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Travellers' Advisories, Safety and Security on the Road Recent News, political or military events, which may affect trip plans or routes. Personal and vehicle security, tips and questions.
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Old 27 Jul 2001
d d is offline
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How safe is Colombia???

Gidday fellow travellers,

the plan is to ride from Ecuador through Columbia in about three weeks from now. Any advice?

Cheers, d
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Old 27 Jul 2001
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This adisory on columbia is from the foriegn and commonwealth office london website; - check out the local travel section -
" Visitors are advised to travel by air only and not to enter or leave Colombia by land borders. Any unavoidable road travel should be by major routes only, and always within daylight hours."
Sounds a bit dodgy..


Last Updated: 18 July 2001
Still Current at: 27 July 2001

Violence and kidnapping are serious problems, and all foreign nationals are potential targets. Visitors to Colombia should be vigilant and take sensible precautions.


Violence is a serious problem in Colombia. There is widespread guerrilla and paramilitary activity in many areas of the country.

For tourists and short-term visitors, especially in urban areas, common crime, muggings and pickpocketing, often accompanied by violence, are likely to be a greater danger than getting caught up in guerrilla and paramilitary activity. Foreign visitors present a tempting target to thieves, pickpockets and drug traffickers. In the past, major cities have occasionally been subject to upsurges in political violence, including the mass kidnappings from eg churches and restaurants. But foreigners were not specifically targeted in these incidents.

In 1999 three US citizens were kidnapped and killed. At least five British citizens have been kidnapped in the last four years. Backpackers are as likely to be kidnapped as expatriates working for multinationals. Considerable efforts are needed to obtain the release of foreign nationals and there is no guarantee that foreigners who are kidnapped will be released unharmed.

Violence is a serious problem in Colombia. There is widespread guerrilla and paramilitary activity in many areas of the country.


Despite the internal security situation, business and tourist visits to major cities in Colombia can, subject to sensible precautions, be accomplished with relative ease and minimal risk. In addition to Bogota, important business centres include Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucuramanga and Cartagena. Cartagena is a popular tourist destination and venue for major conferences. Visitors should avoid poorer areas of cities and be cautious in city streets, especially after dark. Taxis should not be hailed on the street but should be booked through hotels.

Visitors are advised to travel by air only and not to enter or leave Colombia by land borders. Any unavoidable road travel should be by major routes only, and always within daylight hours.

The risk of violence and kidnapping is high in rural areas, which should be avoided. Clashes between guerrilla groups and the Army as well between Police and drugs interests, are an almost daily occurrence in many Colombian provinces. Travel in areas where illegal crops are grown and where illegal drugs are processed represents a very high risk.

The border area with Panama (Choco province), where two British back packers were kidnapped in 2000, should be avoided at all costs.


Guerrilla and paramilitary attacks have increased in recently especially in rural areas. The Army and police have withdrawn from a “demilitarised” zone established in five municipalities in the provinces of Caqueta and Meta to facilitate a peace dialogue with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group. Visitors should avoid travelling to this area.


Visitors should take sensible medical precautions and advice should be sought before travelling. Travellers to Putumayo, Meta and Caqueta must have yellow fever inoculation certificates (but travel to Meta and Caqueta should be avoided), and will be required to carry them by airlines serving these provinces.


Visitors should pack all luggage themselves, and not carry any items for anybody else.

Visitors should beware of unsolicited approaches from strangers.

There have been several examples of assailants using drugs to subdue their intended victims. These can be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols, or powder. Sometimes drugs are used on food sold by low class takeaways. The drugs take effect extremely quickly, allowing an assailant to steal personal belongings and escape before the attack can be reported. It can take several days for the drug to wear off and the victim to recover. These attacks frequently occur on public transport, and travellers should never accept offers of food, drink or cigarettes from strangers, no matter how friendly or well dressed the individual appears.

There have been reports, including in Bogota, of bogus policemen approaching foreigners to “check” documents or foreign currency. Anyone approached should avoid handing over money, unless seriously threatened, and ask the “policemen” to accompany them back to their hotel.

[This message has been edited by Ceasar (edited 27 July 2001).]
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Old 31 Aug 2001
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I spoke to a guy from Colombia yesterday eveing over a . I asked him if it was safe to travel by bike from South to North Colombia. He told me that the country is in a state of civil war right now. In many areas, especially in the South bordering to Ecuador and in the North bordering to Panama and Venezuela, the military and police have moved out leaving the guerillas to rule there. He said that it would be much safer to not enter Columbia and Ecuador at the moment. He being a local wouldn't venture into those areas, but he assured me that the big cities are safe.


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