12 Safety Tips That Will Keep You Safe
Safety is always a big concern when it comes to travel or even live in Medellin Colombia.
I know how important that concern is and will talk about 12 safety tips you should have in mind when coming to Colombia. Most of those tips also apply to pretty much every other country too.
In this article we will look at:
- General Safety Tips For Medellin
- How To Not Get Murdered In Medellin
When traveling to any big city, taking care of your personal safety should always be one of your foremost concerns both while planning your trip as well as when you eventually begin traveling. While traveling to Medellin is no exception, it appears that travelers’ perceptions of danger in this particular city are higher than the actual risks associated with traveling here.
In reality, safety in Medellin can be about the same as it is in other big cities. By becoming aware of the risks before traveling here, you may even avoid unnecessary paranoia which could also put you in harm’s way.
In this article, we will go into depth about some helpful methods for keeping yourself and your personal belongings safe when traveling to Medellin, ranging all the way from petty theft to more serious crimes like murder cases.
The Top Safety Tips For Medellin
As foreigners who have been safely living in Medellin for years now, we have put together a list of safety tips to help you stay safe if you are thinking of traveling or relocating here. Here is a list of safety tips we recommend considering before coming to Medellin:
1 – General Safety In Medellin
Always be aware of your surroundings. Even in good areas, always be street smart. You never know who’s looking or watching you. With this said, be careful not to be paranoid, but continue to be smart. Colombians have a saying, “no das papaya” which roughly translates to “don’t give anyone a reason to rob you.”
By being self-aware, you can get a better understanding of what you might be “offering” to criminals looking for an easy target.
2 – Drug Trafficking In Medellin
Don’t get involved with drug trafficking. Purchasing or selling drugs puts you at direct risk of danger. Staying safe in Medellin and other major cities can largely be about who you associate yourself with. There are a lot of sketchy characters in the drug trade who may not have your best interest at heart, to say the least.
3 – Prostitution In Medellin
Prostitution is a system that is often unfortunately based on exploitation. As with the drug trade, know that the people you’re dealing with aren’t looking out for you. Prostitution is just another business with a lot of sketchy characters as well.
4 – Safety At Night In Medellin
Going out at night can be a wonderful time to experience the culture and nightlife of Medellin. In fact, there is a huge restaurant and nightlife scene that may just be the highlight of your time here. However, you do need to be aware of the extra risks associated with going out at night.
To stay safe, always take a taxi instead of walking if you’re going more than a few blocks. Uber or Cabify may even be safer options so that you have a better idea of who you’re getting into a car with. Don’t walk down lonely streets at night and don’t go out alone at night if you can avoid it.
5 – Watch Your Drink In Medellin
It’s good practice to never take an open drink from someone you don’t know well, including bartenders and friends you’ve just met. Keep in mind that it’s actually more common to be drugged by people you know, so just make sure to go out with people you trust completely.
Drugging is not more common in Medellin than anywhere else, but it does happen and you could wake up the next morning with all of your stuff gone and no memory of what happened the night before, or worse. Always watch your drink and always try to order sealed drinks, like closed bottles of beer, whenever possible.
6 – The Too Friendly Stranger
Local Colombians usually follow the rule of getting to know people outside a couple of times before bringing them home to avoid something bad from happening. In general, do not let a stranger into your home or let people know where you live unless you want them to come there.
7 – Protect Your Valuables In Medellin
It’s best not to keep too much cash in your wallet and to not keep valuables on you if you can avoid it. This includes wearing expensive jewelry. Not flashing your stuff is a good general rule. Like we mentioned earlier, “No das Papaya.”
8 – Don’t Dress Like A Gringo
Dress like the locals. While you don’t want to wear anything flashy that will draw too much attention to you, you can and should still try to look nice to fit in with the locals, who put a lot of care into how they look. If your skin is lighter, you may stick out anyway and it might benefit you to put extra care into blending in other ways.
If your skin is darker, you may be perceived as being Colombian and you’re less likely to stick out as much. Either way, be aware of what makes you look different than locals.
9 – ATMs In Medellin
Use ATMs in safe places like malls or neighborhoods you know well. It’s not uncommon for robberies to happen at ATMs and you never know who’s looking.
10 – Bulk Shopping In Medellin
Bulk Shopping: Be careful with bulk shopping. If somebody sees you carrying a lot of stuff, you might get robbed. It’s better to go back to the same store 3 or 4 times rather than making a big purchase at once to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
11 – Crowded Places
Colombia is one of the countries with the most public holidays in the world! That comes with a lot of events and events that attract the crowds. The crowds are not dangerous in a life-threatening way, but you still have to watch out.
Make sure you have your hand in your pockets or your bag in front of your body where nobody can just reach it easily. Same in the metro, which is really packed during rush hour.
The 11 Foreigners That Got Murdered In Medellin
Now that we’ve covered some general safety tips, let’s touch on the risk of being murdered in Medellin.
When it comes to murder, you should first be aware that the murderings of foreigners do happen in Medellin, however, you do run a higher risk of getting robbed or pickpocketed than anything else. Specifically, 11 foreigners have been murdered in Medellin since 2014.
2 People – Drug Trafficking
Two of these deaths in the past five years were related to drugs and drug trafficking. The nature of the drug trafficking business in Colombia is unfortunately inseparable from violence and death. Even if someone seems trustworthy, you should always be thinking about people’s intentions and motivations. At the end of the day, as we’ve mentioned before, it’s best to just avoid drugs in general.
4 People – Prostitutes
Four of these deaths had to do with prostitutes. If a situation seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be aware that prostitutes are often closely watched and the people who supervise them may not always have the best intentions. As with the drug trade, prostitution should be avoided in Medellin if you want to stay safe.
2 People – Resisting Robbery
Two of these deaths involved the victim resisting a robbery. In the case that someone does try to rob you, the worst thing you can do is to try to resist. If someone holds a knife or gun in your direction, just surrender and give them your stuff.
Because of the danger of robbery, it’s generally best not to keep any valuables on you. However, even if you do have valuables on you, keep in mind that they’re less valuable than your life and it’s not uncommon for people to get killed over resisting a robbery.
Rest – No (Evident) Reason
The rest of these deaths had no known reason. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the murders themselves lacked reason, rather, the motivation is still unknown. In general, attitudes towards foreigners aren’t overwhelmingly hostile in Medellin, but do be aware that having lighter-colored skin may cause you to stick out, for better or worse.
Either way, it may be helpful to know that by following these three rules, you’re statistically less likely to get killed in Medellin.
The 3 No-Nos About Safety In Medellin
A guy was even murdered a month ago. We don’t say this to scare you, but rather to make you fully aware of the situation here. However, it should also be noted that when you compare this number to murders in other cities, the difference isn’t much greater and is even less than many other major cities in Europe and the U.S.
By looking at the 11 deaths in Medellin since 2014, we’ve put together 3 rules to follow which should give you some insight on how to avoid getting murdered:
1 – Drugs In Medellin
If you are traveling to countries to buy, sell, or even import and export. I don’t have to tell you that you are playing with fire! You are already aware of the danger when getting involved with illegal drugs.
Let me just say, if you have anything to do with drugs, your safety is NOT guaranteed.
2 – Girls In Medellin
When going into the dating scene here in Medellin, one should be quite careful. There are a lot of bad apples out there that just want to take advantage of a foreigner. That’s especially true in the prostitute scene in Medellin.
Most of the really bad stories have something to do with girls or especially prostitutes. Some of the stories are related to getting drugged and robbed.
3 – Resist Robbery
This one is really important! I know we all have our pride or hang on to materialistic things sometimes. But when someone points a gun or a knife at you, you better forget about your pride or your attachment to the object of desire.
Usually, a robbery is not dangerous even though it seems that way. A robbery usually gets dangerous when you run away, talk back or in general, resist the robbery in whatever way. That can make the robber panicking and in that state, they’re getting dangerous. So again, DON’T RESIST A ROBBERY.
Recap – How Safe Is Medellin
Generally, you don’t need to worry about being killed or kidnapped in Medellin more than you would in any other big city, but you do need to constantly be aware of your surroundings and how you fit into them, especially if you look different or don’t speak the language.
As a note, learning Spanish before or while traveling to Medellin or any other Spanish-speaking city can be a huge asset and can certainly enhance your experience, but it isn’t necessarily a requirement to stay safe. More than likely, you’ll find that Medellin is a wonderful and exciting city to visit or live in, as long as you take extra precautions and do your research beforehand.
No Foreigner Women Were Murdered In Medellin
It is also interesting to note here that none of the victims of murder since 2014 were of women. While women do face other dangers in big cities and do sometimes need to be extra aware, it’s statistically unlikely that you’ll lose your life because of murder simply for the reason of being a foreign woman traveling through Medellin.