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.
CrimeStreet 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 Peru–Bolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.
Transportation SafetyVisitors 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 DangersFlooding 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 SituationLocal 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.
TerrorismTerrorism 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.
LandminesColombia 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
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
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.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
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.
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.
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.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : HIGH
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.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
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.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
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.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH
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.