As Marcela at Colombia Travel Blog recently wrote, safety in Colombia is a relative concept. On one hand, you can read horrifying descriptions from your government’s travel advisory page, such as…
“In recent months there has been a marked increase in violent crime in Colombia. Murder rates have risen significantly….”
Or you can do what I consider to be real research and look at the whole picture. Read some travel guides, browse the Internet for firsthand accounts, talk to Colombians and learn at least some basic Spanish. There’s so much out there to soak up so don’t just let some government make up your mind for you, educate yourself! So many foreigners have done just that and many of them end up living there.
In fact, DAS (Colombia’s Security Service agency) has listed, as registered and living in Colombia, a whopping 48,400 foreigners! That doesn’t mention how many are there illegally, overstaying their visa. As of Febuary 2009, there were 1,700 Spaniards, 1,600 Chinese, 1,500 Americans, and 1,200 Germans registered with DAS (and yes, I’m leaving out many other groups, sixteen other groups of foreigners, to be exact). Of course, by the US gov’ts point of view, all of these people are kidnapped and forced to live in the jungle by terrorists with guns. Give me a break!
While I’m not a seasoned Colombia traveler, I have spent one month traveling around Colombia, three of those weeks, alone and without a plan. Speaking completely for myself, I felt 100% safe the entire time but when you ‘know’ certain things about Colombia, meaning when you think you know certain things, then you end up inside your hotel, afraid to go out and explore the culture.
You may have heard that in 2006, Colombia was ranked on the Happy Planet Index to have the 2nd Happiest People. Currently, Colombia slipped to 6th place…big deal, though. The US is in 114th place! Now, I don’t know if Colombians really are the happiest or anywhere close to the happiest but I do know they are the nicest. No matter where I’ve traveled in my life (and I’m certainly not a homebody), I have yet to meet a wide span of people from a single country who treated me and my friends as nicely. Out of the 100 or so that I have personally spent time with in the last several years, I’ve always been treated well and without any air of falseness. How safe is Colombia, you ask, again? As safe as any other country I’ve been to or lived in. How much fun is Colombia? You have no idea.