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Colombia Travel Tips: Accessibility and Safety

As with travel to any foreign country, a good dose of common sense will serve you well in Colombia when it comes to staying safe, but it’s always best to familiarize yourself with cultures and customs before your visit. This is especially true for travelers with disabilities, women traveling alone, or gay and lesbian travelers.

Access for Travelers with Disabilities

Only international and some national hotel chains offer rooms (usually just one or two) that are wheelchair accessible. Hostels and small hotels in secondary cities or towns will not. Airport and airline staff will usually bend over backwards to help those with disabilities, if you ask.

Getting around cities and towns is complicated, as good sidewalks and ramps are the exception, not the rule. Motorists do not stop—or even slow down—for pedestrians.

A woman takes in the city of Cartagena, Colombia.
As with travel to any foreign country, a good dose of common sense will serve you well in Colombia. Photo © alexmillos/123rf.

Women Traveling Alone

Along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts especially, women traveling alone should expect to be on the receiving end of flirts and various friendly offers by men and curiosity by everyone. In other parts of the country this is not as prevalent.

Women should be extra cautious in taxis and buses. Always order taxis by phone and avoid taking them alone at night. While incidents are unlikely, it is not a fantastic idea to go out for a jog, a walk on a remote beach, or a hike through the jungle on your own. Walking about small towns at night alone may elicit looks or comments. Don’t feel obliged to reveal your life story, where you are staying, or where you are going to inquisitive strangers. There have been incidents in the past with single women travelers in remote areas of La Guajira.

Gay and Lesbian Travelers

In urban areas, especially in Bogotá, there is wide acceptance (or at least tolerance) of gays and lesbians, except for perhaps some of the poor neighborhoods. But public displays of affection between same-sex couples will generally get stares everywhere.

[pullquote]Same-sex couples should not hesitate to insist on matrimonial (double) beds at hotels.[/pullquote]There is a huge gay community in Bogotá (with the epicenter of gay life the Chapinero area) and gay nightlife scenes in all the other major cities. Bars and clubs are usually quite mixed with gay men and lesbians.

It may be more of an annoyance than anything else, but cab drivers will routinely ask foreign men what they think of Colombian women and will suggest that they should “get” one. (Some will offer to help.) A word or two about the beauty of women from Medellín or Cali is usually a good response.

Gay men should be cautious in nightclubs and on online dating service sites, as persuasive thieves may use their seduction skills to get the chance to steal stuff back at your hotel room! Always keep an eye on your drinks at nightclubs, don’t accept drinks or sips from strangers, and don’t take cabs off the street, especially in front of clubs late at night.

Same-sex couples should not hesitate to insist on matrimonial (double) beds at hotels. Most hotels in the cities and even in smaller towns and rural areas are becoming more clued in on this.

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