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Is Colombia Safe?


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Cathe Schaffner



Welcome to Colombia, a vibrant and diverse country that has long captivated travelers with its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and warm-hearted people. However, before embarking on your Colombian adventure, it’s natural to wonder about safety. In recent years, Colombia has made significant progress in terms of safety and security, but it still suffers from a somewhat tarnished reputation due to its past.


Colombia has come a long way from its turbulent past, characterized by drug cartels and armed conflict. Today, the country is experiencing a remarkable transformation, with a growing economy, improved security, and a thriving tourism industry. However, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the current safety situation in order to make informed travel decisions.


While it is true that Colombia still faces some security challenges, it is important to note that the majority of the country is safe for travelers. Many popular tourist destinations, such as Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, and the Coffee Region, have seen significant improvements in terms of safety and are now considered relatively secure. These cities offer a wide range of attractions, from historical sites and cultural experiences to breathtaking natural beauty.


It is also worth mentioning that Colombia is a country of contrasts, with both urban and rural areas. While the cities have seen significant improvements in security, it is important to exercise caution when venturing off the beaten path into more remote areas. It is advisable to research the specific regions you plan to visit and stay informed about any potential risks or travel warnings.


In this comprehensive guide, we will take an in-depth look at the safety situation in Colombia. We will address common misconceptions, examine crime rates, provide safety tips, and offer practical advice for traveling in Colombia. By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of the safety landscape in Colombia and be better prepared to enjoy your adventure with peace of mind.


Safety in Colombia: Myth vs Reality

When it comes to safety in Colombia, there are many misconceptions that still persist. It’s important to separate fact from fiction and gain a realistic perspective on the current security situation. Let’s address some common myths about safety in Colombia:

  1. Myth: Colombia is extremely dangerous. Reality: While Colombia does have regions with higher crime rates, it is incorrect to label the entire country as dangerous. Many areas, especially popular tourist destinations, have seen significant improvements in safety in recent years. It’s important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, just as you would in any other country.
  2. Myth: Traveling to Colombia means putting your life at risk. Reality: With proper planning and taking necessary precautions, traveling to Colombia can be a safe and rewarding experience. Many tourists visit the country each year without encountering any major safety issues. It’s crucial to stay informed about the specific regions you plan to visit and follow local advice.
  3. Myth: Kidnappings and drug violence are rampant in Colombia. Reality: While Colombia has faced challenges in the past, including drug-related violence and kidnappings, the situation has improved significantly. The government has implemented effective measures to tackle these issues, resulting in a decrease in reported incidents. However, it’s important to remain vigilant and stay informed about any current risks or warnings.
  4. Myth: The Colombian police and security forces are unreliable. Reality: The Colombian government has made substantial efforts to improve the effectiveness and professionalism of its police and security forces. They play a crucial role in maintaining public safety and protecting both locals and tourists. However, it’s always advisable to take common-sense precautions and follow any instructions provided by the authorities.
  5. Myth: Solo travel in Colombia is unsafe. Reality: Solo travel in Colombia is becoming increasingly popular, and many solo travelers have had positive experiences in the country. As with any solo travel, it’s essential to stay alert, trust your instincts, and take necessary precautions. Joining group tours, staying in well-reviewed accommodations, and avoiding risky areas during nighttime can enhance your safety.

These realities contrast with the persistent myths that continue to surround safety in Colombia. By arming yourself with accurate information and being cautious, you can confidently explore the diverse wonders Colombia has to offer.


Travel Warnings and Precautions

Before traveling to any destination, it’s important to research and stay updated on any travel warnings or advisories issued by your government. While the overall safety situation in Colombia has improved, there may still be specific regions or areas that have higher risks. Here are some important travel warnings and precautions to keep in mind:


Check travel advisories: Before your trip, visit the website of your country’s embassy or foreign affairs department to check for any travel advisories or warnings about Colombia. These advisories provide valuable information about the security situation in different regions and any specific precautions you should take.


Register with your embassy: It’s a good idea to register your travel plans with your embassy or consulate in Colombia. This allows them to contact you in case of an emergency and provide assistance if needed.


Stay informed about local news: Keep yourself updated on local news and current events in the regions you plan to visit. This will give you better insight into the security situation and any potential risks or disruptions to your travel plans.


Follow local customs and laws: Respect the local customs, traditions, and laws of Colombia. Familiarize yourself with the local culture and etiquette to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts. Remember that breaking the law can have serious consequences in any country.


Use reputable tour operators and accommodations: When booking tours or accommodations, choose reputable and well-reviewed operators. This ensures that you are dealing with trustworthy professionals who prioritize the safety and well-being of their clients.


Avoid displaying wealth: To minimize the risk of theft or becoming a target of crime, avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying expensive gadgets. Keep your valuables secure and be discreet with your belongings while in public.


Blend in with the local crowd: Try to blend in with the locals by dressing modestly and respectfully. This can help you avoid being targeted as a tourist and attract less unwanted attention.


Use reliable transportation: Stick to licensed taxis, reputable ride-hailing services, or public transportation when moving around. Avoid unofficial taxis or accepting rides from strangers to reduce the risk of scams or theft.


Be cautious of your surroundings: Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas. If you feel unsafe, seek assistance or go to a well-populated and well-lit area.


By following these travel warnings and taking necessary precautions, you can minimize potential risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to Colombia.


Understanding the Security Situation

Understanding the security situation in Colombia is essential for making informed travel decisions. While the country has made significant progress in terms of safety, it is important to have a realistic view of the current security landscape.


Colombia has implemented various security measures to combat crime and improve public safety. The government has increased its presence in tourist areas, invested in infrastructure, and strengthened law enforcement agencies to create a safer environment for both locals and visitors.


It is important to note that there are still regions in Colombia that are affected by criminal activities and armed groups. These areas may include remote rural regions and parts of the border regions. It is recommended to research and stay informed about the security situation in the specific areas you plan to visit.


One of the essential factors contributing to the improved security situation in Colombia is the peace agreement reached between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016. The agreement aimed to end the armed conflict that had plagued the country for decades. While the peace agreement has brought positive changes, there are still challenges in its implementation, and isolated incidents may occur in certain regions.


The Colombian government has also prioritized the fight against drug trafficking, which historically has been a major security concern in the country. Efforts to dismantle drug cartels and disrupt their operations have contributed to a decline in drug-related violence and organized crime.


Another crucial aspect to understand is the role of public perception. While Colombia has made significant improvements in safety, lingering stereotypes and perceptions may still shape people’s opinions. Media coverage may focus on negative events or incidents, creating an inaccurate perception of the overall security situation.


It is important to gather information from reliable sources, such as official government websites, tourism authorities, and reputable news outlets, to get a comprehensive understanding of the security situation in Colombia. By staying informed, being aware of any potential risks, and taking necessary precautions, you can navigate the security landscape in a responsible and safe manner.


Crime Rates in Colombia

When it comes to crime rates in Colombia, it is important to note that there have been significant improvements over the past decade. However, like any other country, Colombia still experiences certain crime-related challenges, and it is necessary to be aware of them.


Colombia has made concerted efforts to reduce crime and improve public safety. The government has implemented various strategies, including the strengthening of law enforcement agencies and the implementation of community-based programs, to combat crime effectively.


Major cities in Colombia, such as Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena, have seen substantial decreases in crime rates. Tourist areas are generally well-policed and have enhanced security measures in place. This has contributed to a safer environment for both locals and visitors.


Nevertheless, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of certain types of crime that can occur in Colombia. Petty theft, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, can happen in crowded areas, especially in major tourist destinations. It is advisable to keep valuable belongings secure and be vigilant in crowded places.


Scams and fraud can also be a concern, particularly in tourist areas. It is important to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, and to use reputable tour operators and accommodations to minimize the risk of falling victim to a scam.


Drug-related crime, while reduced compared to the past, still exists in certain regions of Colombia. It is advised to avoid any involvement with illegal drugs and to stay away from areas known for drug production or trafficking.


Additionally, it is important to highlight that some rural and remote areas of Colombia may have higher crime rates due to the influence of armed groups and illegal activities. If you plan to explore these areas, it is crucial to research and obtain up-to-date information on the security situation and consider traveling with a reputable guide.


As a visitor to Colombia, it is essential to take common-sense precautions to minimize the risk of being a victim of crime. These include avoiding walking alone at night in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas, using licensed taxis or reputable ride-hailing services, and being cautious of your surroundings.


By being aware of the potential risks and taking necessary precautions, you can enjoy your time in Colombia while maintaining personal safety.


Popular Tourist Destinations and Safety

Colombia offers a wide array of stunning and culturally rich destinations that have become increasingly popular among travelers. While safety is a concern for many visitors, it’s important to note that several top tourist destinations in Colombia have seen significant improvements in terms of security.


One of the most popular cities in Colombia is Cartagena, renowned for its colonial charm, cobblestone streets, and vibrant culture. Cartagena has experienced a substantial decrease in crime rates, with increased police presence and security measures in place. The historical walled city and nearby areas are generally considered safe for tourists, but it’s always advisable to be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions.


The capital city of Bogota, known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and diverse neighborhoods, has also made significant strides in terms of safety. The city’s main tourist areas, such as La Candelaria and Zona Rosa, are well-policed and offer a range of attractions, including historical sites, museums, and vibrant nightlife.


Medellin, once notorious for drug-related violence, has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now considered one of the safest cities in Colombia. The city is known for its innovative urban planning, stunning landscapes, and the warmth of its people. Popular neighborhoods like El Poblado and the Comuna 13 area are thriving with restaurants, bars, and street art, offering unique cultural experiences.


The Coffee Region, including cities like Armenia, Pereira, and Manizales, is a popular destination for its lush coffee plantations, beautiful landscapes, and ecotourism opportunities. The region has seen improvements in security and offers a safe and welcoming environment for travelers. Exploring the coffee farms, hiking the Cocora Valley, or visiting the charming towns of Salento and Manizales is a remarkable experience.


While these destinations are generally considered safe, it’s always essential to take standard safety precautions. Avoid displaying expensive belongings, be cautious of your surroundings, and follow the advice of local authorities. It’s also recommended to stay informed about any recent developments or specific safety considerations related to the destination you plan to visit.


As with any travel, it’s essential to exercise common sense and be mindful of your personal safety. By staying informed, being aware of your surroundings, and respecting local customs, you can enjoy the beauty and vibrancy of Colombia’s top tourist destinations with peace of mind.


Safety Tips for Traveling in Colombia

Traveling in Colombia can be a rewarding and memorable experience, but it’s important to prioritize safety. By following these essential safety tips, you can minimize potential risks and ensure a smooth journey:

  1. Research your destination: Before traveling to Colombia, research and familiarize yourself with the specific regions you plan to visit. Stay updated on the security situation, any travel advisories, and potential risks in those areas.
  2. Be cautious with your belongings: Keep your valuable belongings secure, especially in crowded areas. Use a money belt or hidden pouch to carry your passport, cash, and important documents. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry or gadgets.
  3. Blend in with the locals: Dress modestly and respectfully to blend in with the local culture. This can help you avoid standing out as a tourist and attracting unwanted attention.
  4. Use reliable transportation: Stick to licensed taxis, reputable ride-hailing services, or public transportation when moving around. Avoid unofficial taxis or accepting rides from strangers to reduce the risk of scams or theft.
  5. Stay in well-reviewed accommodations: Choose reputable and well-reviewed accommodations. Look for hotels or guesthouses with good security measures in place.
  6. Stay alert and aware: Be vigilant of your surroundings and trust your instincts. Avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas. If you feel unsafe, seek assistance or go to a well-populated and well-lit area.
  7. Stay informed about local customs and laws: Familiarize yourself with the local customs, traditions, and laws of Colombia. Respect the culture and adhere to local norms to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts.
  8. Avoid drugs and illegal activities: Engaging in drug-related activities is illegal and can have serious consequences. Stay away from areas known for drug production or trafficking.
  9. Stay connected: Keep your loved ones informed about your travel plans and maintain communication with them during your trip. Share your itinerary, hotel details, and any changes in your plans.
  10. Trust reputable tour operators: If you’re participating in any tours or adventure activities, choose reputable tour operators who prioritize safety and have a good track record.
  11. Learn basic Spanish phrases: While many Colombians speak English, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can go a long way in communication and building rapport with local people.

By following these safety tips and exercising common sense, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience while exploring the beautiful sights and rich culture that Colombia has to offer.


Transportation Safety

When traveling in Colombia, it is important to prioritize transportation safety. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a secure and smooth journey:

  1. Choose reputable transportation providers: Opt for licensed taxis, reputable ride-hailing services, or recognized transportation companies. Look for official signage, identification, and well-maintained vehicles.
  2. Avoid unofficial taxis: Refrain from using unofficial taxis, as they may pose a greater risk. Instead, use reputable taxi stands or apps to book your transportation.
  3. Keep an eye on your belongings: Keep your belongings secure while in transit. Ensure that your bags, wallets, and other valuables are within your reach and not easily accessible to others.
  4. Stay attentive: Stay alert and aware of your surroundings during your journey. Avoid distractions from electronic devices and keep an eye on the route to ensure you’re being taken to the correct destination.
  5. Share your itinerary: Inform someone you trust about your travel plans, especially when taking long-distance buses or traveling to remote areas. Provide them with details of your expected arrival time and the transportation company you are using.
  6. Be cautious at bus terminals: Bus terminals can be busy and chaotic. Take extra care of your belongings and be cautious of pickpockets who may take advantage of crowded areas.
  7. Choose daytime travel: When possible, opt for daytime travel, especially if you are unfamiliar with the route or the area you’re traveling through. Daytime travel allows for better visibility and can help you navigate more confidently.
  8. Plan ahead for long journeys: If you’re embarking on a long journey, consider traveling with a reputable company that provides safe and comfortable transport options. Research the company’s safety record and customer reviews before making your selection.
  9. Follow local traffic rules: Familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations, as they may differ from what you’re accustomed to. Observe the speed limits and follow any instructions or signs provided by the local authorities.
  10. Use seatbelts: Whether traveling by car or bus, always wear your seatbelt and encourage others in your party to do the same. Seatbelts can significantly reduce the risk of injury in the event of a collision or abrupt stop.

By following these transportation safety tips, you can minimize potential risks and ensure a safe journey throughout your travels in Colombia. 

Health and Medical Facilities

Prioritizing your health and well-being is crucial when traveling to Colombia. It’s important to be aware of the available medical facilities and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and healthy trip:


Medical Insurance: Before traveling to Colombia, ensure that you have comprehensive travel medical insurance that covers emergency medical expenses, including hospitalization and medical evacuation if needed.


Research Healthcare Facilities: Familiarize yourself with the healthcare facilities available in the areas you plan to visit. Major cities in Colombia have well-equipped hospitals and clinics with trained medical professionals. However, rural and remote areas may have limited healthcare services.


Travel Vaccinations: Check with your healthcare provider or a travel clinic to determine which vaccinations are recommended for Colombia. Vaccinations for diseases like Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever may be advisable depending on the regions you plan to visit.


Prescription Medications: If you take prescription medications, ensure that you have an adequate supply for the duration of your trip. Carry them in their original packaging, along with a copy of the prescription, in case they need to be verified by customs or healthcare professionals.


Food and Water Safety: Avoid consuming tap water and opt for bottled water or boiled/filtered water. Be cautious of street food and choose reputable establishments that follow proper hygiene practices. Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or handling food.


Traveler’s Diarrhea: Traveler’s diarrhea can be a common issue when visiting different countries. To minimize the risk, avoid consuming raw or undercooked foods, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and use hand sanitizers or wipes when soap and water are not available.


Insect Protection: Colombia is home to mosquitos, and certain regions may have a risk of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, Zika, and malaria. Use insect repellents, wear protective clothing, and consider using bed nets or staying in accommodations with screened windows.


Altitude Sickness: If you plan to visit high-altitude regions, such as Bogota or the Andes Mountains, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and risks of altitude sickness. Allow yourself time to acclimate gradually, stay hydrated, and avoid excessive physical exertion until you have adjusted to the altitude.


Travel with a First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit that includes essential items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications. This will enable you to deal with minor injuries or illnesses during your trip.


Emergency Contact Information: Keep a list of emergency contact numbers handy, including local emergency services and the contact information for your embassy or consulate in Colombia.


By taking these health and safety precautions, you can enjoy your time in Colombia with peace of mind and ensure a healthy and memorable travel experience.


Emergency Contacts and Assistance

Knowing how to seek help and having access to emergency contacts is essential for your safety and well-being while traveling in Colombia. Familiarize yourself with the following emergency contact information and assistance:


Emergency Services: In case of an emergency, dial 123 to reach the Colombian National Police. This number can be used for reporting crimes, accidents, or any immediate assistance you may require. They can help connect you to the appropriate emergency services, including medical, fire, or police, depending on the situation.


Medical Emergencies: If you require immediate medical attention, dial 123 or go to the nearest hospital or healthcare facility. It’s advisable to have the address and contact information of healthcare facilities readily available in case of an emergency.


Embassy and Consulate Information: Make a note of the contact details for your country’s embassy or consulate in Colombia. They can provide assistance in case of lost passports, emergencies, or any consular services you may require. You can typically find this information on the embassy’s website or by contacting your government’s travel advisory office.


Tourist Assistance: Colombia has tourist assistance centers called ‘Centros de Atención al Turista’ located in major cities and tourist areas. These centers can provide information, assistance, and guidance to tourists. They often have multi-lingual staff available to help with any issues or emergencies you may encounter.


Neighborhood Watch (CAI): Neighborhood police stations known as ‘CAIs’ are scattered throughout cities in Colombia. They provide a visible police presence and can offer assistance or directions if needed. They are often open 24/7 and can be helpful for immediate assistance in local areas.


Travel Insurance Provider: Keep a copy of your travel insurance policy and the contact information for your insurance provider. In case of any medical emergencies or need for assistance, reach out to your insurance company for guidance and support.


Local Contacts: If you have local contacts, such as friends, relatives, or tour guides in Colombia, keep their contact information handy. They can provide valuable assistance and local knowledge if you encounter any difficulties or emergencies.


Police Tourist Assistance Line: In addition to emergency services, Colombia has a dedicated Police Tourist Assistance Line that can provide information and assistance to tourists. The number to remember is 156. They can help with tourism-related inquiries and offer guidance on safety and security.


It’s important to have these emergency contact numbers and assistance information easily accessible, either in your phone or written down, so that you can quickly seek help or assistance in case of an emergency or any unforeseen circumstances during your travels in Colombia.



Colombia has made remarkable progress in terms of safety and security, and it offers a wealth of attractions and experiences for travelers. While there are still areas with higher crime rates and security risks, many popular tourist destinations have seen significant improvements and are considered safe for visitors. By staying informed, following necessary precautions, and using common sense, you can explore Colombia’s diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich culture with confidence.


Separating myth from reality is essential when discussing safety in Colombia. While the country does have a complex history and ongoing security challenges, it is crucial to have a realistic perspective. Colombia’s ongoing peace process, increased government efforts to combat crime, and enhanced security measures have resulted in positive changes that should not be overlooked. However, it’s important to remain vigilant, especially in more remote or rural areas where security challenges may be more pronounced.


By researching your destination, staying updated on travel advisories, and being aware of local customs, you can navigate Colombia safely. Choosing reputable accommodations, using reliable transportation options, and being cautious with your belongings further enhance your safety while traveling. Taking necessary health precautions, including vaccinations and practicing good hygiene, ensures a healthy trip.


In the event of an emergency, knowing emergency contact numbers and having access to assistance is vital. Keep the contact information for your embassy or consulate, local emergency services, and medical facilities readily available. By being prepared, you can quickly seek help and support in case of any unforeseen circumstances.


Remember, travel always carries some degree of risk, no matter where you go. With proper planning, awareness, and precautionary measures, you can enjoy your time in Colombia while minimizing potential risks. Embrace the beauty, warmth, and rich culture that Colombia has to offer, and create unforgettable memories during your travel experience.