Is Colombia Safe for Business Travelers? - Colombia Mice

Is Colombia Safe for Business Travelers?

Colombia-MICE is part of the Pelecanus Travel Group. We are located in Bogota, Colombia. We are specialized in corporate travel and all services around Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions.

Spoiler alert: Yes

Colombia has lived with a questionable reputation for years. Drugs, guerrillas, and criminal groups used to be the first thoughts about the country. The notion of being an extremely dangerous country for tourists has kept many from discovering what this land has to offer. Now, Colombia’s landscape is way safer than before for locals and travelers alike.

COVID-19 in Colombia

The country was quarantined in 2020 for 5 months until the end of August with several confusing restrictions and permits. Although this month was reported as the peak of contagion, the country removed constraints on September 1st.  

Public or private events with crowds were still not allowed, but restaurants could open with a smaller capacity, following mandated protocols. Mask-wearing is still mandatory outside the home, everywhere. Meanwhile, it has been further relaxed and tightened at the same time. Even government officials, including the president, along with Jeff Bezos in March 2022, as well as well-known celebrities unabashedly show up without masks.   

It remains to be seen when the country will lift senseless and anti-scientific measures and return to normality.   

Is Colombia unsafe or dangerous for travelers? 

Travel advisories from various countries advise increased caution due to the risk of crime and terrorism in certain areas of Colombia.  

For over 50 years, illegal armed groups have carried out attacks, kidnapped, and held hostage foreigners and citizens as part of their fight with the state. But since the peace treaty signed in 2016 between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), these kinds of crimes have drastically decreased. 

However, some FARC rebels refuse to disarm and other armed groups continue to exist. Remote areas of the country are the most hit by violence and unlawful activities.

Regions not recommended for travel include all borders (Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil) and regions around them. For example, the departments of Arauca, Caqueta, Cauca, Choco, Nariño, and Putumayo, among others, but excluding capital cities and tourist spots.

Security situation in Colombia and business travel 

Fortunately, the cities for business travel are not located in high-risk areas. The major cities in Colombia have been completely safe from terrorism and serious crime for many years now.  

What does this mean for business travelers? 

In Colombia, as in Central and South America, “street crime, including pickpocketing, purse snatching, assault, and robbery, is common, particularly in larger cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and Santa Marta” (Canada Travel Advisory). Scams and express kidnappings for money can also occur and are targeted especially at foreigners when the circumstances allow it. These brief kidnappings usually end at the nearest ATM and end as soon as the machine stops dispensing money.   

There have always been cases of poisoned foreigners in Medellin and Cartagena. These poisonings are mostly related to sex tourism. Usually, the perpetrators only want to rob the victims but are too amateurish with the dose. 

Colombian cities are safe for travelers but it is always advisable to take necessary precautions. Taking precautions means staying in known sectors of the cities, avoiding walking alone at night or in shady zones, not wearing flashy accessories nor using mobile devices in the streets, not carrying a lot of cash on trips and not hailing taxis on the street, and refraining from sex tourism or at least being very cautious 

Just in case you encounter yourself in a dangerous situation – i.e. you are robbed, or if you want to take precautions before touring the city, here is the contact information of the national police:

Emergency Line 123
Citizen’s Helpline (1) 515 91 12 (from landlines in Bogota)

018000 910600 (Rest of the country)

GAULA – Anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion 165
Traffic and Transport Police #767 (from mobiles)
E-mail [email protected]

For bilingual assistance in touristic cities, you can ask for specialized tourism police officers. They will help you with the process of filing a complaint – if you lost your documents, or with anything you need.

Lately, in Colombia strikes have taken place in large cities and can also break out from time to time. Usually, these are peaceful, but the most sensible thing to do is stay away from the places in question, monitor the situation, and plan extra time for commutes. 

Also, Colombians may invite you to a party or social event. In this case, always stay with your partners and colleagues and don’t leave your food and drinks unsupervised, since it is an opportunity for robbers and knockout drops are also known in Colombia. Also, remember that being drunk makes you easy prey.   

In general, Colombia is just like many countries around the globe. Use your common sense and the risk of something happening will already be reduced to a minimum.   

Have a good trip!