South America’s Colombia has held a dangerous reputation for many years. Tales of drug cartels and gangsters abound, and whilst there may be a lot of exaggeration at times and security in Colombia has certainly improved over recent years, there are several important things people should be aware of for their own safety. Staying safe in Colombia is highly important, and it is not a country to try and wander off the tried and trodden path.
Some tips for staying safe in Colombia include:
Don’t Make Yourself a Target
As with almost everywhere in the world you should avoid showing that you have anything in your possession that a would-be thief may want to steal. Don’t flash the cash, indeed, try and carry as little on you as possible, don’t wander along with expensive phones, laptops, and cameras on display, leave the designer sunglasses and pricey jewellery at home, and try and blend in as much as possible without looking like a tourist. There is a saying in Colombia, “No dar papaya”, which means one should not do anything that gives another person a reason to want to take advantage.
You should also make sure that your luggage is secure and within your sight at all times.
Don’t be a Hero
With armed robbers unpredictable and dangerous, never try and resist a robbery attempt. Don’t try and fight with the assailants – you are highly likely to come off worse. This can mean injured at best, dead at worst. You should hand over anything that they want – it is always best to have a bit of ready cash to hand to give to any attackers to prevent making them angry and frustrated – conceal most of your money, but have some “danger money” in an easy to get to place.
Go Easy on the Drink
It is easier for people to try and take advantage when alcohol is involved. Avoid getting excessively tipsy, and always make sure that you are fully aware of your surroundings and what is happening. It is better to go out in a group at night – safety in numbers! You should not accept drinks from strangers – there have been reports of drinks being spiked and people having all of their possessions stolen.
Don’t Walk Around Alone at Night
Always take a taxi at night, especially if you are alone. It is also much better to arrange a taxi in advance or call a recommended and reputable firm rather than hailing a cab on the streets. Unfortunately bad things do still happen in taxis, so it is much safer to be prudent and make advance plans. If possible, try and travel in a group, even if you team up with other travellers you meet at your hostel or guest house. Lock the door when travelling to avoid snatch and grabs.
Say No to Drugs
Drugs are widely available in Colombia, but there are also incredible risks associated with having fun in this way. The punishments for buying drugs are harsh, and it is not unheard of for dealers and police to work together to set people up attempting to buy drugs.