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