This is the first part one of the few texts I’ve prepared about this beautiful, diverse and troubled country. This article will bring you some general tourism related info, including an attempt to answer the question about safety in Colombia. The upcoming texts will follow my physical journey through Colombia from the southern border town of Ipiales up to Darién Gap’s outpost town of Capurganá.
My final text on Colombia will humbly attempt to cover the basic facts and general misunderstandings about Colombian recent history as well as the country’s journey from the social and political struggle; through more than 50 years of a bloody Civil War; the rise of the bloody narco-trafficking and the terror it came with; up to 2016 peace agreement and the subsequent political aftermath.
Present day tourism in Colombia
It’s crazy how fast things can change. 15-20 years ago, it would be considered rather insane to travel in many parts of Colombia, then one of the most dangerous countries to visit, while the neighbouring Venezuela and its people would still be flourishing from it’s rich oil industry. Thousands of Colombians would be looking for a better life in Venezuela, then a major tourist destination as well as economic power in the region.
Both countries made a long way since then and things are the exact opposite of what it was back then. Flights from Europe to Bogotá are now some of the cheapest in South America due to the high demand. In the multiple forms of increased security, one can still observe the echoes of the conflict – that is by the way not entirely over – but the numbers of tourist in the country has risen by tremendous amount, making Colombia one of the 10 fastest rising tourist destination on the planet.
I guess than the main question people normally ask about Colombia is: Is it safe? Well, the picture bellow suggests that is not unsafe, the numbers of tourists wouldn’t be going steadily up otherwise. Personally, I haven’t experienced or witnessed any dangerous situation. I admit, the security measures in the whole country are immense if compared to European levels but there are not many places that aren’t. Anyway, what exactly is safe?
Yes, in some places I was very cautious – far more cautious than if I were in for example Prague. But it still doesn’t answer the question what exactly is being a safe destination. In your opinion – is the USA a safe destination to travel? It all depends what kind of traveller you are and what are the things you are looking for.
Taking all that into consideration, the only answer I can give you is that there certainly are areas in Colombia where tourists are as safe as anywhere else in the world, like for example Cartagena and there are also areas, the locals wouldn’t go unless they had to.
Colombia is the only country in South America with both, Pacific as well as Atlantic oceans. It’s size gives the country massive diversity when it comes to climate conditions. One can visit an Andean Bogotá and within few hours he or she can sweat in a dessert or in Amazon jungle. There’s so much to see one would need months to cover the highlights.
To give you an idea about the geographical size, Colombia would take up 11% from the whole European Union. It’s nearly 5 times larger than United Kingdom and it would cover the area of France and Spain together.
When to go?
As most of you know, Colombia isn’t a four-season country so it requires a bit of planning to catch the suitable weather for your activities. The best time to visit the country is December to March/April, however due to the huge diversity of the country, the weather patterns are bit more complex than that.
I’ve loved Colombia and its people. IMHO, it’s the only country that could match the friendliness of Argentinians, from within a tough competition of general friendliness that goes on in South Americas. Maybe it’s because the tourism in many parts of the country was nonexistent and seeing tourists is still somewhat exotic experience for the locals whom lived under the self-governed rules of paramilitaries or guerillas for decades. Well – I don’t know that for sure – it’s just my theory.
The fact is that you will have a chance to have numerous real conversations with locals as opposed to purchase-orientated conversations in other countries, with more evolved tourist industry. I’m talking about a wide range of topics, such as life, politics, sports – you name it. Colombians were very curious about my culture, how people live in my country, if my folks are doing well and so on. For me, that was extremely refreshing, specially after visiting Cusco, where I felt like a walking wallet on many occasions.