Safety in Bogotá: How to avoid giving a Pawpaw


Colombia has the seventh most unequal distribution of wealth in the world. The booming economy over the past 15 years has helped 1 million people per year exit poverty. Unfortunately, some prevailing monopolies and oligarchical figures are clenching on to a economic system that limits and alienates a significant part of the population who feel more of a trickle than a boom.

Colombian entrepreneurial spirit is inherent in many. They dream of freedom, not corporate drudgery. It was 15 years ago, that determined entrepreneurship was given a platform to prosper on a large scale, and is a massive force behind the country's rugged growth.

Bogota has some of the lowest city crime rates in the country. Disparities in crimes rates in different parts of the city are great. Most foreigners will safer in the higher stratas of Bogota. where people up to no good have to travel quite a way to do the dirty, so it happens at a much lower rate.

There will always be some who find themselves in a circle that survives by taking advantage of others in their own entrepreneurial ways. In Colombia, there is a phrase for behaviors that attracts these circles a.k.a. rats:

¨no dar papaya¨

There are two theories of its origins.

  • The word papaya was used as a code word for vagina in some Caribbean countries.
  • In Venezuela ´papaya´ is a synonym of something easy to obtain i.e. low-hanging, low-maintenance, ripe fruit.

These circles are estranged and far removed from the daily life of the vast majority of people living in Colombia particularly in urban areas. Bogotá for example has the lowest crime rates in the country.

Things you thought were safe that should actually be taken with caution:

  • Some beautiful women. Passion doesn't discriminate.
  • Some beautiful men. Sometimes hearts will never break.
  • people suddenly encroaching your direct personal space without warning, late at night, in an empty public space. Keep you radar on when appropriate.
  • Getting a street taxi with a driver overly hyped on Vive100 energy drink that wants to take you for a ride. Much rarer these days. Tappsi, Easy Taxi & Uber work great.
  • low door frames (This one hits home hard.)
  • a stranger around your drinks
  • dangling your iPhone like you are a fresh, ripe, public, papaya tree in the Parque del Periodista on a quiet, cool night. By the way, if you find yourself in an encounter and you don't have an exit plan, your shit is the only thing they want, not your breath.
  • Holes. In your pockets, in the middle of the street, in a condom. Holes haven't been safe since were. The civil war is over, #Peaceginning is the new #Brexit

So, hopefully a few helpful hints in there for you. Understandably, the older Bogotáno generation especially, have lived through more atrocities than they would like to remember on their streets. It does mean there is a local skepticism that doesn't synchronize with the level of skepticism newly arrived foreigners have but yet, have a safe, yet wildly good time.

I encourage you to not let exaggerated fear limit the bizarre assortment of experiences Bogotá provides.

If you do get robbed, find the bright side; you don't have a choice anyway. It could be one of your most captivating travel stories for years to come. But seriously, it is a healthy reminder of our vapid relationship with material possessions.