How to stay safe in Colombia: 20 Tips

Cartagena is Colombia’s window on the world and most coveted tourism asset for the country, with stunning views from historic landmarks that attract jet-setters and backpackers alike.

As mass tourism discovers this hotspot widely praised for the friendliness of its locals, great gastronomy and vibrant folklore, it has also become exposed – as many resort towns and cities around the world – to crime given economic disparity.

Authorities, including the specialized unit for the protection of tourists, have been spreading awareness campaigns to protect visitors. Tourist Information Booths across Colombia offer guidance and assistance. Don’t become easy prey for criminals. Taking extra safety measures has never hurt anyone.

Even though Colombia is not a “no-fly” destination, foreigners must take precautions, as they would in London, Rio de Janeiro or Barcelona. Here are some tips on staying safe in Colombia:

  1. Check the security advisories of your country regarding safety alerts.
  2. Inform yourself about the places you will visit. There is plenty of information on the web offered by reputable and serious sources and news organizations.
  3. When choosing a place to say, whether a hotel, hostel or Airbnb make sure it is located in a safe area. Colombia is a beautiful and friendly country, yet it is socially complex, and cheap doesn’t necessarily mean safe.
  4. If social tourism is your thing, make sure the company –hostel or NGO- is legitimate and recognized for its seriousness and commitment to helping others in need.
  5. Scan a copy of your travel documents on a memory stick and leave it in a safe place.
  6. When exploring a city, carry a photocopy of your passport, and keep the original at the hotel.
  7. If using apps to discover a place, ask if the suggested routes are safe to walk through.
  8. Let the concierge know your itinerary for the day, and ask if it’s a safe option.
  9. Use ATM machines during daylight hours and preferably within shopping malls.
  10. Don’t show your camera or cell phone unnecessarily on the street. If you need to connect to Wifi do so in a museum, restaurant or hotel lobby.
  11. Do not accept drinks from strangers, no matter how friendly they seem.
  12. Always use airport-authorized taxis, even if there’s a surcharge.
  13. Avoid taking cabs on the street. Have someone in your hotel, museum, restaurant or site order you cab by phone or app.
  14. If you feel unsafe, enter the first shop you come across, explain the situation and request police assistance.
  15. Ask for prices before you order or commit to a service to avoid being over-charged.
  16. Never hand-over documents or money to plainclothes “police.”
  17. Carry only the cash and a debit/credit card one needs for the day. Budget accordingly.
  18. You’re on holiday, who needs to wear expensive jewelry?
  19. Know your limit with alcohol and never do drugs. Although the minimum dosage is legal, the police are cracking down on micro-trafficking, a crime closely related to minimum consumption.
  20. Use legal and certified tour operators, hotels and services.

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