18 things NOT to do in Colombia as a tourist

Bienvenido a Colombia, a country of vibrant culture, stunning landscapes and passionate people. Often cloaked in stereotypes and overshadowed by its tumultuous past, Colombia’s true spirit is found in the warmth of its citizens and the breathtaking beauty of its diverse regions—from Caribbean coastlines to Andean peaks.

As a seasoned traveler who has navigated this South American gem’s complexities firsthand, I’ve gathered invaluable insights into ensuring your visit is both unforgettable and safe.

Embarking on an adventure through Colombia promises more than just sightseeing; it’s an immersion into a rich tapestry of traditions and natural wonders that deserves respect. With so much to explore, from the depths of the Amazon to the heights of Ciudad Perdida, tourists can sometimes miss stepping with local customs or safety norms – turning what should be a trip filled with pleasure into one marred by avoidable faux pas.

Remember this: while Colombians are forgiving of foreign missteps, awareness goes a long way in enhancing your experience. Read on for critical tips that pave your path towards more respectful travels—and don’t skip out!

Key Takeaways

  • Avoid illegal activities like buying cocaine or seeking out guerrillas; it’s dangerous and against the law.
  • Respect local customs by accepting aguardiente when offered and dress appropriately in conservative areas.
  • For safety, use trusted transport services at night instead of hailing taxis and stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t confuse dancing with flirting in Colombia, as dance is a cultural expression not necessarily linked to romance.
  • Try new things like local foods and participate in cultural events to truly experience Colombia’s diverse culture.

Avoid Engaging in Illegal Activities

Don’t buy or consume cocaine, seek out guerrillas or Pablo Escobar. These activities are not only dangerous but also illegal in Colombia. Respect the laws and regulations of the country to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Do not buy or consume cocaine

Cocaine is illegal in Colombia, and it’s a serious crime to buy or use it. If the police catch you, you could end up in jail for a long time. The drug trade has brought a lot of pain to Colombians; they don’t like it when tourists come looking for drugs.

Stay away from cocaine to keep out of trouble and show respect for the country’s efforts to move past its drug-related history.

Being involved with drugs can also put your safety at risk. Drug-related crime, terrorism, and civil unrest are real dangers in some areas. By avoiding drugs, you help reduce these problems and have a safer trip.

Enjoy Colombia’s amazing culture and natural beauty instead of getting mixed up with illegal activities that hurt both you and the country.

Do not seek out guerrillas or Pablo Escobar

Avoid seeking out guerrillas or Pablo Escobar during your visit to Colombia as it can be extremely dangerous and put your safety at risk. Remember that these are sensitive and volatile areas best avoided for your own well-being.

It’s important to prioritize your safety by heeding this advice, especially in regions where these elements may still have influence.

Colombia has moved past the era of drug cartels and civil warfare, evolving into a vibrant and welcoming tourist destination. Ensure you focus on exploring the modern splendor of the country while being mindful of potential risks associated with certain historical figures or groups.

Respect Local Customs and Culture

Don’t refuse a shot of aguardiente when offered, as it is considered impolite. Additionally, avoid making jokes about sensitive topics and be mindful not to haggle aggressively in local markets.

Do not refuse a shot of aguardiente

Embrace the Colombian culture and hospitality by accepting a shot of aguardiente, a traditional and beloved alcoholic beverage. Enjoy this anise-flavored liquor that holds significant cultural value in Colombia.

It’s a gesture of friendship and will allow you to bond with locals, showing respect for their customs and traditions while savoring a unique aspect of Colombian life.

Appreciate the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local experience, as accepting a shot of aguardiente can be an enriching way to connect with Colombians and gain insight into their warm and welcoming culture.

Do not make jokes about sensitive topics

Respect Colombia’s culture by refraining from making jokes about sensitive topics. Understand that humor varies across cultures, and some topics may be off-limits or offensive. Keep conversations light and positive to avoid unintentionally causing discomfort or offense.

Appreciate the diversity of Colombian customs and traditions while being mindful of the cultural sensitivities around humor. Show respect for local values by avoiding potentially contentious subjects in your interactions with Colombians.

Do not give papaya (be aware of your surroundings)

Be aware of your surroundings in Colombia, as it is essential for your safety. Colombia’s natural beauty and vibrant culture are best enjoyed when being cautious and alert. The country’s diverse attractions can be fully appreciated by staying mindful of your environment and avoiding risky situations.

Colombia offers stunning landscapes and a rich heritage, but it is important to remain vigilant due to pockets of criminal activity. Whether you’re exploring historical sites or enjoying the local cuisine, remember to be attentive to ensure a safe and memorable Colombian experience.

Do not haggle aggressively

When shopping in Colombia, avoid haggling aggressively as it can be seen as disrespectful. Locals appreciate polite negotiation but not aggressive bargaining. Respect local customs and prices to have a pleasant shopping experience.

Remember to be mindful of cultural differences when engaging in any form of trade or exchange. Haggling aggressively may cause offense and lead to misunderstandings, so approach negotiations with courtesy and respect for the local culture.

Do not dress down in certain areas

Respect the local culture by dressing appropriately in conservative areas. This means avoiding revealing clothing and opting for more modest attire. Remember to be mindful of your surroundings and choose outfits that show cultural sensitivity.

By doing so, you’ll demonstrate respect for Colombian customs and help create a positive impression during your visit.

Furthermore, wearing appropriate attire can also contribute to your safety, helping you blend in with the locals and avoid standing out as a potential target for pickpockets or scammers.

Safety and Transportation

Avoid hailing a taxi at night, as it can be unsafe. Instead, use trusted transportation services or apps to get around safely.

Don’t rely solely on guidebooks for transportation information, as they may be outdated or inaccurate. It’s best to ask locals or seek current advice from reliable sources.

Do not hail a taxi at night

At night, avoid hailing a taxi in Colombia due to safety concerns. Criminal activities are more prevalent during the late hours, making it riskier to use public transportation. Instead, opt for secure alternatives such as calling a reputable taxi company or using ride-sharing services like Uber or Cabify to ensure your safety while traveling at night.

Do not trust guidebooks completely

Don’t rely solely on guidebooks for safety information. The beauty of Colombia should not be missed due to misconceptions spread by outdated guidebooks. Guidebooks might not accurately reflect the current safety situation, so stay informed from reliable local sources or official travel advisories.

Remember that dynamic and constantly changing conditions require up-to-date information. Ensure you consult multiple sources, including local residents and recent travelers, to make well-informed decisions about your journey in Colombia.

Do not worry about time

When exploring Colombia, embrace the relaxed pace of life and allow yourself to savor each moment without constantly checking the time. In Colombia, time is meant to be enjoyed rather than rushed, so take your time to appreciate the stunning landscapes, immerse yourself in local culture, and make unforgettable memories.

Remember that some of the best experiences happen when you let go of worries about schedules and simply live in the present.

Enjoy every breathtaking sunset, lively marketplace, and vibrant festival without being constrained by a strict timetable. By embracing the Colombian concept of “mañana” (tomorrow), you’ll have a more enriching and fulfilling travel experience as you soak up all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Social Interactions

Do not mistake dancing for flirting; in Colombian culture, dancing is a form of expression and socializing. Don’t get overly friendly with strangers, as personal space and boundaries are important in Colombia’s social interactions.

Do not mistake dancing for flirting

When enjoying the vibrant nightlife in Colombia, be aware that dancing is a cultural expression and not an invitation for romantic advances. Colombians are lively dancers and may invite you to join them on the dance floor as a gesture of hospitality.

Keep in mind that their friendly attitude does not necessarily indicate romantic interest; it’s simply part of their warm and inclusive culture. So, embrace the opportunity to dance salsa or cumbia but remember to respect personal boundaries and avoid misinterpreting their friendly gestures.

Mistake dancing for flirting? Engage warmly while remembering it’s about culture, not romance.

Do not get overly friendly with strangers

When in Colombia, it’s important not to get overly friendly with strangers, as this can sometimes lead to unexpected situations. While Colombians are known for their warmth and hospitality, exercise caution when interacting with people you don’t know.

It’s crucial to maintain a level of reserve and be mindful of your personal boundaries to ensure your safety while enjoying the country’s vibrant culture.

Remember that being cautious about befriending strangers is an essential aspect of traveling responsibly in Colombia. Avoiding over-familiarity with unfamiliar individuals can help you have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Do not assume consent

Respect personal boundaries and always ask for permission before taking photos with locals or engaging in physical contact. Ensure that both parties are comfortable and willing to participate in any social interactions, especially if they involve physical contact or intimacy.

Acknowledge and respect the cultural differences around consent, whether it’s in social interactions, photography, or any form of engagement with locals. Be mindful of non-verbal cues and body language to ensure mutual understanding and respect for each other’s boundaries.

Appreciating Colombia’s Natural Beauty

Explore the beautiful beaches and mountains of Colombia, taste local delicacies, and immerse yourself in the diverse culture. Click to learn more about 18 things NOT to do in Colombia as a tourist.

Do not miss out on exploring the beaches and mountains

Explore Colombia’s stunning beaches and mountains for breathtaking natural beauty. Discover the allure of the Caribbean coastline with its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters, as well as the lush greenery and majestic peaks of the Andes.

Embrace the opportunity to witness Colombia’s diverse landscapes, offering a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and relaxation seekers alike. Don’t overlook these scenic wonders that make Colombia a truly remarkable destination for nature lovers.

Do not refuse local delicacies

Embrace Colombia’s vibrant culinary scene and savor the diverse flavors. Indulge in delicious arepas, ajiaco soup, or bandeja paisa; these dishes offer a glimpse into the country’s rich gastronomic heritage.

Don’t miss out on trying exotic fruits like lulo and guanabana, adding an adventurous touch to your dining experience. Immerse yourself in local markets where you can sample traditional treats such as empanadas and buñuelos, enhancing your understanding of Colombian cuisine while satisfying your taste buds.

Delight in Colombia’s delectable offerings and expand your palate with new and exciting flavors during your visit. Savoring local delicacies is an essential part of embracing the culture and experiencing the true essence of this captivating country.

Do not underestimate Colombia’s diverse culture

Colombia’s diverse culture offers a rich tapestry of music, art, and traditional customs that you should wholeheartedly embrace. Don’t overlook the vibrant rhythms of salsa and cumbia or miss out on savoring local delicacies like arepas and bandeja paisa as part of experiencing Colombia’s diverse culinary heritage.

There are numerous colorful festivals celebrating Colombia’s cultural diversity throughout the year, so be open to immersing yourself in these celebrations to gain a deeper appreciation for the country’s multifaceted identity.

Remember not to underestimate the warmth and hospitality of Colombians – their openness will enrich your travel experience beyond measure.

Embracing Colombia’s unique regional cultures will also allow you to discover an array of indigenous traditions, which can be found in everything from weaving patterns to spiritual practices.

Do not be afraid to try new things

Embrace the opportunity to try new experiences and activities in Colombia. Engage in local traditions, taste unique delicacies, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture. Don’t miss out on expanding your horizons by participating in adventurous excursions, learning about indigenous customs, and indulging in the diverse cuisine.

Take advantage of the chance to explore Colombia’s breathtaking natural beauty, from its stunning beaches to its majestic mountains. Open yourself up to new adventures and be receptive to everything this beautiful country has to offer.

Dare to step out of your comfort zone and engage with the richness of Colombian culture. Partake in exhilarating activities such as salsa dancing or trekking through picturesque landscapes.

Do not be a negative or closed-minded tourist

Stay open-minded and positive during your Colombian adventure. Embrace the welcoming and vibrant culture without preconceived notions. Don’t overlook the beauty of Colombia’s diverse landscapes, from its stunning beaches to lush jungles and national parks.

Remember not to let misconceptions about safety deter you from exploring this captivating country. Avoid missing out on the rich cultural experiences and warm hospitality that await you in Colombia.

Colombia offers an array of unique activities, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking sights for every traveler to enjoy. Do not be a negative or closed-minded tourist; instead, seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in Colombia’s beauty, charm, and warmth while keeping an open heart and mind throughout your journey.


In conclusion, remember to respect local customs and cultures in Colombia. Appreciate the natural beauty but avoid making negative comments.

Keep yourself safe by being cautious about transportation and social interactions. By following these tips, you can have a memorable and enjoyable trip to Colombia.

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