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Safety and Crime in Colombia

Many an expat-to-be might have an idea of what to expect of life in Colombia, but not everyone is up-to-date with the big advancements the country has made in recent years and continues to make every day. Our guide offers an overview.
Chances are that your biggest worry in terms of safety is going to be street crime.

Positive Progress: A Calmer Colombia

If you have read our other articles on the country, you’ll have noticed an overriding theme: contemporary Colombia is a far cry from what it once was, and on the whole, developments have been positive, including in terms of crime and personal safety. Many remember a time when most news from Colombia was of conflict, violence, and large scale drug trafficking.

While none of these issues have completely vanished, things have considerably improved. Drug-related violence that was once rife in major Colombian cities and surrounding areas has significantly decreased. What were once the most violent and dangerous cities on earth are now comparable to most other South American metropolises.

However, the ongoing armed conflict between the government, paramilitary groups, leftist guerilla groups such as FARC and ELN, and narcotrafficking syndicates is still a major issue in much of the countryside and carries into the cities. Although a hard-fought peace treaty was signed with FARC at the end of 2016, it is uncertain how much of an impact this will have.

Terrorist acts and kidnapping, among others, are problems that are still present. Expats and travelers should avoid entering affected regions, which include the Pacific Coast and much of the south of the country. In particular, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the port of Buenaventura in the department of Valle de Cauca and to the port of Tumaco in the department of Nariño.

Out and About in Colombia

Political demonstrations, a common occurrence in most Colombian cities, can be a real risk to expats. While the vast majority are peaceful, there is a chance things might turn violent — bringing small, homemade explosives (so-called potato bombs) is not uncommon. It is strongly advised to steer clear of such demonstrations, unless you’re sure of its purpose, your opinion on the matter, and fully aware of Colombia’s culture regarding protests and demonstrations.

However, chances are that your biggest worry in terms of safety is going to be street crime. As is the case in any metropolis around the world, burglary, theft, credit card and ATM fraud are common, as are vehicle theft and carjacking. Follow your usual safety precautions, and if you are unfortunate enough to be robbed, do not attempt to resist as things can quickly get violent.

The OSAC Crime and Safety Report for Colombia also warns that robberies are often conducted in taxis hailed on the street. The driver might stop to let accomplices enter the cab and rob the passenger. To avoid falling victim to this, you should make sure to call a taxi dispatcher, which vary according to the city, or use a smartphone app, such as Uber or Tappsi.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Pablo Garcia Ramirez

"I was so lucky that a friend told me about InterNations before I came to Bogota. I had the chance to contact many expats there from home."

Michelle Guillemont

"I was a little bit afraid before moving to Colombia - a new language, security issues, no friends. InterNations helped me settle in, though. "

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