As I browse through different South America travel blogs, pages, and websites, one of the most frequently asked questions that I see is, “Is Colombia safe to travel?” I know where those people are coming from, and I remember when I was the one nervously asking that question in preparation for my upcoming backpacking South America trip.
Little did I know back then- as I nervously debated whether or not to go to Colombia at all – that it would end up being the highlight of my entire trip and my favorite country that I have ever been to. As an avid traveler who has been to 38 countries, that is saying a lot. I don’t stand alone on this one, either: as I made my way south through Ecuador and Peru, it seemed every traveler that I ran into was talking about Colombia: Either raving about their experience there and wishing they could go back (like me) or, for those that were working their way north and hadn’t been yet, beaming with anticipation to get there due to all the good things that they had heard.
So as far as the answer to “is Colombia safe for travel?”- well, I think you know where I am going with this. If we felt unsafe or uncomfortable traveling through Colombia, the public opinion of all the travelers who have been there would not be as I have just described. Indeed, I never heard a bad thing about Colombia uttered by anyone I met, and that says volumes.
On one hand, I am hesitant to promote Colombia as the heavenly travel destination that it is for fear that too much tourism and too many people might change it. But on the other hand, I do want to correct people’s thinking and help clear up beliefs about this country and it’s people that are actually outdated but have been falsely kept alive by shows like “Narcos”- shows that are based on events that happened a few decades ago. Since then, Colombia has come a long way to eradicate those problems and find peace in their country. Their growing tourism industry is a testament to the success of their efforts.
I don’t want to falsely claim that the problems are completely fixed and there is absolutely nothing to worry about as a traveler. As in any country, you have to exercise some common sense and be aware of yourself and your surroundings. The civil wars in Colombia that made it off-limits for travel for so long have been going on for half a century; it’s not something that will go away overnight. They have, however, been so greatly diminished that as a tourist you could come and go from the country without ever realizing there was a problem. The issues that are still being resolved are happening out of the tourist eye, and the Colombian people are thrilled to welcome tourists back into their country, which for so long was considered “off limits” because of the tense political situation and high crime rates. For so long, no one came. Now, they are thrilled to be able to welcome us once again.
Strangely enough, it is Colombia’s gritty past that has enabled it to become the delightful travel destination that it is today. As the doors have only recently been reopened, Colombia is still “fresh” to tourism and untainted. The locals are excited to see you and proud to show off their country. For them, tourism is a sign of progression; a sign that things have improved so greatly in their country that tourists are interested in coming again, and they are waiting to welcome us with open arms. That is not the type of treatment I am used to getting as a tourist, which is why Colombia stood out as an extra-special experience in my travelogue. I trust that it will in yours, too.
About the author
Carly of Curly Bird Travel is a 30 year old solo-travel veteran who is new to the blogging scene. She has spent the majority of the last ten years living, working and travelling outside of her home country, the USA. She has degrees in Spanish and English languages from Montana State University, and has taken her language skills around the world, living and working in Spain for four years and recently returning from a tour through Latin America, where she fell in love with Colombia and was inspired to write this article. She has traveled to 38 countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, but Colombia holds a special place in her heart and at the top of her list of all-time Favorited.