COLOMBIA AT A GLANCE
Colombia sits at the top of South America. It’s a vivacious nation of 50 million with a diverse cultural heritage and phenomenal natural beauty stretching from the Caribbean coastline through the Amazon rainforest and over to the Pacific Ocean.
In 2017, it was nominated in the Best Emerging LGBT Tourist Destination category by Fería Internacional de Turismo (or FITUR), a huge annual tourism trade fair in Madrid that’s devoted to countries in the Americas where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken.
While Colombia isn’t quite chasing the “pink peso” from tourists, it’s certainly open to receiving them. Indeed, the country now embraces its own LGBT people who, in previous decades, may have migrated to other more homo-hospitable countries if they could.
In 2018, people can be free, gay and happy, not to mention safe, even in Colombia’s smaller cities and towns.
“Safe” is a key point here because Colombia is widely known for its drug lords (think notorious villain Pablo Escobar, featured in the gritty Netflix series Narcos) and guerrilla warfare (mostly at the hands of deadly guerrilla group FARC). Innumerable associated crimes, including those committed against tourists, prevailed for decades until 2016, when FARC laid down its arms in a truce with the government.
Since then, Colombia has been putting its troubled past behind it and its reputation is all but repaired, save for a recent rise in petty crime targeting foreign tourists. This has been blamed on the flood of hungry, desperate people arriving across the border from troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
Outside the cities it’s best to carry money in cash (not cards) in the local currency (not dollars), as Colombia is still very much a cash economy and often a black one.
Keep a copy of your passport (or photograph on your phone) because you’ll constantly be asked for identification, even sometimes in supermarkets. With such a violent history, it’s hard for the populace to be completely at ease.
Remember, too, that Colombia is still a developing country and outside major cities, hot showers and the flushing of toilet paper might be a little too luxurious in some places. Think of it as sustainable tourism!
Colombia is predominantly Catholic (abortion is still illegal) and at the same time it’s one of Latin America’s most advanced countries when it comes to LGBT rights. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1981, same-sex couples were given the same pension, social security and property rights as registered heterosexual couples between 2007 and 2008. Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality was banned in 2011 and same-sex marriage was legalised in 2016.