Is Bogota Safe?

Is Bogota safe? Colombia, and practically all major Colombian cities, have earned a rough and wild reputation for violence, drug use, and kidnappings throughout the years. But the truth is, today’s Colombia isn’t the same Colombia of the 1990s.

Violence and homicide rates have decreased over the last 20-30 years. The World Bank published data on crime and violence in Colombia from 1990 to 2020, which is very interesting. At its peak, Colombia saw upwards of 84 homicides per 100,000 people in 1991. However, compare this to 2020, where the data shows 23 homicides per 100,000 people.

The graph from the World Bank is intriguing because it allows you to visualize just how much violence and crime have been decreasing in Colombia over the years.

That being said, Colombia and Bogota, in general, are not free of all crime and violence. While things have certainly improved, and you are not likely to get kidnapped or face major harm, there are still necessary precautions to take while traveling in Bogota, Colombia.

So, is Bogotà safe? In this post, I will go over some of the most important things to watch for while traveling in Bogota and some safety tips that will allow you to move around with comfort and peace of mind during your stay in this lively city.

Is Bogota Safe?

Is Bogota Safe?

Bogota is located almost right in the center of Colombia, southeast of Medellin. According to the World Population Review, it is the largest city in Colombia, with a population of almost 8 million people as of 2022. Unsurprisingly, such a populated region would have its fair share of violence, especially in a country with high poverty levels and wealth inequality.

In addition, Bogota is the capital of Colombia and is where all major government buildings and establishments are located. Gustavo Petro became the new president of Colombia in 2022. Petro is one of the most liberal presidents Colombia has ever had, having been ruled under a conservative government for most of modern-day history.

Petro has brought a handful of health, education, and government reforms to improve the quality of living and economic inequalities. However, many Colombians are not happy with these changes. And this can be seen by way of large protests in all major cities.

Reuters has published several articles about the protests throughout Bogota and discusses the story behind the protest in more detail. So you should be aware that you will be more likely to come across one of these political protests and intense civil unrest in Bogota.

But aside from possible civil unrest, Bogota is much safer than in the 1990s. While the reputation may haunt this bustling city, you should have no major concerns. As long as you follow some general safety tips and stay aware of your surroundings, you should be totally fine for your trip to Bogota!

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Make sure to also read my post Is Colombia Safe?

Is Bogota Safe?

Is Bogota Safe? Actual Dangers And Annoyances In Bogota

Colombia, and Bogota in particular, used to have a fledging reputation for sky-high kidnapping reports. At one time, Colombia had more kidnappings than any other country in the world. This is rather shocking but makes a little sense when you understand the history and reasonings.

This article from Colombia Reports shows how the cause was connected to extortion and ransom fees being vital to the organized crime groups and guerrilla movements of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Fortunately, this seems to be a fear of the past for travelers in Colombia. While you may not have the same worry regarding kidnappings as you would 20 years ago, there are still some dangers and annoyances to be aware of during your trip to Bogota. Let’s discover them to answer the famous question, is Bogota safe?

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Bogota Airbnb is Bogota safe

Dangers in La Candelaria (the historic center)

La Candelaria is the name of the historic center of Bogota. This is where you’ll find most of the popular museums, tourist attractions, and local shopping centers. La Candelaria is fun to walk around and explore, as it has the traditional colonial vibe Colombia is known for. However, this neighborhood can be rather dangerous at times.

Currently, there is a significant police presence on the major streets and avenues in La Candelaria. This adds a lot of reassurance to travelers. But once the sun goes down, things can become much more dangerous.

You should only visit La Candelaria during the day, and always be aware of your surroundings while there.

Crime spikes after dark

Come 7:00 pm and you really don’t see that many people in the streets of Bogota. In fact, I actually wouldn’t recommend hanging around many Bogota neighborhoods after dark. Crime statistics in Colombia are significantly higher at night. You should especially watch out for low-populated areas, dimly-lit avenues, and communities with low police presence.

The best way to avoid an evening robbery is to minimize time outside after dark. If you go to a bar or meet a friend, Uber directly to your location.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Bogota

Safety concerns when visiting Monserrate

Monserrate is another major tourist attraction that gives you beautiful city views. It is an enjoyable day trip, and hiking the trail up is a fun experience. However, these trails can be rather dangerous. Some Colombians might pray on tourists hiking Monserrate and target these travelers. In addition, the surrounding neighborhoods at the base of Monserrate have a reputation for being somewhat dangerous.

For these reasons, it is best to only visit Monserrate on Sundays (when traffic is busy in the areas), with a guided tour, or with a larger group. Or simply did what I did: take the cablecar all the way up and back down.

Make sure to read my posts 19 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota and 7 Great Day Trips From Bogota.

Is Bogota safe
Photo by Tomasz Pado @shutterstock

Minor street crimes

Bogota still has its fair share of minor street crimes, including purse/cellphone robberies. Most often, this happens when a man runs by and grabs your purse, cell phone, or backpack right out of your hand. Sometimes, the thief will be armed with either a knife or a small gun.

We heard some second, or third-hand stories of this happening to travelers in Bogota but never actually met anyone who experienced this first-hand.

That being said, it’s always best to pay attention to your surroundings and tightly grip your belongings when walking the streets.

Civil unrest and protests

We talked a little about Bogota’s civil unrest and protests, but it is worth mentioning again. As of 2022, one of the biggest threats was getting caught up in one of these violent protests. And because Bogota is the capital of Colombia, you are more likely to find them here than anywhere else in the country.

One way to avoid this is to avoid major government buildings. Most protests happen outside of government offices.

In addition, watch for police protest patrols and rioters. If you notice larger mobs of people or a line of riot police in the area, maybe try to find a different neighborhood to explore for the day.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

is Bogota safe
Photo by Jess Kraft @shutterstock

Watch for the “El Paseo Millionaire” (The Millionaire Taxi Ride)

“El Paseo Millionare” translate to “The Millionaire Ride.” This was once a widespread scam in Bogota. The idea is simple. You get in a street taxi. The taxi driver then reveals a knife or gun. They drive you to the nearest ATM and tell you to take out as much money as possible. The taxi driver drives off with a large chunk of your money.

Fortunately, this type of scam is becoming less and less common in Bogota. The police have been following up on reports, and the government has made considerable efforts to reduce these scams within the city.

However, you should stay on the safe side and take Ubers whenever possible. Ubers are easy to call from practically anywhere in the city. Although, it should be noted that currently, Ubers are not operating 100% legally. That means the driver may ask you to sit in the front to make it seem like you’re just a friend. But this is still safe for you, as the passenger.

If you must take a taxi, talk to the driver before entering. Ensure you don’t have a bad gut feeling about the driver, and ask for a price range for your ride to avoid getting ripped off. Knowing a little Spanish will go a long way here, too.

It is still a low-poverty city

Remember throughout your trip to Bogota that it is still a low-poverty city. Bogota is one of Colombia’s wealthiest cities, as it is where all major businesses are based. But people in Bogota still deal with many inequality issues that create unrest. Be wary and considerate of the conditions people grew up with in Bogota.

Is Bogota safe?

Safety Tips For Visiting Bogota

There are many precautions you should always take when traveling to a foreign country, but let’s review some essential safety tips for your visit to Bogota. Bogota is not unlike any major city in Latin America. So if you follow these tips, alongside standard safety precautions while traveling, you should be good to go to enjoy your stay in the capital of Colombia!

Choose the right neighborhood

Choosing the best neighborhood for your stay is vital to feeling comfortable and safe during your visit to Bogota. There are many wonderful areas that are relatively safe for foreigners and several not-so-safe neighborhoods.

Here are some of the most popular neighborhoods for foreigners:

Chapinero (the most popular community for foreigners)
Zona Rosa (known for fun nightlife)
Distrito Financiero (the “finance district” is safe but a little further from the action)
Chico (a higher-end neighborhood in Bogota)
La Candelaria (the historic center, but not very safe at night)

Chances are, you will be using Uber and/or public transportation a lot to get around Bogota. So just choose a neighborhood that will make you feel secure.

Make sure to read my posts A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Bogota and The Most Unique Bogota Airbnb.

Is Bogota Safe?
Photo by Santiago Robayo Escobar @shutterstock

Limit walking around after dark

Most violent crimes and attacks occur late at night to unsuspecting tourists walking around alone. While this doesn’t happen to everyone, you should just avoid this scenario by taking Uber or taxis after sunset.

Stay alert of your surroundings

As I mentioned, attacks and robberies often happen to unsuspecting tourists. So not only can you minimize your wanderings after sunset, but you should always stay aware of your surroundings at all times of day and night.

For example, it is much easier for someone to snatch your phone when you have it out and are looking down. If you need to use your phone, step against a wall or enter a restaurant or building to check quickly.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

is bogota safe?
Photo by Daniel Andres Garzon @shutterstock

Try to avoid public transportation or overly crowded places

You will hear of the occasional pickpocketing story. Pickpocketers in Bogota are incredibly experienced and often go unnoticed. My friend was pickpocketed in a crowded bar while wearing a money belt tucked under her shirt. She had no idea her money and phone were taken until hours later.

You should be cautious when riding the Metro or public buses in Bogota. Public transportation can get very crowded, so it’s important to hold tight to your belongings.

You should never put your phone or wallet in your back pocket, as it is much easier for a pickpocketer to grab from there. And in addition, if you wear a backpack or bag, hang it to the front of your body to hold it easier.

Don’t be too flashy

You should never be too flashy with your jewelry, watches, or clothes. There’s no need to wear high-end, expensive items while traveling casually throughout Bogota and Colombia. Wearing expensive things makes you a target for pickpocketers or petty thieves.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Is Bogota safe
Photo by Ilyshev Dmitry @shutterstock

Don’t carry too much cash or unnecessary bank cards

If you do get robbed, the absolute last thing you want is to have all your bank cards or cash taken. If you are traveling with multiple debit and credit cards, always keep them separate from one another. That way, you’ll have access to another card if something happens.

It’s also a good idea not to travel with too much cash in Bogota. Sometimes I even travel around with “dummy cash.” I have a small amount of Colombian pesos in my main wallet, in either my purse or pocket. And if I think I need more money throughout the day, I will stash away the rest of my money in a hidden place. So, if I were to get robbed, I could give up only some of the money I have on me.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance when visiting Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Is Bogota Safe?

Is Bogota Safe For Solo (Female) Travelers?

Few men realize that what’s safe for them is not always safe for women, so when they are asked “is Bogota safe?” they will rarely give an account that includes the perceptions of female travelers.

Traveling as a solo female traveler can be daunting, especially in a society that doesn’t value women as much as others. While Colombia still has some ways to go with women’s rights, they are taking steps in the right direction. And overall, Bogota is considered safe for solo female travelers. Most women don’t get treated much differently than men, especially in tourist neighborhoods.

Below are some safety tips specific for solo (female) travelers in Bogota.

Avoid partying alone

Solo female travelers should avoid partying alone. Alcohol can severely lower your senses, making paying attention to what’s happening harder. In addition, you may have to walk around after dark by yourself.

Bogota airbnb
Photo by Delaney Turner on Unsplash

Meet other solo travelers

If you want to go out and party or just explore with company, try connecting with other solo travelers. Fortunately, Colombia is a popular place for backpackers and tourists, so meeting other like-minded travelers isn’t too difficult.

You can easily connect with people in your hostel, hotel, or on guided tours. Some of the best friendships I made in Colombia were on guided tours.

If you do go out, watch your drink

Whether you’re alone or with friends, always keep a close eye on your drink. Scopolamine, or “Devil’s Breath,” is rampant in certain parts of Colombia. The drug is so potent it is often called “the most dangerous drug in the world.”

While the Bogota government has been trying to crack down on scopolamine violations, it is still a hazardous and scary drug you don’t want to get caught up with. So, best to keep your drink on you and never accept drinks from strangers.

airbnbs in Bogota

Ask your hostel or hotel for advice on where to go

If you are unsure of the neighborhood, where to go, or have any other safety concerns, you can always ask someone at your hostel or hotel. The staff at accommodations are generally familiar with the surrounding area and can give you more specific advice for your circumstances.

Share your location and whereabouts with your family

I always share my location and whereabouts with a close family member from back home. While there isn’t much they can do from home, it reassures me that someone always knows where I am. Uber actually has a “share” feature where you can send all your trip details to a trusted family member or friend.

Conclusion: Is Bogota Safe?

So, is Bogota safe? Well, Bogota has gained harsh criticism in the past for significant safety concerns, and these were not unfounded. However, things have slowly started to take a turn for the better. The government and police seem to exercise more care, and kidnapping and homicides have declined steeply over the past 20 years.

That being said, Bogota is not the safest city in the world. You should still be cautious, aware of your surroundings, and monitor your belongings. But if your trip is anything like mine, and the many people I met, you should have an incredible time in Bogota!

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Is Bogota Safe? Read this post for the best safety tips for Bogota - via @clautavani

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