IS COLOMBIA SAFE FOR GAY TRAVELERS?
Ah, I see you’ve been browsing through the experiences and packages on our site. Look at you checking out that 7 Day/6 Night Medellin & Bogota Package…good choice! Did you know that airfares to Bogotá are inexpensive right now? So, give me and my team a call, and let’s get you on your way.
Colombia looks and sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
And it is….it even tastes amazing! But before you’re ready to slap that Place Order button on airline tickets or travel packages, I bet you’re wondering if Colombia is safe to visit?
Well, you certainly wouldn’t be the first traveler to ask me about that. In fact, my team and I get asked that question a lot as providers of experiences and travel services designed especially for gay travelers in Colombia.
In the not-too-distant past Colombia had been home to some not-too-savory stories. I had heard those stories, too, and I also had the same concerns when I decided to come here to study Spanish 7 years ago. From drug wars, political unrest, and not to forget Pablo Escobar’s hippos….friends and family nervously warned me against going. What I found when I got here was quite simply magical. I discovered a rather small country with a huge diversity of landscapes and cultures, beautiful art and architecture, amazing and colorful flora & fauna, and fabulous food. And Colombians themselves are warm, welcoming, and very friendly people. I found Colombians to be curious about foreigners and happy to share their customs and the exquisite beauty of their homeland with international visitors, just like I was then, and you are now. I founded OUT in Colombia 5 years ago because it was such a hospitable, even gay-friendly destination that I felt it was worth inviting travelers just like me -- and you -- to visit and just…be their authentic selves.
And I built a life here: I made Medellín my home and I love living in this city. The city people warned me about has certainly made huge, even monumental, strides to re-build and overcome its prior reputation. It’s a clean, green, modernized -- even innovative – city. That’s all thanks to the tremendous forethought, passion, pride and sheer will of its residents, local communities, advocacy groups, and city government.
Medellín is a welcoming place for all visitors, especially gay ones. It’s a rags-to-riches tale told by our Medellín Transformation Tour and it’s one of OUT in Colombia’s most popular experiences. I feel very privileged to have been able to watch some of the city’s transformation, welcoming and acceptance as it continues to grow, along with diversity, venues, nightlife, and much more that make for entertaining and even life-changing experiences for gay travelers.
So, back to your question: is Colombia safe? Yes, it is safe. That’s not to say you can travel anywhere and everywhere throughout the country at any time of day or night without a care in the world. Let’s face it, whether you’re straight or gay, living in New York City or LA or someplace smaller like Escondido or Key West, you know there are certain places you just don’t go and certain things you just don’t do.
Okay, but is it safe for gay people? In the last 2 decades, Colombia has made significant strides in LGBT+ rights and it is now known as one of the gay-friendliest destinations in Latin America. Same sex marriage has been legal since 2016 and it is actually a crime to harass or threaten someone because of their sexual orientation. Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, which elected an openly lesbian mayor, boasts a gay Chamber of Commerce offering training and certification for organizations and businesses that complete the course: the ‘Friendly Biz’ designation. In fact, the State Police have qualified for Friendly Biz certification! Imagine that! It’s almost odd to see how far things have come in what some may consider a third world country when often the same kind of diversity and acceptance is absent from many communities back home.
Of course, once you’re here in Colombia with us, you have the entire team at OUT in Colombia as a resource. We’re your curator, your concierge, and your connection with the gay communities in each place you visit with us. Unlike bigger, more conventional tour operators, we are based right here and specialize only in Colombia. You have access to us, a 24/7 emergency support person, along with the larger network of the LGBT+ community members giving you insider insight and access to the best, tastiest, most exciting, and value-added highlights anywhere you visit. So, you have resources not only to know about all that’s safe here, but things to keep an eye out for that are not worth your valuable time in this country. To deliberately co-opt a slogan, we’re here, we’re queer, make use of it!
OUT in Colombia pre-vets and continues to visit the suppliers we work with on the ground to evaluate the level of service they offer our clients. If these suppliers are not directly a part of the local gay community, you can be assured that they are authentically gay-friendly, warmly welcoming, and knowledgeable.
So, for hard-core worriers, the team and I have put together some practical hints on visiting Colombia, traveling as your authentic self, and getting the most out of one of South America's best gay friendly destinations below.
Before you finish packing, you’ll want to make sure you have in your carry-on:
copies of your passport and any other hard-to-replace documentation
a list of your credit card accounts and their respective toll-free phone numbers. In fact, call your credit card company and let them know when and where you’re traveling.
Before you lock your checked bag, you’ll want to:
Leave your best shoes, accessories, sunglasses, and cell phone case at home. This also goes for items of immense sentimental value that it would pain you to lose. Any overt display of wealth is unnecessary and out of place.
Before you lock the door behind you:
Invest in comprehensive travel insurance policy that will cover trip interruptions and unforeseen circumstances to protect your valuable travel investment. On the ground, our experience packages include basic Colombian insurance should you need red-tape-free access to the excellent health care system here.
Once you’re on the ground and exploring this beautiful country, before you leave your hotel room:
Place your wallet in your front – never back -- pocket. Don’t carry more cash than necessary for one day. Most stores and cafes – except for remote “mom & pop”-type places accept credit cards. No need to tempt fate, or like the public warnings posted here say, “No des papaya” or, literally, “Don’t give papaya” which means don’t give anyone a reason to take advantage of you.
Forget your hotel’s in-room safe for your most precious valuables. Use the front desk safety box. Hotels are not responsible for items hidden underneath your underwear in the dresser or from your in-room safe.
You’ll want to ensure that if you’re carrying a camera bag, backpack, or any type of bag, the opening is completely zipped, particularly if you’re taking our excellent public transit systems in Medellín or Bogotá. If it ain’t zipped, your stuff might get clipped.
At some point, you will have to whip out that front pocket wallet to pay, ‘cause your good looks won’t get you everywhere. Remember to:
Open your wallet in a safe, well-lit area. If you’re traveling with someone, make sure he/they cover you
Many of the ATMs come with a lockable door. Use it to maximize your privacy while you count the confusing new currency.
Colombian men are very hot and supremely charming. Maybe not a great idea if you brought the family on this trip, but if you do plan on going on the prowl, make sure you:
Meet someone new in a public space. You can go to restaurants, bars, clubs or, well, anywhere else after you’re comfortable with this initial meeting.
Make sure you order and watch your drinks being poured and served.
If you invite someone back to the hotel, you’ll need (and want) to register them at the front desk. If they don’t have an ID on them, you’re probably better off calling them a cab.
Savvy travelers of any background know that anywhere they go in the world, they’ll need to keep both eyes and ears open. Like we say here, “¡Pilas pues!” which doesn’t translate literally but means “pay attention.” The team, your guides, the hotels we use, and the visits we plan for you will keep you secure, happy and comfortable, so you can travel just as you are. Basically the only thing you’ll lose here is your heart. Yup, like so many before you, you’ll probably be planning an early retirement here, too.