Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe?

Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia safe? This single most frequently asked question one about exploring Colombia with a bike. Bring up your plans regarding Colombia in conversation, and the response may well be, “are you crazy?”

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Did you know if motorcycle touring is safe in Colombia? Why not take a moment to read this article on the subject of safety in Colombia and decide for yourself. 

Colombia and road safety, as well as personal safety, has made many leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. If you follow our advice in this article and follow a common-sense approach, you will be fine.

In this article – Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe? After 15 years of operation tours all over the South American Continent, we can say YES it is safe.

1. Remote parts of the country have been reclaimed.
2. Let´s look at the general safety in Colombia.
3. Now let´s look at Motorcycle safety in Colombia.
4. Road safety should always start with you, the rider.
5. 16 Top Safety Tips when riding on Colombian Roads.
6. In Conclusion.

Mention the question; is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia safe? You’re quickly considered certifiably insane.

Here’s where a dose of reality comes in handy.

Colombia, of course, has an incredibly tragic history of violence. But with the collapse of the major crime syndicates over a decade ago, the ongoing peace process between FARC and the Colombian government is taking shape.

Colombia has been undergoing a massive transformation, resulting in an incomparably safer environment for all.  

Beginning in the early 2000s, Colombia’s government substantially boosted law enforcement. Military agencies succeeded in drastically improving the overall security situation. They cleared out thousands of armed rebels occupying swathes of rural Colombia.

Dozens of great tourist sites once sealed off in remote parts of the country have been reclaimed.  

The cities are also faring better at the time of Pablo Escobar’s death in 1993. Medellin had one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the world. By the mid-2000s, this ugly statistic had fallen by 86%.

As a visitor, it’s probably best to look at it this way. More tourists than ever are visiting Colombia. The vast majority of them come back alive. Lonely Planet ranked Colombia 2nd in their 2017 “Best in Travel” list. Hardly the kind of accolade you would bestow on a war zone.

Indeed, poverty and violence are still issues for many people living in Colombia. However, there’s nothing uniquely or worryingly dangerous about today’s Colombia from a tourist’s perspective. Visitors can travel around the country freely, by any means they wish. Motorcycles included.

This is the freature image for this article titled: Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe? Image protected under copyright to MotoDreamer Archives.

To start to answer the question; is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe? Let’s look at the general safety in Colombia.

Only a handful of the millions of tourists who visit Colombia every year fall victim to crime, and most are non-violent street crimes. On rare occasions, armed robbers. target tourists But pickpocketed is a far more likely scenario, particularly in crowded public places.

We won’t go into being street-wise and avoiding crime in Colombia, as there’s plenty of advice out there already. Primarily basic, common-sense rules that should apply when exploring an unfamiliar city.

The best advice is to heed the popular Colombian saying, ‘no dar papaya’ (literally, don’t give papaya.) In a nutshell, it means don’t make yourself an easy target, and it’s the best advice on being streetwise anyone can provide.

A group photo of the different branches of the Colombian Police. Again this image is protected under the copyright for MotorDreamer Archives.

Now let’s look at Motorcycle Safety in Colombia.

Twenty years ago, touring Colombia by motorcycle definitely not recommended.

These days, with the massively improved security situation, riding Colombia’s highways and backroads is nothing like it used to be. Gone are the days the risky game of ‘try not to get kidnapped’ was at the forefront of every rider’s mindset.

While wrong to say roadside incidents have been eliminated altogether. Thankfully, they are scarce. Furthermore, tourists are not the targets of these organized plots.

Despite the threat to tourists being vastly downgraded, some governments still have travel warnings in place for parts of rural Colombia. In our view, the official travel advice issued by many governments doesn’t always apply. The latest data often exaggerates the dangers, if only to cover their own backsides if you do run into trouble.

When considering is motorcycle touring in Colombia safe? Do take note of their advice, but at the same time, always do your own research.

However, you should check with your insurer to ensure you´re covered in places with travel warnings against them.

This Image shows Police officers dsaluting at the side of a road. Its a great example that answers the question Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe? Another Image under copyright to MotorDreamer Archives.

The subject of is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia safe? It should always start with you, the rider.

Road conditions and your level of experience are the main limiting factors for planning your motorcycle touring routes and destinations in Colombia.

For example, what if you don’t have much off-road experience? If so, we at MotoDreamer recommend that you stick safely to the many beautiful sealed roads the country offers.

In addition, the challenge of learning to handle a bike on dirt requires another set of skills. Now, combine learning with oblivious drivers, crazy truckers, and all sorts of hazards.

Remember, riding in your hometown is your comfort zone. Taking the next stage of motorcycle touring without the necessary experience under your belt will result in an unpleasant, if not downright dangerous, incident.

Many rural parts of the country have poorly developed infrastructure. Even a place with some semblance of a ‘road’ can be difficult or impossible to reach by bike at certain times of the year.

Heavy rain, combined with damage from trucks, can turn dirt roads into impassable muddy tracks. Help can be hard to find if you end up stuck on a particularly remote stretch of road.

If you’re not sure about a particular route, ask around for advice before setting off. The knowledgeable duo of Mike & Diana at MotoDreamer and adventure riding forums like Adventure Rider – Ride the World. Are excellent sources of first-hand information pre-trip.

This is the greatimage for this article titled: Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe?  It shows the view from a riders windscreen of a group of riders in front.Image protected under copyright to MotoDreamer Archives.

To help you answer your question: Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe?

Check out MotorDreamer´s 16 Top Safety Tips when riding on Colombian Roads.

  1. Many Colombian drivers consider following road rules optional, so be ready for anything, anywhere, anytime.
  2. Watch out for trucks and buses careening around blind corners.
  3. Stay on constant alert for animals wandering freely on highways and road sections that drop away suddenly by 20cm or more.
  4. Be on your guard when you see a large puddle of water on the road surface ahead of you. What you cannot see is the deep crater underneath the water´s surface.
  5. The state of secondary roads can vary from one kilometer to the next, so using distance alone (or Google Maps) isn’t an accurate way of calculating travel times.
  6. 50km on a windy, gravelly stretch of mountain road could take 3 hours. More if you wait for roadworks or a landslip to be cleared.
  7. Always factor in extra time to reach your intended destination.
  8. Colombian roads are notorious for excessive speed bumps. They’re especially prevalent at the entrance and exist of towns along the highways. The whereabouts of these evil harbingers of discomfort are not signposted. Subsequently, if hit at speed, well, you can imagine the damage to both bike and rider.

Authors Note: you are halfway with this fantastic list for staying safe on the Colombian Roads. Is it time for a brew of rich Colombian Coffee?

  1. The same holds true for potholes, so on poorly maintained roads, slow down, and if it’s safe to do so, maneuver around them. Thus, potentially avoiding the possibility of destroying a rim.
  2. Signage varies from excellent to non-existent. Beware of painted road markings that become slippery when wet.
  3. Watch for smaller bikes while waiting to pass vehicles. You might be trailing a truck waiting for a clear view before overtaking. When a 125cc appears on your tail, ready to pass on a blind corner. Colombian riders, in general, are not particularly risk-averse and so not great examples to follow!
  4. Don’t leave without essential equipment, including a tool kit, puncture repair kit, ánd first aid supplies.
  5. You will need wet weather gear. Particularly in the mountains, the weather can change in an instant.
  6. A satellite GPS messenger like the Spot personal tracker is an excellent idea in case of emergency.
  7. There are speed cameras, particularly at major intersections in town and tunnels. If done, expect a bill of around $150US in the post, a month later.
  8. Between 6 PM and 6 AM, riders are required to wear a fluorescent vest with reflectors and their license plate number displayed. Remember, if you rent a bike from MotoDreamer, they will supply this vest. It’s not a bad idea to wear it at all times for a bit of added safety.
This is the final image for this article titled: Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe?  It shows  a riders safely touring a long a Colombian road. Image protected under copyright to MotoDreamer Archives.

In conclusion: Is Motorcycle Touring in Colombia Safe?

Accept from the outset your hazard perception skills will be tested to the fullest.

Remember, there are three types of police who can stop passers-by – military, National Police, and el Transito. However, big bikes are rarely stopped. If you do get waved over, you’ll usually experience nothing more than a brief, polite exchange.

Nearly everyone is friendly and considerate of foreign Motorcycle Adventure Touring Warriors, and of course their big bikes!

It’s all part of why Motorcycle Touring in Colombia is Safe & so Rewarding.

Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)

Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com

Now have we convinced you to come? Do you want evidence? Then check out our next three positive articles on our experiences of safety in Colombia

Colombia & Biodiversity go hand in hand. 

Eight natural sceneries in Colombia that will astound you 

The 10 Most Beautiful Villages in Colombia 

Calendar

Mike & Diana, Co-Founders at MotoDreamer, are the Motorcycle Adventure Touring Experts; just ask any Motorcycle Adventure Touring Warrior!

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