What Are the Chances I’ll Get Kidnapped in Colombia?

Despite its many natural charms and colorful culture, travelers today are still hesitant to explore Colombia. Our local insider Jacqui gives you all the information you need to separate the fact from fiction.

Colombia is not the place to practice your MacGyver or Indiana Jones skills. Especially in remote areas where the greater risks lie.

Although most cities and some rural areas are safe for travel, there are some areas considered unsafe. Stick to main tourist areas and pay attention to travel warning updates from Colombian authorities before visiting non-tourist areas. Even better, sign up for a tour that will allow you to experience the beauty of Colombia without facing any danger. 

That being said…

Will I Get Kidnapped in Colombia?

No, you won’t get kidnapped. The historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, together with increased security forces in cities and along major roads, have led to a significant decrease in kidnappings. In fact, kidnappings have fallen a whopping 92% since 2000.  

Although there is an agreement with the FARC, there are other groups that continue to pose a risk in certain areas of the country.

Departments, excluding their respective capital cities, which should be avoided according to the several governments, include Nariño (except Ipiales border crossing), Putumayo, Arauca, Cauca (except the road between San Agustin ruins in Huila and Popayán), Caquetá, Guaviare, Guainía, Vichada, Huila, Norte de Santander, Santander, Chocó (except the whale-watching towns of Nuquí, Bahía Solano, and Capurganá).

It is also recommended to avoid rural areas in northern Antioquia, southern Cordoba, southern Valle de Cauca, and southern Bolivar. With the exception of Villavicencio and Caño Cristales, the department of Meta should be completely avoided.

The Venezuelan government has temporarily closed its land borders with Colombia due to security concerns and the smuggling of contraband. Check with authorities for the latest security updates before traveling near the border.

Taking buses and public transport in Colombia is safe, and there is a very, very slim chance of being kidnapped.

However, try to always travel long distances in the day and with a reputable bus company, such as Marsol, Berlinas, Expreso Brasilia, or Rapido Ochoa. These companies always travel on main routes, only stopping to pick up passengers at official bus stations.

Express Kidnappings: Paseo Millonario

The so-called paseo millonario (millionaire’s ride) happens when criminals working with taxi drivers take a passenger to various ATMs and force the victim to withdraw money from their account.

The abduction doesn’t last long (24-48 hours) and victims are released unharmed. The targets are usually middle-to-wealthy Colombians, as well as foreign tourists for their perceived wealth.

Although this type of crime doesn’t happen often, it is important to be aware that criminals are opportunists and by avoiding vulnerable situations, this will not happen to you.

Never flag a taxi from the street, especially in dodgy, or tourist areas in big cities, or if you are alone; nor enter an already occupied taxi. Rather call a taxi from a restaurant, bar or hotel or use a mobile e-hailing app, such as Tappsi or Easy Taxi.

Leave bank cards, passport, and valuable jewelry locked up in the hotel safe and only carry a copy of your passport and enough money for the day/night.

Alternatively, bring a credit card with a low limit.

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