On March 5, 2010, the US State Department issued a travel warning for Colombia that replaces the previous warning from November 10, 2009.
This warning is also currently supported by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom who advises against all but essential travel to some areas of Colombia.
These warnings are primarily due to the violence by narco-terrorist groups in rural areas and large cities. The primary concerns are due to the increase in murders and kidnappings. These rates are the highest in the cities of Cali and in Medellin, although it has been increasing in other parts of the country.
The main focus has been on two terrorist groups identified as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) who have been using kidnapping as a tool for political bargaining and ransom. In fact, the Overseas Security Advisory Council stated that “Colombia has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Although the numbers continue to decrease, approximately 369 political and financial kidnappings were reported to authorities in 2005.”
In terms of the murder rates, Colombia ranks as number 3 in the world for highest murders per country – and number 1 for murders per capita according to the United Nations.
Bogotá and other large Colombian cities also share similar security concerns such as muggings, assaults, burglaries, theft and credit card fraud.
Good personal security practices are extremely important for visitors to Colombia.
If you plan on traveling to Colombia, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recommends that you maintain a low profile. This includes avoiding flashy or expensive jewelry, carrying large purses or bulky wallets, or using ATMs on the street. You should carry all important documents including wallets in a front pant or jacket pocket. It is also important to never leave items unattended as this can be easily stolen. In the case that you are confronted with an armed assailant, the OSAC recommends that you cooperate.