Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know

is cali colombia safe

Is Cali Colombia safe? That’s one of the most frequent questions that come up when I tell friends that I’m heading to Cali. Before anything else though, I want to highlight that Cali is the capital of the department of Valle del Cauca and it’s the third most populous city in Colombia. Located in the Cauca River Valley, it boasts a rich history dating back to its founding in 1536. It also earned a title as the world capital of salsa.

Being close to the Pacific Ocean, Cali offers a unique blend of cultural heritage and geographical beauty. Despite all the positives, Cali’s reputation for safety isn’t always rosy. Many hear warnings about its perceived dangers, painting a grim picture of life in the city.

And this is why when I decided to visit Cali, my friends and family had some apprehensions about safety. While cautious, I soon discovered that Cali’s bad reputation is way overblown.

History of Safety and Crime in Cali Colombia

is cali colombia safe

Back in the day, this place was like a playground for some seriously shady characters, such as the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers. They ran the notorious Cali Cartel, basically the big boss of the global cocaine scene. And in their time, crime rates were soaring through the roof.

Things started looking up after ’95 when the law finally got a hold of the cartel scene. This was marked by the peace deal with FARC, which is also a major turning point for Colombia as a whole. It was like a breath of fresh air, slowly but surely making Cali safer again.

But then COVID-19 hits, and the city takes another hit. With tourism drying up, some people turned to crime make ends meet, like petty theft and such. There were even tax protests in 2021, which turned Cali into more turmoil. Since then, Cali has recovered and things are looking brighter now, especially with the pandemic winding down. Tourist spots are back in business, and Cali’s bouncing back stronger than ever.

Is Cali Colombia Safe Right Now?

Is Cali, Colombia safe right now? It’s a bit of a mixed bag, I have to say. You won’t likely find yourself getting stabbed on the street or feeling like you need to be paranoid, but petty theft is a real headache here just like in many big cities.

From the Cali cartel, which stepped into the spotlight after Pablo Escobar’s downfall, times have changed thankfully. While you might still catch whispers of its past, especially in certain parts of the city, Cali has come a long way since then.

Sure, there are sketchy areas, especially on the eastern side, but any big city has its own danger zones! All you need to know is that Cali’s definitely safer than it used to be.

Safest Places to Stay in Cali Colombia

When it comes to staying safe in Cali, picking the right neighborhood is important. Lucky for you, there are plenty of safe neighbourhoods to choose from. Places like El Peñón and San Antonio are solid picks, especially for tourists like me. Not only are they safe, but they’re also full of things to see and do.

Now, if you’re wanting to take in Cali’s history and landmarks, the historical center’s your place. And let’s not forget about the nightlife – San Fernando’s where it’s at! So go ahead, take your pick and rest easy knowing you’re in one of Cali’s safest spots.

Places to Avoid in Cali Colombia

Staying safe means knowing where to steer clear in Cali. Take it from me, you don’t want to wander into the wrong neighborhoods, like the infamous Aguablanca district. It’s not just rough around the edges – it’s downright dangerous, with shootings and crime on the daily.

Also skip Siloé and the 21st commune. These areas aren’t exactly well known for their safety ratings. And El Rodeo, best to give that one a pass as well.

Now, El Centro might seem like a bustling hub during the day, perfect for bargain hunting, but once the sun sets, it’s a whole different story. You won’t want to be wandering those streets after dark. Better play it safe and hop in a taxi or Uber, especially if you’re headed to one of the clubs.

Lastly, Tres Cruces might sound like a scenic escape, but don’t let the beauty fool you. Solo hiking here is a big no-no, unless you’re looking to attract some unwanted attention from opportunistic thieves. Stick with a group and leave the valuables behind if you’re venturing into these parts.

10 Cali Colombia Safety Tips

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

While Cali may not be the safest place in Colombia, there are numerous steps you can take to enhance your security during your visit. Here, I’ve compiled a set of tried-and-true travel safety strategies specifically tailored for your time in Cali, Colombia.

No Dar Papaya (Don’t Make Yourself a Target)

When wandering the streets of Cali, I make sure not to stand out too much. Flashy jewelry and waving around valuables? Not my style. Keeping a low profile helps me avoid drawing unnecessary attention and keeps me under the radar of any potential troublemakers. By blending in with the locals and dressing modestly, I decrease the chances of becoming a target for theft or other crimes. It’s all about being inconspicuous and not making myself a tempting target for opportunistic individuals.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

Being aware of my surroundings is key to staying safe. Whether it’s day or night, I stay vigilant and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. And let’s face it, wandering into sketchy neighborhoods solo? That’s like asking for trouble. So, I stick to crowded areas and always keep my backpack in sight. If I notice any suspicious activity or feel uncomfortable in a certain area, I trust my instincts and quickly find a safer location.

Have Travel Insurance

Before jetting off to Cali, I never forget to pack my travel insurance. It’s my safety net, ensuring I’m covered for any unforeseen mishaps or emergencies. With World Nomads Travel Insurance, I can explore Cali with confidence, knowing I’m prepared for whatever comes my way. From medical emergencies to trip cancellations, having insurance gives me peace of mind knowing that I won’t be left stranded in a foreign country.

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

Don’t Hail a Taxi from the Street

I opt for safer alternatives like public transportation, ride-share services, or private transportation. It’s all about minimizing risks and getting around safely. By using trusted transportation methods, I can avoid potentially dangerous situations and ensure a smooth and secure journey throughout my time in Cali. Plus, with the convenience of ride-sharing apps like Uber, getting from point A to point B has never been easier or safer.

Buy a Local Sim Card or eSIM

Having a local SIM card in Cali is a game-changer. Not only does it keep me connected, but it also helps me navigate the city with ease. With apps like Uber at my fingertips, getting around Cali is a breeze. Additionally, having access to data allows me to research attractions, find directions, and stay in touch with loved ones back home.

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

We’ve tested the top eSIMs on the market in Peru, and AIRHUB took the top spot. It’s the most reliable, giving us the strongest signal possible even at the highest altitudes and the deepest canyons of our hikes.

You’ll have the option to access multiple carriers when you sign up for an Airhub eSIM. Haven’t found any other eSIM that got that in the bag.

Avoid Drugs

In Cali, saying no to drugs isn’t just a slogan – it’s common sense. Narco-tourism might be a thing, but getting involved with drugs can lead to serious trouble. So, when offered, I politely decline and steer clear of any potential trouble. By avoiding drugs altogether, I eliminate the risk of legal issues, health problems, and dangerous situations. Instead, I focus on enjoying the rich culture, and vibrant atmosphere that Cali has to offer. Whether it’s exploring historic landmarks, sampling local cuisine, or dancing the night away, there are plenty of ways to have an amazing time in Cali without the need for drugs.

Stay in a Hostel or Hotel with 24-Hour Security

Staying in a hostel or hotel with 24-hour security adds an extra layer of safety. Knowing my belongings are secure while I’m out exploring gives me peace of mind. Plus, having security personnel on-site means that help is readily available in case of an emergency. Whether I’m staying in a bustling city center or a quiet residential neighborhood, I prioritize safety when choosing accommodations.

Where to Stay in Cali

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

La Sucursal Hostel, located in the vibrant barrio Granada, offers a familial atmosphere and spacious, comfortable facilities with features such as a rooftop bar, open kitchen, salsa salon, quiet terrace, and various daily activities, making it an ideal base to explore the city, with discounts at neighboring shops and a focus on interaction with the local culture.

Don’t Fight Back if You’re Robbed

If faced with a robbery, my first instinct might be to fight back. But in Cali, I know that’s the last thing I should do. I prioritize my safety above all else and avoid escalating any dangerous situations. By remaining calm and compliant, I reduce the risk of harm to myself and others. Plus, by not resisting, I decrease the likelihood of the situation turning violent. Instead, I focus on cooperating with the perpetrator and following their instructions. Once the threat has passed, I alert the authorities and seek assistance as needed. It’s all about staying level-headed and making smart decisions in high-pressure situations.

Don’t Carry Unnecessary Cash or Credit Cards

When heading out for the night, I make sure to only carry the essentials – phone, keys, cash, and ID. Leaving unnecessary items behind minimizes the loss in case of a robbery. Never take your passport with you at night. By traveling light, I reduce the risk of becoming a target for theft or robbery. Plus, carrying less weight makes it easier to move around and enjoy my time in Cali.

Learn Basic Spanish

Most locals in Cali don’t speak English, so it might be difficult to ask for help. That is why it is important to learn a few basic phrases and words in Spanish. By learning the local language, I can communicate more effectively with locals and navigate everyday situations with ease. Whether I’m asking for directions, ordering food, or seeking assistance, speaking Spanish allows me to get across what I need to say. Plus, it shows respect for the local culture and enhances my overall travel experience.

🔗 Related: Survival Spanish 101

Is Cali Colombia Safe For Tourists?

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

With all the talk about violence and crime, you might be wondering if Cali, Colombia, is worth a visit. While there’s no guarantee of safety anywhere, including Cali, there are steps you can take to minimize risks. By exercising common sense, steering clear of risky areas, and staying vigilant, Cali can be a safe destination for tourists.

While it’s natural to have concerns about safety, don’t let them ruin your stay and the vibrant culture and rich experiences Cali has to offer.

Is Cali Colombia Safe For Solo Female Travelers?

For solo female travelers, Cali can offer a safe experience, but it’s essential to be aware of some unique challenges. Like many places worldwide, solo women may attract unwanted attention and face instances of catcalling and even harassment. Machismo culture, still prevalent in Colombia, can contribute to these experiences. When navigating the streets alone, it’s best to ignore catcalls and walk away, prioritizing personal safety above all else.

Nighttime can bring additional risks, so minimizing solo outings after dark is advisable. Stick to well-lit, populated areas, and steer clear of dimly lit alleys where the risk of assault or robbery may be higher. Be cautious when socializing in clubs and bars, and always keep an eye on your drink, as instances of harassment can occur in these environments.

Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality, but it’s essential to remain cautious, as not everyone may have genuine intentions. Consider staying in social hostels where you can meet fellow travelers and explore the city together.

Is Cali Colombia Safe At Night?

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

As the world capital of salsa, Cali is full of energy, especially after dark. This is when you should be more cautious, particularly in areas with low traffic flow. Risks like pickpocketing and drink spiking are real concerns, especially for solo travelers.

Even in seemingly safer neighborhoods, tourists can still be targets for petty crimes. Criminals may take advantage of visitors flashing valuables or appearing intoxicated. To mitigate risks, it’s wise to avoid walking alone at night and refrain from behaviors that could attract unwanted attention.

When traveling around after dark, opting for a trusted ride-sharing service like Uber can provide added security. This offers a safer alternative to walking or hailing taxis from the street. If unsure about an area, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your host or your accommodation’s receptionist.

Is Cali Colombia Safe For Digital Nomads?

There’s more digital nomads visiting Cali and these group of visitors bring some high value gear like laptops or cameras, so it’s a fair question to ask whether it’s safe. Once again, safety can vary depending on which neighborhood you’re in. There are plenty of gated communities that offer a safe haven for residents and visitors alike if you want that extra sense of protection.

During my time in Cali, I witnessed a few incidents of robbery, but surprisingly, I never found myself caught up in one, even with my daily use of public transportation and walks around the city. Luck may play a part, but I also believe it’s about staying alert and aware of your surroundings.

As a digital nomad, it’s crucial to prioritize safety while exploring Cali. Choosing accommodations in safer neighborhood, bringing locks, and remaining vigilant can go a long way.

Is Cali Colombia Walkable?

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

Is Cali walkable? Mostly, yes! I found that the main areas where you’re likely to stay, sightsee, and grab a bite to eat are all within reasonable walking distance. It’s a great way to soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere and discover hidden gems along the way.

However, when it gets late and you’ve got a fair distance to cover, it’s safer to opt for a ride rather than walking. While Cali can be navigated on foot during the day, it’s always best to exercise caution, especially after dark.

Is Uber Safe in Cali Colombia?

Is Uber safe in Cali, Colombia? Absolutely! Uber is a widely available and generally safer option for getting around in Colombia. Compared to traditional taxis, Uber rides tend to offer a more secure and convenient experience for travelers.

While using Uber in Cali, it’s still essential to take some basic safety precautions. Always double-check the driver’s information and ensure that the vehicle matches the details provided in the app. Additionally, try to avoid sharing personal information or engaging in unnecessary conversations during your ride.

Are Taxis Safe in Cali Colombia?

Taxis in Colombia, including those in Cali, have earned a reputation for being potentially risky, with incidents of scams and even violence, such as the infamous “Millionaire’s Ride.”

While taxis in Cali are typically metered, there’s always a chance of being overcharged, especially as a tourist. This lack of reliability and safety concerns make taxis a less preferable choice for transportation in Cali.

Is Public Transportation Safe in Cali Colombia?

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

Is public transportation safe in Cali, Colombia? My experience with the main transit system, the Masivo Integrado de Occidente (MIO), has been surprisingly positive. Covering about 95% of the city, including key attractions, the MIO consists of buses and cable cars, although there’s no metro system currently in Cali.

While using the MIO, keep an eye on your valuables especially during rush hours when buses are crowded. Pickpocketing is a concern, so I always wear an anti-theft bag or keep my belongings close to my body. Avoiding keeping valuables in pockets and ensuring windows are closed while the bus is stopped can help prevent theft from outside.

Is the Tap Water in Cali Colombia Safe?

Is Cali Colombia Safe? Unique Things You Need to Know -

Generally, it’s considered safe for tourists to use, but for extra caution, use it for brushing teeth only and avoid drinking it. If you plan to cook with tap water, boiling it beforehand is a good practice to ensure its safety. During my time in Cali, I drank the tap water without any issues.

It’s essential to note that water is often sold in bags rather than bottles in Colombia. Simply tear a corner off the bag to start drinking. This may be a bit different from what you’re used to, but it’s a common practice in the region.

Police Corruption in Cali Colombia

Police corruption in Cali, Colombia, is a concerning issue that impacts the city’s safety. Unlike in Canada, where I usually trust the police to protect me, I’m not as comfortable around the police here. I do not have any first-hand experience around bad encounters with police in Cali Colombia but I err on the side of caution and try not to bribe or just not give them any reason to flag me down.

From what I was told my locals, the police tend to avoid the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods altogether. Instead of addressing crime and protecting citizens, they seem to prioritize other interests, which can contribute to a sense of insecurity among residents and even for me.

Is the Weather in Cali Colombia Dangerous?

While Cali does experience occasional storms and earthquakes, they’re rare occurrences and not life-threatening.

During certain seasons, such as spring and fall, Cali sees increased rainfall, especially in April and November. These periods may bring about storms with heavy rain, strong winds, and the potential for flooding and landslides.

Earthquakes in Cali are infrequent and usually minor. The last notable quake was a mere 2.8-magnitude tremor in March 2024, hardly noticeable to most people. Despite their rarity, it’s essential to know safety protocols in case of an earthquake, such as dropping to the ground, taking cover under sturdy objects, and holding on until the shaking stops.

So… Is Cali Colombia Dangerous?

So… Is Cali, Colombia, dangerous? Well, it’s got a bit of a rough history thanks to drug cartel conflicts and internal turmoil. But don’t let that scare you off completely! Nowadays, Cali is much safer, and tourists flock here every year without major issues.

Sure, it’s essential to take some precautions to steer clear of potential dangers while exploring this vibrant city. But with a bit of common sense and awareness, you can enjoy all that Cali has to offer, from its vibrant salsa scene to its rich cultural heritage.

So, to answer the question: Is Cali dangerous? Not as much as its reputation may suggest. With some street smart and a bit of adventure, you can have a fantastic time exploring this Colombian gem without any problems. Happy travels!

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