Dave received an email recently from a foreigner who was robbed at his hotel in Parque Lleras after he was drugged, another incident that made me think about staying safe in Medellín. We both felt really bad about it.
The gentleman wanted us to write about his particular case, in detail I believe, here on this blog but we both decided that’s not the voice of this forum. We understand that Medellín has its warts, but so does any big city such as this metropolitan area of 4 million.
We do believe in helping people, though, so here is a story on some tips to protect yourself in a city that is starting to teem with tourism all year round.
1. Don’t leave your drink unattended, even for a minute.
It only takes a second for someone to drop something in your beer that will leave you at their mercy. You could lose your wallet, credit cards and passport, and that might be the best-case scenario.
If you’re going to the bathroom, either leave it a friend you trust or just take it with you.
On the rare occasions that I do go out, I always keep my beer with me or ask a friend to guard it if I have to step away for a moment to use the baño or make/take a phone call outside where I can hear better.
2. Don’t walk home by yourself after midnight.
There are exceptions but for the most part, you’re better off just taking a taxi, preferably one the bar or restaurant calls for you so there’s a record of the taxi number.
If not, have a friend wait with you to write the number down.
Chances are, you’ll be fine in a taxi. They have meters and after living here more than three years, I can attest that the drivers typically take the fastest route. Only once have they taken me the long way.
That means the 10,000 pesos you spend on the ride home can save you a lot of grief in the long run.
I know someone who decided to walk home, drunk, from a salsa club one night, and the route included a long, lonely stretch that makes robbery easy. He wasn’t robbed, but the guy in the car did point a gun at him.
He said the guy’s girlfriend begged him to stop, then they drove off.
3. Don’t flash your cameras, cell phones or money.
This means even when you’re in a taxi. Dave wrote about his experience getting robbed at gunpoint when he was using his phone while at a stop light.
It can be even worse if you’re walking down the street, especially at night. A friend got robbed near his house on his way to meet us.
I met another idiot, a guy from Louisiana, who was quick to pull out his wad of 50,000-peso bills when pretty girls walked by. No word yet if he’s been robbed, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Being conservative with your valuables is also a sign of humility here and that can go a long way.
4. Don’t be fooled by Poblado.
It is the most popular area of the city for a reason: great restaurants, fun nightlife, lots of hotels and hostels, highest income. But to think you’re in some kind of safety bubble is a mistake.
The thieves are smart. They know the money and tourism is in Poblado so they descend on that part of the city.
You should have the mindset that crime can happen anywhere so just don’t let your guard down.
Follow these tips and staying safe in Medellín should be a lot easier.