The vibrant city of Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is a fascinating destination brimming with rich culture, stunning architecture and a dynamic nightlife. However, it’s also a city with a reputation for safety concerns, particularly for solo travelers.
That said, with the right knowledge and precautions, you can enjoy a rewarding and safe solo expedition in this South American gem. Bogotá is one destination you wouldn’t want to miss simply because of its past reputation.
This guide provides practical advice to help you navigate Bogota solo, touching on everything from safety tips to local customs. It’s based on my own experience as a solo traveler, who is now living in Bogotá.
Is it safe to travel to Bogota alone?
Understanding Bogota’s Safety Landscape
Bogota is often perceived as a perilous city, mostly because of its history of violent crime and ongoing issues with petty theft. However, it’s important to put these concerns into perspective.
According to locals and travelers who have spent time here and backed up by my own experiences of this city, Bogota’s safety situation is continuously changing. Yes, the city has its challenges – from knife-point muggings to taxi robberies – but many neighborhoods have never been safer.
The key to enjoying your Bogota trip is to stay informed and take the necessary precautions. If you understand the basics and follow the advice below, you’ll be pretty darn safe in Bogotá.
With that said, you should always travel with medical insurance. I’m a big guy and don’t look like an easy target. And I’ve had to deal with knife wielding criminals in Bogotá.
Sometimes you can do everything right and still find yourself in a bad situation. The key is to be as prepared as you can be and have insurance. If you’re proactive and have insurance, you’re unlikely to experience much in the way of crime in modern day Bogotá.
Tackling Safety Concerns Head-On
Safety should be your top priority when traversing Bogota. Always heed local advice and stay alert to your surroundings. The city’s safety landscape is somewhat fluid. And the locals are your best source of up-to-date information.
For instance, you can ask your hostel about the current security situation or inquire about safety in the area with restaurant staff. Pay attention and follow the advice given – if a local suggests taking a car home, it’s wise to do so.
I also personally avoid taxis. Not because of the risk of robbery, but because they are often unaccountable and drive like maniacs. Outside of my apartment there’s at least one serious accident involving a taxi every couple of days.
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers
Bogota can sometimes be a challenging destination for solo female travelers due to the occasional unwelcome attention from local men. However, such instances are almost always harmless and shouldn’t deter women from exploring the city.
There are exceptions where unwanted male attention can be a concern. But these occasions are limited to particular zones in the city. For example, solo female travelers should avoid the Santa Fe Tolerance Zone. Or any other region with a high density of female sex workers.
The ‘tolerance zones‘ attract undesirable men whose attention you do not want. These men are in those areas looking for sex workers. They can often be intoxicated and on drugs. Avoid the ‘tolerance zones‘ if you are female.
To further enhance your safety, always be aware of your surroundings and always know your limits. Never accept drinks from strangers if you haven’t opened it yourself or seen it poured from a shared bottle. Do not under any circumstances leave your drink unattended.
Never accepting open drinks or leaving a drink unattended is advice that should be headed by all solo travelers, male or female. If there’s been opportunity for somebody to slip drugs into that drink, male or female, do not drink it.
But don’t just turn down an aguardiente from a stranger just because you don’t know the person making the offer. It’s rude not to accept an aguardiente.
If you’re female and not interested in any unwanted advances, learn a few Spanish phrases to express your disinterest politely but firmly. Never act towards an unwanted advance by a man in an angry or aggressive manner.
If your reaction to an unwanted advance causes the man to lose face, you could find yourself seriously escalating the situation. Machismo is all pervasive throughout Colombia. And it is a male dominated society. If you cause the man to lose face you could be physically assaulted. Firmly decline their advances and walk away. Never insult them.
LGBTQ+ Travel in Bogota
Bogota has taken significant strides in fostering a supportive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. However, as with any global city, the level of acceptance can vary, especially in poorer or more rural areas around the city.
The city boasts several LGBTQ+ friendly nightspots and hosts an annual Pride Parade. Bogotá even boasts the largest LGBTQ+ nightclub in Latin America, Theatron.
Despite this, it’s advisable for LGBTQ+ travelers to exercise discretion and avoid public displays of affection when visiting smaller towns or rural areas. And if leaving or transiting between LGBTQ+ nightclubs it’s advisable to take an InDriver and not a taxi.
The best neighbourhood for LGBTQ+ travelers is within the more affluent parts of Chapinero. All major hotels in Bogotá are LGBTQ+ friendly. But some are more preferable because of the level of safety and comfort they provide for LGBTQ+ guests.
Exploring Bogota’s Neighborhoods Safely
Bogota is a city of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm and safety level. The pedestrian-friendly Zona T (also called Zona Rosa) is one of the safest areas in Bogota, boasting excellent shopping opportunities.
Before venturing out, plan your routes from your accommodations to your destination in advance to ensure you’re moving through safer neighborhoods. Do your sightseeing during the day, avoid walking alone at night and always walk with confidence and purpose.
Criminals are opportunistic. They will always prefer to pursue a foreigner who is alone, looks lost and is in an area with a smaller police presence. If you’re walking alone down a deserted alleyway at night staring at Google maps, you’re a prime target for thieves.
At night I will use InDriver (or Uber and DiDi) almost everywhere I go. If I’m transiting from one venue to another and it’s more than a block or two, or I don’t know the area well, I will take an Uber, DiDi or InDriver. Ride-sharing mobile applications are the safest mode of transport in Bogotá.
Safety in Public Transport
Public transport is an affordable and convenient way to explore Bogota, but it also presents its own set of safety challenges. The most common crimes are petty theft and pickpocketing.
When using public transport, keep a close eye on your belongings. And I would advise all travelers on the TransMilenio or even in crowded venues, to wear any bags or backpacks on their fronts when in a crowd. When on the bus, keep your bag on your lap and not on the seat next to you or on the floor.
If possible, avoid buses at night and stick to day travel. For shorter distances at night, always consider using ride-sharing apps like Uber instead of taxis for added safety.
Be Wary of Dating Applications: Tinder In Bogotá
While nowhere near as common in Bogotá as it is in Medellin, sometimes organised criminal gangs will bring their scopolamine tactics to Bogotá. If on arrival to Bogotá you suddenly have a Tinder match from a beautiful young women the likes of which you would have no chance with at home, you should tread with caution.
If a beautiful young woman matches with you on Tinder and wants to meet you right away or worse yet, come straight to your hotel or AirBnB for drinks, she may be part of an organised criminal syndicate looking to drug you with scopolamine and rob you.
Bogotá is no different to where you’re from. If something seems far too good to be true, it often is. Be skeptical of anything that looks to good to be true.
If you’re old and ugly at home, be very sceptical of any beautiful young woman who matches you on Tinder and wants to meet right away. And do look for the signs she’s not a legitimate match.
Avoid Activities that attract criminality
Some tourists are drawn to Colombia and subsequently Bogotá, by the allure of drugs and prostitution. You should be warned in advance that these activities do attract criminals and criminal gangs.
If you’re planning on coming to Bogotá to engage in either of these activities you are willingly taking risks and opening the door for criminals to enter your life. If you engage in unsavoury or illegal activities you’re taking risks. And you must also accept the potential outcomes, including your own death, that could result from taking those risks.
It’s not Bogotá’s fault if you get robbed, drugged, kidnapped or killed while taking risks that are beyond what an ordinary traveler to Bogotá would accept. It’s your own fault and does not make the city more dangerous for the average visitor.
If you’re cruising an impoverished suburb in the middle of the night looking to take advantage of desperate young women and children for $10 or less, it’s your own fault if you’re robbed, drugged, kidnapped or killed. Any undesirable outcome that you cause to yourself, is on you.
Bogota, despite its past reputation and persistent safety concerns, is a city worth visiting. And a lot of what is still said about Bogotá does not match the present day reality. Bogotá has taken great strides in improving the safety and comfort of its visitors. The cities past reputation should not deter you from visiting Bogotá today.
With the right information and precautions, solo travelers can enjoy a memorable and safe holiday experience in the vibrant, modern day Bogotá. Just remember, the key to a successful journey lies in understanding the destination, respecting local customs and always prioritizing your safety.
If you don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, you’re very unlikely to experience anything approaching a safety concern in Bogotá. While your never guaranteed to be 100% safe and sometimes a bad situation can find you irrespective of the precautions you take, you’ll be pretty close to 100% if you follow the advice on this page. For the other 0.01% of the time, you should have travelers medical coverage.
Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?
I’ve made my Bogotá Colombia City Guide available on this website. And I would strongly recommend you read it before traveling to Colombia. It will help you navigate Bogotá and Colombian society.
My Bogotá Colombia City Guide will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Colombia. Colombia is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the Bogotá Colombia City Guide here.