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Safety and Security in Cartagena

As part of the process set forth in ICANN's Safety and Security Plan [PDF, 116 KB], ICANN is also posting the assessment of risks [PDF, 64 KB] conducted by an outside expert for the December 2010 Meeting site. This assessment, from international security consultancy Control-Risks Group, details the security threats to be considered in planning for the ICANN Meeting in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Cartagena is a popular tourist destination and venue for major conferences and presents a low risk to business travelers. However, as with travel to any major city, it is important to take responsibility for your personal safety and exercise common sense security precautions at all times.

The primary security concern for delegates to the ICANN Meeting in Cartagena is petty crime. Crime is concentrated in the lower-income areas on the outskirts of the city, though petty crime does occur in the main business and tourist areas. As in many cities, scams targeting tourists are not uncommon.

Delegates should observe common sense security precautions and not venture outside the main business and tourist areas unless accompanied by a trusted local guide.


  • Rafael Núñez International Airport is a single-terminal airport situated approximately two miles (3km) northeast of the city centre. Road travel along major routes from the airport into Cartagena is not known as a high security concern.
  • Travelers on tourist visas should sign a departure tax exemption form upon entry. Departing passengers should allow plenty of time when leaving because of rigorous baggage checks and should be prepared to pay a departure tax in the local currency (Colombian peso - COP), which may vary between 64,000 COP and 121,500 COP (US$35 - $67) depending on type of visa and length of stay.


  • Do not carry or display large sums of money and do not wear expensive jewelry, including valuable watches.
  • If approached on the street by an individual or a group, be polite but wary and exercise caution. Scams of various kinds targeting tourists are not uncommon.
  • Travelers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting "spiked" food, drinks, cigarettes or chewing gum and after being sprayed by aerosols containing incapacitating chemicals.
  • In general, photography of military bases, such as the Naval facility in Bocagrande, is not permitted.
  • Delegates should carry a photocopy of the data page and Colombian visa from their passport at all times.
  • Delegates should consider registering with their embassy or consulate in Colombia and carry with them the contact phone numbers for their embassy in case of an emergency.


  • Caution should be exercised at ATM machines when withdrawing money from banks. Be cautious about who sees you withdrawing cash and where you withdraw it.


  • In general, delegates should use private transport or taxis ordered by hotels or restaurants. Authorized tourist taxis (white with green roofs) are the safest option. Yellow taxis are also acceptable. Delegates are advised to agree on a price for their journey before getting into a taxi. Taxis are cash only and do not accept credit cards.
  • Public buses run between the walled city (adjacent to the ICANN Meeting venue) and the Bocagrande peninsula, but should be avoided for security reasons.
  • In general, it is safe to walk at all hours in the inner area of the old city. More caution should be exercised, particularly at night, in the Getsemaní and Bocagrande areas.
  • Although it is possible to walk from the Conference center to the Bocagrandepeninsula area, use of taxis or ICANN sponsored shuttle buses is recommended.
  • In general, the more remote the area, the greater the potential threat to your safety. Road travel outside the main city areas of Cartagena is not recommended due to security and health risks.


Hotels for delegates have been carefully selected. However, delegates are advised:

  • Never give out your room number or invite strangers to your room.
  • Never leave valuable property unattended in restaurants, swimming pool area, etc.
  • Always use safety lock on the door, even during the daytime.
  • Always use room safe for valuables, or use lockable storage for valuables at the front desk, but make sure they issue a receipt for your items.


  • Private medical facilities in Colombia are generally of good quality, but may be expensive. Delegates should obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling and check to ensure their policy covers all planned travel and activities.
  • Delegates should report crimes to the Tourist Police (identified by green uniforms with white armbands), who patrol the walled city and Bocagrande.

Crimes should be reported to the Colombian authorities as soon as possible. A police report, or denuncia, should be filed in person at the nearest Unidad de Reacción Inmediata (URI). Be sure to receive a copy of the report before departing. 

  • Ambulance: 125
  • Fire: 119
  • Police Emergency: 112]
  • Crime reports: Unidad de Reacción Inmediata
    Calle 66 No. 4-86, Piso 1, Crespo, Tel. 011-575-6580148, Ext. 4108


Several countries have published general travel security advisories for Colombia. No specific travel advisories have been noted for Cartagena.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs

New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

US Department of State

CDC Health Information for Travelers to Colombia 

Overseas Security Advisory Council report on Colombia (2009)

Of additional interest:

World Travel Guide – Top Destinations 2010

World Economic Forum held in Cartagena

Los Angeles Times article Aug 6, 2010