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Colombia – Hot New Destination or South American S***hole?

Colombia - Monday, January 15th, 2018

I’m sitting in the Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto airport contemplating the wisdom of the next destination that Alison and I have chosen to explore – Colombia. Several friends, including some that are very well travelled, have expressed surprise that we would travel to a place that in their words is “Really dangerous”. My mother-in-law, fresh from watching the Netflix series Narcos, has made the following predictions, in no particular order of their likelihood to occur.

  1. We will be killed in a crossfire between drug thugs and corrupt police.
  2. We will be kidnapped by FARC rebels and held for ransom.
  3. We will be definitely be robbed at least once.
  4. We will have drugs planted in our luggage and spend the rest of our lives in a Colombian prison.
  5. The bus, like all those in mountainous countries, will inevitably plunge into a 1,000 foot chasm and all on board will perish.
  6. Should we, by some miracle, survive these man made terrors, we will be bitten by poisonous snakes and insects, contract any number of exotic fatal diseases or be eaten by crocodiles, piranhas or jaguars.

On the other hand, people I know who have travelled to Colombia recently, including Alison’s nephew, have had nothing but good things to say about the country and its people. Here are a few of the reasons one might want to visit Colombia in 2018.

  1. The drug violence that wracked Colombia for three decades is a thing of the past. Pablo Escobar lost his one man war against the state and his successors prefer to remain low key. Most of the violence in the drug business today is in Mexico or the south side of Chicago, the latter of which is about as dangerous as you can get.
  2. The communist FARC rebels have laid down their arms and dropped out of the kidnapping business.
  3. The cities of Bogota, Medellin and particularly Cartagena are among the most interesting in the Western Hemisphere. We will be visiting all three.
  4. The coffee is among the best and freshest on the planet. We will be visiting the coffee highlands and keeping an eye out for the real Juan Valdez.
  5. Lots of exotic fruits and vegetables to try. The excellent quality of the food in Colombia is something that most people who have visited recently are really surprised by.
  6. They make great beer and have a great choice of Chilean and Argentinean wines.
  7. Compared to say, Australia, Colombia has almost no dangerous animals, insects or fish.
  8. You don’t need a visa or extra shots to gain entry.
  9. Colombia is one of the top producers of cut flowers in the world. Who doesn’t love flowers?

However, what really relieves any concerns I have about travelling to Colombia is the fact we are going with Vancouver based Adventures Abroad. We have travelled with AA, as the regulars call it, for many years on four continents and never had anything but great experiences. Generally the group will be mostly Canadians, mostly middle-aged or a bit older, usually in pretty good shape and much more knowledgable than your average North American traveller. The journeys always include a trip leader and a combination of local guides and inevitably cover not only the obvious tourism hot spots, but lesser known ones as well. Meals are almost always in non-tourist oriented restaurants and feature local cuisine and products.

If you want get a better idea of what it’s like travelling with AA check out my posts on Egypt and Kenya on this website.

BTW, I write these posts and express my opinion with no input from AA and I don’t ask for or get anything from them. Alison and I pay the same as any other traveller.

So, I’m not expecting Colombia to be a crime ridden dangerous s***hole as no doubt the most powerful man on earth would characterize the place, without of course ever being there.

Time to depart for the gate and the direct Toronto/Bogota flight on Air Canada. I will literally keep you posted on this exciting trip.


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