Is Colombia Safe ?
The south American country is a popular destination, but before buying the ticket you first have to find out if Colombia is really safe.
Colombia is rich in natural resources, beautiful landscapes, exuberant flora and fauna, and yes, as most readers may know, it also has opulent figures of violence. So, is Colombia safe for the traveler? In that area, the south American country has different levels of intensity, and a clear geographical segmentation that define the limits between safe and dangerous. Nonetheless, as aggressions manifests for a variety of reasons, most of them are political. If you are thinking about going, and wondering if Colombia is safe, feel free to buy your ticket and go. It is safer than going to the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, or Brazil. But first, make sure you understand a thing or two about your destination.
During the 80s and the 90s, the main actors of terror in the country were the drug mafias such as the Medellin and Cali cartels. They kept the key urban areas of the country ––Bogota, Cali, and Medellin–– in constant fear. From the 90s ––when the murder rate was 70 for every hundred thousand people–– up until the 2000s, there was also an upsurge of the conflict between the guerrillas, the paramilitary groups, and the army.
According to the national records, after fifty-two years, more than two hundred thousand killings, and two million displaced people, the government and FARC (the oldest left-wing guerrilla on the planet) signed a peace treaty at the end of 2016. Later on, a relative calm flourished in the nation that led to an impressive rate of 25 killings for every hundred thousand people. Sixty five percent less than in the 90s, as presented by the UN in 2019. Cities that used to be dominated by violence, like Medellin and Bogota, present lower murder rates than the national average (23 and 12 respectively). With the sum of these facts, is Colombia safe? Yes, yes, it is.
It does not mean that Colombia is a territory of harmony. The same rate in most countries of Europe and the United States won’t go up to 5. So, asking if Colombia is safe would lead to the proper recommendation: paying attention to the advice of local people, and the warnings about what places are good to go, would keep the traveler in the zone of fun, relaxation, and beautiful experience; away from main conflicts related to illicit crops, gold extraction, and animals and wood illegal trafficking. Therefore, if you feel like visiting places such as Choco ––where you can see whales during their mating season (from July to November) ––, the Amazonian region, and other jungle areas, find official agencies and certified guides to make sure you get to a protected place.
That said, Colombia has been safe for tourists since 2007, when a strong military presence grew among the territory. Especially all over the roads used by travelers to go from one touristic place to the other. Ever since 2018, from four levels, the country went from Level 3 (that means “Reconsider Travel”) to Level 2 (that means “Exercise Increased Action”) on the report of the travel advisory of the United State Department of State.
On the other hand, the actual matter of attention when you go to Colombia is, as most countries in Latin America, shoplifting and snatching. According to the General Prosecutor, thefts are going up during the last few years in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and the very touristic Cartagena, Santa Marta, among other cities. Every day, there is an average of 1.136 reported victims of robbery in a country of 48 million.
A few recommendations offered by the entity for people who wants to know if Colombia is safe, include:
- Do not exhibit flashy objects, like jewelry and expensive watches, in public spaces.
- Do not count money in public spaces.
- Avoid multitudes.
- Keep bags and jackets closed and visible.
- If you are in a car, keep the windows closed and the valuable objects saved.
- If you are walking the streets, keep your bag on the other side of the road.
- Do not walk against a wall.
- Be aware of people who walk too close.
- If you need to make a call, use the headphones and keep the phone in your bag.
- Do not chat in the public transportation
Here is another consideration linked to security: is Colombia safe in terms of nightlife? Even though the country is highly associated with drugs, most Colombians would not consume and find offensive that international tourists come to the country to abuse substances such as cocaine and ecstasy. But in the case of making the decision to use, one should make sure to find a recommended dealer. Accepting offers at the street or clubs could be dangerous because of the lower standards of quality.
It is also common for tourists to get drugged by gangs, who use a substance called Burundanga. It could leave a person conscious but with no sense of will. Burundanga is a powder that does not have any taste or odor. It is common to be blown to people’s faces, or poured in drinks. The suggestion to avoid being a victim of this method is to always keep drinks visible, and also to go out in groups and stay together throughout the night.
Colombia is nowadays one of the most exciting destinations in the world. Diversity, colors, and exotic flavors are part of the everyday scene if you decide to visit the land of the birds. Everyone asks the same question before planning a trip to the country: Is Colombia safe? The answer is yes. Making sure you understand the place you are visiting guarantees unforgettable experiences, all of them for the right reason.