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Does Colombia Still Deserve Its Reputation?

by Globetrooper Todd | 18 Responses
Colombia Dangerous Reputation

If you ask the average traveller about Colombia, they’ll look at you wide-eyed with thoughts of unruly drug cartels and merciless kidnappings. And if you tell them you’re actually thinking of visiting, well, they’ll be quick to recount an episode of Locked-Up Abroad or a story about some poor family being held for ransom.

But talk to someone who’s actually visited, especially recently, and they’ll describe a country with a melodic latin vibe, impossibly happy people and glorious green landscapes.

Lauren and I are yet to visit Colombia, but we’re just around the corner in Peru and hoping to drop by. So until we can give our own perspective, here’s a list of articles describing countless positive experiences (special thanks to Felipe from Colombia Quest).

Why You Should Ignore Everything You’ve Heard & Go to Colombia

(from Boots’n'All, by Adam Seper, view article)

This article notes three misconceptions about Colombia:

  • Misconception 1: Colombia is full of cocaine-addled drug addicts
  • Misconception 2: Colombia is dangerous; you will get robbed, kidnapped, shot, or possibly killed
  • Misconception 3: There’s really nothing much to see in Colombia

Adam debunks each of these myths in detail with his own experience. He also goes on to say:

One thing a trip to Colombia did was open my eyes… [it] took a sledgehammer and knocked a huge hole in [the stereotypes]. I urge you to let Colombia do the same thing for you.

This is quite a detailed article on the misconceptions about Colombia and well worth the read.

Land of Enchantment

(from American Way, by Kevin Raub, view article)

This article is more adventurous and talks about the Ciudad Perdida, often called the Machu Picchu of Colombia. But Kevin also refers back to Colombia’s prior reputation, saying:

No, we are not hostages, though we are marching heads down, sucking air like oxygen-deprived Mongols on a relocation trek through the Gobi desert. Some of us think we can’t go on, some of us are thirsty and some of us just want it to be over. But make no mistake, we are not here under duress — we have chosen to do this.

He also explains one of the advantages of visiting a country still marred by a troubled past:

I remember when I saw Machu Picchu for the first time — my view was clouded by the kaleidoscopic colors of various North Face parkas and Peruvian alpaca sweaters. There were just too many people there. Here, we are alone, which lends itself to the whole sense of actually discovering something in 2010 that hasn’t yet been exploited for the benefit of tourism. There is no ticket booth, no bathroom, no coat check, no buses, no overpriced-food counters, no nothing.

Clearly, Kevin shows Colombia is one of those rare destinations yet to be pillaged by the travelling masses.

Bogotá Moves Beyond its Bad-Boy Image

(from USA Today, by Jayne Clark, view article)

While tourists typically flock to Cartagena, this article talks about a revolution in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Jayne writes:

The days of Colombia’s bad-boy image as a land of narco-terrorist turmoil are waning. Officials are actively courting tourists with the slogan ‘The Only Risk Is Wanting to Stay.’ And nowhere is the transformation more apparent than in its capital city.

Being a little more modest, an American journalist in the article says:

Bogotá has problems, like any other city. But a decade ago there was a feeling of being under siege and that’s gone.

Even the statistics support these claims:

In 2008-’09, foreign-tourist arrivals were up almost 11% (at a time when tourism dropped 4% worldwide).

The Verdict

There’s no doubt that the war against narco-terrorism in Colombia continues. But the difference now is that travellers are enjoying Colombia somewhat oblivious to this war. It’s no different travelling to Sydney or London or Montreal and having no idea that officials are fiercely fighting organised crime behind the scenes.

Cartagena, Colombia

Playa Blanca, Cartagena, Colombia. A paradise untouched by hordes of tourists - mallox

That said, it still pays to be alert and wary. Although Colombia no longer has the highest rate of kidnapping, the rate certainly hasn’t gone to zero; there are still many areas that even locals stay well clear of.

But the opportunity in Colombia isn’t just about travelling to a safer destination. The real opportunity is travelling to a destination that remains off the beaten path. Imagine having the opportunity to travel to Thailand 10 years ago… well, what are we waiting for?

Posted in Colombia | October 7th, 2010

18 Responses to Does Colombia Still Deserve Its Reputation?

  1. I am in Colombia now. Spent about 3 weeks here last year (and probably 2 or 3 months this year). The bad rumors about this place are literally years and years and years out of date. It is one of the best countries on the planet. With perhaps the friendliest people I have meet anywhere. Everyone should put it on their list of places to go. Now.

    • Great to hear Michael. Just reinforces what everyone seems to be saying. We’re currently in Peru, so we may even visit in the next couple of months. Where are you off to next?

  2. I echo Michael’s comments. I spent 3 months and 1 week in Colombia and if the rest of South America wasn’t calling I might still be there! And, Medellín is one of the very few places I could see myself living long term some day.

    • Wow, there’s no better testament than wanting to live there. We’ll definitely have to check Medellín out while we’re here in South America.

  3. There is a lot to live here, I’m in Bogota, drop me a line when you are comming :)

  4. I traveled to Colombia alone and had absolutely NO problem! Sadly I only got 4 days there, which is definitely not enough time. I totally fell in love with the country and its awesome people and culture. :)

    • Seems to be the general consensus Andi. Interesting to see so many people adamant that Colombia is a rare untouched paradise.

  5. Quit telling people it is safe to travel to and around Columbia!!

    Otherwise, one of the best places on earth to visit will become overcrowded like so many other destinations in South America.

    “I love the country, the people, the food and the beer!”

    • Sorry Dave… Hey everyone: Colombia is really dangerous and you shouldn’t go. :)

      I hope the beer is better than in Peru. I had one of the worst beers on tap last night, but I suspect it was a dirty pipe system that gave it a citrus/medicine taste.

  6. I am actually the author of the Boots article that is linked above (thanks for mentioning it, BTW!!!), so my views on Colombia are obvious. I agree with all comments here, especially Michael’s,

    “It is one of the best countries on the planet. With perhaps the friendliest people I have meet anywhere.”

    So, so true. While the country itself is absolutely gorgeous, it’s the Colombian people who make it what it is. It was our favorite country we went to on our year long RTW. I can’t wait to go back someday.

    • Great to hear from you Adam. And thanks for the excellent article. It seems everyone’s giving Colombia a thumb up. And what a testament to say it was your favourite country on your RTW trip.

  7. Just came back from Colombia.
    After working for 1 year there on a humanitarian project in the Municipio of Choco.
    Deep in the Jungle.
    Friendly people. VERY friendly. and open.
    Lots of hippies in Bogota (too many)
    Starting to get those Tel Aviv back packer vibe. (but not too much)
    Bogota can be a bit sketchy at times.
    Good chance of getting robbed.
    Go to Colombia.
    Beautiful country.
    Friendly people.
    Cheap to get around.
    And still rather un discovered.
    Or at least, not OVER discovered.

  8. And from 43 countries, DEFINATLEY one of my favorites.

  9. Just got back from Colombia, stuck to Caribbean region. Wonderful experience overall. Definitely did not feel like the Colombia you hear about- the worst times were during the 80s and early 90s, it has been improving for many years. The perfect time to go, as the reputation has not caught up with the reality. The people are wonderful and friendly- they haven’t become jaded by tourism yet. One word of caution- we did get robbed in Taganga. Taganga doesn’t really feel Colombian though- it is completely overwhelmed by young, Western & Israeli tourists. Usually high or drunk, wandering around with more money than the average Colombian, so not surprising that muggings happen. Don’t believe what you hear- no one will tell you how common muggings actually are there. It’s the dirty secret, so be careful. Despite that, I would go back to Colombia in an instant- there’s so much more to see!

  10. I’m from Ireland orginally and I remember at one point ireland having the same bad reputation. But with time it will fade (Should there not be anymore problems).

    I have been to Colombia main time and it is the best place for tourists it really does offer abit of everything

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