8 Simple Safety Tips for Travelers Visiting Colombia

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Crimes such as muggings, pickpocketing, and phone theft are unfortunately common for travelers in Colombia. Jacqui de Klerk shares her tips to help you stay safe.


Police officer taking a picture of two women in Bogota Photo © iStock/DC_Colombia

There's a popular saying here: "no dar papaya". It literally means, “don't give papaya”. Figuratively, don’t expose yourself to potential danger. Here are eight tips to help you stay safe in Colombia.

1. Keep a low profile

Don’t draw attention to yourself; never wave around flashy cameras, cell phones, and wallets full of cash and bank cards. Leave valuables locked up at the hotel and only take with you enough money for the day/night.

2. Pay attention to your belongings

Always pay close attention to your belongings and never let your guard down, as this is when opportunists swoop in. Hold onto your bag when walking on the street; preferably crossed over your chest, not loosely on your shoulder.

3. Never withdraw money at night or alone

Withdraw money in a shopping mall or a busy place with security guards, especially if you need to take out a large amount. Never withdraw money at night or in lonely areas as this places you at risk of being robbed.

4. Ask your hotel about safe walking routes

Ask at your hotel what the safest walking routes are and which ones to avoid. Try to always walk with confidence and purpose, even if you are completely lost.

5. Don’t resist 

If you're apprehended, don't resist and hand over everything you have. By cooperating, things will not turn violent.

If you're in a crowded area and realize that you’ve been robbed, just shout ladron! (thief); the public and the police will swiftly come to your rescue.

6. Keep your valuables close at night

If you're in a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, never leave valuables on tables, or the backs of chairs, or dance with an open bag. If you're planning on drinking, just bring money.

7. Don't put yourself in harm's way

If you find yourself drunk, in a seedy area, partaking in illegal activities (drugs or prostitution), or are simply distracted, you become susceptible to crime. Don't put yourself in unnecessary risk.

8. Carry photocopies of your passport

Make a few photocopies of your passport. Carry the copy with you, perhaps laminated to keep it intact. This way, you won’t risk losing it and if you need to show identification, you’ll be prepared.

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1 Comment

  • Raphael said

    i just returned from cartagena. i was on one of the first spirit flights after re-opening. september 23. i have been to cartagena several times before, and also bogota. i was apprehended and robbed by what appeared to be a legit tour company to playa blanca (baru). in the other times i have been to cartagena i have never felt un-safe. things are much different there this time. i dont know if covid has just made everyone desperate (most of the economy is tourism and they havent had it in a long time) or what...but its a different vibe than it has been in the past. very scary. and we were stopped twice on taxi rides by the police looking for bribes..had to pay 150k each time. my advice...re-consider travel there until things calm down. i am not a first time traveler to colombia, and have been to 5 continents...i have never felt as un-safe in my travels as i was last week in cartagena.

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