Safety Tips for Colombia

Colombia is a South American country with a less-than-stellar reputation for drug wars and violence. Despite its long history of insecurity, Colombia is and has been for some time a favorite travel destination for venture travelers.
With a charismatic culture and friendly people with breathtaking natural landscapes, it is easy to fall in love with this enchanting country.
The safety of a destination can be subjective and depends on a variety of factors. While Colombia has made significant progress in improving safety in recent years, there are still areas where safety can be a concern, particularly in congested cities and remote areas.

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So, is Colombia really safe for travelers? The short answer is yes, provided you use common sense and stay away from known risky areas.
Gone are the days of Pablo Escobar, who terrorized Colombia with armed shootings and gang violence. Despite what you may read or see, Colombia now is a relaxed place waiting to be explored.
There is a saying here no dar papaya, which literally means Do not give papaya. In other words, do not have something sweet on display – a phone, computer, watch, etc. that would make you a target. In reality, this is true anywhere.

Prevention is the best investment

Your personal safety begins before you leave your home.
One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is not doing their homework, particularly on areas to avoid, cultural sensitivities, and health concerns. Nowadays there is a wealth of information available online, so take advantage and learn as much as possible. Besides planning all the places you are going to see, research the current political climate and local laws and customs. Also, look into visa and vaccination requirements, current travel warnings and alerts, health precautions, and risky areas for tourists. Guidebooks, travel blogs, forums, and online resources such as Expat Groups, are great places to start.

Research before your travel

Once in Colombia, enjoy yourself, but do also take heed.
Unless you are moving to a new location, do not have all your cash and cards on your person. Instead, keep enough cash at hand to get through the day, plus one credit card. Everything else ought to be in your guesthouse safety box. Should you be pickpocketed, which is common in many parts of the world, you will be relieved that all is not lost. If by chance you have to take everything with you, separate your money and do not have it all in one place.

Choose your ground transportation with care
Rip-offs can happen anytime, anywhere, so here are some tips:
Have a restaurant or hotel call you for a ride. It is not a good idea to hail one on the street. A restaurant manager or business owner can call one for you. From the airport use an official taxi or better still avail of private transport with

  • Be informed. Make sure you know the general route to your destination and have an idea of the cost.
  • Do not make additional stops. If the driver wants to make another stop on the way, tell them that it is not acceptable. Only use licensed taxis, not piratas (pirates).
  • Use small bills to pay. Save small bills for payment so you do not lose out if the driver “doesn’t have change.” In most Colombian cities, but not in the smaller pueblos (towns), hail riding services are commonly used. Be aware though that you might have to pay cash rather than have the fare charged to your card. The usual security benefits of using an Application apply. The most popular ones are Uber, Cabify, InDriver, and Didi. Not all are available in every city.
  • Colombia, although rarely hazardous, does have creative scam artists. These are easily avoided if you know what to look for and use common sense.
  • As in any other major city, be careful of your surroundings, especially at night. Villains tend to work in groups, usually near tourist centers.
  • Do not accept food or drinks from strangers, especially in bars and clubs and most certainly if you are meeting someone through a Dating App.

Working out the budget for your travels to Colombia? Then be sure to check out our article on the costs of a package tour to Colombia, and our article on how much money you’ll need while traveling through Colombia.

Crooks will sometimes pose as undercover police officers and ask to inspect your money to see if it is counterfeit. Do not give it to them, even if they present you with a police ID (which will be false) and offer to give you a receipt for your money.

Be careful in crowded areas
Thieves will often distract you while accomplices help themselves to your cash. When drawing funds from a bank machine only use one in a secure area and never in the street.

Know the local emergency telephone numbers:
National Emergency number: 123
Tourist Police: (1) 337 4413
Information: 113
US Embassy Bogotá: +57 1 275 2000
British Embassy Bogotá: +57 (1) 601 326 8300
French Embassy Bogotá: +57 (1) 638 1400

Still have questions about visiting Colombia?
Ask someone who lives there. Talk with a Destination Expert by making an appointment here.
They can answer any questions you may have and design a fantastic Colombian Tour just for you.