Written by Kieran Proctor

Is Bogotá Colombia Safe To Visit?

One of the greatest dangers in Bogotá is falling in love with the city and wanting to stay. It’s what ...

One of the greatest dangers in Bogotá is falling in love with the city and wanting to stay. It’s what happened to me. And it’s why I’m currently going through the process of buying property here in Bogotá.

With that said, like any big city, Bogotá has areas that are very safe and some areas that are quite sketchy. Bogotá isn’t just a ‘big’ South American city. Bogotá is actually the fifth largest city in the Americas.

Here’s what you need to know about safety in Bogotá Colombia.

Is There Violent Crime In Bogotá?

Bogotá sits just behind New York in terms of population. And you wouldn’t wander around alone at night in unknown parts of New York. So you shouldn’t wander around at night in unknown parts of Bogotá. The same dangers you face in cities like New York, are present in Bogotá.

Bogotá (like the US) has quite a sizable homeless population. And large numbers of the homeless people are addicted to alcohol and drugs. The drunks are less of a problem when it comes to violent crime. Particularly as far as tourists are concerned.

Yet, the drug addicts can turn violent when in need of money to fund their habits. Robberies involving knives are quite common in Bogotá. And the robberies are most often conducted by drug addicts.

Violent crimes and robberies involving firearms, are much less common. You won’t need to worry about drive-by shootings. The penalty for carrying illegal firearms is much higher than the small fine for carrying knives. And most petty criminals and drug addicts will carry knives.

To completely avoid encountering petty criminals with knives, and to reduce the risks of robbery, always choosing to travel using an InDrive or an Uber ride-sharing option, will reduce your chances of robbery to near zero.

Criminals are opportunistic. And if you remove their opportunity to rob you, you’ve reduced your risks. You can never completely eliminate the chance of robbery in any big city. But you can reduce your chances of being robbed and in turn, reduce your overall risk.

Are There Armed Robberies In Bogotá?

Armed robberies involving knives are quite common in Bogotá. That doesn’t make Bogotá Colombia unsafe. It’s just that you need to be aware that these things do occur. And you need to take precautions to avoid finding yourself in an undesirable situation.

If you do find yourself getting robbed, even if you haven’t seen the weapon, just hand over everything you have in your pockets. Criminals in Bogotá don’t want to hurt you. So, hand everything over to the robbers and they will leave.

In order to minimize the risk of armed robbery, you should dress like a local. That means wearing long pants (no shorts) and a jacket. Avoid wearing flashy clothing and watches, carrying large amounts of cash and having things like big digital SLR cameras strung around your neck.

If you are going to walk alone at night, you should walk with purpose and you should look like you know where you’re going. Tourists meandering around unknown areas, staring at Apple Maps on their big glowing iPhones, are a prime target for robbery.

If you don’t know where you’re going, or you are unsure of the area in which you’re walking, take an InDrive directly from one destination to the other. Don’t take public transport like the TransMilenio or taxis at night.

Also, ensure that you do have comprehensive medical insurance coverage when you’re visiting any foreign country. Not just when you’re visiting Colombia. Because, as I’ve learnt over the years, you can plan and take all the right precautions, but sometimes s**t just happens.

Stabbed through the forearm in Latin America
A knife wound I sustained during an unsuccessful robbery attempt

Are There Drugs In Bogotá?

There are drugs in Bogotá. Not because it’s Colombia, but because it’s a large city on the South American continent. All big cities in Latin America have drugs. It’s a fact of life.

Yet, unlike cities in Peru for example, you’re much less likely to encounter drugs if you don’t go looking for them. Even Cuba has more drug dealers than Bogotá.

In places like Lima, Cusco or Havana, everyone you walk past will try to sell you cocaine. That’s not the case in Bogotá, or even the rest of Colombia.

Drug dealing in Bogotá is conducted quietly. If you don’t go looking for drugs, you’ll very likely not encounter them. But, if you do go looking for drugs, you need to remember that the people selling drugs are criminals and you’re willing inviting criminals into your life.

Travel Tip: Colombian’s hate hearing about drugs or any mention of the name of a certain notorious past criminal. Don’t talk about these things in Colombia. Or you’ll make yourself unwelcome in the country.

Avoid looking for drugs in Bogotá

Is There Organized Crime And Cartels In Bogotá?

If you watch the news in Bogotá you can’t help but hear about organized crime. Yet, the chances of a tourist ever encountering organized crime in Bogotá, or being harmed by it, is incredibly low.

Stay out of bad neighborhoods and any business that might be conducted by organized criminal syndicates and cartels and you won’t have a problem. Unless you get involved in their business ventures, you won’t see or hear about them and you won’t have a problem.

Don’t worry about organized crime when visiting Bogotá. But do worry about the taxis, particularly at night. The taxi’s drive so badly in Bogotá, the GPS doesn’t give directions, it prays.

Car Accident In Bogota
A car accident in Bogotá involving a taxi

Is The Airport In Bogotá Dangerous?

Occasionally, you will hear about tourists being robbed by taxi drivers at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. It’s why I recommend booking a private airport transfer in advance of your arrival. I totally avoid using taxis in Colombia.

In Bogotá, the taxis are just another reason to have travel insurance.

Are There Kidnappings In Bogotá?

Express kidnappings or ‘Millionaire rides‘ (Paseo Millonario) as they’re referred to locally, are almost a thing of the past. They’ve been on the decline for years. Probably due to the increasing levels of security and the increasing use of electronic payment methods and ride-sharing apps.

What used to happen, is that unsuspecting people would get into taxis at night and be taken on a ride from one ATM to another. And they were often held at gunpoint, until all their money was withdrawn from their accounts.

Now, with ride-sharing mobile applications, the companies like InDriver know who the driver is and they have in app panic buttons, that send the police to your location. Also, banks can now detect weird activity, like going from one ATM to another in the middle of the night. And your bank will lock your accounts and send the police.

Express kidnappings or ‘Millionaire rides‘ are fast becoming an unprofitable and dangerous enterprise for the criminals. And as such, they are fading into the dustbin of history.

Do I Need Travel Insurance For Bogotá Colombia?

You should never travel to any foreign country without comprehensive medical insurance coverage. I could rant on for days about friends, family members or myself experiencing unexpected events, ranging from snowboarding accidents and car accidents, through to attempted armed robberies.

You can be the most experienced traveler and you can still find yourself in a bad situation. Sometimes, the worst just happens. One such occurrence for myself, was dealing with a knife wielding drug addict and getting stabbed. It’s the second time that I’ve been stabbed in Latin America.

It’s the situations that you can’t predict or avoid, which are my own rationale for always having medical insurance coverage. I don’t leave home without comprehensive medical insurance coverage. And I get all my policies from

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Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?

If you’re planning to visit Bogotá on your next vacation, or you’re simply interested in Colombia in general, you should read my Bogotá City Guide.

My Bogotá City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Bogotá and Colombia in one place. Read my Complete Bogotá City Guide.