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U.S. State Department Issues Travel Advisory Update For Colombia

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Colombia is an amazing country in so many ways. Its culture, welcoming people and beautiful scenery make it a bucket list destination in close proximity to the U.S.

Although popular among backpackers and digital nomads, this South American nation has had its share of negative headlines at times.

skyline of cartagena

While the bustling capital city of Bogota and the trendy city of Medellin are super popular to visit, there are many things to be aware of in order to stay safe.

No, it’s not infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar’s wild hippos running rampant that is triggering the latest advisory.

It’s the recent uptick in “crime and terrorism” that flagged a new travel advisory from the United States State Department this week using their 4-level system.

Sandwiched between Level 4 – Do Not Travel and Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution statuses, Colombia has been issued labeled as Level 3 – Reconsider travel.

It’s not only for the mega-popular tourist areas. The entire country has been given a Level 3 warning.

colorful street in guatape colombia

Level 3 – Reconsider Travel to Colombia

As of May 11th, the State Department claims Colombia has seen a strong increase in violent crime throughout the country.

So much so they have issued a “Do Not Travel” order to certain areas:

  • Arauca, Cauca
  • Norte de Santande

Limited services are available for these particular areas if U.S. travelers were to find themselves in a bad situation.

In particular, the latest travel advisory stresses not to go anywhere near the Venezuela-Colombia border.

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skyline and mountains of medellin

It is considered to be an extremely volatile area, especially if an American were to cross into neighboring Venezuela.

On the Colombian side, there is a high risk of violent crime and kidnapping. The Venezuelan side may detain travelers, especially since the border may not be clearly marked.

For the rest of Colombia, there are the same risks but also extortion and terrorism. Colombia is, unfortunately, home to a trio of “terrorist organizations”, according to the U.S. State Department.

These groups, combined with other various criminals, can wreak havoc with little to no notice. 

bolivar square in bogota

Many targets seem to be highly populated areas. Tourists should keep an eye out at these types of places, for example:

  • Malls
  • Markets
  • Bus stations
  • Government buildings
  • Hotels
  • Nightclubs
  • Airports
  • Military facilities
  • Police stations
  • Any other crowded attraction

While it doesn’t appear U.S. citizens are being specifically targeted, you could easily get caught in the crosshairs of dangerous situations.

traveler overlooking bogota colombia

The State Department is also warning of unpredictable demonstrations that may occur at random throughout the country.

These large gatherings can end up being unsafe for bystanders. Many protests can shut down roads, even highways, which cuts off access to public transit.

Catching a bus, hailing a cab or booking an Uber seems like easy conveniences but can quickly be out of reach.

Often they are unannounced, so it’s important to remain weary of your surroundings at all times to avoid becoming an unnecessary victim.

hat vendor walking by traditional colombia building

If you sense a threatening situation, it is best to get out of the area and go back to your hotel or Airbnb, if possible.

Best Ways To Remain Safe In Colombia During Crime Surge

The State Department recommends many different ways to increase the odds of remaining safe, not only in Colombia but for traveling anywhere internationally.

There are many areas in Colombia that are considered to be safe for visitors, but the increase in crime can reach those places too.

female traveler in provencia

Other than staying away from large protests, the State Department recommends the following:

  • Check local reports for breaking news and plan accordingly with that information
  • Do what you can to avoid standing out in a crowd
  • Always beware of your surroundings
  • Travel in groups when possible
  • Set a plan for potential emergency situations
  • Follow the State Department on social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The U.S. government also has a tool online to complete a Traveler’s Checklist to best prepare for a trip abroad.

Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!

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Saturday 13th of May 2023

I hate fear mongering but that is not what this is. In Dec of 2020, an uber I took from tried to kidnap or rob me....I deterred them bc I knew the signs to look for and spoke spanish fluently. It wasn't til I arrived safely that I realize I had also been drugged. I spent the whole 1st day recuperating. The rest of the trip was great but WOW. 3 months later I booked a flight to Bogota. Cancelled it the same day as the flight. Luckily bc 2 days later there were bloody protests blocking all the roads there and in my other destination, Cartegena! I've seen 14% of the world, this was the most dangerous place I've been. So take this article seriously! Colombia is great but I won't be back for a looooong time. Even Rio in Brazil during Carnival was safer for me