I first came to Colombia back in 2009 and visited many times with my wife before we moved here permanently near the start of 2017. And I can honestly say I have never felt like I have been in danger! I think part of it is because I don’t “give papaya” (don’t show off expensive things and give opportunity), part of it because I just use commonsense. I just don’t think it’s as dangerous in this country as the media will lead you to believe. But you can’t really blame the media, as it’s their job to sell newspapers and to get people to watch the news. And everyone knows that bad news is more entertaining than good.
Now to answer that exciting question…
Is it safe to travel to Colombia?
YES, it is!
But it doesn’t hurt to take a few precautions, so the following 10 safety tips for traveling in Colombia are just precautions, if you don’t follow them you’ll probably still have an amazing vacation. But these are just little tips that can help minimize a bad time if someone wants to ruin your day:
- Don’t bring flashy jewelry, watches, etc.
- It’s best to leave these at home.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport.
- Your original passport is worth a lot of money, so it’s better to leave it somewhere safe, like in your hotel room.
- Use Uber or Tappsi/Easy Taxi:
- You can download these apps on your phone. Both can work the same way with a charge to your credit card, or you can pay cash if you prefer. The great safety feature about these apps is that the driver’s details are recorded. So if he takes you on a longer trip than is needed, you can complain.
- If you use Uber, you’ll need to jump in the front of the car alongside the driver. This is to hide the fact you are taking an Uber, as it isn’t really liked by taxis drivers that have to pay high fees for their special taxi number plates.
- If you use Tappsi / Easy Taxi, you’ll be picked up in a normal taxi.
- Write the address of your accommodation and intended destinations on paper. This way, even if you do not speak Spanish, a taxi will be able to take you home or wherever you want to go.
- If you have internet data on your phone, follow the route using Waze or Google Maps.
- Use Waze:
- This is another app that can be downloaded and works exactly like Google maps. But because everyone uses it here, it is much better and more accurate. It’s a great idea to check your travel route prior to getting in your Uber or Tappsi, as this way you can actually direct them the way you’d like to go. If possible get a small printed map that you can mark down where you going. But please don’t walk around the streets looking at the map. Just do it discreetly in a cafe or restaurant.
- If you do get lost or need help, look for someone in a uniform. Generally, security guards or a concierge can be trusted. Because if something was to go wrong you can tell the police who gave you the bad information, and from what building.
- Always lock the doors of your taxi or any car you’re traveling in.
- It’s just as a precaution. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Just carry the money you think you’ll need for the day.
- If you need more, you can always go back to your accommodation or get some out in an ATM. If possible only withdraw money during the day, protect your pin number, and make sure there are no loose parts on the machine.
- Always put it in more than one pocket.
- If you have the bad luck of someone robbing you, they want to get away as quickly as possible with no hassle. So don’t be quick to give them money from every pocket, just giving them money from one place and hopefully this will be enough and they’ll runoff.
- Also, keep your ATM and/or credit card in another pocket.
- Credit / Debit Cards.
- If possible bring more than one of each on your travels. And only take one out with you at a time, so if you do lose one, you will still have a backup back in the hotel.
- Speaking of pockets, travel pants are awesome!
- They have deep pockets, hidden pockets, pockets with zips and pockets with velcro for extra security. I highly recommend it.
- Carry valuables next to your skin!
- You may not feel anything get removed from a pocket, but you should feel anything moving under your shirt or pants. So if you do decide to travel with an expensive item, try to keep it under your clothes and next to your skin whenever possible.
- Don’t walk down any dark lonely streets!
- This one is a bit of commonsense, but I thought it best to mention it just in case.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended:
- Just as above, a bit of commonsense in any country.
- Don’t walk and talk on your cellphone in the street:
- If you need to make a call, go into a shop or somewhere off the street.
- Listen to the locals:
- These people live here and know what to do and what not to do. They know where is safe and where is not. They can tell you if an area is safe during the day and not at night; if you need to travel in a group or if it’s just not safe to go there at all.
- Waterproof wallet:
- These things are a must if you’re going to the beach, spending a day on a boat, kayak or anywhere wet really. Just test it out with something other than your cell phone first. And of course, get one big enough to keep a few extra bits and pieces.
- Try to dress similar to the locals and blend in.
- For example, the locals in Colombia rarely wear shorts unless at the beach, river or pool. Try to avoid an obvious tourist appearance.
- Check out any maps discreetly, especially if you’re using your phone!
- If you’re unsure which direction to go in, ask for directions from a person of obvious authority, eg a security guide or police officer. It may be a good idea to have any addresses written on paper before you leave your accommodation.
- An experienced pickpocket can usually pick a tourist out in a crowd.
- Wear your purse across your body with the opening flap against your stomach so that it’s more difficult to get into. If you’re carrying a daypack wear it in front, kangaroo-style.
- Don’t show your money to anyone saying they are the police.
- If someone says they are a police officer and are looking for fake money, don’t show them yours! Simply say you have spent all you have today and have nothing to show them. Unfortunately, there have been people posing as police officers and doing just this. They then tell the person that the money is fake and they can collect replacement money at the local police station. Unfortunately, there is no replacement money.
- If you have the very bad luck with getting in a bad situation, just give them what they want.
- DON’T BE A HERO; these people don’t want any problems with you or the police. They just want to get the goods (usually a cell phone) and/or cash and get out as soon as possible. So don’t argue, don’t fight, just give it to them and tell someone what has happened as soon as possible.
If you have any other tips you think would be of help to our readers, please send them through, so I can update our list and give you a shout out.