Secuestro Express

English: A view of Medellín from a wagon of Me...

English: A view of Medellín from a wagon of Metro Cable, at the hill-districts of North East. Español: Vista de Medellín desde el metrocable del noreste de la ciudad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I enjoyed the movie Secuestro Express, it probably wasn’t a good idea to watch a movie about Express Kidnappings before traveling to Panama in a few weeks, followed by a solo South American trip in 2013 (Date still TBD). The story line revolves around a somewhat unlikable wealthy Venezuelan couple who, while using illegal drugs and partying in Caracas, are kidnapped by a few gangsters and forced to withdraw money from the ATM (among other things). Knowing that express kidnappings are a real problem in South America obviously worries me. However, being that I’ll be staying in budget hostels and dressed very conservatively it’s doubtful I would be a target.

Last week I met up with a Australian I met on Couchsurfing who had traveled solo for a year, with a large stint in Colombia. Because I’m planning to spend ~1 month in Colombia alone, I picked his brain on the best hostels, transportation, and safety issues.

At one point he said to me “Don’t let anyone tell you something is unsafe.. just enjoy your travels”. I found this very reassuring UNTIL several minutes later, after mentioning the Medellin Metro Cable system, he warned me against riding up to the poor barrios unless I “knew someone”. Everywhere I look I see conflicting opinions about safety in South America. I recently viewed a Lonely Planet thread on Colombia security conditions  which (as expected) had varying statements on whether Colombia is safe to visit.   Everyone seems to have their own opinion which makes me wonder which, if any, should I listen to?

On several Lonely Planet Thorntree threads people bash the safety of a country or region, although most of them have never actually been there. Most of the incidents I read about are second hang accounts or a story they heard “through a friend”.

Robberies and crime can happen anywhere. In fact, I’ve been robbed and hit by a car where I live in San Francisco, California.. which is known as one of the safer areas in the United States.

So is it safe for a gringa to take the Medellin Metro Cable, take overland bus routes between Bogotá and Medellin, or visit the coffee regions of Colombia? I’m going to disregard the fear mongers and proceed with caution.

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