Is Colombia Safe for Solo Travelers?

Let’s be perfectly honest here: “is Colombia safe to travel alone” is a loaded question, and there is not one universal “yes” or “no.” Colombia is safer if you travel smart, unsafe if you travel stupid, and bad things can happen even if you follow all of the best advice to the letter. But does that mean you should avoid this country altogether? 

We believe the answer is a resounding NO. Solo travel in Colombia alone will still be an extremely enriching experience, and it should be enthusiastically included on your someday travel list. But there’s a reason we say “someday,” – if you plan to got to Colombia solo, we would recommend this country for experienced travelers, meaning you’re accustomed to being alone on the road, you know how to follow your instincts, you know yourself and have developed some skills for solo travel, and your reflexes are good when it comes to being on your guard and protecting your belongings. 

Below are a few tips for doing Colombia solo – they are largely universal, but will still be invaluable to remember when trekking out on your first Colombia trip: 

  • Meet other people: staying in groups is the best possible way to avoid isolation (making you susceptible to robbery and assault). Feel encouraged to step out of your comfort zone to introduce yourself to other travelers. These can be people from your hostel, people you met on the plane flying in with similar travel plans, or even a group you overhear talking – if you walk up, explain your situation, and ask to join them where they’re going, more often than not you’ll be welcomed with open arms. 
  • Watch your belongings and yourself: This is always travel tip numero uno. Don’t set your bag down. Divide your cash into multiple pockets and only take as much as you need for the day. Keep everything out of your back pockets. Only use ATMs indoors, at banks, and during the day. Be vigilant. Etc etc etc. 
  • Blend. In. If you’re of a different ethnicity than the local population, you’ll already stand out a bit. However, if you make a conscious effort to dress like the locals, you’ll at least not stand out as much, and you’ll also be less of a target for mugging because robbers might assume you’re more savvy. Look around and be a copycat, and pro tip: DO NOT wear shorts and flip-flops. This is basically a tourist uniform. 
  • Learn some Spanish: especially if you’re alone, this will be invaluable if you need to get yourself out of a tight spot. Even just a few words may be enough to get a local to like you and offer kind assistance. Come prepared with a phrase book and memorize any phrases you think you might use both in normal scenarios, and those where you need to ask for help. 
  • Get a SIM card: There’s a local company called Claro with good coverage. You’ll need to bring your passport, and this will allow you to use the internet and hail Ubers. Which reminds us-
  • Use Uber. Even locals consider it the safest option, and if you’re alone, even better. 
  • Avoid remote areas. We’re not saying to avoid the countryside completely, as it has a lot to offer in terms of beautiful scenery and culture. However, it is in remote border regions that paramilitary rebel groups like FARC still operate, despite 2016 peace deals. Check out the US State Department’s Travel Advisory on Colombia for up-to-date information on what areas to avoid. 

Is Medellin safe to travel alone? 

We get it – Pablo Escobar, cocaine trade, “most dangerous city in the world.” Poor old Medellin has had its fair share of criticism over the years (and based on statistics from the 90’s and early 2000’s, most of that criticism is indeed warranted). 

Nowadays, Medellin can be considered a major cultural center and one of the safer cities in the whole country, if you follow the usual precautions and stay out of sticky situations. Besides using your common sense with your belongings to avoid pickpockets (especially on the metro), and watching your back to avoid muggers, you’ll want to research neighborhoods ahead of time to know where to be extra cautious. La Candelaria (el centro) is the most dangerous area in the city, and Popular, Santa Cruz, Manrique, San Javier and 12 de Octubre should generally be avoided by tourists. 

Is Colombia Safe for Solo Female Travelers? 

Keeping the theme of honesty: women who are traveling alone need to play by a different set of rules. But the odds are you already knew that if you’re reading this. It is unfortunately true that women must exercise increased caution when traveling alone in Colombia, but the good news is that if you remember the basics, you’ll already be safer. 

We’re going to emphasize again – Colombia should not be your first solo trip. Get a few easier countries under your belt and get to know yourself better as a traveler before you move South. When you’re ready, listen to all of the tips mentioned above, and heed this advice for solo female travel in Colombia: 

Copy the fashion: This is especially important to not stand out from the crowd. The cities dress modern, the countryside dresses modest and covered. Do as the locals do. When in doubt, dress modestly. 

Do your research: Which neighborhoods are known to be dangerous? What are the local emergency numbers? What is Spanish for “I need help”? (necesito ayuda). Which hostels have the best reviews and female dorms, and how do I get there from the airport? Know as much as you possibly can about the city you’re traveling to so you have the practical information in your head. 

Be extra careful about drinking: in addition to the usual precautions about imbibing, there are two things to keep in mind. First, because of the high altitude in much of the country, you will get drunk faster. Drink slower and less than you normally would in order to keep your good judgement. In addition, it is not uncommon for predators in Colombia to use disabling drugs to rob or assault travelers and women. Always watch your drink, and do not accept drinks from strangers. 

Groups, as much as possible: this is especially important for women. If you want to take a daytrip outside the city, find other people to go with, and never walk alone at night. Ever. 

Use Uber, and don’t take buses at night: Uber is considered very safe, and it is recommended above all taxi use, which always run the risk of being sketchy. Don’t take the bus at night, as there is no way to do so without putting yourself in a compromising and vulnerable position. If you can, try to fly for long-distance overland travel, as long land trips can be unpredictable in terms of safety. 

Ignore them: We’re talking about street harassers, and also anybody giving you any kind of unwanted attention. You are not obligated to be nice to anyone, and if someone is making you uncomfortable, trust your instincts, and run. 

We understand the task of keeping oneself safe can be daunting, but in the ongoing work that is keeping oneself safe, developing instincts and skills to fall back on is the first step – which you have already taken! 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on safety in Colombia: 

Safety in Colombia

Food and Water Safety in Colombia

Getting Around: Transportation in Colombia

Scams in Colombia

How do you get around in Colombia?

Moving around in Colombia can be tricky – the options are somehow both too many and too few, depending on your needs, and there’s a veritable sea of sketchiness to watch out for among the legitimate choices. But with a little know-how you’ll be well on your way (both literally and figuratively) to your destination. 

What type of transportation is used in Colombia?

Colombia has 3 main transportation options: busses, taxis, or private cars. If you’re on a budget, the bus is the cheapest way to travel in Colombia, but they are usually crowded and don’t have air conditioning. If you want something more comfortable and convenient, a taxi or private car is a better option. Just be careful with taxis as the drivers sometimes have a few tricks they use to hike up the fare.

Are taxis safe in Colombia? 

We’ll spare you the intro: yes, taxis are safe, BUT, there is a whole lot to be aware of with your taxi options at the same time. 

First: do not hail a taxi off the street, and do not get into a taxi when there is someone else in there besides the driver. Any taxi which you hail randomly is probably going to be a fake taxi. Their intention is to rob you, price-gouge you, or worse. And while some legitimate taxi drivers want to have another person with them for safety, it is best to never take the risk – this is a common scheme to rob tourists. 

A couple more pieces of advice: do not fall asleep in a taxi, lest the driver drive around in circles to hike up the meter before arriving at your destination. Occasionally there will be taxis without meters which have fixed rates (usually outside of major cities. The prices are determined by destination). In this case, be sure to decide on the price with the driver before getting inside – some (not all) drivers will be eager to take advantage of tourist naivete. 

The best assurance of your safety is to always call a taxi from a reputable company, or only get into parked taxis at designated taxi ranks outside hotels, malls, etc. Depending on where you are, you will find apps like Tappsi ( and Easy Taxi ( invaluable tools for increased taxi security. In addition, it’s never a bad idea to take a photo of the taxi’s license number or other identifying information in case it may be needed. If you feel especially unsure, call a friend (or pretend to) and mention that you’re in a taxi, stating the taxi number. It will offer you a much-needed feeling of security. 

Do they have Uber in Colombia?

While Uber had to stop operating in Colombia at the beginning of 2020, they are back! 

Is Uber safe in Colombia? 

Uber is actually an excellent option. Its set prices, review-based system, and automatic built-in GPS tracking will put service over price haggling and immediately negate many of the risks associated with taxi use. 

Is bus travel safe in Colombia?

Public transportation in Colombia has vastly improved in recent years, particularly Medellin (with a state-of-the-art subway system) and Bogota public transportation with it’s fairly good TransMilenio bus system. 

The rules here are pretty similar to other local buses in Central and South America: there are no tickets or tokens, simply pay the driver (or assistant) the flat fare when you hop on board. Sometimes there are specific stops, but in general you can hop on or off anywhere along the route as long as you manage to get the driver’s attention. As usual with public transit, watch your belongings carefully, as buses are ripe with pickpockets.

In general, the state of the vehicle will be unpredictable, but most will have air-conditioning and be quite crowded as a rule. One type of smaller bus, called a buseta, is in popular use in the large cities, and will prove an extremely exciting ride, even vital cultural experience. It’s best to research bus routes ahead of time, or they will be of little use to you.  The bus fare is typically between COP$1000 and COP$2500 for these smaller buses. 

Bus travel in Colombia is quite safe, though there is one precaution you’ll always want to take: keep your bags in sight! It’s not uncommon for thieves to simply walk off with someone else’s bag that was left in the overhead rack.

How do you travel between cities in Colombia? 

Is bus travel safe in Colombia? 

During the height of armed conflict between the government and FARC, simply being on the roads of Colombia was asking for disaster and ambush from guerilla troops. This is no longer true, but driving on the roads of Colombia is still a daunting task for foreigners because of the bustling traffic, maniac road fellows, and twisting curves in the mountains. Buses are a decent alternative to driving yourself. 

That said: public buses should still be used with caution, especially by solo travelers (and in particular solo female travelers). It is possible for the bus to be robbed, and we do not recommend women to use the night bus, in order to practice caution. The following information is for you if you choose to use the bus anyway: 

You’ll find with larger bus companies that the buses are quite comfortable and well-equipped, with excellent air conditioning and even, occasionally, wifi. We recommend bringing ear plugs and a sweater, as you never know when the driver will be cranking music and/or an action movie, or be relentless with the A/C. While driving by yourself at night is not advisable, night buses are considered perfectly safe. 

Something to keep in mind – there are military checkpoints on the major highways where the buses will be required to stop, the passengers to exit, and be searched/have their IDs checked. This is perfectly normal, but they will do it anytime, including in the middle of the night. 

You typically won’t need reservations, unless it’s peak holiday seasons. Feel free to go to the station an hour before you want to leave, but a ticket, and read a nice book to pass the time. 


There’s another class of transportation altogether, which you’ll notice all around you – the colectivos. These can be….anything, really. A small bus, a packed taxi, or any slightly-enlarged vehicle which can function as a rideshare. This one is, as can be expected, more chaotic than your other options. Colectivos can be a bit more expensive and can be found either at major bus terminals, or just in the town square. Don’t plan to use them if you’re on a tight schedule, as they will usually only depart when they’re full. 

Alternatives: Private Car Transfer

There are plenty of travelers out there who don’t want to drive themselves (understandably) or handle the unexpected nature of bus travel. After all, there are a lot of options and not many ways to vet the best bus company. 

If you want the most stress-free travel option possible, we would recommend a private transfer service such as Daytrip. A friendly, local, professional driver can pick you up directly from your accommodation and take you to your hotel at your destination in a safe, comfortable, and clean vehicle. Some services (such as Daytrip) even offer the option to stop and see attractions along the way. Best part is, you can choose when you want to leave, any time of day. 

Looking for more information? Check out additional articles below: 

Safety in Colombia

Food and Water Safety in Colombia

Scams in Colombia

Solo Travel in Colombia

Is it safe to travel in Colombia?

Colombia is quickly coming up in the travel scene as a chic new destination – a surprising twist considering that its violent past still lives in our recent and collective memory. Happily, the South American gem’s new-found appeal has been drawing travelers from all over, boosting the tourism economy and introducing the world to a country with a stunning and vibrant cultural landscape. However, if you’ve ever seen Colombia show up in a news headline, you might have some reservations. 

Why is Colombia Dangerous? 

This question was much more relevant 5 years ago, prior to 2016. Not that today it is without issue, but the peak of the country’s violent internal conflict occurred in the 90s and early 2000s. The rebel paramilitary group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) emerged in the 60s in protest to the central Colombian government (and they weren’t the only such guerilla group). The tactics of these guerilla forces, which included murder, kidnapping, and other such forms of domestic terrorism, made global headlines, and presence within Colombia was largely a non-option for any foreigner. 

In a massive political shift, peace deals in 2016 between FARC and the Colombian government ended the armed conflict (for the most part), and the country has been attempting to make reparations for the victims and those affected ever since. 

What is the most dangerous city in Colombia? 

While several cities seem to have held this prestigious title over the last couple of decades, most of the former chart-toppers have cooled off and lightened up in recent years. Once upon a time, the bustling hub of Medellin was declared “the most dangerous city in the world” due to an unparalleled crime and murder rate, thanks in most part to the infamous narcotics trade and presence of Pablos Escobar and his mafia. These days, Medellin is considered not only relatively safe, but a very desirable travel destination. 

Currently, the city of Cali might be considered the most dangerous city if we look purely at statistics. That said, it remains a huge draw for tourists and will be safe if one follows usual precautions (outlined below). The US State Department discourages any travel to Arauca and the regions of Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander (all of them bordering neighboring countries) due to conflict which still exists at the country’s borders. 

Do I need any vaccinations to go to Colombia? 

Vaccines are important health precautions to take, not just for yourself but for others. There are indeed some diseases for which foreigners in Colombia may be at risk, and you will want to evaluate and take action depending on your circumstances. 

Among the diseases to watch out for are yellow fever, malaria, multiple forms of hepatitis, and dengue (which is transmitted through mosquito bites) among others. Risks fluctuate according to where you are traveling and where you are coming from. The CDC and US Embassy have recommendations for all travelers, but be sure to talk to your doctor before you travel about your specific needs for vaccinations, so that they can advise you accordingly.  Otherwise, carry bug spray and avoid insect bites to the best of your ability. 

How dangerous is Colombia today? 

Recent statistics report that kidnappings, once a massive threat among foreigners and locals alike, have dropped as much as 90% since the early 2000s. Subsequently, the cultural explosions in major cities like Bogota and Medellin could well be described as a renaissance, which means traveling-hopefuls the world over are itching to make it before the throngs of tourists with cameras arrive to share in the magic. 

And while the booming tourism industry is great for the country as a whole and has led to many drastic improvements in safety and resources, there is still plenty to be aware of as you plan your trip. Remember: Colombia is safer, not safe entirely. Still, with some know-how put into practice, you can minimize your risks and keep yourself in good spirits knowing you’re armed with the tools to keep yourself protected from those who would do harm. Many of the tips below are good things to remember no matter where you travel, and some are specific to Colombia, but you’ll want to keep them all in mind nonetheless: 

How do you stay safe in Colombia? 

  1. Stay in crowded areas. Being by yourself is the easiest way for muggers, thieves, and pickpockets to target you. When possible, stay in crowded and touristy areas, or with traveling companions/friends, to evade petty theft. 
  2. Don’t go out at night. While the cities are generally safe during the day if you’re being smart, nighttime is when the worst of the worst come out. If you must be out at night, do not do so without being part of a crowd, and call a reputable taxi or Uber if possible. 
  3. Never get into a random taxi on the street. Hailing a taxi from the side of the road is extremely risky, as the chances are high that the car you get into will not be an authorized taxi, but a random driver posing as a taxi driver and intending to do you harm. Use Uber, which is considered quite safe, or research and call a reputable taxi company for your ride (better yet, have your accommodation call one on your behalf).  
  4. Do not flash your valuables. This is one of those universal tips – even taking your phone out on the street demonstrates to would-be thieves that you have something valuable for them to take, and they might then follow you to an opportune spot at which to rob you. Don’t wear jewelry or watches, period. And only use your phone or take out money while you’re indoors, never on the street. 
  5. Purchase travel insurance. Another good thing to have in any destination – in the event that you are robbed or even just need to visit the doctor, having insurance will help cover the costs of what you lose. Be sure to read the terms of any plan before you buy in, so you know in advance the steps you’ll have to take if you need to file a claim. 
  6. Give them your money. In the event that you do fall victim to the muggers (it can happen to anyone), give them what they’re asking for. It will be better than inciting violence from them if you refuse and ultimately will keep you safer in the long run. 
  7. Don’t do drugs. No, this isn’t some half-baked speech from the D.A.R.E. officers from highschool. It’s not just that drugs are dangerous for your health and well-being (also, they’re illegal in Colombia and can land you in trouble), but by purchasing and doing drugs in Colombia, you fund a violent trade responsible for the murder of Colombian citizens, and a major cause of the conflict which threw the country into decades of turmoil. Purchasing and doing drugs in Colombia is largely viewed as disrespectful and offensive to the local culture. Don’t do it.
  8. Avoid drinks and cigarettes from random people. It is still fairly common to spike drinks (and even less-suspect items, such as cigarettes and chewing gum) with undetectable drugs which can lead one to lose will-power or even consciousness, allowing the attacker to take advantage financially or sexually. Do yourself a favor – don’t take treats from people you don’t know, and watch your drinks carefully. 
  9. Avoid border areas. In general, the most unsafe areas of the country are still near the border regions, specifically with Peru and Venezuela. Do yourself a favor and stay in the more Northern cities to avoid the possibility of running into armed conflict which still inhabits these areas. 

Seems like a lot? We know. Despite the relative safety of Colombia, especially compared to 20 years ago, there are still many steps which are necessary to take to minimize your risk of encountering or falling victim to crime. 

That said, Colombia is nonetheless a beautiful country, full of good people, good food, and beautiful sights all around. And remember, the tourism industry is truly booming, which means it’s not long before cities are swarming. Go and enjoy Colombia while you can still immerse yourself, and remember: be safe! 

Looking for more information? 

Scams in Colombia

Food and Water Safety in Colombia

Solo Travel in Colombia

Getting Around: Transportation in Colombia

Tips for Financial Safety in Colombia

When it comes to the safety of tourists in Colombia (and Latin America in general), money (and trying to hold onto it) is the root of all evil. Scams, petty thieves, and thieves who are….less petty, are what drive tourists to buy money belts, utilize hotel safes, and keep their phones in their pockets – smart tourists that is. It doesn’t take much to keep yourself protected, but knowing exactly what to look out for will help ensure you’re not taken advantage of while just trying to enjoy yourself. 

Scams in Colombia

Knowing the threats is the best way to avoid them altogether. Below are a combination of actual scams otherwise malicious tactics that someone might use to try and take your money, but they’re all relevant. 

  • Fake Police: watch out for anyone approaching you claiming to be a police officer. They might do any number of things – ask to inspect your cash/documents to see if they are “counterfeit,” confiscate that money, plant drugs on you, force you to pay a bribe. Best way to avoid it? Carry copies of your passport and entry stamps instead of the real thing, and if someone does claim to be police and wants to have a conversation, get them to go inside a police station or hotel to do it – just get off the street. 
  • Tricky taxi drivers: Some taxi drivers have a deft hand when you hand them a large note. For example – you hand them a 20,000 peso note, they switch it for a 2,000 note and claim that’s all that you gave them. Another fun one – you hand them a large note, they take it, and hand it back telling you “no change.” When you say it’s all you have, they suddenly produce change out of nowhere, but you go to pay with that same note the next day and find out it’s fake. You’ve been had. The best way to get around this is to only use small notes when paying. 
  • Taking the long way: Another one for taxi-takers – some drivers will try to take advantage of tourists ignorant to the local routes by taking unnecessary turns and going in circles to drive up the meter price, assuming you don’t know the route anyway. You have a couple of options here: you can take Uber, where the ride is already tracked via GPS, or you can (casually) mention to the driver that you’ve taken this route, minimizing the chances he will try anything tricky. 
  • When you weren’t looking: Always keep your eyes and/or hands on bags, folks. Pickpockets the world over will try things like this – you’re enjoying a drink or a meal at your outdoor table and someone comes over to try and sell you something. While you’re not looking, they reach into your bag. This can happen anytime your bag is slung over your chair, or in crowded areas where the thieves work in groups. Stay alert, and never hang your bag on the back of a chair, etc. 
  • Don’t show me the money: At most markets, all items are up for negotiation. That is, right until the vendor watches you rifle through your wallet and sees a crisp 50,000 peso note. If they know how much you have, there’s no way they’ll let the price go down. Keep it hidden, you’ll be all good. 

Keeping your money safe in Colombia

Now for some advice: is it your first time in a pickpocket culture? Lacking confidence? Not to worry, because there is really only one word you need to remember: vigilance

The best friend of thieves is distraction. When you are not looking and unaware of the last time you even thought about your phone, that is their ideal time to strike. The solution? Know exactly where your things are at all times, and never leave something valuable in an easily accessible pocket. This means that money goes in the front pockets (NOTHING in the back pockets), and is ideally split into multiple locations so that if they get you, they don’t get everything. 

Phones should not be out in the open when you’re on the street, and should be kept in a secure pocket or even under the clothes for maximum security. In the event that you fall victim to mugging, be sure to only have as much money on you as is needed for the day, so you can minimize your loss. 

In order to feel absolutely secure against petty theft, many travelers opt for a money belt (some of them even look like real belts!), or a full sized money pouch to be kept under the clothes. There’s really no better way to feel secure in keeping track of your bills and notes. 

Looking for more information? 

Safety in Colombia

Food and Water Safety in Colombia

Solo Travel in Colombia

Getting Around: Transportation in Colombia

Food and Water Safety in Colombia

The thing that many people look forward to most about traveling is the pure joy of experiencing new food. However, if you happen to be going to a country which exists on an entirely different continent from your home, that can certainly raise some very important questions about the basics of eating and drinking. 

The good news? You will not starve. Far from it – the food in Colombia is amazing, and clean tap water does exist. However, you’ll want to remember a few things to keep you as safe as possible. 

Is the Food Safe in Colombia? 

Overall? Yes. Keep in mind a few ground rules to ensure that the food you’re eating is the freshest and safest possible. 

  • Has it been sitting out in the sun for….a while? Don’t do it, walk away and find food that is totally fresh, or better yet, made right in front of your eyes (street food is great for this). 
  • Keep to crowded restaurants. Good patronage is an excellent marker of food that is probably proven to be safe and delicious. 
  • Eating fruit? Make sure it has a peel you can remove. Or otherwise that you are able to wash it thoroughly. You want to avoid contamination from dirty produce. 
  • Wash your hands. Really people. This one is self-explanatory. 

Vegetarian food in Colombia

Hard news, my plant-based brothers and sisters – this is a meat-based food culture. Now, this does not mean that it’s impossible to stick to your dietary restrictions and values. However, you would do right to learn all of the Spanish words and phrases needed to talk with servers, read labels, and otherwise ensure that the stuff you put in your belly is veg-friendly. 

Is it safe to eat street food in Cartagena?

If you follow the above tips, the street food in Cartagena is perfectly safe… and totally delicious! One of the advantages of street food over eating in a restaurant is that you can see the ingredients and watch the food being prepared. This makes it easy to judge how fresh the food is, and if there’s a line for that little stall, you know it’s good!

What is Colombian street food?

Colombian cuisine is often overshadowed by the food of its neighboring countries, but what people overlook is that Colombia has comfort food to go on lock. Seriously – one of the countries staple dishes is Picada, a heaping platter of chopped meat (often chunks of steak, chorizo, blood sausage, chicken, cow’s intestines) and vegetables line plantain, yuca, corn on the cob, and papas criollas (seasoned new potatoes). Then there are the grab and go foods like bollo (buns steamed in corn husks), tamales (corn dough steamed in banana leafs), and arepas (fried corn dough with a variety of fillings). The most popular is arepas de huevos (arepas filled with egg), which are the pinnacle of street food in Cartagena.

Is water safe in Colombia? 

For the big cities of Bogota and Medellin, yes. Everywhere else, it is a different story. 

As is true for many countries in Latin America, urban tap water is much cleaner and safer than rural areas and the countryside. But, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all that a country has to offer. 

In lieu of buying too many plastic water bottles and contributing to plastic waste (plus, what would you do if you didn’t have access to bottled water?), opt for a reusable bottle and carry a UV pen so that you can purify water wherever you are (water purification tablets are also an option). That way, you can be free to roam while not needing to worry about your health, or feel guilty for your frequent opting for single-use plastic. 

The take-away? 

The food and water of Colombia is not something to be feared, only watched-out for. There’s a different set of rules, but once you learn them, you will be able to navigate the food and drink scene with ease and peace of mind. Now, go find the best street food you possibly can, and brag to your friends about it forever. 

Looking for more information? 

Safety in Colombia

Scams in Colombia

Solo Travel in Colombia

Getting Around: Transportation in Colombia