Is It Safe to Travel to Colombia?

Colombia, the South American country with a frightening reputation for warring drug barons and kidnappings, is an enticing new destination for travelers. But just how safe is it?


Travel safety specialist Phil Sylvester put on his journalist‘s hat (it‘s a trilby with a card in the band that says PRESS) and did some investigating. No judgment about the beauty of the scenery, the friendliness of the people or the charm of the culture, all of which we're assured are top notch.

The Bad News About Safety in Colombia

Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe.

The number of kidnappings is down hugely from its peak in 2000, but it's a threat that occasionally exists. 

The south of the country is especially dangerous, and many foreign governments recommend against any travel to that region because of the risk of kidnap or being caught in the crossfire of a drug war.

The Good News About Safety in Colombia

In February 2010 the French government declared parts of Colombia to be "safe": adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogota, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Zona Cafetero departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres as destinations approved for travel.

Traveler forums (people who've actually been there) overwhelmingly rave about the place; they say it's beautiful and it's safer than other South American countries... as long as you stick to the popular tourist destinations. Which seems to be the key: Going off the beaten path might not be the best idea, and when you're in the big cities ask locals or other travelers which areas to avoid.

Kidnapping in Colombia

There‘s a 2005 movie called Secuestro express, about the kidnapping of a rich businessman's daughter, set in Venezuela. It describes the capital, Caracas, as "the most dangerous city on the planet." That was probably a promotion stunt to cover up for the fact the movie wasn't very good. However, kidnapping is one of the dangers of South America, a crime particular to the region, and particularly lucrative for the criminals.

Unfortunately, other South American countries haven't been as successful as Colombia at combating kidnap. 

What is Secuestro Express

You get kidnapped for an hour, or however long it takes for them to drive you around town visiting ATMs, emptying your bank account, and maxing-out your credit card. Or they hold you for as long as it takes your family (or travel companion) to do the same. 

It usually begins when the victim gets into a taxi. The driver will go around the corner where the bandits jump in. They 'persuade' you to cooperate with knives, guns, a punch or two, and unfortunately for women, sexual assault.

If this happens to you, your travel insurance will cover medical expenses for injuries they give you, and you'll have access to an emergency assistance helpline that will put you in touch with consular officials and experts who can help you deal with the psychological trauma - invaluable stuff. But you'll have to argue with your bank about the credit card bill.

Avoiding Crime in Colombia

Perhaps you should take a second credit card with a low limit to South America, and leave the main card at home, or locked in the hotel safe (not the room safe, they might take you back there and force you to open it).


  • Try to keep a low profile.
  • Don't flash your money or valuables.
  • Don't use illegal taxis.
  • Buses are also a problem, as are rural roads where a single car is an easy target.
  • Don't drive on rural roads at night at all.
  • Lock the doors of the car, and keep at least a half a tank of fuel.
  • Don't travel alone.
  • Watch out for drink spiking at bars and clubs.


  • shikha Mehra said

    what is the current situation as of April 2013 ??? I am planning to go to Cartagena for 2 months in August.
    I am a woman so please comment accordingly.

  • Jay & G said

    Hey my boyfriend and I are currently on a round the world trip and I have to say Colombia is our favourite place so far! I agree so much so with what I read on this blog in terms of how to stay safe. From my experience and from what I saw in our 5 weeks in Colombia (especially in Cartagena) I still would not recommend Colombia to single female travellers but that just me. There were a couple of occasions where I felt unsafe and I was with my partner. We were both very careful when out and about but I definitely still sensed a certain amount of unease especially at night. If you do decide to go as a female traveller always be extra careful at night and try and stick with other groups. Even finding just one more person to walk around with is his better than alone. Other than that it is a beautiful country and must be explored now whilst it is not over run with tourists. Check out our blog for where we enjoyed and for info on where else we travelled in Colombia.

    Happy Travels Everyone. Jay & G

  • Monica said

    Looooooved Colombia! I did get robbed at knife point. They put on a show, pretending they were going to stab me. Thought I was going to die BUT I would go again. If you travel, you take risks, and you risk being robbed. I really want to go back but I don't know if I would feel comfortable going as a single female, I went with my boyfriend last time. If I was fluent in spanish I would go back by myself.

  • Dave said

    Monica you are kidding right?
    They don't put on a show like that, that is exactly how they act and will stab/rape you in a second. This isn't a game, its your life.
    Your statement is you thought you were going to die but would do it again. There is something wrong with your thinking process.

  • Alexa said

    Monica - your comments are very misleading, confusing& down right Dangerous!
    most readers will know your reaction(s) to you the crime against you, are not from a Conscientious person! Clearly you are not a seasoned traveler. Clearly you have never been a victim of a crime where you really thought you were 'going to die'! clearly you're having 'fun' telling a tale! I could understand if in general it was a safe part of the world , and you did not want people to think you're situation meant you felt whole area unsafe. But, that's not the case!! Colombia is extremely Dangerous! In some parts, statistics say, yes, -it's getting a little better. Smart people, real travelers, very adventurous travelers, and people that really do take their lives seriously , need REAL updates on the situation in Columbia! Please do not post things that many young and/or new travelers will be misled by! My young Naïve niece would read your post , add it to her crazy list of examples that 'it's totally safe for young solo women to travel there'! She'd then say 'see auntie, Even if I do get robbed at knife point, it wont be that bad! ' Think about it!

  • Melissa said

    COLOMBIA isn't just getting "a little better", it's crime rate has significantly decreased in the past decade. Obviously if you go you have to use common sense and check travel advisories. It clearly tells you where the "safest" areas/ tourist hot spots are. There is still crime so don't flash your phone around, but again as long as you use common sense while out at night you should be fine. There is a reason why it's such a popular travel destination. Don't let someone's bad luck keep you from enjoying such a beautiful country. It could happen anywhere and it does even in our cities. Let's not pretend that you'd go walk around NYC or anywhere alone at night with a pocket full of cash and flashing your phone around (male or female)

    Ps-- highly recommend the coast such as Barranquilla (smaller beaches, quieter) Cartagena (historic and hottest tourist destination-- lots of Europeans and Americans-- check out parque tayrona.... Definitely worth it!) and Santa Marta (backpacker country-- lots of Europeans as well-- recommend taganga and rodadero beach )


    With all respect....Is it safe to travel to the United States?

  • Willie said

    On Sunday, June 19th I will fly to Bogota and catch a flight to Santa Marta for vacation. I have been traveling to Colombia since 2003 for pleasure and business. I have visited on more than one occassion all the major Colombian cities, except Medellin. My experiences have without exception but very enjoyable and without incident. Every trip I have traveled alone. There is good and bad in every city in the world. It is imperative, when traveling to a strange place, that individuals use caution and a bunch of common sense. I love the Colombian people. They are very warm, caring, hardworking, humble, honest and loving people. Of course, they have their thugs just like we do in the USA. The majority of Colombians are law abiding citizens and hate crime as much as we do and did not like the drug cartels or their reputation as a drug country. I highly recommend Colombia as a vacation spot. Use caution and common sense and you'll have a wonderful experience. Love their coffee!!!! Juan Valdez yea!!
    PS: I have friends, a husband and wife, who were robbed in the Plaza Hotel in New York city in broad daylight.

  • Xander said

    Bloody hell, damn these nigerian scammers

  • Annette said

    Just came home from Cartegena. 13 family members went on the trip for 8 days. If you do not speak Spanish, you will struggle. The country does not cater to Americans and Europeans but does cater to other South American visitors. The nicest Colombians we interacted with were at our hotel, this was mostly the activities and acquatics workers.

    Several times during the trip we felt uncomfortable in the old city. I would never recommend an American woman travel to Cartegena alone. Please take a few friends on the trip with you. There are a lot of scammers in Colombia, so you have to be smart and cautious or you will lose your money. We were scammed by an English speaking tour guide, but we booked our tour through the hotel, so we got our money back.

    The beach is dirty, the Atlantic Ocean water is very cloudy, and Cartegena and the surrounding areas are extremely dirty. There is trash everywhere. Dogs and cats are treated like rodents. The number of underfed dogs and cats we saw on the trip was overwhelming. If you love animals, seeing the horrible way dogs and cats are treated will break your heart!

    Overall the trip was fun and interesting, but we are not in a big hurry to return to Colombia any time soon!

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  • ColombianInsider said

    Great article!

    Check us out on instagram for more insight into colombian culture

  • Yi Rui said

    I was drugged and robbed in Bogota a few years ago during my naive fist trip to Colombia/South America. When I think back I feel happy that I wasn't killed I was robbed - my wallet, my rolex, all my credit cards. I recall even giving them my pin numbers. I recall vaguely how I walked back to my hotel room. Next morning I overslept and missed my flight and people waiting for me at the LAX went crazy when my plane landed and I didn't show up. I returned safely on the same day with an afternoon flight. However, I had short term memory problems for several months after the incident. When seeing my friends or colleagues, I could not recall their names. Later, I gained my normal memory. I've been to many places in Colombia and South America since my first trip in 2010. All major cities in Colombia still have serious crime issues. I would say Colombia is much more dangerous than Rio de Janeiro's favelas because the Colombians use drugs and all kinds of "sophisticated" techniques to spike your drinks in bars and discos, or it could be a street beggar, or a senior/handicapped person, and so on. Even South Central Los Angeles will seem much safer. Sadly due to overall poverty in Colombia + still ongoing conflict with the militias in the jungles, despite the Catholic religious ethics - every Colombian praises Jesus Christ, there are many Colombians ready to kill you for your wallet or your brand new iPhone. I would not recommend Colombia for single travellers at all. Never should go out alone, always with friends you trust. The criminals operate especially in places where there are lots tourists who can't imagine how cruel the others can be especially when it comes to US$ or the last high-tech gadgets. The article refers to the French government's lift of travel ban to certain regions. I'm not sure how safe is the french ok.

  • Brent said

    So, I have been to Colombia many times over the past few years and have lived there. I am white American, 35yrs old, and learned Spanish fluently at the age of 28.

    It is Colombia, not Columbia. Anyone who writes Colombia should be ignored because people in Colombia have a pet peeve with this misspelling and so would you if you had enough knowledge on the topic! One guy on here said they stole his rolex? WTF are you doing in Colombia with a Rolex dumb ass. Then you come on here and tell people it is unsafe?

    Thousands of foreigners die every year in Colombia. Thousands of foreigners die in the USA, Canada, Germany and other places. I know someone who was raped in Canada, I know someone who was robbed in Iowa. In my hometown of 30,000 people (upper class) there have been home invasions, rapes, and people have been robbed at knife point. Guess what, it happens in Colombia too.

    So how do you know if it is safe? Read lonely planet about other travelers that are your same race and speak your language (Spanish, Chinese, English). Chinese are more of a robbery target than latinos because, if you allow me to be prejudice for only a minute, Chinese have nice cameras and money in their pockets and that's not common with latinos. If you're a woman alone, your more of a target anywhere in the world. No more in Colombia than Brazil than in Italy. So find out how other people like you do in Colombia, not just victims of stolen Rolexes and people who can't even spell the countries name correctly

    In Medellin Colombia I can attest that if you stick to the tourist areas and don't go looking for sex or drugs or anything else strange... your gonna be ok. If you like to do just a little cocaine here and there well you're prob gonna end up meeting some not so nice people while you have a pocket full of money. You like to get drunk at a bar, act wild, talk loud, brag, dance around like an idiot, draw attention, then stumble home alone... well then your gonna make love to someone you prob don't wanna make love to.

  • Joe Mancini said

    When you say use common sense would you mind being a little more specific. My lady friend (she lives in Cali) will be with me. We are staying at a place I got on AirBNB. Thanks, Joe Mancini

  • Ana said

    I go with my kids to Colombia every 2 years for the last 10 years and I have never been involved in any crime or robbery the secret to be safe traveling to Colombia is just don't show off too much and always go to a safe places, love Colombia and the people the food and I will recommend Colombia for a nice family destination

  • Laura said

    Wow, reading some of these comments on here, it really makes me wonder where some of you were and what ya'll were doing where you got robbed and drugged and what not. Colombia is not nearly as dangerous as it used to be! I've lived here (a 23 year old American female) for the past five years. I only came on a college exchange for a year and ended up falling in love. and I can swear to you I've only been robbed once during my five years here. It was a pickpocket, I naively had my phone in my pocket and didn't zip it or anything in a crowded market. You have to be careful with pickpockets mostly. But I've walked around at night alone and nothing has ever happened. I've been to multiple nightclubs around Bogota with just girl friends and nothing's ever happened to us. We've taken cabs off the street at 3, 4am and guess what.. no secuestro express! Yes, these things do happen but it's not like it happens to everybody and all the time. Like, yeah it happened to my mom, my mom's mom, my grandparents, all my cousins, all my friends. NO it's not like that!

    If you go looking for trouble - by going to areas alone or with strangers that you're not sure about or that seem sketchy - just don't. It happens in any city. My Argentine friends visited Atlanta once and they had rented a car. Left their cameras and two laptops in the car for a couple of hours. When they came back the windows were shattered and all their belongings had been stolen. I was robbed in Memphis at gunpoint once with a boyfriend!! Like come on, this happens in any big city in the world. You just have to be cautious. Don't mind all the people on here commenting about how dangerous it is, I can bet you Alexa up there hasn't even been to Colombia (Colombia is extremely dangerous??), just going by what she reads online. Colombia is about to sign a peace treaty that will make it an even safer country. So guys... don't get all paranoid reading about stuff that's happened to people that only mention the bad things about their travels. The only risk here in Colombia is wanting to stay, it's a famous saying that definitely has applied to me. In about two weeks I am going on a trip with my boyfriend to Medellin, Pereira, then Barranquilla, Cartagena and lastly Santa Marta (I've been wanting to visit Cabo de la Vela since I got here) and I can assure you we are not freaking out like some of you here. It's an amazing country, great food, incredible people from all walks of life, all races, many from different countries, and you never run out of things to do. I highly recommend coming here, but again, like in any country or city you aren't familiar with, always just be cautious with yourself and with your things. Remember, you can get robbed/raped or even killed in just about anywhere in the world. Even in my tiny hometown in Arkansas there was a lot of crime and shootings. Heck, that's where on of the first mass school shootings took place in the 90's.

  • Nazri Arshad said

    My 1st trip to Bogota was July 2014..

    in Bogota, there is ALWAYS a threat if you walk alone.. (especially after the sun set)

    try to stay close at the public area..public area full with working class people & tourist spot..

    AVOID walking around in the night even at the neighbourhood area.

    stick with local friends or travel partner if you want to go somewhere off from public area..

    I love the people, they are very helpful & friendly to tourist but they are also a groups of bad kids/youngster..
    AVOID La Bronx area... stay away from 100~200m radius to la bronx..

    just put your 'rules of thumb' to the highest level in bogota..

  • Monica. said

    I was born in Colombia and moved to America when I was still very young.
    It amazes me how much negativity Colombia gets as if its the only country with a horrible crime rate, now I live in Germany and there is so much crime going on over here in Europe. It happens EVERYWHERE!
    Every time I visit my home land I'm scared shitless because of the things I hear or read. And yet I end up having the BEST time of my life. But I do agree. Dont flash your valuables point and simple.
    Can't wait to go back to Medellin!

  • Andreas said

    Thank you Laura and Brent for setting a few things right.. For those who think Colombia is some kind of dumping ground where only thieves, rapists and murders live, I feel sorry for you. There is crime in Colombia but just as much or less as there is in NYC, Cleveland or San Francisco. if you walk alone in the middle of the night anywhere in the world, you are asking for trouble. You have to be cautious and mindful of where you are and who you are with. There are thousands of foreigners that have ultimately made Colombia their home just like Laura did, because of its beauty, it's people, it's culture, it's food, etc etc. it all comes down to where you go or stay. If you come to visit NYC and want to be cheap, you can stay in Jamaica Queens or some parts of the Bronx where you are not going to feel safe at any time of the day. But if you stay on 5th 6th Park Ave or any of the expensive areas in Manhattan, I can guarantee you will feel safer. It's the same in any city of Colombia. If you have never been there, do some research on the city you are visiting. I can tell you I have traveled my whole life, and visited areas of Colombia that I probably shouldn't have, but everywhere I went, people were amazingly friendly and cordial. Most people make an honest living but there are some who don't. So how do you avoid them? Don't be stupid, don't do drugs, don't drink til you fall, don't flash your money, don't wear expensive jewelry or Rolexes, don't take a cab off the street(they have Apps for taxis or call a taxi company) they have millions of honest taxi drivers who get a bad rep cuz a few thieves, don't do anything you wouldn't do if you were in the bad side of your home town, I don't close my windows or lock my car in front of my house, but I can assure you I hide my stuff and lock my car if I'm parking in the next town over. Colombia has an infinite amount of activities your whole family can enjoy. My sister lives in Bogota, and my 10 year old boy travels by himself every summer since he was 7. He stays for a month, goes all over the country with my sister's family and comes home 4 weeks later or my wife and I come down to meet him. My 18 year old son sometimes goes with us, sometimes he goes by himself. Yes I have a sister there, who knows what to do and not to do, but that goes for everyone else. Do your homework, ask questions, do some research. There are Colombians living all over the world, I bet if you ask around you know someone who is Colombian or that has been to Colombia who can give you some answers to where to go, stay, eat, party etc etc. Please don't just listen to the ignorant people who nothing but bad things to say about Colombia or any other place in the world.. I can tell you some horror stories of Italy, Germany, New Jersey, NYC, California, Barcelona, etc etc but I won't because my time at any of those beautiful places of the world, was so much more amazing than any bad experienced I had usually due to a lack of good judgement on my part.. Enjoy your stay in 🇨🇴Colombia🇨🇴

  • Robert Jones said

    I so want to visit there, I read a lot of comments about there has anyone seen the cocoa plant growing there?

  • Ian McAllister said

    Colombia is a dangerous country to visit.If you are desparate to be able to say you've gone there,go ahead and good luck.There are many many beautiful places to visit in the world.The need to go to a high risk destination is odd,especially if you're armed with the knowledge before hand.I guess its the cool thing for hipsters to do.

  • Jack said

    I just log in to this site to know whether its good place or not. I am planing to go there with my wife.
    If anyone can let us know which country is most beautiful and very safe in South America.
    Thank you.

  • zuza said

    We would like to visit some smaller, but safe places in Colombia. Villa de Leyva and Barichara are recommended by LP. What would be the best way to get there? Bus? Car rental?
    Any other similar places worth visiting on a short trip? We will arrive in Bogota, and will probably fly to Cartagena or Santa Marta as well.
    Thank you in advance for any advice.

  • Andrew said

    Is cartAgene safe? I am talking to a Colombian woman who wants me to fly down there. I do speak Spanish because I'm half Cuban.

  • Richard said

    I'm planning a 10-day visit to Colombia over Xmas break, and I'm worried about intercity travel safety. I was thinking of skipping Bogata, landing in Barranquilla, and taking side trips to Providencia, Tayrona, and Cartagena. There are US State Department travel advisories about taking public transit or private cars, and I'm a bit afraid to hire a private driver if private cars are at risk. But, State Department allows their in-country staff on Route 90. How do I get between cities from Santa Marta to Cartagena? And, though it is beyond the scope of this web site, where would you stay if you were visiting these three places along the coast?

  • george said

    To the person who said there is just as much or less crime as there is in San Francisco or any other US city, I would simply say that the per capita murder rate in Colombia is 5 times that of San Francisco.
    I'm not saying you can't have a safe trip, but let's at least be honest.

  • Dave said

    Richard, et al - My wife and I had a wonderful time in Colombia last Christmas. We flew into Bogota and spent a few days there. Frankly, I would skip that next time because it is just a big, big city. Flew to Cartegena and spent New Years there. Fantastic time! Try to stay in the Old City inside the walls...they shut down a lot of the streets and have "neighborhood" parties all over. We we're invited to join in the dancing several times by very friendly people. Flew to Medellin - my favorite city on the trip. How can you beat an average annual temperature of 78 degrees with 1 degree of average variation? The City of Eternal Spring! We never once felt unsafe during our trip, and can't wait to go back. I'll just repeat what others have said matter where you travel in the world, just keep your wits about you, don't do "dumb" things, take interest in the local culture and try to give back, and you will be fine.

  • Ken Brown said

    Yes crime is "way down" from The Escobar Era
    Then Medellín had ,6500 murders per year. The most dangerous City in The World in a non war zone
    Starting from there it's down 80%!!
    To "only" 1300 per year..still far more than The total for many Major Europe, Canadá, Australia
    1300 is still Too many IMO

  • Ken Brown said

    Yes crime is "way down" from The Escobar Era
    Then Medellín had ,6500 murders per year. The most dangerous City in The World in a non war zone
    Starting from there it's down 80%!!
    To "only" 1300 per year..still far more than The total for many Major Europe, Canadá, Australia
    1300 is still Too many IMO

  • Ken Brown said

    you "felt" safe?

    you MIGHT be right..but his is not very scientific..because nothing bad happened to :you' in the week or 2 there, you conclude it`s very safe..

  • Rosita said

    I have a loving Colombian friend, and she always invite me to go to Medellín - where is she from -, but I'm, as most non-Colombians, afraid of gonna there....I wish I knew San Andres, but I'm afraid of getting sequestrated by FARCs or being killed, I'm originally from Bermudas, but I live in Brasil since I was 11 and people says brasil isn't very different from Colombia, and I heard this from many Colombian ppl, but I'm not sure.... Are Cebu, Palawan and Boracay safe for tourism? Wha' do y'all think?
    Looking forward,

  • luka said

    Was there in 2014. If you use your common sense and go to places on the tourist trail, it is quite safe. In the cities you should be careful and ask locals where not to go. At night don't walk, use taxi. But also make sure it is legal taxi. Don't just flag them on the street, it is best to call taxi service on the phone.
    Colombia is absolutely beautiful country, for me the most beautiful country I've ever visited, and the people are super nice and helpful. It's really unfair that the country has such a bad rep because of what was happening in the past.
    Medellin is amazing, Cartagena is great, Tayrona, the Amazonas, Nuqui and whalewatching,, memories. Fantastic destination for travel.

  • cis said

    That Colombia is as safe or even safer than the US (which it isn't, as someone else pointed out) is not saying much!
    The US (particularly large cities) have the highest crime rates and certainly the most guns in the world as a nation (look where that gets you...).
    All these statements do not give me a point of reference, as I live in a smaller town in Europe (thank God!).

  • Pedro Lopes said

    With all due respect to all good Colombian people, I'd rather not go there even thought it has many good things to see. It's just too dangerous, not worth the risk.

  • george said

    Colombia was voted as number 1 place to visit by Lonely planet. Travelers are the ones that voted. That should tell you something.
    If you are visiting to look for sex or drugs you will most likely end up in the wrong place and with the wrong people .
    Personally I flew Orlando- Panama -Bucaramanga then took a bus to mesa de los santos- crossed the chicamocha canyon on a cable car down to the rio zuares and up to the top of the canyon at Panachy. Great views!! Then took a bus towards Barichara (1.20 hrs) The most beautifull town in colombia!!! Every corner is worth a picture. Stayed there for 3 days and relaxed. Visited Guane town, mingled with all the foreigners living there. Safest place in the world.
    Then a bus to Villa de leiva. stayed there for other three days visiting the sorrounding towns. rhen unto Bogota

  • Antonio said

    Rosita, Cebu is great. Lovely people. But just like anywhere else you have to be street smart. They have the best lechon in the Philippines

  • Ross johnson said

    Why risk it? There are enough places to enjoy that are not high risk. So what's the point.

  • Bob Bishop said

    I have a friend who just got back from Medellin,he loved it,had a good time,stayed in the tourist areas,so he had no problems,told me he would go back anytime,that the people were very friendly
    and helpful.

  • Derek Casanares said

    I was thinking about visiting Cartagena Columbia to see if this will be a good place to retire versus Marbella, Spain.

  • Nick said

    Cartagena is not safe a US judge was kidnapped just last year and his family had to pay 33k to get him out. Anyplace where nightfall is treated like the I AM LEGEND movie is unacceptable. Comparing it to the US is also irrelevant. I'm American and never faced any crime because I don't loiter in urban ghettos nor go to waffle house at 1:00am. I would say Uruguay is the only safe place to visit.

  • manuel said

    I have solo-travelled extensively for 4 months (2016) in colombia, going to the most remote areas of the country, from the macuira in the guajira to sapzurro in the chocó, to the puracé in the south. the only serious risk that i faced was that i did not want to go back! the people are overwhelmingly friendly, and would host you, teach you to dance salsa and feed you if you are in trouble (even if you are not). of course there is day-to day criminality but that's like everywhere and don't being stupid is the only safe thing to do.. buses, solo-travelling, hitchhiking, trekking in the middle of nowhere, is all safe for what regards the country itself (yes there are snakes and spiders and poisonous frogs, but that's part of the beauty).
    in contrast with its reputation colombia is the country where I felt safer travelling! I am organising other two solo trips in colombia, because btw, there is everything to see there, from the andes to the caribbean, to the whales, to precolombian cities hidden in the jungle, and the list goes on and on..
    as a famous campaign was saying few years ago: COLOMBIA EL UNICO RIESGO ES QUE TE QUIERAS QUEDAR

  • Andrea said

    Hello. I'm an American that lives in Bogota. If you have never visited Colombia then you don't really have any idea about it's safety. It is a big city, it has crime, and there is a big divide between rich and poor. I was scared before coming here that I would be robbed constantly because of all the negative things you hear. There are parts of the city that I would avoid, but as a whole I feel very safe here. You use common sense and you will be fine. Also learn some Spanish before you come. You will need it!

  • bernie sanders said

    I went to Colombia and my wallet was pickpocketed at the airport. Alarmed, I called the us embassy and they sent a car to pick me up. Unfortunately, the car I got into was only pretending to be the embassy car, and they drove me to who knows where and beat me until I gave them a relatives number who would pay a ransom. They called the relative but she refused to pay so after a few weeks they let me go in who knows where. I found my way to a hospital and they contacted the embassy again which arranged for me to be flown back to Washington DC. I'm thinking that I might not travel to Colombia again,

  • Hugh said

    Who in their right mind would go there? There are lots of beautiful and safe places in this world to see.

  • Eduardo said

    I am a colombian 40 years man, I've been living my entire life in colombia and my last 20 years in Big cities. I have never been robbed. Ok, I am a brown, middle-class man, I am not a target, however, my advice is: avoid the wrong places, e.g, in the night close to the nightclubs, anywhere in the world, should be dangerous, that is common sense.

  • Eduardo said

    Bernie sanders, you are a right wing silly liar.
    Not even a child will believe your history.

  • Nick G said

    Some of these stories are obviously garbage. "Bernie Sanders", obviously a Trump fan, is stupid enough to concoct a story where he gets into a wrong car sent by an embassy? Surely he's as dumb as Trump to lie in a non-believable way.

    Anyway, a guy who used to work for me and his wife - Americans - visited a year plus ago. They went to Bogota, Medeilin, Cartagena. Had the time of their lives. Won't call them sophisticated travelers by any stretch. But they are smart enough to be careful. And if they can do fine, most Americans will be ok.

  • Douglas said

    I have traveled in Colombia many times over the last 9 years and have never had anything happen directly to me. However, in 2014 I brought my then 16 year old son to visit Medellin and Cali. Our first afternoon on a Saturday, we visited a museum in centro Medellin. After we left the museum we walked a few blocks in centro. I turned to say something to my son and he was gone. I turned around and saw him fighting three men about a block behind me, I immediately ran towards him and all three men dispersed as I grabbed my son by the upper torso and pulled him towards me. Fortunately no weapons were used and my son was OK. Strange thing, they didn't even take his wallet or Iphone, they were trying to take him. Be very careful with children in Colombia, stick to the more tourist friendly areas and stay out of "centro" areas of the major cities.

  • Linda said

    I was in Colombia in July and August 1993 at the height of the cocaine drug wars and Escobar on the lose. I travelled to major cities and took buses into rural areas. Not once was my life ever in danger. Common sense, respect, understand the culture and have a good understanding/speak Spanish; you will be fine. I do agree that if you are female and alone your margin of safety does diminish. Colombia is the most beautiful country I have travelled to in South America. I would do it again. I backpacked, hiked, took buses, and integrated myself within the culture. I love Colombia!

  • Steven said

    I live in a small town in Scotland. I have visited Colombia three times since 2014. On my most recent visit last month I got married to a wonderful Colombian woman in Bucaramanga. It was a privilege for me to have my wedding there. Just a small wedding but fantastic nevertheless.

    I have always found the people in Colombia to be very friendly and helpful. On the occasions I have travelled there I have never encountered any problems. Of course I appreciate that common sense needs to be applied. Don't travel alone at night if possible. Or flash your wallet in broad daylight. But those rules apply to any country really. Especially in the UK!

    The people there are very hard working and honest. They don't have any benefit system to fall back on. Unlike other countries where many people become lazy and rely on handouts from the government. The Colombian people are very proud, often working long days for little money

    Reading the comments on the forum of course many are correct based on individual experience. But in any country there is good and bad. I believe many people judge Colombia just by its name

    I have visited USA, France, Spain and Colombia in the last 15 years. I will also throw London in as well.
    Where did I feel safest? Colombia by a country mile
    When my wife can obtain a visa for the UK we will definitely travel back there for many future holidays

  • dee said

    After canada every place in the world look unsafe

  • Tam said

    Great article! Just don't "dar un papaya" while you're here. As in don't flaunt computers, phones, etc., therefore pinpointing yourself as a foreigner. There ain't a lot of sympathy here if someone steals something :)

    Tam @

  • Zoe said

    I am a single woman in my early 70's and after three 3-month trips to Colombia, I have moved to Bogotá. Some of these stories sound ficticious, others appear to be written by people who are either inexperienced travelers, naïve, or just downright stupid.

    Bad stuff happens anywhere. If you aren't paying attention, it can happen in the most upscale spot in the world.

    I am a travel writer and travel solo all the time but, I use my brains and do not place myself in positions where I might encounter danger. And I do not always stay in fancy hotels or have taxi service. I am using AirBnb and walking on the streets.

    I have never been robbed, threatened or felt endangered. I met local people everywhere I go.

    If you don't have the good sense to take the necessary precautions to travel safely - STAY AT HOME!

  • Paul said

    I am traveling to bogota on the 9th of April.I will be there till the 14th.If no one hears from me here on the 15th you might want to send a search Just kidding.
    I live near Detroit Michigan.They don't kidnap you here for money,they just shoot you so they can brag to their friends they did.People here have been killed for the shoes they wear.Peoe have been killed here for a hamburger from McDonald's.I still go to McDonald's,I just don't order Lighten up people,the world is a dangerous place but if we live scared,they win.

  • David Russell said

    HI Folks,
    I just spent three weeks in Colombia. Santa Marta, Bogota, Cali, and Buenaventura. The kids in Buenaventura were calling me Poppa Noel, and a high school soccer team in Cali sang a version of Jingle Bells as i walked by...Yep, I have white hair and a big goatee.
    I've traveled in some sketchy places in the world but Colombia didn't even come close to places like Berbera, Djubuti, Beruit, etc. If you use some common sense, be a traveler not a tourist, odds are you'll be fine. I'll be back there in a couple of months.
    Safe Travels

  • Aine said

    Have traveled to Colombia three times to fly my paraglider. Im a woman. I dont want to give info that sounds nieve or makes light of possible dangers, but describing Colombia as 'very dangerous ' makes me just shake my head. Here in the US 14 people got shot in a nightclub just last night in Ohio.
    Paragliding brings you to more remote places than touristed. We go as a big group but once we are in the air we may 'land out' on our own, and often do. This means in a field somewhere, maybe next to a road. We flag down a bus or send our coordinates to a predesignated driver. In areas like Roldanillo where people are used to seeing paragliders, it is very common for a car or motorcycle to pull over and offer a ride. As a woman if Im alone I would not accept but the guys I traveled with always did. There was one incident of a guy being attempt robbed, but he ran and avoided this. For the most part by far people were friendly and generous. They took care of us far more than took advantage.
    Be smart. Watch your back, your wallet, dont put yourself in a compromising situation. Dont drink alone. Its all common sence stuff that you should be doing in any place you travel, or even live.

  • Nadia said

    I've been travelling a lots in my life but always used common since. I speak Spanish as well and from Canada.
    Ok if I land to Bogota airport alone as a single women and I take a cab alone at night, I shouldn't have any problem?
    Is there any company better than other. I am going there for surgery. Any recommendation for hotel in Bogota where I could feel safe and comfy during my stay?
    Thank you

  • David said

    I think this is best list us visitors.For more

  • Carlos said

    Hi All

    I read all these messages and I think I should explain several things. I never answer posts in Internet, but this message will be the exception.

    Disclaimers: I am from Colombia (Medellin) and I know the country very well because I have been a hiker and alpinist and I travelled very "unsafe" zones. And I have travelled around the world, so I can compare different countries.

    Colombia was a very dangerous country 30 years ago, but it is not so dangerous nowadays. But you should not understand that there are not risks. The key point is: Each city in the world has different risks and different crimes. For example, Barcelona is a safe and nice city. But there are many risks in the subway. I could see three robs in five days in the subway. Who were the targets? Tourists. And I almost was robbed in Buenos Aires because I did not understand the crime in that city.

    What kind of risks are more important for you? I work as statistician and I know a lot about crime statistics. So I will give you some examples, comparing several cities and countries against Medellin:

    Homicides (rate per 100000): More dangerous than Medellin are Miami, Washington DC, Baltimore, several cities in England and many cities in Latinamerica. Less dangerous than Medellin: Sidney, London, Madrid

    Rape: All the Anglosaxons countries (USA, Canada, Australia) are much more dangerous than Colombia.

    Terrorism in big cities: Europe is more dangerous than Colombia nowadays.

    Terrorism in rural zones: Colombia is more dangerous in some places, you should know where those places are.

    Theft in the streets: Colombia is more dangerous, be sure.

    Car theft: Many countries in Europe, USA and Australia are more dangerous.

    Vehicles burned: Not known in Colombia. Thousands vehicles are burned in France each year.

    Kidnapping: Not your problem nowadays. Perhaps you will be surprised by the statistics in some "very safe" countries:

    Now, each city in Colombia has different risks. In all the big cities in Colombia, poor districts are more dangerous than richer districts:

    Bogota: Theft when you find some who is walking in the same street. As Sevilla in Spain, a lot of burglary.

    Medellin: Theft after you go to ATMs ("fleteo"). Your counter strategy is simple. Go to ATMs in big supermarkets and buy something after. Your enemies wont wait for you. Not burglary here.

    I will give several advices: Dont go with expensive watches, cameras or cell phones. Ask before you go to rural zones. Many rural zones are safe, very safe I should say, but you dont know the country, please ask before. And as someone wrote here, if you are looking for sex or drugs you can have unpleasant surprises.

    I hope these advices will be useful. And enjoy Colombia.

    Best regard


  • Justin said

    I have lived in Medellin, Colombia for almost 4 years now and while reading this article and seeing some of the ridiculous comments I felt compelled to write something... those people saying things like "Colombia is too dangerous to visit", "why risk going there when there are other beautiful places to visit" etc have clearly not been to or lived in Colombia and have some sort of mental problem that forces them to write uninformed nonsense about a wonderful country for some unknown reason. At the risk of repeating the same sentiment once again, Colombia is completely safe to visit and nobody should have any fear of visiting here if you use common sense while you are here. As with basically any city or country worldwide, there is always the chance of something happening if you are careless or unlucky but if you avoid clearly dangerous neighbourhoods like some of the poorer barrios in Medellin for example, and you don't walk around at night by yourself in a dark, unpopulated area waving your expensive phone around, you will be fine. In almost 4 years in the country, and having travelled to cities like Bogota, Cali, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Cucuta and a few other small towns (Guatape, Villa de Leyva, Tunja, Zipaquira, Santa Fe de Antioquia etc) I have not once felt unsafe, threatened or had anything happen to me other than being pickpocketed on the street during a big football game in Parque Lleras (a very touristy area in Medellin) when there were crowds of people everywhere and I naively left my camera in a side pocket. If you are careful and act like you would in any city, you will have an amazing time here. Do not listen to idiots commenting here who say it is too dangerous, you will be kidnapped/robbed/raped bla bla bla. Colombia is a beautiful, welcoming and safe country to visit.

  • Benji said

    Hi! The comments here have been even more informative than the article. If I may ask a question to travelers: I'll be spending a day in Bogota in August and my only real concern is that I'll be there to shoot a model in that beautiful setting, and so I'll be using what will obviously be a nice camera. I plan to stick to La Candelaria in the afternoon and then head to Zona Rosa for dinner. Does anyone have any tips for how to hold on to my camera?

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