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Safety is a concern of many travelers in Colombia - understandable when thinking of the bad reputation Colombia has. But don’t worry, it is not as bad as you might have heard. Impulse has traveled with more than 20,000 international visitors and just a handful of our travelers have reported bad experiences around safety. Travelers will most likely be safe even if they don't follow the local advice on this article. However, if you want to know how to minimize the remote chance of having a bad experience, read on.
In order to travel safely consider the popular Colombian expression “no dar papaya”. Literally, it translates to “not give the papaya”. It is a very commonly used phrase among locals and it means to not put yourself into an easy target situation i.e. acting without precaution or putting yourself in evidence for an aggressor or rival.
So here IMPULSE Travel presents eleven safety tips to “no dar la papaya” - or not giving bad guys an opportunity:
1. Keep an eye on your belongings:
Make sure to not leave your suitcase, backpack or bags unattended in public spaces. It’s best to stay close to your luggage or rather carry everything with you at all times. It’s easy! Take all your belongings everywhere you go, don’t leave it anywhere and you won’t risk losing it.
2. Wear your backpack in front of you in crowded spaces like buses or waiting lines:
During your journey through Colombia, you will most likely visit touristy places with a lot of people and might also travel in packed buses. Be careful there! To avoid being targeted for pick-pocketing, you should wear your backpack in front of you. This way, you will be able to identify thievish intentions before you end up missing anything.
3. Be aware of your surroundings and suspicious people or vehicles:
The key is to listen to your gut! If a situation seems weird, an unknown person approaches you or gets too close into your personal space - trust your instincts and go back to areas where you feel safe (e.g. with more people). Should you really find yourself in a situation where you get robbed, please hand over what is asked of you - your well-being is worth so much more than money or a phone.
4. Do not wear expensive jewelry or any other valuables visibly on the street:
Do not show off precious and expensive necklaces, watches or earrings, they could be snatched from you. Usually, you do not have to worry about wearing inexpensive jewelry or fashion jewelry. If you still want to wear one of your more valuable pieces, we recommend to conceal it in public spaces.
5. Evaluate your surroundings before taking out your camera or smartphone for a picture, text or call.
On most areas this could be perfectly fine, in other places it might not be such a great idea e.g. in crowded areas far from main commerce areas. If you do get them out, constantly scan your surroundings and, if needed, guard them again.
6. Use a small backpack and remove airline tags from it:
This way you won’t be immediately considered a rich tourist who can afford to travel. Also, a smaller backpack gives the impression that you don’t carry a lot of things with you and thus are not a lucrative target for robbers.
7. Ask the locals for safe routes, and dangerous places to avoid:
As a traveler you can definitely trust the locals when they say an area is not for you or when they recommend a certain route - after all, they live here and have the street-smarts. Even if a recommendation might take longer or cost more money do not go against it - better safe than sorry!
8. Get your cab via call, smartphone app (Tappsi, Easy taxi or Uber) or in authorized taxi booths (found inside shopping malls, airports, and bus terminals):
You do not want to get in the first vehicle that offers transport without checking if it is an authorized taxi - after all you want to end up where you intend to go, right?
9. Do not carry all of your money and cards with you, store them in different groups and places:
Before going on a trip, estimate how much money in cash you will need and only take this amount with you. If you take a credit card with you, take one with a smaller balance. Leave the things you don’t need in the hotel safe. If you do have to take all your things with you e.g. on to a new location or your trip home - don’t put all money and cards in one bag. If it gets stolen everything will be gone.
10. If you leave popular tourist destinations, avoid exploring by yourself:
It's intriguing and exciting to discover the destinations of a country that are off the typical tourist routes. To avoid negative experiences, hire a guide when you're leaving popular destinations. The locals usually have a pretty good idea of where you can or can't go. Especially if your Spanish knowledge is limited, this will make your trip easier and safer.
11. Use your common sense:
Generally, this is the essence of all the points mentioned above. These tips are not only for traveling through Colombia - they will help you on all your travels. All these tips are very straightforward and simple, so it will be easy to implement them during your journey - and you can enjoy your vacation in Colombia without worries!
Foto Source Papaya Colombia: https://antropologika.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/foto-a2.jpg
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