Colombia: can we go safely?

CAN I TRAVEL TO COLOMBIA SAFELY? This is a question I hear often, very often. This is even the first question I ask myself when I say that I decided to live in Colombia. So it’s time to write an article about it, give you a lot of information and break down prejudices.

Is Medellín violent?

It seems that the ghost of Pablo Escobar still hangs around the city when we listen to comments from foreigners who do not live in Colombia. Maybe the Narcos series did not help… But now Pablo died 25 years ago and Medellín has changed a lot since then.

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I’ve been living there for almost 2 years now and nothing negative for me in terms of security has happened !

Medellín has become an innovative city with lots of super comfortable restaurants, too cool events, concerts, festivals, etc. As in all cities around the world, there are beautiful neighborhoods to go out and others that are better to avoid in the evening. But for example, it happened several times to go to the comunas (slums in Colombia) without feeling uncomfortable. Comuna 13 is the best known of them and it is one of my favorite places when I have to introduce a friend to the city.

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So you have to pay attention to your business in El Centro (the city center) because there are many people and you are more likely to make you steal your phone. But wouldn’t it be the same when you go to Barcelona for a weekend?

It is true thatthere is often a fine line between legality and illegality in Colombia , everything is more flexible, but what is certain is that drug money has never built the current infrastructure of the city. The subway looks new when it’s over 20 years old. For paisas (this is what we call the inhabitants of Medellín), it is not just a metro, it is a symbol of openness and progress. The metro was built during the most violent period of the city. All general infrastructure is in excellent condition because it is highly respected by the inhabitants. In addition, the city is responsible for building libraries, museums or trams in the poorest neighborhoods to allow all access to culture and education.

In 1991, Medellín’s homicide rate was 375 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2015, this figure fell to 25.9, the lowest homicide rate in the last 40 years. Namely, the homicide rate was higher in New Orleans, USA, in 2015. Yet no one asks you, “Aren’t you afraid to go? “before going on vacation to New Orleans… Moreover, according to SafeRound, Medellín has a security index of 52.3 out of 100, slightly less than that of Marseille which has 59.3. I’m just saying it like that! !

Sex tourism and drugs

After it is true that Medellín becomes more and more tourist, and some of these p*****s tourists come to take drugs and have sex (let’s say vulgar because that there is nothing classy in this way of travelling). All you have to do is go out on a Saturday night in Poblado to see this. It’s right under your nose… If you want to come to Medellín for these reasons, you take more risks of exposing yourself to potentially dangerous situations . But I’m not going to go into the details…

As I said a little earlier in the article, I had no problems in 2 years spent in Medellín. On the other hand, I have two male friends who have been drugged with scopolamine . This is the scariest medicine I’ve ever heard of: odorless, just breathe it and turn yourself into a zombie. You remain conscious, but you do absolutely whatever you are asked. All we have to do is open a map of the city in front of you to ask you the way, you breathe this powder and boom! You no longer have control of yourself. It happened in the nightclub, quite late at night for my two friends, so one tip: avoid being alone in a club. If you are with a group of friends, there will be no risk!

Paradoxically, it seems that there are fewer drug traffickers in Colombia, yet the area of coca plantations increased by 52% in 2016 compared to 2015 and cocaine production increased by 34%. The UN Security Council has therefore decided to create a new mission in Colombia to help the guerrilla rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to reintegrate into society and thus promote the peace process (hence the vote for or against peace last year). During decades, the Farcs control areas where the cultivation of coca leaves, the basic ingredient of cocaine, was flourishing. Farmers in these areas are supposed to have received subsidies to turn to other crops. To see in a few years if this has had any positive results…

Can I travel alone in Colombia as a woman?

It is true that as a woman you do not travel like a man. Unfortunately, we feel more vulnerable and we must be all the more vigilant. But if we show common sense, without falling into the paranoid, in general everything is fine. In any case, I have never had a problem , let alone in Colombia.

I take my computer with me on the street to work in cafes from time to time, walk alone at night in my neighborhood, I have my phone in my hand during the day outside, etc. These are not things I recommend to anyone. I’m brunette, little girl, and I do a lot of Spanish, so people think I come from the area. But it’s always to show you that I live here as I could live in Paris. I didn’t take any other habits as a precaution. Avoid the phone on the street if you are tall and blond! 😉 It is clear that it helps to know how to speak Spanish correctly. I often have super interesting discussions with taxi drivers in particular. Some told me about the city at the time of Pablo Escobar, it was really interesting. On the other hand, I’m still waiting for them to open the conversation. I don’t want to talk about a delicate subject without being invited to avoid offending someone unintentionally. Discover 12 tricks that will give you courage and confidence to go on an adventure. Discover 12 tips that will give you courage and confidence needed to go on an adventure.

Here are some tips to feel safe in Medellín:

— There is an expression here that says “No dar papaya”, that is, do not show all your riches otherwise you risk attracting attention and being stolen. So avoid too attractive jewelry, cameras around the photo or too extravagant looks in the city center.

— Dress up like locals: basketball jeans and you have the perfect Colombian uniform. Finally, one thing is certain: avoid the tap! Sandals are fine.

— Do not walk to a neighborhood that you don’t know at night.

— Order a taxi via the Cabify or Beat app instead of calling a taxi on the street at night.

— Do not go out alone in a club, stay in a group to avoid attracting attention. And keep an eye on your drink.

“ If someone tries to steal your phone or something on the street, don’t resist.” It happened to a friend and she ended up on the floor with the thief who was fighting. She just had a hole in her sweater and a big fear, but she was lucky. Remember that some people who fly here have nothing to lose and are not afraid. You risk losing much more than them in battle.

Again, I don’t respect all his rules myself. But remember, danger can happen everywhere . I prefer to see the world with an open mind, take precautions and be aware of what surrounds me rather than live in fear. Whether in Medellín or in France elsewhere!

I am talking mainly about security in Medellín in this article. It is not necessarily the same thing in other cities of Colombia. Cali in particular is known to be more dangerous. Some remote areas on the Pacific coast, near forests or borders are not recommended by France Diplomatie. But again, with common sense and some precautions , everything should happen smoothly.

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