Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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-   Travellers' Advisories, Safety and Security on the Road (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/travellers-advisories-safety-security-road/)
-   -   ColOmbia, S. America (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/travellers-advisories-safety-security-road/colombia-s-america-3361)

greenhorn 7 Jan 2005 08:05

ColOmbia, S. America
I've been planning a trip to the "bottom-of-the-earth", ETD Oct. 1, 2005. I like to think I'm the sort of person who is not a "cowboy", ie, not prone to taking unnecessary risk. However, it's impossible to ride the length of S.A. w/out taking some calculated risks ie, crime, weather, injury, etc. It's the kidnapping of "rich" Americans that's most disconcerting to me. I'm having problems ascertaing what the risk level is. <1% 5% 50/50 100%? The problem is that with all other risks, if (actually when, not if) they occur, there's a tomorrow. With the kidnapping, well, that's like running out of gas in an airplane after dark with your family aboard...you just cannot let that happen. Period.

Everybody seems to have differing opinions, the problem is, it's a zero sum game, you can't afford to be wrong. And I can't drive a moto the length of S.A. WITHOUT driving the length of S.A.! (If you're going to fly over Columbia, to Quito, I'm for just flying all the way, screw the bike part).

Anyway, just rambling. That's my concern though, opinions about, real information, I've concluded, is harder to assess.

Ride safe people..

Rene Cormier 7 Jan 2005 23:06

Don`t go to Columbia with all of these anylytical worries ratteling around in your helmet, you will be too busy looking over your shoulder to enjoy yourself.
Just skip Columbia and do the rest of the trip. By the time you are on the way back up you will have talked to all the other motorcycle folks, and have a better sense of the level of safety as it applies to your personal situation. I would not be surprised if you choose to visit Columbia on the way back home.

Werner 8 Jan 2005 22:02

Hi Greenhorn,
It's good to be cautious, but it's not good to be paranoid. If you were the latter, you would avoid visiting cities like New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other "cool" cities in the US of A. Likewise Colombia. Bogota is not any more dangerous than New York, and the rest of the country is tame, unless you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or unless you ride down the road lit up like a Christmas tree crying out that you're loaded with money, cameras, and jewels. So, what I'm trying to say is, look modest, preferably poor, use common sense, and be prepared to enjoy life, which involves taking some risks. That's why we like to call this kind of travelling, "adventure motorcycle touring."

johnandannette 9 Jan 2005 00:16

we have just returned to the UK after three years on the road.We rode from Texas, through to California and then all the way to Panama. From Panama we shipped the motorbikes to Ecuador (be warned you need a Carnet de Passage if you ship to Ecuador).Our American friends who shared our container were not allowed to stay in the country, because they did not have a Carnet and they got escorted to the border of Peru by a customs official the day after their jeep came out of the container.

We did not go to Columbia as the new president was just about to take office and there was alot of trouble, for the locals, around at the time. We were told by a Columbian in Panama that we would be better off skipping it at that moment in time. (June 1002)> We were upset at the time but we felt missing out Columbia was the best thing at that time for us.

We met a guy who did go through Columbia in August of that year and he said it was a beautiful country, the people were fantastic but he spent most of his time looking over his shoulder and never enjoyed it as much as he should have.We met another traveller that spent three years on her own in and out of Columbia and never had any trouble.

The only advise that I can give you is to take note of what the locals say about the area you are in, listen to them, talk to other travellers when you get near to Panama, we listened to them and never experienced any trouble, but people like myself can tell you of our experience, you have to remember everyone's experience is different.

There are areas of Columbia (to the north and the east)that are known as NO GO areas but still people feel they have to go there and then they get kidnapped, well sorry I have do not have much sympathy for them, they were told not to go there. Its like me coming to the USA and you telling me not to walk around the Bronx or New York after dark on my own, if I went and something happened, what would you say? "I told her not to go"

We never met another biker that had been robbed or attacked during their trip through central and south america, but hey there is always a first time.
If you use your head, common sense and put a bit of that caution you seem to have to the wind, you will be safe.

Believe me if you have all them worries then fly to Ecuador, the risk factor of you getting kidnapped in Columbia??? Probably because you are so paraniod about it happening, it just might!!! No seriously you say "you can not just let that happen"
well do not put yourself into a position where it may just happen.

Go and enjoy your trip, stay safe, be cautious, do not ride at night and deal with things if and when they happen, keep an open mind about things.

JamesCo 9 Jan 2005 04:54


Originally posted by Werner:
Hi Greenhorn,
It's good to be cautious, but it's not good to be paranoid. (snip) Bogota is not any more dangerous than New York, and the rest of the country is tame, unless you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time"

While I loved my six months in Colombia, I have to disagree with this. Violence pervades every part of Colombia and it is nothing like New York. In Cali an attempted assasination (five bullet fired from the back of a moto through the windscreen of the target's vehicle) went down 1/2 a block from where I was buying t-shirts... There were murders happening every few days within six blocks of where I was staying, in one of the more relaxed parts of town. In Medellin, Baranquilla, Santa Marta, Cartegena and Manizales I continually witnessed incidents of violence which, while unexceptional to the locals, are unnerving to westerners.

There is a definite tourist trail in Colombia that goes between Cartegena, Baranquilla, Santa Marta/Taganga, Bogotá, Cali, Medellin, Manizales, Popayan, San Augustin and Letecia. Relatively few travellers go outside these towns, and you'd probably be fine within any one of them. In a para-controlled area, gringos have little to fear. However, as an overlander you are much more exposed than a backpacker on a bus stuffed with locals - you'll stand out a mile, as you'll see by peoples reactions.

The bottom line is that you would have to be unlucky to run into trouble, and it probably wouldn't be a kidnapping, but it does happen and there might be nothing you can do to stop it, no matter how smart you act. I agree that if your worried then you should just fly to Quito; you can always return on the way north. Colombia is an amazing place, well worth experiencing, but not without risk.


AZBill 10 Jan 2005 09:58

The last time I said Mexico was dangerous on here a bunch of the Hubb gang got all over me, Grant for one, but the kidnap victims are not on this Hubb. I have lived by the border of Mexico for 20 years and there are a lot of problems in Mexico if you are white and from the US. You may be fine but it is not as safe as the US or Canada, not even close. Also the Mex feds are notorious for extortion on a small scale. If you go alone it is worse. If you are in a group it is better.

johnandannette 11 Jan 2005 05:09

Just a quick question for AZBILL

Have you ever been to Mexico?
I would certainly like to know where in the world your travels have taken you?

Arizona border? Is that not near the river where illegal Mexicans cross into the States? No wonder you see all sorts of trouble there.

Have you ever been personally subjected to the police extortion you talk about? or are you just listening to other Americans that come back and tell you these tales?

We left USA December 2001, Americans advise:
Do not go to Mexico you will get robbed or murdered
We left Mexico February 2002, Americans advise: Do not go to Guatemala you will get robbed or murdered
We left Guatemala March 2002,Americans advise: Do not go to Honduras you will get robbed or murdered

Americans had basically got on my T..TS by the time we arrived in Nicaragua.Because the one and only question we used to ask was "Why have you been to that country and experienced bad times"? "No but we know people who have!!!!

If we had listened to people like you, azbill, we would have got the next ship back to the UK and missed out on a three year RTW trip,WHERE WE EXPERIENCED NO ROBBERIES, NO KIDNAPPING.

Greenhorn, take it from me, you can look at most of the questions on this HUBB but ask these people who are giving you advise where their travels have taken them.
Will be interesting to see AZBILL reply!!!!

AZBill 11 Jan 2005 09:28

I have been to Mexico more times than I can count. Sometimes several times in one month. When I first moved down here it was pretty good. But in the last few years it has changed. I had to pay 900 US dollars to keep some of my somewhat young and loud friends out of Mexican jail one time. I have first hand knowledge of at least 5 Americans who had to pay extortion money. The local news reports of Americans who are held in Mexican jail as well. Where do you live? I have been to Canada as well many times. It is not like Mexico is it? I have been in many parts of the world with little problem, but to say Mexico is as safe as the US or Canada is just wrong.

AZBill 11 Jan 2005 09:31

PS I am no "Green Horn". I have been riding motorcycles in many places for over 40years. Keep your personal remarks to yourself and show some class by staying with the subject, jerk.

Grant Johnson 11 Jan 2005 12:30

Err, Bill, he was replying to the original poster who's sig is "greenhorn" and not making personal remarks, at least not deliberately I think.

Let's all back off a little and not get personal. Everyone's experience is different, and we all have different opinions (thank god) - which have been aired pretty clearly I think.

So let's leave it there.

Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


One world, Two wheels.

PatOnTrip 14 Jan 2005 07:53

Hi all,

I just left Columbia today after spending more than a week visiting Bogota,Medellin,Cali...

I felt very safe there. People were very friendly. Especially outside big town. If you stay on main roads. I don't see why you would have problems cause there is so many soldiers along the roads. In some parts you have soldiers every 5km and other parts every 500m!!!

For me the biggest danger is the road! You are always driving in the mountains and you find two cars at the same time in so many curves.

Every trip is different. But me I had such a great experience and the country is so beautifull.


mattpope 16 Jan 2005 05:51

Nothing like Colombia to provoke such an emotive response.....

I spent 3 months in Colombia with my bike and experienced no trouble at all - as have all the other bikers I have met who have visited recently (with the exception of some standard streetcrime). I found the country to be fairly scenic and the people to be the friendliest I have encountered on my ride south to Chile. I would recommend a visit based on my experiences.

That said, I agree with James that there is a clear danger present in Colombia that is not present further south. It is certainly more dangerous than rougher neighbourhoods of North American and European cities that you would not want to visit at night.

It is easy to be blasè about danger when you do not experience it, to assume that all is well. Just as it is easy to overstate the danger if you do encounter it.

My feeling, for what little it is worth, is that the main route from Cartegena-Santa Marta-Bucarramanga-Bogota-Medellin-Cali-Popayan-Pasto-Ipiales is pretty safe for travel by day. The present government is tough on the guerrilla groups that previously had control of roads in the south of the country and caused trouble for riders in the past. However, currently these main routes are government controlled by day and are not the risky proposition they were a couple of years back. Less common routes in regions with a strong guerrilla support and presence are to be avoided at all cost.

Hope this helps,


Simon Kennedy 28 Jan 2005 20:59

Just to put my tuppence worth in...

I travelled through Columbia a year ago and found it just as peole say, friendly, full of life, joyous even. A great place.

Nevertheless, it was a mistake to go. I would advise against. Why?

There is a civil war. Huge private armies operate without constraint. Power is exercised without recourse to law. Order is maintained more by fear than consent. Violence is rife at every level. Behind the laughs there is a terrible anxiety in most people.

I was shocked to find that even on routes supposedly controlled by the state, the locals would advise me against after mid-afternoon.

I have both an Irish and a UK passport. When they discovered one nationality people would advise a particular route. On telling the other nationality a completely different route would be proffered. This indicates I think, the subtlety of and difficulties of moving around the country.

There are other great places in South America. If you go your chances are very good, but why go through the stress of Colombia right now?

It will still be there in five years. Hopefully then the conflict will have been resolved in a way that benefits the Colombians.

JTA 18 Feb 2005 00:31

First of all: Is NOT Columbia. Is COLOMBIA. Thanks.

Lots have been written about Colombia, and I don´t want to add even more. However, IT IS possible to cross the Country (enjoying it, I´m sure) following several simple rules, and using your head. If someone wants to visit the country and needs some help or information, I´ll be glad on providing some. Just contact me


tucan 4 Apr 2005 01:05

patrick is right , the biggest danger is the roads , i drive an overland truck in S.A and never experienced any dramas in colombia , wish i could say the same for peru and brasil.
just been hit by a landslide smashing the front end of my truck and punching a hole in the sump , so yes beware the roads , the rest you will love .
in bogota at the moment
have fun

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