Is Santa Marta Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On January 2, 2024
Santa Marta, Colombia
Safety Index:
33
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Santa Marta is a bright tropical paradise that sits along the border of the northeastern coast of Colombia.

The city is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north and the majestic Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range to the south.

If you’ve been planning a trip to Santa Marta and have been keeping track of local area news, you’re probably already aware of ongoing civil unrest within the country.

Our guide provides an overview of current warnings and dangers affecting Santa Marta travelers.

Warnings & Dangers in Santa Marta

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: HIGH

There have been ongoing reports of violence in the area that makes it unsafe for locals and tourists. Travelers should reconsider visiting Colombia as it is currently under a level three threat advisory issued by the State Department. All areas of the country are being affected by violent crimes, including robbery, rape, assault, kidnapping, and murder.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM

There have been numerous official reports of locals, tourists, and officials being targeted while traveling in vehicles between cities in Colombia. This violence extends to local transportation systems and taxi cabs, where high numbers of kidnappings are being reported.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: HIGH

Pickpocketing is high on the list of concerns for Santa Marta travelers. Tourists and locals are regularly targeted by local criminals who steal critical travel documents, identification documents, passports, credit cards, and cash from unsuspecting victims. It is common for local pickpocketing rings to create a sudden distraction to steal their wallets, purses, and other valuables.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

The city of Santa Marta is in an area of Colombia that receives record levels of rainfall during its rainy season that can last for months. Heavy rains can cause bursts of flash flooding and landslides that devastate coastal properties. Its coastal-facing location also puts Santa Marta at higher risk for tsunamis, which can be triggered by underground earthquakes in this moderately active earthquake zone.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: HIGH

The risk of getting mugged in Santa Marta, Colombia, is exceptionally high when compared to most other places in the world. In fact, petty theft, robberies, and muggings are widespread in this area. Unwitting tourists are often seen as targets – especially when they make themselves stand out by displaying their valuables or flaunting wealth.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM

People considering taking a trip to the Colombian country of Santa Marta should be aware of the medium to high risk of terrorism. Ongoing arguments with local gangs, drug lords, and political figures translate into frequent terrorist attacks on government institutions, military institutions, tourist hotspots, and everyday public places.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: HIGH

Colombian travelers should always be on high alert in attempting to spot scams. The country is known for several scam artists operating throughout the country, running a variety of scams mainly targeted at tourists. Recent visitors to Santa Marta and other Colombian cities have reported incidents of scamming through overcharging for goods and services, being sold fake goods, fake taxi meter scams, and even currency exchange-based scams.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: HIGH

It is highly inadvisable for solo female travelers to visit Santa Marta or any other city in Colombia alone at this volatile time in the country’s history. Record numbers of personal, violent, and terrorist attacks in the area place women at extreme risk. This risk can be exacerbated when solo tourists find themselves in emergencies with no known support options anywhere in the area. Visit Santa Marta when the violence and politically charged climate reach safer levels.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: HIGH

Poor and crumbling infrastructure means that Santa Marta locals and tourists have limited access to treated and drinkable water. Untreated water supplies can pose significant biological and chemical threats that can be avoided by drinking bottled water or taking other precautions for securing clean water while traveling in Colombia.

Safest Places to Visit in Santa Marta

Visiting Santa Marta during peace times can be a memorable experience.

The area boasts several tourist attractions, like the historic center filled with cobblestone streets, reputable shopping areas, and Colombian restaurants.

Locals also say neighborhoods like El Rodadero and Pozos Colorados are upscale areas featuring pristine beaches and outstanding accommodations where tourists can relax and feel safe.

Places to Avoid in Santa Marta

Use common sense travel safety tips when traveling to Santa Marta.

Avoid visiting abandoned locations, walking alone at night, and in poorly lit or isolated areas.

Locals also advise steering clear of high-crime neighborhoods like La Lucha and Los Trupillos, where the likelihood of becoming a victim of petty theft or drug-related crimes is higher.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Santa Marta

If you and your travel companions cannot avoid traveling to Colombia, use the following safety tips to stay safer when visiting this highly volatile country.

  1. Be Mindful of the High Number of Pickpockets in the Area: The likelihood of getting pickpocketed in cities like Santa Marta is currently very high. Be vigilant in crowded areas and avoid flashing valuables and cash. Nefarious criminals in this area have been known to target tourists primarily.
  2. Avoid Communication Issues by Learning Spanish:  Learn basic Spanish before traveling to the South American country of Colombia. Knowing the language can help you avoid becoming the victim of crime and provide a more immersive and enjoyable travel experience when you can seamlessly communicate with locals.
  3. Choose Your Transportation Providers in Advance: Avoid becoming the victim of a taxi scam or worse by researching and choosing your local transportation providers in advance. Research providers and read online reviews from fellow travelers to reduce the likelihood of transportation issues during your Colombian vacation.
  4. Stay Alert on Beaches: High levels of crime and violence surrounding the city of Santa Marta don’t end at the coastline. Travelers should secure their valuables and remain vigilant when visiting local beaches for leisure and relaxation – especially at night.
  5. Beware of Insistent, Over-friendly Street Vendors: Many local scammers in Colombia use distraction as part of their scheme to rob tourists of their cash and precious valuables. Be aware of insistent street vendors or random passersby who insist on grabbing your attention.
  6. Secure Your Valuables and Cash: Always secure your cash and valuables, regardless of where you are traveling within Santa Marta. Local criminals seek out distracted tourists to target for pickpocketing, robbery, and potentially worse.
  7. Register for U.S. Travel Safety Services: Stay safer when traveling outside the U.S. to Colombia by registering your trip with the State Department’s STEP Traveler Program. This program makes it easier for U.S. travelers to get international support when visiting other countries.
  8. Plan for Emergencies in Advance: Create a record of important emergency contacts, including local embassy contacts and phone numbers for US-based support services, and keep it on your person when traveling in highly volatile and crime-ridden areas in Colombia.
  9. Stick to Your Itinerary: One of the most important safety tips to follow when traveling to Santa Marta is to stick with your original itinerary. Avoid making spur-of-the-moment changes to travel plans, service providers, and accommodations to prevent becoming the victim of a local tourist scam, which is very common in this town.
  10. Stay Alert When Visiting Crowded Areas: Always be on high alert when visiting crowded areas where pickpocketing, terrorist activity, and violent crimes are likely. Avoid overcrowded areas at all costs when you suspect that tensions are incredibly high.

So... How Safe Is Santa Marta Really?

Santa Marta can be a safe and enjoyable destination when the area is not in a current state of political or violent turmoil.

While there are areas deemed safer than others in this coastal Colombian town, the moderate to high levels of violence and crime make it an unsafe travel option for most visitors at this time.

All forms of crimes, including those against people, property, and institutions, are extremely high in Colombia and are currently aggravated by similar tensions in the bordering country of Venezuela just next door.

Numbeo’s Global Crime Index assigns Santa Marta a crime index score of 53.73, which makes it slightly safer than cities like Cucuta but still more dangerous than many other global cities. 

The Numbeo crime index was designed to show levels of criminal activity in an area based on a scale of 20-80+, where scores between 20 and 40 are considered moderate.

Any score above 80 is regarded as an extremely high crime area.

How Does Santa Marta Compare?

CitySafety Index
Santa Marta33
Bogotá46
Medellin52
Cartagena82
Barranquilla47
Cali52
Cucuta32
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

The requirements for a Visa vary by nationality and the duration of your planned stay. Contact the local embassy or official agencies like the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn if you and your travel companions will be required to apply for a Colombian travel Visa.

Currency

Currency

The official local currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). Visit online currency exchanges, local banks, ATMs, or local hotel concierge services to learn about exchanging U.S. dollars for local currency. Be sure to use reputable and verifiable services to avoid becoming a victim of local currency exchange scams.

Weather

Weather

The tropical climate experienced by residents and visitors of Santa Marta can be sublime, with warm to hot sunny days and cool nights. Travelers should note that there can be drastic changes in the climate during the rainy season, which can last a few months out of the year.

Airports

Airports

Travelers looking to book flights into Santa Marta will find domestic and international flights being serviced at the Simon Bolivar International Airport, which is just a few miles outside the city limits. Santa Marta’s local airport offers a variety of amenities and services for international travelers, including on-site currency exchange services, restaurants, ATMs, and taxi stands.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a smart way to secure your trip and protect your travel investment in the event of a mishap or emergency. Get travel insurance to safeguard against trip interruption, emergency medical expenses, evacuation, and repatriation costs.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Santa Marta Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 28° C
Feb 29° C
Mar 29° C
Apr 30° C
May 30° C
Jun 30° C
Jul 29° C
Aug 29° C
Sep 29° C
Oct 29° C
Nov 28° C
Dec 28° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
333333333333333332323232
Low
°C
232425262626252525252423
High
°F
919191919191919190909090
Low
°F
737577797979777777777573

Colombia - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Barranquilla47
Bogotá46
Bucaramanga32
Cali52
Cartagena82
Cucuta32
Leticia70
Manizales47
Medellin52
Popayan31
Santa Marta33

Where to Next?

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