Posts Tagged ‘colombia travel advisory’

Mama told me not to come. To be fair, so did the US State Department, two New York City cab drivers, and several coworkers, who employed various tactics to reiterate their warnings. At once, and again almost every day before my husband and I left for Colombia, I was made to feel that I was volunteering to board a cheap speedboat to my doom. Had I said I was visiting another South American country (just about…any other country), I don’t believe I would’ve met the same response. Yet somehow I maintained a reasonable skepticism about it all. As a freelance writer from New England, my only natural fears were a.) sharks and b.) April 15th. But with so many different people bending my ear about this Colombia thing, I began to wonder if maybe I was the one missing something.

This was the winter of 2010, fast-approaching 2011. Was it a mild, xenophobic hangover from the Escobar Days that plagued so many of us, even still when we thought of Colombia, the travel destination? The purpose of my visit was a honeymoon, but also to meet several in-laws for the first time. Colombia was going to be a part of my life from now on. There was never really a question; I was going. No, the question others drilled with a carpenter’s precision into my skull was: just how foolish was I? So I decided to crunch the numbers.

Visiting multiple “stat sites” on kidnappings, murders, and muggings of foreign visitors, I found that I was more likely to be kidnapped in Mexico, Venezuela, or Ecuador (where I would also later go) than in Colombia. The chances of my being killed or mugged were no greater than in several U.S. cities. Yet the US State Department still listed Colombia as the ONLY South American country on its shortlist of international Travel Warnings, which included – in contrast – nations who were currently at war, exercised state-sponsored terrorism, and possibly hosted Osama Bin Laden. So where was the evidence to support this categorization?

Thankfully, I ignored my critics’ urgings and went to both Bogotá and Medellin as planned. I enjoyed the fresh energy, beauty, and hospitality of Medellin. (Not to mention a fantastic transit system and incredible food.) And I enjoyed the Colonial quiet of the Candelaria, the swanky Zona Rosa, and the straightforward urban middle of Bogotá – especially the library and a certain German bakery that had the finest baked goods I’ve ever tasted anywhere.  Instead of getting mugged – as I often feel after so many overpriced-yet-mediocre dinners in New York City, where my husband and I now live – I came home with a wallet that hadn’t suffered our adventure much at all. Memorable meals, cab rides, sights and diversions had all been had very cheaply. At one point I even got a terrific haircut from a guy with braces in Bogotá that cost me $5. It felt so wrong I ended up tipping him more than the cost of the cut itself. So I’d say to you, if you were looking to take an affordable vacation – somewhere you could experience a vibrant culture, diverse climate, and natural beauty in the extreme, find yourself a ticket to Colombia. (And tell the US State Department webmaster they seem to have a stowaway from last decade.)


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