Is Colombia Safe for Solo Travel in 2024? (My Experience)

Thinking of travelling solo to Colombia but worried about safety and security issues related to drug cartels, crime, scams and tourist traps? Don’t let fears deter you.

With a bit of common sense, you can explore this stunning country safely. I have travelled solo in Colombia, I’ll share my tips and insights to help you make the most of your journey.

Safety Concerns in Colombia

Travelling in Colombia does have a crime risk and crime is a serious issue in some areas. It is avoidable, but you should always remain on your toes, especially in big cities (such as Medellín, Bogota and Cali).

Street crime: theft and pickpocketing

The main type of crime in Colombia is theft.

Unfortunately, I have heard of many instances of travellers getting robbed, most of which tend to happen at night in cities.

Pickpocketing also occurs in busy locations.

Pickpockets focus on congested tourist areas so be sure to be aware of where your valuables are at all times.

Medellín can be one of the main areas for trouble as the city has a party reputation and locals may try to take advantage of intoxicated travellers.

However, Medellín is not alone as in any major city robberies can happen.

One of my taxi drivers put it best, “in the big city, there are many problems”.


Tourists may get kidnapped by a method called ‘express kidnapping’.

Express kidnapping can happen after withdrawing money or by riding in fake taxis.

Although this may sound scary, kidnapping numbers are down significantly in Colombia. I did not hear of one occasion when a single person came close to getting kidnapped.

Drug trafficking

Drug trafficking

Sadly, Colombia has a reputation for drug trafficking and if you are planning to explore the country you won’t be able to get away from being offered drugs.

If you’re visiting Cartagena or El Poblado in Medellín, it is common to be offered ‘white coffee’ or cannabis.

While most of the time, the drug dealers are friendly enough, it is important to remain polite.

One other drug to be wary of is scopolamine.

Scopolamine is a naturally grown drug in Colombia and can be used to make individuals very suggestable.

Most commonly, scopolamine will be slipped into a drink and before you know it, you will have withdrawn money and given it away, along with your valuables.

It is mostly likely that solo male travellers in bars are targets to have their drink spiked with scopolamine.

Other safety concerns

The safety concerns may sound overwhelming especially if you are planning to travel Colombia as a female solo traveller.

However, from my experience, solo female travellers tended to have a trouble-free time in Colombia and faced no additional risk.

This goes for families also.

If you explore during the day and stay away from bad areas, the chances are you will be fine.

What You Should Know Before Travelling to Colombia Alone

Breaking the Language Barrier

Firstly, most Colombians are very polite and more than happy to help you at any opportunity.

While most Colombians are welcoming, levels of English in Colombia are quite low so if you have time before your holiday to practise Spanish, it will be well worth your while.

The language barrier can be hurdled by using Google Translate and it’s not a bad idea.

Sim cards are cheap in Colombia and the service provider Claro is reliable. However, there may be moments where you do not feel comfortable getting your phone out (and you should!).

So, to be comfortable in Colombia, having a basic level of Spanish is ideal.

Cash is still king

In many parts of Colombia.

Some Colombians spoke to me about not wanting to pay credit card transaction fees so, in many areas, they simply won’t accept plastic.

Carrying cash is a good idea.

Tap water

Drinking tap water in the country is a debatable topic.

During my time in Colombia, I reluctantly drank the tap water and I was fine.

Locals will tell you that tap water is ok to drink and in Medellín restaurants will happily give you a glass of tap water, but in Cartagena, locals will always give you bottled water.

The issue of drinking water has no definitive answer but I’d err on the side of caution and stick to bottled water where possible.


In terms of vaccinations, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are advised but others to think about are Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.

Vaccines can be expensive so there may be a temptation to avoid paying but one vaccination which I would strongly recommend is the rabies vaccination.

In parts of Colombia, there is an abundance of stray dogs and I even got a small nip from a dog.

The dog didn’t draw blood, but I had peace of mind knowing I had a rabies vaccination.

Colombia has relaxed its COVID policy and a negative PCR or Antigen test is sufficient to enter the country.

The Amazon

If you are heading into the Amazon necessities include insect repellent, sun cream and proper hiking shoes.

Insect repellent can be vital in avoiding mosquito bites that could potentially carry diseases.

Safety in hotels & hostels

With theft a problem in Colombia, there is risk in leaving valuables in your chosen accommodation. However, throughout my time in Colombia, there are several precautions to prevent this kind of theft.

Remember to bring a lock with you to make the most of available lockers and always use safes in hotels.

Theft in accommodations is rare but it can happen from time to time so make sure to lock your passport up as a minimum.

Tips for Staying Safe While Travelling Alone in Colombia

➡️ Do not wear any jewellery

One of the golden rules for travelling alone in Colombia is to not wear any jewellery.

Jewellery is almost a sure-fire way of getting robbed.

Even if something is not worth much but has sentimental value it’s better left at home.

➡️ Carry a card and minimal cash

To avoid the risk of theft, one of the best things you can do is to leave your wallet/purse in a safe and take only a single card and a small amount of cash with you when you leave your accommodation.

Inside or zipped pockets are great options as they are usually difficult to open, which can help prevent potential thefts.

I would not recommend fanny packs as they can be potential targets. Thieves can snatch these from you and, in extreme circumstances, do it off the back of a motorbike.

➡️ Using Uber

To further mitigate the risk of theft, be careful during the night. One way you may choose to do this is by using Uber to get around.

Ubers are readily available and are similarly priced, or even cheaper than ordinary taxis.

Ubers are tracked and have a set fare, all of which add an extra layer of security.

Another taxi service is Cabify and is a great alternative to Uber. With arranged routes, Cabify and Uber can help overcome language barriers.

Check our full guide about Uber in Colombia.

➡️ Ask your accommodation staff

One great way of staying safe while exploring Colombian cities is asking your accommodation staff where the safe areas are.

Hostel and hotel staff have valuable experience living in cities and will know the best areas for you to go and stay safe.

➡️ Guided tours

Guided tours

If you are apprehensive about walking through a city alone, guided tours booked through operators are a great option for safety and a good way to meet fellow travellers.

My Personal Story as a Solo Traveller in Colombia

I fulfilled my tourist visa in Colombia and stayed for three months. During my time in the country, I had a completely trouble-free stay and found locals friendly and honest.

However, when I spoke to other travellers, I was never far from a story of someone experiencing a type of crime.

For the most part, a lot of the crime travellers suffered was late at night when already having had a few drinks.

Personally, I found night-time in Medellín and Bogota particularly uncomfortable but Cartagena seemed safe due to the abundance of tourists.

If in doubt, I had a pre-set idea of where I wanted to go, and I’d take Ubers/Cabify to and from where I was going.

Bars in Cartagena seemed safe, but Medellín and Bogota are areas to keep your wits about you. A friend of mine had a drink spiked with scopolamine in Medellín.


Colombia ultimately demands an element of common sense. If something feels wrong, it likely is. Watch your drink and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do back in your home country.

Be careful with people you don’t know. If you are with a group of travellers the likelihood is you will be fine but be wary of people you meet out and about, especially if you are enjoying Colombia’s nightlife.

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