I thought I should put in an area for Colombia where I only talked about the myths and truths since one of the more frequent questions I get when telling people I’ve traveled there alone is “Isn’t it dangerous???”.
No, Colombia is just like every other country in the world I’ve been to so far as far as danger is concerned. If you don’t go looking for danger, and you are at least semi-smart about your actions, there is no danger. I know that in the past Colombia has had a pretty rough time with drug dealers and cartels, etc that made much of the country unsafe to travel through apparently, however that was quite a long time ago. And as I’ve heard many others say, basically the drug dealers are now in the business of protecting tourists instead of making the country unsafe to travel through as they’ve apparently learned that tourists can be their clients too! And it would certainly be bad business to scare them away! Now, whether this is the actual case or not, who really knows. I’m just sharing what I’ve heard others say as their opinion on why it’s now so safe to travel around Colombia.
Because of the rocky drug past Colombia has had, people I’ve talked to also seem to have a preconceived idea that everyone there too is somehow involved in drugs or are dealers or are dangerous. This again is quite false. Honestly I ran into more people on drugs throughout Costa Rica and Panama than I ever did in the more populated Colombia. People there are quite nice, respectful and are just living normal life like others do. I’m not saying no one there does drugs, just that it wasn’t in your face the way I too thought it would be before getting there and hearing the testimonies of others who had already been there.
What is becoming more popular in Colombia are the higher class scams. All over the walls of each hostel I went to in Bogota at least, there were stories of scenarios to avoid. What criminals were now into doing was watching for people in vulnerable positions and taking advantage. It’s best I just describe a scenario:
Say you had to go into a bank for business. When coming out of the bank, you could be approached by a professional looking person (dressed well, etc) claiming to work for the bank telling you that you forgot to fill out “X” form or sign “Y” form. However, instead of taking you back into the bank (as it would make sense to do) they would say that it was only possible to finish the business at their other location… then they would basically take you around the corner, down an alley and rob you of all your possessions. Why anyone would allow a “bank” employee to escort them anywhere other than back into the bank, I’m not sure…
Another scenario involved people claiming to be police officers. They would be dressed in street clothes claiming to be undercover police and they would claim that you needed to come with them because you were found doing something wrong or there was a problem with “XYZ” somewhere. Then they would walk you around the corner, down an alley and rob you.
Basically the best defense of any of these scenarios is #1 don’t follow strangers anywhere and #2 there were cops on the streets of Bogota literally everywhere. They were always in pairs and in full police gear so if there was any doubt whatsoever in a conversation that a stranger had with you, simply walk toward the police to ask for whatever help and chances are if the person who approached you (false banker or false cop) isn’t legit, they would literally run away.