If you would rather watch me discuss this topic in beautiful Southern Colombia (rather than reading which has been proven to make some people’s brain hurt) you can scroll beneath the text for the video version of the article
Most people who know about Colombia know about its history as one of the top producers and exporters of cocaine (and other drugs) in the world. And they might know of all the violence that came along with it. In fact, in the early 90s Medellin was considered by many as being one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Today Medellin is one of the hottest up and coming cities that people are flocking too to invest, party and gaze at the majestic Andes mountains that surround the city.
People’s perception towards Colombia as a whole has drastically changed. Before coming here I had heard from numerous people that ”Colombia is safe now” and that they had an amazing time in this beautiful country. And while it’s true that in over 2 months in Colombia I haven’t seen or heard of any cartel or drug related violence I wouldn’t say that Colombia is presently entirely safe to travel.
You may have heard about Venezuela’s economy going from boom to bust. Venezuela once had the best economy in South America but a big dip in oil prices had a domino effect (from what I can understand) on the rest of the country’s economy. As the situation got worse and worse more and more Venezuelans (I’ve heard millions of people) have come to Colombia in hopes of finding work and/or prosperity.
Even though Colombia is on a bit of an economic, I don’t think there was enough work for all these new immigrants. Where I notice the newcomers the most is in cities holding signs explaining their story (asking for money) and walking the highways heading to the next city after a failed search for employment.
During my time in Colombia I experienced two highway robbery attempts and I what I believe to be one successful jacking of my cellphone (also on the highway). In the first attempt I was bicycling along a desolate stretch of highway towards Santa Marta when two young men decided to occupy the shoulder where I was riding. One of the them was yelling angrily and trying to draw my attention to some metal object tucked in his belt. I think the idea was to make me think it was a gun but after realizing it wasn’t I swerved to dodge and kept riding as fast as I could. If I would have stopped they probably would have taken all my belongings and maybe left me with a beating.
The second occurred after I had encountered bicycle problems and was riding in the dark towards a small mountain town for the night (on the way to San Gil). As I was riding the two men walked towards me and one asked what time it was (a common robbery tactic to get you to stop, look down and take out your expensive smartphone). When I didn’t stop the began to chase me but I got away.
My cellphone disappeared when I was momentarily away from my bicycle patching an inner tube on the way to Manizales. While fixin stuff I group of what I presume were Venezuelan’s passed me and my unattended bicycle with my cellphone sitting in it’s holder. I later realized I was without phone and put two and two together.
Although I can’t know for sure I suspect that in these three instances I was dealing with Venezuelans. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Venezuelans per say. I’m just saying that at the moment there are perhaps millions of desperate foreigners roaming Colombia who might feel like the world has dealt them a shitty hand. I don’t blame them for snatching a gringo’s phone.
That being said these experiences don’t even make me come close to regretting coming to Colombia. Colombians are wonderfully fun people who love to sing and dance. It’s a beautiful country and I think you should come. Whenever coming to a foreign land have your wits about you. To make sure you’re safe and to enjoy things to the fullest.