Safety and security in Medellin: 20 essential tips!

How dangerous is Medellin?

GTA promo image safety in Medellin
For all the hype about safety and security in Medellin, you’d rather be an NPC in GTA!

 I’ve been gunned down 5 x  already before breakfast here in Medellin! 

I feel like an NPC (non-player character) in GTA (Grand Theft Auto). 

I’ve been raked with more ‘plomo’ than a ‘narco’ on the wrong side of ‘El Patron’!  

So if you are thinking of heading over to Medellin, be sure to pack the Kevlar vest.

Errrrr….been watching too much Netflix …time to debunk the stereotypes!

There is a budding peace dividend in the democratic republic of Colombia now emerging from 40 years of civil war and narco-terror.

I believe in calculated risk-taking, so I researched the crime rates and found plenty of mid-sized North American cities (even LA is more “dangerous” than Medellin).

So the advice is to visit and enjoy this colorful, passionate city, just remember to bring your common sense with you.

20 simple tips for a safe trip to Medellin:

  1. Don’t be too flashy: As they say here: “no dar papaya” (don’t flash your cash).  Leave the Rolex in the hotel safe, maybe bring a burner phone rather than the latest iPhone gazillion on a selfie stick, as you stride around town in flip-flops and shorts!
  2. Passport: You are required to have ID on you in Colomba.  Take a color copy of your passport with you rather than the original.  If the police require your ID let them know you have the original in the hotel safe.
  3. Accommodation: Stay in a hotel with 24 hr armed security or an Airbnb in a gated complex and you shouldn’t have any issues.  This also helps with insurance claims if you do have any issues.
  4. Taxis: When traveling by taxi at certain downtown traffic lights, maybe wind up the window to stop street-sellers and thieves on mopeds.
  5. Bags: Keep your bag at your feet or out of sight (taxis often have privacy windows anyway).
  6. Fees: Check the driver knows where you are headed and that he has the meter on. (Carrera and Carretera are confusing!).
  7. Ask the locals: When it comes to safe Vs non-safe areas, ask the locals and use your nouse.  When in Rome and all that good stuff!  Generally speaking, if it feels dodgy then it is.
  8. Gangs: There are some marginalized barrios where gangs fight periodic turf wars.  Currently, there is a fight on in parts of the city, between crime syndicates La Oficina and La Cantina.  But you will soot if you stray into a no go area.  Generally speaking, police boots are heavy on the ground in these areas, with roadblocks and curfews.
  9. Downtown: Crowded downtown areas are often heavily policed and you can keep a weather eye open for bag snatchers or pickpockets.  For example, getting to Botero sculpture park make sure you are dropped off right as close as possible to the safety cordon, so you don’t have to run the gauntlet. Botero swuare is also heavily policed.
  10. Panhandlers: some of the politest panhandlers and beggars in the world are found in this courteous Paisa city.  With an acknowledgment, a smile and a “no gracias”, they normally move along.  It’s generally well natured and I always think there but for the grace of God go I.
  11. Street hawkers: Can get wearisome when you are out on a terrace chatting with friends. When they spot a gringo they may pester you to buy a trinket or a candy.
  12. Bills: Check your bills sometimes they may have added a beer or two (v.rare in Medellín!), but this is more likely on the coast.
  13. Going out:  Be safe at night?  Always be courteous always friendly and dont hit on someone’s GF.
  14. Drinks: Don’t leave your drink unattended.  There are cases where tourists have been doped with scopolamine (Burundanga) a potent narcoleptic.  It is used by thieves to puts your lights out. If dosed inexpertly it can even be fatal.
  15. Dating in Medellin?  Always make sure you are 100% sure of your Tinder date before you risk your security, don’t get “honey trapped” in Parque Lleras!
  16. Terrorists like the FARC?  Across the country, there are still some isolated pockets of FARC activity.  Recently in Bogota, a bomb blew up a police barracks.
  17. Venezuela: There is a high alert due to ongoing issues on the border with Venezuela but this is far away from Medellin.
  18. Embassy: The advice is always to check Embassy travel safety guides before you set off.
  19. Only Medellín: I’m speaking only of Medellín, other cities like Cali, Cartagena, and Bogota can be more dangerous.
  20.  Common sense (the rarest of senses): bring it with you, avoid crime and be safe!

Safety & Security In Medellin – round-up!

I hope that these top tips have helped put things into perspective.

In the popular tourist areas like Poblado and Laureles, Envigado, Sabaneta you are as safe from crime as in any big city worldwide.

My experience is that if there is a threat of a street hustle ruining your day, you will see it a mile off.  The perpetrators of street crime are generally desperados, drugged victims of a cruel and unforgiving existence.

Medellin security- Do your homework.

Safety and security in Medellin, is basic risk management, do your homework and be informed.

It should be taken seriously, but not to the point where fear stops you from enjoying Medellin.

Common sense (the rarest of senses) is always the best guide to safety and security.

Bring it with you in spades and enjoy the amazing vibe.

Paisas, the locals are second to none and proud to host you in their beautiful homeland.

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