for ecotourism, and there’s a lot selection inside Colombia that it’s tremendous enjoyable to journey by means of. The vibe is nice, the latin music is ever-present, and it’s an reasonably priced vacation spot in addition.

Please hold these factors in thoughts when you learn concerning the security points!

An issue with offering security info is that you just at all times must be fairly detailed. You have to say every thing simply in case. But you possibly can rapidly get misplaced in all these ‘helpful details’ which may then start to overwhelm all of the positives.

In Colombia, the various positives positively outweigh the small negatives, so please don’t hesitate and ebook your airplane tickets. In truth, don’t come again to this web page till you may have your journey all booked and locked in.


Alright. Now let’s speak some extra.

How Colombia has modified

The predominant motive why so many individuals surprise about security in Colombia is clearly that it has had fairly a darkish previous.

It’s true: for a lot of the twentieth century, Colombia was torn aside by drug cartel violence and a brutal inner battle that lasted for over 5 many years (sure, half a century!).

It’s not so unusual that many destructive associations persist due to this terrible historical past. And should you’re from an older technology, these associations will certainly nonetheless be etched into your thoughts.


But Colombia has modified. While it had a few of its worst years within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, the scenario started to enhance. The infamous crime boss Pablo Escobar died in a police raid in 1993. Over time, long-simmering conflicts have been resolved. Cities have been reinvigorated with new public transit programs and security slowly improved.

I first travelled in Colombia again in 2013 when it was already being found by many backpackers. Not in all places was protected on the time, however the common recommendation was that you just have been fantastic as long as you caught to the principle journey path.

In 2016, the Colombian authorities signed a peace accord with the FARC rebels, prompting them to put down their weapons. This lastly opened up many different areas for tourism.

When I travelled in Colombia once more in 2022, I observed the way it’s being found now by common vacationers and never simply backpackers. The phrase is unquestionably getting out!

While there are nonetheless some areas in Colombia with a worse security repute, there are a lot fewer than there was.

Just evaluate this security map from 2013 (which is from the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs)…

… to what this identical security map seems like in 2022:

I ought to point out that just about all of the vacationer websites are within the inexperienced areas of the nation. The orange components are principally deep within the impenetrable rainforests alongside the borders and within the Amazon the place only a few individuals go.

In the areas that vacationers truly go to, the safety scenario is absolutely not a lot completely different from different fashionable vacationer locations in South America comparable to Ecuador or Peru.

Safety precautions in Colombia

Having mentioned this, Colombia is actually not a crime-free paradise. You ought to nonetheless take heed of journey security recommendation for Colombia to make sure your journey may have a decrease degree of danger.

If you’re an inexperienced traveller, make sure you do some looking out round for common journey security ideas. Typical recommendation comparable to “don’t flash expensive jewellery” or “don’t wander the streets drunk alone at night” are helpful anyplace, however positively in Colombia.

If you’re well-travelled, then you could already be acquainted with all of the widespread recommendation for accountable and protected journey.

Besides the essential precautions, you can too:

  • Avoid areas with a foul repute. You can discover these in security guides or in maps just like the one proven earlier. The ‘bad regions’ in Colombia are principally areas near the borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama, or very deep within the Amazon. Please don’t freak out by lengthy textual lists of departments or municipalities that it is best to keep away from, which may appear intimidating at first. Just have a look at the maps and keep out of the sketchy areas (except what you’re doing). You’ll have immediately made your journey a lot safer. Yay!
  • Do take a bit extra care within the cities; don’t exhibit costly gear and carry solely the money you want for the day. Ask your hostel or lodge workers if there are any unhealthy neighborhoods, simply to make sure. It’s at all times good to take care of some situational consciousness; don’t stroll across the streets along with your cellphone in hand with out paying any consideration, for instance. There is an expression in Colombia, “no dar papaya”, which mainly means “don’t make things easy for a criminal”. This is at all times good recommendation to reside by.
  • Inside the cities and significantly at evening, make sure you take official taxis (or use ride-hailing apps comparable to Uber, Cabify, Beat, or Didi that are protected). Official taxis might be discovered at taxi stands. Don’t get right into a random automobile you’ve hailed on the road.
  • When it’s good to take cash out, it’s value doing so inside a financial institution or inside a shopping center throughout the day the place there are many cameras and safety workers round. Then stash most of your money at your lodging till you want it.
  • Do take further care within the nightlife (within the massive cities) if you can be going out. Go out along with some buddies and don’t settle for drinks or cigarettes from strangers. Drugging/spiking is unfortunately identified to happen; it’s necessary to know for ladies, but additionally for males who’re generally ‘seduced’ by a Colombian girl who finally ends up being a legal. The nightlife is tremendous enjoyable, by the way in which, particularly should you like Latin music like salsa, however it’s good to not be naive and to maintain your wits about you.

By following security recommendation, you possibly can have a enjoyable and far more worry-free journey in Colombia.

Travelling within the areas of Colombia with a greater security repute will already make an enormous distinction. Focus on the locations that get really helpful on blogs, that seem in revealed journey guides, or that many individuals like to go to. These are certain to have a relaxed environment — the truth is, they’ll most likely make you surprise what the fuss was all about.

You completely gained’t miss out by avoiding the areas with a foul security repute. I travelled in Colombia for 3 months (even going a good bit ‘off the beaten path’) with out ever venturing into the extra questionable areas.

The unhealthy areas are irrelevant to 99% of tourists anyway as they’ll merely not find yourself there.

Do you want journey insurance coverage for Colombia?

Insurance will not be a requirement to enter Colombia and having journey insurance coverage gained’t in itself hold you protected. However, it does cowl you financially must you be so unluck to face sure points throughout your journey, so I do advocate getting journey insurance coverage for a visit to Colombia.

In conditions like theft, delay, illness, or accident it means you can be coated financially. You may even have a hotline (or a assist app) to make use of for recommendation in these conditions.

I personally use and advocate Heymondo, which presents nice worth and good customer support. You can get a quote to your Colombia journey right here. If you’re a little adventurous, it’s good to know they’ll cowl actitivies comparable to ziplining, kayaking, paragliding, and far more.

While sure points of security you possibly can’t in the end management, having insurance coverage is at the very least one field you possibly can simply tick that gives you elevated peace of thoughts.

Insurance for Colombia

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Travel insurance coverage will cowl you for theft, medical bills, cancellation, and extra. Heymondo presents nice protection, COVID-19 included, zero deductibles, and an app with 24/7 help & physician chat.

Are the cities in Colombia protected?

Mostly, sure, however as at all times it relies upon. Some cities, like Cali and Barranquilla, don’t have one of the best repute. But the important thing cities that the majority vacationers need to go to — like Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena — are protected in most areas and positively protected sufficient to do your typical sightseeing actions.

As in lots of cities world wide, there might be good neighborhoods and unhealthy ones. Be certain to ask at your lodge or learn your journey information to know extra.


For instance, within the stunning colonial metropolis of Cartagena, all of the vacationer areas have a excessive degree of security, making Cartagena fairly worry-free total. The outdated metropolis is kind of on an ‘island’ and this whole space may be very protected, as is the Miami-like seashore space of Bocagrande. But should you go into the suburbs the scenario could also be completely different and there it’s often suggested to take taxis and never wander the streets.

That mentioned, I can let you know that you just’re 99.9% prone to spend all of your time within the vacationer areas of Cartagena anyway.

If you’re planning on doing something very completely different from the standard vacationer actions, doing a fast examine relating to the completely different areas of a metropolis will clue you in simply.

By the way in which, the locations the place I at all times felt most secure in Colombia have been the smaller cities, the character resorts, and nationwide parks. Safety is barely on my thoughts in these locations. The cities are a bit completely different and will require a bit extra care.

To provide you with an concept, within the outdated city of Bogota or El Centro in Medellin, I often wish to hold my digicam inside my backpack till I really want it. In smaller cities or on nature trails, my digicam is out more often than not as I really feel little or no motive to cover it.

What about relationship or nightlife?

To be trustworthy, the nightlife is a little bit of a separate difficulty from doing regular vacationer actions throughout the day.

If you’re going to bars and golf equipment in Colombia, it’s sensible to take care of a bit extra consciousness. This is principally as a result of individuals are usually off guard or do silly issues when drunk or on medicine.

The most necessary tip is absolutely this: solely drink what’s come from the bar and went straight into your palms. Spiking is a factor in Colombia so don’t settle for drinks or cigarettes from strangers. This is a security concern for ladies but additionally for males. There have been stories of males getting drugged by Colombian ladies and waking up the following morning of their lodge room with all their belongings stolen.

If you go on Tinder dates watch out and perhaps don’t invite a stranger into your lodge room. If you really want to get busy, go to a “love hotel”. Since a variety of Colombians reside with their households (i.e. with not a lot privateness) it’s regular for them to go to those locations to have some enjoyable. They’ll know the place to seek out them.

Don’t go overboard with ingesting and take taxis or use ride-hailing apps to get dwelling. Honestly a variety of the (nonetheless uncommon) questions of safety I hear of from the journey neighborhood for Colombia relate to the nightlife.

Don’t let that make you paranoid although: I liked going out in Colombia and even obtained invited to native events the place I made some nice new buddies. The salsa dancing scene is superb. Just keep good when going out.

Is Colombia protected for Americans?

It’s perhaps an odd query, however I do see it pop up in my search queries rather a lot, so I wished to reply it.

There aren’t any particular causes for Americans to be protected or unsafe in Colombia — it’s identical to some other nationality touring there. So sure, should you take the conventional precautions, it’s protected for Americans.

Perhaps the rationale this query comes up rather a lot is the US State Department security report for Colombia. Their stories are identified to sound fairly intense and paranoid.

Maybe that is simply me talking as a European however I feel the US State Department security stories are sometimes actually not very balanced or truthful. Perhaps there’s nonetheless typically a common notion within the US (fed by sensationalized information media) that anyplace that isn’t The United States of America™ is definitely a wilderness full of savages and/or terrorists. The approach the State Department stories are written simply doesn’t replicate the precise expertise of going there, particularly as a vacationer.

I like to recommend additionally consulting the journey advisories of the UK or Australia, amongst different international locations, that are much more level-headed.

Final ideas about security in Colombia

Having traveled for 3 months in Colombia, my predominant thought is that I want extra individuals realized how superb this nation is, having had nothing however constructive experiences.

Mind you, this put up is not simply based mostly on my first-hand experiences. For this text, my purpose was to kind a extra full image than only one individual’s expertise. I hold my ear near the bottom within the journey neighborhood, seek the advice of official sources, and speak with as many locals as I can throughout my journeys.

Still, based mostly on my subjective view, I’d price the security in Colombia as mainly the identical as in different fashionable locations in Latin America comparable to Ecuador, Peru, or Costa Rica. If you’re fantastic with these international locations, you ought to be fantastic doing the conventional vacationer stuff in Colombia too.

That goes particularly should you’re utilizing public transport (buses, planes, and many others.) or excursions to maneuver between identified vacationer locations and also you’re not planning some sort of wild bike journey by means of random distant components of Colombia that nobody has ever heard of.

People’s perceptions of Colombia not often match the fact of travelling there. Most who journey there agree that it doesn’t really feel harmful, just a bit tough across the edges at instances.

I’ve been to locations the place I needed to get contained in the fenced perimeter of my lodge as quickly because it obtained darkish, locations the place I may solely stroll for 10 minutes down a seashore as a result of ‘after that it gets too dangerous’, or the place personal guards armed with shotguns needed to safe lots of the native companies. NONE of those have been in Colombia. And in practically all my time in Colombia, I’ve not needed to fear very a lot in any respect. (In case you’re curious, these locations have been in Honduras, South Africa, and The Philippines).

So is Colombia an ultra-safe nation like Japan or Norway? Hell no. Is it among the many actually unsafe international locations of the world? Also no. It’s actually someplace within the center.

But as I mentioned earlier than, merely discussing security can already have an effect on our notion, as destructive statements make a much bigger impression than constructive ones. (Thanks rather a lot, human evolution!) After studying all this, maybe what you would use is somewhat palette cleanser.

I like the climbing movies by Kraig Adams that are at all times so peaceable and tranquil… and he did one in Colombia. Watch this to get your nerves to calm 😉

Then shut all these different tabs you certainly have open for “safety in Colombia” and know that you just’ll have achieved the analysis that you just wanted to do. Be protected and above all take pleasure in your journey in Colombia!

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Posted OCT 11, 2022 (Updated Oct 18, 2022)


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