10 Most Dangerous Cities in Colombia

Updated On October 10, 2023

Most travelers know Colombia for its rich culture, vibrant music, and delicious food.

However, residents of crime-ridden Colombia cities have a different perspective on what it means to live in one of the most violent countries on the planet.

10 Most Dangerous Cities in Colombia

Some of the most dangerous cities in Colombia are found where there are high concentrations of the country’s most active gangs and organized crime syndicates. 

Primary Contributors to Colombia’s High Crime Rates: 

  • Drug Trafficking
  • Gang Warfare
  • Organized Crime
  • Corruption
  • Violent Crime and Murder

Below is a summary of 10 of Colombia’s most dangerous cities based on violent crime and property crimes reported by Colombian officials, local police departments, and data supplied by the United Nations. 


#1. Cali – Southwestern Colombia

Much of the physical violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and property crime in this Colombian city can be attributed to large numbers of organized crime groups and gang members who live and operate in the area. 

Law enforcement officials in Cali are usually no match for its vast network of criminals and corrupt politicians that make the area nearly impossible to police. 

Latest Population Estimate: 2.86 million 


#2. Bogota – Central Colombia

Bogata, Colombia, sits on a high plateau overlooking the Andes mountains. 

This picturesque city is home to a host of natural formations, cultural delicacies, local entertainment, and a high concentration of drug traffickers passing through the area, which makes it dangerous for some residents and tourists.  

Like many other crime-ridden towns in Colombia, Bogota is home to a robust population, high levels of corruption, low morale, and an almost ineffective police force. 

Latest Population Estimate: 7.41 million (Largest City) 


#3. Medellin – Northwest Colombia

The city of Medellin, Colombia, was once controlled and operated by one of the most notorious drug lords and drug traffickers of our time — Pablo Escobar. 

Escobar and the Medellin Cartel caused a lot of violence in this area between the 1980s and 90s.

Physical violence, murder, kidnappings, and bombings were regular events during the cartel era; remnants of past violence are still active in pockets of the city today. 

Latest Population Estimate: 2.50 million 


#4. Cucuta – Norte de Santander

High crime rates in some areas of the Cucate leave many year-round residents afraid to leave their homes. 

The proximity to the Venezuelan border makes it easy for criminals, gangs, and organized crime members to commit crimes between the two countries. 

Its location often brings up local jurisdiction issues that allow many criminals to slip through the crack and continue to engage in petty theft, robbery, drug trafficking, and violent assaults that keep residents on edge. 

Crime rates are so high in Cucata that local officials have increased the number of law enforcement officials like police officers and border patrol agents as a deterrent. 

Latest Population Estimate: 703,000 


#5. Tumaco – Narino Department (Southwestern Colombia)

Despite its picturesque backdrop and thriving local economy, Tumaco has one of the highest murder rates in the country. 

The murder rate in Tumaco equates to 154 murders for every 100,000 residents.

The small population of the city is just over 200,000.

Along with having one of the highest murder rates in Colombia, Tumaco has a reputation for large numbers of kidnappings in the region. 

Latest Population Estimate: 221,469


#6. Pereria – Risaralda (Central-West Colombia)

The city of Pereria in central-west Colombia makes the list of the most dangerous cities because of high rates of property crime, violent crimes, and drug trafficking. 

The Pereira Como Vamos report for 2021 provided the following crime statistics for the city. 

Pereria’s homicide rate is measured at around 22.1 per 100,000 residents. 

Latest Population Estimate: 469,269


#7. Buenaventura – Pacific Ocean (West Coast) 

Buenaventura is one of the most dangerous places in Colombia due to its high murder rate, high rates of violent crimes, high rates of property crime, and corruption. 

The Buenaventura Como Vamos report of 2021 provided the following data. 

Violent Crime Rate per 100,00 residents: 258.38

Property Crime Rate per 100,000 residents: 206.84

Corruption Rate per 100,000 residents: 82.50

Latest Population Estimate: 475,000


#8. Manizales – Department of Caldas (Central Colombia) 

Manizales in central Colombia sits on a gorgeous cityscape near the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. 

Although the crime rate appears to be declining in Manizales, there are still instances of violent crimes like assault and murder driven by the large population of local gangs, cartels, and organized crime syndicates. 

Latest Population Estimate: 455,000


#9. Valledupar – Cesar (Northeastern Colombia)

Local reports and city officials say that Valledupar is dangerous because its homicide rate is almost double that of the national average. 

The murder rate for Valledupar was reported at 45 per 100,000 in 2021.

Colombia’s national average at the time was 25.6 per 100,000. 

Petty thefts and scams against tourists are also regular occurrences in the area.

Officials warn travelers and tourists to stay vigilant to protect themselves against becoming victims of theft or local scams. 

US travelers should educate themselves on local scam techniques like the “taxi scam” and the “jewelry scam.” 

What is a Taxi Scam?

In the taxi scam, local taxi drivers work with individuals and organized crime members to take passengers to remote locations not on their itinerary and then rob them or demand more money to take them to a safe destination. 

What is the Jewelry Scam?

The jewelry scam involves local hoods offering to sell what appear to be expensive pieces of jewelry for a meager price.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the jewelry is fake and worthless.

Local tour guides recommend only shopping at reputable locations with verifiable products, services, and reviews and not buying jewelry and other wares from street peddlers. 

Latest Population Estimate: 532,956


#10. Villavicencio – Meta (Eastern Colombia)

Villavencio has high violent crime rates, drug trafficking, and related offenses that make parts of the area unsafe. 

Local reports place Villavencencio high on the list, with a homicide rate twice the national average. 

The homicide rate in Villavencio hovers at around 58 per 100,000 residents.

Local thieves also target tourists for petty thefts and robberies that make the area unsafe to walk alone at night. 

Latest Population Estimate: 500,000+.

5 Safety Tips for Traveling to Colombia

Now that you’ve learned about some of the most dangerous places to visit in Colombia, you should also learn a few safety tips to help you and your family stay safe while traveling in Colombia.

Below are five travel safety tips to help you get started. 

#1. Beware of Local Scams Like The Taxi Scam and the Jewelry Scams

Local scam artists in dangerous Colombian cities are known for targeting tourists in scams that take them away from their original destinations and then demand money.

This “taxi scam” can turn violent when resistant tourists fight back against drivers and their henchmen. 

#2. Avoid Walking Alone at Night 

Tourists visiting Colombia should not walk alone at night or in neighborhoods known for being dangerous. 

Walking alone at night in a dangerous city can increase the likelihood of US travelers becoming victims of property crimes like petty theft or robbery. 

Property crimes can quickly become violent crimes when tourists fight back instead of giving up their valuables like cell phones, wallets, and passports. 

#3. Register with the Embassy

The United States has embassy offices located in a variety of cities around the world. 

Registering your Colombia trip with the US Embassy in the region will activate your eligibility for consular services. 

US residents’ consular services include reissuing passports, notarization, authentication services, and emergency travel assistance. 

#4. Plan Your Itinerary in Advance

Research the local cities, towns, and tourist attractions you want to visit in Colombia and plan your itinerary beforehand. 

Avoid becoming victims of local scam artists by verifying that the products, services, hotels, taxis, and rideshares are from legitimate vendors before making your trip. 

#5. Keep Your Phone and Valuables out of Sight

Avoid being the victim of petty theft, robbery, and scams by keeping valuables like cash, cell phones, purses, and laptops out of sight when traveling in dangerous Colombian cities.

Colombia Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Colombia Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

What key factors contribute to high crime rates in Colombian cities?

Organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption are all key factors that contribute to high crime rates in Colombia cites in the cities listed above.

The presence of criminal activity drives instances of violent crime and property crime.

What are some safety tips for traveling in Colombia?

US travelers who plan on visiting Colombia should register with the US Embassy to gain access to critical US-based services.

Consular services provided by the embassy can help Americans who are in danger or need replacement documents and identification documents like passports and birth certificates to safely complete their travel or return to the US.

What are some of the most dangerous cities in Colombia, and where are they located?

Surprisingly, most of the violent crime in Colombia is concentrated in cities that lie north and west.

These areas house large numbers of gang members, organized crime syndicates, and corrupt officials resistant to the country’s various police agencies.

5 Comments on 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Colombia

  1. M
    Manuel Garcia says:

    I has being in Medellin twice this year for dental treatment first time 4 weeks and the second time 1 week, i never felt unsafe…people are nice and friendly the food is super the prices of a great meal in good restaurant are out of this world, the city was clean, the uber driver are super friendly and the prices are excellent ….so i don’t know where you guys got that information in regard to Medellin and Pereira, just need to use common sense, no flashing jewelry, no showing lost cash in from of people , stay away for walking alone at late hours of the night and you will just fine, Medellin is a wonderful city….im from Miami honestly a felt safer in Medellin…..

    1. A
      Anonymous says:

      You are in La La land if you think that Cory is safe. It is and has been dangerous for 40 years! It is the drug capital of the world.

  2. A
    Anonymous says:

    Medellin is the safest place in all of colombia

    1. M
      Mercedes Pina says:

      No it is not. I lived in Colombia in various cities for years., it has never been safe and never will be. It is the drug and violence capital of the world next Mexico.

  3. Colombia is unsafe unless you are a native, for tourists? I would stay out of there.

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