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Compared to a couple of years ago, Colombia is a safe country to visit as a solo traveler or as in a group for your next trip. There are plenty of activities and places that you can go as a tourist without the fear of anything bad happening to you. Of course, as with traveling to any new place, you can’t be flippant about your actions and should always be aware of where you are. There are somethings you should always prepare with before any trip—learn some keys words in the native language, pin your accommodation on a map app so you can show cabs, and don’t excessively drink and then walk home alone.
See Natvisa for up-to-date entry policies to visit Colombia!
What specific tips do you need to know before traveling to Colombia? Keep reading to find out:
Don’t Give a Papaya
No dar papaya translates to don’t make yourself an easy target. A common phrase in Colombia when talking about tourists, you may start to feel distracted or overwhelmed as you walk new streets. This may cause you to be careless with how you’re carrying your phone or leaving your purse wide open. If you don’t make yourself look like an easy target, you won’t become one. If you’re unsure about where you are walking around, pull into a café and look at your phone away from people walking around.
Take Taxis at Night—But Only Official Ones
Whether you’ve been partying or not, it is worth the little bit of money it costs to take a taxi back to your accommodation. Even in very tourist safe cities and areas in Colombia, you may notice darker streets. Plus, you don’t want to get turned around and then wonder aimlessly and become a papaya. The most popular taxi app that will take you home safely is Easy Tappsi or you can ask the bar or restaurant to call an official cab. An unofficial taxi may charge you some arbitrary fee and try to scam you if you’re not careful.
Read Up on the Local News Before Going
Like everywhere these days, protests and unrest can pop out of nowhere. While the more touristy areas tend to be safe from these types of issues, you probably won’t want to be caught in unrest that could change your plans up. And while the drug and gang issues of yesteryear have quieted down significantly in the past couple of years, it is always good to just check in on where you are going a couple of days before getting there, especially if you’re trip is to a smaller or more rural part of Colombia.
A Plain-Clothed Police Officer Will Never Approach You
It has become a little common for plain-clothed persons to impersonate police officers on the streets of Colombia and demand seeing a tourists passport or to inspect your money. No legitimate police officer would ever do this and especially would never approach a tourist out of uniform. The people that do this “inspect” your money and then take it from you because they have determined that it is counterfeit currency. If this does happen, simply call over a uniformed police office, who will surely be around. You’ll be surprised how quickly the fake cops will move on.
Avoid Drugs and Keep an Eye on Your Drinks
Some people are already very diligent about avoiding drugs or always protecting their drinks when out, but others might need the reminder. You should also never accept a drink from a stranger that you didn’t see prepared in front of you. A lot of people come to Colombia with the goal of participating in “drug tourism”. It is very ill advised to do this. You don’t know where these drugs are coming from or what is actually in them. You may think you are getting a great deal on something just for it to be cut or laced with something that is not a drug and could kill you. There are also well documented instances of set-ups happening on the streets, where you will be offered drugs (they typically go after someone who is appearing intoxicated) and once you accept the drugs, you are arrested. It will never be worth that risk.
Don’t Fight a Robbery
Pickpocketing and petty crimes against tourists happen in every single city in the world, no matter how safe they are, so this shouldn’t discourage you from planning a trip to Colombia (or anywhere for that matter). However, sometimes our instinct is to fight back when we notice our phones have been swiped or someone takes a grab at your purse. It is never going to be worth it—you are the party being take advantage of and they know how you might react. Get insurance on expensive items you have to carry, like your phone, and leave the expensive purses and jewelry at home. If you do bring expensive jewelry with you, it is important to get the jewelry insured in the event of theft or damage. It is also smart to not carry your phone or wallet in a pocket that can be easily grabbed at in crowds.
There is always a need to be somewhat cautious when traveling, especially when you are going to a new place and don’t necessarily speak the language too well or at all. These days, Colombia is a safe city for tourists. It is important to be mindful of your surroundings and to know where you are and how to get back to your accommodation. But a trip to Colombia is well worth it and will give you a lifetime of memories, so enjoy!