How dangerous is Colombia for tourists

Safety in Colombia - how safe is it to travel to Colombia?

When we informed our friends and families that we would also travel to Colombia on our world tour through South America, the astonishment but also the horror was great. Our parents asked us, of course: “Is Colombia safe? Don't you need to be afraid of being attacked in Colombia? Don't let the drugs drag you down! "
The reputation that Colombia has in Europe for safety while traveling is poor. The stories und films about Pablo Escobar and the FARC are probably to blame for the fact that many tourists tend to avoid Colombia as a travel destination.

In this report we want ours Feeling but also hard facts explain in order to perhaps take away the fear of traveling to Colombia. Because Colombia is definitely worth a trip and was actually one of our highlights in Latin America.

"Don't show your papaya!" This sentence is one of the most important rules when it comes to your own safety in Colombia. That means something like: "Don't show what you have!". This basic rule should be followed in Colombia, especially at night and also in the good areas - but is generally valid for safety in all countries. So only unpack valuables when you need them and do not wave around with money. Anyone who does not stand out as a lucrative victim immediately reduces their security risk.

We traveled a total of 4 weeks through different regions in Colombia and learned to love the country, the nature and the people in this great country. As far as we can tell, almost no one in Colombia stands behind Pablo Escobar anymore - it is a piece of history that is very reluctant to look back on. The people of Colombia want to look ahead and into the future and get rid of their annoying reputation as the land of narcos. So, first of all, one can say that the security situation has improved significantly in recent years, since the time of the drug wars and the civil war.

How safe do you feel in Colombia? Our personal experience!

We have already walked through Kingston, Jamaica, been to Guatemala City and have one too Night in San Pedro Sula survived safe and sound. Most uncomfortable during our trip, we felt the streets of Kingston. The city is loud, dirty and chaotic and the people are sometimes a bit rough and pushy. We had expected similar conditions in Colombia. In short, we were prepared for the worst.

From Panama our journey took us to Cartagena. There we were very pleasantly surprised how warm many Colombians are. The mostly rough and impersonal way of dealing with Central America had flown away. Suddenly people took their time for us again. You weren't put under any more pressure if you tried to describe a problem to someone in your bad Spanish. Quite the opposite: they tried to help and work together towards the solution of the problem or the completion of the sentence. The first impression of Colombia was exactly what we didn't expect. You can find more about this in one or the other travel report that we have written on the subject of Colombia.

Our route took us from Cartagena to Medellín and from there to the Colombian capital Bogotá. In all three cities we lived in rather good areas. Most of the accommodations for tourists in Colombian cities are also in the good areas. You have to search explicitly to find accommodation outside of the pleasant tourist areas.

We followed some basic rules when we traveled through Colombia.

  • "Don't show your papaya!"
  • Listen to what the locals tell you!
  • Explore the cities during the day!
  • Listen to your gut feeling

With these principles we were able to move through Colombia without any problem. We never got into any situations in which we didn't feel comfortable.

Of course, we do not want to play down the situation. There are slums in which we wouldn't want to walk around day or night. There are many homeless people, including currently many refugees from Venezuela who lack everything. One guide reported that three bicycles had already been stolen from him. At night it is advisable to take an Uber for many routes - but that also applies to many countries in South America.

In some areas, former members of the cartels, FARC and Co still hang around and continue their business there. The question is to what extent you come into contact with it as a tourist and in which areas you plan to travel.

How dangerous is Colombia really?

In order to be able to answer this question, we have to fall back on crime statistics and the like. Of course you will also find a source below so that you can get an idea of ​​the security in Colombia for yourself.

Let's take a look at the homicides in Colombia in recent years. Homicides are the willful and illegal killing of one person by another. So this category includes murder and manslaughter.
This has been falling sharply since 2005. Was it in the year In 2005 there were 18,111 homicides, in 2016 there were only 12,402 registered homicides in Colombia.

Corresponding 25.5 murders per year for every 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, we had a figure of 1.2 deliberate killings per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany in 2016. If you look at the Jamaica's homicide rate was 47.0 homicides per 100,000 in 2016 the Caribbean island doesn't seem so idyllic anymore, does it?

But security doesn't just mean survival and of course we don't want to assume extreme cases. So we don't just want to look at the homicides in Colombia, but also the crime in the form of break-ins that is taking place in Colombia. For this purpose, we will again fall back on the crime statistics and include Germany and Jamaica in the comparison.

Total were in the year In 2016, 97 burglaries per 100,000 inhabitants were registered. Unfortunately, this figure has been increasing steadily over the past few years. In 2005, only 50.2 burglaries were registered for the same number of inhabitants. In 2016, Germany had 528.5 burglaries per 100,000 inhabitants. In Jamaica, only 45.6 burglaries per 100,000 inhabitants were registered during the same period.

The comparatively immense number of break-ins in Germany compared to Jamaica and Colombia looks terrifying at first. However, one must not forget that the number of registered incidents is always offset by an unreported numberWe believe that the number of unreported cases is significantly higher in Jamaica and Colombia. It is possible that many break-ins are simply not reported. An alternative explanation would be that the fences and barbed wires and surveillance cameras, which are very present in both countries, are doing a good job. However, if one follows the official statistics, one should assume that the security with regard to break-ins in Colombia is very, very high.

We think these numbers give you a very good feeling whether Colombia is really dangerous. We would also like to mention again that we found Jamaica to be much more frightening than Colombia. The main reason for this is the warm people in Colombia who talk openly with tourists about the country's problems. In addition, they always give honest and good tips.

(Source: https://knoema.de/atlas/Kolumbien/Homizide)

What is Colombia doing to improve the situation?

We have now traveled to many countries, but never experienced such a positive atmosphere as in Colombia. The government, the country and the people want to work on the security situation and are well on their way there. We could feel this spirit most clearly in Comuna 13. Once it was one of the most dangerous areas in the world, it is only a quarter full of life, art and bright people who are happy that the situation has improved. There are also many political efforts towards peace and security in Colombia. An example of this are the Peace negotiations with various rebel groupswho have calmed down the general situation lately.

The recent changes have been achieved through innovation and new ways of the Colombian government. In the beginning there was a massive and bloody crackdown by the military and security forces, but really lasting improvements came mainly through one structural change a. Colombia was the first country to use cable cars for public transport. In this way, entire districts of the city could be connected to the city center quickly and easily. This has made it possible to drastically reduce the number of unemployed, especially in the slums and remote outskirts. This is because people are now getting to work faster in the economically strong center of Medellín.

Furthermore, we noticed very positively, as with the Dealing with the legacy of Pablo Escobar is bypassed. Here, too, the will for a sustainable peace process is evident. Many of the buildings have been vacant since the drug lord's death. So that they do not mutate into shrines and monuments for Netflix-enthusiastic tourists in the long run, most of them are now being demolished or given a new positive purpose. The former self-built “prison” La Catedral became an old people's home for those in need.

You will find a lot of police on the streets of the cities, who are responsible for law and order, especially in tourist places. There are also countless private security guards who stand guard in front of shops, in malls and in underground garages. We felt very well taken care of by the security staff and had few concerns about security in the areas in which we were out at night (city center and tourist areas).

Which areas are particularly dangerous in Colombia?

Of course there are also areas in Colombia that tourists shouldn't visit so carelessly. The Federal Foreign Office always has the most up-to-date information here.

Click here to go to the Foreign Office website (https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/de/aussenpolitik/laender/kolumbien-node)