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


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

The misconceptions go each methods. Some individuals’s minds are clearly nonetheless caught up to now, associating Colombia solely with drug cartels or Pablo Escobar, although Colombia of at the moment 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But then there are additionally these on journey boards or blogs who, in making an attempt to appropriate the outdated picture, will overcompensate approach an excessive amount of.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 enable you 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 crucial to start out with the positives. Lots of security guides skip over this half and so I imagine they find yourself giving a very mistaken impression.

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

To be clear: Colombia is an superb journey vacation spot. Colombians are extraordinarily pleasant, the ambiance 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 all my prime favourite international locations out of the 60+ I’ve been. It has a few of 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. The vibe is nice, the latin music is ever-present, and it’s an reasonably priced vacation spot besides.

Please hold these factors in thoughts whilst you learn concerning the security facets!

An issue with offering security data is that you just at all times have to be fairly detailed. You have to say every little thing simply in case. But you possibly can rapidly get misplaced in all these ‘helpful details’ which might 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’ve your journey all booked and locked in.


Alright. Now let’s speak some extra.

How Colombia has modified

The major purpose 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 a long time (sure, half a century!).

It’s not so unusual that many unfavorable associations persist due to this terrible historical past. And when 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 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 methods 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 basic recommendation was that you just have been fantastic as long as you caught to the primary 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 popularity, 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 similar security map appears to be like 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 largely 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 admittedly not a lot totally different from different widespread vacationer locations in South America reminiscent of Ecuador or Peru.

Safety precautions in Colombia

Having stated 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 could have a decrease stage of threat.

If you might be an inexperienced traveller, you should definitely do some looking round for basic journey security ideas. Typical recommendation reminiscent of “don’t flash expensive jewellery” or “don’t wander the streets drunk alone at night” are helpful wherever, however positively in Colombia.

If you might be well-travelled, then you could already be accustomed to all of the widespread recommendation for accountable and protected journey.

Besides the fundamental precautions, you too can:

  • Avoid areas with a foul popularity. You can discover these in security guides or in maps just like the one proven earlier. The ‘bad regions’ in Colombia are largely 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 you need to keep away from, which might appear intimidating at first. Just have a look at the maps and keep out of the sketchy areas (until you already know 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 showcase 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 keep up some situational consciousness; don’t stroll across the streets together 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 stay by.
  • Inside the cities and significantly at evening, you should definitely take official taxis (or use ride-hailing apps reminiscent of 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 you could take cash out, it’s value doing so inside a financial institution or inside a shopping center in the course of 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 large cities) if you may be going out. Go out along with some pals and don’t settle for drinks or cigarettes from strangers. Drugging/spiking is unfortunately recognized to happen; it’s vital to know for ladies, but additionally for males who’re typically ‘seduced’ by a Colombian girl who finally ends up being a legal. The nightlife is tremendous enjoyable, by the best way, particularly when you like Latin music like salsa, nevertheless 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 way more worry-free journey in Colombia.

Travelling within the areas of Colombia with a greater security popularity will already make an enormous distinction. Focus on the locations that get really helpful on blogs, that seem in printed journey guides, or that many individuals like to go to. These are positive to have a relaxed ambiance — actually, they’ll in all probability make you surprise what the fuss was all about.

You completely received’t miss out by avoiding the areas with a foul security popularity. 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 holiday makers anyway as they’ll merely not find yourself there.

Do you want journey insurance coverage for Colombia?

Insurance just isn’t a requirement to enter Colombia and having journey insurance coverage received’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 suggest getting journey insurance coverage for a visit to Colombia.

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

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

While sure facets of security you possibly can’t finally management, having insurance coverage is at the least one field you possibly can simply tick that provides you with 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 gives 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 popularity. But the important thing cities that the majority vacationers need to go to — like Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena — are protected in most areas and definitely protected sufficient to do your typical sightseeing actions.

As in lots of cities around the globe, there might be good neighborhoods and unhealthy ones. Be positive to ask at your lodge or learn your journey information to know extra.


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

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

If you might be planning on doing something very totally different from the everyday vacationer actions, doing a fast test relating to the totally different areas of a metropolis will clue you in simply.

By the best way, 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 totally different and should require a bit extra care.

To offer you an thought, within the previous city of Bogota or El Centro in Medellin, I often prefer 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 purpose to cover it.

What about relationship or nightlife?

To be sincere, the nightlife is a little bit of a separate subject from doing regular vacationer actions in the course of the day.

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

The most vital tip is admittedly 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 experiences 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 possibly don’t invite a stranger into your lodge room. If you really want to get busy, go to a “love hotel”. Since loads of Colombians stay 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 consuming and take taxis or use ride-hailing apps to get dwelling. Honestly loads of the (nonetheless uncommon) issues of safety I hear of from the journey group for Colombia relate to the nightlife.

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

Is Colombia protected for Americans?

It’s possibly an odd query, however I do see it pop up in my search queries lots, so I wished to reply it.

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

Perhaps the explanation this query comes up lots is the US State Department security report for Colombia. Their experiences are recognized to sound fairly intense and paranoid.

Maybe that is simply me talking as a European however I feel the US State Department security experiences are sometimes actually not very balanced or truthful. Perhaps there’s nonetheless usually a basic notion within the US (fed by sensationalized information media) that wherever that isn’t The United States of America™ is unquestionably a wilderness full of savages and/or terrorists. The approach the State Department experiences are written simply doesn’t mirror 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 major thought is that I want extra individuals realized how superb this nation is, having had nothing however optimistic experiences.

Mind you, this publish is not simply primarily based on my first-hand experiences. For this text, my objective was to type a extra full image than only one particular person’s expertise. I hold my ear near the bottom within the journey group, seek the advice of official assets, and speak with as many locals as I can throughout my journeys.

Still, primarily based on my subjective view, I’d charge the protection in Colombia as mainly the identical as in different widespread locations in Latin America reminiscent of Ecuador, Peru, or Costa Rica. If you’re fantastic with these international locations, you have to be fantastic doing the conventional vacationer stuff in Colombia too.

That goes particularly when you’re utilizing public transport (buses, planes, and many others.) or excursions to maneuver between recognized vacationer locations and also you’re not planning some type of wild bike journey by 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 occasions.

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 non-public guards armed with shotguns needed to safe most of the native companies. NONE of those have been in Colombia. And in almost 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 really unsafe international locations of the world? Also no. It’s actually someplace within the center.

But as I stated earlier than, merely discussing security can already have an effect on our notion, as unfavorable statements make an even bigger impression than optimistic ones. (Thanks lots, human evolution!) After studying all this, maybe what you possibly can use is somewhat palette cleanser.

I like the mountaineering 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 absolutely have open for “safety in Colombia” and know that you just’ll have finished the analysis that you just wanted to do. Be protected and above all get pleasure from your journey in Colombia!

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


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