How Safe is Medellin

Safety in Medellin

Possibly the most asked question. Is Medellin Safe?

If you are considering a visit to Medellin, it's important to know that the city has made significant progress in improving safety in recent years.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Medellin was known for high levels of violence and crime with the homicide rate reaching 420 per 100,000 citizens. During this period the number of bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings escalated as the drug cartels battled with the Colombian government and rival criminal organizations for control of the drug trade. Political instability, economic inequality and poverty added to this complex situation. After Escobar's death in 1993, the situation in Medellin slowly started to improve.

Based on current figures from the System of Information for Security and Coexistence (SISC), there were 365 homicides in Medellin between January 1 and December 11 in 2022, compared to 378 during the same period in 2021, which is a 3.4% decrease.

The mayor's office have also stated that the period between 2020 and 2022 has been the least violent in the city's history and that the rate of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants during this time, not seen since early 1970s, according to figures validated by the Institute of Legal Medicine.

"(in 2022) we were able to achieve the goal of 13.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, setting a new historical record for this crime in the city. We were able to achieve a decrease for the third year in a row. In terms of clarification, we were able to solve one out of every two homicides, and it is also important to note that this is part of a strategy for life and integrity," added the Operational Deputy Secretary of the Secretary of Security, Omar Rodríguez Aranda.

To assist in security Medellin has installed 3,000+ monitored security cameras. It also offers rewards of up to $40 million for information leading to the identification of those responsible for homicides and up to $80 million in cases of femicides or crimes against the LGBTQ+ population, with the promise to double this amount in 2023.

Medellin is no longer the crime epicenter that it was 20 years ago during the Pablo Escobar era.

Like any city there will always be some crime. There are quite a few precautions you can take to keep your trip in Medellin safe and peaceful. Just being aware of certain scams or dangerous situations will make you much less prone to falling victim to them. Most are common sense but unfortunately many people seem to leave their common sense at the airport:

  • Don’t go to “dodgey” neighborhoods without a local person accompanying you. Check out the crime heatmap below
  • Take more precautions walking around at night, take a Uber if you can
  • Avoid yellow taxis at night
  • Always make sure your handbag isn’t “snatchable”, use table hooks where available
  • Put bags/backpacks in front of you if you feel uncomfortable about a crowded area or situation
  • Don’t take out your expensive phone or ipod in crowded, public areas, or out at night
  • Don't take offers of help when withdrawing money from the atm
  • Many robberies occur with two men on a motorbike at traffic lights
  • You are more likely to be a victim of crime when drunk or taking drugs 
  • Watch your drinks, don't leave them alone, avoid “seedier” establishments
  • If you’re meeting up with someone you don’t know, always do so in a public area
  • Don’t invite strangers to your hotel or hostel. If you do make sure they register their cédula (id card) at reception
  • Colombians have a saying "no dar papaya" - what this means is don't go asking for trouble and it won't come to you

Druggings & Muggings
Scopolamine or “Devil’s Breath” is a drug that renders you under the control of your attacker, you will willingly give up all your valuables and empty your bank account and not remember anything the next day. The official number of reported cases in Colombia is over 1,000, although the United States Overseas Security Advisory Council states unofficial estimates could be as many as 50,000 cases. Many cases go unreported due to memory loss and embarrassment.

Most cases generally involve guys who frequent shady establishments downtown or those who invite strangers into the home/hotel (from nightclubs /internet dating sites). Use common sense, leave credit cards and expensive phones at home for the night out, and take the usual precautions with your drinks. Don't invite strangers into your home. In addition to this there are many reports of other date rape type drugs administered into drinks. 

Give Up Your Valuables - Not Your Life
There has been a couple of situation where foreigners have been murdered during a mugging attempt. In all situations the foreigner fought back and thus endangered their own life. With travel insurance, almost everything can be comfortably and easily replaced so if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, don't fight back, just give your stuff over. Your life is definitely worth more than your phone.

Know where you're going

The map below gives you a general idea of where to avoid Medellin. From a tourism perspective there is really no reason to be visiting most of the areas shaded in orange and red. If you want to visit a barrio popular ("favela") we recommend you do so from the comfort of the Metro Cable , with a trustworthy friend or on a tour with a professional tour guides.  When visiting the tourist sites in El Centro, use common sense. Stick to the routes suggested in our Medellin Walking Tour Map.

Emergency Numbers

Emergency Calls: 123
Kidnapping & Extortion Hotline: 165
Tourism Police: (+57 4) 265-5907 / 437-6125
Poblado Police Station: (+57 4) 312-5567
Address: Cr 43B # 12-20, Manila, El Poblado.

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