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Old 08-17-2018, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Another thread spun off into a tangent about visiting Colombia, so I figured I would start a new thread, and especially since I actually am in Colombia right now, in a small town near Armenia.

Another user was expressing interest in visiting "non-touristy" places. So, I think pretty much you are ok these days to drive around from one town to another. Most towns are non-touristy. To avoid tourist places, pretty much just don't go to a town that's known for being a place of tourism, and you'll end up in places where you can see Colombia for how it is. I mean, that isn't to say you won't see "real" Colombia and interesting things in the touristy towns, but you'll see things in unadulterated form.

It's interesting. One time I was in a public restroom somewhere and there was a map on the wall showing all of the towns and villages and caseríos (you would recognize this word, pueblofuerte) that are in Colombia, and it was interesting because the mountains are dotted with hundreds and hundreds of these all over - there's probably thousands, actually - but the rest of the country, the non-mountainous areas, are virtually devoid of settlements. So basically, the impression is that the Spaniards preferred the mountains.

Driving almost anywhere will put you in these places.

As you can see, the mountains here are incredibly beautiful. For me - and I've been to a lot of mountains - these are the most beautiful in the world.

https://ibb.co/ip9TVz

https://ibb.co/fRocOK

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Old 08-17-2018, 08:12 PM
 
Location: Canada
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Ah I love those mountain views and those little housed with the tile roofs.

On another forum I saw a collection of pictures of different Colombian towns. I wish I would have saved the link. Colombia seems to have a lot of well preserved colonial towns.
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Old 08-18-2018, 01:59 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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There's a lot of towns that haven't changed much in several decades. The construction seems to remain constant - tile roofs, bamboo (guadua). This is especially true of the houses and restaurants that are located between towns along the highway, and of the farm houses. In the towns like where I'm staying, it's a little different - the foundation and walls will be concrete with tile roof. They're rebuilding a house down the street, I just snapped this photo:

https://ibb.co/dcuU7e

They're not rebuilding it in a "modern" style, they're just rebuilding it in exactly the same way.

This town is going to go crazy tonight because this Monday is a holiday. The town is already starting to fill up with people coming in from outside. When there's a holiday, people from the bigger cities come to these smaller towns to spend the weekend partying. These small towns actually go pretty darn crazy, you would think you're in the nightclub zone of a city.

I'll try to snap a couple short videos tonight and post them up here so you can see what it's like.

I've never seen any foreigners in this town, and in the entire past week I've been in Colombia during this visit, between Perreira and Armenia, the only foreigners I've seen, besides myself, were a small group of four or five "obvious" foreigners (Europeans or Americans) at the airport.

So it's definitely worthwhile to visit this region of Colombia if you're interested in a non-touristy experience. Before you do, let me know, and I and maybe some others who are from the area can provide some tips on how to make it a safe, rewarding experience.

Last edited by 80skeys; 08-18-2018 at 02:10 PM..
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Old 08-18-2018, 04:46 PM
 
Location: PVB
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I have been to Colombia many times and my wife is from there which makes it a lot easier. If you don't speak Spanish its a lot tougher. Even if you do, they speak so fast there, I can barely understand them. We stayed in the area the OP is referring to. Its a very nice and mostly non touristy but you can go 15 minutes from any large city and find the same thing. Is it safe, good question. If you know your way around and the culture, its better, but for a single woman not used to the area, it can be dangerous. Hostels can be dicey. We were followed in Medellin and my wife has a 6th sense being from there and we were able to escape. If I was by myself I would have been robbed for sure and that was in a nice safe part if the city. My in-laws have been mugged and robbed a few times and they know the area. The country is beautiful with many mountains and interesting places.
Not sure if the OP is Latino or speaks Spanish or why he/she is in Colombia.
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Old 08-20-2018, 07:34 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Thundar: I do speak Spanish. I'm of mixed Hispanic heritage. I was born and raised in the U.S. I have some family in Colombia. As my job is with computers, I can work remotely, so sometimes (like this past week) I come down here and work out of the house.

To continue from a couple posts back, here is a "before and after" video of the town from a couple nights ago, and the morning after:

https://streamable.com/djinx

https://streamable.com/8dyqj

Thundar mentioned a couple saftey tips, I'll write another post later and elaborate on that.
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Old 08-23-2018, 09:38 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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To recap from above. Small towns are great to visit:
  • their nightlife is sometimes better than in the big cities
  • their climate is better (fresher, cooler)
  • the surrounding mountains are beautiful
  • with FARC no longer, it's safe to rent a car and drive around Colombia
Should you visit Colombia? Yes. Colombians will be happy - it gives them a chance to make some money, and you'll be happy because you're visiting a very beautiful country.



So, let's talk safety. I'll only do this once, because I'd to devote the rest of the thread to positive experiences and recommendations.


---
As with many things, you can stumble into Colombia and blunder your way around cluelessly and you will likely come out unscathed.



But, things are different in Colombia compared to what you're used to in the U.S. or Europe or China, so you should be aware of the differences.


Split this into two parts: big cities and small towns.


Big cities (Medellin, Cali, Bogota, etc):
There's three things to be aware of:
  1. The poorest neighborhoods are extremely dangerous. Never go into them. If you go into them, there's a 90%+ chance you won't come out alive. As a foreigner, you may have a hard time visually distinguishing these neighborhoods from other neighborhoods. They may look very similar to your eyes. So ask your hotel or your local friends which neighborhoods are ok and which ones need to be avoided.
  2. Of the rest of the neighborhoods, many are ok to be out on the streets during the day, but are very dangerous at night. What does "danger" mean? It means there's risk of being killed or seriously harmed as victim of robbery. Again, ask your hotel.
  3. Armed robberies. These can happen anywhere on the street, day or night, in crowded or non-crowded areas, in nice neighborhoods too. Is it likely to happen to you? No. But there is a greater chance of it happening than in your home town. In Colombia, the motive of robbery is necessity, not because of intention to harm you. So, if it happens, just hand over your stuff and don't fight.
  4. To avoid being a target of #3, don't take out your cell phone on the street, don't walk around with a laptop, don't wear jewlery, don't linger around a street corner for a long time if you are obviously a foreigner.
Small towns and pueblos:
The situation is a little different:
  1. There's no chance of being mugged in most parts of the town. So, unlike in the big cities, in small towns it's ok to walk around with your cell phone out, your laptop, etc. You can walk around most parts of town without any fear of being assaulted. In this sense, the small towns are safer.
  2. Don't park your rental car on the street overnight. Find the places where you pay a little money to keep your car in a parking lot where there's a vigilant guy watching.
  3. Don't get chummy with people you don't know. It's ok to hang out in bars and clubs, but there are a lot of delinquents around - people who have no scruples about the methods they will use to take your money. Be friendly with people, but don't make them your friends. Don't trust anybody.
  4. Continuing along this line, don't trust anybody with your itinerary. If people ask you what your plans are, give them vague or incorrect answers. If people you meet in restaurants or on the street or in bars offer to arrange cars for you, give you rides, etc, tell them "no thanks" you already have everything covered. Make all your own transportation arrangements yourself.
  5. Be vigilant of people watching and following you. If you think it's happening, go immediately to more crowded areas - the town square, the center of town where there's shops, restaurants, people.
On highways between towns:
You'll encounter little collections of restaurants, houses and bus transfer stations. Perfectly okay to

stop and eat or buy souvenirs and stuff. But don't loiter and linger too much. You don't want to give any local delinquents time to hatch any ideas about following you and robbing you.



You don't want to linger next to obvious poor neighborhoods.



The idea is to keep your schedules to yourself. Be observant of people following you. Don't act "clueless". If you do notice odd-looking people following you, go to more crowded area, or better yet if you see a policeman standing around go near where he's standing.



It's ok to stop on isolated roads and take photos, or take a leak, or get out and stretch. That's perfectly fine. .... BUT if you are parked there and some young guy(s) pull up on a motorcyle and stop, get in your car and leave immediately.


Motels are not hotels. Motels are for sex. Although in most cases they are actually much nicer than hotels.



Colombia is a poor country. There are a lot of people with no money. Of this group of people, there are some who don't have any problem using violence as a means to make money. You want to put yourself in situations where:
a) you don't look like a target
b) you don't give them enough time to make you a target


Unlike the U.S., people in Colombia commit crime is because necessity or perceived financial advantage, not because they want to harm you. If they can take your money without harming you, that's how they will do it. But if the only way they can get your money is by harming you, and the opportunity arises they will do it.



Another thing that I should probably mention is that there is a vast underbelly of violence and crime in Colombia that will not affect you as a tourist. Unfortunately this is the type of violence that the news media is telling you about in whatever country you are from. So you're getting the wrong idea about what type of danger there is for you as a tourist in Colombia. You don't have anything to do with the underbelly and you'll probably never even know it's there. I'm talking about drugs, mafia, narcos, corruption, hired killings, etc. You don't need to worry about this stuff. There's zero chance of it affecting you. It affects Colombians who are involved in that world, but it does not affect you. You will never be a target of those people.

In the old days, you might have been a target of the FARC, but they are no longer active.


Hopefully that didn't scare anyone off. My intention is the opposite, to be as accurate and realistic as possible in portraying things as they are. A lot of foreigners "worry" about visiting Colombia, but invariably they are worrying about the wrong things.



Go to Colombia as a regular tourist with the above precautions and you'll be fine.



If anyone has things to add or feels I'm wrong about certain things, feel free to chime in.
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Old 08-23-2018, 02:07 PM
 
Location: Canada
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Are there regions of Colombia that are more dangerous than others? I am interested in driving around. I want to drive from the Caribbean coast up to the Llanos regions and then over to the pacific.

Last edited by UrbanLuis; 08-23-2018 at 02:21 PM..
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Old 08-23-2018, 03:26 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UrbanLuis View Post
Are there regions of Colombia that are more dangerous than others? I am interested in driving around. I want to drive from the Caribbean coast up to the Llanos regions and then over to the pacific.
You'll be fine with the route you're thinking about.

The only region that might be more dangerous is the Amazons.
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Old 08-23-2018, 07:33 PM
 
Location: Canada
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I would like to visit the Amazon too but there is only so much I will be able to do. Plus I am not sure if my wife is coming with witch means we will probably have to spend more times in the city.

I heard the pacific coast region choco was a bit dangerous too but it looks so beautiful. I am trying to convince a surfer buddy of mines to come down with me.

I might make more than one trip.
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Old 08-24-2018, 09:29 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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It takes a long time to drive around Colombia because of the mountains. I would recommend not trying to see everything on the first trip. Since this will be your first time, just drive from Cartagena to Medellin to Bogota. You'll be happy with it.

how much time are you planning?
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