Security Situation in Bogota -In general it’s difficult for me to provide a concise statement on the security situation in Bogota. How a “safe” or “unsafe” town defines itself and to what extent, should include more over statistics to the murder rate or other offences. In my personal perception I feel no real differences in comparison to other cities of this size in regards to security concerns and feeling of safety or danger. In tourist quarters there are pickpockets, unfortunately, everywhere in the world. I should mention that Bogota has gone through a monumentally positive change and has nothing in common with the criminal activity of the 90’s and the beginning of the turn of the millennium.
Bogota is still afflicted with a bulk of prejudices
But nonetheless, the general impression of Colombia and the news that reaches countries overseas is mostly of a pessimistic nature mentioning drug gangs, guerrilla warfare organizations, kidnapping or other off-putting events. Besides, series like the Netflix production “Narcos” do not contribute positively to the foreign perceptions and still existing negative stereotypes and prejudice.
All together Bogota maintains a very high police presence which of course affects positively the security situation, particularly in tourist areas. Besides, a huge majority of buildings such as university campuses or residential units employ private security companies, who check any entrants ID and details to control and avoid violence or domestic burglaries.
No dar Papaya
After my arrival I was informed by friends from Bogota which areas of the City I maybe should avoid and where I have to pay attention. Thereby the Colombians often use the phrase “No dar Papaya” which translates literally as “Do not give papaya”. They doesn´t mean the fruit Papaya, but rather it expresses that you shouldn’t give any invitations or opportunities to get robbed. To wear your open backpack carefree as well as a new reflex camera laxly carried around the neck or counting your money on the street, are just a few things which you should definitely avoid. Basically it is recommended to walk with open eyes through the streets and take care of your wallet and other valuable possessions.
Taxi, Uber or Transmilenio ?
How to order a Taxi is also a sensible subject in Bogota. Over and over you can hear and read about the so-called “Paseo Millonarios”. On this occasion, the passenger is obliged by force or threat to visit several cash machines in the town with the “taxi driver” to remove all the available balance.
To prevent those situations or to minimize at least the chance, you might be better to use companies like UBER or taxi applications like TAPPSI and especially during the night do not enter a random taxi which is passing by on the street.
Late at night you should also possibly consider an alternative method of transport than the public service Transmilenio because it runs a risk of robbery, predominantly pickpockets on busy routes. It has to be said it takes bad luck to be robbed here though as most of the bus routes are well guarded.
During the night you definitely should not walk alone through the streets, especially through unlit or deserted areas. I think that the “Tourist rule” applies for a lot of cities not only because of the fact that it may not be safe, but rather you might get lost in a big city like Bogota. It doesn’t always matter if it is day or night there are some blocks you should stay well clear of. They still have a security problem but are kind of tolerated by the police and the government and just designated as no go zones. Anyways you won’t get there just by change if you’re just a normal Tourist who wants to visit the city of Bogota. That might sound like a bit of a deterrent but does not represents Bogota at all, which is a great city with friendly and helpful locals.
In my opinion it has certainly helped me to hear those progress reports from local friends after I arrived in Bogota. There are always two sides of the coin and you should find a good mix between enjoying the city without living in fear afraid but also keep in mind that it’s not always safe and as such be careful and don’t become too complacent. So we return to the famous phase, “no dar papaya” – don’t give your papaya.
Conclusively I can mention that the government is always willing to improve the security level of the Capital or Colombia in general. Recent Examples are the major police operation in the largest open air market “Bronx”-Bogota, or the peace agreement with the Guerilla organization “FARC” in November 2016. Furthermore Bogota constantly increases the number of security staff at the Transmilenio (Public Transport) Stations.