I was robbed in Colombia. There I said it. And no, I don’t mean some store charged me an extra 500 pesos for a glass of juice. I mean robbed in the most literal sense; two teenagers, two knifes, one less cell phone, and 100,000 less pesos.
This is an article I’ve put off writing for a while because I didn’t want to demonstrate the ugly side of Colombia. However, I feel an obligation to warn people about the dangers that are here, and advice them on how to stay safe.
It was 11:30pm on a Friday night and I was walking an Italian friend of mine home down a popular street in Medellin, Calle 33. We were done drinking, and I didn’t want her to walk home alone. Her place was only about 5 blocks away, so we opted to walk instead of taking a cab.
About two blocks away from the bar that we were in was an overpass, and a part of Calle 33 that was more rundown. As soon as we got to this part of the street my “spidey-senses” started to tingle, and I knew we were not in a place we should be. There were people passed out on doorsteps, not much light, and there was no one around that would resemble someone you’d want to hang out with.
About 20 seconds after my “spidey-senses tingled” I felt a hand on my left shoulder, and I heard the boy behind me say something in Spanish. I didn’t understand what he had said, so I asked him to repeat himself. Until now, I quite honestly thought he was just looking for the time or a few coins. That’s when he and his friend flashed their shiny knifes. This made it very obvious that they were not looking for the time, at least not unless it came in the form of my cell phone (which they did take.)
I handed over all my money. They asked for my cell, so I handed it over as well. They kept asking for “my other cell”, but I’m not in the habit of carrying two cells on me. After they realized they had what they wanted from me, they moved on to my Italian friend. They demanded her cell and money. When she was fumbling (out of nerves) for her cell, they told her to just hand over the entire bag, which she did.
The two teenaged thieves took off quickly around the corner after they had acquired what they were looking for. This is when we jumped in the nearest cab, and told the driver what had happened. He drove around for a bit looking for help, but it was of no use. The thieves were gone, along with our stuff.
What We Did Wrong
Of course it’s not the victims fault, but in Colombia, as in many places around the world, you need to be cautious. The saying for this in Colombia is “dar papaya,” which literally means “to give the papaya.” Here’s what we did wrong:
1. We shouldn’t have been walking where we were, when we were.
2. We didn’t look for an exit from a place where we shouldn’t have been in the first place.
What You Can Do To Prevent This From Happening
1. If you do not know the route you are taking home is safe, take a cab. The safest way is to call a cab, or have someone call one for you.
2. Never walk at night in places where you are alone.
3. If you arrive in a place where you don’t feel comfortable, exit it immediately, in any way possible.
What To Do If You Are Robbed
Hand over everything you have. Don’t try and be a hero. The fact is, that many of these thieves are ready and willing to use their weapons. You don’t want to lose your life, or be seriously injured over a few simple possessions. Don’t struggle. Don’t yell for help. Just give them what they want, and they’ll be on their way, as will you.
My experience of being robbed in Colombia was not a pleasant experience. If this article can help prevent even one person from the same fate, then I am glad I have written it. I don’t want to scare you away from coming to Colombia. I love this country; even after the robbery. I just want you to be aware that caution is needed. Most of my friends have never been robbed. Take care out there, and you’ll have a blast.
Click here if you want to ensure that I’m safe, and want to read about more upbeat stories from Colombia.