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Is It SAFE in Colombia?

By Bryan Bui

Is it safe in Colombia? This is most commonly asked question about Colombia from almost everyone – my family, friends, travelers and digital nomads. I can honestly say that I feel completely safe living and traveling in this beautiful country.

However, I would be remiss if I fail to share some important information and tips to help you to make the right travel or migrating decision.

Colombia has a reputation as a dangerous destination that stems from its drug trafficking era prior to 2000’s, which it is desperately trying to shed. This mission has been made more difficult due to two important factors: 1) Some foreign government travel advisories are outdated or incomplete, leading to unnecessary fears for travelers to Colombia. 2) The portrayal of the country in Hollywood TV hit show Narcos; specifically the humanization of Pablo Escobar that spurs interest in the famous former drug lord Escobar tour. Word to the wise, almost everyone in Colombia avoids saying his name aloud because it brings back horrific memories for most.

Map of Colombia

map of Colombia
Photo by

I visited Colombia on multiple occasions, and even lived here for 5 months prior to making the life changing decision to reside in Medellin permanently (nickname Medallo, pronounced Me-da-yo). Medellin is the second biggest city in Colombia after Bogota. Like most major cities, it has experienced a fluctuation in crime rates over the years. In the past, the city had a reputation of being one of the most dangerous cities for high levels of violence and crime, particularly related to drug trafficking and guerrilla activity. However, in recent years, crime rates in Medellin have declined significantly, and the city has become known for its progressive social programs and innovative approaches to safety and security. This is proudly known as The Transformation to the locals.

View of mountainous Medellin
The view from atop the Palacio de Cultura

The improved safety and security in Medellin has led to a significant increase in tourism in the recent years, with the city becoming a popular destination for visitors from around the world. This evidence can be seen in heavily populated tourist barrios of El Poblado and Laureles.

Finally, I would like to share the following common, sensible safety tips that have helped to keep me out of trouble.

1) Always exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar areas.

2) The Colombians have a catchy, popular warning phrase for all tourists “No Dar Papaya“. The English translation is Don’t Give Papaya, meaning don’t be flashy and give others reason to steal from you.

Hope you’ll join me and explore beautiful, adventurous Colombia. Who knows, we might even become neighbours some day.


More travel tips, anyone?

Another vital tip is to learn Spanish, even if you only know a few words or phrases. It will help you connect with the warm and welcoming Colombians who are always excited to share their culture. We definitely can help at, we’re also on Instagram — @spoken_co.

You should also check out these excellent travel sources for more Colombia travel tips —, and Youtube: Exploring Colombia — Full Travel Documentary by Backpacker Steve.

Are you excited for some for off-the-beaten-path and cultural adventures?

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