Staying in the border regions of Colombia, especially with Venezuela and Panama, as well as in all regions affected by the internal conflict and the drug economy (cultivation, smuggling) is not recommended. These include in particular the entire Pacific coast, the departments of Chocó, Cauca, Putumayo, Nariño, Arauca, Córdoba, Caquetá, individual areas in Norte de Santander, the northeast and northwest of Antioquia and the south of Bolivar.
Border area with Venezuela
The border between Colombia and Venezuela has been reopened for pedestrians at the main crossing points during the day since August 2016. Nevertheless, caution remains advisable when traveling to the border region with Venezuela. Temporary closings of the reopened border with Colombia can be ordered at short notice at any time, as happened in December 2016.
Foreign nationals are still at risk of kidnapping, especially in the border regions with Venezuela.
When traveling in the immediate vicinity of volcanoes, the instructions of the local authorities and security forces should be followed.
The state geological institute Ingeominas gives information on volcanic activities under external link, opens in new windowObservatorios-Vulcanologicos.
Up-to-date information on regional floods and landslides after heavy rains are posted on the website of the Colombian National Civil Protection Agency (external link, opens in new window http://www.sigpad.gov.co).
Crime / Terrorism / Security
The security situation in Colombia has continuously improved since 2002. In most large cities (especially in Bogotá) it is comparable to that in other Latin American metropolises. However, there are still armed clashes between state security forces and illegal violent groups – mainly in remote parts of the country, including in the south-west of the country.
Since the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group in December 2016, the latter has suspended its activities and is preparing to demobilize and disarm its fighters. However, the guerrilla group ELN and other illegal organized crime groups continue to carry out attacks. Terrorist attacks on tourist destinations have not occurred in recent years. The peace agreement with the FARC should not lead to underestimating the continuing dangers, especially outside of the big cities.
In addition to the potential for violence, there is a risk of landmines. Paved roads (= tar roads, gravel roads that are regularly used) should therefore not be left outside of built-up areas. Just a few steps from the piste there is a risk of stepping on a mine. Information on the distribution of the mined areas can be found under external link, opens in a new window accioncontraminas.gov.co
Organized tourist trips to San Agustín in the Huila department and to Ciudad Perdída in the Magdalena department should only be carried out during the day with a local tour guide and on the main routes secured by the Colombian military. Due to the high level of general crime and the risk of terrorist attacks, there is still a residual risk to personal safety. Please observe the behavior and precautionary measures listed below.
The crime rate (especially street theft and burglary) and the general propensity to use violence are high. This applies to scenic areas / hiking trails as well as to the capital Bogotá and tourist centers. Robbery and trick theft must be expected even during the day. At dusk, there is an increased risk of violence being used in the event of attacks. This has increased in Bogota following the evacuation of the “Bronx” squatter district in May 2016 throughout the city.
Travelers can reduce the risk of falling victim to crime if they observe the following guidelines:
- In no case should you resist an armed attack despite all precautionary measures.
- When there are crowds of people, such as in shopping centers, markets, airports or bus stations, take special care of your valuables and luggage.
- Avoid lonely neighborhoods and streets in the dark, caution is also advisable in the old town of Bogotá at night. Do not be alone away from the tourist centers, especially if you have no local knowledge.
- Avoid lonely stops when using public transport.
- You should definitely refrain from hitchhiking. Hitchhikers should also never be taken along.
- Avoid eye-catching (including fashion) jewelry and only take money and valuables with you to the extent necessary.
- Avoid trips where travel routes, overnight accommodations and means of transport are not fixed in advance.
- Be careful at ATMs: If possible, only withdraw money during the day when accompanied and watch out for conspicuous people in your immediate vicinity.
- Important documents (passport, flight ticket, etc.) should be deposited in the hotel safe. You should always have a copy of your passport with you. It is advisable to store a scan of all important documents, for example in an e-mail box, so that you can access them at any time if the originals are lost. This makes new procurement much easier.
- Vehicles should only be parked in guarded parking spaces. Do not place bags etc. visibly on the car seats, but stow them under the seats or in the trunk.
- As far as possible, do not accept drinks, food, sweets or cigarettes from strangers and do not leave food / drinks unattended in the restaurant. In this way, victims were given so-called “knockout drops” such as scopolamine or similar agents.
- Travelers should not flag up taxis at the roadside but always use a telephone or internet service to order a taxi (e.g. the taxi app TAPPSI), or use authorized taxis at the designated, authorized taxi stands (you can usually recognize them by their official clothing staff who will write down your name and the number of the taxi before departure). Otherwise, you run the risk of falling victim to a short-term kidnapping, in which the perpetrators usually forfeit credit cards and PIN numbers in order to withdraw cash from the victim’s account at ATMs.
- Credit cards should never be given out of hand. When using an ATM, it should be checked for possible preparations for illegally reading the card. In general, you should only withdraw money during the day in busy streets, large banks or shopping centers.
Travel over land
According to youremailverifier, the Colombian security authorities have made significant logistical and personnel-intensive efforts in recent years to ensure the safety of the road connections between the main cities in the country (the main routes are secured in particular on the most important holidays and weekends). The main routes between the country’s most important cities can therefore usually be used, but only during the day and, if possible, on weekends or public holidays. Excursions in the surroundings of Bogotá and (with restrictions) in the surroundings of other cities are also possible. Use vehicles that are inconspicuous as possible. A personal residual risk (assaults, kidnappings, high number of accidents) remains.
Unannounced strikes can lead to road blockades on the country’s major main traffic routes, which can significantly impair cross-country journeys due to the lack of alternative routes.
Occasionally, tourists are abused as “drug smugglers” against their will and in ignorance. Travelers should therefore not take luggage with them for strangers and should check the contents of their own luggage. At the airports, travelers must expect thorough luggage checks and physical searches An independent witness should be obtained if there is a suspicion of drugs, and drug possession results in heavy sentences in Colombian prisons.
Cases of baggage re-labeling have recently occurred. The banderole is removed from a traveller’s suitcase in the luggage area of the Colombian departure airport and attached to a suitcase filled with cocaine. At the destination airport (in Europe) the suitcase is taken from the belt by an accomplice. However, if the suitcase is discovered by the drug search beforehand, the traveler is in need of explanation that the baggage item seized is not the suitcase that he has checked in himself. A photo taken directly at the baggage check-in with a visible banderole can make the proof easier.