1. Be smart about your cell phone!
When travelling in Colombia, you’ll want to be smart and not set yourself up for disaster by making yourself an easy target for theft. It’s fine to take out your cell phone, however “smart” it may be, when you are in a supermarket, shopping centre, hotel, home, etc… However, when you are walking on the street, in a busy market, or on a local bus it will be best to leave your cell phone tucked away in your bag or on your person—don’t leave it half-hanging out of your back pocket though; that’s just asking for it to be pickpocketed!
2. Always try to call a taxi.
While you can catch taxis on the street by hailing them, most Colombians will tell you it’s much better and safer to call a radio taxi. There are many companies in Colombia, some with easy apps you can access from your phone and others will toll free or local numbers. Most companies charge nothing for the service, while some charge 25p more if you call. If you don’t have a phone, most businesses, restaurants, and hotels will call a taxi for you free of charge. By calling a taxi, you are assuring that the company knows who picked you up and that you made it safely to your destination.
3. Carry cash/important documents in various locations.
Pickpockets are everywhere, and Colombia is no exception. To avoid being pickpocketed, you can do things like wear a money belt or divide your important documents and cash between several “locations.” You may want to put some money in your front pocket, some in a shirt pocket, some in your bag, and some in the side of your bra—or, wherever you feel comfortable doing it. This way, if you are a victim of pickpocketing, at least you’ve got extra cash stashed elsewhere. That being said, leave your REALLY important documents in your hotel or in a safe in your hostel—think passports, credit cards, foreign debit cards, etc…
4. Know at least some basic phrases in Spanish.
Even though you may think it’s a bit obvious, you would be surprised at the number of people who travel to Colombia without knowing any Spanish. My recommendation is to at least know a few basic phrases, in case you really need to communicate something important. Consider phrases that may help you if you need to explain who you are, if you become lost, if you need the police, if you lose something, or if you simply need help. Colombians are very helpful and love to lend a hand, but sometimes you’ll need to speak a little Spanish for them to be able to do so!
5. Leave your bulky and blingy jewellery at home!
Just like your cell phone, jewellery can also make you a target for theft. While ordinary jewellery is fine, avoid wearing things that draw a lot of attention to yourself such as jewellery with lots of precious stones or lots of gold.
All of that being said focus on making sure you take care of yourself when in Colombia, but don’t over do it. Just like in all places of the world these days, you need to be careful and be aware of your surroundings and take into account the security situation of the places your are visiting. In Colombia, you’ll find police stationed throughout almost all major tourist areas of bigger cities, people willing to show you the way should you stray from your path, and loads of amazing places and sites to be seen and experiences to be had in this beautiful country of coffee and emeralds. So, be safe, but don’t forget to have fun and explore!
Until next time,
Paige M. Poole.
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog http://www.trotamunda.wordpress.com