Colombia is a vibrant, exciting country in South America. It has an incredibly diverse landscape, with the warm Caribbean Sea in the north, the dramatic Andes Mountain in the middle, and the lush Amazon Rainforest in the south and east. The country consists of beaches, jungles, mountains, and grasslands, with small local towns, massive metropolitan cities, and delicious local cuisine, music, art, and culture. Colombia has also had a tumultuous history, full of colonial conflicts, political instability, and violent drug cartels. Though most of this drama is in the past, there is still a stigma that Colombia is a dangerous place. So you may be asking “Is it safe to travel to Colombia right now?”. Read on for a deeper understanding of safety in Colombia and whether now is a good time to visit!
Generally speaking, the crime rate in Colombia has fallen dramatically in the last few decades. Back in 1990, when drug cartels were at a high point, the crime rate was at an all-time high in the country. However, since 1990, the crime rate has steadily decreased. Since 2002, the crime rate decreased every single year, and now it is the lowest it has ever been throughout the 21st Century. So although crime still exists in Colombia, the overall crime rate is extremely low compared to what it used to be. If you stick to touristic areas, the crime you are likely to encounter is petty theft and robbery, illegal drug use, and corruption or scams. Violent crimes like murder, kidnappings, and terrorism, are still prevalent but mostly in rural areas. Arauca, Cauca, and Norte de Santander Departments currently have a travel warning because of the widespread crime in those areas. However, it is rare to see anything like that in touristic areas. Some Colombian cities, like Bogota, actually have lower violent crime rates than most US cities, for example. Always bear in mind that crime can occur anywhere and in any country. As long as you are travel smart and act responsibly, it would be best if you didn’t let the fear of crime stop you from exploring the world.
Here are some extra safety tips for Colombia. The general safety tips can be applied anywhere in the world!
Health safety tips:
Tap water is generally safe in Colombia, especially in mountainous areas.
Consider a water-purifying bottle if you’re heading to rural areas.
Always wear bug spray to protect against insect-carrying diseases
Wear sun protection, both at the beaches and in the mountains at higher elevations, the sun can be brutal!
Have travel insurance in case you need emergency medical attention.
General safety tips:
Avoid exploring alone at night. Try to explore with a friend! Having an extra person with you always increases safety.
Lock up your valuables in your hostel or hotel, and consider luggage locks.
Have copies of your passport and ID just in case it gets lost or stolen.
Don’t wear expensive jewelry and expensive clothes; it can attract unwanted attention from pickpockets
Try to learn some Spanish! It will help in tricky situations.
Bogota is relatively safe for tourists, although you may still encounter some petty crimes like theft or pickpocketing, so take extra care with your belongings. When out exploring, leave most of your valuables at home and only take what you need for the day. Always explore with other people at night. Bogota has lots of fun neighborhoods and delicious food and coffee.
Cartagena is extremely safe because there is rarely any violent crime against tourists. There is also a strong police presence. It is one of Colombia’s safest cities, especially for tourists.
Overall it is one of the country’s safest cities. It is safer than Bogota, though there is still sometimes petty theft against tourists. Medellin is also much safer during the day than at night time. Stick to the safe, touristy areas of Medellin and you shouldn’t have any problems with safety.
While solo female travelers should take some extra precautions in Colombia, the country should definitely still be under consideration for women traveling on their own. Whenever possible, avoid traveling alone, especially at night or in areas where there are not many people. Don’t flaunt any valuables, and avoid taking taxis alone at night. Always watch your drinks in a bar and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know.
Taxis are generally safe in Colombia, but always make sure you call your taxi in advance or use an app like EasyTaxi. Never get into a random vehicle. Even if it looks like a taxi, it might not be one. It’s always better to play it safe. Get your hotel or accommodation to call a cab for you, or download a taxi app (Uber is available in major cities in Colombia, including Cartagena, Medellín, Cali, and Bogotá) so you can order your own. Avoid taking taxis at night as well (especially as a solo female traveler).
Recently petty theft is a growing concern in Colombia and there has been a slight increase in crime, post-pandemic. However, Colombia has so much to offer the intrepid traveler. There is amazing nature, vibrant cities, fun nightlife, and a growing community of entrepreneurs and digital nomads who call Colombia home. Colombia is cheap and easy to navigate, and as long as you follow your instincts and use common sense, you will avoid trouble. Colombia is a country where you do want to stay on the beaten track or travel with a reputable company such as Va Expeditions. Find out more here!