Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

I've been in Colombia for around two weeks now and I am happy to say it is one of my favorite countries in South America. However, unfortunately the department of foreign affairs of many countries is actively discouraging travel to this beautiful country, stating that it is dangerous.

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Colombia because of the high threat of terrorism and criminal activity. Terrorist, insurgent and paramilitary groups are active throughout Colombia and there is a high risk of kidnapping, including of foreigners.
  • Government buildings, public transport, and commercial and entertainment centres are potential targets for terrorist attacks. Places frequented by foreigners could also be targeted.
  • Colombia has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world. Foreigners, including children, have been kidnapped and murdered.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
Advice for Colombia overall: High degree of caution.
Advice for the cities of Cali and Popayan (to which I have already been): Reconsider your need to travel.

But after being here for over 2 weeks I can confirm that there is little to fear. I feel much safer here than I have in many other cities and countries. I am particularly surprised as to how many police and military there are on the streets. In Bogota there were at least a pair of police-officers on every street corner in the centre. Incredible!

For example, while I was in town the other day an incident (of which I don't know the details) took place nearby. Suddenly I saw police numerous running towards the suspicious man from every direction, as if he was a magnet. I didn't get a good look at the suspect because he was being escorted away by 11 police officers!

Furthermore, bag searches are a regularity everywhere: official buildings, public buildings, random searches on the street, which include a thorough frisking for guns, knives or anything else suspicious. Even I have been approached by police on the street for a random bag search - but I probably look more suspicious than real criminals at the moment.

Of course there are some dangers, but that is no different to any other country. Just don't be so foolish to wonder into the slums and dark, deserted streets at night... they belong to the thieves, criminals and drug-dealers. And don't go wondering deep into the jungle... it belongs to the guerrillas and the paramilitary. Nevertheless, I feel extremely safe here.

Furthermore, Colombia is more developed and organised than many South American countries, with: good roads; eduction regarding littering and water wastage; recycling; and best of all, when you are driving through the countryside, the mountains are actually green - unlike the brown, cindered appearance of uncontrolled burning and land-clearing.

Anyone who has been to Colombia knows that it is an fantastic place. The tourism slogan for Colombia is: El riesgo es que te quieras quedar ("The risk is that you will want to stay"). I think the slogan is very accurate .

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