Country Risk Code: High
Colombia has had a history of violence, making the remote parts of the country the least desirable destination for travellers for years. Colombia gained its reputation as violent during the ferocious civil war that lasted for 52 years. The civil war started when a group of rebels revolted over the redistribution of land. The revolt led to the death of over 220,000 people and the displacement of up to six million people. The remote regions in Colombia have been undesirable to travelers for decades due to the Guerilla violence.
FARC Rebel Group and Military Crackdown
FARC, a Marxist rebel group in Colombia, massacred people indiscriminately, compelled children into becoming soldiers, and used illegal schemes such as kidnapping, drugs, and extortions to finance their dealings. When paramilitary militias rallied against the rebel group, they withdrew and took refuge in remote forests and southern border zones. Although there have been cases of bloodshed caused by activities of the paramilitary group, the majority of the people generally hold the FARC responsible.
The Guerilla violence sparked when guerrillas kidnapped eight backpackers on their way to Ciudad Pérdida during a case that gained an international audience and held them for three months. Furthermore, three directors of Tayrona National Park were assassinated due to their refusal to establish the park as a cocaine trafficking ground. The then-president, Álvaro Uribe, reacted to the incident by inciting a fierce military crackdown that claimed the lives of many important military architects in FARC.
In August 2016, the president, Juan Manuel Santos, sealed a peace treaty with FARC mediators, which was breached after two months. A Santos and Placatory leader in the FARC, Rodrigo Londoño, signed a revised deal that amended more than 50 points on the previous peace deal. The agreement maintains that FARC rebels charged with criminal activities should serve alternative special court sentences rather than amnesty. Despite the strong opposition from the then president, Álvaro Uribe's Democratic Party, the deal still went through. However, peace in Colombia has remained a challenge as the FARC guerrillas would have to be reintegrated into civilian society.
Over the last decade, guerrilla and violence have significantly dropped, making the country a desirable destination for travelers. Former FARC heartlands are said to be secure for travelers; hence the tourism industry is growing by the day.
Potential Dangers in Colombia
Colombia, although considered safe for travellers, still has its risk. Travellers should take note of the seismic and volcanic activity in Colombia, which can cause natural disasters occasionally. Travellers are advised to heed to advice and warnings of local authorities before heading to areas prone to volcanic activity. Other natural disasters such as hurricanes, landslides, and flooding are not unusual in the country.
Illnesses such as mosquito and insect-borne diseases, yellow fever, and altitude sickness are prevalent in Colombia. Yellow fever is one of the most widespread illnesses in the country; hence travellers are advised to get vaccinated before traveling to Colombia to help them stay healthy during their stay in the country.
Additionally, the yellow fever vaccine is a requirement for many countries, and some airlines will not carry passengers without proof of vaccination. Mosquito-borne maladies such as Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue are also common in the country. Although there are no vaccinations for these illnesses, confirmed cases have declined.
Travellers and visitors are advised to avoid being bitten by these illness-carrying insects. Chagas disease, which can cause heart and digestive system problems, is common in rural areas. Visitors are advised to avoid sleeping in thatched, mud, and adobe-style buildings. Other diseases may include HIV, Leishmaniasis, Typhoid, Rabies, Tetanus, and Hepatitis A&B.
Colombia Travel Tips
Choosing the Right Insurance For Your Colombian Trip
Colombia is not considered a risky country; hence many insurers can provide coverage. However, due to a variety of health risks, check your insurer offers coverage for health emergencies. Kidnaping is still considered high risk in Colombia, so it is advisable to have insurance that covers kidnap for ransom.
LGBTQ Travel Advice
LGBT activities are legal in Colombia. In April 2016, homosexual marriage was legalised. However, travellers are advised to use discretion, especially in rural areas, and avoid displaying affections in public.