Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from California who writes about her travels with her family all over the world. She was born in Colombia and loves using vacation rentals in the area when traveling by herself or with her family.
Travelling alone can be daunting, especially when you are traveling to countries that have a reputation of being less than safe for tourists. Colombia is a perfect example of a country that has long been considered unsafe for tourists—particularly solo tourists (and doubly so for women traveling by themselves).
As the conflict-torn country slowly repairs its tarnished reputation, Colombia’s tourism industry has been on the rise. As with any large city packed with tourists, Colombia’s main cities experience the usual levels of crime. As long as you avoid notably dangerous parts of the country, like along the Pacific Coast and the Ecuadorian and Venezuela borders, Colombia is as safe as many of today’s popular destinations.
Smart Tips for Safe Travel
1) Follow the locals’ lead
Upon arriving at your hotel or hostel, ask the staff about safety. They will know what areas in town are safe and which service operators are reputable.
If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, watch how the locals behave: if they pay with small bills and hide their wallet while at a market, follow suit. If you’re hiking outdoors, follow your lead and don’t drink the water or touch flora or fauna unless deemed safe by your guides.
2) Be more alert at night
La Candelaria in Bogota is highly-trafficked by tourists and very popular by day; however, at night, the number of muggings and altercations increases exponentially. Try to go out with a group (single travelers are more likely to be targets).
Travel by cab rather than walking at night (especially if you are a lone woman) and avoid deserted streets. Instead of hailing a cab from the street, try to call them in advance from a reputable company recommended by your hostel or hotel. Be sure to negotiate the price in advance.
3) Be cautious with your valuables
Don’t advertise your wealth by wearing conspicuous and flashy jewelry and watches. Avoid using expensive cameras or waving around wads of cash. Try to carry only the amount of money you need for that particular excursion. Solo female travelers are likely to have offers to have their bags carried—an offer that should be declined.
4) Be alert of your surroundings
Make sure you feel secure in your hostel or hotel. Check the locks on doors, on the storage facilities and safety deposit boxes, and on windows. If possible, choose a room on the second floor.
5) Avoid compromising situations
Don’t accept drinks from anyone you don’t know or don’t trust. Women, especially those traveling alone, may experience some of the machismo common to Latin American cultures in the form of catcalls and hassling from men—the best way to respond is to ignore the attention and avoid eye contact, while moving forward confidently and quickly.
6) Let people know where you are going
Tell someone, whether at the hostel or a friend or a post on social media, where you are going next, especially if you are exploring a new place alone. Even if you are traveling with a guide or a tour group, establish your whereabouts with someone you trust.
Most travelers will not find themselves in a danger unless they fail to exercise caution and common sense. Like any travel destination, Colombia has its liabilities as well as its points of interest. Traveling to Colombia can result in amazing memories and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some of the most popular places to visit.
Top Things to See and Do
The second largest city in Colombia, the city is a popular place for salsa dance. Considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in all of South America, this city has risen from a drug-riddled history to become a must-see destination. Visit during the Flower Festival to see why the city is nicknamed “the Capital of Flowers.”
Architecture lovers will rejoice over the cathedrals, plazas and skyscrapers all taking up real estate in Colombia’s capital. Packed with excellent museums and a thrilling nightlife, Bogotá is perfect for the solo traveler looking for entertainment both day and night.
Fifty kilometers off the Pacific coast of Colombia lies Isla Gorgona. Formerly a prison island, now part of a national park, the animal life—both land and sea (the boat journey will give you the opportunity to see whales, sharks and giant sea turtles)—is a must-see for wildlife enthusiasts. The ruins of the prison are an excellent curiosity for history and architecture buffs.
Tropical Waters around San Andrés and Providencia
Home to amazing sea creatures and ocean life, Colombia has fantastic sites to plan a dive trip.
As long as you exercise caution and common sense, traveling to Colombia solo can be the time of your life. Learn a little Spanish, find a few good summer travel deals and do some research on the country prior to traveling—then have the experience of a lifetime.
To keep up with Marcela and her travels, you can find her on Google+.