Is Colombia Safe for Tourists?

Is Colombia safe for travel? Yes! Like anywhere, Colombia has safe and unsafe areas—but overall the country is safe for travelers. We asked our local trip planners about safety in their country.


Since a 2016 accord ended the decades-long civil war between Colombia’s government and the paramilitary group FARC, Colombia has enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace. As a traveler, this means you’ll find yourself in the midst of a cultural renaissance.


Is Colombia safe for travelers? Should you worry about express kidnappings, and where is safe to go? We debunk the dangerous myths to show you Colombia's safe side.

Colombia is a South American country with a frightening reputation for drug wars and kidnappings, but it is emerging on the scene as a favorite destination for adventure travelers.

From the Caribbean coast to the friendly people and charming culture, travelers are flocking to see Colombia before it becomes a tourist hotspot – and here's why you should do it too.

The short answer from us is yes, it is safe to travel to Colombia – as long as you keep your wits about you and stay away from known dangerous areas, this is one of the most incredible destinations in South America.

Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe.

The number of kidnappings is down hugely from its peak in 2000, but it's a threat that occasionally exists.

The southwestern and northeastern parts of the country which border with Ecuador and Venezuela are dangerous, and many foreign governments recommend against any travel to those regions because of the risk of kidnap or being caught in the crossfire of a drug war

Government travel advisories have declared parts of Colombia to be safe and approved for travel: adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogota, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Coffee Zone departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres.

Medellin is a popular place to go among travelers, and it's becoming much more safe. Bogota has it's dodgy areas, but is also emerging as an exciting city to explore.

Be Careful while Partying

There are plenty of street parties that form out of nowhere in Getsemany or the Old Walled City, and they are great — the street food is awesome, the liquor… all of it. But don’t accept drinks from strangers unless the containers are sealed, don’t walk along dark and lonely streets, don’t walk alone, and be sure to let someone know where you are and what you will be doing. The same rules can apply in bars and anywhere else.



Over the past year, fighting has increased in the Colombian province of Narino, which borders the Ecuadorian province Esmeraldas on the Pacific coast. During the last decade or so, Esmeraldas has been a transition zone to bring drugs from Colombia aboard vessels in the Pacific. In  general violence in Esmeraldas has increased since the peace agreement with the guerilla movement FARC. Three Ecuadorian journalists were reporting on the growing violence when they were kidnapped when crossing the border into Colombia to interview a dissident drug- trafficking narco/guerilla leader. Sadly, this high risk journalism has ended in the death of all three journalists. Obviously, the border area in Esmeraldas has an increased risk profile, given its favorable position on the Pacific Ocean and its related drugs trafficking.


Why consider booking our Colombia National Parks Tour? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL places for which Colombia is famous, and on top of that, you get to see 7 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a naturalist guide. There is nothing similar on the market. As Colombia can be combined with other countries, we organize tours in modules: Bogota and surrounding Andes, Caribbean Coast and the Amazon of Ecuador; the latter for the Colombian Amazon still not being recommended for foreign visitors. Colombia is a very large country, so you need to fly. To do so at hardly any additional costs, you need to book both Bogota and Cartagena - and Quito if you want to include the Amazon module - in your international ticket.

Destinations Overview:  Bogota old town, Cartagena, Villa de Leyva Zipaguira Salt Mine Church, Chingaza Reserve, Iguaque National Park, Flamencos Reserve, Cienega Mangroves Reserve, Lake Fuquene, Tayrona National Park, Manaure Salt Flats.


On the other side of the Andes, along the Colombian-Ecuadorian Amazon border, the situation is different in the sense that there is no easy trafficking route to the sea. The touristic zone of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has no easy access to the border river and is heavily patrolled by military and park rangers. Nevertheless, in 2012, 2 foreign visitors were hijacked for ransom from the Cuyabeno Wildlife reserve. Because of a very quick reaction by the army with  helicopter support, both ladies  were freed the following day, unharmed. The country's President himself was continuously informed and after they were freed, the presidential plane flew both ladies  back to the capital, where they were received on the airport by the Vice President. From that point forward, new measures have been put in place to improve safety for tourists in Colombia and no new incidents have taken place in the region.


Do not flash any electronic devices (iPods, cameras, mobile phones) and leave your jewelry in the hotel.

Bring copies of your passport and important documents and leave the originals in the hotel.

If mugged, surrender money and electronics - it is not worth getting stabbed and maybe killed for what ultimately are material, recoverable things. It would be a good idea to divide your valuable items and put stuff into different pockets of your jacket, jeans, back bag etc. Muggings are over in seconds and the robbers normally do not check what they have gotten. So handing them over just your purse might satisfy them and you can keep your back bag or vice versa. Do not rush in handing them over everything, they themselves have the urge to get away!


Of course, a number of people interested in visiting COLOMBIA started worrying about their safety in the country in general and the Amazon in particular. So how safe is COLOMBIA? Including the last hijacking, we know that 2 armed robberies have taken place since I visited the reserve in the nineteen seventies. Of course we feel that:

Every petty theft, robbery or hijacking is too much!


Bogotá has gone to great lengths to change its formerly notorious crime rate and its image with increasing success after being considered in the 1990s to be one of the most violent cities in the world. In 1993 there were 4,352 murders at a rate of 81 per 100,000 people; in 2007 Bogotá suffered 1,401 murders at a rate of 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, and had a further reduction to 14 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 (the lowest since 1979). This success was mainly the result of a participatory and integrated security policy; "Comunidad Segura", that was first adopted in 1995 and continues to be enforced. 1.2 percent of street addresses account for 99 percent of homicides.


But at the same token we should put these security breaches into perspective. The number of killings in Washington DC with a mere one million citizens in the 1990s, was in the neighborhood of 500 homicides per year! Fortunately that has decreased to a "mere" 200 per year, but that still is an unacceptably lot of people; many more than the horrible massacre, in Nairobi a few years back! In spite of that, not a single GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD HAS DECLARED Washington DC on a safety alert. I have worked in Washington  and never felt threatened in any way.


Safety in COLOMBIA for tourists has 2 aspects:

  • The chance of an violation of one's property (theft) or health (accident, robbery, sexual or other) or one's freedom (kidnapping); and

  • The perception of safety that every person experiences differently.


Traveling risks in COLOMBIA include:

  • Accidents or mishaps caused wild animals (snake bites, alligator attacks, electric eel);

  • Diseases (malaria, infections);

  • Accidents on the road, in nature or in the water;

  • Petty theft like pick pocketing, credit card scams, etc.;

  • Armed robbery;

  • Kidnapping.

We at Parks and Tribes take safety very seriously and we have taken all the measures we can think off.  There is a first aid kit and most of the time there is cell (mobile) phone reception. The COLOMBIA alarm number is 911 and actually works rather well.


Its rather precarious to interpret the statistics of risks. Should a risk be defined as the frequency of accidents per person-trip, or per day traveled? In the case of the national parks tour, that would make a difference of a factor of 10, for the 10 days' national parks tour.


The perception of insecurity or danger.

We don't really believe that traveling in COLOMBIA is more dangerous than in any other country in in South America, and we believe that COLOMBIA is safe enough for any tourist who assumes a trip to the continent. As such Cuyabeno would then fall in the category of "safe for traveling" for foreigners in general, but possibly not for people from the United States. The USA has declared the entire region along the border with Colombia, to be a safety risk, even though the conditions at the west side of the Andes are very different from those at the East side.


Interesting enough several staff members of the Embassy actually went to see Cuyabeno, while the area was on alert. So the Embassy does not seem too much worried about the dangers as it tacitly allows its staff to visit the reserve!


Flying is the safest way to travel anywhere in the world, but to get into the parks you will have to travel by car. For the entire border area with Colombia including Cuyabeno- , foreign embassies (UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada), have established safety alerts. The national parks tour entirely occurs far away from the border. However, there is a lot to be said about such warnings.


Even pick pocketing will be rare in the rural areas, but Guayaquil and public transportation in Quito, have rather poor reputations. So, anywhere on busses and while being in Guayaquil, you would best leave passports and valuables in the hotel, while carrying a color copy of your passport.


In general, the greatest safety risk you run during your vacation almost anywhere in the world is from traffic. Just look at the figures. The USA worries about terrorist attacks. During 9/11, less that 3000 people were killed. Horrible? Absolutely! And yet, every year more than 33,000 people are killed in traffic accidents in the USA. If we look at the statistics ever since 2001, and average of 200 people per year have been killed (the only ones being the 9/11 victims averaged over the following years) versus the yearly tens of thousands traffic fatalities. It is safe to assume that in COLOMBIA, the likeliness for you to get involved in a traffic accident, is several thousands of time greater than you getting kidnapped or robbed at gunpoint in COLOMBIA. Pickpocketing is another matter. Areas of concern are the city busses in Quito and Guayaquil, several of the large parks in the big city and the Malecon in Guayaquil, particularly when busy in the weekends, the souvenir shopping areas like the Mariscal in Quito. Never carry more cash than what you plan to spend on your excursion and leave your passport in your hotel. I personally always carry a copy of my passport on me, although in all those years I have never been asked to show it.


As a company, we don't express our opinion on whether COLOMBIA is safe for tourists or not. We merely gave you a few thoughts about your safety while traveling to provide some perspective and help you make up your mind. Also read our "Do and Don'ts in COLOMBIA", which may help you avoid certain risks.


The center of Quito is heavily protected by tourism police, which are highly visible and everywhere.

Tourist with children: feeling totally at ease in COLOMBIA.



What makes us different from so many other tour operators?

Just look at the quality of our high resolution pictures. We took them all ourselves. We have thousands of high resolution pictures on this website, that you can see enlarged by clicking on them. These pictures show that we have been everywhere in the country of your interest and really know the details. We are professional explorers and biologists with MSc and PhD.


National Parks Tours Worldwide, a social responsibility and conservation company, is a brand name of the World Institute for Conservation & Environment, registered in the Netherlands with headquarters in the USA.


Phone USA:

(++)(1) 304 - 581 - 7740



[email protected]


Skype: ecotravelworldwide


Parks Man Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil is author of this website. He dedicated his life to the conservation of nature. https://www.facebook.com/DrDaanVreugdenhil, https://www.linkedin.com/in/drdaanvreugdenhil/. He was part of the team that selected the first 39 protected areas of Ecuador in the 1970s and he initiated the Cuyabeno Lodge in Ecuador's Amazon in 1985, making him one of the world's eco tourism pioneers. A speaker of 8 languages and having traveled to 80+ countries, Dr Daan Vreugdenhil has is one of the world's greatest connoisseurs of nature and national parks in the world. 

This website and its programs have been created by the renowned conservation biologist "Parks Man" Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil