Safety in Colombia.. This article is very realistic but what I want to say here is that a lot has improved in Colombia for the last 2 years and it’s quite ok to travel freely through the country. Is it safe? That questions stays in everyones mind who’s planning to travel across any country in Southern America. That was a concern also for me I must say. After traveling alone through Asia we might have a totally different imagination about the world – good and friendly as Asian environment. So what you go and do first – check government websites. Gosshh, haven’t seen so many warnings since long time. Polish, US and UK government websites clearly stated travel across Colombia is not advised. To give you a comparison, while traveling south-east Asia I was planning to fly to Philipines and guess what – big warning on Polish websites to avoid traveling to Philipines due to raised terrorist alert. Ok, so I didn’t fly. Over the next couple of weeks I met a lot of people who were coming back from Philipines and said nothing has been going on there. I know it’s a huge country but most of them were traveling the country and still nothing. Generally Colombia is safe but you just have to be more careful while traveling. It’s very likely you’ll get robbed (very common! I’d say 50% of people we met in Colombia were robbed/including us in Ecuador) but what’s positive they will steal your wallet without hurting you.
Pickpocketing in Colombia.
The biggest risk is that you won’t be probably heart but will stay without your money, phone and your bellongins. Try to keep your cards separate from your wallet or at least in two different places. I always keep 50-100$ separately (saw few girls keeping them in the socks in the shoes, which is quite smart idea). In case you’ll be robbed you always have small money for a taxi or to live 2-3 days. We were robbed in a public bus in Quito (Equador). They are magicians! You won’t be able to have a clue when and how it happens. They will get your wallet whenever you have it, there are no abstacles for them.
Avoid night buses!
Rule No. 1 – You should absolutely avoid night buses especially on certain routs!! This is not a joke if your bus gets highjacked! Night buses are still regularly highjacked on routes: Pappayan – Pasto and Cali – Pasto. Check flight instead. Maybe they are not too cheap but think what’s better, stay safe or get into troubles. We bought tickets couple of says before the flight and they were 100 Euro/each. I guess they are much cheaper if you book in advance as I remember checking flight between Bogota and Catagena 2 months in advance and it was only 40 Euro/per person. Day buses on these routs are safer but there’s always a risk they might be highjacked. Although nowadays it happens very rarely on a daytime. Only 2 years ago it was very dangerous to travel even during a day but a lot has changed recently. The best source of information are local preople, taxi drivers, etc. Kidnappings happen from time to time. They are very likely to happen to American people. We heard really unpleasant stories. They kidnapped a guy to withdraw money from the ATM. They drugged him and abused, he landed in a jail for 24h and only then without a single thing was deported from the country. Felt sorry reading this story online..
Never travel to Florencia!
One of the taxi drivers shared with us recent news what was going on in Colombia, how far from safe was Bogota. We asked about routs Cali-Popayan and further on the south as we deadly wanted to travel to Las lajas Sanctuary near Ecuadorian border. There’s certainly lots of places in Colombia you won’t be allowed to travel. Districs that are covered with dense jungle are cartels teritoties. Some parts of the west coast of the country are strictly forbidden for traveling like Buenaventura or Tumaco. Florencia is probably the most dangerous city nowadays (October 2018)! Even locals cannot live safely there. The whole length of the border with Ecuador is a dangerous area – the only acceptable road and land board crossing is Ipiales. But even there you cannot be fully safe. One cpouple was robbed and what’s worth police might not be very helpful.
Taxis in Bogota.
One of the best sourse of information are taxi drivers. Yet in 2016 it was dangerous to drive through the city even for locals. Buses from pasto were regurlary highjacked even day time. What does it mean the bus was highjacked? It is stopped by in the middle of the road, robbers get into a bus with guns to take your belongins. If they find bank cards they might take you to the ATM and they you’ll be forced to withdraw all the money. If you don’t cooperate they might even drug you to brake your will.
Safety rules in Colombia:
- Use only yellow cabs!
- Always ask to use a taxi metre.
- Do not share taxis with people you don’t know. It happens somebody asking to share a taxi has an agreement with the driver and you might land in a place that is not necessary your destination.
- It is adviced not to drive to a cash machine with the driver. You might be taken to a place and loose all your money shortly after. Cash machines – always use the one in the bank! Gangs used to install card scanning in some cash machines.
- Be prepared some of the taxi drivers might cheat on you on the way from the airport. Same fare to the airport cost much cheaper. An averidge 10 km taxi fare, Monday – Friday day time cost about 12000 COP.
Buses from Bogota to Armenia.
Buy ticket in advance in bus station. We booked a night bus with Flota Magdalena. This was the most exclusive bus I have ever traveled by!! Ticket price was 55 000 COP. The bus was almost empty. Bus leaves from Salitra Termianl in Bogota on time and there are 3 buses a day. Usually it’s not possible to get a ticket from the bus driver in all buses traveling long distances.
Domestic flights in Colombia.
We’ve booked few flights in Colombia and Ecuador, not only because of the safety but also because luck of time traveling long hours in the buses. It’s absolutely the safest way of traveling anywhere in the world.. and most expensive at the same time. My advise never talk to a police dogs in the airports. I did and shirtly after the dog started sniffing our luggage an armed police officer was investigating in the middle of the airport. I was so afraid, even when there was no reason for us to be. But how can you tell what’s in their minds? I wouldn’t like to be searched in an isolated room!
Safety on the border between Colombia and Ecuador – all you need to know and hot to get to Las Lajas Sanctuary you’ll find here: https://freestyletraveling.com/crossing-a-land-border-from-columbia-to-ecuador-and-visiting-las-lajas-sanctuary/
Any questions – write below! 😉