Don’t get kidnapped, watch out for drugs, don’t go out at night. Trust me, before going to Colombia I heard it ALL. So, what’s the verdict? Just like anywhere else in the world it’s important to keep your wits about you, but my viewpoint is that things can happen ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Is it safe to travel to Colombia? A question I would hear numerous times before leaving. Now, after venturing around the country (and loving it), here are my tips for how to safely, solo travel Colombia.
First Things First; Colombia Entry Requirements
Safe travel is essential anywhere in the world, and most countries have different requirements depending on where you’re visiting from. Above is a breakdown of general entry protocols, but again, research is key before traveling.
Safest Places in Colombia
After spending a little over a week exploring the country, I have a pretty good grasp on where is safe to travel in Colombia. While cities often come with the risk of petty crime such as pickpocketing, beachy areas may also pose a different risk such as weather-related issues.
During my time in Colombia, I felt extremely safe when traveling around. You can read my ultimate guide to solo travel in Colombia here, or scroll below to see my top safety tips after venturing through the cities, forests, and mountains.
One of the main concerns of tourists is petty theft and catcalling. In my experience this was very rare, but it’s important to be vigilant regardless. Many travelers recommend staying inside the walls of Cartagena city, as you have everything you need within walking distance. If you’re venturing to the beautiful area of Isla Baru, this is a very safe area for travelers. You’ll notice many beach vendors selling goods and massages, but they’re harmless.
For more tips on visiting Isla Baru, read here!
Medellin is full of life, experiences, and busy streets- making it a prime spot for pickpocketing. Again, remain vigilant and trust your instincts wherever you go. While the city is relatively safe, I spent my time in the El Poblado neighborhood at Los Patios Hostel. El Poblado is a backpackers oasis, full of quaint cafes, traditional eateries, and within walking distance to the metro, It’s considered one of the safest areas in Medellin, and is a great spot for solo travel.
Safety Tips for Solo Travel
Don’t Look Flashy
The same goes for anywhere when traveling. There’s no point in bringing fancy watches or bags to Colombia, because you just won’t need them! Think minimalist. You don’t want to stand out too much because that will make you an easy target anywhere in the world! Be smart, savvy, and practical.
Don’t Venture Anywhere Before Doing Your Research
Ask the locals recommendations before venturing into neighborhoods you know nothing about! Just like anywhere in the world, there will always be unsafe areas. When traveling, tourists always tend to explore the areas that are the most popular first, but what about off the beaten path? It’s tempting, but don’t be afraid to ask or do extensive research. Staying safe should be priority number one!
Understand the Culture
Colombian’s are very social and forward people! When I traveled to Isla Baru in Cartagena, there were money vendors asking if I wanted massages or to buy their products. These people are LOVELY and harmless; however, if you’re not used to people trying to sell you things every few minutes, this can come as a bit of a shock. Just smile, say “No gracias,” and you’re good to go!
Try Conversing in the Language
Anywhere you travel, it’s always polite to TRY and speak the language. Even if someone speaks English, saying a few words shows you’re trying to learn and communicate. In Colombia, I found most people didn’t speak very good English. It’s important to learn a few key phrases first, and then use google translate if you really need assistance.
Download Helpful Apps
When I was stranded on a dirt road with a driver who didn’t speak English, I was extremely thankful I had offline maps and google translate! In any country it’s always good to have both, but in places where English is very minimal- you need these! Many Colombians I met spoke a little English or none at all. Trust me, they’ll be thankful too if you can communicate with them!
Put Valuables Away
Don’t wave your phone around, and don’t leave bags just sitting on the table. Wherever I go, I ALWAYS ALWAYS keep both items on my lap, or tie the strap of my bag around a chair. Luckily it wasn’t very common in the area I stayed; however, you will occasionally get homeless people wandering the streets staring at your valuable and waiting for a naive tourist. Put it away. Traveling is for enjoying the moment, not being on your phone anyway!
Only Bring the Cash You Need
Don’t flash your cash. When traveling, I never take all of my money out at once. Keep some in a safe space locked away, and only take out what you think you’ll need. I have a travel-bag from TravelOn which is perfect for keeping my valuables safe (and is anti-theft!) If you’re seen fumbling around with a big wad of cash, of course you’re making yourself a target when traveling!
There’s Power in Numbers
If you want a night out and are staying at a social hostel, join an organized bar crawl! I did this through Los Patios, and we went out with fellow travelers as well as the hostel workers. This felt suuuper safe, and we didn’t move onto the next place unless we had the whole crew together! If this isn’t an option and you’re traveling solo or with a friend, then MAKE MORE FRIENDS. There’s no harm in having a squad.
Be Smart When Traveling Around
When taking a taxi anywhere, make sure you negotiate the price BEFORE getting in. I’m not a fan of taxis in general, so my tip would be to go for Cabify! If you’re with a friend or traveling solo this is the way to go, since you can track exactly the route you’re taking, and can see the cost before getting in.
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