Crime in Colombia: Hotel Robberies and Assaults in Bogota

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Here are a few cautionary stories about the dangers that lurk in Colombia, including hotel-room invasion robberies and assaults in Bogota.

Monserrate and beyond from Guadalupe Photo © iStock/Devasahayam Chandra Dhas

A warning to the thousands of travellers heading to Colombia. The country's leaders have made enormous progress in ridding the nation of drug lords and violent gangs, but danger still lurks. The independent (English language) news organisation Colombia Reports reported in 2011 that violent criminal gangs in Bogota were targeting tourists in their hostels. Colombia Reports has given us permission to reproduce Jim Glade's report.

Take heed and take care when in Bogota.

Tourists to Bogota Sexually Assaulted

Tourists to Bogota's La Candelaria district have been robbed by armed men inside their hostels on at least seven occasions in the past eight months admit several hostel owners. The violent nature of the robberies has escalated to the point that one American tourist was sexually assaulted with a gun.

The latest known and most gruesome incident took place last week when armed men seized a hostel and robbed eight guests of their valuables. One of the female guests to the hostel was sexually assaulted by the robbers.

The story of the victim was confirmed by her travel partner, who was robbed of everything but his passport.

When the police finally arrived 15 to 20 minutes later the gunmen were long gone. The police officers that did arrive were not too anxious to pursue the suspects or to investigate the crime scene to look for clues. Also there were no medical personnel to examine any of the guests of the hostel.

According to both these victims, police drove them to Bogota's international airport without filing an official report on the robbery and the alleged sexual assault.

Bogota Hostels Targeted

One hotel owner, a member of the association of hostels in La Candelaria who wished to remain anonymous, told Colombia Reports there have been seven armed robberies of hostels in the past eight months. Reports from other hostel owners vary from four to twelve violent robberies.

Despite the most recent and most violent case, the hostel association member claims La Candelaria is improving. While attempting to save his neighborhood and livelihood from falling victim to armed bandits, the hostel owner said the tourist district has "already hit rock bottom; it's going to go up."

Preventing a Hotel-Room Invasion

It's hard to do anything once determined thugs like this are in your room. Even being passive and handing over all your valuables might not satisfy their criminal intent.

The best course of action is to stop them getting into your room in the first place (of course determined criminals will get in regardless of what you do). A simple door stop takes up no room in your backpack, but is very effective at keeping a hostel door closed. At least you might earn a few seconds to make your escape out a window.

Before you check-in ask the hostel what security arrangements they have, and what they've done to beef it up since these attacks started. If they've done nothing, pick one that has - the others will soon realise they need to act or lose business.

Consider staying somewhere other than the La Candelaria district. It might cost a few more of your precious travel dollars, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

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  • Jritz said

    I am not so sure the area around there is too much safer. Particularly the are just below the entrance to Montserrate. I was mugged at Knife point on one of the roads walking back down to Calle 19 after I had lefft the sanctuary. The police response was slow and uninspired. They seemed most interested in ow much money I'd lost. Only 150,000 COL but there was the whole issue of having a guy threaten me with a knife heald up above the head. I was also told by a taxi driver that a dutch tourist was recently stabbed in the the wrist as he was taking a photo so his camera could be stolen. Bottom line, I wouldn't reccomend as a gringo tourist that anyone walk around alone in the downtown area, especially not beween downtown and Montserrate.

  • kelvin powell said

    Back in January 2012 i got off the bus at the wrong stop in the Candeleria area, They stupidly named two hostels with the same name lol. But at 4am theres reason there is no one around, i had some shadowy figures around me, then one fella asked me where i was going! He said would show me, we walked the dorection of my hoselm then his face turned from happy to anticipation! I said i no longer needed his services and handed him a peso or two, that when he grabbed me and a guy with a long knife came out of a nearby doorway, what happened next is im not sure, was slow motion, one of the scariest moments of my life - your all alone with two guys trying to kill you! Anyway i do remeber running up the road with my shirt ripped, but they didnt get anything, the police escorted me to my hostel but didnt seem to care about what had happened! I thought well i should leave Colombia in the morning, but the coffee was too good! So i stayed, it made me street wise for the rest of the trip and a story to tell! But i did all the wrong things - always familiarize yourself with where you are staying and not drink without getting local knowledge on the area, stay in group.

  • G. Richards said

    About 10 o'clock one evening on my first trip to Bogota I was walking from one hostal to another, the Cranky Croc to Fatimas in Candeleria when i was jumped, out of a doorway by a homeless crackhead with a broken beer bottle neck..

    Fortunately i caught his hand and after a short scrap he legged it, as i did back to the hostal..

    I left Colombia the next day in fear but i've since spent two very happy years living in the north of the city, in La Calleja and working in the downtown, in the Torre Davivienda..

    I'd recommend anyone to try and stay between Calle's 85-120 going north-south & Carrera's 5-19 heading west from the moutain ridge that Bogota runs along..

    You could get the transmilenio down to las agues or museo del oro, it's very easy to use and cost effective although crazy busy during rush hours (don't even think about trying to take a cab, it'll take hours)..

    It's a great city but always remember that if it looks moody by day then it'll be double moody by night so it's probably not worth hanging about..

  • amy byrne said

    my boyfriend, a male friend and myself are travelling to Bogotá November 16th 2015 we have never been to Colombia. we are after a cultural experience but also the nightlife (party), restaurants, shopping and sightseeing we are on a budget and mostly looking at hostel accommodation, we are all Australian and speak no Spanish :/ haha. what area do you recommend we stay in and what tips do we need to know about staying safe.

  • J-M said

    @Amy byrne: I have been to colombia many times in the last 4 years to many "Dangerous" and "Safe" area. In general Colombia is a safe place for Tourist. Saying that, if you go after drugs then you might get into trouble.

    There are surely some precautions to take as in any development country such as not showing too much money in the street, don't walk with diamonds, etc.

    Personally I felt more in danger in some areas of Western Sydney than in Colombia in general.

    Spanish language might be a barrier but you should be OK to travel around without much trouble.

    Hostel in Medellin: Blacksheep (own by a kiwi)
    Hostel in Cartagena: El viajero
    Hostel in Taganga: Divanga B&B (own by french)
    Hostel in Santa Marta: La Brisa Loca (own by Americans)

    The only danger in Colombia is to want to stay there... which is why I keep going back ;)


  • Zoulu said

    Most of what happens in Colombia will never make it to public/newspaper/internet. Last week the Hostel La Brisa Loca in Santa Marta was robbed by an armed gang. No one talks about it. Bad for business. I have heard countless first hand stories about robberies, knife attacks and so on... In cartagena I was almost killed when they bombed a cargo ship in an industrial area. Many people died. Many more injured. Half an hour later a second explosion. Again many people dead. The day before they bombed a police station, also in Cartagena. NOBODY is talking about that stuff as everybody wants to make money with tourism. This attitude makes me sick!

  • jason said

    yeah well...i went to Chile, it was alright...nothing special, as for colombia well...sounds like a shithole if all they want to do is rob people and make evenyones life a misery, how do they expect to ever get out of a "developing country" if they just never develop, you dig??...yeah im a gringo and im fuckin proud of it to, Australia a great country and if you don't like it..stick it!!

  • Luke said

    I've spent the last few days in Bogotá, specifically Chapinero. Police and security guards literally everywhere, day and night. Locals are careless with their valuables and oblivious of their surroundings as a result. After dark, anyone loitering around gets the old patdown and interrogation routine.

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