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I am planning a trip through central and south America, and have had much mixed advice about visiting Colombia

Please advise.
13 years ago, November 1st 2010 No: 1 Msg: #122180  

I am planning a trip through central and south america and have had many mixed advice about visiting Colombia - some say it's a must-see, others say I should avoid it at all costs... I will be a female travelling on my own and would appreciate any advice on what to do and see - basically I need suggestions for a safe itinerary! I have no time limit - but thinking about 2 weeks...

I have also heard that travelling on buses is not a good idea in Colombia - what are the alternatives?
One last question - What is the best way to get into Colombia from Panama? I've heard some people fly in, some people yacht in (safety being my priority)?

Thanks a lot!

Quote by JulieK

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13 years ago, November 3rd 2010 No: 2 Msg: #122282  
We found Colombia to be one of the friendliest countries in South America, many people went out of their way to help us. It was as if each person was trying to do their bit to change perceptions of their country.
Our travels were done exclusively by bus, including a few overnight trips which we were assured were safe, for us this turned out to be right. It's worth checking the status in each place when you're there and making plans for your next journey. Reply to this

13 years ago, November 3rd 2010 No: 3 Msg: #122335  
B Posts: 10
I had a friend who was female and traveled alone through central and south america. She said that Columbia was her favorite country. Beautiful and friendly. She said she used her common sense and stayed away from parts of the country that other travelers and locals told her to. Columbians are trying to change their image. Use your head and I reckon it would be a great trip. I plan on visiting Columbia at some point during my SA trip! Reply to this

13 years ago, November 4th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #122356  
N Posts: 16
Great, thanks so much... I live in south africa so hopefully I'm naturally aware when it comes to crime etc... Martin - any suggested must-see's?? I heard Cartagena is great - what other areas are worth seeing?

Thanks Reply to this

13 years ago, November 5th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #122426  

Solento is a must, tis just lovely there, BOgota altho I didn´t visit is supposed to be a great city, if you want party that is. Pappayan too is lovely.. san augustin had the best pizza i´ve ever eaten in my life. 😊

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13 years ago, November 5th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #122427  
Ooh thats what i meant to say. When travelling from Pasto to the border, if you indeed are that is travel at midday. that is the only place where bus hijackings still take place, but only at night and early morning.

I took night buses everwhere else and it was fine, lonely planet says its fine now and i heard of no other bus stories on an other routes.

Oohh you must goto the beach in the north of Columbia! Reply to this

13 years ago, November 5th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #122448  
We liked Popayan, Bogota - the Museo del Oro is one of the best museums in South America, and Cartagena. We were a bit pushed for time so didn't get to go to Cali or Medellin. If we'd have had more time we'd have liked to have gone to the zona cafetera. Reply to this

13 years ago, November 15th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #123010  
Hello Julie 😊

I think Columbia used to be dangerous. A lot of travellers are going there now, so I think it is now relatively safe, but finding it difficult to shed its old reputation as the place to be kidnapped.

12 years ago, a friend asked me if Columbia is safe. At the time, I doubted it, so told him he should ask the consulate before going there. The Columbian consulate gave him a list of all the places in Columbia he shouldnt go to. Almost everywhere was on the list.

You could try reading the recent blogs by those who recently travelled in Columbia or who are there right now. Many seem surprised that it is not as dangerous as it is reputed to be. The following blog is currently a Featured Blog on the Front Page.
Is Colombia safe?

Mel Reply to this

13 years ago, November 15th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #123051  
N Posts: 16
Great, thanks a lot Mel... Reply to this

13 years ago, November 18th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #123241  
B Posts: 128
Definitely go there! It was fantastic. I was travelling on my own and found it to be quite safe and the people were very friendly. Don't miss Cartagena or the Coffee Zone! Reply to this

13 years ago, December 3rd 2010 No: 11 Msg: #124133  
I just travelled to Cartagena last week for 4 nights with my 5 year old daughter. Stayed in the old town (centro) Had a blast and always felt safe. Lots of cops/military personell around. Day trip to Rosario islands and mud volcano without problems, except boat breaking downf or a while. Blog to be updated this weekend. Reply to this

13 years ago, December 10th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #124559  
B Posts: 122
Cartagena is beautiful, don't miss Santa Marta and Playa Blanca, Columbians are great people and as said above they really are trying to throw off the old image, listen to other tourists and stay away from certain spots ( mainly in dense jungle near the Ecuadorian border) I felt really safe in Columbia, it is a stunningly beautiful place and full of fellow travelers. The larger towns cater for the tourist well, use common sense and just enjoy this wonderful country Reply to this

13 years ago, December 13th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #124673  
N Posts: 8
Hey Im Colombian, and so surprised about the wonderful things you are writing here !!!
Is so nice that FINALLY ppl is feeling and thinking different about my county 😊)

Colombia is definitely a diferent place right now!! time ago, Im agree, It was not so good idea to visit almost everywhere even for us (colombians) but since 7 or 9 years ago the situation have been changing but travel around the country is other thing, right now.

I am agree with this :- "her common sense and stayed away from parts of the country that other travelers and locals told her to. we have such a great." And from my experience, that applies almost to all developing countries 😉)) so dont miss to vist our country I can ensure you will have so much fun here and It will be a very very special experience 😊))

If you have more questions or want to meet some one in CALI, dont hesitate to contact me 😉)) I will be here in Cali till april...and I would love to show you many places around Valle del Cauca, or give you the answers you need.

Take care

Amy Reply to this

13 years ago, February 20th 2011 No: 14 Msg: #129476  
I love Colombia. I was a little nervous for my 1st week ,travelling up from Ecuador, becouse of all the stories I'd heard. Also the Australian government website lists Popayan and Cali as "Reconsider Your Need To Travel" areas. I was sitting in the plaza in San Gil ,watching all the families and lovers in the park, when a man came up to me and asked would I like a coffee. I bought a cafe con leche and thought to myself "This is the happiest place I've ever been". This continued through the whole of Colombia ( I didn't go to the Southern or Eastern Jungles ,still dangerous places). Not only where the locals so friendly but the mood spread to the other travellers. People who you would have enjoyed their company ,in other countries, became your great friends in Colombia. I met a girl in Cartagena ,we were on the same bus tour of the town, and she is now my wife. We own an apartment in Castilla, Bogota.
Please enjoy this beautiful, friendly, happy country but listen to the advice of other travellers ect. Always ask your hotel/hostel if it is safe to take taxis. In some towns ,including Bogota, you don't want to catch taxis off the street. Your hotel will ring a cab for you. You will be given the license plate number and a secret number "clave". Like anywhere in Sth/Central America don't show off your wealth ,dress down ,don't wear jewellery ect, and don't walk around with your camera hanging from your arm or your wallet in your hand. Carry your bag/daypack in front of you not on your back. Most of the crime I've heard of has been crimes of oppurtunity so don't provide those oppurtunities. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 1st 2011 No: 15 Msg: #132600  

I’ve been to Colombia and it’s important to read between the lines when people say Colombia is safe or Colombia is not safe.

If you stick to the rich areas that are guarded day and night by men with machine guns like Bogota’s Zona Rosa/T or Medallins’ Poblado, it’s as safe as any US city. No problem at all. I would not sweat it one bit. But guess what? it’s also just as boring. I do not what to pay $400 for a plane ticket and $100/night for hotel to see what Hugo Boss store looks like in Bogota. It’s all the same. What is the point.

It’s when you venture out from the small rich enclaves that things get interesting – and also dangerous, particularly if it’s close to sunset and if you are alone. Lots of perfectly fine neighborhoods turn pretty ugly after sunset. Centro and Candelaria in Bogota seem perfectly fine during the day, but you better watch your back at night.

People are completely confused about crime rates in US and elsewhere. In the US, most of the violence is drug gang and acquaintances killing each other over drug deals. If you are not in that business, you might get caught in the cross fire but that is just bad luck. In contrast, in Colombia YOU are the rich target desperate poor people want to rob. I live in a pretty sketchy area of Washington, DC and it is NOTHING compared to even semi-good areas of Bogota/Medallin – and I never even ventured out to the bad/poor areas.

…And yes, I did end up fighting, running, and almost getting stabbed to death in Bogota.

Colombia is worth checking out, and I think I will go there again to check out some things I missed. But I have two big reservations about it;

1. Cost. Hotels (and hostels) are very expensive. If you want a clean, modern looking room with modern looking bathroom (but nothing fancy) in a safe neighborhood, it will cost you $100+. That is a lot, IMO. More expensive than USA.

2. Stress. Security is on everyone’s mind when they are in <snip>. That is a fact. Colombian women are afraid to take taxis and walk alone after dark, and depending on the neighborhood, so are the men. People literally stay over night at each other’s places so that they don’t have to make their trip home at night. Houses in the city are build like fortresses/jails. Hostels have intricate buzzer, double door, and camera security systems – and when I was there, one was forcefully invaded by a group of armed men and everyone robbed. That should tell you something. This is not like SE Asia where you can basically relax everywhere you are and act stupid and still be safe. In SE Asia, you might get taken advantage of by being overcharged for drinks or taxi, but in Bogota you are more likely to get robbed at knifepoint or worse.

It is true that Colombia is a LOT better than 15 years ago, but that doesn’t make it good. It is also true what one person said above that Colombia gets a bad rep. compared to other big cities in Latin America. There are definitely worse big cities in Latin America than big Colombian cities. BUT… that is more of a testament of how ghetto Latin America is – not how safe Colombia is.

Advice: If you have traveled to other Latin American cities, or to Africa, you should have no reservations about Colombia. If you have only been to EU, US, Asia… it will be a big change safety-wise. Start by staying in the expensive areas and slowly feel your way around… the key word being ‘slowly’ and carefully.

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10 years ago, April 25th 2013 No: 16 Msg: #169784  
Have the ones that adviced you about avoiding the country at all costs been to the country? probably not, they are just talking out of commonplaces and prejudices about how they think the country is. you shouldn't have to take their opinions into consideration... Reply to this

10 years ago, April 25th 2013 No: 17 Msg: #169785  
btw, the country is very big (the size of California and Texas together, or, a little bit smaller than South Africa) some parts are safer than others, some places have guerrillas or drug gangs but many others don't (it always has been like that), and, in general, taking buses is not a big risk. South Africa and Colombia homicide rate is pretty much the same, and tourists most usually don't get involved in the conflict.

@Mell: "but finding it difficult to shed its old reputation as the place to be kidnapped. "

kidnappings decreased 90-95% in the past 10 years in Colombia. very few foreign tourists have been kidnapped in the past 5 years, you can count them with the fingers (and, easily 10 to 15 million foreign tourists visited the country in these 5 years)

@ElAustraliano: ( I didn't go to the Southern or Eastern Jungles ,still dangerous places).

actually you can visit a lot of places in the Amazon and the East. Mavicure, at the frontier with Venezuela, is awesome (look for pics in Google). Leticia, on the Amazon river, is a must if you look for ecotrips. there is a new park in Meta, about 200 kms south of Bogotá, where you can see a lot of fauna (jaguar, capibara, ant-eaters, etc etc) Reply to this

10 years ago, October 28th 2013 No: 18 Msg: #176646  
I moved to Colombia from the United States about 4 years ago. I have never been happier. One should learn as much as one can before coming here. A great website to learn about Colombia is http://www.colombialivinggood.com Reply to this

9 years ago, April 28th 2014 No: 19 Msg: #181035  
There are long bus rides when traveling through Colombia. I have found that if you go to LAN airlines website but select Colombia as your country, the prices are much cheaper!
For example, Medellin to Cartagena is a 3:20 hours flight (going back to Bogota) for 89,260 pesos which equals $46usd. The bus Rapido Ochoa costs $105,000 pesos ($54usd) and takes 14 hours!!! It's a no brainer. I bought flights on the Colombian LAN site and paid with my American credit card just fine.
They also suggest you do not take the overnight bus between Cartagena and Medellin.
I searched the June 16, 2014 (on April 28th, 2014) for future reference.
There are also the VIVA Colombia airlines.
The bus website is: http://www.rapidoochoa.com/Paginas/HORARIOS_TARIFAS.aspx?DS=Horarios+y+Tarifas Reply to this

8 years ago, June 3rd 2015 No: 20 Msg: #191181  
this is a great thread - i am planning to spend the month of december in Colombia Reply to this

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