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  #1  
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How safe is Colombia for a road trip

I’m planning a road trip for 2 weeks through Columbia in March with my partner and am a little concerned about reports of tourist kidnapping and deaths etc.
It won’t be hugely adventurous but intend to drive between Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena
I’m an experienced adventure traveller (Including a few times around South America including Columbia) by motorcycle. This trip will be by jeep and possibly a little outside the comfort zone of my partner so I’m keen to ensure that I plan a bit more than usual
I’d appreciate advise based on recent experience in general about any security concerns and specifically the regions I mention I’ll be travelling through - particularly where to avoid
Thanks in anticipation
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  #2  
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ColOmbia is relatively safe in most areas - but there are definite no-go areas. Close to the Darien, near the Venezuela border are not good. As always it depends on your appetite for risk.
If your partner is concerned, perhaps somewhere easier to get warmed up?
You'll have to spend some time reading through the HUBB to get more information, but I think it's not very detailed at this time.
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  #3  
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Colombia is safe

https://www.colombiamotoadventures.com/is-colombia-safe



I have been touring this area


The only dangerous is the traffic
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Look at the travel advice from USA State, UK FCO, Australia Smartraveler, and Canada travel.gc.ca. They are all cautious (the USA most of all), however do give an idea of where to avoid. The UK FCO site has a good map with levels of caution needed.

You are unlikely to go to areas where there are significant risks.

The main roads between Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena are fine, although you need to be defensive and alert. Do not drive at night. CHeck the number plate restrictions in the cities you visit or transit (there are "picoyplaca" restrictions - for example we are permitted to drive only on certain days in Bogotá, except before 0600h and after 2100h).

If you have the patience to read the following you may find it helpful:

Driving in Colombia is not a major challenge, although good situational awareness and judgement are necessary.
Some general advice:
• Colombian drivers can be aggressive, especially in heavy traffic, so defensive driving is essential, however most are simply not aware of standards which many foreigners might take for granted. Take care to assume that others will do things which are foolish, and if/when they do you will not be surprised. Having said that, most drivers are generally fine.
• The main roads can be very good, although many are two-lane, and all roads in the mountains are very tortuous. The minor roads vary from good to poor. Potholes and uneven surfaces are common, in town and out.
• You can easily drive through much of Colombia with no problems, however look carefully at the security situation. Some parts of the country should be avoided completely. Although many consider Embassy advice over-cautious there is a basis for it. Local advice is always invaluable. The region around Cartagena is generally fine.
• It’s essentially impossible to drive safely in Colombia and also obey the rules – if you refrain from crossing a double yellow line you will spend many hours behind slow trucks and motorcycles hoping for a place where you are legally allowed to overtake (for example, from Fresno to Manizales - 95 Km - there are only three places, for a total of about 300m, where you are legally allowed to overtake), and (more critically) if you slow down for the frequent zones with very low speed limits (e.g., a sudden 20 Km/h on an “autopista” many Km from a town) you will sooner or later be hit from behind by someone taken by surprise by your astonishing action.
• Note that depending on your vehicle registration there are restrictions in some cities – e.g., we can't drive in Bogotá in the periods 0600-0830h or 1500-1930h on days with an even date. The "pico y placa" restrictions are not the same in every city, and they change from time to time. You need to check the restrictions for the licence plate you have in all of the places you go.
• Some areas (e.g., Huila, Atlantic coast) are less law-abiding than others, in terms of speed limits etc.
• In and around Neiva (for one) motor-cyclists rarely use lights at night – it’s a major hazard.
Some “rules”:
• NEVER, EVER, DRIVE AT NIGHT – there are stray cattle, donkeys, bicycles with no lights, cars and trucks with no lights, and so on…. Bicycles are not required to have lights, so can be invisible, especially when other lighted vehicles are on the road.
• Give the vehicle a full check before you leave - tyres, lights, fluids levels, papers, jack etc.. Then check tyres visually every day and pressures weekly (there are lots of sharp objects on the streets) and check fluid levels daily.
• We have never had the slightest trouble with police stops/military checkpoints; make sure your papers are in order and you will have no problems.
• Things you must have in the car:
• Flashlight,
• Medical kit (if you have any special requirements bring them with you).
• Fire extinguisher – make sure it’s in date
• Safety vest
• Wheel chocks
• Speedbrace
• Jack
• Safety triangles (2)
• Toolkit
• Optional : GPS – you can get a local GPS map from Garmin Pamacol online
• Optional (we always have these): jump leads, tow cable, gloves, etc. not really necessary but could be good to have if you break down somewhere.
• Is your blood type unusual?
• Communications, routine and in emergency. How will you manage these?
• Make up “In case of Emergency” cards with contact numbers, blood group etc.
Security in Colombia:
• Cities in Colombia are like any big city; street crime is present so situational awareness and common sense prevail – don’t be a target. Some areas should be avoided, others simply need care. The walled city in Cartagena is safe.
• Never use an ATM in the street, always use one inside a shopping centre/hotel.
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  #5  
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Colombia

=
• NEVER, EVER, DRIVE AT NIGHT – there are stray cattle, donkeys, bicycles with no lights, cars and trucks with no lights, and so on…. Bicycles are not required to have lights, so can be invisible, especially when other lighted vehicles are on the road.
• Give the vehicle a full check before you leave - tyres, lights, fluids levels, papers, jack etc.. Then check tyres visually every day and pressures weekly (there are lots of sharp objects on the streets) and check fluid levels daily.
=

Is this specific for Colombia ?
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Colombia again

There is a whatsapp group for ADV riders in Colombia.
Sharing info about routes and places to stay.
No discussions about danger. Accept normal common sense.

I have spent many afternoons in/at plazas in small towns.
And I have always felt very relaxed.
I have only met nice, friendly and helpful people.
People are siting outside.
Drinking coffee. Watching other people and talking.
But that are small towns, remote.
Not big cities in the middle of the nights
(But to be drunk at 3 AM in or around bars in a large city is not recommended for any country).
But I have only been there together with these friendly people.
Not reading US information...

Dangerous chess play in Tulua

Normal life in a plaza

My habitation

Hard to overtake o
Yes, traffic is dangerous. SO keep out of main roads

Dangerous coffee stop.
Might get stuck there
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How safe is Colombia for a road trip-colombia-girl_fotor.jpg  


Last edited by Erik_G; 2 Weeks Ago at 22:49.
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  #7  
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Colombia Safe!

always park your vehicle in designated parking when going to a mall or a private lot on the streets. just remember if the parking spot looks bad then it probably is
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Parking

Quote:
Originally Posted by tohellnback View Post
always park your vehicle in designated parking when going to a mall or a private lot on the streets. just remember if the parking spot looks bad then it probably is
I agree.
But is this not common sense for most of the world?
Not Colombia specific.
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  #9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik_G View Post
There is a whatsapp group for ADV riders in Colombia.
Sharing info about routes and places to stay.
No discussions about danger. Accept normal common sense.
Buenas, Erik! I'd be interested in joining this WhatsApp group if you are able to share a link? Thanks in advance!
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  #10  
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Colombia Biker ADV

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Montague View Post
I’m planning a road trip for 2 weeks through Columbia in March with my partner and am a little concerned about reports of tourist kidnapping and deaths etc.
It won’t be hugely adventurous but intend to drive between Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena
I’m an experienced adventure traveller (Including a few times around South America including Columbia) by motorcycle. This trip will be by jeep and possibly a little outside the comfort zone of my partner so I’m keen to ensure that I plan a bit more than usual
I’d appreciate advise based on recent experience in general about any security concerns and specifically the regions I mention I’ll be travelling through - particularly where to avoid
Thanks in anticipation

Now you are going to drive a jeep.
But maybe you can join the biker group below anyhow.
The views should be the same.
90 members travelling Colombia. That is a lot more info than.....


(I have been afraid on time in Colombia.
And that was when I was riding motorcycle through Bogota)
The jeep will be much safer.


=
I will send you a link to the group as private message

Enjoy your trip.
Nothing is without risk. The heaven can fall down tomorrow.

I was i Peru last year. In Juliaca, Peru. When 17 people where killed in attempt to occupy the airport. They carried those 17 coffins in a parade outside my hotel.
https://en.mercopress.com/2023/01/10...17-people-dead
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...ning-explainer

I entered Ecuador recently. At the same time as the war between the drug cartels and the /police+military started.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...-of-war-update

But I stayed in El Oriente. Calm.

In Colombia I sit at road side cafés, chatting to people.
Or spend the time around a quiet plaza in a small villlage.
Everything is calm and safe.

I have friends that have visited Venezuela, without any problem.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik_G View Post
=
• NEVER, EVER, DRIVE AT NIGHT – there are stray cattle, donkeys, bicycles with no lights, cars and trucks with no lights, and so on…. Bicycles are not required to have lights, so can be invisible, especially when other lighted vehicles are on the road.
• Give the vehicle a full check before you leave - tyres, lights, fluids levels, papers, jack etc.. Then check tyres visually every day and pressures weekly (there are lots of sharp objects on the streets) and check fluid levels daily.
=

Is this specific for Colombia ?
Both are relevant for many parts of the world. The comment on bicycle lights is specifically included because the law changed and they're n longer required to have lights - they gave up trying, few bikes had lights anyway.

The comment on tyres is included because iy experience is that there's more chance of a puncture in South America than in many other areas (in our case, over 240,000 km (more or less similar km driven in each continent, we've had no punctures in our vehicles in Africa and Eurasia, one in Australia, two in Canada, but five in South America. The difference in my view is the debris on the roads, so this is why I mention it.

You may have guessed that I keep a "standard" advice note to use - or more accurately several of these. This one is specific to Colombia but fairly obviously lots of advice is valid throughout Latin America and some is valid everywhere.
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Seems to me there’s no need to pick at any advice given here, at least on the basis of something being universally applicable.

And just to stir the pot, I’ve certainly driven motorcycles at night many times, including in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s not wise, of course, but sometimes things work out that way. And I’ve parked on the street with and without keeping a close eye, not to mention used dodgy ATMs, in all those places. I do take precautions, and I try not to make a habit of acting foolishly, but those blanket prohibitions sometimes fall to practical considerations.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
And just to stir the pot, I’ve certainly driven motorcycles at night many times, including in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s not wise, of course, but sometimes things work out that way. I do take precautions, and I try not to make a habit of acting foolishly, but those blanket prohibitions sometimes fall to practical considerations.
Yes you're absolutely right - a blanket prohibition is not the best approach - situational awareness and thinking through the risk is.

To clarify the advice, we always plan not to drive at night, although do so in cities and on certain routes which we know well. We recognise that things don't always go to plan and so if/when we find that we're going to be driving at night if we continue to our intended destination we then do a simple risk assessment and decide a plan. For example in Australia the only significant risk is a kangaroo strike, and we have on occasion managed the risk by keeping below 60-70 km/h, less if in dense bush. On one occasion we chose to stop earlier than planned.

I prefer to offer the advice not to drive or ride at night as a general rule, which can be broken with careful consideration.
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I live in Colombia with my wife (she's Colombian) and feel like I can give a fairly good security briefing.

General rules to stay safe in Colombia:

In general the average Colombian criminal in a big city is pretty lazy and cautious. It is similar to the way a lion in Africa usually goes after the weakest animal, or most susceptible animal. They want an easy pay day with minimal risk. Almost all the robberies happen to people who are walking at night in dimly lit areas with minimal people around. Someone joked that they are not afraid of Colombian criminals because they had never run into a Colombian who knew how to fight. In general Colombians are pretty skinny and do not weigh a lot. If they are going to mug someone and beat them up it is probably going to be someone who is drunk and coming out of the bar.

It is a good idea to carry a dumby wallet here. Don't keep all of your important stuff in one location. If you have 2 debit cards, make sure that the thieves only get 1 card. Same thing with identification.

If I have to walk at night here for 10 minutes or more, I like to be carrying a bottle in my hand. I usually drink the and than keep carrying the bottle with me in my hand until I get there. The problem with carrying weapons is that they can potentially be used against you. I would much rather have someone use a bottle against me than a knife.

My take on carrying a bottle is you are 10 times less likely to be approached by a potential criminal if it looks like robbing you could be risky. None of these guys want to go back to Colombian jail.

A. Big Cities

1. Try to avoid long walks at night. Didi and Uber are incredibly inexpensive and safe here.

2. If you are going to walk in a city at night, only walk in well lit areas with lots of normal looking Colombians (not homeless people). Walking on streets that have lots of open business's is a good idea.

3. Want to stress the importance on walking on "well lit streets at night in big cities in Colombia." It is my opinion that 95% of the robberies of tourists that happen here are a result of a 2 man moto team silently sneaking up on tourists from behind in dimly lit areas.

3 a. Walking through neighborhoods at night that have a lot of normal looking Colombians socializing on the sidewalks outside, walking dogs, parties is a good way to stay safe.

4. Do not go to the "city center" aka "centro" at night. Pretty much all the major Colombian cities have dangerous city centers. Lots of drugs, criminals, and homeless people there.

5. Bogota is very sketchy at night. General rule of thumb is you are safe walking at night in the East part of Bogota. From Chapinero walking North you are safe if it is Carrera 13 or East of there. If you are going to walk there at night I recommend walking on Carrera 7 at night, because there is a good police presence there. Again, Didi and Uber's are inexpensive so I highly recommend not walking at night.

Recommend not trying to use the Trans Milenio public red busses in Bogota, because there are a lot of pickpockets in those stations and buses. It is a horrible public transportation system.

6. Medellin: One of the safer large cities in Colombia. Has one of the best metro train systems in South America. The metro train is very safe in Medellin. Unfortunately, there has been a large uptick in crime against tourists in Medellin in the last 2 years. I have seen way more police activity in the Laurelles area here, than I ever saw in the past. I saw the police at an intersection in Laurelles pull to criminals off their motorcycle and arrest them. On Dec 24th my wife and I got robbed at 8 pm by a 2 man moto team about a block away from a police station in Laurelles.

Poblado is the popular area for international tourists in Medellin. There has always been crime against tourists in Poblado, but there has been a huge uptick in crime there in the last 2 years. It is not a good area to walk around in at night. Better to take Didi's and Uber.

Dangerous metro stations in Medellin at night: Niquia, Bello, Madera, Acevedo, Universidad, Hospital, Prado, San Antonio, Parque Berrio, Cisernos, Alpujarra, Exposiciones, Industriales, Poblado, Aguacatala.

That is a lot of stations so here are the highly dangerous ones in my opinion at night: Parque Berrio, San Antonio, Cisernos, Alpujarra, Exposiciones, Prado, Hospital, Universidad.


Cali: Never visited before, but I hear it is a sketchy city to walk around in at night.

Cartagena: Haven't been there since 2008, but it was a tail of two cities from what I remember. Poor side, rich side, lots of prostitutes walking the streets. Not too safe to be walking at night. Haven't been back, because I was not impressed my the initial visit.

Turbo: Do not go there. It is a port of entry for drugs into Colombia.

Manizales, Pereira: Recommend visiting these two cities for an extended time. Safe, walkable, better examples of normal Colombian life.

Good small towns to visit: Jardin and Jerico.


btw: The Colombian cities close to the border of Venezuela are not very safe. I recommend staying away from that area.

Note: If you ask the locals in Colombia if they have every been robbed before, most of them will tell you that they have. It is a somewhat culturally normal thing if you live in a large city in Colombia. There is a lot of crime in the big cities and a lot of poverty and desperate people. The potential thief can possibly earn 20 times more in 1 night than what they could make in a month of honest work here.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gatogato View Post
General rules to stay safe in Colombia:
Good summary!

A couple of points. All of the cities have areas which are generally fine - where we live in Bogotá we walk around at night with no concern.

There are also areas to which we would not go - in Bogotá, in Medellín, in Cali, etc. Rather than think of one city as safer than another I think it's more about distinguishing areas within the cities.

I must say that I feel less secure in central Cali at night than I do at home, however once again it's locally variable.

The walled city in Cartagena is one of the safest places in Colombia,Once outside the walls, things require more SA, and there are areas which I would avoid in broad daylight.
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