SAFETY AND SECURITY
Crime is a problem throughout the country. Purse snatching and armed robbery are most common. In some cases, extreme violence leading to death has occurred.
Muggings and assaults occur even in the safer areas of Colombia’s cities, and violence can accompany these incidents. Firearms and other weapons are common in Colombia. Armed robberies may occur on streets, in buses and in taxis.
- Avoid walking alone in isolated or deserted areas
- Avoid travelling alone after dark
- Dress down, avoid wearing jewellery or watches and keep cell phones, cameras and other electronic equipment out of sight
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
- Refrain from using your cell phone on the street
- Use ATMs inside banks, shopping malls and other public locations during business hours only
There is a risk of kidnapping for ransom in Colombia. Armed groups may target foreigners in all parts of the country, especially those who work for oil and mining companies. Business travellers and Canadian companies establishing operations in Colombia should take enhanced security measures to protect both personnel and company assets. Choose living accommodations that have significant security measures in place and modern office facilities.
“Express kidnappings” are frequent and often occur in affluent areas, as well as in tourist areas. In this scenario, criminals kidnap the victim from the street or a taxi and force her/him to withdraw funds from an ATM. The victim is sometimes held overnight so that a second withdrawal can be made the next day
- Avoid hailing taxis on the street
- If threatened by armed criminals, stay calm and don’t resist
Street crime, including pickpocketing, purse snatching, assault and robbery, is common, particularly in larger cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Santa Marta.
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
- Leave your passport and other travel documents locked in your hotel safe.
- Always keep photocopies with you, as local authorities often conduct identity verifications.
- Stay in reputable accommodations with good security.
In the Bogotá metropolitan area, petty crime is common in:
- the Ciudad Bolivar neighbourhoods in the south of the city
- El Codito in the northeast, between calles (streets) 174 and 182 from Carrera 7 to Carrera 1, and in the northeastern hills from calle 182 to 200
- Kennedy and Soacha in the southwest
It is not recommended to go to these areas. You should also avoid the following neighbourhoods after dark:
- Monserrate and its surroundings
- the downtown area of La Candelaria and surrounding neighbourhoods
Remain cautious at all time in the Chapinero neighbourhood.
In Medellín, thefts occur frequently in the city centre and areas not covered by the metro system. Avoid the Metrocable.
In Cali, remain in the hotel zone and the south of the city. Violent crimes occur throughout Cali, even in wealthier neighbourhoods and shopping malls.
SANTA MARTA AND THE COASTAL REGION OF LA GUAJIRA
There is a high rate of violent incidents in both the city of Santa Marta and the coastal region of La Guajira.
People travelling on the roads outside of Riohacha are often targeted.
Violence directed at tourists is much lower in resort areas such as Baru Peninsula, Cartagena, Providencia and San Andrés islands, Rosario Islands, the Amazon resorts near Leticia and the coffee-growing area known as Eje Cafetero (in Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda departments).
COMMON CRIMINAL STRATEGIES
Thieves posing as police officers have approached foreigners to verify their documents or foreign currency in the intend to rob them.
- Don’t hand over your money or documents unless you feel threatened, in which case you shouldn’t resist.
- If possible, request to provide your documents or currency at your hotel or other public place, to maximize your safety.
ILLEGAL ARMED GROUPS
The presence of illegal armed groups and terrorist groups pose a major risk to travellers. These groups carry out terrorist activities and finance themselves through extortions and kidnappings. Attacks often result in casualties.
Remain on well-travelled roads and paths when visiting remote locations
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times
There is a threat of domestic terrorism. Terrorist groups are active in some parts of the country – see the regional advisory. Attacks occur periodically. Targets may include:
- government buildings
- military and police installations and vehicles
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- infrastructure, including energy
Public places like tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, cafes, shopping malls, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners have also been targeted by these terrorist groups.
- Avoid any unattended package or parcel and bring these to the attention of police or security personnel.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Monitor local media for the latest updates.
Nationwide protests have taken place sporadically in several cities across the country since November 21, 2019. These could continue in the coming days.
Demonstrations could happen without notice and suddenly turn violent. Clashes between protesters and security forces have occurred, resulting in casualties. Police have used tear gas to disperse crowds.
Local authorities may impose curfews without notice. Roadblocks may be erected. The situation could significantly disrupt the following essential services:
- transportation, including air travel
- emergency services
- medical care
If you are currently in Colombia:
- avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- expect a heightened security presence
- follow the advice of local authorities
- contact your airline or tour operator to determine if the situation could affect your travel plans
Demonstrations and strikes take place regularly throughout Colombia, especially in large cities. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
It’s illegal for Canadians who enter Colombia for tourism purposes or on a visa to participate in local political activities, rallies or public demonstrations. Political involvement may result in your deportation.
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Card overcharging also happen. Exercise caution in popular tourist areas, where scammers target tourists by charging them elevated prices for services, food and drink. Ask for a printed price list before ordering and check for any unauthorized transaction on your account statements.
Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:
- pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
- use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
More about overseas fraud
SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, cigarettes or anything else from new acquaintances or someone in the street. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
SCOPOLAMINE AND OTHER INCAPACITATING DRUGS
Scopolamine is a drug that temporarily incapacitates unsuspecting victims, who become disoriented quickly and are vulnerable to crime.
Thieves may slip the drug into food and drinks or blow it into the face of the victim. They often work in teams, with women easing victims into a false sense of security and then stealing their valuables once they have been incapacitated. Dating applications and websites have been used by criminals to identify and lure foreigners travelling alone and looking to meet local women.
Incidents occur in nightclubs, bars and restaurants, on public transportation and in the streets. They occur most frequently in larger cities such as Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena and Medellín.
Use extreme caution when dealing with strangers offering pamphlets, requesting information or selling street wares.
Spiritual cleansing and ayahuasca ceremonies, offered by shamans and other individuals, involve consuming substances that can cause medical complications and severely impair cognitive and physical abilities. Exposure to these substances has led to serious illness, injury, assault and even the death of several tourists.
Ceremonies often take place in remote areas with no access to medical or mental health facilities or resources and limited communication with local authorities. Most of the time, the facilities lack basic first aid or emergency plans for those suffering from physical or psychological illness from these ceremonies. Ayahuasca ceremonies are not regulated and there is no way to assess the safety of any of the services, the operators or the shamans.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Safe-travel guide for women
Road conditions and road safety can be poor throughout Colombia, including in Bogotá. Road signs are difficult to see. Drivers are extremely aggressive and reckless. They often drive at excessive speeds, are frequently distracted and ignore traffic controls.
Motorcycles are common and are often involved in traffic accidents.
Pedestrians don’t have the right of way, including at stop signs.
Driving conditions may be particularly hazardous during the rainy seasons.
Due to a break in the Pan-American Highway caused by dense, mountainous jungle known as the Darién Gap, it’s not possible to drive between Colombia and Panama. If you wish to take you vehicle to Panama, you must ship it from Cartagena to Colón, Panama.
Never hitchhike in Colombia.
When travelling by car in Colombia:
- always place all belongings under your seat
- keep your doors locked and windows closed at all times
- carry a cell phone
- park your car in a guarded parking lot when in a city
Unauthorized roadblocks and bandits pose a threat. Undertake any road travel during the daytime and use main roads only. Local authorities may deny you entry to certain areas due to emerging security threats. Military checkpoints outside cities are common.
Labour strikes by truck drivers and agricultural workers occur in Colombia. Associated roadblocks on major transit routes may cause significant travel disruptions.
If you’re planning to travel by land in Colombia:
- dial 767 from your cell phone to receive advice on current road closures from the Colombian Highway Police information line (in Spanish)
- consult local media
- follow the instructions of local authorities.
Public transportation isn’t safe in Colombia.
City and rural buses are frequent targets for theft. Armed groups frequently stop and rob rural buses.
If taking an overnight bus, keep your belongings close to you, not on the floor or in storage compartments, as they could be stolen while you sleep.
Express kidnappings and assaults often occur in unlicensed taxis.
- Avoid hailing taxis on the street
- Use only reputable taxi companies through establishments such as hotels or ride-hailing apps
- Booked your ride in advance when possible
If you have no choice but to hail a taxi on the street:
- avoid cabs without licence plates
- never enter a cab if it already has one or more passengers
- note the licence plate number and name of the driver when you travel
- immediately communicate this information to family or friends
The El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá only allows authorized taxis to pick up passengers at its terminals. If possible, arrange pickup in advance with your travel agency or hotel.
Transportation services – El Dorado International Airport
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines