Despite Colombia moving forward leaps and bounds in terms of security, there are always a few considerations that the traveller should deliberate before planning a trip here. Obviously, things are not where they were in the dark era of the Pastrana government or the early days under the former President Alvaro Uribe…but all the same, tourism is on the rise but many of the same problems remain albeit somewhat under wraps.
Drugs in Colombia
The most appropriate piece of advice for anyone coming to Colombia is to steer well clear of any drugs. We can argue forever the merits of legalization and the theories of John Stuart Mill but the long and the short of it is that drugs are illegal in Colombia, the regions where they are produced are dangerous and will continue to be for some time and if you are still not convinced, please remember that every Colombian family whether rich or poor has been affected by the fallout and violence of the drugs trade.
And so, we are begging you to please consider that the consumption of cocaine significantly damages Colombian society. Money spent on cocaine goes directly to support armed groups, fighting in Colombia’s internal conflict, leading to assassinations, kidnappings, massacres and one of the world’s largest refugee problems.
Consuming cocaine means nothing less than having somebody’s blood on your hands…..
The Armed Conflict in Colombia
Yes, there is a long running internal conflict in Colombia, this won’t be news to anyone and yes the conflict is still continuing in its destructive course. Most of the heavy fighting is restricted to the hinterlands, jungles and border areas. For the most part if your trip to Colombia involves overland travel along the Caribbean coast, Bogota, Medellin and the Coffee Zone you can travel in bliss. If, however, you stray into departments such as Arauca, Caquetá and beyond then you are taking unnecessary risks. Largely due to the strong military efforts put into play by the former two term President Alvaro Uribe both major guerrilla groups, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army) are at their lowest ebb.
Security in Bogota and the Major Cities
Like any major urban area, the capital of Bogota suffers from the massive displacement of people from the violence in the countryside to the city. And, as there is an enormous wealth divide, there are obvious social issues at play. One can identify these as areas of immense wealth that are in stark contrast to the abject poverty seen all about. So, when in Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, Medellin or any other large city, please keep a careful eye on your belongings, speak to the locals and the tourist police, don’t flash large wads of cash around and use common sense. Colombia is safer than many of its neighbors.
Transport and Kidnapping
Kidnapping used to be a very real threat and this vile business has not disappeared completely. This trade has dipped drastically and the threat of being kidnapped as you walk off the plane in Bogota or Cartagena is incredibly far-fetched. Travelling on overnight buses is no longer the danger it used to be and Colombians frequently travel this way. Again, the most important issue is to keep abreast of the news in Colombia, speak to the owner of your guesthouse or hostel (they tend to be the most reliably informed) and again, we cannot say it enough, use your common sense and do not take any unnecessary risks.