Should I bike Colombia?

April 15th, 2006 by David

   As I get closer, I am considering biking Colombia. I have received completely contradictory advice as to whether or not I would be safe biking the country, and I am trying to collect as much information as I can. If you have any advice, information, or contacts, let me know or leave a comment!

11 Responses to “Should I bike Colombia?”

  1. David says:

    Just so you know, these are the three routes I (David) am considering:

    1) Take a boat from Panama to Cartegena and then bike the coast to Venezuela.

    2) Take a boat from Panama to Cartegena. Bike to Bogota, and see a city that every Sunday closes down over 10% of its streets to cars and allows only bicycles. After Bogota, bike to Venezuela from Bogota.

    3) Skip the country and take a boat or plane straight to Venezuela.

  2. David says:

    Here is what one cyclist emailed me and said about Colombia:

    Hi, I was reading your website and noticed you said riding through Colombia may not be safe for American cyclists. We thought the same thing before we rode through there seven months ago. Were now in Ushuaia, only 22k left in our ride from San Diego. Anyhow, far and away Colombia was our absolute favorite country in all of Latin America. There is a huge sterotype that Americans get kidnapped there and all sorts of bad things happen. I guess that could happen, but not likely if you stay on the main road and dont ride at night or go wandering off into the jungles like an idiot. We rode for a month from Cartegena to the border in Ecuador on the Panamerican Hwy and truly it was the most beautiful and amazing country of the last 11,000 miles. I write this to you to recommend you not write off Colombia yet. Also, cycling is very popular there, almost like soccer is in other Latin countries, you are very respected and looked after as a cyclist. Plus there arn´t many other tourists there, so it´s truly an untouched country in that aspect.

  3. David says:

    Here is what the U.S. State department says about Colombia:

    Travel by bus is risky. Attempts at extortion and kidnappings on rural buses are not unusual. In general, travel by road in rural areas is dangerous because of the kidnapping threat and activity by organized criminal groups. In no case should Americans travel by rural road at night.

    Criminals sometimes use the drug “scopolamine” to incapacitate tourists in order to rob them. The drug is administered in drinks (in bars), through cigarettes and gum (in taxis), and in powder form(tourists are approached by someone asking directions, with the drug concealed in a piece of paper, and the perpetrator blows the powder into the victim’s face). The drug renders the person disoriented and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems.

    5 americans were kidnapped in 2004 and 1 in 2005.

  4. Zach says:


    I spoke with some of my friends here from El Salvador, and their advice is more in line with that of the cyclist’s. They agreed that the country is more untouched than other Latin countries and is very beautiful. If you don’t travel at night or wander into the jungles at any time, you should be fine. The guerrillas aren’t the main problem for you; it is the thieves, so just watch your back as you’ve been doing all along. In all, it sounds like you could see the country.


  5. Joe McDonough says:

    Hi. I have spent some time in Cartagena and took the bus to Equador. It is true that the Americans see this place as a threat. But I had no problems there. The locals were perplexed as to why the American’s were afraid and did not go there.

  6. Jacob says:

    I’ve been planning a trip myself from AK to Tierra Del Fuego. I have been doing a bit of research on the Colombian section as well.
    There is an article from the New York Times that might be helpful. Follow this link to a new forum that often discusses the dangers of Colombia:

    His website

    I’ve been curious about the possibility of biking the Darien Gap. I would love to hear about your experiences in Colombia if you go.

    It seems like you should be fine if you avoid the Gap. I imagine you are pretty travel savvy at this point. The AUC allegedly disarmed recently (doesn’t mean too much). The US government recently indicted 50 FARC members for drug trafficking. I think Kevin Sites is down in Colombia right now for some journalism work, so yahoo news would have some info on it as well.
    Good Luck!

  7. Edgar says:

    Colombia and Venezuela are very dangerous countries. Kidnapping is a daily routine in these two countries. Check the Department of State web page for travelling warnings to these two countries. Be sure to carry with you USA’s embassy emergency phone numbers. It won’t work if you get kidnapped, but you may need it for other reasons.
    Good luck and enjoy the ride!

  8. Leo says:

    I`m a half Costa Rican half Colombian located in San Josè Costa Rica. I`ve traveled Colombia by road several times from the Caribbean coast (Cartagena) to Bogotá. One of the best kept secrets of Colombia (safeguarded from foreigners) is that the current government cleared out of guerrillas vast territories along the main roads that communicate the country´s main cities to restablish the sense of order and security in the nation, that is why many Colombians are travelling again their own country by road. The safest way in this case is the straightest which is following the Interamerican Road and biking it following the Magdalena river through the lowlands down to Ibagué, from there you can climb up the altiplane to Bogotá or keep going to the Ecuador`s border. If you follow this road, sleep at night in main towns and don`t act Indiana Jones you`ll be safe. The road to Venezuela either following the Caribbean coast line or the Llanos Orientales (Orinoquia) from Bogotá is not safe, it is actually where you can find what you are trying to avoid. Contact me if you need further references, definitely you have to go there, it is a wonderful country, with charming people and mystical landscapes.

  9. Jacob says:

    This guy biked solo through Colombia. He is soon to return to his home after something like 6 years of riding his bike around the world. If you haven’t checked out his website you will likely find it useful.
    I would imagine he would be a great contact.
    Enjoy the ride!

  10. juan says:

    i am a colombian and i love riding bicycle.
    i am from bogota and i work as a teacher.
    i am 30 years old.
    let me tell you about several trips through my country: i have been riding for 5, 6, and ten days. i have visited many cities, i made bogota-cucuta in five then i went to caracas(venezuela), ihave been in cali, in neiva, in armenia and other cities. i want to tell you that this is anice country with beautiful landscapes and kind people, i guess youa have heard many bad things but many of them i am sure they’re not true,

    come here, enjoy it and have a good time.

    you can count on me if you require it

    note: sorry for my english.

  11. nicole says:

    I am planning to go to Colombia sometime this year. My fiance is a Cat 1 road racer. He does not speak any Spanish. My mother is from Cali and we are visiting my extended family. It would be the best gift to my finace if I could arrange him to road bike with elite cyclists. I want him to get a taste for the mountains. Please advise me of any ideas? Does anyone know how I can possibly contact the Colombian national cycling team?

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