8 Simple Safety Tips for Travelers to Colombia

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.

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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 for 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 Apprehension (If it happens to you)

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 yo're in a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, never leave valuables on tables, 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 unnessary 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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