Generally, Colombia is a safe place to travel (with a little know-how!). With some help from locals, we created this guide to staying safe in Colombia.
For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. Learn more.
Since a 2016 accord ended the decades-long civil war between Colombia’s government and the paramilitary group FARC, Colombia has enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace. As a traveler, this means you’ll find yourself in the midst of a cultural renaissance.
Colombia's major cities are safe to visit. They include:
Contrary to its portrayal in popular media, Bogota is actually one of the safest urban areas in South America—so much so that Pope Francis actually visited the city himself in 2017. While you should take the same precautions while exploring the cities of Colombia as you would exploring any others, it’s worth noting that Bogota's violent crime rate is actually lower than that of Indianapolis, Indiana.
In fact, Bogota is quickly becoming one of the world’s hippest cultural destinations. Composed of dozens of distinct neighborhoods, it’s a city where travelers can benefit from local insights. Our trip planners rave that Bogota has it all: music, food, dance, and art. They suggest trying some traditional tinto (thick, sweet, black coffee), dancing salsa at a local bar, or dropping into one of Bogota’s numerous museums. Ever since peace was concluded with FARC in 2016, Bogota has only become safer and more vibrant.
When most people think Medellin, they think Pablo Escobar, cocaine, and crime—but people who actually live there say that that couldn’t be further from the truth. These days, Medellin is at the forefront of safety and urban rejuvenation. Parks, restaurants, and galleries abound; the city was even named The World’s Most Innovative City in 2013 and received the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for urban development in 2016.
Visitors to Medellin are thrilled by impromptu street concerts, a thriving gastronomy scene, and the city’s state-of-the-art metro system. And we haven't even mentioned eco-árboles: massive tree-shaped structures that can each purify 22,000 cubic meters of air per hour.
If crowded cities aren’t your speed, relax in the veritable paradise that is Cartagena. Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena features miles of gorgeously preserved, centuries-old architecture, as well as pristine golden beaches. Popular with travelers both Colombian and foreign, Cartagena is safe, fun, and exciting. Cartagena can be touristy, which means getting local advice can introduce you to a side of the city that most tourists miss.
Although very rarely dangerous, Colombia is home to some of the most creative scam artists around. Ranging from the run-of-the-mill to the ridiculous, these scams are easily avoided if you know what to look for and use common sense. Don't travel blindly—benefit from local advice. Locals in Colombia have gathered these tips for avoiding theft and scams:
Colombia is a safe and welcoming place for people who travel by themselves. But being a solo traveler doesn't mean you have to go it alone! Get advice from Colombian locals before you even arrive. When it comes to safety as a solo traveler in Colombia, our trip planners advise to:
While catcalling and sexual harassment certainly remain an issue (the patriarchy knows no borders), Colombia is no worse than any other country in that regard.
Still, it’s helpful to get safety updates from the people who know best—locals in Colombia. Many of our trip planners are women and they can describe how they navigate their hometown.
“Narcos” this ain’t! These days, kidnapping is much more of a problem for Colombia’s neighbors. In fact, Colombia's kidnapping rate has dropped by a whopping 90% over the past 15 years! Avoiding sketchier areas (like lonesome rural highways) can also dramatically reduce your risk of danger. If you’re unsure of where to go, you can always get some local advice.
Don’t bother spending your pesos on bottled water—Colombia’s major cities have some of the best tap water around. Bogota and Medellin are known for their excellent water quality. However, drinking tap water in the Colombian countryside can be a bit more hit-and-miss.
As of January 31, 2020, customers were informed that they could no longer use Uber in Colombia. However, Uber returned to Colombia less than a month later. There's a new set of rules. Basically, you can rent a car that comes with a driver. You'll have options like hourly rentals and choice of car.
Confused? Don't worry. Locals tell us you'll find plenty of other transit options. Like...so many. So get an insider's perspective on how to best navigate in Colombia. Locals can let you know how they get around their country.
It’s a common misconception that traveling to Latin America puts you at a high risk of contracting Zika. In fact, the CDC puts Bogota in the “minimal risk” category—and Medellin in the "low risk" category—since they’re located at such high elevations! If you are pregnant or may become so, however, you should still talk to your doctor before traveling to Colombia.
And while it depends on what you'll be doing in Colombia, many travelers don't need to get any extra vaccines. Just in case, be sure to read up on vaccinations for Colombia and talk to your doctor before you fly.
From the gorgeous beaches and lush rainforests of its Caribbean coast to the coffee-rich slopes of the Andes, Colombia offers something for everyone—especially families. In fact, many hotels, ecotourism preserves, and even coffee plantations cater specifically to family travel. Notoriously friendly and family-oriented, Colombians love children and are quick to strike up conversations with strangers. Make sure to get some tips from locals on how to meet people—there's nothing worse than spending hours planning only to find that you're missing out on the *real* Colombia.
When it comes to activities for kids, Colombia’s famously family-focused culture shines through. Whether you fancy snorkeling off the Caribbean island of San Andres, galavanting through the interactive Parque Explora museum in
With one of the top healthcare systems in the Americas, Colombia’s state-of-the-art hospitals are quickly becoming known for their affordability and quality of care. Medical standards are just as rigorous as those in the United States, and many of Colombia’s doctors train internationally. So if you’re worried about staying healthy in Colombia, don't worry—according to World Health Organization ratings, healthcare in Colombia is actually better than in the US or Canada.
CNN actually named Medellin as one of the 5 best cities to retire abroad in 2017.
In the off chance that you run into any trouble on your Colombian adventure, here are some numbers to call for assistance.