Colombia isn't the place to wander off the beaten path, not even in cities. Stick to neighborhoods you know are safe. The following advice is relevant, particularly in large cities.
- Never resist an attempted robbery -- Colombian criminals can be armed and unpredictable. Carry at least a little cash on you to avoid angering thieves. There have been cases of tourists being killed for resisting robbery.
- Always call a cab at night, especially if you have been drinking or if you're traveling alone. If your Spanish skills are limited or you are a woman traveling alone, I advise you to always call a cab to avoid being taken on a long and expensive ride. Always make sure the cab door is locked to avoid an armed assailant hopping in at a stoplight. Calling a cab only costs a bit more, and since the cab number is registered by the company, the chances of something happening are much lower.
- Don't accept any drinks, drugs, or cigarettes from a stranger or someone you've just met; they could be laced with an odorless drug called scopolamine that makes you lose your will while you are robbed. Also, it's best not to pick up any papers or cash that someone walking ahead of you drops, as this can also be the same kind of trick. This is especially important for women. These types of crimes are rare but not unheard of, and can happen in taxis as well. If you start to feel dizzy or sick, get someone's attention.
- If you're a man out drinking or partying alone, be very cautious before going home with a Colombian woman or group of women. Although rare, there have been cases of foreigners and even Colombians being drugged with scopolamine and being robbed while under the influence. It's always best to go out with a group in Colombia, especially in big cities.
- Many travelers who come to Colombia do so because of the wide variety of drugs available. While you will probably see many locals smoking marijuana, getting high off of inhalants, and even smoking crack on the streets, particularly in Medellín, I strongly advise against buying or doing drugs in Colombia. You can easily be set up by the "seller," who then turns you in to the "police," who then extort significant sums of money from you. Also, penalties for buying drugs in Colombia are hefty, and the last thing you want to do is spend 10 years in a Colombian prison.
- If someone approaches you claiming to be a police officer and asks for your documents, go to the nearest police station; never give your money or documents to someone claiming to be an undercover officer.
- Women traveling alone may want to dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention from men. Colombia is still very much a "macho" country, and many men will think that a woman traveling alone, particularly one dressed provocatively, is fair game. In Bogotá, women tend to dress conservatively, and showing too much skin may attract unwanted attention. As an extra precaution, women should call for a taxi rather than hailing it on the street. (Though I have to admit, as a woman traveling alone, I have hailed taxis on the street throughout the country and always without incident.)
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.