You may have heard that Colombia’s capital is not a safe place to visit. And, although the reality is that Bogotá has become a welcoming city for visitors, as it happens in many big and hectic cities around the world, crowds, tourism, commerce, traffic (even) and other factors make these places less safe than others.
However, safety in our city, as in any other place, also depends on ourselves and it is a topic you should always be informed about when traveling anywhere. That’s why we will give you some recommendations on how to make your Bogotá City Tour safer and more enjoyable.
Bogotá is a city of approximately 8 million people, divided in areas or localidades, which are formed by neighborhoods. In every area there are different dynamics among the communities, and this is reflected in the stores, shops or restaurants.
Normally walking around touristic places is a hot spot for pick pocketers, which in Bogotá is known as cosquilleo, but avoiding big crowds is not the only thing to keep an eye on when you want to explore the city.
When you take a city tour with Gran Colombia, our guides will always give you security recommendations before starting any experience. However, if you’re yet in the planning stage of your next vacations, please keep in mind the following advice to make sure you enjoy your stay to the fullest.
- Always keep in mind where you carry all your important stuff. Don’t choose random pockets to put your wallet or ID, put them in an inner pocket or a pocket with a zip. You’ll notice that a lot of people try to hide their cellphone in odd places, it’s all part of trying to secure your valuable items by having them, literally, on you.
- Usually, the south of Bogotá is more dangerous than the north or the center. However, some areas near the center of the city are dangerous spots and surely you won’t find anything or anyone inviting you to visit those places.
- Be careful when you take a bus! 20% of robberies happen in Transmilenio, Bogotá’s massive transportation system. Never leave your cellphone or money in your outer pockets.
You may wonder if it’s safe to walk around after reading the recommendations, and it is, but normally in Colombia we are extra careful and always keep our eyes open for any suspicious activity. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be always extra alert, just don’t forget that in very big cities there are more people waiting for the opportunity to take your stuff.
So, given our history with security, in Colombia we have an expression for being careful: No Dar Papaya. Don’t give papaya! It means: don’t put yourself in a position where you become vulnerable to be taken advantage of.
We want you to enjoy your vacations to the fullest and not to worry about losing your cellphone or wallet, so please keep in mind the following tips. Some may seem obvious, but it is always good to remember them:
TIPS to have a safe journey
– Stay away from drugs, sex tourism and illegal activities. Participating in shady activities increases your likelihood of becoming a crime victim and historically many of the foreigner homicides in Bogotá have been related to these activities.
– Be careful of the Millionaire’s Ride (‘Paseo Millonario’) taxi rides. In Bogotá, this sometime happens and typically involves pirate taxis orchestrating a route, which under the best of circumstances normally results in armed robbery. Assailants intimidate the victim with a weapon and search for belongings and rob any valuable items such as cell phones, jewelry, watches, and of course, wallets. Often, the criminals will demand the victim to provide codes for debit cards and credit cards. The taxi drives to an ATM and one of the assailants will take out cash using the cards. So, it’s best to call taxis at night in Bogotá and not hail taxis on the street. If you need help, in a bar or reception you can always find someone willing to call a ride for you.
– Don’t carry lots of cash with you. Only carry what you need for the day or night with you.
– Avoid bad neighborhoods. The poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá in the south of the city are not really places for expats, even during the day.
– Don’t carry your passport with you. Carry a copy of your passport with another ID like a driver’s license. Only bring ATM and credit cards which you plan to use. Leave your passport and other cards locked up in a safe location.
- If you vist Monserrate, join a big group of ask for a taxi to pick you up on the way back to the hotel. We know you may want to see the sunset and walk back to La Candelaria, but gangs of thieves know that the descending tourist will probably have cameras and stake out the dim streets.
- Remember: don’t give papaya even in the best and fanciest neighborhood. Chapinero has been attracting more tourist due to the restaurants and bars, but in the last years it has also become the localidad with the highest rate of robberies likely due to thieves targeting a wealthy area of Bogotá.
- And last but not least, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in your hometown!
On the other hand, as an opportunity to change the bad image of Colombia and Bogotá, a group of people created a tour in an area that used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Bogotá: Egipto.
Now, with the support of the city hall, and the Externado university, they offer tours everyday, starting in front of Nuestra señora de Egipto church. Visit the places where the war between gangs was a routine, and now find astonishing graffitis and murals that reflect the new lives of the locals.
More and more tours that try to clear the streets of crime are being created all around Bogotá. However, make sure to ask a guide or a local about these activities to verify they are safe.
Don’t doubt to contact us to have a safe visit in Bogotá!