Is Colombia Safe To Travel? Update for 2014
Tayrona Park Beach - Santa Marta, Colombia
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
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
So What´s There To See In Colombia
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
Going To Colombia
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