As the official Travel Colombia site says “The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay”. This rings particularly true with myself. I was planning on only staying for a few months while learning Spanish in Medellin. I’ve fallen so hard for the country and it’s people that I have decided to start this site, promote Colombia to the world, and demonstrate what Colombians want the world to see – the true Colombia. I have plans to stay here for the next couple years, while bringing you, the reader, the best and most current travel information on this beautiful country.
But the question wasn’t “Is Colombia Beautiful?” Because that is a question impossible to dispute. The question was “Is Colombia safe to travel in?” As many of you know, the truth in the past was that Colombia was an extremely dangerous country. In fact it was so dangerous that Colombians couldn’t even leave the borders of their own cities, because the roads were controlled by guerrilla and paramilitary factions. Not cool. Nor is it true today.
These security problems, however, have changed with President Uribe. Love him or hate him, the former President governed with an iron fist in regards to these warring factions. He took the military onto the countries major roadways and forcefully evacuated the FARC, ELN, and any other group that stood in between him, and secure passage along the countries main roadways. The same was done in the cities. All major Colombian centres are now completely guerrilla and paramilitary free zones. This equates to security.
Another contributing factor to safety in Colombia is the change of focus of the country’s main left wing problem group the FARC. In the past the focus of the FARC was forcible regime change within the country. Political tactics of kidnapping, and bombings were commonplace. In recent years, however, the FARC has become the main distributor of Colombia’s most infamous export: cocaine. Their focus has shifted away from regime change, and into the global illegal drug trade. This large influx of money has allowed them the freedom to stop kidnapping. They now have an official “no kidnapping” policy, even having returned long-term prisoners. Kidnapping brings too much attention to them. They want to run their drug trade without the extra pressure that is brought from kidnapping.
Having said all of this, Colombia is not Disneyland. You can’t walk out your door, and say “I’m going there today”, without first asking if where you are wanting to go is safe. There still are parts of each city that you do not want to go to, but this is no different than pretty much every major city in the world. There’s places in London, Paris, New York, and Madrid that you would not dare to walk into. These, however, are considered generally safe places to travel. Precautions are necessary when you travel, it’s no different in Colombia.
There are places in Colombia that are sometimes safe, and sometimes flare up with problems. This includes much of the Pacific Coast and frontier with Ecuador. If you want to travel there, it may be possible, it may not. This is when you need to take caution and ask around. Ask the staff at your hostel. Search online. Don’t just go there assuming it’s safe.
My time in Colombia so far has been extremely rewarding. It’s a country that will show you how to live. Show you how to dance on the streets with complete strangers. Show you how to smile at a passerby. The people here have a joy for life that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. With a little precaution, you will have an amazing journey. On top of that, you will most likely be the first of your friends to be able to say “Yes, I’ve been to Colombia. I didn’t want to leave.”