SAFETY IN COLOMBIA
Colombia is changing. People are fed up with the old druglords war, armed conflict and corruption. They want peace! The agreement with the FARC has been signed; there are negotiations with fellow revolutionaries from the ELN; former president Santos even got the Nobel peace award.
But of course, you can’t expect severe problems to disappear like snow from the sun. Beloved have been killed or disappeared (estimated 300.000); people were forced to leave their homes (desplazados, homeless families, estimated around 6 million); there is still a huge gap between few rich and many poor; corruption makes it worse.
The common image of Colombia in the world is: drugs, war, kidnapping, underdevelopment etc… As a tourist, you hardly notice anything of this. ‘The only real risk, is that you´ll want to stay!’
Just about every Colombian realizes that tourism helps the country IF it’s not sex- or drug-related tourism. More than the average, Colombians love tourists, they like to talk with you, to warn you for places you better shouldn’t go. Generally spoken, tourism in Colombia is less dangerous than some other Latin countries. Travelling alone and by public transport is absolutely SAFE. Nevertheless, there are some rules though you should respect:
- ‘No dar papaya’ as Colombians say, means: Don´t give an easy opportunity
- Leave unnecessary luxury at home
- Depending on the place you are, don’t show your valuable stuff. Of course you may have a look at your computer or smartphone in your hotel, mall or restaurant but don’t show it everywhere
- Don’t EVER interfere with drug traffic!!!
- Don’t travel to Venezuela or be near the frontier. That country is a mess right now and gangs cross the border
- Take care of your luggage. In crowds – standing in bus-stops, busses or in the metro! – wear your small backpack in front
- If you’re sleeping at night buses, don’t put your small bag/backpack where you won’t notice if somebody takes it but keep contact. Best: use it as a pillow
- Don’t bother about your larger luggage in the trunk of the bus especially if you get tickets for each suitcase. Of course: don’t lose your number… For the same reason: after the luggage belt in the airport, keep your luggage ticket with you till you pass security. Use small padlocks.
- Also don’t throw away the bill of the supermarket. When you leave the building, they might ask for it. This is to reduce shoplifting!
- Do not feel like a criminal when you have to put your fingerprint somewhere. Sometimes it can also happen that sellers ask for your identification number. When you pay with your credit card you may need to do the same.
- In dorms, keep your belongings safe as fellow travellers also might steal…
- The most important rule (this is for all of South America): Don’t walk around alone at night, especially in the big cities! Always take a cab and preferably, by calling the taxi company
- Highest alarm if you get dirty ’cause somebody does something clumsy and afterwards wants to help you. This is a common trick!
- Be careful with two people on a motorbike approaching, they could rob you
- If somebody claims to be a police officer who wants to see your belongings… Propose to walk to the nearest police station.
- If you find a crying child in the street, with an address in the hand, and tells you to accompany him/her to that address (even if it is nearby)… Take him/her to the police and not to the indicated address.
- Don’t take a taxi if someone already sits in the back
- Prefer walking around with a copy of your passport (plasticize it)
- Always have some small amount of money in your pocket; try to hide your main cash in various places. Be creative
- Check if the change has been given correctly. Some bills look similar
- Be aware that drinks given by a stranger may content burundanga (scopolamine). This taste- and odour-free drug causes you to lose your free will.
- Did you find the man or woman of your life? He/she might only want your money…
- A bag protector alert can be useful. You can buy it online here. Other accessories: Traveler defence alarm, Mini mobile alert, Electronic Defense Whistle, Alarm Combo, …
- In Colombia you can buy pepper spray or an electric teaser for your safety. Remember to check airplanes regulations.
- EMERGENCY OR PROBLEMS ON THE HIGHWAY NUMBER -> #767
- EMERGENCY NUMBER -> 123
- NATIONAL POLICE -> 112