Is Colombia Safe for Tourists?

Colombia is a South American country with a frightening reputation for drug wars and kidnappings. For instance, in the 1990s, Bogotá was among the most violent cities in the world with 4,352 homicides per year or a rate of 81 per 100,000 people in 1993. In 2007 Bogotá the number had decreased to 1,401 homicides or 20 per 100,000 inhabitants. in 2017 it had gone down to 14 per 100,000 inhabitants. This success was the result of a participatory and integrated security policy; "Comunidad Segura", that was first adopted in 1995 and continues to be enforced. This is more or less at par with Chicago, which suffers more than 500 homicides per year. In the tourism sectors of the city, there is no violence to speak of.


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.


So the question is now "Is Colombia safe for travel"? The short answer is YES! But, be aware, like anywhere, Colombia has safe and unsafe areas - but overall the country is safe for travelers in the tourism and business areas.


The number of kidnappings is down hugely from its peak in 2000, but it's a threat that occasionally still 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 kidnappings or being caught in the crossfire of a drug war. 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.


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 has become much safer, particularly in its outgoing and business scenes. Bogota has it's dodgy areas, but is also emerging as an exciting city to explore.


Be Careful while Partying in Cartagena

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.




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.


Some Common sense advice

  • 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 is good practice 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 hidden bag or vice versa. Do not rush in handing them over everything, they themselves have the urge to get away!

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 National Parks Tours Worldwide take safety very seriously and we have taken all the measures we can think off. 


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 tours, 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.


Even pick pocketing will be rare in the rural areas, but public transportation in Bogotá and other major cities, have very poor reputations. So, anywhere on city busses, 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.


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




Skype: ecotravelworldwide


Parks Man Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil is author of this website. He dedicated his life to the conservation of nature., 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.