Safety in Colombia: What You Need to Know | ViaHero

Safety in Colombia: What You Need to Know

ViaHero · May 10, 2018

Is Colombia dangerous? Not if you don't want it to be! As with any other up-and-coming travel destination, staying safe in Colombia comes down to nothing more than keeping yourself informed and aware. Read on to learn all the practical information you’ll need to stay safe in Colombia. Afterward, if you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to message us directly!

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Government websites tend to be overly dramatic, but they do have good information

When scrolling through government travel sites, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and intimidated. And although these sites are packed full of helpful information, it's also important to read them with a grain of salt. To wit: the current travel warning for Colombia as listed by the official US Department of State is “Level 2—Exercise Increased Caution”. Although this warning seems intimidating, it’s important to remember that it’s the exact same travel warning listed for France and the United Kingdom! Clearly, while these advisories may look intimidating, it’s important to put them in context and realize that travel in Colombia is no more dangerous than travel anywhere else.

Traveling in Colombia simply requires the same awareness as traveling anywhere else

To that end, an important mindset to have while galavanting through Colombia is that safety requires awareness, but not paranoia. As Bogota’s homicide rate is actually lower than that of Indianapolis, Miami, or even Washington DC, think of traveling in Colombia like traveling anywhere else: you need to be mindful and aware, and be sure not to put yourself in a neighborhood or situation that can easily lead to unpleasantness. With that in mind, the only crimes you really need to be aware of regardless of your locale or situation are crimes of opportunity—scams and petty theft. And by following a few simple steps, both of these issues can be largely avoided!

How to Avoid Petty Theft

  • Always use a bag or purse that has a zipper, and if you choose to carry a backpack, place any valuable items in hidden pockets. It is especially important that you take these precautions in crowded spaces, such as on public transportation.
  • If you go out salsa dancing, or if you’re participating in any activity that would be more enjoyable without a bag, put all valuable items you may need (cash, phone, etc.) in a neck pouch wallet. And don’t worry about it ruining your outfit—you can wear it under your clothes and no one will even know that it’s there!
  • Don’t keep all of your money in one place. Scatter it among different pockets, some in your wallet, etc. This way, if someone does pick your pocket, they’re not going to swipe all your swag.    
  • Be mindful of using or wearing ‘flashy’ items. This includes large amounts of cash, smartphones, and valuable jewelry. This will help you blend in and make sure you aren’t perceived as a target.

How to Avoid Scams

  • If a “police officer” approaches you and asks to check your cash for counterfeit bills, you can automatically assume that it’s a scam. Do not pull out your money; instead, ask that the “officer” bring you to the closest police station, which will almost inevitably scare them away. This scam is particularly common in big cities, so be sure to read up on safety in Bogota.
  • Just as anywhere else, scam artists will sometimes attempt to hustle travelers by directly asking for money and making a scene should they be denied. It’s important to respond with a stern “no” and simply walk away. This is a very popular scam in vacation-focused cities, so if you’re so inclined, learn more about staying safe in Cartagena.
  • So-called “millionaire rides” occur when a victim enters a taxi, only to find their driver (and possibly other unwelcome passengers) relieve them of their cash. To avoid this scam, simply take Uber! You can read all about transportation in Colombia with these handy Colombia FAQs.

It’s a good idea to take Uber

Speaking of Uber, whether you’re headed out for a day at the beach or coming home from a night out on the town, this ubiquitous app has got your back. Aside from “millionaire rides”, Colombian taxi drivers have been known to fleece travelers by charging exorbitant metered fares and incorrectly high flat rates. Grabbing an Uber is the perfect way to avoid these scams and get around Colombia with convenience and ease. For help navigating transportation logistics in Colombia, consult with one of our local travel experts!

Colombia is great for the whole family!

There’s no need to feel nervous about taking the family to Colombia. For the last two decades, Colombia has been largely cracking down on illegal activities, both in cities and the countryside. In addition, the 2016 peace accord that ended Colombia’s decades-long civil war has brought an unprecedented period of tranquility to the country as a whole. To that end, Colombia is a great family vacation destination due to its opulent beaches, vibrant cities, and marvelous outdoor activities. Moreover, Colombia is extremely family focused, and the hospitable spirit of Colombian families is sure to provide an unforgettable trip.

You don’t even need to get a visa in advance

Your trip planning process just got much easier—because you don’t have to worry about getting a visa!  As long as you have an American passport, you’re all set; the only documentation required for a trip to Colombia is your passport and a return ticket. From there, you have 90 days to soak up the Colombian sunshine completely worry-free. These same rules apply to many other countries as well. If you’re so inclined, feel free to read about visas for Colombia or ask a one of our Heroes for advice.

Emergency numbers to have on hand

In the rare case scenario that you do come across an unfortunate circumstance, here are some numbers to hold onto.

  • National Emergency Number: 123
  • Tourist Police: (1) 3374413
  • Information: 113
  • U.S. Embassy in Colombia: (+57) (1) 275-2000

Have more questions about safety in Colombia? Any one of our local Colombia travel experts can help you out, or you can message us directly. And before your trip, make sure to check out:

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