Colombia

Colombia is in the northern tip of South America, and it shares a border with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. Colombia’s landscape is marked by rainforest, Andes mountains, and many coffee plantations. Bogota, the capital, is well-known for its restaurants and shops. Moreover, it is the hub of culture as it might lead the rest of Latin America in experimental theater, indie-rock, and an endless list of bookstores. It is also the place to learn how to dance salsa and cumbia at the Carnival of Barranquilla.

SAFETY INDEX

See cities in this country

Is Colombia a Safe or Dangerous Country?

Colombia has a bad reputation as a dangerous and violent country, but the current situation is not as bad as it once was. However, there are areas that are recommended to avoid. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential travel to certain regions shown on the map below.  

The number of kidnappings is down hugely from its peak in 2000, but it’s still a threat. Many governments advise against traveling to the south of the country due to the risk of kidnapping or being caught in the crossfire of a drug war. Always use common sense and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators. Follow the news on television and radio closely. Criminals tend to work in groups and use different ruses to distract travelers.

Crime

Street crime, including muggings and theft, is a significant problem in major cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cali and the northern Caribbean coast. People have tried to steal passports by acting like plain clothed police officers at the border crossing from Ecuador to Peru. They will give you a fake form to fill in, so make sure you see and official identification. If you want to take a walk along the banks of Lake Titicaca, do so with a group as there have been reports of armed robberies against tourists walking on their own. Local authorities advise against travelling alone at night in the Desaguadero area on the PeruBolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.

Transportation Safety

Visitors have been robbed by unlicensed taxi drivers. Make sure to get a registered taxi at a bus terminal or book one in advance from a well-known company. Always take a quick look in the back seat and in the trunk to make sure that there is nobody hiding there. If you are taking a bus, wrap put your backpack under your seat with the strap hooked around your leg. Sometimes, buses are held up and the passengers robbed.

Natural Dangers

Flooding and landslides are common in the Andes during the rainy season (April-May and October-November). Colombia is located in an active seismic region. The last major earthquake was in the department of Huila (5.4 on the Richter scale) in 2016. The Nevado Del Ruiz volcano erupted last erupted in June 2012. You can monitor volcano activity in Colombia on Ingeominas.

Political Situation

Local protests are common and can become violent very quickly. Guerrilla movements are still operational, these include FARC and ELN. Please note that these guerrillas are not as strong as they were in the 90s and they mainly operate in rural areas of southern, southeastern, and northwestern Colombia. However, if you stick to the main roads in between major roads, you are more likely to comes across soldiers from the Colombian army than guerrillas.

Terrorism

Terrorism and drugs/organized crime are linked. The threat comes from the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional), rebels from the FARC guerrilla (Revolutionaly Armed Forces of Colombia), and other illegal armed groups. The intended targets of these attacks are not usually tourists; however, public spaces and other areas visited by tourists can’t be ruled out, so remain alert for suspicious activity. The main departments in Colombia with high levels of coca cultivation are: Nariño, Cauca, Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta,Guaviare, the Catatumbo region in the Norte de Santander department, northern Antioquia, and southern Bolivar. Your safety is more at risk in any area where coca, marijuana or opium poppies are cultivated and near to cocaine processing labs.

Landmines

Colombia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. Landmines are usually found in 31 out of 32 department in the country, so always consult locals before exploring the countryside.

Warnings & Dangers

Mid Priority-96 OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

Standard safety precautions are recommended in Colombia. Although violence against travellers does not occur often, there have been a few reports of robberies involving violence.  Exercise common sense and remain vigilant for suspicious behaviour as you would in any other country. Street crime is an issue, and it’s on the rise in Bogota. If you avoid sketchy parts of town and remain vigilant, Colombia should offer you nothing but an amazing time.

Mid Priority-96 PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common in tourist locations and public transportation. Distraction is often the strategy, so always be alert and keep an eye on your belongings.

Mid Priority-96 MUGGING RISK : HIGH

Muggings have happened in urban areas. People walking alone are often the targets, especially at night. In case of being robbed, do not resist and hand over your valuables. Express kidnappings or short-term kidnappings can also occur. Most cases in major cities involve victims that have been picked up by taxis stopped from the street.

Mid Priority-96 SCAMS RISK : HIGH

There are a lot of scammers and con-artists trying to take advantage of tourists, particularly in large cities and around major landmarks in Mexico. Be aware of “gold ring” tricks, fake petitions, groups of teenagers acting strangely or trying to distract you; and people offering help with your luggage.

Mid Priority-96 TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM

Overall, taxis and public transportation are safe. Make sure you book a ride or use radio taxis from places like a hotel when possible as there have been reports of traveler being robbed and assaulted by taxi drivers.

Mid Priority-96 NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Flooding and landslides can happen during heavy rains and may result in public transportation disruptions. Colombia is also subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Mid Priority-96 TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There is a general threat from terrorism that is linked to organised crime. Control of the drugs trade is one of the major drivers. Remain vigilant and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators.

Mid Priority-96 WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

Many women travel safely without any issues. However, there have been reports of sexual assault throughout the country. Avoid isolated locations and traveling alone after dark. Women may be subject to verbal harassment as well. Remain extra vigilant at bus terminals and in taxis.

Carte

Useful Information

Most countries do not need a visa to enter Colombia when the purpose of the visit is tourism, and your stay is not more than 90 days. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date. www.doyouneedvisa.com is a useful website that can help you know if you need a visa or not based on your nationality and the country you’re visiting.
The currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP). ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in main cities, but be careful of possible scamming and never leave your card out of sight.
Colombia has a diverse climate: tropical along the coast, eastern plains, and Amazon; cold in the highlands with periodic droughts.
The busiest international airports in Colombia are El Dorado International Airport, José María Córdova International Airport, and Rafael Núñez International Airport. If you’re looking for cheap flight deals, you can find some on JetRadar
As in any country, we advise travelers to get a travel insurance that covers not only medical problems but also theft and loss of personal items. Learn more on our travel insurance page