By Scott Sherwood

Photography by Scott Sherwood

Travelers returning from the exotically-diverse nation of Colombia typically face questions about whether it is a safe destination. Let it be known that – yes – many areas of Colombia are safe for travel … with a big but. Practical safety considerations are essential in order to enjoy all the wonders that Colombia offers.

First, some perspective. Since 2002, both kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Colombia have fallen 91 percent, while homicides have dropped 45 percent. As a result of Colombia’s nationwide efforts to improve security, travel on its roads has doubled since 2000, tourism has doubled since 2004 and foreign direct investment has skyrocketed. (See the US State Department’s background note on Colombia).

These days, travel in Colombia is popular with backpackers, cruise ship patrons and those looking for luxury. No matter your preference, all travelers’ safety concerns can be efficiently answered by securing the services of a local, well-established, multilingual, tour operator such as ColombiaDirect or SeeColombia, who provide diverse travel itineraries throughout the country.

Photography by Scott Sherwood

Where to Stay

On your first trip, consider well-traveled urban tourist destinations such as Cartegena, Medellin and Bogota. There are also rural areas that cater to tourists such as Santa Marta and San Andrés.

You will also benefit from an established hotel with a helpful 24-hour staff as a secure and reliable base for your excursions. For hotels in Cartegena, the ultimate in security was provided to President Barack Obama at the waterfront Hilton Hotel.  An alternative is the intimate oasis called Tcherassi, a colonial mansion turned boutique hotel, located in the historic city center.

In Medellin – the City of Eternal Spring – rest easy in the upscale Poblado district at the Hotel Park 10, with its old-fashioned decorum, courteous staff and parks and restaurants within walking distance. And in sprawling Bogota, several franchises with state-of-the-art security preparedness in place include the JW Marriott or the new Sonesta Hotel.

Getting There and Getting Around

Before you depart, check in with your embassy in Colombia. The US Department of State’s webpage about Colombia includes cautionary information about safety.

Since Colombia is the fourth-largest country in South America (440,000 square miles — about the size of California and Texas combined), fly between destinations.  Domestic flights are abundant.  Travel by vehicle is often arduous, and sometimes dangerous, in remote areas.

Take note that you must have a return or onward ticket to prove an intention to leave the country within 90 days. Scan important documents with a list of all reference information, then email them to yourself. If something unfortunate happens, all you will need is internet access and a printer to start the recovery process.

While You’re There

Do not trust a person claiming to be a plainclothes policeman, even if identification is offered. Also, if a stranger offers you drinks, cigarettes, gum or other items, be aware those items may be spiked with a colorless, odorless derivative of the hypnotic drug scopolamine (buruganda), which creates significant disorientation during subsequent robberies or other crimes.

For those tourists who have greater personal concerns – or may be on a more prolonged business trip – medical evacuation and kidnapping insurance can be obtained, as well as safety companies that provide protective services.

Whether you go as a tourist or business investor, be mindful that Colombia is struggling to improve its great economic disparities. Therefore, cautionary common sense will help you to appreciate and enjoy all that the modern Colombia offers to the first-time or return visitor.


Travel Tips

44 Responses

  1. Gerard Dunn says:

    Great insight! Can't wait to travel there. Look forward to your follow up articles. Cheers!

  2. Edmund says:

    I recently visited Colombia and would recommend it to anyone – especially, Leticia in the Amazon!

  3. [...] the original post here: Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia? Yes, But … | The Traveling Type Category: travel by admin Tags: a-are-safe, are-safe, colombia, enjoyable-trip, [...]

  4. uttpal K says:

    This is really useful info. Thanks. I recommend all my fans to read this..:)

  5. [...] Read more here: Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia? Yes, But … | The Traveling Type [...]

  6. slappy2 says:

    I moved back to the States after living in Colombia for a year. What an amazing place!!!! Just keep your head up in obvious situations, don't mess around after dark, and don't assume everyone is out to get you. It is by far the most beautiful country that I've ever been to and the people are BEYOND friendly, they're amazing. Go to Colombia before everyone else figures out how cool it is.

  7. Steven says:

    Hey there, My name is Steve. I am currently saving to move to Colombia. I was wandering if you could help me with some information on the best city with the best suburbs if that is not to much to ask? It does seem like a beautiful place to see!!

  8. Peter Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. As we always scared to travel to the places which has not a good reputation. I must say the Colombia is among the best latin american countries which has beautiful beaches. But we need to be cautious everytime in order to avoid any problems.

  9. Pete says:

    Hiya Steve – try the Pablado neighborhood of Medellin, which is a lovely city. Look it up. Very popular with ExPats also.

  10. Lindsay says:

    Great read! Definitely informative!

  11. Mike Donogan says:

    if you want to se a beautiful nature in the area better head over to Costa Rica, nature there is the best!

  12. Mimi says:

    Excellent insight !

  13. Do not trust a person claiming to be a plainclothes policeman, even if identification is offered.

  14. Richard says:

    These are good tips to help keep you safe.

  15. Frank says:

    My spouse Toni and I are interested in vacationing in Columbia.We are both seniors, in good health and enjoy the warm ocean, good food, history and mixing with the locals, If we were to stay for two weeks, what would you suggest?

  16. Alyssa says:

    Columbia is a beautiful country. I'd love to travel there and have been looking at vacation packages with, but of course safety is a huge concern. Thank you for this great information.

    • Ale says:

      Hi Alyssa!

      Safety is a concern here in Colombia, including for the Colombian citizens. If you are coming in a group is better for your safety, if you need more tips write a replay.

      Thanks, I am in Colombia at the moment.

  17. yes why not! Columbia is beautiful country to visit for travel and spent holidays, if i got opportunity to get work in Columbia i love to get this importunity

  18. Ale says:

    Colombia is a beautiful country, I am colombian and visit every year here in medellin. Few tips for fist time travel if you stay in Poblado, be very careful where you stay often thieves are the same people who work at the hostal or hotel.

    Also DO NOT bring any expensives valuables such as a laptop or camera. My family here tells me that taxi drivers are follow by thieves to rob you, especially in the Poblado area. I am writing this not to scare you, but to make you think and how to be safe if you decide to como to Colombia.

  19. Pink Diamond says:

    Brilliant tips. Although it's safer now in Colombia, it's always best to take precautions.. especially to those strangers offering free stuff, etc. But personally, Colombia is the best place I ever visited in South America. I had a great time staying in Medellin and Cartagena. My favorite Travel Show on TV, Raw Travel, will be featuring Colombia's three popular cities (Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena) this week. Can't wait to see it. Here's a preview on Youtube:

  20. sweetpea says:

    Looking to travel to Columbia Jan-feb 2015, trying to figure out how safe it is. We are retired couple that likes to escape for the winter. I see from the comments above you can't trust the police, so I ask "how safe is that"? I understand that any place can be unsafe at night and different areas traveling but is it that unsafe through out the day in popular places as Medellin and Bogota?

    • Ale says:

      Hi Sweetpea, I am in Colombia right now, as hard as it sounds it is dangerous not to lie to you, Poblado here in Medellin City, which is a rich area is full of thieves because they know this is where they can get more money when they rob people.

      Yes you can come and go back in one piece but, You need to very careful here.

      Never trust the Police here, sorry to say it but true they work for drugs, illegal businesses etc…It sounds scary but very true, I myself wonder the injustices that take place here is indescribable.

      Please repaly for more tips. Thanks

  21. Dylan says:

    Great article! My husband and I recently spent a month traveling around Colombia with our two young children and LOVED it! You can read about our experience here –

    • annie says:

      I'd love to read about your adventure here. We are leaving with our three year old on Thursday but I cannot open your link… Any tips on how to open it?

  22. Colombia Eco Travel says:

    Colombia is the hidden gem of South America! Safety is an issue everywhere, but I personally feel safer in Colombia than I do in the US! I travelled all over Colombia to do work for my company,, and NEVER had a problem or issues with safety.

    Highly Recommended!


  23. Colombia Eco Travel says:

    Colombia is the hidden gem of South America! Safety is an issue everywhere, but I personally feel safer in Colombia than I do in the US! I travelled all over Colombia to do work for my company,, and NEVER had a problem or issues with safety.

    Highly Recommended!


    • Guest says:

      I have been to Bogota 5 times. I know Colombians that I stay at their house. Never a problem. But in the country you may have to be more careful.

  24. Kevin G. says:

    the USA is a beautiful and large country. I'd love to travel there and have been looking at vacation packages with, but of course safety is a huge concern.

    any tips? how to avoid deranged gunmen with AK-47s shooting up movie theaters or schools, etc.?

    • jorge says:

      Hey funnyman,

      Let's compare a country with 47 million against one with 318 million. I grew up and also lived in the U.S., New England area and NYC.

      As much as I love my beautiful Colombia, the U.S. is far safer and you can trust the police more than you can here in Colombia.

      Get your head out off your ass and quit your liberal bullshit.

      Do you want to avoid being shot at movie teathers and school? Stay home!!!

      P.s: It was not an AK-47 what that psycho used. Stop watching Rambo movies.

  25. merkurwebdesign99 says:

    Interesting article. Since I`ve lived for 4 years in Colombia I can guarantee you that it is safe.If you want more information of Colombia then visit our website: Please check our daily updated Blog for News and insider information about Colombia

  26. sandhosh says:

    Interesting tips to follow while traveling colombia, I'm very happy to find this post.

  27. Cordia Tharp says:

    nice article!

  28. 2becomejuan says:

    Hey my boyfriend and I are currently on a round the world trip and I have to say Colombia is our favourite place so far! I agree so much so with what I read on this blog in terms of how to stay safe. From my experience and from what I saw in our 5 weeks in Colombia (especially in Cartagena) I still would not recommend Colombia to single female travellers. There were a couple of occasions where I felt unsafe and I was with my partner. We were both very careful when out and about but I definitely still sensed a certain amount of unease especially at night. Other than that it is a beautiful country and must be explored now whilst it is not over run with tourists. Check out our blog for where we enjoyed and for info on where else we travelled in Colombia. Happy Travels Everyone. Jay & G

  29. Matthew G says:

    Just returned from a 2 week trip to Bogota, and what a great place to visit. I stayed in the El Jazin area with friends. Visited Old Town and Downtown Bogota and shopping there. I am currently planning my next trip to Bogota for this winter. The people where friendly and i felt at ease with the whole experience.

  30. trevorthorpetravels says:

    I wouldn't be too concerned about safety, as long as you keep your wits about you the way you would any major city in the US. My wife and I did a 10-day trip there about two years back and had no problems. We visited several of the cities mentioned in this article (Bogota, Medellin, and Santa Marta). You can read about our trip here at

  31. Thanks for sharing this nice article.I read it completely and get some interesting knowledge from this.I again thankful to your for sharing such a nice blog.

  32. Diana Azura says:

    Great post. Really informative. So thanks

  33. Colombia is a beautiful country and Medellin is the nice place to travel. I am planning to travel Medellin. Thanks for safety your tips!

  34. cargo13 says:

    Dont go to Columbia without travel insurance. covered us on a cruise that stopped in Columbia. We had a broken down bus back to the cruise. We missed the cruise but met them in Panama.

  35. Ale says:

    Yes here in Colombia you should NOT trust the police, corruption is what they are. Always be careful and if you are in groups stay with your group, Never stay alone wondering downtown or sight seeing alone.

  36. david says:

    Pick up some words in Spanish That'll help

  37. Gaby says:

    Hi PETE, I go to colombia every year, yes is beautiful but dangerous. Be careful there are so many thieves everywhere, not to scare you, i have family there.

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Allee SangioloA Boston native and Washington, DC, resident, Allee has been growing her bucket list since she began working as an Interactive Producer for When not playing with her Frenchie...


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