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The No-Nonsense Guide to Staying Safe in Bogota

ViaHero · October 18, 2018

Bogota’s image is changing; crime is dropping, culture is flourishing, and tourism is booming. But while Bogota is quite safe on the whole, Colombia’s capital is still in development. Like any big city, there are things you need to keep in mind to ensure that your trip is nothing but smooth sailing—so here are 10 tips on how to stay safe on your Bogotano adventure. Once you feel confident that you can take the city with ease, feel free to message us with any questions you still have!

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1. There are some neighborhoods that are great for lodging and some you should avoid

Finding a place to stay for a vacation in a foreign city can be intimidating, but Bogota has plenty of safe options.

  • Zona T (Zona Rosa) and Zona G are top picks for travelers due to the number of excellent restaurants and attractions nearby.
  • North Chapinero and Usaquen are hipster-fabulous neighborhoods packed with excellent hotels, and are quite close to Bogota’s main attractions.
  • Soledad, Palermo, Parkway, and Cedritos are great options that are more residential and less touristy, but still very safe.
  • La Candelaria is Bogota’s oldest neighborhood and street art hub. Just be wary when walking around at night—given the area’s charms, it’s a hotspot for pickpockets looking for vulnerable travelers.

There are still some areas you don’t necessarily want to spend the night in.

  • Kennedy, Ciudad Bolívar, Usme, San Cristóbal and Bosa are residential localities that are widely advised to be avoided. As a general rule of thumb, the southern areas of Bogota are grittier while the north is generally safer. That being said, these neighborhoods don’t have much in the way of activities anyway, so feel free to skip them!

If you’re having trouble deciding where you want to spend your Bogota vacation, don’t fret—with so many great neighborhoods to choose from, one of our trip planners can easily find the best neighborhood to fit your taste.

2. Take Uber to avoid “millionaire rides”

Taxis are cheap and ubiquitous throughout Bogota, but beware of so-called “millionaire rides”—the nickname given to a well-known-if-infrequent Bogota scam in which taxi drivers mug their passengers. Luckily, this can be avoided by using Uber, the app we all know and love. Not only will Uber deter a millionaire ride experience, but it’ll also prevent you from being overcharged by n unscrupulous cabbie.

3. Don’t respond to catcallers

Sexual violence is still an issue in Latin America, but Bogota is known to be safer than most other major South American cities in that regard. However, if you happen to come across catcalling during your trip, don’t act nervous, and don’t respond to the calls—catcalling is a common nuisance in Bogotano culture, but will almost never escalate if ignored.

4. Never take drinks from strangers

You’ve been told this advice a million times, but a spiked drink is a common trap for both male and female travelers in Colombia. A Colombian drug called scopolamine, or more commonly, Devil’s Breath, is odorless, tasteless, and is sometimes used to incapacitate victims before a robbery. Like any other tranquilizer, it alters the victim’s memory, inhibitions, and can be fatal in high doses.

5. Avoid getting in the middle of protests

As Colombia’s capital, Bogota is often the center of political demonstrations and protests. While crime is decreasing and police presence increasing, protests can, as in many other countries, get ugly—and quickly. Foreign government interests are known to be a target, so don’t take a chance. To learn more about the safety situation in Colombia as a whole, read up on safety in Colombia.

6. Try to look like you belong

A great tip for a traveler in any locale is to try and blend in. Travelers are the main targets for scams and pickpocketing so no matter how many days you’re in Bogota, don’t make yourself an easy target. Bogota's weather is very mild due to its high altitude, so Bogotanos generally dress more conservatively than other Colombians. To that end, make sure to wear jeans, closed toed shoes, and a light jacket. Don’t wear flashy jewelry, shorts, or sandals, as these articles of clothing will immediately mark you as a tourist. It’s also uncommon for Bogotanos to use their smartphones in public, so keep it packed away for use in private!

7. Have a buddy while withdrawing money

As in any large city, ATMs can act as a hub for lurking muggers. Let’s be real, Bogota is very much safe and a great place to travel, but it’s better to be safe than sorryso use the buddy system while withdrawing money. To be even more on the cautious side, make an effort to only use ATMs inside of banks.

8. Be wary of “police officers”

If a police officer approaches you asking for identification or money to “check if it’s counterfeit,” ask to see a badge, and then request that they take you to the nearest police station to do so. These “officers” are occasionally imposters (or simply corrupt officials) and will try to “confiscate” your money—or even plant drugs so that you have to pay a hefty fine. Another good tip is to only carry a copy of your passport, so there’s no chance of your papers getting taken.

9. Hike Monserrate on the weekend

While Monserrate is one of the attractions that make Bogota such an incredible city, the mountain occasionally draws scam artists. The safest time to visit is during the weekend because locals attend church at the top of the mountain, so there are fewer prowlers targeting travelers. Bonus tip: Monserrate is not very safe after heavy rain due to slippage, so be sure to check the weather before your pilgrimage!

10. Do not participate in narco-tourism

This one might seem obvious, but there are still travelers who want to take a ride on the wild side. But while certain travelers might be keen on an "Escobar experience", but there are plenty of unique excursions for any type of traveler that don’t include illegal activity! While Colombia is popularly known for coffee and cocaine (a wildly unfair reputation, in our opinion), you certainly don’t need to participate in in the latter for an authentic Colombian experience.

Like traveling to any big city, staying safe in Bogota is easy if you just follow a few simple tips but don’t hesitate to ask us any questions and feel free to have one of our local Colombian experts create your perfect trip to Bogota. And before your trip, be sure to check out:

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