Lately, you heard the word Colombia regularly in everyday conversations. And as a curious person, you’re wondering
Is Colombia safe to travel in 2018? Should I travel there next holidays?
You gather different information from your friends, but it’s not easy to distinguish between reality and bullshit. I think we all know at least one of the following individuals.
First, there is the TV-Show lover. He watched Narcos 2 times, and he believes that Narcos had a great and funny life. Today, he has got a mustache and a fat belly like Pablo.
Then, there is the Drug addict lover. For him, Colombia is just a giant swimming pool full of cocaine, and he is stupid enough to book a Hooker + Drugs + Unicorns tour for only 3 000 $.
I also should mention the TV News lover. He believes and repeats everything the journalists say. Unfortunately, only bombs, murders, and puppies are perfect to get a good television rating. Hence, he thinks the world is dangerous and evil.
Finally, there is the traveler who has been to Colombia and who is now preaching his Colombia travel experience to everyone. You’re bored to listen to his stories, but his adventure sounds great.
It’s a lot of conflicting information, you still don’t know:
Is Colombia safe to visit in 2018? Should I say farewell to my Grandma?
I already discussed this subject a few times on this blog. But so many people are looking at me with HUGE eyes every time I speak about my backpacking trips to Colombia that I think I should write another article to hammer the answer in everybody’s head. And to give some Colombia safety advice (Because sometimes I try to be nice).
Yes, nowadays it’s safe to travel to Colombia
Let’s start from the beginning to explain why Colombia has such an old and bad reputation. Thus, it will be easier to understand why it’s not the case anymore.
I) Was It Safe To Travel To Colombia In The 80-90’s?
Since its creation, the Republic of Colombia didn’t enjoy much of an economic stability environment. There have been many conflicts between The Liberal and The Conservative parties. The rivalry was so tense that Colombia has experienced ten years of civil war called “Violencia” between 1948 and 1958.
Then, because of many problems of corruption and social inequalities, extreme left wings like M-19, FARC, and ELN took up arms to protest against the government during the 70’s.
Simultaneously, Pablo Escobar started his cocaine venture in the jungle.
You can understand why it was totally fucked up.
Also, you have to realize we were in the 80’s. There was still the Cold War between the United States and the URSS to compete for who has the biggest one. And Americans were hunting communists like Salem witches. They didn’t want to let Colombia into the hands of the RED.
With their help, the Colombian government armed paramilitaries to attack the communists.
Then Pablo became a bomb addict to protest against the extradition. And he was also fighting with the Cartel de Cali to maintain his Cocaine business.
Yes, Colombia was a big mess.
And as you can see in the diagram above, everyone was fighting with everyone. Hence, was Colombia safe to visit in the 80’s? The answer is NO.
Then Pablo died in 1993. It didn’t improve much the situation of Colombia, but at least the bombs stopped. However, the commerce of Cocaine and Diamonds was (and still is) too lucrative. Drug Cartels, paramilitaries, and left wings weren’t willing to stop.
But the situation improved progressively since the early 2000’s thanks to an important military presence, many actions from the government and the will of the Colombian people.
II) Is traveling to Colombia Safer Now?
Yes, Colombia is a lot safer to travel in 2018.
But I won’t tell you that Colombia is an all happy and lovey-dovey world. Let’s have a closer look at the actual situation.
1. There is no drug empire anymore
Nowadays, there is still a drug problem in Colombia (it’s also the case for every country on earth). However, drug empires like the Cartel de Medellin or de Cali have been disbanded. And no future drug organization will be able to face the actual government.
2. Peace agreements with Extreme Left-wings
In December 2016, the government signed a peace agreement with the FARC. Those have laid downs arms, and they are authorized to create a political party.
Negotiations are still going on with the ELN.
3. Other Illegal armed groups
None of the illegal armed groups are active in the entire national territory. They covered specific areas considered as strategic for the cocaine production and the trafficking abroad (borders).
In other words, they are in places where nobody wants to go. Don’t travel along the borders (Except Capurgana, Sapzurro, and Leticia). Here is the simple rule of thumb:
If there is a tourist attraction (for Colombians or foreigners), you can move there without any concern. Otherwise, don’t. Why would you get there anyway?
4. An important military presence
I know, it can be scary to arrive in a country where militaries are very present. You’re immediately thinking Oh.. It has to be dangerous here.
But it’s actually quite the opposite.
Militaries are usually there to reassure the inhabitants and the foreigners. Don’t hesitate to speak with them if you’re looking for information. Don’t be scared 😉
5. Tourism is the future backbone of Colombia’s Economy
The number of visits went from 1 000 000 in 2007 to more than 3 000 000 in 2017, and for the last three years, Colombia’s tourism growth is superior at 10%.
Everyone in Colombia is aware that tourism will play an essential role in the growth of their economy and the stability of their country. Also, it creates job opportunities where it would be hard to live otherwise – Like in Cabo de la Vela.
Because of that, the government cares a lot about its safety reputation on the international scale. I’m not saying you will be protected against any petty theft. But nobody will jump on you to put you in the trunk of his car.
6. Even the United States’s government is saying that Colombia is safer in 2017
We all know that Governments are VERY protective. If there is any doubt about a country, they write on their website that you shouldn’t travel there. I understand their point of view as they want to protect their citizens. However, it’s sometimes a little exaggerated.
But for 2018, Colombia has been upgraded as a Level 2 Country by the U.S State Department! It means they consider that travelers can visit – still being cautious – the main areas of Colombia. It’s fantastic news!
Is Colombia safe to visit in 2018? The USA government says (almost) YES.
Source: Today Colombia
7. Every traveler I know love Colombia
I asked the question Did you enjoy your trip to Colombia through an anonymous survey.
I’ve got 35 YES and 0 NO. I think you might agree that it’s hard to do better 😉
Thanks to all the information above, I think you also could now answer the question Is Colombia safe to travel in 2018?
I hope you replied Yes ;). Otherwise, get out! (Joke)
Now that we have proved that you won’t be killed by an AK-47 or kidnapped by a bearded man under cocaine, It’s time to give you safety advice regarding South America.
Hey! You’ve learned that Colombia is a paradise and now you want to know more about it? There are gigabytes of data about Colombia on the internet. But 80% of it is wrong or outdated. Save your time and energy. Check out my FREE Colombia courses.
III) How To Travel To Colombia Safely
If you travel to South America, your iPhone – I know you love it more than your boyfriend – will worth more than 3-4 times the minimum monthly wage.
Petty thefts are the main problem in South America, and the best way to avoid it is to No Dar Papaya. It’s a Colombian saying which means Don’t give them the opportunity. In other words, don’t deserve it.
1. Medellin Colombia Safety, Bogota Colombia Safety, and all the main Colombian cities
There is a large social gap between poor and rich people in big cities like Medellin and Bogota. According to their wealth, inhabitants live in different districts (from 1 to 6), 6 being the best. And the level of safety differs a lot between these areas.
Tip 1: Find where are the safest districts
When the party is over, don’t try to walk back to your hotel (Except if all the Colombians told you it’s safe), because you will maybe cross an unsafe district without knowing it. And I don’t think you want to be alone In a dark alley at 4 am.
Tip 2: Don’t be cheap, take a cab at night
During the day, don’t be scared to take pictures if you see that other people are doing the same. But once the job is done, put it back in your bag or your pocket.
Tip 3: Be cautious when you’re using your camera or phone
And at night, let your valuables in your room and just take some cash. You will save money – we all have a drunk I pay for everyone problem – and if by misfortune someone wants to rob you, you will lose Colombian Pesos only. Do you have travel insurance?
Tip 4: If you go out, take cash only
Read our article Backpacking in Colombia if you want to learn more about safety in Colombia.
a – Is Medellin in Colombia Safe to travel?
In my opinion, Medellin is the safest big city in Colombia. Travelers like to go out in El Poblado or Laureles district. And many expats live in Envigado
b – Is Bogota in Colombia Safe to visit?
Yes, Bogota is safe but many districts become a bit dodgy at night. You should be careful in La Candelaria after 10 pm. The Zona Rosa (Party district) and Usaquen are the safest places.
c – Is Cali in Colombia safe to travel?
Cali has a bad safety reputation among the travelers, especially at night. However, you won’t get any troubles once in the clubs. But take a cab when you go out at night. Grenada is the safest district.
d – Is Cartagena in Colombia safe to visit?
The old city center and Boca Grande are safe, even at night. You should be a bit more cautious in Getsemani. There are usually many travelers in the streets at night, especially around Trinidad square.
2. Colombia’s countryside safety
Except in Taganga, I’ve never felt unsafe in the countryside of Colombia while traveling alone. Most of the time, the inhabitants were joyful and curious to know more about me.
Everyone knows everyone, and there is less occasion for the tourists to be drunk in the streets. Don’t be scared to travel out of the traditional gringo trail and try to visit places like Capurgana or Jardin.
As I said previously, you only should avoid traveling to places where there is strictly nothing to do for the tourists.
IV) Conclusion about Is Colombia Safe for travel in 2018
The situation in Colombia has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Every day, efforts are made to increase the dialogue with the last illegal armed groups and improve the stability of the country.
Thanks to a viral word of mouth from the travelers, Colombia knows an insane increase in the number of visits since 2007 (from 1 000 0000 to 3 500 000). It brings new incomes for Colombian families, and it helps to reduce the gap between poor and rich people.
I know it usually takes time for people to change their opinion about any societal subjects. But I have good hope they realize soon that the bloody past of Colombia is far behind. However, as any country from South America, you should be cautious with your valuables.
Is Colombia safe to visit in 2018? In my opinion, yes. And you, what’s your feeling about it?
*I’m using pictures from Shutterstock
So, What are you waiting for?
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