Robbed in Medellin

Last Wednesday, I was robbed in Medellin while in a taxi heading west on Calle 33 to renew my tourist visa at the DAS office in barrio Belen.

Barrio Belen

Barrio Belen

It was 11:20 AM when my taxi came to a halt at a stoplight. We were surrounded by other vehicles. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, with my window was down to catch the breeze.

I noticed a figure with dark pants approaching my window from behind. I’d been playing with my Blackberry, as I often do in taxis when I’m bored. Instinctively, I swung it toward the center of the car, in case the street vendor or beggar tried to snag it.

When I looked back to my right, I was staring at a silver revolver held flush against a man’s stomach, pointing toward the front of the car. I don’t remember if he said anything. Words weren’t necessary.

After hearing countless stories from other people, both foreigners and Colombians, it was my turn to be threatened and robbed in Medellin.

I immediately handed over my Blackberry, and 75,000 pesos ($40) cash in my front right pocket. The thief, thinking there was something more of value still there, reached in the window and started feeling it.

I pulled out my passport, saying “solo pasaporte” in a vain attempt to save it. He hastily grabbed it and went back to the motorbike where his accomplice was waiting. They sped off to the right of us so we couldn’t note the license plate.

The light turned green, and my driver pulled away, not saying a word, or expressing any emotion.

Meanwhile, I was distraught, talking to myself, asking why they took my passport. On some level I knew it could be sold to counterfeiters, but all I could think about was the hassle and cost required to replace it, and my lack of comprehensive travel insurance to help cover the cost of my phone.

Upon arrival at DAS, we explained what happened, the local police were called. The taxi driver reported what he saw, and gave me his business card before departing. I was taken to the new Belen police station, where I filed a report, which would be the documentation I needed to report the loss at the US embassy in Bogotá, as well as explain to DAS at a later date while I (technically) overstayed my tourist visa.

All of the police who helped me were courteous and friendly. They did their part to take down the details, though we all knew the chances of catching the thieves were slim to none.

An official one page report in hand, the police then dropped me off back at my apartment given I had no money to pay for another taxi. One of the officers even wrote down his phone number should I need further assistance.

I’ve been living in Medellin 16 months, and this is the first time I’ve ever been threatened or confronted. I hope by sharing my experience honestly and openly, it does not deter people from visiting this amazing city. At the same time, visitors and residents should not take their safety for granted.

Have you been robbed in Colombia? What tips do you have for staying safe here?

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This post was written by Dave, and brought to you by HBF.

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Place: Approximate Location of Robbery

Address: Medellín

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About Dave

David is the Editor in Chief of Medellín Living. Connect with him on Facebook and Google+.

Comments

  1. Wow, that was scary. Your blog has totally changed my idea of Medellin, and I’m sure it’s done the same for others, so it’s a double shame this should happen to you. I realize that crime happens the world over, but the gun thing is something we, Europeans, still find unusual (happily). One of the reasons we left England over 20 years ago was the crime rate, but over those twenty years it has caught up with these islands too. We shouldn’t have to, but I guess we have to accept that it can happen wherever we are. A friend, travelling in Asia, returned home to find her house had been ransacked and her daughter has escaped from an attempted attack by four guys on her own doorstep. We all should be aware these days. Hope you’ve gotten over it.

    • It means a lot to know this blog has helped shape your view of Medellin. I’m trying to keep the experience in perspective, given I’ve spent 16 months living here.

      It’s true, there’s nowhere to hide. I was in Japan this past February and couldn’t get over how safe I felt. I had immediately noted the lack of locks on bicycles in Tokyo — a giant metropolis, so I just imagine smaller cities worry even less about theft.

      Of course they then had the huge earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear problems, so even a country that feels seemingly safe from human crime can still face natural disasters.

      • Reading some more of the comments this morning and others’ experiences I wonder what happens if you have nothing worth stealing? Can the criminals still get violent and shoot you anyway because they are cheesed off that you aren’t the easy target they assumed?

        • Hola Linda, that’s a scary thought, which is why I always carry at least $20 or $30 worth of cash with me to hopefully satiate a thief. Even $100 cash is not something I’d care about as long as no violence is involved. The only times I tend to hear about violence being used is when the victim resists, whether or not it’s on purpose or he/she realizes the other person is armed.

      • I was robbed in Medellin today!

        • I’m sorry to hear that Alexander. If you’re up for it, maybe you can let us know some details – time of day, location, which neighborhood.

        • I was robbed September 4th, a Sunday at 1 pm while sitting in my car in the Carlos E Restrepo neighborhood. 2 thugs on a motorcycle, gun in hand, ripped my gold chain off my neck. I’ve had it! Returning to the States end of this week. El Poblado is not safe either. I love Colombia and its people but I’m tired having to look over my shoulder. I also think it’s too polluted here, too much traffic and the drivers are very rude and inconsiderate. The weather is great and the women are hot! Other than that, it can get pretty boring here.

          • Hey Alexander, sorry to hear about your recent robbery. Glad you got out of the situation safely.

            I can relate to your sentiment about being tired of having to look over your shoulder all the time. It can wear on you.

    • I was robbed by a man who befriended me for over 5 years and he was very patient. One night we went to club and drugged me a very horrible experience. Then two days later was told I had a bill for 880 mil and it I wanted ids and my keys best to pay to avoid problems, basically a extortion plot. This after lossing 400 mil watch ring and more. Going to police today as I am worried this is not the end. Been her over 5 years and leaving too much deception and lies and gringos are only see as a opportuntity for money. I have a love hate relation ship with this place. But the bigger picture is it is not worth living here tons of low lifes every where! I have been robbed 4 times in 5 years here can not take no more. Kind of stuck due to finical reasons right now. I also am very sad and depressed after this lost. I just gotta get out of here this place is beauitful but too many bad people here and I mean “BAD”!!! Only moved here due too low income. I rather be poor in America. The bad out weigh the good by a huge number lets leave it at that!

      • Colombia is not safe and any one who says other wise is a fool. I understand the risk of living here and accept that. But a s far as gringos living in Colombia year round it is very hard. Gringos are like walking bullseyes for scams, robbery and more endless crimes here in Medellin. Very creative thiefs in Medellin some of the best I have every seen. Light years ahead of street theifs in states. Be safe be smart and always watch you surroundings and trust no one especially people who ask alot of questions. I have been robbed a few times and had enough of Medellin and accept my loses as it comes with the territory when a gringo living in Colombia. If you can not handle being robbed do not live here in Medellin as a close expat gringo friend told me years ago. Be safe always be alert and stay out of bars at night unless you know establishment well. And never go out alone at night partying a heads up for my fellow gingos and gringas! Colombia is a pretty country but as a gringo you have to be extra carefull just keep that in mind at all times.

        • Like other big cities.. New York, Memphis, Dallas, Rio, Sao Paulo, etc.
          Big cities big problems,, like security.

          • Greg Thomas says:

            Big city big crime is true but just a word of advice gringos stand out like a bulls eye here! I would recommend a country where you blend in a little better! You guys here in Colombia is like a black man going to a KKK meeting in the USA and wounder why they keep picking at him.
            Just something to keep in mind

          • Thanks Greg, but that’s a ridiculous piece of advice. I’ve been to close to 50 countries in just the last six years, and in the majority of them, I’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.

            China, India, Laos, Rwanda, Bolivia, Ecuador.

            That doesn’t mean I’ve been wandering around getting robbed the whole time. After leaving Colombia in August 2011, I spent a year traveling to other parts of South America and was never so much as threatened, let alone robbed again.

            And by the way, not all gringos stick out. I’ve met quite a few foreigners here, from the US, Canada, and Australia for example, that have tanner skin, and more hair on their head then me. I accept that I stick out like a scene from “Where’s Waldo” but that’s not going to stop me from traveling and living abroad.

  2. Visited in 2008 and thankfully I didn’t get robbed. Remember I am 6’3 280 pounds and its a good deterrent. But definitely you need to roll deep in Medellin. Never left without having a group of people around me. I know the language being from Puerto Rico so that helps. My advice is to learn the strret language ASAP. I think in that situation you could have kept your passport if you could have communicated better the importance of it. One piece of advice is that you get one of those travel pouches where you can keep all your docs cash etc. There is no feeling for that since its on your person and not in your pockets. Hang in there bro Medellin is a awesome city. Under better circumstances I would live there instead of San Antonio, TX.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Michael. In my younger years, I use to wear a money belt, but I find it is too uncomfortable in tropical climates, and especially when I’m wearing jeans or board shorts. I made the switch to just carrying cash in my pockets after visiting Costa Rica in 2005. That’s when I started meeting other backpackers who’d been through Latin America and told tales of being robbed multiple times, and stashing cash in their shoes.

      I agree that if I spoke better Spanish, I might’ve been able to better communicate, but considering there was a recent case of a UK man being shot for resisting theft in the same region of the city, in the same manner of theft, maybe it’s better I didn’t have the words on the tip of my tongue.

      • One bit of advice I will give also, in regards to passports. Always have at least 3 copies. One in the states, one at where you are staying and maybe one archived in your email so you can email it to yourself and print it. When I say copy I mean the just copy of the first page with you pic and info. This has me concerned as Medellin is one of the places that I am thinking about retiring (there or Uruguay) Anywho. thanks for the info. this has reformed my opinion a tad now. Stay safe, if you are still in Medellin.

  3. Kevin Post says:

    Look, the guy from the U.K. wasn’t in a good part of Belen, he was far to the west which isn’t a good place to be AND it occurred at two in the morning. Driving around in a car, wearing a nice necklace, in a known bad neighborhood at 2 in the morning is asking for trouble.

    Dave, why were you texting on you black berry in plain view for everyone to see? I couldn’t fathom showing a cell phone of that kind of value in public (especially where I live).

    Was the taxi driver on the phone on the way to the D.A.S. before you were robbed? It isn’t uncommon for taxi drivers to participate in robberies (“Hey, this guy in my cab has a very expensive cell phone, meet me here at this rendezvous point”).

    The thing that surprises me is that it happened on a busy street early in the day. Nevertheless, it doesn’t happen very often so stay positive and realize that you aren’t in the hospital or worse dead. You have learned a lesson and are a better person as a result.

    I’ve been robbed twice at knife point in two sketchy parts of Medellín (Barrios Iguaná and Buenos Aires). Both times I had at least 40.000 pesos with me. However, the first time I lost 5.000 pesos and the second time I lost 3.000. Why? Because I didn’t panic and throw all of my things out of my pockets. The theives saw that I was calm and could potentially do harm to them so they just left with that money. I even told one of them that I needed 2.000 pesos to take a bus across town and so they let me have it (very poliete thieves :)).

    We’ll talk about this more indepth of Sunday or Monday if you’d like Dave.

    Take care

    • Hey Kevin, I wasn’t aware of those additional details about the UK guy, but considering the modus operandi for the theft was exactly the same, I’m not taking any chances with these guys.

      The reality is I use my Blackberry for the work I do. Maintaining a social media presence, sharing thoughts and photos from my travels. And yes, you could say I’ve gotten addicted to using it, even when it’s not necessary. I’m hesitant to run out and buy a new one right away like I did last year, but I can’t imagine traveling the rest of South America this year without a new smartphone. It’s part of my new reality, but hopefully I can be more disciplined about when I use it.

      No, I do not recall the taxi driver making any phone calls after picking me up, which is why I have been giving him the benefit of the doubt, though his lack of emotion or commentary after the theft does strike me as odd. Maybe he’s been through it before. And he cooperated with DAS and the police, and showed no signs of nervousness while being questioned.

      In this case, even when I didn’t empty my right pocket (of my passport), the man reached in and started feeling around anyways. Some thieves are going to be more aggressive than others. Clearly this one wasn’t satisfied with a $500 phone and $40 cash. Others may have been and left more quickly.

  4. Hi Dave

    Sorry to hear that this happened to you I hope you get your passport situation sorted out.

    Im traveling to Medellin in early September to stay with friends of a guy I work with over here in Australia. Im glad you wrote this on your blog and not to sugar coat life in Medellin.

    Yes people get held up around the world but Im not familiar with gun hold ups as it not common here in Australia to being it illegal and dare I say it a good quality Police force whos communication services + Media, these days is second to none so its very hard for people to get away with such matters here down under. I feel safe everyday I live here in our beautiful country

    So I guess hearing your story does scare me a bit ….but in context of you living there for 16 months without incident sums it up. Just one of those things !!!!!

    I hope you feel better soon mate

    cheers from downunder
    Brian

    • Hola Brian, thanks for your comments and concern, and glad to hear you’ll be visiting Medellin.

      I’d by lying if I said that the whole aura around the city and country being dangerous aren’t part of what drew me here in 2009.

      To find they weren’t nearly as bad as the dated stereotypes suggested is a big part of why I immediately wanted to spend more time here, and share my experiences on this blog.

      My goal isn’t to portray Colombia as being 100% safe and problem-free, but rather to show that it is no more dangerous than any other South American country (most of which have a much better reputation for tourism).

  5. Good thread Dave! I’ve been hearing lots of stories as of late, then again that’s nothing out of the ordinary for Medallo. I think if you stay long enough in Colombia I think you’ll have a run-in with a criminal, so it is a matter of how bad it’s going to be. Obviously like Kevin says there is something to be said about staying out of bad areas.

    My experience getting robbed was in Carlos E Resptrepo a middle class neighborhood where I also live. It was 1 in the afternoon on a Saturday abotu 5 months ago. I was entering the barrio on motorcycle when two guys on moto came alongside me and grabbed my bag. I thought they were breaking a fall and were drunk but the guy on the back kept grabbing my bag and then the keys.

    When I realized I was being robbed in front of the pizza parlor filled with about 20 people I screamed as loud as I could. This was a bad move because the guy on the back of the motocycle pulled out a gun and pointed it in my face.

    Since I was in the barrio and I was driving about 5 mph I decided to let them have the bike but I would make it a little difficult for them. I jumped off the moto and at the same time kicked it into the street. It slid about 6 feet and the guy on the back of the other motorcycle hopped of to get it. However all the commotion I made had brought out a crowd from the pizza parlor, neighbors, and fortunately the guards who patrol Carlos E. The thugs realized they had an audience, they panicked and then got back on the moto and sped off leaving my moto in tact albeit scratched up.

    A friend of mine said screaming was a bad move because a lot of time thugs panic and fire, or if they are unsuccessful they will also fire with frustration.

    It was funny how in a moment my gut reaction was one of Americano defiance, which is contrary to what all my Colombian friends say, when you are getting robbed just be docile because you never know how dangerous and unpredictable violent criminals can be.

    I normally felt safe on moto as I am not stuck in a car or cornered on a bus, but hey even moto on moto crime can happen. Keep your eyes peeled!

    • Hola Robin, I remember you told me about this after it happened, but thanks for sharing more of the details.

      It all happened so fast, I didn’t think before I did anything, it was all just intuition and instinct, however I’d already heard so many stories from others, that I’d long been telling myself I would simply acquiesce should it happen to me, and that’s what I did.

      As your friends say, these guys can be unpredictable, and I’d rather air on the safe side when confronted. Still far too many good times to live for in this life!

  6. Aurelien Amacker says:

    Hey Dave sorry to hear about that, glad you’re ok.

    I got robbed in Bogota in january, they stole my camera without any violence (pickpockets acting on the street in the city center).

    I’m going to Rio in july and I’am considering going to Medellin in august, will you be there ? I just got back in Bogota, Colin told me he met you in Medellin.

    Aurelien the french blogger

    • Hola Aurelien, sorry to hear about your robbery in Bogota. I’ll be in Medellin until August 8, at which point I’m heading back to NYC for a week, and then straight to Ecuador to see the rest of South America. Hope to end up in Brazil. 🙂

      • cristina says:

        I’m happy to learn you will go to Ecuador next.
        A few years ago I saw 2 men get out of a car and at gunpoint robbed the security guards of a cafe around midnight. I was with a friend in her car and she panic and drove towards the car that was waiting for the other 2. Nothing happen to us. I don’t want to deter you from visiting Ecuador, I hope you go to Guayaquil, Salinas, olon, not just Quito. Guayaquil is a beautiful city but in the whole country I will suggest to be extra careful. The thieves like taking the blackberries, iphones, and everything they can. Usually the taxi drivers are on it too. They might text, not necessarily make a call to let the others know. There’s also secuestro express and that’s when they take you for a ride while robbing you until they are done and then move to the next victim. It’s definitely better to give up your things since we don’t know if they will panic and shoot.
        In my 15 years going back home to visit I’ve never been robbed but I have lots of friends that have including my 2 younger sisters. One of them was 9months pregnant when she had the secuestro express happened to her. 5 men jumped into her car and her car was already full.
        I don’t want to scare you, I just remember their incident. Unfortunately, its how things are in my little country now. It doesn’t matter at what time or what area. What once was consider safe, its not anymore. You just have to be extra careful and enjoy.

        Go to Alban borja mall and buy cotton candy, its the best! Neither the US nor Europe has such a good cotton candy.

        Enjoy your travels and stay safe.

        • Hola Cristina, thanks for reading, and sharing your thoughts. I’ve also heard stories about the secuestro express, including one Canadian who it happened to in Peru. The idea scares me, but I don’t want to let fear alone stop me from seeing otherwise wonderful places.

  7. Been in and out of Colombia ,Venezuela,Mexico ect never had a problem, but i guess he seen your Blackberry and is used to easy prey should have asked if he had bullets for the gun. sorry dude
    I was always told to stay away from Choco area of Colombia never Medillen

    • Hey John, thanks for your comment. Relatively speaking, I think Medellin tends to be safer than either Bogota or Cali, but these things can happen anywhere.

      Looking back, I’m just thankful he wasn’t pointing the gun directly at me. Maybe it wasn’t loaded, but there’s no point in taking any chances.

  8. Angela Zuluaga says:

    Hi Dave,
    It sucks you had to have such experience. I have to say you really need to control yourself showing your blackberry in public like that, it’s basically “dando papaya” like we say in Colombia. When I took my gringo husband to visit, he was walking around the street counting money like we do here in the US, openly and without worries.
    I warned him not to do that and so did my nephew. Even in the best parts of town you have to be conscious of your surroundings and not making it easy for those who are always on the lookout to steal. I lived most of my life in Colombia and was never robbed at gunpoint, it must have been super scary. I agree with one of the earlier comments, one of my first thoughts reading your story was that the driver was in the deal.
    Be safe! and I hope the rest of your stay continues being filled with good experiences. Y no des papaya!!

    • Thanks Angela, I’ve heard the “dando papaya” expression before, but since I’d gone the prior 10 months without incident, I guess I just assumed it wasn’t drawing unwanted attention. I pushed my luck too far. This is a lesson I’m going to carry with me not just in Colombia, but throughout my travels in Latin America (or anywhere for that matter, though I’d be less concerned in wealthy areas like the US, Canada, western Europe, Japan, etc.

      When I told the story to other taxi drivers, they all asked what my driver did. When I responded “nothing” they universally gave me the impression that the driver was in on the deal. That would certainly explain why he didn’t say a word, nor expressed any emotion afterward. I just wish I could remember if he made a phone call after I’d gotten in the cab.

    • Geez, that’s unebeilvable. Kudos and such.

  9. Locationless Living says:

    You did exactly the right thing Dave down to a T. Imagine how they would have reacted if you only had a couple thousand pesos on you? If you resisted? If you tried to negotiate what you gave away? If after checking you for more you said you had nothing? Giving away everything you had was the smartest move. They had to believe you gave them everything when you handed your passport.

    I think the advice and comments above are coming off as a bit cocky. As in you should have done something differently. Or that you could have at least kept your passport. Sure many times you will get away giving up less if you resist. But you might just get unlucky that one time.

    No need to defend your actions Dave. You handled yourself better than any of the people in the above anecdotes.

    • Thanks Jason. At first I didn’t hand over my passport just because in my mind I didn’t associate it with anything of value, but clearly the guy saw there was something more in my pocket that I wasn’t giving up, and wanted to know what it was. Next time I’m traveling with my passport in my sock, or at least my back pocket.

      I’ve already changed the way I ride in taxis, and once I get a new phone, will be much more careful about when I use it in public. I use to think the Colombians who were so careful were all a bit paranoid, but it only takes this kind of thing happening once to change your ways.

  10. Fernanda Cañas says:

    Hola: Soy Fernanda Cañas, periodista de Gente de Belén, un periódico local del barrio de propiedad de El Colombiano, y me gustaría contactarme con usted para que me cuente su historia.
    Le envío mi número de contacto y mi correo para que hablemos:
    Teléfono fijo: 335 94 14.
    Celular: 314 666 69 77.

  11. Whenever I travel, I always take an old expired passport with me. If I’m in a situation like yours, the robber won’t take the time to check to see if it’s still valid. I keep my current one back at my hotel in a safe.

    • Hi Daniel, good idea and the first time I’ve heard of it.

      In my case, I had no choice but to take my current passport as I needed to extend my visa to legally stay in the country another 30 days.

      Yesterday, a Colombian friend suggested that the robber might’ve thought I still had a wallet in my pocket. I have a feeling whatever I took out, he’d have taken, and then worried about whether it was of value to him later. He didn’t want to spend a second more than he needed to.

  12. Quentin says:

    Sorry to hear about this experience Dave. Do NOT ever resist an attacker who is armed. One of my friends found out the hard way and got shot in the head, luckily he survived!!! In most cases these guys are opportunists who are chancing it and will take anything they can lay their hands on.

    Never ever talk to them or make them stay longer than necessary. Give them what ever they want, your life is more valuable than a piece of paper. It is possible that this guy had marked you out and watched or observed you for a while then pounced at the most opportune moment, but heck we could spend all day running through the permutations. Best way is to let it go, enjoy the rest of the holiday and as is so frequent when you travel- one difficult situation will quickly be replaced by a cool experience and you will soon forget about it.

    Do you make copies of your passport? A girl I know makes two copies, one to keep in a safe place and one to carry, both laminated so that if the passport is lost its a bit easier to prove to the embassy.

    • Hi Quentin, thanks for your concern and great advice. And that’s terrible about what your friend experienced. After talking to more Colombian friends about it, I started to feel a little better. And I think as you mentioned, time alone helps to put the event in perspective.

      Last week I rode in a taxi down the same street, around the same time, and was less nervous than expected. But I was sitting in the back seat, windows rolled up, as I now do to make it that much harder to target me. I’ve learned that there are a lot of little things you can do to make it more difficult, and we all know thieves are looking for the easiest targets.

      I had a photocopy of the information page of my passport saved in my email, so I brought that to the Embassy, along with my original US Driver’s License, the police report and my application for a new one. That seemed to be sufficient…luckily I didn’t need to provide an original birth certificate or proof of citizenship as in the old days.

  13. Sorry Dave. I hate to say, but this is all too common in many of the major cities in SA. I’ve lived in SA (BA and Santiago) for five have never been a crime victim, but I also grew up in Detroit -) so maybe I’ve paid my karmic bill, or perhaps I’m just a wary and grimly vigilant. Two stories; my first trip to BOG I arrived a my very nice hotel in Candelaria to find a gringo in the lobby, just returned from the hospital. Turns out he had wandered off the beaten path and been set upon by a group of teenage thugs for his camera and pack. He resisted and they knifed him to the tune of 50 or so stitches. It was his first day in Colombia, and he was flying out that night. Next trip found me in Cali, sitting in front of the hotel cafe in the fashionable Grenada barrio drinking a bad local beer and chatting with two Dutch guys. Next thing I know a moto pulls up and the punk rips off a gold necklace from a very surprised Dutch lad. To make it even more bizarre, there was a uniformed cop having lunch at the same cafe. Turns out that the hotel’s loud mouthed gringo owner from Tennessee refuses to pay the customary bribe. Coincidence?

    My advice is to go check out Santiago and Montevideo. Who needs this shit, life’s tough enough…

    • Hola Anders. Thanks for sharing your stories. The first one about the guy getting stabbed in Bogota just proves my point — people should get it in their heads before the situation occurs, that you should not resist! Too many of these criminals have too little to lose. If you’re not willing to lose something in a robbery, don’t travel with it. That’s my attitude, otherwise, I’ll give up whatever I’ve got on me to escape unharmed.

      I plan to visit both Chile and Uruguay later this year — can’t wait to see more of the countries in SA!

  14. Heading to Medellin next month for a six month stay. Sorry to hear about your armed robbery. I have traveled to Panama allot and always carry my stun gun and pepper spray. I used the pepper spray on a mugger in the parking garage of riba smoth in PC. He had a small knife and was asking for my money. I pulled out the pepper spray and filled his eyes full. I yelled for help and a security guard came and restrained the coughing perp until the police arrived 10 minutes later. Just think if you had pepper spray you could have blinded him when he leaned in the car. I could have also used my stungun on the robber but the pepper spray was effective enough by itself. Always best to avoid trouble and if you are unarmed being passive might be your best option but depending on the situation the perp might get the worst of the deal. If I encounter any trouble on my visit to medellin i will share but i expect it will be uneventful like most places i have traveled.

    • Hey Mike, thanks for sharing your experience. I could handle the idea of pepper spray with a guy showing a knife, but a gun? I’d rather give up what I’ve got then resist. Though I did read a story of a 60-something year old who was able to put some old wrestling moves on an assailant with a gun, and basically put him to the ground until the police arrived. But I never learned to wrestle in school 🙂

  15. Hey Dave, was it the 15th of the month? I haven’t read all the comments (there are so many) but it is the worst day of the year for robberies. Everyone (almost everyone) gets paid a double salary or one and a half the normal salary (prima-not cousin) on 15th June and 15th December. I think I heard about you from a friend called Greg. Supposedly the thieves are more active on this day than any other in the year. So it is a combination of being unlucky and maybe not being aware. Not to say you are naive or anything, A while back a friend went to the bank with his friend to collect their wages for the month, I think around five millon pesos in total. Somehow robbers were waiting for him outside his house on a motorbike when he arrived. (He suspects someone at the bank tipped them off). They pointed a gun at him and said don’t move, he froze, and his friend with the money and the key in the door ran inside. He was left outside but they just disappeared. He was lucky.

    • Yes, it was June 15th. My Colombian roommate mentioned it was a notoriously bad day of the month (being a pay day) but this is the first I’ve heard of Colombians getting a double salary that day of the year.

      If they’re more active on a regular pay day, then I imagine thieves are out in force on those days when they know everyone is getting paid double!

      Crazy story about your friend, though I can’t believe his “friend” would leave him standing outside the house with a gun pointed at his face.

  16. I have been to Medellin twice and really love the city. The Metro, beautiful women, fresh air, and clean tasting water have won me over. I have personally not had any problems as you described. Actually, the only people I know that have been ‘jacked’ are those who engage in drugs and prostitution. There is a gringo who lives there named Robert. We call him rob, because he has been robbed several times. Rob likes whores and ‘blow.’ He gets wasted on $5 coke, alcohol, and weed…then searches the streets for chicas. I personally know of 2 incidents :one with a knife, and the other where he was beaten and hospitalized. In short, I do not doubt your story but am saying cut the risks. Some of the blogs I have read contain stories of drugs,alcohol, and other vices. Newcomers, stay away from the vices. And dave, obey INS laws in Colombia. Cuidate,Larry.

    • Hi Larry, thanks for stopping by.

      Sounds like you have me confused with the wrong crowd. I’ve never had anything to do with drugs in the country, nor do I care to. Cheap drugs may be why other young travelers come to party in Colombia, but I’m more than happy enjoying the local rum and beer when I go out.

      “I do not doubt your story but am saying cut the risks” — what risks? Aside from being white, and using my Blackberry in a taxi, I don’t know how my behavior that morning was risky. If your comment isn’t directed at me personally, I get your drift. Just trying to clarify.

      “And dave, obey INS laws in Colombia.” — I’ve always obeyed the rules, not sure what makes you think otherwise. In fact, I got robbed on my way to extend my tourist visa.

      Before my robbery, I’d heard a bunch of stories from other travelers staying in Medellin. To pretend foreigners who are going about their daily business aren’t targeted or victimized is to ignore what happens in any big city around the world, including Medellin. I love the city, but it’s a reality of living there, just as it is in Buenos Aires, Cape Town, London and Los Angeles.

      • Have you been robbed in Colombia? What tips do you have for staying safe here?********* This quote is near the top of this article…just my input. Dave…thanks for the response. I am not here to preach morality. I was just stating the facts. Crime stats confirm most incidents involving tourists are drug or prostitution related. I was not implying that you were involved in these. I have been to Barranquilla, cartagena, and Medellin to visit. Only problems I had were street vendors selling me junk. But heard countless stories about prostitutes and drug dealers hustling people who engage. Yes, there were some beautiful street chicas in Medellin….best looking prostitues I have ever seen. I was tempted, but I had a feeling my wallet would get stolen. Or I would get a knife in my rib cage. Also, I went to the ‘centro’ district with 2 other gringos. Simple things like safety in numbers. Anyway, planning a trip back in a couple of weeks…take care Dave.

        • The majority of travelers who visit Medellin & Colombia will not be robbed, so of course I’m not surprised you haven’t had any issues on your visits. That’s why I continue to promote tourism to the country. In fact, I’d never felt threatened once in the 16 months I spent traveling and living in Colombia before this incident in June.

          I can recount at least 6-8 friends and people I met in the last year who were robbed, and none to my knowledge were involved with drugs or hookers. Several were actually couples walking together at the time. They were robbed while minding their own business, both during the day and night, and none of the occurrences were in Centro. Sure it can be a bit sketchy down there, but people are just as likely to be robbed in barrios Belen or Poblado.

          I realize I’m not going to change your perspective with these comments. Enjoy your next visit to the country, and stay safe.

  17. @Larry.

    Yes, the only people who are victims of violence are the people who are involved in drugs and girls. Read sarcasm.

  18. “Crime stats confirm most incidents involving tourists are drug or prostitution related”….Can you cite your source?

  19. I will be traveling for the first time to Colombia, specifically the north: Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. Are these places safer than, say, Medellin or Bogota? Have there been many incidents of robberies here? Are the taxis safe to take?

    Sam

    • Hola Sam, the old historic center of Cartagena is about as safe as you’ll get in a big Colombian city. While most of Cartagena consists of poorer neighborhoods, the touristic old city center is safe to walk around at night. You may be propositioned for prostitutes, drugs, or to go to a particular discoteca by promoters, but otherwise, the biggest danger is pickpockets. Taxis might overcharge you, but that’s about it.

      Same in Barranquilla and Santa Marta — mostly minor annoyances. If you’ll be in Barranquilla for Carnival next February, be especially alert for pickpockets as they’ll be out in force on the crowded streets.

  20. I almost got robbed two days ago Nov. 1, 2011 by a incredibly beautiful colombian woman and her colombian boyfriend who followed me all of the way home from the Pomona Poblado grocery store.

    I was standing in line buying my food and this super-hot colombian girl starts flirting with me. My spanish is not good, I am learning.

    Anyways, I pay and leave the store but I notice this criminal looking colombian guy staring at me on the way out. My place is about four blocks away so I begin walking.

    The super-hot colombian girl is walking with me, so I assume that she must live near me. On the way to my apt. during our walk, she hugs me and rubs her big boobs against me which I won’t lie, turned me on.

    We finally get back to my apartment and she asks me if it’s ok if she joins me for a quick drink. I say ok and being an American horn-dog quickly fix her a Jack and coke. She asks me to turn on some music and next thing I know she is dirty dancing for me like a stripper, grinding against me, etc.

    All of a sudden she takes her top off and is completely topless with her nice big boobs right in my face. I quickly notice that there is a “white powder” residue on both her nipples and she is trying to put her boobs into my face! I freak out because I quickly realize what is happening!

    She is trying to knock me out with that roofie crap all of my colombian and american friends warned me about! I push her off of me pretty hard and she ends up on the floor. I tell her to leave and I am calling her a taxi.

    I follow her downstairs to the guard gate and I notice that the criminal looking colombian guy from the Pomona Poblado is standing right across the street staring at me! I start yelling at him and he starts running away. The taxi pulls up and takes the colombian thief away.

    After talking to a few of my buddies who live in Medellin, they said I was very lucky that I didn’t get knocked out, robbed or worse. I almost packed my bags and headed to the airport over this SCARY robbery incident. I called my friends back home and they said GET THE HELL OUT OF COLOMBIA! YOU ARE A GRINGO WITH A BIG INVISIBLE BULLSEYE ON YOUR SHIRT!

    I have decided to stay but my experience has taught me to stay the HELL AWAY FROM the crazy colombian women/whores. I never realized how easy it is to get into a LOT of trouble in colombia. I am on guard and from now on, my colombian friends in medellin are always going out with me and not letting me out of their sight.

    Be Safe In Medellin! It’s not all ice cream and orgasms in colombia…..

    • Read my previous post…here. Larry September 3, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Have you been robbed in Colombia? What tips do you have for staying safe here?********* This quote is near the top of this article…just my input. Dave…thanks for the response. I am not here to preach morality. I was just stating the facts. Crime stats confirm most incidents involving tourists are drug or prostitution related. I was not implying that you were involved in these. I have been to Barranquilla, cartagena, and Medellin to visit. Only problems I had were street vendors selling me junk. But heard countless stories about prostitutes and drug dealers hustling people who engage. Yes, there were some beautiful street chicas in Medellin….best looking prostitues I have ever seen. I was tempted, but I had a feeling my wallet would get stolen. Or I would get a knife in my rib cage. Also, I went to the ‘centro’ district with 2 other gringos. Simple things like safety in numbers. Anyway, planning a trip back in a couple of weeks…take care Dave***************** Try Colombia cupid. I have been very successful on there.

    • Wow Kevin, crazy story. It should be a warning sign to any foreign guy when any Colombian girl is that forward/aggressive.

      Glad you made it out of the situation OK.

    • Oh scopolamine, why are you so terrifying!

      http://www.vice.com/vice-news/colombian-devil-s-breath-1-of-2

      • Thanks for sharing the link Kevin. I watched both parts of that video, and boy is it scary what that drug (and the people who use it) are capable of. It was especially chilling to hear that gangster toward the end of part two talk about how he ordered other people raped and killed to avenge his friend’s death. Damn.

    • Magdalena says:

      I’m sorry, Kevin, but that has to be one of the most foolish stories I’ve ever heard in my life. I almost doubt it – as I have a hard time believing anyone could be so daft – but I guess anything is possible here.

  21. Larry,

    I am confused? You just reposted your earlier post again? Stay safe out there in Medellin! You are mingling with some very poor and desperate people. Don’t flash your cash or cameras.

  22. Dave, how is it going in Medellin. I will be in town soon and was wondering how the crime situation was going. Please let me know…lunch is on me. Larry

    • Hey guys, just checking in, my one month trip in medellin is almost over. I leave in a few days back for the USA. Overall, besides almost getting robbed in my first couple of days at the Pomona Poblado, nothing else crazy happened to me. I like medellin. The only bad thing is I believed the marketing line of -“medellin is the city of eternal spring.” I should have brought more rain gear with me because it rains in Medellin almost every other day like clockwork. I kept thinking it was sunny and 75F everyday just like everybody was telling me. Oh well, you learn from personal experiences. If you are visiting Medellin for the first time, make sure you bring lots of rain gear, speak basic spanish and have local friends Paises that will watch your back and show you around. If you just come here without knowing anybody, you are at risk of getting hit some time. The best line that kept me out of trouble was if a Colombian asked me why I am visiting Medellin, I would simply tell them I am visiting my Colombian friends, one of which is a police officer. The line worked great. I noticed a lot of paisas didn’t want to screw with me knowing I had a cop friend in Medellin.
      Good Luck!

      • Hey Kevin, glad the rest of your stay went well. You were there during the rainiest part of the year — October/November. December is the start of the dry (Summer) season, which lasts through February.

        When I arrived in February 2009, every day was gorgeous, and there was barely any rain. I thought it was heaven, until the rainy season started. haha Also, in the last two years, effects of El Nino have made for even wetter wet seasons than normal.

    • Hi Larry, thanks for the offer, however I left Medellin in August to begin seeing the rest of South America. So far I’ve made it as far as Peru!

      As for safety in Medellin, I still don’t think it’s any more dangerous than other big Latin American cities (or Western cities for that matter). That said, as Christmas approaches, those with less money are more likely to resort to theft and robbery. I was recently warned about this here in Lima too.

      • Dave, I agree with your comment about more thievery, muggings and robberies will happen the closer we get to Christmas(that’s a fun way to live, being all paranoid that some dude is gonna rob you to get his Christmas gift for his girlfriend!) I do disagree about the comment-“As for safety in Medellin, I still don’t think it’s any more dangerous than other big Latin American cities (or Western cities for that matter).” Sounds like you haven’t personally experienced a scary robbery YET in Latin America. Yes, crime rates are high in just about every big city in the world, but at least you know which areas to avoid because everyone will tell you not to go there after dark.
        What makes visiting Medellin so dangerous are the
        THREE BIG DANGERS-
        #1 You don’t speak the language well or if you think you do they can still tell you aren’t Colombian with the accent. Kind of like a Colombian guy speaking English in USA. It’s pretty obvious he is a fish out of water.
        #2 Everybody knows you are an American($Rich guy$) by the way you look and dress, so you might as well wear a big target on your shirt that says “Hit me! I got cash!”
        #3 The criminals back in USA don’t blow a white powder into your face(scopolamine) that knocks you out and turns you into a mindless slave. That video that Kevin posted about scopolamine scared crap out of me.
        These THREE BIGGIES make it much more dangerous for foreigners visiting Medellin.
        Check out the US State Dept. travel warning-http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5531.html The State Dept doesn’t put up fake travel warnings, they are based on actual crime statistics.
        Time has a good article also-http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1967232,00.html
        Be safe out there! I love my country USA! God bless our troops! This is one Insane World!

        • FYI-I have met a lot of cool Americans who live part time/full time in Medellin. They all got their crazy stories, but one of them Rick really stands out. Rick used to live in Medellin for four years and recently moved back to the USA. I asked him why he is back? He said -“It’s all about the women. I am here to get laid and party. The women back in the USA are not for me. They are all expensive gold diggers. That’s one of the big reasons you see all of the older American guys down here with the 20 year old girlfriends.” He also said that after four years of living in Medellin, he just got heartbroken by his “honest” colombian girlfriend and all of the other little “irritations”. He said in the beginning the “irritations” don’t bother you, but after you have lived in Medellin for a while, they turn into bigger problems & start driving you nuts. That’s when you get homesick pretty fast. Rick’s two biggies- #1 Colombian women can be really bad and tricky(he thinks 90% Colombiana’s are straight out whores- pay for play chicas). He said if you don’t believe me, next time you see a beautiful girl in colombia, tell her “you are an American looking for a Colombian girl friend and randomly let her see you got a couple hundred thousand Pesos in your pocket next to your cell phone. Tell her you want her to come over to your place later to party. Get her phone number and text her your address.” He said he personally tested this plan out and it works 85% of the time! He even had his good buddy pull this pay to play on his Colombian girlfriend of two years to test her to see if she was faithful and it backfired big time. She took the bait and he was devastated. He really thought they were in love and about to get married. He was hiding in his buddies closet. When he walked out of his buddies closet and asked her what she was doing with her clothes off and kissing his buddy she absolutely freaked out on him! I wish he would have taped that like “Cheaters”! The look on that slut’s face would have been priceless! haha! He told her to pack her crap and get the hell out later.
          #2 The crime. He has been robbed twice in four years in Medellin. Both by guns and the last one he was pistol whipped even after he gave them all of his money. Rick told me- “Don’t believe anything you hear about how safe Colombia is now. That’s all BS! Did you know that the average colombian makes about $500 a month? Then they see some rich ass foreigner usually an American walking by with his Blackberry and other crap. It’s a miracle that robberies are not even higher because if I was the poor guy making $50 a week even I would be tempted to rob that foreigner. If I was really smart criminal, I would make a deal with a taxi cab driver to set up victims all day long and split it with him 50/50.” Pretty scary stuff.

          • After dating quite a bit in Medellin, I do believe it can be hard to find a woman who doesn’t pay attention to the money or your foreign status. I’ve heard it’s worse in Medellin than other parts of Colombia.

            BUT, it’s not something only foreigners have to be weary of. Earlier this year my Colombian friend half-jokingly told me that it’s very hard to find a Colombian woman who wants a guy for honest reasons. Many are interested in money, trips, material goods, or the ability to live in a foreign country.

            However, that said, I do know and believe there are honest Colombian women with good hearts. But yea, you gotta test a woman’s motives early on and not fall under their spell just because they’re pretty.

            I think many do what they feel they need to do to survive, provide for their kids (so many are single moms), etc.

        • Hey Kevin, I think the only one of the three big dangers you mentioned that is UNIQUE to Colombia, and more specifically the big cities like Bogota and Medellin, is the scopolamine.

          The other two will apply regardless of which country in Latin America you visit, or any country in the world for that matter (though crime in Asia tends to be of the less violent variety).

          That’s the point I’m trying to make. Yea it’s dangerous, but I don’t think Medellin is any more dangerous than Quito, Lima, or Rio de Janeiro, yet people seem much more willing to visit those cities because they don’t have the history of Pablo Escobar dragging them down. And yea, scopolamine is scary stuff.

  23. Kevin, I agree with your well-written comments. After living in Poblado for a year and a half (and “only” one armed robbery) I returned to the States last week. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels not to have to look over your shoulder all the time. I also don’t miss the noise, pollution, idiotic and inconsiderate drivers, inefficiency and high prices, like gasoline, sales tax, imported items, estrato 6 utility rates, cars and electronics. Hell, even the price of prepagos is going through the roof! I make more than enough here in the US to take several trips to Colombia every year to party and chase women (they actually do the chasing–just flash a few pesos!)

    What I will miss, however, are the genuinely nice people (most of them), the beautiful country and great weather (Medellin), the hot babes (even if 90% are whores), the zest for life everyone seems to have and the cheap human labor, like my costeña housekeeper.

    Both the US and Colombia have their positives and negatives. My personal choice was to opt for security and relative boredom here in the US vs. the insecurity, yet exciting life in Colombia. The time I spent there was both exhilarating and frightening! Colombia has a long way to go before it can truly be considered safe! Until safety improves, the value of human life matters, inequality is addressed, infrastructure is brought up to 21st Century standards and systemic corruption is drastically reduced, Colombia will struggly mightily to put its ugly past behind it.

  24. Sanjuanita Techau says:

    Eine wirklich prima Page. Komme jetzt öfter mal reinschauen

    • Ich bin wirklich froh dass es dir so gut gefällt. Leider war mir Medellin viel zu gefährlich und ich bin letzten Monat weggezogen.

  25. I’m from Medellin and i have read some of your post, all of them pretty interesting btw, it’s great to see a foreign perspective of my city.

    If you want to stay safe here, please don’t walk with expensive clothing, shoes, gold stuff, don’t text on our phone while you’re walking on the streets, and better if you try to don’t look as a gringo because robbers think every ‘gringo’ are full of money.

    I hope you still enjoy my gorgeous city!

    • I know EXACTLY how Medellin could really raise it’s status as a REAL INTERNATIONAL DESTINATION by IMPROVING IT”S SECURITY 100%.

      First, the courts should pass very tough anti-robbery laws. 5 to 10 years Minimum jail time if you are caught robbing or mugging anybody in Colombia.. Second, all of the local newspapers should get the word with an extensive one year advertising campaign to make sure all scumbags get the message. Third, the Medellin Police Forces should start a new department called the “ANTI-THIEVERY DEPARTMENT” that specifically targets thieves and muggers. Start initiating reverse sting operations targeting thieves just like in other countries. Start putting out strategically places Police bullet-proof decoys dressed up as drunk/stupid white gringos/tourists who flash lots of cash and expensive Rolexes to attract the thieves. Have a SWAT TEAM near buy that arrests the thieves quickly and incarcerates them quickly. Fourth, make a TV Show out of the arrests named COLOMBIAN COPS that records all of the action LIVE and put all of the thieves pictures and names all over the news so everyone knows who they are.

      I guarantee you that within six months, muggins and robberies in Medellin and other cities in Colombia would drop 75%! All of the Colombian criminals in Medellin would be thinking- Screw that! I ain’t robbing anyone because I don’t want to spend 5 to 10 years in jail and have my name and face all over that damn TV SHOW!

      Reality check- The Colombian Police would never take such effective measures to curb crime in Medellin, because their brothers and cousins are the ones doing the crimes! It’s all an inside job.

      • Interesting ideas Kevin. I’m not sure what to think of the Medellin police. They met my expectations with regard to service and support, and I had no expectations they’d be able to actually catch the perpetrators. I just wanted the situation on record for insurance purposes, and in case there is a pattern that develops.

        I imagine the Colombians would have stronger opinions regarding the level of corruption within the force.

  26. To Anonymous…

    So, basically dress like a homeless bum (gamin) and leave your cell phone at home. I’m surprised that you did not suggest never leaving your house–that would be the safest thing, in my opinion.

    How the hell do you not “look like a griingo?” I have light skin and blue eyes! Plastic surgery??

    I’ve left after living in Medellin for a year and a half. Here are my top ten reasons:

    1) Crime is through the roof, not just petty crime but all sorts of scoundrels everywhere. Home invasion robberies, muggings in broad daylight even in El Poblado. You can’t even roll down your windows at red lights without the fear of being robbed. El Centro is pathetic–people getting robbed in front of tourist attractions.

    2) Pollution (air, mercury, noise, etc.)

    3) Horrendous traffic jams, rude drivers, no rules of the road, pedestrians run over, millions of motorcycle drivers who cut you off and get in front of you without regard for safety.

    4) All attracive women are prepagos (hookers).

    5) Corruption, inefficiency and “narco culture” infiltratesthe entire society. The more successful you are in business, the more likely you must pay vacuna (bribes) to stay in business. If you become very successful, you might get murdered. That’s how they deal with competition there. US $50 is all it takes to get some punk to shoot you.

    6) Cost of living much higher than you think. Gas prices, sales tax (25%) imported items, electronics, etc. are much higher than in the US, or even Europe.

    7) To remain safe, you must live in an estrato 5 or 6 area. For that price, I’d rather live in Florida. At least the beach is close.

    8) Half of Colombia, half of Antioquia and 3/4 of Medellin is off-limits due to rightwing and leftwing guerillas, as well as marauding gang members. Very high kidnapping rate for foreing workers and residents by both paramilitaries and other mafiosos.

    9) Scopolamine–need I say more?? About as scary as it gets!!

    10) No political will to change crime, corruption and social inequality. None!!

    Sure, things have changed from 15-20 years ago. The number of murders went from 6,000 to 3,000. Whoppie… Sure, the climate is nice (when it’s not raining, which is about 9 months out of the year) and the general population is very kind. But the bad far outweighs the good! So, before you pack your bags and buy an expensive apartment or business, take it from someone who has lived there long enough to know better (I’ve lived in more than two dozen countries). Wanna live in South America? Go to Chile–safe, secure, beautiful, well-organized and prosperous!

    • Hey Alexander, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re thoughts were skewed toward the positive end when you first arrived in Medellin.

      Obviously in hindsight after living there, you’ve seen the downsides as well, and this post reflects them all clearly. Every city and country has them, and while it’ll be a few more months before I get to Chile, I’m sure they’ve got their own problems.

      I believe the reality lies somewhere in the middle of people professing Medellin as the best city on Earth, and those who slam it as being too dangerous, dirty, etc. Of course it’s up to each individual traveler to see if there’s a connection.

      “All attracive women are prepagos (hookers).”

      Obvious overgeneralization. Maybe you mean “all super-hot model-like girls that your average man has no chance with on normal terms” are prepagos. I knew plenty of pretty girls, both that I dated and was friends with, that were not prepagos. I think the problem is just as much with our (male) expectations as with the number of prostitutes.

      Now that I’ve spent a month in Lima, I have definitely learned to appreciate the lack of motorbikes, better cuisine, and increased sense of safety. Also, the women I’ve gone out with seem more trustworthy on the whole. I feel like they’re more sincere. But maybe that’s just because I haven’t been out with enough to inevitably get hurt by one or two. Who knows.

      One thing is for sure, Lima lacks the natural beauty of Medellin. One additional point — you’re overstating the rain issue big time, one that was exacerbated in the last two years by the El Nino effect.

    • I too lasted only 1 year in Medellin.
      I’ve lived in S America for 14 years.
      This wasn’t my 1st rodeo.
      I AGREE with EVERY WORD Alexander says here!!!!

      Chile, Argentina, Brazil………….Light YEARS ahead of the Banana Republics.

  27. Terry Poole says:

    Hi Alexander, I left a message for Dave about half an hour ago regarding safety in El Poblado and also about taking taxis from the airport at night…and then I’ve just read read your blog! I’m supposed to be arriving in Medellin on 14th Jan for a week before flying to Cali for the other week of my 2 week holiday. I am now seriously considering cancelling my trip- losing £739 in the process- and going somewhere else. I booked this trip two months ago, but since then some of the reports I’ve read have made me very apprehensive. I’ve been to Colombia once before in July 2005-Bogota-Cartagena- San Andres- however my Spanish is limited at best. I can understand the attraction of El Poblado for thieves, perhaps Laureles and Estadio are the same, crime wise. What’s the point of trying to chat to one of the gorgeous paisa women in a bar, if you then get attacked by her jealous other-half. I’ve also read about a Gringo telling people not to be scared about visiting Cali, but to always walk around in groups when exploring the city. The last couple of weeks have been a mix of enthusiasm and dread regarding this trip. Perhaps I should have read up more before making the booking. Beautiful cities that may not be worth the hassle. Ciao!
    Terry

    • Hi Terry,

      I remember writing to you via email previously to try and address your concerns. I’m sorry to hear you’re still having doubts, but I can’t imagine losing over $1,000 in travel expenses because of your fears. It’s true that there are certainly places you can go that may not have as much crime or risk, but frankly, I think you may be making the risks out to be MUCH greater than they actually are in Medellin and Colombia as a whole.

      Reading a comment like Alexander’s is only going to add fuel to the fire, and dissuade you even more. But it’s coming from a man who lived in the city for over a year, and those negative points obviously have a cumulative effect. You’re only going to be in the country for two weeks.

      I can’t assure you nothing would happen. The reality is street crime is the greatest threat, but I know far more travelers who’ve been to Colombia without incident then who’ve run into trouble. Here’s a recent post from my blogger friend Stephanie who spent more than a month in Colombia recently — http://twenty-somethingtravel.com/2011/12/colombia-worst/

      • Terry Poole says:

        Hi Dave, Thank you for your reply. It has helped me decide to go ahead with my trip to Medellin and Cali . i hope to relay some positive info back to others about Medellin on this site. Thank you .

        Terry.

        • Great to hear Terry. Please let us know how your trip goes, and what you think of the two cities!

          • Thanks for taking the time to comment on Medellin.
            As some one who is planning on visiting Medellin later this year your website will come in handy.

            One of the best tactics to get out of a hairy situation is to speak incoherently at a million miles an hour.

          • jose sanchez says:

            you american bums should stay in your own country, nobody wants you there,

          • Jose, you’re welcome to your opinion, and to share it in the discussion here, but please be respectful. I’ve deleted the three other comments you left on this post.

            I’m just thankful all the Colombians I’ve met over the last four years do not share your attitude. Most, in fact, have been very inviting and hospitable.

            I realize some Americans come here and are only interested in sex and drugs and partying, but that’s not all of us. How would you like it if I continued to portray all Colombians as drug dealers, and suggested the hundreds of thousands living in the USA get out?

  28. Colombia is very safe. I am an american, and with my parents are from Colombia. They are from Cali which is way more dangerous. I also travel their a lot and been to Medellin on numerous occasions to DJ. I have stayed in Belen, and El Poblado and it’s very safe. You should never carry your original passport, I always carry a Color photo Copy. No more than $40 us currency and never wear jewelry and be flashy. I find this showing off behavior very tempting to these people that are very poor and looking for some quick money.

  29. Lo mismo me paso a mi oi. Es la 5 veces que vengo en Colombia y esta vez fue por quedarme y trabajar aca.
    Bueno es ya casi un mes que estoy viviendo y disfrutando Colombia, como siempre. Nunca me paso nada……hasta oi.
    Yo vivo en Bogota. Oi me fui a una tienda tigo para cargar mi celular. La tienda esta cerca del centro commercial Andino, y eran las 12. Recargo mi celu y salgo. Prima cosa que hago es llamar un amiga y ver si me activaron el servicio. Hago como 7 pasos hasta una esquina y siento detras mi oreja algo. Una mano que me quita el celular. Y despues veo una moto que escapa. Fue un segundo. Entente corriendo de atrapar la moto, pero claramente la moto era mas veloz. Me quede alla como sin creerlo. Y si, me estaba pasando. Siempre has estado muy atento a no llamar o contestar por la calle. Pero….en una via tan traficada y tan bien sorvellada con seguridad en cada esquina, me pareciò, no se, como tranquillo hacer una llamada veloz.
    La cosa fea fue otra. En la esquina estaba la camara de seguridad del centro commercial Andino. Grabo todo incluso seguramente la placa de la moto del ladro que seria util para la denuncia. Pero el jefe de la seguridad del centro Andino no quiso colaborar. Yo fui alla con la polizia, y nada. Me volvi a la casa muy desanimado. Tenia algunas citad de trabajo que obviamente cancelle.
    Manana comprarè otro cellular, esperando que esa experiencia no me quitas las ganas de vivir en un pais tan bonito y en el cual yo creo mucho.

    Que aprendì: los robos son cosas que pasan todos los dias. Fui afortunado que no me tocaron nisiquira vi la cara del ladro. Fue indolor y sin armas. Nunca sacare un celular a la mano por la calle.

    Giovanni, Italiano viviendo en Bogota.

  30. Holy shit Dave, that report gave me some goose pimples.

    Appreaciate how that incident ended.

    A friend of mine was shot last year, in EXACTLY the same situation, probably at exactly the same place as you! (somewhere around Los Molinos/33)

    Swallow your pride and be subservient in such situations. May be hard, but so is a bullet in your chest..

  31. Unfortunately not. He was from England. I guess that’s when I realized that we are actually very mortal…

    • In that case, I believe he was the man I’d read about in an article on Colombia Reports earlier that year. What happened to him was exactly what I was thinking about as I hurried to hand over my possessions.

      For what it’s worth, his death served as a serious warning to me, and I’m sure many others, not to resist, but rather focus on getting yourself out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible.

  32. Thanks for sharing your account, and I’m sorry to hear that happened. I had a tablet stolen out of my hostel in Buenos Aires recently, but fortunately it was not a face to face encounter with the robber. I will be traveling to Medellin soon and possibly settling down there for a month, so it looks like this will be a very helpful blog – I’ll keep reading! Best,
    Dan

    • Man, this is all BS. Total
      Mede is safe, when they try to rob therm i always resit, i get the gun and say now u escape.
      You got be like them. dress like them. and carry a gun. and u r safe.
      Girls arr not hot at all. most of them are overweight. americans much better.
      1% of them is beatiful, but mostly short and fat.
      Colo is good only to make some cash … and go. Dont talk to anybody. dont any body know anything

  33. We have Devils Breaths in Australia but the plant here is called ANGLES TRUMPET. We have the strickest gun laws in the world unfortutantly criminals don’t obey laws. Want to get robbed just go to Cavill Ave Surfers Pardise any night or any large Australian city and they’ll have an area to avoid. If you have an itch to visit any place on our planet just go. The experiences both good and bad is what makes your humanity. As my great granpop Pedro said ‘Better to be robbed than be murdered’ Happy trails.

  34. Prettyboy Arnold says:

    @ Dave,

    i would like to rent a private taxi in Medellin during my holidays. Normal taxi costs are low ,i know but need one private person which i can call to pick me up and take me wherever i need to go at anytime. Let say my personal “24 hour” taxidriver.
    Do you know a FAITHFULL person or company in the city of Medellin providing that service ???
    For your information i,m not a “gringo” i,ve been to Colombia five times and last year for the first time to Medellin.” I like the Hooters stuff jumping around and i,m gonna get me one of them just to play” !!!

    • No, I don’t have any personal taxi drivers I can refer you to, but it’s a good idea to find one. You might want to try asking around once you arrive, it’ll be easier to get a recommendation. You might want to start by calling a taxi service (since presumably you can trust them more from the start), and then look for a taxi driver with whom you develop a rapport, or seems trustworthy. Otherwise, keep asking around.

      • Prettyboy Arnold says:

        Dave, thanks for the information . I really appreciate your advice .I,ll see how to fix this when i,m there. Last year i took some dangerous chances (without realizing the danger) by going around in taxis with my IPHONE 4 i(gold coloured case) in my hand and big amounts of pesos and euros.
        One strange thing i,ve experienced in Medellin is that there are some taxi drivers who sometimes DO NOT KNOW the city at all. It happened to me twice. They just said it to me while driving and imagine it was my first time in Medellin.
        The second time i was with a female friend and she didn,t know the city either. Started from Carrera 34 to ” CC SANTA FE “to have lunch. The driver(very young guy) had no clue how to get there.I just told him to turn back and drop me at Parque Lleras. After drinking 7 ” Club Colombias” at Hooters to cool down my nerves i walked to the hotel.
        By reading your story about the robbery and the stories here i now realize that things could be ended up very bad.
        Somebody in this blog also mentioned the (expensive looking) clothes and sneakers issue. Need to find a way for that cause maybe for me it,s normal looking clothes but for other people it isn,t….and all the time i noticed people on the street looking at me from head to toe. Didn,t know i was “dando la papaya” !!! Now i really believe that my late grandmother , MY GUARDIAN ANGEL, is watching over me ALL THE TIME .

        • ” NO DAR PAPAYA” Es la palabra clave no solo para los extranjeros como vosotros, sino también para los locales. Ubicarse en Medellín es muy fácil y es lo primero que debes saber cuando llegas a una ciudad nueva. En Medellín tienes que tener en cuenta el eje del río MEDELLÍN que va de sur a norte y teniendo en cuenta este sentido, a tu mano derecha tienes el oriente y a tu mano izquierda tienes el occidente. Por ultimo decoros que los taxis siempre se deben llamar por teléfono.

          Un saludo para todos

  35. Guys … get a good job in asafe country imsted of living in a cheap one risking your life daily
    Life is worth more than an expensive lifestyle ..

  36. did you find the taxi on the street or did you call for one and he already knew you were going to the DAS or DAR office? if the later, he may have called his accomplices before picking you up, as they probably suspected you would have your passport with you

    • No, I got the taxi from a queue that’s always outside the Premium Plaza mall. I don’t remember him making any phone calls while I was in the car.

  37. Tu articulo es completamente cierto, siento mucho que te hayan robado pero es una realidad que sucede a diario en esta ciudad. De todas maneras te agradezco el que hayas sido tan respetuoso al no ofender mi ciudad como lo hacen otros.

    • De nada, y sé que estos delitos afectan a los Colombianos sobre una base diaria. Espero que el gobierno puede tomar medidas para tratar de reducir la brecha económica en la ciudad y el pais, y mejorar el acceso a la educación, por lo que la gente tiene más oportunidades en el futuro.

  38. Hi guys,

    I “almost” got robbed yesterday. I ll try to explain this but excuse me if you don t understand all of my English…

    I think you should NOT do what I did.

    I was walking yesterday with a girl friend close to Carlos E. After having a diner, I accepted to walk to Estadio for the inauguration of the Feria de Las Flores. I m pretty new here since I have been living here since 1 month only….
    So after leaving the restaurent we walked in the direction of Estadio. The “robbery” happend close to a road with a lot of traffic just behind Colloseo. As we were walking, one guy with a girl approached us from behind and started to ask questions.

    After 30 seconds he wanted to shake my hands which I accepted at first. Then, while shaking my hands, he directed my hand close to his belt! I refused!! He did the same to my friend… At this moment I was very naive and thought that he wanted us to touch his sex and that the subject of conversation was about having sex the 4 of us hahaha! I was asking her what did he say!?!? She was a bit stressed I guess and didn’t answer me… It s maybe obvious for you but he wanted us to know that he had a knife or a gun…

    He then ask me politely to show me what I had under my shirt to see I had not hidden the stolen object… I was still confused and didn t understand that he wanted to see If I was not wearing a gun or something…

    Two others teenagers arrived and started to ask questions. Once again I misunderstood and thought they were asking us if those two were bothering us! I said no thank you… In fact they were asking the two robbers if they had a problem with us… Just a way to put pressure on us. I was so confused that I had no pressure at all!
    Next they ask to see what was in our pockets, which I agreed. An iPhone and a local phone + my id. My friend , following the order of the 2 robbers, ask for my iPhone. I gave it to her and then she gave it to the guy. I said, lets see if you can unlock it!! Of course he could not and I was really happy and said, now give it back please… I m nuts! My friend then gave her phone to the girl too and then translated the first sentence of that guy : give your wallet and as they were speaking louder… Things became clear. I said “are you crazy” !? (I had 200 $ in my pockets) At this moment I couldn t think too much and decide to grab my phone from the guys hands! The guy seemed a bit shocked too by my reaction and didn’t move. My friend bravely took her phone too! I then grabbed my friends hand, pushed the guy in front of me (2 others were behind and the other girl on our right) and started to walk fast. Luckily we were on the side of a road with a lot of traffic and were able to pick up a taxi within a second.

    I m 220 pounds and 6’2″ but… I think that the robbers did not do nothing to stop us because we were not in a park but close to the traffic…

    I think we were very lucky! I would advise people to stay in the touristic area or to go out with a group of 5-6 people minimum if you leave poblado. Also, don t walk too much by night but try to take the taxi. Even better if you can call a taxi. It s the only time I had a problem. I don t want to scare anyone because I think that if you follow the basics rules of safety, Medellin is safe!

    Sorry for the long post,

    Take care

    Jeremie

    • Hey Jeremie, thanks for sharing your story. I understood everything perfectly. It sounds like you probably had the size advantage, and maybe you were a bit more confident because it doesn’t sound like you ever confirm whether they had guns or knives down their pants.

      Kudos for your bravado, I’m glad it ended OK. I always take taxis at night, even though it’s only a 10-minute walk to Barrio Colombia with the clubs, or two different metro stations.

      I haven’t written about this (yet), but recently, a guy who was renting a room in my apartment was robbed two blocks away by 2 guys with kitchen knives, and 2 girls who were more like accomplices. This was along a busy street (Av Las Vegas), along the edge of Poblado (so not a sketchy area) around 8pm on a Sunday night.

      It just so happens one block has a lot of trees that block the street lights, and these kids knew that, so they were waiting to rob someone that night, and it turned out to be my roommate. He tried to give him his $20 phone, but they rejected it (which is why I leave my iphone at home). He only had a few bucks, some climbing sneakers, and food in his backpack, but they took it anyways.

      10 minutes later, by the time he’s back at the apt, someone had already called in the license plate of the taxi they tried to escape in, so the four of them were all arrested for the robbery. Finally, some of these punks get caught!

      Unfortunately, my friend was so concerned with potential retribution, he resigned from his job here and went back to the US prematurely.

      Again, glad you and your friend are safe, and thanks for sharing.

  39. Colombia is a pure sh*thole. And you know what they don’t even respect themselves. You can buy a fiscal for a cup of coffee and if your a gringo the delinquintes will go free 100% guarenteed. They falsified documentes about my property to steel it, DENIED me my consticucional right to file a criminal charge. After 6 years in the fight I have 3 Magistrates , 1 Judge and more than 40 government funcionarios filed with coruption charges etc. There are the newspapers who want to cover the story but they want money too, and you know what’s going to happen with all this after if comes to a head. You got it corruption wins down here. The other worst are the hospitals and insurance companies. I advise you don’t get sick down here.

    • Sorry to hear about your troubles, but bureaucracy and corruption are hardly unique to Colombia.

      I’m sure it’s worse here than in the developed Western nations. For that reason, I try to keep a light foot in the country, and haven’t dealt with banks, real estate, or medical care beyond outpatient medical and dental care (which has been of the same quality or better as any I used in the US).

  40. Andrew Amkanana says:

    I’ve been in medellin for almost a month now without incidence and I’ve been in Colombia three months with almost no incidence. I had a great time in santa marta, riohacha(i have a whole suitcase full of mochilas), cabo del la vela, tayrona, rodadero, cartagena and bogota. Even dated in bogota and made a great new friend. Bogota, im my opinion, is much better for real dating than medellin and the women there are just as gorgeous. I love the food here. Everything from the mondongo to the ajiaco to the churros are fantastic. And there is no doubting the country is gorgeous.

    However, im looking forward to getting out of medellin and colombia on Fri. I don’t know how you can keep saying things like

    “I still don’t think it’s any more dangerous than other big Latin American cities (or Western cities for that matter)”

    So yeah maybe not more dangerous than other Latin American cities, but to say

    “or Western cities for that matter”

    Is a bit of a stretch. This city is much more dangerous. Google “robbed in miami”, “robbed in paris”, “robbed in nyc”, “robbed in los angeles”, “robbed in barcelona”. Or robbed in whatever and see what you get. Then google “robbed in medellin” or “robbed in Colombia” or “robbed in Bogota” and see what you get. There is a big difference. Only with the latter googles do you find startling results. I don’t for one instance believe all this colombia is secure propaganda cause if I do then Im putting myself at risk.

    And what about the security of the country by and large? So, I’ve heard there are now police in every town in colombia. I personally have seen many police posts in many of the remote towns I passed through on the way to Cabo de la vela. And even way out in La Guajira itself there are many police posts along the railway that leads to Port Bolivar. So what? Have the conditions that created the Pablo Escobar colombia been cleared up? Is colombia that far away from those days?

    Nope. Has anyone really thought about what that saying “Don’t show the papaya” is really saying about Colombian society? This colombian saying practically says its alright to rob someone if they slip up. At least thats what I read. Did I get it wrong? Its these kind of sayings that point to a culture ripe for the makings of king pins like pablo escobar.

    And what about the overall look the other way kind of mentality. In colombia as long as things are relatively quite, nobody’s getting shot or killed, then nobody says anything. Off the Prado stop in Medellin there is skidrow. The callejeros are smoking crack and huffing whatever on the street out in the open as people are passing by. There are cops just across the street and nothing is done. What about the prostitutes everywhere? You think prostitution and drug use makes a city safe? Hardly. But, the actual acts are not near as concerning as the society that tolerates them.

    Do I even need to start talking about the guerillas that still exist? You think they are just going to go home when and if there is a peace accord? Do you think whoever the leader is even has the authority? Ok picture this, you are have been a guerilla since you were sixteen and now you are 26. One day your leader says ok the shows over everyone go home. Huh? Do you really think those guys are going home? But wait the guerillas, in my opinion, are only the result of a society that tolerates them. If you tolerate prostitution and drug use its not a far cry to tolerate a civil war. Sounds extreme I know, but its not.

    Dont get me wrong, I think the country is gorgeous and a great adventure, but I have to say something when I hear all this Colombia is secure stuff. Cause its not. Im not going to recommend my parents come here on their next vacation. Im not going to recommend this to many of my friends. And since I’ve been here and seen the country first hand I have to tell anyone who comes its just not as safe as many of the major cities of the world. Be more aware than usual. Dont believe the hype.

    • Yes, you’re understanding of “dar papaya” is correct, but it’s by no means a societal affirmation that it is OK to rob people. What it means is don’t do stupid things to make yourself an easy target. That same saying could be applied anywhere in the world. Before arriving in Colombia, I’d been pickpocketed in both Bali and Barcelona, and there were steps I could’ve taken to make myself less of a target in both instances. I learned from it.

      I think part of the “look your own way mentality” is due to the 50 years of civil war, gang and narco violence. One reason you don’t see a lot of drunken fights at bars and in the street (like in the US or UK) is because you risk your life. I believe that’s part of why you’re less likely to see bystanders getting involved. Then there’s the risk of retribution if you do try and get involved.

      You speak of prostitution, drug addicts and homeless people as though they’re unique to Colombia. They’re not. Whether it’s better to have prostitution legal or not is debatable, but because it is legal here, you’re more likely to come face to face with it.

      What should the cops be doing with those homeless crack addicts? Put them in jail for the night? What’s really needed are social programs to try and rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society. According to this Colombia Reports article, the city has earmarked $40 million for such programs.

      And guess what direction we’re heading in with the “war on drugs?” Legalization. I never thought I’d see States in the USA legalizing pot use, but that’s the current trend.

      There already exist programs to reintegrate guerrillas into regular Colombian society, including teaching them to read and training them to join the work force.

      I do not believe the Colombian army can kill their way to peace with the guerillas. We can’t simply drop an A-bomb on them like the USA did in Japan to hasten the end of WWII. They’ve been greatly diminished over the last 10-15 years, so as far as I see it, any hope of staying relevant and wielding influence requires they come to the bargaining table.

      It’s the common street criminals that are the greatest threat to tourists, not guerillas.

      We both have opinions, clearly, but I don’t think either of us are in a position to judge what it’s like to have lived through 50 years of civil war, and some of the world’s worst drug violence in the 80’s and early 90’s. Needless to say, it has all had an effect on Colombian society.

      I wouldn’t recommend my parents come here either, because I know it’s not the kind of destination they’d enjoy (aside from Cartagena, perhaps as a stop during a cruise). But, I have no issues recommending Colombia to all my friends, and the tends of thousands of people who visit this blog every month.

  41. you can’t be serious that after living 16 month in medellin, at that time, you still don’t know not to drive with the window down, to put the safety lock on the passenger doors, use a cellphone for passing boredom in a taxi, if by then you get robbed you seriously deserve to be robbed. crazy how people like you give a bad name to the city when you don’t do crap to use the proper steps to prevent this.

    • Excuse me “Jake,” if that’s your real name. I give Medellin a bad name because some thug with a gun robbed me? Do you not even understand what this blog is about?

      Next time you want to leave a comment, at least have the guts to provide your email address.

    • Jake, while agree that Dave should have probably put his window up while playing with his Blackberry, the fact of the matter is, after you’ve been here a while and everything has gone well, you get comfortable and those things can happen.

      But to say Dave gives Medellin a bad name is pretty ridiculous. All that post did was explain what happened so other people can avoid the experience, the same way we explain our positive experiences to help people have a good time.

      While we encourage feedback, we prefer constructive feedback. It’s pretty obvious you’ve fallen into the habit of mimicking the ultra-partisan banter that permeates the 24-hour news and encourages outrageous statements, no matter your viewpoint.

  42. Good morning & Merry Christmas Dave,Doing some surfing and ran across your post/blogs.
    We met 4 yrs ago in Juan Valdez for coffee and a new HP for you.

    I’ve lived and visited Colombia since 2007.For anyone who’s intrested all of Colombia is beautiful and the people in general are friendly and gracious with visitors no matter your nationality.
    I love Medellin because it still has the paisan culture,the weather great and modern amenities that make your visit enjoyable.Like any place you travel you have to remember where you are to understand what’s safe and what’s not.
    You’ll have differences in opinions but I’d recommend you visit to see for yourself.

    Great article Dave

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

    Feliz Navidad y Feliz Ano Nuevo!

  43. Hi Dave,
    I am a Korean student planning to go to Medellin this month to study Spanish and I’ve been reading a lot of your posts for information. They’ve been really helpful! However I’m very worried about getting robbed or attacked in Colombia and this post and its comments makes me more afraid..
    In my country there are no guns and it’s so safe that a girl can walk around or take a taxi alone at three in the morning with no big worries about safety. I’m not familiar with the situation in Medellin and I don’t know what to expect there. I was wondering as a relatively small Asian girl will I be more vulnerable to robberies? I’m planning to find a place in El Poblado and attend EAFIT for Spanish classes. I probably won’t be out drinking much or wandering off to anywhere dangerous.
    Any tips you have will be much appreciated. Thanks:)

    • Hi Yumi, yes it’s true Asian countries like Korea and Japan, and even Southeast Asia are generally safer than Latin American countries. But, please don’t let my experience scare you. It’s probably not a good idea for a woman to take a taxi home alone at 3am whether she’s sober or drunk. It’s not uncommon for men to drop the women off first, before going home. Generally though, the taxi drivers are quite friendly and nice in Medellin.

      The real problem is criminals in the streets. As my experience shows, you can’t assume robberies only happen at night in bad parts of the city. They happen at all hours of the day, which is why you can’t let your concerns or fears get the best of you.

      Poblado is generally the safest part of the city, and the prettiest. EAFIT is one of the best universities in the city, and it’s private, so people can’t just walk in off the street. I think you will be fine during your stay 🙂

  44. I agree with the blogger…I will chime in on this Linda…. It’s a very important question. I learned over twenty years ago traveling in Venezuela [always was a dangerous place] that you never want to walk around penniless. First reason is obvious, the second to satisfy a robbery. In Venezuela there is supposedly a ‘robber’s code’ .. if you cooperate with the ladron they will simply rob you and leave.. if you don’t cooperate they kill you without another care. Latinos would never believe that a Gringo like myself is ‘rompio’ [broke], all Gringos are rich in their eyes, they would just assume that I am lying and shoot me or like. You never carry less than twenty bucks in your pocket if nothing else to satisfy an armed robber. I don’t suggest carrying anything less. I have posted another bit of advice on this blog in response to the blogger request for input.

  45. Since the blogger asked for opinions I want to share some of mine on this subject, robberies in LA. In my youth I did my share of shagging my ass up and down Tepuis in Venezuela and slogging through various selvas and swamps and to do that it meant travel to and through shady parts of town, being entertained at putacasas, getting through more than a few, true TWSHs [Third World Sh_t Holes], mining towns [always TWSHs] and border cities which always seem to be populated by the worst folks in LA. I also got great advice from expats along the Gring Trail. Here are some of the measures I take depending on the need.

    -If you don’t extensive credit cards for emergencies on the road; perhaps make arrangements with a family member to leave like $1000 bucks per person with them while you are out of the country and memorize their phone numbers and email address so that you can contact them and they can wire you some funds to get home if you loose everything. You can always retrieve the money when you get home. Western Union is amazing ubiquitous in this day and age, especially with the internet.
    -I always keep old wallets when I get a new one. I use these old wallets as my ‘LA wallets’ where on a daily basis I carry the things I talk about below while visiting LA countries. I try not to walk around with my good wallet. I can also use the LA wallet to satisfy a robber and not have to give up my good wallet.
    -Before leaving my home, I make multiple photocopies my passport, drivers license, travel visa if it is required, credit cards front & back, emergency numbers and have everything stored in PDFs and uploaded to my Gmail drive as well as attachments in my Yahoo mail account. I also take paper copies and put in my luggage [best to obscure half of our passport # on these printed copies] and a smaller copy on my person in case my luggage is lost or stolen.
    -I get extra copies of my drivers license and take them along for pocket it or to rent a car of course; all tourist traps are usually satisfied with this if I rent a bike, moto or boat.
    -When I get checked into a hotel like when I hit a new town, I make a beeline for the front desk and leave the bulk of my, credit cards and most importantly, my passport in the hotel lock box.
    -I walk around with a paper copy of my passport, one of my drivers licenses and usually the tourist card I got to get into the country. If a policeman or otherwise wants to see my passport they will be very willing to take me to my hotel to see it. It’s not like the USA where the cops don’t want to have to do anything to avoid filling out paperwork or interfere with their donut break. In LA the cops are usually bored with the locals and will take great pains to show you respect and attention as a foreigner. I have always been able to satisfy them with paper photocopies and my tourist card short of getting on a plane.
    -I also try to keep an ankle wallet / pocket thingy that I can strap to my ankle when I need to go across town with large amounts of cash or to carry IDs to visit somewhere important if necessary.
    -I use my LA wallet to carry the day’s cash, my paper IDs, a drivers license. To be honest I usually walk around with a hundred bucks on my so that I don’t have to carry to much in the way of debit or credit cards. The banks in the USA will not issue duplicate debit cards so it is almost as bad as loosing your passport to get replaced. But DON”T CARRY ALL YOUR SCRATCH with you unless you cannot avoid it.
    -If you have to carry stuff think about putting them inside a thinsock and stuffing in your panties for ladies are your underwear for men. Sorry boxers are my choice therefore the reason I like to have an ankle wallet backup.
    -I have met more than a few LA citizens who care an extra $20 bucks [in local bills] in their shoes or socks when the walk to work etc. as they don’t want to get robbed and be penniless in the wrong side of town. Missing a metro ride could mean a five hour walk across town to get home for instance. I have once or twice used this when visiting the beach and not wanting to carry a bag or even other clothes.
    -As for leaving stuff in your hotel room, I do a couple of things which I will summarize below:
    – If I choose OR have to leave valuables in my hotel room I will separate the cash and cards put one half in my luggage and lock it and one half in my other bag, usually my backpack. I will make it hard for the person to find so that they get nervous and maybe leave before finding anything. Secondly, there is a good chance that the thief will leave when they find the first stash of cash and cards, thinking they found everything together thus perhaps leaving your with the remainder. Remember they are thieves and probably cowards, they want a quick buck and then hall their guilty rears somewhere else.
    -When I check into my room and I see a housemaid in the hallway, I will [inside my room] pull out the equivalent of $2-5 USD in the local currency I go to her immediately and ask her if she is my maid on that floor. She always says yes of course. I will then tell her than I appreciate her looking out for my stuff and I hand her the ‘propina’ and say thanks in advance. If you don’t speak Spanish well just say ‘Gracias para tu servicio, un propina para te’. I guarantee you she will memorize your room number, check with the front desk to find out how long you will be staying and she will hawk over your room like a mother hen not letting any other housemaid get near your room. You will also put the equivalent of $1-5 USD per day in local currency in the ash tray or on the bureau of the dresser for her all by itself to make clear your intent to tip her. Never leave any other money laying out or even other valuables. A maid is hard pressed to go through your luggage or otherwise.. It’s just bad faith whereas a bit of scratch left out might be construed as a tip. Let me tell you folks that in all my travels I have never had anything stolen from my room and I have made some housemaids very happy with my small tips. I have also usually been overwhelmed with their generosity like putting extra pillows in my room, laying my sheets back daily before they leave for the day, some times fresh flowers in my room, fresh ice put in my ice bucket or thermos, extra towels, turning on my a/c in the afternoon before they leave. etc. A little generosity goes a long way with a housemaid. To this day I try to practice what I preach even at all inclusive resorts to good results so far. One thing that is not discussed her is pickpockets.. they do exist everywhere and I had a co-traveler who would not listen to me about carrying his wallet and he got his pocket picked right in front of me on the Caracas metro.. no I did not catch the thief. They were gone, it was bump and take team, ten seconds before we realized what happened.

    If all this sounds like much; it all depends up on your situation and your location. Always use your head, have a plan, preferably a backup plan and you will have more piece of mind and I hope enjoy your travels more. Bad things can happen but preparation breeds confidence, confidence measured properly is a great thing to have. Great travels can happen by accident but great travelers don’t IMHO.

  46. I think that David has given you good advice. I especially support his advice about NOT getting a taxi alone. My ex, who is Vietnamese, visited Panama where she hired a taxi for the afternoon to drive here around, visit the Canal etc. The taxi driver made a bit too many comments about how exciting it was to have such a pretty Asian customer. Asians are quite a novelty in LA and you will get some stares. If you are leaving anywhere at night, ask a trusted male friend to walk you to a taxi or call and have a taxi dispatched and wait inside the building. All workings in buildings will cooperate with you if you tell them you are waiting for a taxi. LA citizens can be very accommodating as they all have mothers, sisters, daughters or wives.

    I currently live in a small pueblo in Central Colombia, Jerico, and it is incredible safe because everyone knows everyone, everyone is someone’s cousin. etc.

    Medellin, is not the same, it’s a big town and has a lot of the similar problems of other big cities. All in all I would prefer Colombia and Medellin to many other large towns in the USA. Latin America and North America for that matter suffer from the problems of mixing so many cultures combined with faulty cultural heritage. When you have countries with little structural, ancestral discipline to respect each other… things go astray IMHO. It is also this mix which makes the Americas so dynamic… things are sort of always a little or lot ‘out of control’. No offense intended, just my opinion.