The U.S State Department has released its global travel advisory list and as of January 12, Colombia has been up-graded as a Level Two country, where U.S nationals must still “exercise increased caution,” but are free to visit large areas of the country, formally ranked as “no-go-to” zones. Colombia joins Brazil, Belgium, Mexico and Dominican Republic in this tourism-friendly category.
While some many regions of Colombia remain off-limits due to “crime and terrorism” others are considered safe enough for U.S. government personnel. The U.S travel advisory states that Arauca, Cauca (except Popayán), Chocó (except Nuquí), and Norte de Santander (except Cucuta) are not safe to visit.
According to Level Two categorization, travelers should “reconsider” visiting the departments of Antioquia (north of Medellín), Caquetá, Casanare, César, Meta, Cordoba, Guainía, Guaviare, Valle del Cauca, Putumayo, Vaupés and Vichada. Travelers are advised to exercise increased caution in Pasto, capital of Nariño.
Four departments along Colombia’s Caribbean coast are considered safe to visit, such as Bolívar, La Guajira, Magdalena and Atlántico.
The advisory states that Highway 90 that unites Cartagena with Barranquilla and Santa Marta is also safe to travel. So, too, most of the interior departments of Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Tolima and Santander. The coffee region’s main highway – Autopista del Café – that connects Armenia in Quindío with Pereira in Risaralda and Manizales in Caldas is also considered a safe transportation corridor.
For Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, María Lorena Gutiérrez, a Level Two classification “is good news” as Colombia officially leaves a “blacklist of nations the United States recommends not to visit.” For decades Colombia was considered by the State Department as a Level Three nation where travelers were urged to “reconsider” their trip.
Cuba, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador remain Level Three nations.
As recently as last year, Colombia was a country in which all the territory fell under a travel warning as high risk. “The State Department no longer generalizes all of Colombia as a destination with security risks, but now specifies regions where foreigners are recommended not to visit,” said Gutiérrez.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT), from 2010 to 2016, the influx of U.S citizens grew 40% from 357,460 visitors in 2010 to 498,960 in 2016. As of November 2017, this number grew additional 5.1% with 469,425 U.S citizens entering Colombia for tourism. “We know that there are many security challenges, but the government has not lowered its guard to resolve them and we continue to consolidate the end of the conflict to provide more guarantees to domestic and foreign tourists,” remarked the senior government official.
Colombia was highlighted in a January 10 feature in The New York Times as one of “52 Places to Go in 2018” and second of all possible world-wide destinations. The New York Times’ interactive feature ranked New Orleans and their top global destination. “The New York Times report, as well as many others in the international media, shows how the world is rediscovering Colombia after more than half century of conflict,” reaffirmed Gutierréz.