Is Colombia Safe for Travel in 2020?

ViaHero
Updated January 16, 2020

Is Colombia safe for travel? Yes! Like anywhere, Colombia has safe and unsafe areas—but overall the country is safe for travelers. We asked our local trip planners about safety in their country. With their input, we created this guide:

Benefit from local knowledge when it comes to safety in Colombia. Our trip planners will design a guidebook full of safety tips, local endorsements, and advice on navigating their hometown. Learn more

"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

Colombia is a country at peace

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.

Enjoy Colombia's unparalleled food scene, its ecotourism industry, and innovative music explosion while taking in all the beautiful sights this country has to offer. Tourism is booming in Colombia, which means it's good to get local advice to avoid tourist traps. Our local trip planners will design a guidebook tailored to your travel style. 

Colombia's major cities are less dangerous than American ones 

Colombia's major cities are safe to visit: 

Bogota

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

Medellin

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.

Cali

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.

What kind of traveler are you?
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Enter your travel preferences below and we’ll connect you with a likeminded local in Colombia to help you plan your trip based on your specific interests.

Theft and scams are the only common crimes 

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 before your trip. Our trip planners in Colombia have gathered these tips for avoiding theft and scams:

  • As in any other major city, be careful of your surroundings, especially at night. Criminals tend to work in groups, often near tourist centers.
  • Don’t accept food or drinks from strangers—even gum! Although very, very rare, there have been instances of criminals drugging victims before stealing their belongings.
  • Criminals will sometimes pose as undercover police officers, and ask to inspect your cash to “see if it’s counterfeit”. Obviously, don’t give it to them. Some will even present you with a fake police ID 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.
  • Keep your wallet in your front pocket. If you carry a purse, don’t leave it unattended or hanging from the back of a chair.
  • Separate your cash, and keep it in different pockets. If the worst should happen, this trick prevents thieves from swiping all your swag.

Solo travelers love Colombia

Colombia 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:

  • Know some Spanish: Learning a few key phrases in Spanish before you go can make a big difference. Our trip planners can include important words to know in your customized guidebook. 
  • Stay aware of your surroundings: Do your research before visiting unfamiliar neighborhoods and stay close to the crowds. If you have questions or concerns about visiting certain places, get insider advice about which parts of the city to avoid. 
  • Use the same precautions you would elsewhere: Don't accept drinks from strangers, don't break the law, and keep aware of your surroundings at all times. 

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. 

Kidnapping has dropped to almost nothing

“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 as you plan your trip. Our local Colombian travel experts are happy to help! You could do it all by yourself—but why risk it?

The water is safe to drink

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.

Work with a local to plan your trip.
See a side most people miss.

You can no longer use Uber

As of January 31, 2020, you can no longer use Uber in Colombia.

Don't worry—you'll find plenty of other transit options. Like...so many. So get an insider's perspective on how to best navigate in Colombia. Our trip planners can let you know how they get around their country.

Zika is almost nonexistent in cities

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.

It's a great family destination

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 a local trip planner 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 Carribean island of San Andres, galavanting through the interactive Parque Explora museum in Medellin, or learning about conservation as you stroll through the famous Cali Zoo (home to some of Colombia’s rarest animals) there are countless kid-friendly activities to take advantage of throughout Colombia.

Healthcare for tourists is top-notch

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.

Emergency numbers everyone should know

In the off chance that you run into any trouble on your Colombian adventure, here are some numbers to call for assistance.

  • National Emergency Number: 123
  • Tourist Police: (1) 3374413
  • Information: 113
  • U.S. Embassy in Colombia: (+57) (1) 275-2000
Still have questions about travel to Colombia?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?

And for more about Colombia travel, check out our articles on: