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Colombia has a notorious reputation for its dark history of civil war, land minds, narco-traffickers, guerrilla groups, kidnappings, violence and bloodshed. For many foreigners, when they hear ‘Colombia’, some of the first things that come to mind are Pablo Escobar, Cocaine, FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army), Kidnappings and of course Coffee.
That being said, after years of hard work and effort, the nation has managed to rise above much of the extreme violence and bloodshed that had plagued its people for years. In the past 20-years, the numbers of incidence have decreased dramatically and the country is now more-or-less a safe place to visit. After spending more than 5 months in Colombia, over three separate trips, I wanted to write a blog warning people of the dangers that are still very much present.
1. Threat: Bodily Harm – Colombia’s extreme violence and bloodshed may have dispersed, but the threat of physical harm is still very present. My feet for instance, on many occasions have become swollen and painful, after attempting to keep up with them on the dance floor.
Precautions: Although you will have a strong desire to dance as fiercely and passionately as your foreign body will allow, do keep your own health in mind. Further more, you may find yourself walking down the street, minding your own business, when suddenly you lock your sights on a jaw droppingly beautiful Colombian. I can’t tell you how many times I have personally walked into polls, off curbs, or into other people, after being entranced by their beauty.
And yet another example…
2. Threat: Theft – Upon entering this land, you run a very high risk of falling victim to theft. More specifically, theft of ones heart; because in every man’s heart, there is a Colombian woman. If you visit Colombia (be it a man or woman) the chances of falling head over heals for a Colombian are extremely high.
Precautions: Don’t be fooled by their stunning beauty, charm, and incredible dancing. The Colombian is a savage that will entrap you with their love. It is best to avoid eye contact and verbal communication as much as possible. It is highly advised that you avoid any and all physical contact as well.
3. Threat: Burns – Do not become a statistic. Don’t get burned! Colombians have worked effortlessly for decades if not centuries, perfecting the concoction commonly known as ‘coffee’. Sure, coffee is consumed almost everywhere in the world, but don’t let this fool you. In Colombia you will often be approached by vendors on the street trying to sell you this “coffee”. You think, ‘a fresh cup of joe for just 25 cents, score!’. This is exactly what the Colombians want you to think. Next thing you know, you take a big sip and burn all the skin off the top of your mouth and tongue.
Precautions: Although the coffee is in fact generally safe to consume, do take your time. Many a time I have taken premature gulps, not able to control my anticipation and desire for the dark rich flavour. Small sips and patience, will save your butt in this scenario.
4. Threat: Fire Water – Yes it does exist. The Colombians have ingeniously figured out how to combine fire and water into a beverage. This hazardous liquid is known here as Aguardiente. Aguardiente literally translates into Fiery Water. It is probably the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage in Colombia next to beer.
Precautions: Typical scenario, you are out with some Colombians and you are offered a shot of this clear liquid. All the Colombians are drinking it and they seem to be having a splendid time. You say, “what the heck” and knock back a shot. It burns all the way down, with a taste very similar to Ouzo. You think, ‘Gawddd I’ll never take another sip of this horrid witch craft’. Again the Colombian is very persuasive and Augardiente is just one more of there powerful tools of persuasion. The next thing you know, you wake up with a hangover, lying next to a beautiful Colombian. Don’t fall victim. Just say no! Also refer to #1 and #2 above.
5. Threat: Human Foie gras – You know that one technique the French devised to fatten ducks? The Colombians have brilliantly found away to implement this on humans. Comida Rapida or ‘fast food’ is not limited to your typical Global fast food chains. No the Colombian is much smarter than that. Across the country you will find thousands of mom and pop shops serving “delacasies” such as Salchipapas, Arepas, and Empanadas, just to name a few (see more typical street food here).
Precautions: Although incredibly delicious, do try to maintain some self control. Many of these are variations of deep fried balls of dough.
6. Threat: Anxiety – The Colombian, more specifically the ‘Costeno’ (a person from the coastal region of Colombia) has mastered the art of being “laid back”. Many foreigners find it difficult to transition from the fast paced ‘now’ mindset, to the easy going, slow paced lifestyle.
Precautions: You really don’t want to be relaxed. For all your life you have been programmed to maximize efficiency, do things quickly, be in a rush. Why in the world would you want to try anything other than that. Chill pill, I’d rather not, thank you very much.
7. Threat: Being Held Hostage – The Colombian has learned how to do this in a very subtle way. Their preferred technique? Overwhelming hospitality. I have stayed in the homes of Colombians on a few occasions (don’t make the same mistake!). One time, I had only planned on spending a day or two. The next thing you know, I had been in their home for nearly two weeks barely able to conceive the idea of leaving!
Precautions: Don’t get trapped like a sucker! Refer to #2. Also be very weary of offers to help you out, come over for dinner, to crash at their home, etc. All likely stories, which inevitably wil lead to your entrapment.
8. Threat: Getting Stuck In Colombia – Although I briefly cover this topic in the previous point, I wanted to emphasize the grand scale of this threat! Believe it or not, the tourism sector of the Colombian Government has even been so brazen as to have made this their slogan, “Colombia the only risk is wanting to stay”.
Precautions: Besides all the precautions previously listed, it might very well be advisable that you not visit Colombia. Especially if any of the following seem appealing to you what so ever; Gorgeous landscapes ranging from tropical costal paradises to breath taking interior mountains and deserts, virgin getaways to happening metropolises, delicious food and drink, sensational parties, friendly and hospitable people, a thriving art scene, some of the most rich fruit on earth, incredibly beautiful people, a rich mix of indigenous, Caribbean and Spaniard cultures, a physically active culture, passion, and umm… did I mention the people are awesome!?
There you have it folks. For those that didn’t catch the air of satire in this piece, Colombia is one of my favourite countries I have ever visited, which explains why I have been here three times in the past 4 years. Despite the stereotypes portrayed and prolonged by Hollywood and the Media, Colombia is an incredible country. I highly recommend considering it as a destination for your next vacation or trip. Check out SpiritAir.com and JetBlue.com for killer deals on flights from North America.
Have you been to Colombia? What do you love about it? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Here are some photos from my past and most recent visits to Colombia. See more photos on facebook