ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting South America

Is Colombia Safe To Travel? Update for 2014

Updated on November 7, 2014

Tayrona Park Beach - Santa Marta, Colombia

One of the safest and most beautiful beaches in the world. The natives thought it was the center of the universe.
One of the safest and most beautiful beaches in the world. The natives thought it was the center of the universe. | Source

How is the Internal Conflict Going??

  • As many people know there is an internal conflict going on in Colombia ever since the 1950´s. In the present government and guerrilla are in the middle of a peace process. This has resulted in a cease fire in conflict areas with incidents happening every now and then.
  • The FARC Guerrilla group has pronounced never again to commit kidnappings.
  • No terrorist acts have been experienced since the Peace process.

Spoken By The Ones That Have Been There

Is Colombia safe to travel? “I actually felt safer there than in Sao Paulo”, this is the answer of a British backpacker when another European traveler asked her how safe had she felt in Colombia.

I was in a hostel in Rio de Janeiro backpacking with a Swiss friend I met studying portuguese in the northern city of Brazil, Maceio. I´m a Colombian myself, from Medellin a city catalogued as one of the most dangerous in the planet back in the 90´s and the most Innovative City by the Wall Street Journal in 2013. Many travelers we encountered where cruising around South America staying a couple of weeks in each country, but Colombia is usually not included in their plans. The risk of being kidnapped by paramilitaries or socialist guerrillas is not worth it, is it?

Our new British friend continued to explain her stay in Colombia during December of 2012, and was amazed how cheap she could rent a beach apartment with a maid. She had traveled to visit a friend in Bogota and ended up in “El Rodadero”, a Caribbean beach near Santa Marta.

“I went to visit a friend in Bogota with some of my English friends. Bogota is a big city up in the mountains where the air is hard to breath due to the high altitude. Being the capital the nightlife is very active; we visited some reggae pubs in “La Candelaria”, which is down-town. Mugging is the only issue my friend was always warning us about, but few tourists ever get into more serious trouble, and those that do is because they were in the wrong place and doing things they shouldn´t.”

“After 3 days we traveled by bus to “El Rodadero Beach”, near the city of Santa Marta. We rented an apartment for just $50 dollars the day with an ocean view and room for five and a house cleaner that did all of our laundry and meals for just $10 dollars the day. We didn´t have to lift a finger!”

“But what about the violence in the country? Did you ever encounter armed militia down the road?” asked an Australian with her on the table.

“No. the conflict is very real, but it´s mostly in un-accessible jungles buried deep in the mountains. Most Colombians don´t seem bothered by it. It is mostly political, there is no interest in foreigners since kidnapping them would attract unwanted attention from developed countries.”

Rodadero Beach Resort - Santa Marta, Colombia

Rodadero Beach Resort is one of the favorite places for tourist to gather. Its near Tayrona National Park, Taganga and the Lost City. 1 hour away from Cartagena.
Rodadero Beach Resort is one of the favorite places for tourist to gather. Its near Tayrona National Park, Taganga and the Lost City. 1 hour away from Cartagena.

Colombia On The News vs. The Real Deal

Probably the things you know most about Colombia comes from the news; that it has a drug trafficking reputation with some kind of internal conflict involving communist guerrillas and cold-blooded paramilitaries. That it is a developing country struggling with extreme poverty, violence and corruption. All of this is true and I will elaborate a little bit on the reality of this further on.

If you have ever met someone that has traveled to Colombia before and known its culture first hand, you´ve probably heard about the amazing landscapes covered with mountain ranges with green rainforests all around, the multiple exotic birds that can be spotted through different regions, that if you travel more than half hour out from a city the temperature changes from cold to warm to perfectly fresh... and there is no guerrilla or paramilitaire to be spotted.

The reason for this is because the developed side of the country , the north, is well away from the great jungle areas where no good roads can be found and takes hours if not days to travel to. To make it easier consider the guerrilla areas like a different country.


American Experience in Colombia

What´s Going On In Colombia For 2013?

  • Peace process with the FARC guerrilla group. No cease fire but kidnappings have stopped.
  • Paramilitaries have demilitarized given themselves up to local authorities back in 2008
  • Bacrim, organized crime groups that replaced the paramilitaries, have been hurt heavily by the authorities in the last two years losing most of their drug lords.
  • Tensions with our neighbor Venezuela have quench down after Colombia´s last president, Alvaro Uribe, ended his term period and Hugo Chavez, the totalitarian leader of Venezuela, died.
  • The economy is O.K., the world crisis affecting the U.S. and Europe hasn´t had a large effect on Latin America but exports are a bit slow.

The 7 Color River - Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales or The 7 Color River is one of the natural attractions located in the middle of the guerrilla territory. Travelers might get there by military helicopter guarded with soldiers. No guerrilla in this area but unsafe on the surroundings.
Caño Cristales or The 7 Color River is one of the natural attractions located in the middle of the guerrilla territory. Travelers might get there by military helicopter guarded with soldiers. No guerrilla in this area but unsafe on the surroundings. | Source

So What´s There To See In Colombia

Travel Guides and Useful Books to Travel Colombia

Colombia Adventure Guide (Viva Travel Guides)
Colombia Adventure Guide (Viva Travel Guides)

Great book, lots of useful information. Very comprehensive. More color picture would be nice but it is also inexpensive thanks.

 
National Geographic Traveler: Colombia
National Geographic Traveler: Colombia

“Filled with ideas and keys to safe, interesting travel…provides tourists with plenty of options other travel guides might miss.” –The Midwest Book Review

 

Local Tips To Travel Around Colombia

The two most important words a foreigner needs to learn in Colombia are:

1. “Don´t give Papaya”

2. “Indian Malice”

Don´t give papaya (a tropical fruit) means not to make it easy for people with bad intentions to harm you in some way. If you leave your bag on the bus unattended, maybe someone will take a pick and find something he likes. If you want to see a little beyond the safe beaches of Cartagena and venture into the city´s slums don´t complain if your camera gets stolen. Basically, it means to follow simple survival rules for the tourist.

  • Don´t get off the most common streets or roads in the country.
  • Always put a lock on everything
  • Walk around in groups, preferably with a local to guide you
  • Never go into the slumps, as exotic they may seem your khaki shorts mark you as an easy prey for muggers
  • Instead of money give food and old clothes to the poor
  • Don´t walk around at night in the big city areas, use a taxi
  • Don´t accept drinks from strangers if the bartender didn´t serve the drink himself
  • Speaking a little bit of Spanish helps, if not there are plenty of tour guides around the country to help you around
  • You can travel at night by bus, but never by car (highways are deserted after 10 p.m.)
  • Do not venture into the jungle by yourself. Nope, you won´t encounter guerrilla soldiers (they are in inaccessible territories hours and hours away from major populated areas.) but snakes will bite and you could get really lost, I did jut a couple kilomemeters away from my city for 2 days.

Indian Malice is a term that you can find all over Latin America with different names. It means to have malicious ways. The natives where known to trick the Spanish conquistadors to outwit them. They were expert liars. After all, the Aztecs tricked them into looking for El Dorado where they died. Latin Americans believe we have inherited this witty knowledge and can take advantage of unwary foreigners. Mainly this is a warning for not paying more than the locals do for some things. Find some local to acquire things for you and bargain appropriately.

Medellin - Down Town

A view of Down Town Medellin from the Botero Museum
A view of Down Town Medellin from the Botero Museum | Source

Going To Colombia

Have you been in Colombia?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Yeah, soon I will pair these Colombian articles with music and food ones. Sometimes it is nice to listen tunes from other cultures, and you really need a local to go beyond "salsa" which is probably most americans think all latin american dance to.

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 2 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Wonderful updated hub and I was glad to find it here. I have a friend who just returned from a holiday in Colombia and she traveled with her husband and one year old baby! They all enjoyed themselves and I felt like going there myself! I love Colombian people, music, scenery and food! Que viva Colombia!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Thank you Gracie, hope to see more of you around the site.

    • profile image

      Gracieeeee 2 years ago

      You certainly do a wonderful job at making the country look inviting and exciting! I have always thought it looked like a beautiful and wild place to visit from what little I have seen through movie's and things. Thank you for a much more in depth peek at what this lovely country has to offer!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      thanks. any additional info that you need to know?

    • profile image

      Lanette 2 years ago

      Frankly I think that's abutesolly good stuff.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      It is a wonderful country, still with major needed improvements but it has potential as a nice tourist destination for those who want the "secret" places on earth.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Yes, I have been in that bar.

      That bar is inside a building that was abandoned, partly due to drug dealers that owned it. Later on a famous personality bought the bar area and got the bar with one of the most amazing views in the country. Its funny cause to get to the bar you need to enter the building and go through it.

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 2 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Many years later, I can still remember the time I spent in beautiful Colombia!

    • profile image

      Jeff D 2 years ago

      Burukuka is Awesome, somewhat spendy but worth it, great food and after dinner whole place turns into a bar and dance club basically great music lots of fun. Beautiful views of the entire Rodadero beach. I have been to Santa Marta twice in last year. Love it there, they are continuing to improve it. Give Santa Marta 5 more years for continued improvements and it will be a premiere destination vacation spot. Tayrona Park is Beautiful and an ABSOLUTE must if visiting. I hope to move there in 2015.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      No problem

    • profile image

      Lorraine 2 years ago

      Thank you for the mention and kind comments about Colombia Adventure Guide!

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 3 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Good luck and best wishes from me too! I also recommend the Embassy, it's best bet for cases like yours!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 3 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Sorry for reading this late.

      I think this is your best option in getting help. The US embassy in Colombia, this page will link you with http://bogota.usembassy.gov/emergencies.html which sole porpuse is to aid americans in Colombia that are in some kind of urgent trouble.

      Good luck. Keep me posted on their response

    • profile image

      Benjamin Edwin 3 years ago

      My sister inlaw is being held against her will in CHIA Columbia after falling into her boyfriends trap with her 14 year old daughter,he states if she comes back to the U.S. with her daughter he will say she kidnapped her being that it's his daughter too,now he's throwing her out house & trying to keep daughter, her & her daughter are both U.S. citizens & police won't help her!! SOMEONE HELP!!!

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 3 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I live in Australia now, far from Colombia, but I still remember the country, is people, food, handicrafts, scenery and my Colombian friends! We had fun times together and share our life in the places where we lived in the Caribbean, basically Santo Domingo, which is also far from Santa Marta! Beautiful country and would sure go again if I could!

    • profile image

      Yvan 3 years ago

      Thanks for your quick reply...will follow your advise...already in touch with lacasadefelipe. keep in touch if l go to Medellin

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 3 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Hi Yvan

      Unfortunately I do not know any one in Santa Marta.

      But why don´t you try a hostel first and then get to know people.

      The usual places to go are Taganga and Tayrona Park. Remember to get your Yellow Fever shot to enter the natural park. You will probably find a nice cheap hostel in Taganga, look it up on travel websites. That is the place to go for first time foreigners. Then once you know the place move into somewhere else.

    • profile image

      Yvan 3 years ago

      Hi David

      l am a Canadian who speak quite good spanish.

      Never been to Colombia before.

      l have spent several winters in Costa rica and l am done...too expensive now

      Next winter l am willing to try Colombia for 6 months and if l like...come back every year

      For now l am interesting by Santa Marta...because beaches and supposedly a low cost of life.

      I have a lot of questions...

      Do you know someone from there l can email to share with?

      Doesn't matter if the person do not speak english...

      Any help you can provide will be really appreciated

      Many thanks for your great job helping people enjoying Colombia

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Do enjoy your trip to Colombia, a most beautiful place with nice people and scenery! Wish I could go too!

    • profile image

      Greg 4 years ago

      Hello David & Sylvia,

      Thank you for the information, I look forward to my trip very much. I will let you know how it goes.

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Yes, I forgot to mention the landscape, which is beautiful and also that I wen to visit Irma and her family, who are Colombian and they used to live in Brisbane, where I was studying.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Its more around 4 hours from Bogota to Ibague. I´m not sure which companies go there, but BOLIVARIANO is the most comfortable.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Great landscapes as well Sylvia.

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I went to Colombia a few years ago and Ibague was the first place I visited and loved it. I left with a painting made by a friend of mine and have many memories of the place!

    • profile image

      Greg 4 years ago

      Hello David,

      Just an update, I fly to Bogota 1st November and will be staying in Ibague as per my previous message. A bus trip from Bogota to Ibague will take maybe 3 hours? I am looking forward to the trip so much and the worries I had become less all the time.

      Thank you

    • profile image

      Greg 4 years ago

      Thank you David, you have certainly eased my mind about the present situation in Colombia.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      All of the cities and accessible areas in Colombia are safe from the internal conflict. The guerrilla never involves the civil population of cities and towns. Peasants suffer sometimes from collateral damage, and when they are forced to leave their lands. But I´m talking about inaccessible mountains. The only foreigners that have been kidnaped were two Canadian guys that walked right into a deep jungle and encountered a guerrilla patrol (this was a red zone), American air force pilots that crashed their plane in the jungle, and a Dutch woman that actually entered the jungle to join them. All of these people mentioned are either free by humanitarian means, rescued by force or happy fighting a senseless war. The guerrilla has promised to stop kidnaps be there a peace process or not.

      Ibagué is pretty safe, never been there, but I hear it has beautiful landscapes, like the Estoraques. Hope you travel more.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Thanks Greg for your compliment.

    • profile image

      Greg 4 years ago

      Hello David,

      Thank you for the information above, it is very helpful. I plan to visit Colombia in the next couple of months to stay with a friend in Ibague. The Foreign Office website here advises against all but essential travel but I feel that as I have my friend to guide me and I am careful as per your advice above I will have a great trip.

      Thank you again

    • profile image

      Dave 4 years ago

      Test

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Right on!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Thanks Pedrito, another colombian making his presence on Hubpages spreading everything good about Colombia.

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I spent 2 beautiful months in Colombia! It's true that was many years ago, but it's one of my favourite places! People are friendly, nice music, handicrafts, lovely food! Went everywhere: Bogotá, Ibague, Manizales, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta y Cucuta! Wish I could go back again! Love the place!

    • Pedrithofcb profile image

      Pedrithofcb 4 years ago from Cartagena, Bolivar

      I invite to visit my country: the only risk is wanting to stay. They're all welcome to Colombia, the best country in the world!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      And I thought Colombia was a curvy place. The coast area is pretty simple to travel and there is a lot to see. Tayrona will blow your mind away, it took me by surprise the first time I stepped out from the jungle into the paradise beach. I had never seen anything like it. If you have time to visit "The Lost City" in the Sierra Nevada that could be a nice trip as well, I think you have to walk some part of the journey. In Guajira you can take a trip through the desert and sleep in native communities. They take you to a beautiful Oasis in the middle of the desert and I have heard the night skies there are incredible. Extremely magical trip. Just be warned about the heat but the winds are strong all day.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Jajaja

    • MyGalVal profile image

      Valeria Rocio Huertas 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Pues gracias, si que veo que voy a tener que aquillar un carro, es mejor porque hay tanto que ver :) With GPS we shouldn't get lost....although anything is possible. We went to Vienna in November and last year and that city is by far the hardest to drive around, and even if you are from there like my hubby. It is a lovely place...but the circles are never ending.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      If you have a GPS on your smart phone this makes things really easy and enjoyable by car. The road is very modern, but watch out your speed because there are big radars along the road. The roadside is full of beautiful cacti and small shrubs since the road goes north to the Guajira, Colombia´s desert area. Santa Marta´s climate is fresher than Cartagena and specially Barranquilla thanks to the Sierra Nevada closeby. In Barranquilla you can really feel the tropical Caribbean heat. With the car it would be easier to end your trip up on the tip of La Guajira. If you look at a Colombian map you will see that the northern tip of South America ends there, its a special place with strong winds. I think the road you will travel ends there. Here is a video, in spanish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqPxlQM4V2o

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Good luck on your trip!

    • MyGalVal profile image

      Valeria Rocio Huertas 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      How cool, now that you mention that it is a road right by the beach I'm more interested in driving which would give us ample opportunities to take pictures. Plus we could stop in Barranquilla.....hmmm many tempting options :). Gracias!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      The trip from Cartagena to Taganga is just like 1:30 to 2 hour distance on a straight road by the beach. There are few chances on getting lost but the safest would be to travel by bus. Brasilia is the most well known bus company and it would probrably leave you right in Taganga and Tayrona.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Brasilia would do

    • MyGalVal profile image

      Valeria Rocio Huertas 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Thank you David! I'm actually counting the days till we leave lol. Do you have any recommendations on how to get from Cartagena to Taganga.?While we could rent a car, I think that we'd chance getting lost. I've researched online about buses such as the Brasilia and Marsol lines. While in Bogota we took the Transmilineo - my family in Bogota calls it the Tranmiseria - so I'm certainly not opposed to public transportation. I'd rather live like a local when I travel because you experience the true flavor of any city. Which is what I hope to do in November when I return to the Caribbean coast.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Looking forward to your visit!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      You are up to a good time! I just spent some time in Rodadero Beach in Santa Marta and had a good time. You have to visit there a famous bar named Burukuka. To get there you need to enter a private building and then up a hill which views the entire bay area. Its very romantic and excellent food.

    • MyGalVal profile image

      Valeria Rocio Huertas 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      I loved your article, it painted Colombia in a very positive light. I spent 6 of my formative years in Colombia as a child and I have nothing but great memories. My family and I returned in July of 2012 and spent a lovely time there. We were in Bogota, Cartagena, and Isla del Pirata. We are p,an nine on going back this November and concentrating our time in Santa Marta, Taganga, tayrona, Cartagena and Isla Grande...a lot to squeeze in during 14 days. One day I must make it to Medellin, Cali and Choco...when I do I will most definitely look you up!

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      Mmm! Traveling by bus from Colombia to Peru seems like a long trip, but certainly worth it once you get there! I'm glad Colombians are visiting other Latin American countries!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Nice road trip. Many Colombians are starting to head down to Peru by bus lately. It's a nice 3 day trip. The only issue is that Ecuatorian authorities do not treat us very well crossign the border.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Taxi and bus drivers alike. We have serious driving issues.

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Taxi and bus drivers alike. We have serious driving issues.

    • profile image

      Pam 4 years ago

      Great article! My husband is Colombian so I have visited Colombia many times before, mostly Medellin where you are from. The people are very friendly and easy going, and the climate is splendid all year round. I've been to many parts of the city at various times of day and have never felt unsafe, just watch out for speeding taxis is all! I've seen taxi drivers do some crazy stuff in Medellin!

    • sylvia13 profile image

      Sylvia Gadea de Beer 4 years ago from Shoal Bay, NSW, Australia

      I traveled around Colombia many years ago and have good memories about it! Two of my best friends were Colombian too! I love the scenery, cities, music, food and handcrafts too. Two months in the country was not enough, but could not prolong visa. Stayed in a student's pension and they were good advisors of places to see and things to do too. I am from Peru and speak Spanish, so that was an advantage. Most of my traveling was done by bus: Ibague, Medellin, Manizales, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Bogota, Cali. I just love Colombia!!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Give me a ring if you do Marcy.

      There is still lots to improve in this hub, and I will complement it with other similar hubs about Colombia travel.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Hi, David! How great to read tips from someone who's there and on the ground! I confess I would love to visit Colombia, and it looks beautiful. I know just enough Spanish to get into trouble, I guess. You've given us some great and real advice - thanks! Okay - it's on my bucket list now, and I will let you know if I head your way!

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      By the way Craig, nice website and great videos about Colombia

    • David Trujillo profile image
      Author

      David Trujillo Uribe 4 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Thanks Mike. Your Colombian hubs are very insightful also. Many foreigners like you stay living in the country when they discover the amazing weather, lifestyle and, like you, the beautiful warm women.

      Good Hubing my friend!

      Oh, and check out my family tourism project near Cali, maybe in the future I´ll invite you to spent the weekend

      www.haciendaelguasimo.com

    • csgibson profile image

      Craig Gibson 4 years ago from Traverse City Michigan

      Your article was a refreshing find. I have been writing about Colombia for a while. I moved from the USA to Colombia and I have never been happier. The rest of the world has no idea what they are missing. Many of my hub articles are about Colombia and I have a web site www.colombialivinggood.com

      It is nice to see someone else who portrays Colombia in a good light.