Is Colombia Safe for Travelers? 6 Safety Tips (2022)

Should you worry about express kidnappings? We debunk the dangerous myths to show you Colombia's safe side.

Is Colombia Safe for Travelers? 6 Safety Tips (1) Photo © iStock/garytog

Colombia is a South American country with a bad reputation for drug wars and kidnappings. Despite its history of violence and insecurity,Colombia is – and has been for a while now – a favourite travel destination for adventure travelers.

From the charming culture and friendly locals to the vibrant nightlife and breathtaking natural landscapes, it's hard not to fall in love with this magical country.

So isColombia safe for travelers? The short answer is yes – as long as you keep your wits about you and stay away from known dangerous areas. Do that, and Colombia will be one of the most incredible destinations you visit in South America.

  • The bad news about safety in Colombia
  • Civil unrest in Colombia
  • The good news about safety in Colombia
  • Kidnapping in Colombia
  • What is Secuestro Express?
  • Avoiding crime in Colombia
  • Video: Why you shouldn't do cocaine in Colombia

The bad news about safety in Colombia

While Colombia's crime and kidnapping rates have significantly reduced over the last decade, you still need to use common sense and caution to stay safe.

Petty crime, such as mugging, pickpocketing and cell phone snatching, is common, especially in busy areas and on public transport in major cities. Keep your valuables out of sight when you're out and about. If you need to use your phone, don't whip it out in the middle of the street. Instead, go into a nearby shop or bank.

The number of kidnappings is down hugely from its peak in 2000, but it's a threat that you need to be aware of.

The southwestern and northeastern parts of the country, which border Ecuador and Venezuela, are dangerous. Many foreign governments recommend against any travel to those regions because of the risk of kidnap or getting caught in the crossfire of a drug war. Don't travel anywhere your government tells you not to.

(Video) Is COLOMBIA Safe to Travel? | 2022 Updated Advice

Civil unrest in Colombia

Colombians elected Gustavo Petro as their next president in June 2022. Petro will be the country's first leftist leader, and his election has given hope to millions of young, struggling Colombians desperate for change.

The transition of power has put a pause on anti-government strikes, and there is presently no major civil unrest in Colombia. That said, things could change, and protests and demonstrations can start up. Monitor local news reports and avoid all protests or demonstrations, which may turn violent quickly.

The good news about safety in Colombia

Government travel advisories have declared several regions of Colombia to be safe for travel. These include Bogotá, Tunja, Bucaramanga, Medellín, Cali, the Coffee Zone departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas, San Andres, the Caribbean cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Capurganá, and the Pacific coast towns Nuquí and Bahía Solano.

Bogotá has its dodgy areas, but stay clear of them, and you'll find that the capital city is an exciting – and safe – place to explore.

When we speak to travelers who have been to Colombia and foreigners who live there, they only have good things to say about the country. They say it's beautiful and much safer than what the media make it out to be. However, that's only true if you stick to the well-known tourist destinations.

Going off the beaten path to more remote areas will only be safe if you do so with a reputable tour agency and expert guide. And when you're in major cities, ask your hostel staff, a friendly local or other backpackers which areas to avoid.

Common sense safety rules apply when traveling in Colombia:

  • Don't wear expensive
  • Keep your phones, cameras and bank cards out of sight
  • Only carry enough money for the day
  • Avoid taking your passports out with you.

If you show excessive signs of wealth, you'll stand out and increase your chances of getting robbed or mugged.

Colombians dress nicely in the cities. So try to blend in, and you'll avoid looking like a tourist – and a target for criminals. Don't wear shorts, hiking pants, or flip-flops – wear jeans and a nice t-shirt. And if possible, wear clothing with hidden pockets to stash your valuables.

(Video) Is it Safe to Travel Colombia? Backpacking Safety Advice

Kidnapping in Colombia

With increased security measures along major roads and the ceasefire agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, the risk of being kidnapped in Colombia nowadays is very, very low.

Criminals aren't waiting at the airport or outside restaurants to kidnap you and ask for ransom. However, if you venture into remote areas controlled by still-in-operation rebel groups, such as the ELN and dissidents of the FARC, you do place yourself at risk of being kidnapped. Stick to tourist spots, and you will be fine.

What are express kidnappings?

Secuestro express(express kidnappings), also known aspaseo millonario(millionaire's ride), happens when you are kidnapped for an hour. Or however long it takes for the criminals to drive you around town visiting ATMs, emptying your bank account, and maxing out your credit card.

The ordeal usually begins when the victim gets into a taxi they flagged in the street. The driver will go around the corner where the bandits jump in. They persuade you to cooperate with knives, guns, or a punch of two.

Although express kidnappings don't happen often, criminals are opportunists and randomly select their victims. Stay safe by never hailing a taxi from the street. Nor enter an already occupied taxi or car you ordered on a ride-hailing app.

You could take a second credit card with a low limit to South America and leave the main card at home.

If this happens to you, your travel insurance may cover medical expenses for injuries caused by them. You'll have access to an emergency assistance helpline that will connect you with consular officials and experts who can help you deal with the psychological trauma. But, you'll have to argue with your bank about the credit card bill.

Traveling to South America? Listen to The World Nomads Podcast episode about Ecuador

How to avoid crime in Colombia

Ask any Colombian the best tactic to avoid being a victim of a crime, and they'll tell you "no dar papaya" (don't give papaya).

(Video) Colombia Travel - 7 Safety Tips You Can Apply TODAY

This local saying means don't put yourself in a vulnerable situation where someone can easily take advantage of you. For example, don't walk alone late at night or flash valuables in public areas.

Most travelers who've encountered problems in Colombia have likely broken this simple rule.

Here are a few other ways to avoid crime in Colombia:

  • Try to keep a low profile
  • Don't use illegal taxis
  • Don't drive on rural roads at night at all
  • Don'task for drugs
  • Lock the doors of the car, and keep at least a half a tank of fuel
  • Watch out for drink spiking at bars and clubs.

Video: Why you shouldn't do cocaine in Colombia

Wondering how your travel insurance might be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? Find answers to some of our common questions about COVID-19.

By Jacqui de Klerk,

World Nomads Contributor - Tue, 2 Aug 2022

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

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FAQs

Is Colombia safe for travelers? ›

Reconsider travel due to crime and terrorism. Exercise increased caution due to civil unrest and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Is Colombia safe in 2022? ›

The latest Global Peace Index ranked Colombia 144th out of 164 countries, citing high levels of access to weapons, homicides, internal conflict, and displaced people.

What are some travel tips for Colombia? ›

Everything you need to know before visiting Colombia, a country you might never want to leave
  • Colombia is bigger than you think. ...
  • Domestic flights are affordable and quick. ...
  • Prepare for unpredictable weather. ...
  • A little Spanish will get you a long way. ...
  • You'll notice a strong military presence. ...
  • Don't expect punctuality.
14 May 2022

Is Colombia safe for a girls trip? ›

It's perfectly safe for solo female travelers to visit Colombia. However, as a visitor, you might find yourself in vulnerable situations when you're alone, especially if you don't speak much of the local language, or if you aren't used to destinations that might feel less safe.

Is Colombia safe to live? ›

Living in Colombia is safer than in many other countries around the world. As a matter of fact, Bogotá and Medellín, the two largest cities in the country, rank safer than quite a few U.S. cities according to the 2018 Numbeo Crime Index. Like any country around the world, there is crime.

Which South American country is the safest? ›

Uruguay. Sitting at the top of the pile of safest South American countries is Uruguay. According to the 2021 Global Peace Index, Uruguay ranks 47th out of the world's 163 nations.

What is the safest place in Colombia? ›

Salento is the safest city in Colombia. With a population of just over 7000, there aren't too many people to make this city dangerous. Not to mention, it has become a favorite location for tourism, which means crime is kept to a minimum.

What can you not bring to Colombia? ›

Vegetables, plants and plant materials are banned from entry. Meat and animal based foodstuffs are also banned from entry. Guns, explosives and ammunition are prohibited from being imported to this country without stated permission from Colombian authorities.

Is Bogota safe at night? ›

We wouldn't consider it safe at night in Bogota. Just like any other city, being outside at night comes with a lot of sketchy characters and dangers. If possible stay inside or stick with a group.

Why you should travel to Colombia? ›

What makes Colombia the best country for a holiday? Colombia is one of the world's most diverse countries with two oceans, a range of climates, energetic cities, astonishing wildlife and things to do including kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, paragliding, surfing, diving, dancing and more.

How much money should I bring to Colombia? ›

Budget traveler: If you're on a tight budget and pay close attention to what you spend, $30 – $35 a day may be sufficient. Mid-range traveler: If you want something a little more luxurious, doing a few more expensive activities, or staying in good accommodations, plan a budget of $35 – $65 per day.

Is Uber illegal in Colombia? ›

The court decision was soon overturned, but Uber remains illegal. Its drivers ask passengers to take the front seat to avoid unwanted attention from the police, which could result in fines and/or having their vehicles confiscated.

Is Colombia safer than the US? ›

It may come as a shock, but many Colombian cities are safer than their counterparts in the States. For instance, Bogota's violent crime rate is considerably lower than that of Miami, Indianapolis, or even Pittsburgh! As always, most crimes in Colombia are merely those of opportunity—which means they're easy to avoid!

Are taxis safe in Colombia? ›

Both Uber and taxis are rather safe, although for taxis is better if you get them from the hotel, mall, etc and not from the street.

How do you stay safe in Colombia? ›

8 Simple Safety Tips for Travelers to Colombia
  1. Keep a Low Profile. ...
  2. Pay Attention to Your Belongings. ...
  3. Never Withdraw Money at Night or Alone. ...
  4. Ask Your Hotel for Safe Walking Routes. ...
  5. Don't Resist Apprehension (If it happens to you) ...
  6. Keep Your Valuables Close at Night. ...
  7. Don't Put Yourself in Harm's Way.
3 Oct 2020

Is there a lot of crime in Colombia? ›

Although Colombia is a fantastic place to visit, there are certainly some cities you should avoid. Due to problems like drugs and poverty, crime rates are incredibly high in some parts of Colombia.

Where do the rich live in Colombia? ›

Rosales is a wealthy neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia. The neighborhood is known for brick high rises which are found from Carrera Séptima (7th Avenue) to Avenida Circunvalar.

Is Colombia cheap to live? ›

One of the main benefits of living in Colombia is the low cost of living. And what's more, it's a low cost of living in a country that offers many of the first-world amenities and infrastructure that you'd expect in a much more expensive location.

Is Colombia safer than Brazil? ›

According to the recently released 2018 version of the Global Peace Index, Brazil is the third lowest rated country in South America, just above Venezuela and Colombia.

What's the safest country in the world? ›

Iceland. According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the safest country in the world for the 14th year in a row. Iceland is a Nordic nation with a relatively small population of 340,000.

What is the safest country to vacation in? ›

Here are the top ten safest countries in the world, according to the 2022 Global Piece Index.
  • Iceland.
  • New Zealand.
  • Ireland.
  • Denmark.
  • Austria.
  • Portugal.
  • Slovenia.
  • Czech Republic.
21 Jul 2022

Is Colombia safer than Mexico? ›

It's moderately safe to walk alone by day, but not so safe by night. Meanwhile, Mexico City's crime rate is slightly higher and it's slightly less safe. Daytime and nighttime safety when walking alone rank more or less the same as Bogota, with Bogota being slightly safer.

Is Colombia expensive? ›

It's the cheapest country to live in Latin America. But like most places, it can be expensive if you make it! It's easy to travel Colombia on a budget, but there are plenty of places you can spend your money if you want to eat in fancy restaurants and stay in luxury hotels.

How many Americans live in Colombia? ›

It has been estimated that there are 60,000 Americans living in Colombia. Colombia remains a popular destination for American expats, thanks to its laid back culture, colonial architecture, history, and beaches.

What do females wear in Colombia? ›

Traditionally, women wear colorful, pastel clothing, made with soft fabrics and sewn with flowers, ribbons and other flourishes and designs. Skirts fall to the ankles, and are equally colorful. Men, also, wear loose and colorful clothes, with shoes or sandals made out of natural materials and plant fibers.

How much cash can I bring to Colombia? ›

You can carry up to US$10,000 in cash, or its equivalent in any currency, with you when you enter or leave Colombia. Anything in excess of this amount may be confiscated.

Can you flush toilet paper in Colombia? ›

Use the Trash Bin Next to the Toilet for Paper

In Colombia, people dispose of paper in the trash bin and they don't flush it. This is because most of the country has septic systems and old creaky pipes.

Is the water safe to drink in Colombia? ›

Colombia has excellent water resources and tap water in bigger cities and mountainous areas is usually safe to drink.

Is Colombia rich or poor? ›

Colombia is classified as an upper middle-income economy and is one of Latin America's largest economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country's economy is shaped by its land and like many South American nations is based in its rich natural resources.

Is Mexico safe for tourists? ›

Mexico has a high risk of violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping. Don't travel at night outside major cities. Kidnapping and extortion are serious risks. Don't draw attention to your money or business affairs.

Why is Colombia so popular? ›

In a nutshell, Colombia is famous for its arepas and specialty coffee, as well as the kindness of its people. It's known for its diverse landscapes and culturally rich heritage where art, music, and theater mix. It also has its share of famous people like Shakira and Sofia Vergara.

Is Colombia a nice country? ›

Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has an enviable climate and some of the best forests, beaches, rare species of plants and animals, and is home to diverse cultures.

How much is $100 US in Colombia? ›

449651.00000

Can I use my debit card in Colombia? ›

Credit and Debit cards are widely accepted in Colombia but use with care and keep receipts.

Is 50 dollars a lot in Colombia? ›

In fact, Colombia as a whole isn't as cheap a place as many travellers believe. However, with a budget of $50 there's plenty that you can do in Bogotá and still feel that you've made the most of the city.

Are drugs legal in Colombia? ›

The Colombian constitution explicitly forbids using narcotic drugs without medical prescription.

Are taxis from Bogota airport safe? ›

But Bogota airport taxis are safe, as long as you use an official one. If your flight gets in late, taking a taxi from Bogota airport to La Candelaria is the safest option. You will see the Bogota airport taxis parked up outside the airport, to book a taxi you will normally need to go to the booth.

Can you drink the tap water in Bogota? ›

The quick answer is yes: The main health concerns when visiting Colombia are Zika, Malaria and Yellow Fever- which are nonexistent in Bogota because mosquitos can't live there due to the high altitude. Contrary to popular belief, tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Bogota.

How many murders per year in Colombia? ›

The number of homicides in Colombia has been oscillating around 12,000 in recent years. In 2020, a total of 11,520 homicides were registered across the South American country, down from 12,080 recorded one year earlier. Moreover, the overall number of violent deaths in the country has increased recently.

How much crime is in Colombia? ›

Definitions
STATColombia
Total crimes214,192 Ranked 36th.
Total crimes per 10005.2 Ranked 67th.
Violent crime > Gun crime > Guns per 100 residents5.9 Ranked 87th.
Intentional homicide rate34 Ranked 3rd. 7 times more than United States
59 more rows

How many murders did Colombia have in 2021? ›

Valle del Cauca and Antioquia were the departments where most homicides were recorded in Colombia throughout 2021, with 2,590 and 2,136 murders respectively.
...
Number of homicides in Colombia in 2021, by department.
CharacteristicNumber of homicides
Antioquia2,136
Cundinamarca1,582
Cauca821
Atlántico712
9 more rows
15 Sept 2022

Should I tip in Colombia? ›

The main takeaway is this: tipping in Colombia isn't really a thing other than in places like restaurants and hotels where it is expected. But even then, it's usually only 10%. This might seem strange coming from somewhere like the USA where tipping high percentages is common, but that's just the way it is here.

Does Columbia have Uber? ›

Complete your plans today by reserving a ride with Uber in Columbia. Request a ride up to 30 days in advance, at any time and on any day of the year.

How do you get around Colombia without a car? ›

Each city has a terminal de buses (bus terminal) where the intercity buses arrive; Bogotá has more than one. For shorter trips, you're better off sacrificing comfort and price for speed by buying a ticket on a buseta, colectivo or any similarly sized minibus or minivan that departs when full.

Is Colombia safe to travel alone? ›

Colombia is a safe and welcoming place for people who travel by themselves. But being a solo traveler doesn't mean you have to go it alone! Get advice from Colombian locals before you even arrive.

Is it safe to drive in Colombia? ›

Colombia has one of the safest routes to travel. With incredible cars and drivers, driving in Colombia is great.

How can I stop robbing in Colombia? ›

I also don't text on the street, for the same reason.
  1. Walk fast and with a sense of purpose. ...
  2. Avoid wearing headphones in public. ...
  3. Never put anything of value in your pockets. ...
  4. Keep your bag or purse where you can see it. ...
  5. Don't wear flashy jewelry. ...
  6. Don't trust strangers. ...
  7. ATMs can be dangerous. ...
  8. Keep your eyes on your credit cards.
23 Feb 2015

What is the safest place in Colombia? ›

Salento is the safest city in Colombia. With a population of just over 7000, there aren't too many people to make this city dangerous. Not to mention, it has become a favorite location for tourism, which means crime is kept to a minimum.

Is Cartagena Colombia safe for American tourists? ›

In fact, Cartagena is extremely safe to visit. The tourist areas generally have a heavy police presence and violent crime against tourists is practically unheard of. Even during the heydays of the earlier violence in Colombia, Cartagena was largely spared and considered quite safe.

Is Colombia expensive? ›

It's the cheapest country to live in Latin America. But like most places, it can be expensive if you make it! It's easy to travel Colombia on a budget, but there are plenty of places you can spend your money if you want to eat in fancy restaurants and stay in luxury hotels.

Is Medellin Safe 2022? ›

While Medellin is generally safe for travelers in terms of violent crime, a recent string of armed robberies and petty crimes against tourists are occurring as of 2022.

Is Colombia safer than Mexico? ›

It's moderately safe to walk alone by day, but not so safe by night. Meanwhile, Mexico City's crime rate is slightly higher and it's slightly less safe. Daytime and nighttime safety when walking alone rank more or less the same as Bogota, with Bogota being slightly safer.

Where do the rich live in Colombia? ›

Rosales is a wealthy neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia. The neighborhood is known for brick high rises which are found from Carrera Séptima (7th Avenue) to Avenida Circunvalar.

What can you not bring to Colombia? ›

Vegetables, plants and plant materials are banned from entry. Meat and animal based foodstuffs are also banned from entry. Guns, explosives and ammunition are prohibited from being imported to this country without stated permission from Colombian authorities.

Can you drink the water in Colombia? ›

Colombia. Colombia has excellent water resources and tap water in bigger cities and mountainous areas is usually safe to drink.

Do US citizen need visa for Colombia? ›

U.S. citizens do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist or business stay of 90 days or less or for cumulative stays of 180 days or less per calendar year. Before your 90-day stay expires, you may request an extension of up to 90 additional days from the Colombian immigration authority (Migración Colombia).

Is 50 dollars a lot in Colombia? ›

In fact, Colombia as a whole isn't as cheap a place as many travellers believe. However, with a budget of $50 there's plenty that you can do in Bogotá and still feel that you've made the most of the city.

How much is $100 US in Colombia? ›

449651.00000

How far does a dollar go in Colombia? ›

The U.S. dollar will go far in these 20 international cities
LocationCurrency ExchangeAverage Cost of Daily Expenses
Medellin, Colombia1 USD = 2,953.75 COP$18
Siem Reap, Cambodia1 USD = 4,036.60 KHR$32
Delhi, India1 USD = 67.8842 INR$35
Valparaiso, Chile1 USD = 640.110 CLP$36
16 more rows
9 Jul 2018

Is Bogota safe at night? ›

We wouldn't consider it safe at night in Bogota. Just like any other city, being outside at night comes with a lot of sketchy characters and dangers. If possible stay inside or stick with a group.

Is tap water safe in Medellin? ›

The tap water in Medellin is perfectly safe to drink, there is no need to buy bottled water or worry about the ice in your drink. The water might taste a little chlorinated, but it's convenient to know that you always have a free and safe option for water anywhere in the city.

Is Taxi safe in Medellin? ›

Safety Note: Taxis in Medellin are generally safe although there are always exceptions. Where possible, call or use an App to get a taxi. If you hail a random taxi on the street, make sure you check for a legit taxi company logo and the correct licence plate number is listed on the sticker on the front windscreen.

Videos

1. Most Common Mistakes when Traveling Colombia, DON’T DO THIS! – Colombian Travel Guide
(COLOMBIAFRANK)
2. Is it Safe to Go to Bogota COLOMBIA?
(Weird Nomad)
3. SAFETY TIPS FOR TURIST GOING TO MEDELLIN,.COLOMBIA,.!!!
(El Paisa, Medellin,Life,)
4. I ALMOST GOT ROBBED AND SHOT AT IN SANTA MARTA, COLOMBIA
(Alina Mcleod)
5. Traveling Solo in Medellin, Colombia
(Blake Vy)
6. A Day In Bogota As Tourist (Not What We Thought) 🇨🇴
(Divert Living)

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