Is Colombia safe for travelers? For anyone traveling to Colombia, this question is a burning one that you can’t exactly push away, no matter how hard you try. In the past, Colombia had a frightening reputation for drug wars, kidnapping, and just about anything you can find in a Mafia movie. Fortunately, it has become much safer in recent times, but this doesn’t mean traveling to Colombia is free from danger, just like any other country. If you’re thinking of traveling to Colombia to get a glimpse of beautiful Colombian women and experience the Colombian culture, here are 6 safety tips to bear in mind while moving about Colombia.
Don’t Give Papaya
“No dar papaya” is a very common phrase in Colombia. Literally, it means “don’t give papaya” but it has nothing to do with handing out fruits. Basically, this phrase means you shouldn’t make yourself an easy target or put yourself in a situation where people can easily take advantage of you. Safety during travel is of utmost importance. Traveling is exhilarating but a safe trip and returning home is the goal.
Although it sounds a little bit like victim-blaming, this handy piece of advice can actually save your life while traveling in Colombia. Most robbers and kidnappers watch out for people who seem flashy or walk around with fancy iPhones and a wallet full of cash. As such, you may need to be more subtle while traveling to Colombia and seeing everything it has to offer.
A couple of valuable pointers are to not walk around at night or flash your fancy iPhone or new camera. Instead, try to blend in as much as possible, carry small bills, and avoid pulling out your wallet in public places while traveling to Colombia. Additionally, it is a good idea to be mindful of the way you dress, your jewelry, and your travel gear. All of these can make you a target if they appear to be of financial worth.
Learn A Little Spanish
Let’s be honest: your Spanish speaking skills can’t exactly stop a bullet in its tracks if you don’t know the language, but they definitely help to a great extent if you do. For starters, speaking Spanish helps to put you at ease when traveling to Colombia. It will also deter the locals from trying to take advantage of you as a foreigner. Foreigners are often an easy target for pickpockets and muggers since they aren’t familiar with the environment. However, with a little bit of linguistic fluency, you just might blend in with the locals.
Watch Out For Fake Policemen
In Colombia, it’s common to come across fake plainclothes policemen positioned at strategic points. These criminals disguise themselves as policemen to harass and extort travelers of their money. They typically look at travelers’ bills, declare them to be fake, and then confiscate them until the traveler parts with a sizable lump of money. The truth is: no legitimate Colombian policeman will ask to inspect your passport or money while traveling to Colombia. If you do come across a plainclothes “policeman” asking to see your passport or bills, quickly go over to the nearest uniformed one or ask to speak to one.
If you’re traveling to Colombia, it’s advisable to stay away from any form of drugs. Don’t buy or try to sell illegal drugs to locals. Not only will this land you in trouble with the police, but it could also make you an easy target for hardened criminals.
Pro Tip: If a random stranger offers you drugs on the street, simply walk away very fast as the offer is most likely a setup.
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Don’t Resist If You Get Robbed
There’s a huge chance that you’ll never get held up by an armed robber in the street but just in case you do, it’s advisable to play it safe. Don’t try to put up a fight or resist the robber as this could get you hurt. Instead, just accept the loss and hand over what they want. However, a great way to avoid getting robbed of valuable possessions is by carrying a decoy wallet around. Fill this wallet with small bills instead of larger ones. This way, if you get robbed, the mugger will only get away with a small amount of money.
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Avoid Southwestern And Northeastern Regions
Although Colombia is quite safe these days, there are still several no-go areas for both locals and tourists. For instance, the southwestern and northeastern regions which share a border with Ecuador and Venezuela are deemed very dangerous. In fact, many foreign governments typically advise against traveling to these regions because of the high risk of kidnap and robberies. If you’re lucky enough to escape being kidnapped or robbed, there’s still a huge chance that you can get caught in the crossfire of a drug war. Hence, it’s best to just avoid these danger zones completely when traveling to Colombia.
Traveling to Colombia can be quite risky, especially for tourists who aren’t familiar with the local environment. However, these life hacks will help you stay safe regardless of how long you’ll be staying in the country. If you’re ever in doubt as to how to stay safe, simply follow the basic tips for child safety: don’t take candy (drugs) from strangers, don’t do drugs, and don’t move around late at night. Have a safe trip!
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