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Colombia Could Lose Popularity With Americans As Crimes Against Tourists Surge

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Amid multiple reports of crime, including drug-facilitated assaults and murders, Colombia could lose its prestige as one of the go-to destinations in South America for U.S. travelers. This year, a record number of tourists has been affected, with as many as 25 losing their lives vacationing in the country following the violence surge.

Poor District Of Medellin, Regional Capital Of Antioquia In Colombia, South America

Home to a beautiful Caribbean coastline, jaw-dropping natural wonders and cosmopolitan cities with a lively social scene, Colombia had come a long way since the Escobar years. The journey to peace was long and arduous, but in recent years it did enjoy some stability, particularly after a final agreement with paramilitary forces was reached in 2016.

Regrettably, it seems to be backsliding recently, as the threat of serious physical harm increases across densely populated urban centers:

Americans Should Reconsider All Travel To Colombia

Aerial View Of Downtown Medellin At Night, Colombia, South America

According to the U.S. Government, Americans should now ‘reconsider travel’ to Colombia due to ‘crime and terrorism’. Unlike most states in Mexico that currently fall within the acceptable Level 2 categorization, the Department of State has included the whole of Colombia in Level 3, which means safety is compromised, particularly in some ‘high-risk’ areas.

U.S. authorities have been known to be exceedingly cautious in issuing travel warnings, especially in other tourist hotspots. While it could be argued that their warnings affecting destinations such as Mexico – notably Cancun – are exacerbated, they might not be entirely wrong about Colombia.

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The National Capitol Of Bogota, Capital City Of Colombia, South America

Earlier this year, the city of Medellin, Colombia’s second largest and the seat of the Antioquia department, was named one of the world’s most violent, with Pedro Piedrahita Bustamante, a professor of Political Science at the University of Medellin, stating it tops the list in Latin America due to its status as a ‘nucleus of transnational crime networks’.

According to Professor Bustamante, weapons and ‘people willing to use them’ continue existing in ‘ready supply’, contributing to the negative indicators of crime that ‘persist’ in Medellin, in spite of the profound transformations Colombia underwent in the last two decades. Bogota, the capital, is also mentioned as one of the top three ‘riskiest’ for crime.

String Of Tourist Murders In Colombia Are A Pressing Concern

Aerial View Of Public Square Dotted With Statues In Medellin, Colombia, South America

In mid-November, Paul Nguyen, an American citizen hailing from Orange County in California, was killed in Medellin after going out on a Tinder date with an unidentified local woman. According to the victim’s sister, Amy Nguyen, he had joined her at a nightclub after they met through the popular dating app.

Mr. Nguyen went missing ‘just a few hours later’, and sadly, his body was later found next to a garbage receptacle, as reported by El Comercio. The ‘cruel and senseless crime’, as described by Mr Nguyen’s sister, is not the first occurrence of its kind in Colombia. In 2022 alone, 24 other foreigners were murdered in the territory.

Medellin Cable Car Pictured Against The City's Backdrop, Colombia

The Nguyen family has stated the victim was ‘drugged and robbed’ which resulted in his death. There have been multiple reports of scopolamine, a drug most commonly known in the streets as ‘Devil’s Breath’, being weaponized by individuals with malicious intents in order to force their victims into a lethargic state and ultimately rob them.

In large doses, the agent can lead to vivid hallucinations, seizures, coma, respiratory failure, and death. Scopolamine-related incidents in Colombia average 50,000 per year, taking place mostly in nightclubs and bars.

Tourist Zones In Medellin Have The Highest Rate Of Police-Recorded Offenses

Medellin Skyline In Colombia, South America

Other than Devil’s Breath, Americans face a significant risk of armed robbery staying in tourist zones. In Medellin, the districts of La Candelaria, Laureles Estadio, El Poblado & Belen, traditionally described as modern and upscale, and thus frequented by foreigners, have been targeted by criminals in 2022, accounting for 32% of all reported robberies locally.

We cannot, and should not, of course, over-emphasize crime. Both Bogota and Medellin are incredible cities of inestimable cultural value and historical relevance in the Latin American world, and they are surely worth exploring. Even within municipal boundaries, crime rates can vary drastically between different districts.

Church Of St Peter Claver Bocagrande In Cartegena, Colombia, South America

With that being said, we must not turn a blind eye to the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground. Yes, most visitors fulfill their stay trouble-free and leave Colombia with nothing but an enviable tan and great memories. At the same time, a higher frequency of armed robberies and petty crimes is, understandably, still a cause for concern.

The vast majority of Medellin’s 100,000 annual visitors face no adversities, as reiterated by Medellin Advisors, but in order to ensure you minimize your risks of being assaulted, make sure you:

Poor District Of Medellin, Commonly Called Barrios, In Colombia, South America
  • Avoid deserted, poorly-lit areas late at night
  • Exercise caution when meeting strangers, especially on dating apps
  • Get help, or call the police immediately if you suddenly feel hazy or you might suspect you have been drugged
  • Maintain a high level of situational awareness walking in crowded areas
  • If possible, do not wear expensive jewelry or other valuable accessories on the streets
  • Refrain from traveling to the departments of Arauca, Cauca (with the exception of Popayan), and Norte de Santander: they have been classified no-go zones by the U.S. Department of State

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Wednesday 7th of December 2022

Medellin has always been overhyped for no good reason. Also, the incessant victim blaming by those who fetishize that city is disgusting. Not to mention the rampant open child prostitution and drug use just a few blocks from where that park with the Botero statues is.

I couldn't wait to leave and it's one of the only places in the world I've been that I found absolutely no redeeming aspect of.

I wouldn't be upset if some of the online mouthpieces who have been crowing about how safe that city is get a taste of the crime. I guess they would just blame themselves like they blame anyone else who is a victim?


Monday 30th of January 2023

@Don Antonio, I guess you never been to LA or NYC or Miami . Same Sh!#

Don Antonio

Saturday 7th of January 2023

I agree, ive lived in Cali Colombia for 4 years and victim blaming is such a huge thing, is disgusting. I was drugged and robbed two weeks ago. Its just not a safe place at all. MEdillen is a horrible place full of evil prostitutes and wicked crooks


Tuesday 6th of December 2022

was always overrated


Tuesday 6th of December 2022

I was in Medellin for a month in August, 2022. Yes, its dangerous if you go on a Tinder date without precautions but the article was a bit fear-mongering IMO.


Tuesday 6th of December 2022

I think Bogotas 15 Minute City concept trapping the population in a golden cage is a better reason not to visit Colombia.


Tuesday 6th of December 2022

Dec of 2020 I flew to Medellin. I somehow drugged was nearly kidnapped IN THE UBER FROM THE AIRPORT. The driver was insisting I hot a 'Mark yourself safe' button on the uber app soon as I got in, which I found suspect. Under 10 mins he pulls onto a highway ramp, turns off the car and starts texting someone. SAYS NOTHING TO ME about why we stopped. I noticed the windows were down and doors unlocked. I frantically lock doors and shut windows. He's still typing. I realize he's prob calling an accomplice to come take me by gunpoint. I start yelling at him (In Spanish, saying Idk why we stopped but take me NOW to my destination). I kept yelling til he hit the pedal and I got their safely and untouched, with ny luggage. But under an hour later I felt incredibly sluggish with a massive headache. I tried crossing the street and it felt like I wS in slow-mo, walking through quicksand. Never had such an experience before and don't know HOW I was drugged but it certainly felt like it! I have no memory of consuming anything in the uber... Someone said they can blow dust? Anyways, I made it back safely to my Airbnb and the next few days I was FINE but this was a VERY sketchy thing and it made me question my safety even in UBERS!!! I ended up loving Colombia but it makes me weary to return. Please check your doors when entering taxis/cars and learn some local language bc I don't know if I would still be here if I hadn't!