Most asked question to me is; Is Medellin safe?
I have been asked several times about the overall safety of traveling to Medellin. What i hear is the following question. “I’d like to visit a friend in Medellin but is Medellin safe and how safe is it? Would you recommend visiting?”
Conducting private investigations here for some time I can tell you that, Medellin is much safer these days than it used to be. During the Escobar era it was dangerous, now it is opening up more and more to tourism. The United States classifies Colombia as having “some risk” similar to France and the UK, so caution should be exercised and there are some areas to avoid. For more information, you can read up on Colombia’s classification at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/colombia-travel-warning.html.
Generally: Is Medellin Safe and how safe is it?
Expats traveling to or living in Colombia should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. We recommend you contact your insurance provider to ensure you have appropriate cover for Colombia.
Illegally armed groups involved in drug production are active throughout Colombia and present a significant risk to safety. Armed groups have been linked to kidnapping, terrorism, and violent crime. In some parts of the country, the authority of the Colombian state is limited and travel can be dangerous. The risk is highest in remote and rural areas and in any area where drugs are cultivated.
We recommend avoiding travel outside the main routes and to remote areas. Main routes are generally safe during daylight hours although we advise against traveling them at night. We recommend flying between major cities and minimizing the use of vehicles for trips through rural areas. In addition, we recommend you seek up-to-date advice from the local authorities before you travel to remote areas and monitor local media as the security situation may change quickly.
Travelers are also advised to avoid crossing the borders into and out of Colombia by land. Political tensions between Colombia and its neighbors and the presence of drug traffickers means the border areas are subject to armed security activity and may be closed at short notice.
Unexploded landmines and ordnance present a danger in Colombia. We recommend you remain on well-used roads and paths as mined areas are often unmarked.
So, Just how safe is it?
Despite significant reductions in recent years, there is still an ongoing risk of kidnapping throughout Colombia. Foreigners may be specifically targeted. If you decide to travel to areas of high risk, we strongly advise seeking professional security advice.
Express kidnappings also occur in Colombia, where individuals are forced to withdraw funds from automatic teller machines (ATMs) to secure their release. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs which are located within bank branches and during daylight hours only. Many cases involve victims that have been picked up by taxis hailed from the street – we recommend you use pre-booked taxis.
Crime rates are high in Colombia. Violent crime remains prevalent and petty and street crime is a problem in urban and tourist areas.
We advise against traveling alone or at night and recommend you avoid wearing or displaying valuables, such as jewelry and mobile devices. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery, mugging or carjacking as this could lead to an escalation in violence. Victims have been killed and injured while resisting perpetrators.
There have been reports of criminals in Colombia using drugs to temporarily incapacitate victims and commit robberies or assaults. These may be administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols, and even paper flyers. Victims become disoriented quickly and are vulnerable to crime, including robbery and assault. Do not leave food or drink unattended or accept any food or drink from strangers or recent acquaintances. If you suspect you have been affected by such drugs, seek immediate medical attention.
Although the situation has improved in recent years, there remains an ongoing threat from terrorism throughout Colombia. This threat extends to major cities and public places, where there have been many explosions in recent years, including in Bogotá. On 19 February 2017, a bomb explosion near a bullfighting ring in Bogotá injured at least 30 people.
New Zealanders in Colombia are advised to be particularly cautious around government buildings, military establishments, transport infrastructure such as airports and public transport, commercial facilities and entertainment centers, all of which are potential targets for terrorist attacks. We recommend being security conscious always and following the advice of local authorities.
Protests, demonstrations, and strikes occur occasionally in Colombia. Localized civil unrest can often be accompanied by roadblocks and disruption to transport networks. New Zealanders are advised to avoid all rallies, protests, and demonstrations, as even those intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn violent. You should monitor local media for any upcoming demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities.