Colombia: The only risk is wanting to stay
That’s the number one question I get when I tell people that I’m going to the South American nation. There is no guarantee that we’re safe, even in our own neighborhoods, but most sources say that Colombia is safe for travelers who stay on the main tourist circuit and big cities, travel by air, take a bus only during the day and avoid the south altogether.
Colombia has had it’s share of bad press, all warranted. Since the early 1960s, armed conflict between the government and insurgents — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — has led to violence against nationals and foreigners. When you added in drug trade on top of that, things got pretty explosive.
However, in the last few years, things have calmed down considerably with the break-up of major drug cartels — most notably the Medellín Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, who was killed in 1993 by the Colombian National Police, aided by the CIA and the U.S. Delta Force.
Trying to rebound from the negative image Colombia has earned over the years, the Colombia government launched a new campaign with the slogan, “The only risk is wanting to stay.” Travelers, who have ventured here — and perhaps even stayed long term — have reported that after years of civil conflict, Colombia is now safe to visit, a view that is also mirrored by major guidebooks, such as Lonely Planet.
No matter what we encounter when we get there, it’s sure to be an adventure, but you better believe caution will be exercised as usual.