Much like the rest of the country, Cali suffers from a bad reputation. Deserved or not, let’s be honest: Cali scares people. Out of Colombia’s three largest cities, many people – including Colombians – believe Cali to be the most dangerous.
Like most things, the answer depends on who you ask. Of course Cali has its troubles, it’s experiencing a rebirth, and becoming a very different city from the one that developed that bad reputation 20 years ago. It isn’t uncommon to see people going out for evening strolls, or sitting out on patios into the night. But like anywhere, people – especially foreigners – are urged to be mindful as they travel around the city. Here are a few common-sense tips to keep in mind during your stay in Cali.
Travel during daylight
Until you get familiar with your surroundings, try to minimize travel at night – especially if you’re taking public transportation. If you must travel at night, the safer route is to call for a taxi (as opposed to hailing one on the street).
Keep valuables out of reach
When taking public transportation and walking in crowded areas (such as el centro), many people carry their bags in front of them where they can see them. The large MIO (public transportation) stops usually have a policeman or two should you need help – but they won’t be able to save you from a skilled pickpocket.
Don’t flash your phone
The most common crime foreigners face is cell phone theft. There are many places people use their smartphones openly, such as shopping malls and restaurants. But walking aimlessly on the street with your cell phone out leaves you vulnerable.
Watch your language
As Cali’s popularity grows, you’re likely to find more English-speaking foreigners during your time in the city, and it’s natural to build a community based on commonalities. But one sure-fire way to draw attention to yourself is by speaking loudly in English. Sometimes it’s best to blend in.
Above all, be aware
Pay attention, but not only for danger – observe what others are doing and use their behaviour as a guide. Are there many people on that street you’re considering exploring, or is it virtually abandoned? Do people around you have their phones out, or are you the only one messaging? Take a hint and follow suit.