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Colombia has suffered from a terrible but justifiable reputation as a dangerous and violent country. However, in the last few years safety has improved. Colombia is relatively safe compared with the Congo or Iraq, but keep an eye on your surroundings. Tourists will face problems if they do not take care. Of course it pays to think safe, just as you would in any other large metropolitan city, but more so here because of the violence factor due to the guerrillas. Walk relatively free during the day, but during night take precautions and from time to time observe who's around you. Normally the people who steal look pretty scruffy, so be cautious when a stranger who looks untidy or dirty comes near you!

Major cities in Colombia have very high crime rates, but if you just take some usual precautions you should be fine. In the downtown areas of most cities it is not rare to encounter problems and it is very important to exercise extreme caution in the less developed parts of the urban regions. If you want to take a taxi, don't hail one, rather use the phone -- it costs the same and your call will be answered rapidly. If you want to travel around the country you should research the areas you intend to visit and consider contracting a bodyguard, since some distant parts outside the cities are not recommended for tourists and even locals. If possible speak to a trusted local.

Given Colombia's increasing aggression toward combating the drug trade, drug offenses are not treated lightly. If you are caught by the authorities possessing a controlled substance, expect serious problems.

High risk areas

There is extreme risk to your security in the provinces of Norte de Santander (excluding Cucuta), Santander, Putumayo, Nariño (excluding Pasto), Cauca, Valle de Cauca (excluding Cali), Huila, Arauca, Meta, Guaviare and the rural areas of Antioquia due to the presence of illegal armed groups and coca cultivation and we advise against all travel there.

There is a high risk to your security in the towns of Cucuta, Cali and Pasto, and the provinces of Caqueta, Tolima, Chocó, Córdoba, Sucre, the rural areas of Boyacá and Cundinamarca, southern Bolívar, the southern and border areas of Cesar, the border areas of La Guajira and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria in the province of Magdalena. We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel there.

There is some risk to your security elsewhere in Colombia, and we advise travellers to exercise a high degree of caution.

There is a risk of terrorism throughout Colombia, as well as a high incidence of kidnapping. This is linked to the strong presence of illegal armed groups and prevalent coca cultivation. If you travel to areas in Colombia against our advice, you should ensure you have taken appropriate, professional security measures.

The risk of terrorist bombings and kidnapping extends to the cities. You should be particularly cautious around government buildings, military establishments, public transport and commercial and entertainment centres, which are potential targets for terrorist attacks.

There are high levels of violent crime linked to theft in the cities, including Bogotá. We recommend you use pre-booked taxis where possible and avoid displaying valuables.

Travellers are advised to avoid crossing the borders into and out of Colombia by land. The incidence of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Colombia is high. Travellers should follow local advice, and also be aware that mine areas can be unmarked.

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