Thursday, January 18, 2018

Off-Limits Colombia

Stay out of the dark regions!
The U.S. government approves of its citizens visiting Colombia - but not all of it. Four departments, located on the Venezuelan border and Pacific Coast regions, are supposed to be off limits.

While the U.S. directive generated protests from some of the forbidden regions, it actually generated relief from many more Colombians, who were happy that most of the country was in the 'visit with caution' category. That certainly would not have been true a few years ago.

Of course, the reality is much more subtle and complex. Colombia's Pacific Coast does suffer lots of violence, so why are only two of its departments on the no-go list? The region has been attracting growing numbers of tourists in recent years thanks to its fishing, surfing and spectacular whale watching, and nobody's told me of having had any problems there. Why didn't the U.S. State Department instead advise potential travelers to go there only with an agency which knows the area? After all, you can just as easily fall victim to crime in Bogotá by wandering into the wrong neighborhood.

Even more radical are the rules controlling the movements of embassy employees, who are still prohibited from riding buses and from traveling without permission in all but a few parts of Colombia.

Times have changed, and it's high time that the U.S. government changed its attitudes to match.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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