Posted by: adventuressetravels | September 23, 2011

10+ Tips for Safe Travel in Colombia

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Colombia?  Probably kidnappings, guerilla, civil unrest, and a country run by drug lords.  Well wipe that image from your mind.  This is a country of amazing diversity, culture, and fabulous natural beauty just waiting to be explored.

Today the common perception of Colombia and the reality are as different as night and day.  Colombians are friendly, honest, caring, openhearted, generous, and do their best to change the country’s negative image.  Though the police checkpoints, which busses occasionally stop at can be slightly annoying, I would much rather have a strong police presence than civil unrest.  As a girl traveling solo, I felt as safe or safer in Colombia than I did anywhere else in South America.*

Like any country in South America it has its problems, and travelers do need to stay on their toes.  Here are a few tips that will make your trip safer and better

 

 

–          Always carry a photocopy of your passport.  Leave the real passport in the hotel or hostel safe when you go out.  However foreigners need to carry a copy of their documents wherever they go.  If you don’t, you could end up spending a few hours in jail or paying a hefty fine.

 

–          Travel on the nicer bus companies.

It may cost a few extra dollars, but it is more than worth it. Bolivariano is my favorite.  Not only do you get a comfortable ride, but there is added security.  The porter attaches leather tags on the luggage stored under the bus.  At the end of the trip he matches your tag to your luggage so there are no mix-ups.

 

 

–          Do not accept drinks or food from strangers.  Though it is much safer now, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  In the past kidnappers have used food or drinks to drug their victims, and robbers have also been known to use these methods.

 

–          Arrive at your destination during the day.  Whether you take a day bus, night bus, or plane, it is always safer to get to a new city during the day.  Like anywhere in the world, daytime is safer than the night.  You can see where you are going, hotels, hostels, and business are open, and you will avoid unsavory characters that come out at night.

 

–          Watch your luggage in busy bus terminals.  Robbers often operate from busy bus terminals.  Foreigners often carry cameras, gifts, expensive clothes, and other items tempting to robbers.  Tourists just arriving from long bus rides make easy targets.  One robber may try and distract foreigners and draw their attention away while another makes off with the unguarded bags.

 

–          Do not let anyone else carry your luggage. If someone offers to help you with your bags, politely decline.  This is truer in larger cities like Bogota, Cali or on the border, but robbers anywhere can offer to “help” you with your bags and make off with them.

 

–          Use common sense when exploring large cities.  There are pickpockets in Colombia, just like other places in the world.  Ask locals what areas are more dangerous and avoid the dangerous ones.

 

 

–          Don’t exchange money on the streets.  Use ATMs.  They are common, safe, and you won’t end up with counterfeit bills as you often will in money exchanges on the street. If you need to exchange money go to banks.

 

–          Don’t carry much cash with you.  Always withdraw the maximum amount (if you want to avoid ATM fees), but leave your cash with your passport in the hotel or hostel safe.

 

 

–          Don’t walk around at night alone.  If you are going out at night, take a taxi to and from your destination.  There are plenty of taxis on the street to take you home. If you can try and go with friends, acquaintances or guides. Colombians are extremely open and helpful and will go out of their way to help foreigners and change the negative opinion of the country so it is easy to make friends.

 

–          Ask a police officer if you are lost or need information.  In larger more tourist-friendly cities like Cartagena, there are actually tourist police just to help foreigners.  In all parts of the country police are friendly and helpful and will go out of their way to help make sure tourist have a good experience in Colombia.

 

*There are still “red zones” the remaining guerilla and drug production inhabit in remote areas of the country, but these are not near cities and difficult to reach.

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Responses

  1. Glad to see these very sensible precautions stated, a big help to anyone traveling.

  2. These are some awesome travel safety tips. Thanks for your expertise.

  3. Es un excelente blog. Colombia es uno de los países más maravillosos por su gente y su gran variedad de climas y paisajes. Estamos a sus órdenes en nuestra tienda de artesanías del aeropuerto Eldorado de Bogotá, Almacén Jardín…es, 2o. piso, para ayudarlos, sugerirles sitios para visitar, rutas, hoteles, en fin lo que puedan requerir cuando vengan por primera vez a este hermoso país. Mi correo es hescada@etb.net.co. Mis teléfonos 2662264, 2985831, 3134948081. Me encanta ayudar a los extranjeros que vienen tan temerosos y demostrarles que Colombia es un paraíso. Como dicen por ahí: El riesgo es…….que te quieras quedar!
    Esmeralda Sánchez R.
    (Por favor traducir. Muchas gracias)

    • Esmeralda Sanchez has a artisan store called Jardin on the 2nd floor of the Eldorado airport in Bogota, Colombia. She kindly responded that she would love to help give tourists suggestions, recommendations, and help them on their trips. Her email is hescada@etb.net.co. She’s just one of the many wonderful people in Colombia, and it really is always good to get advice from locals on where to go and what to do. Thanks Esmeralda!

  4. Great advise! This is definitely something we need to keep in mind for every country in the world. Yes, it is true sometimes you need to take special attention when traveling in Colombia but still it doesn’t mean you should avoid visiting that amazing country. Great tips my #1 will always be Using common sense everywhere!


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