Perception plays a major role here, it all depends on what “safety” means for you. Is Colombia “Reykjavik safe“ or “Brussels safe” ? NO. But in the other hand, is Colombia more dangerous to travel to than any other South American Country? Categorically: NO, those times have passed.
Although the violence in Colombia was awful indeed, the media did a great job in making things look much worse. There was one time in which I anguishing called my mum from England, almost crying, and asking her what were they going to do, where was my family moving to? (I had just seen on TV that Colombia was being evacuated because it seemed that the guerrilla had taken over the country.. I honestly thought my whole family was going to die! ) “What?” she replied, “Marce, we’re just going out for lunch!”, that's how bad Colombians and Colombia were depicted in the international media.... and don't even get me started with the stereotypical Hollywood depiction of Colombia (I wrote briefly about it in my “Noche de las Velitas” post)
In Medellin (where most of my family lives), people were killed almost daily by drug cartels, so a phone call to make sure all of them were OK was in order at least once a week. The situation in Cali, were drug lords owned entire towns, was almost the same. Drug cartels were in a bloody and constant war, and it didnt matter who was caught in the middle, anyone could be a victim of violence. During the early 90s some of the main drug barons were either caught, killed or deported, leaving the guerillas a new business to get into and finance their own war against the state of Colombia.
And then, in 2002 Alvaro Uribe was elected President. I’m not a political person, on the contrary, politics bore me and I try to stay away from it as much as I can. And Uribe, as all politicians, has supporters and detractors. But there is one thing in which almost all Colombians agree on: with his government we have recovered our country in many aspects. The guerrillas and drug cartels have been mostly cornered to remote areas of the country and for the first time in decades there is a sense of freedom, relieve and prosperity that you can almost breathe when you travel to Colombia.
- As opposed to other countries in the third world, when you see the army and police on the streets doesn’t mean trouble, it means safety.
- You should be ineligible for kidnapping unless you’re worth at least a couple of million dollars but we’ve had a visit from Billy Gates and he quite liked it! In all seriousness, you won’t get kidnapped just for being a “gringo” or for ideological reasons.
- You can travel by bus or drive all over Colombia. As an advice, stick to driving during the day, is not only safer but would also give you the chance to actually see the beautiful and colourful landscapes.
- Although there are drugs in Colombia, most Colombians do not consume them. More than 90% of whats produced here gets exported.
- If getting drugs is part of your holiday, be aware of the fact that most Colombians get really upset and sometimes offended if they're asked to get them or if you get them involved in any drug related situation. It is a very touchy subject because that's another stereotype we want to get rid of.
- They are secluded to deserted areas some which don’t even have roads. Every day there are more guerrilleros that are leaving the jungle and joining the government re-socializing programs. Obviously, you should avoid those areas.
- No matter all of the above, we Colombians are happy and will always be happy to help visitors in any way we can... Colombia the second happiest country in the world!
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- A Cultural Heart Beats Anew
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