I feel safe in Colombia. In fact as I hear news reports of random and horrific shootings in the US, I often think to myself, “And Colombia is considered dangerous?”
But is this a false sense of security? Having lived here for almost a year and a half, I now take alot of things in stride. Crazy traffic, no problem. Intestinal parastes, no problem. We just need to take some drugs every so often. Ocassional bombs going off. Well, it doesn’t happen much and what are the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Probably the same as being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the US.
And yet I am wondering whether it is prudent to let my guard so much. Or is the security situation in Colombia greatly overblown?
What brought on thinking about security? We are planning a trip to Ecuador next June and I am thinking of going ahead alone with the three girls to travel for a week before Esteban gets there. I am pretty comfortable with this plan overall but it did occur to me to check the safety situation in Ecuador.
Then it occured to me to look up the safety situation in Colombia, just out of curiosity. What I read on the UK government website (much more detailed and helpful for travelers that the US State Department website, in my opinion) troubled me. Apparently there have been several bombings around Bogota and other parts of Colombia that I haven’t even heard about.
Furthermore, the website advised against all non-esssential travel to San Augustin, an area I was hoping to visit on our next long weekend. Good friends just went there and loved it. Are security concerns overblown? Our friends are Colombian though. Does it make a difference that we are obviously gringoes?
The website also cautioned to be very careful when traveling to ecolodges on the Pacific Coast, where I was planning to go with a good friend who is coming to visit us from the States with her very blond daughter. We wanted to take our girls and go see majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat. Pristine wilderness where the jungle meets the Pacific Ocean. Apparently it is a den of narcotraffickers, paramilitaries and guerillas as well. Not so good. Perhaps I will take my friend to the Eje Cafetera (the coffee zone) with it’s old Spanish haciendas, coffee farms, mountains, friendly people and relative security, and leave the trip to the Pacific for when I can go with my husband.
I guess it’s like anywhere else. Situations change, security levels change. I don’t want to be paranoid and I definitely want to keep traveling and discovering this country that I have grown to love. And can I help it if I have a particular fondness for remote, out-of-the way places?
But I need to be smart as well. Talk to locals who know and keep my gringa girls safe.