Is Colombia Safe to Travel in 2023? How to Travel Safely in Colombia!

If you are thrilled about your upcoming trip to Colombia but cannot help but wonder “Is Colombia safe to travel?” Then, you have landed in the right place.

After living in Colombia and spending the majority of my time traveling the country alone as a solo female traveler, I can say that I never ran into any issues and always felt that it was safe to travel all over this South American country. 

Of course, you should use your common sense and avoid certain parts of Colombia to ensure that you have a safe trip but with some simple precautions and safety tips, you’ll be sure to have an amazing Colombian vacation. 

Montserrate view from Bogota - is colombia safe to travel?
Monserrate view from Bogota – Photo © Pierrik Lemaret from Canva

Table of Contents

Is Colombia Safe To Travel In 2022?

Unfortunately, Colombia has a bit of a bad reputation from its not-so-distant dark past, but the Colombian people and the Colombian government have gone to great lengths to change that in recent years. 

Like any country in any part of the world, Colombia does still have its issues but it is not at all like it used to be.

The local people are generally very happy to have tourists visit their hometowns, in fact, tourism is a great source of income for many in Colombia. 

Although unlikely, if you were to run into any trouble while in Colombia, the most common issues are just petty crimes like pickpocketing or easy opportunity theft.

That is why it is important to keep a close eye on your things and not to wear a bag on your back in crowded areas or on public transportation (it’s too easy for them to get into your bag pockets while it is on your back).

It is also important to stick to safe neighborhoods and tourist areas, do your best not to put yourself in vulnerable situations, and be completely aware of your surroundings at all times.

You might have to be a little more cautious or on guard than you normally would in your own city, but Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America that is definitely worth visiting

Cartagena colorful houses
Cartagena colorful houses – Photo © Atosan from Canva

Is It Safe To Travel To Colombia For A Female Solo Traveler?

For all the solo female travelers out there wanting to visit Colombia, know that it is safe to travel here alone.

While I lived in this fascinating, I traveled to more than 15 places around Colombia (some very remote areas) all by myself and although I was a 23-year-old female, I looked more like a 16-year-old girl. 

Even when I traveled by bus for 12 hours, then by truck for 1 hour, then by motorcycle for 15 minutes, then on horseback for a few hours to get to the archeological sites of San Agustin, I felt safe and secure.

I was very cautious about everything I did but I had the most amazing time and one of the most memorable experiences of my life. 

When you are traveling alone, especially for females, it is important to be very diligent about your safety no matter where your international travel takes you.

It will be best for you to leave activities like late nights and alcohol out of your plans during your visit to Colombia. 

Again it is unlikely, but if you were to encounter any problems, most occur when the victim appears to be an easy target (alone on a dark street, drunk or incapacitated, etc).

Do your best to keep yourself out of vulnerable situations and you shouldn’t have any problems in this wonderful country. 

Guatape - monolite
Guatape monolith – Photo © Iferol from Canva

Safest Places To Travel In Colombia

Generally, the large parts of Colombia that you want to avoid are on the borders along Venezuela and the Pacific coast. Neither of these is typically tourist areas anyway so you won’t be missing much. 

You’ll also want to be careful when visiting rural areas because drug cartels and illegal armed groups do still exist in some places, but if you’re visiting the typical tourist small towns, you shouldn’t have any problems.

You should know however, that police officers and emergency services will not run very efficiently in these areas should you ever need them (for example if you are in need of an ambulance for an emergency, it’s unlikely to show up in time for rescuing). 

Guatape colorful houses
Guatape’ town – Photo © Iferol from Canva

So where are the safest areas in Colombia to travel for tourists?

✔️ The Coffee Region

The Coffee Region is one of the safest and most beautiful areas in all Colombia and consists of towns like Pereira, Salento, Filandia, Manizales, Armenia, and Santa Rosa de Cabal.

I might be a little biased because I lived here, but it is one of the best places to visit in the country.

If you love beautiful nature and outdoor activities like hiking or hot springs, you will fall in love with this region. 

✔️ Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is one of the most adorable little towns in Colombia as well as one of the safest tourist locations in the country.

It is a couple of hours north of Bogota by bus, but the beautiful colonial Spanish charm is definitely worth seeing. 

Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva Photo © Lore3s via Canva

✔️ Major cities in Colombia

Major cities in Colombia like Bogota, Cali, and Medellin all have lots of safe areas to visit and of course, they are all major tourist destinations.

In each, there are definitely parts of the city you’ll want to avoid, but overall they are all great places to visit. 

✔️ Guatape

Guatape is the most popular day trip destination from Medellin so thankfully this little tourist town is one of the safest places you can travel to in Colombia. The surrounding lakes and the giant rock are the highlights of this town.

✔️ Northern Caribbean Coast

Northern Caribbean Coast areas like Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta are known to have some of the best beaches in South America where you can relax and enjoy your time knowing you are in a safe place.

There are some areas, especially in Cartagena, that you’d want to avoid but they’re not areas you’d normally end up in while on vacation.

San Andres Colombia
San Adres Caribbean sea Colombia – Photo © Diego Cardini – via Canva

✔️ Bucaramanga

Bucaramanga is one of the lesser visited cities in Colombia (in comparison) that is closer to the Venezuelan border.

But it is known as a very safe destination for tourists and is also known for its parks and adventure activities. 

✔️ Popayan

Popayan is another one of the lesser traveled destinations in Colombia but this major religious center is also one of the safest places to travel to in Colombia.

It takes a little bit more effort to get to, but the white-walled city and nearby national park make Popayan worth the visit. 

San Augustin archaeological site
Photo © Oscar Espinosa via Canva

✔️ San Agustin

History fans will love the town of San Agustin which has archeological sites predating the Incas in Peru.

This town takes a lot of time and effort to get to, but the beautiful nature and untouched history make it worth the trouble.

It has become a popular tourist destination so it is generally very safe and even has a number of vegan or vegetarian restaurants because of all the foreign visitors. 

✔️ The island of San Andres and Providencia

Although it is located off the coast of Nicaragua, the island of San Andres and Providencia is a safe and extremely popular beach destinations for Colombians.

It is still part of Colombia and you can fly there from Bogota in about two hours, Medellin in under two hours, and Cartagena in just over an hour. 

✔️ Furthest south corner of Colombia

For an Amazonian adventure, you can visit the furthest south corner of Colombia, bordering both Brazil and Peru.

Leticia is the town that you’d fly into and stay in, and thankfully it is known as a very safe place to visit. 

Bogota' houses
Bogota’ houses – Photo © Enrique Hoyo via Canva

Is It Safe To Travel To Medellin?

Medellin, also known as the city of eternal spring, is one of the larger cities in Colombia and the capital of the region of Antioquia.

Despite its current size and its violent past, Medellin is one of the safest places to travel to in Colombia. 

If you’ve heard anything about Pablo Escobar or Colombian drug cartels, then you know that Medellin was the epicenter during this time in history.

It was one of, if not the most dangerous city in the world with horrific violent crime and crime rates through the roof. 

The good news is that they have moved far past this period of chaos, and Medellin is a beautiful city to visit with wonderful people.

But while in Medellin, you should be careful mentioning anything related to Pablo Escobar or the drug trade because it is still a very fresh and terrible memory for so many in the city.

I studied history in college, including extensive research on Colombia during the 80s and 90s, so I personally wanted to see all that I’d read in books the same as I would for any other piece of history, good or bad, in any other part of the world.

I was able to visit sites and even meet Escobar relatives, but I was always careful and respectful when visiting or talking about such subjects.

Besides that, the biggest thing to watch out for in Medellin is petty theft in crowded places.

Medellin city view
Medellin overview – Photo © Alex Faria from Canva

The metro is a popular form of transportation here and usually a very safe option, but we did encounter an attempted pickpocketer in the large crowds while exiting the metro.

Just keep an eye on your things and keep your bags or backpacks in front of you while standing or walking in the crowds.

The safest neighborhoods to stay in in Medellin are El Poblado and Laureles.

These areas are generally really nice, day or night, and they have loads of shops and restaurants, even healthy and allergy-friendly restaurants, within walking distance. 

Is It Safe To Travel To Cartagena?

Cartagena is one of the major cities for cruise ship tourism on the northern Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

From Cartagena, you can also get from Panama on a boat (and vice-versa).

Beaches and popular public places in the city are generally very safe for tourists but you should stick to these areas and avoid drifting to other parts of the city. 

Cartagena is one of the more expensive places to visit in Colombia so you will notice the extra cost to stay in some of the nicer areas of the city.

Cartagena overview

It is definitely worth it to spend the extra money and choose these better areas to stay in Cartagena. 

When I visited Cartagena, I was getting ready to move back home and had gotten used to a Colombian salary and Colombian prices.

When I searched for a place to stay, I ended up choosing a private but cheaper room about halfway between the old city and the airport.

It was not one of the best or safest places to stay in Cartagena and on my first night there, the power went out so there was no air conditioning, no electricity, and no wifi.

Cartagena is not the place to do things on the cheap, and you’ll have a much better time staying in a nice hotel in a nice part of town. 

The safest neighborhoods to choose from are within the old city walls, Getsemani, Bocagrande, Castillo Grande, and Laguito. 

From there you can access all the many activities and things to do in Cartagena.

Bocagrande District Cartagena
Bocagrande District Cartagena Colombia

Is It Safe To Travel To Bogota?

Bogota might be one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia compared to others but it is not one that needs to be or should be avoided.

It was one of my favorite Colombian cities to visit because of both the weather and the history. 

Locals would tell me that Bogota is one of those cities that if you’re from there you love it, if you are from other places in Colombia you hate it.

Bogota' colorful houses

Being the capital and largest city in Colombia, it makes sense that there is more crime here, the same way that New York City is in the United States.

But I traveled by foot, metro, bus, taxi ,and Uber all over this city by myself and never had any issues or felt unsafe at any moment. 

Other reasons some people aren’t huge fans of Bogota are the crazy amounts of traffic, the high altitude, and the cooler weather.

The latter two never bothered me, but the traffic was quite annoying on numerous occasions. 

There are many amazing day trips from Bogota to nearby but be prepared for some traffic delays while trying to get to them.

I visited both the Salt Cathedral and the town of Villa de Leyva by bus and it took at least an hour longer than expected for both trips.

Going on a private tour may be a better option here to avoid some of the traffic and the extra stops a bus would make to pick up riders. 

The best places to stay in Bogota are the neighborhoods of Usaquen, Chapinero, Chico Norte, Santa Fe, El Centro (city center), and Salitre.

I stayed in both the Usaquen neighborhood and at the Courtyard Marriott at the airport and loved both. 

La Candelaria Bogota
La Candelaria Bogota’

Colombia Travel Safety Tips 

The best way to be as safe as possible in Colombia is to be smart and aware like you would in any other country in any other part of the world.

To help you have a safe visit, especially if it is your first time in the country, you’ll find some of the top tips below for safe travel in Colombia. 

1. Eliminate or limit late nights out, especially when traveling alone

Certain situations, like major sporting or cultural events, might require late nights out, but stick to the populated areas and upgrade your ride if necessary to avoid being left out on the street in a dark or isolated area. 

Plaza Bolivar Bogota' colombia
Plaza Bolivar – Bogota- Colombia

2. Avoid overdoing it with alcohol or avoid it entirely, especially when traveling alone

Besides the dangers or possible vulnerable situations associated with alcohol, it is also one of the most expensive items in Colombia. Anything imported into Colombia will be more expensive than it is back home.

3. Avoid taxis whenever possible and definitely do not hail them from the street

Some towns won’t have any other options so be sure to get one from a certified taxi stand (like at transportation hubs) or have a hotel or restaurant call you a taxi. 

4. Use Uber instead of taxis

Use Uber instead of taxis when possible but follow these safety tips for ride-sharing in Colombia.

There have been some issues between taxis and Ubers in the past, like a taxi driver lighting an empty Uber car on fire or taxi cars blocking all lanes of traffic in protest, so knowing all the details of Uber in Colombia is important for your safety. 

Mural in Bogota
Photo © Haley and Michele

5. Don’t take taxis or Ubers from airports in Colombia.

That applies especially to El Dorado International Airport in Bogota and Rafael Nunez International Airport in Cartagena.

Hotel shuttles or private transfers are a much safer, cheaper, legal, and better option. 

6. Use buses whenever you can

The most popular and easiest way to get around cities and from city to city in Colombia is through the bus system.

These are actually a really safe and really cheap form of transportation and sometimes the only way (although sometimes a long way) to get to certain locations, like smaller towns. 

Canons Cartagena
Canons Cartagena

7. Airbnb is not always safe

Consider the issues with Airbnb in Colombia and see if hotels will be a better option for your visit to Colombia.

People I know and I all encountered problems with Airbnb so I preferred to find private rooms at hotels whenever I traveled around Colombia. 

8. Do your best not to take your phone out very obviously while walking on the street

Take photos but don’t stare at your phone or even a map while walking around in a city. Not only do you look like a tourist, but this keeps you from being fully aware of your surroundings. 

9. Don’t leave your phone or other valuables out in the open for everyone to see

This is especially important in restaurants because it could be very easy for someone to walk past the table and swipe your phone without you noticing.  

10. No Dar Papaya

This Colombian saying pretty much sums up a majority of safety tips, meaning not to be obvious and make yourself an easy target or put yourself in a situation that makes it easy for someone to take advantage of you. 

Botero Museum Medellin
Photo © Haley and Michele

11. Do not take your eyes off of your food or drinks, especially for solo female travelers

Not that this is typically a problem in Colombia, but it is always good to make sure no one is putting anything in your food or drinks. 

12. Avoid street food if possible

These are not regulated so although it may look and smell good, there may be lots of bacteria that your body isn’t used to. I got sick often in Colombia and ate lots of food from street vendors and fruit stands. 

13. Stay away from tap water

Stay away from tap water or anything it has touched (ice, lettuce, etc). It’s the same issue as above, the bacteria may be fine for those that live there but it could cause you problems since you’re body is not used to it. 

Cartagena Overview
Cartagena Overview

14. Don’t panic if you get lost

If you don’t have data on your phone while in Colombia, don’t panic if you’re walking around and get lost. Avoid standing on the street and staring at your phone to figure out where to go.

Shopping malls and hotels are a good place to step inside and ask for directions or join their wifi so you can figure out where you want to go. 

15. Have at least one credit card with you

Although many places in Colombia do not even accept credit cards, we suggest bringing at least one credit card with you but keeping it in a safe place at your hotel for emergencies. It is not a good idea to carry all of your money or credit cards with you at once. 

16. Use a money belt to keep your valuables safe

Even while walking around or touring a city, it is a good idea to keep the money you do have with you in a few different places (pocket, shoe, bag, wallet, etc). 

17. Do not give your passport to anyone

We like to make copies of our passports and carry those with us for identification purposes, but leave the original in a safe place at the hotel.

If someone were to get ahold of your passport, they could use it to “hold you hostage” until you pay them money. 

17. Do your research if want to live in Colombia

If you are interested in living in Colombia, be sure to do your research and pick the best area to live. Some people I knew wanted to have a “Colombian experience” by living with a family. Everyone that chose to do this, had a nightmare situation.

18. Learn a little Spanish before traveling to Colombia

A lot of Colombians know or are learning English but they are also very kind and encouraging to those trying to practice Spanish. Knowing a few words or phrases will help you , especially in those smaller towns. 

The lost city colombia
The lost city Colombia

19. Don’t be afraid to haggle

When you’re buying souvenirs or sometimes even a tour or activity (like the jet ski rides in Cartagena), you can haggle the cost.

Many will raise the price as soon as they realize that you are a foreigner and/or don’t speak Spanish.

Some hostels or hotels may even do this if you show up without a reservation and ask for a room. 

20. Consider joining tours if you are concerned about your safety

If you’re worried about any of this, consider taking tours to make things as easy as possible. This way you may avoid having to use public transportation and will always be with a group of people or a tour guide that knows the area. 

21. Get travel insurance before starting your trip

Among all the multiple reasons why you should get travel insurance, is the peace of mind it gives you! Knowing that whatever happens, from medical emergencies to lost bags, canceled flights, theft, and more, your bills are taken care of.

Among the most popular are SafetyWing and World Nomads depending on the kind of traveling you are planning.

For the more adventurous ones, which included hiking and scuba-diving, World nomads have got you covered, for a more tranquil trip SafetyWing would do the job and it’s cheaper.

Make sure you read all the included coverage and policy details to find out what’s the right policy for you.

Travel Insurance from World Nomads. Get a quote.

Travel insurance from World Nomads is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travelers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage, and a range of adventure sports and activities. Read the policy details to ensure that it's right for you.

SafetyWing - Insurance for Nomads, by Nomads - Get a quote

SafetyWing is one of the reliable Travel Insurance that I would choose for multiple reasons. It's affordable and covers covid related issues, among others. Read the policy details to ensure that it's right for you.

Is Colombia Safe To Travel: Final Thoughts 

Despite its past problems, Colombia is one of the best South American countries to visit and a safe place to travel for tourists.

It is one of the most beautiful places with some amazing outdoor activities, wonderful people, and fascinating history. Be smart and cautious but enjoy your time in this incredible country!

Haley, and Michele on a boat tour
Photo © Haley and Michele

About the Author – Haley and Michele are a mother-and-daughter team focused on traveling with a healthy lifestyle. They have lived and traveled extensively throughout the United States and Latin America, and their goal is to provide healthy travel info for each destination whether that’s food allergies, healthy and organic food, safety tips, active activities, sports and exercise, and much more! They share their tips on their travel blog Fernweh Foreigner.