Is Cali a dangerous place to visit, and is it even a city worth visiting in Colombia?
Despite its pretty dangerous past, Cali Colombia is a great place to visit now and it is typically a safe place to travel to as long as you take some simple precautions like you would anywhere in the world. Be sure to stick to the safe areas of Cali and use our safety tips to help you during your visit to this Colombian Salsa Capital.
Is Cali Colombia A Dangerous Place To Visit?
If you’re familiar with the history of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel, you may know of the rival Cali cartel that basically took over as the megacenter following the death of Escobar in the early 90s.
This time period fascinated me when I was a young History major in college so I learned all about the horrific violence and lawlessness in the country at this time. Even though it had been decades, I still wondered if Cali or Colombia in general would be a safe place for me to travel to alone.
Although there are still some echoes of this dangerous past today in parts of Colombia, including the city of Cali (particularly on the eastern side of the city), it is now a much safer place to travel to, even for solo female travelers, and both the city of Cali and the country of Colombia are very much worth visiting.
Is Cali Colombia Dangerous For Solo Female Travelers?
After learning so much about Cali’s past, I started wondering if Cali would be a safe place for me to visit as a solo female traveler.
When I lived in Colombia, I was not too far from Cali in the city of Pereira (about four hours to the north) so I decided to go on a day trip to Cali and get a tour of the city to avoid dangerous situations as much as possible.
While there, I never felt unsafe and I didn’t have any issues while walking around alone in the city after the tour. After dinner when I needed to get back to the bus terminal, it was already dark out so I was extra cautious getting the restaurant to call and confirm a taxi for me and thankfully I didn’t have any issues there either.
As long as you stay aware of your surroundings, avoid flashy fashion, and make smart decisions (leaving out alcohol and late nights for example), visiting Cali as a solo female traveler should be safe.
Is Cali Colombia Dangerous At Night?
Like most cities around the world, Cali becomes less safe at night especially when traveling alone.
There are more vulnerable scenarios you can get into during the night so being extra cautious and avoiding them as much as possible is the best way to stay safe in Cali.
If there are activities or things that you want to visit in Cali during the night, it is best to stay in groups, go on a tour if possible, arrange private transportation or highly rated ride shares, know where not to go in the city, and stay around the populated tourist areas to keep safe at night in Cali.
Safety Tips For Visiting Cali, Colombia
➡️ No Dar Papaya is the number one safety rule in Colombia. It simply means not to give others easy or obvious opportunities to take advantage of you (waving around your $1000 phone for example) and not putting yourself in vulnerable situations (walking alone on an empty, dark street for example).
➡️ Don’t hail taxi’s from the street. Taxi’s are notorious for being unsafe in Colombia (not all are dangerous but they’re still not the best option) so taking public transportation, using ride-share services, or getting private transportation in Cali or any other city is much safer.
➡️ Keep to the busy, tourist areas of Cali and be particularly cautious at night. Stay in groups if you’re traveling with others, don’t show off flashy clothing, jewelry, or technology, and always be aware of your surroundings.
➡️ Don’t carry around all of your money or credit cards when you go out into the city. It’s also a great idea to keep a few bills in your wallet but the rest of what you plan to spend for the day in multiple locations (pocket, sock, backpack, etc.) or in an inconspicuous money belt.
➡️ When you go out to explore, don’t bring your official passport with you for identification. Make a couple copies of your passport and use one of those while you are out.
➡️ Especially for those with food allergies or healthy lifestyles, avoid street food in Colombia.
➡️ Wherever I went, I always carried some toilet paper and hand sanitizer with me. Not all bathrooms will have them and you’ll have to pay to use a lot of bathrooms so it’s good to keep some change on hand too.
➡️ We’ve had problems and we’ve heard of many other problems with Airbnb in Colombia so unless a host is rated very high with a high number of reviews, we suggest sticking with hotels in Cali and the rest of Colombia as well.
Is Cali Colombia Worth Visiting?
Depending on your itinerary for your Colombia trip you might be wondering, is Cali worth adding to the list or is it better to stick to cities like Bogotá or Medellín?
I enjoyed my day trip to Cali and I loved the options in the city for healthier food (especially vegan and vegetarian food) but in my own personal opinion, I think there are better places to take the time to visit in Colombia if you have to choose only a few.
If you’re visiting the Coffee Region (which has some of the most beautiful places in Colombia) and have the time, a great way to experience Cali is on a short day trip. I think you can see the majority of Cali sites in a day or two so I would suggest spending more time in other parts of Colombia.
Which Is Better Cali Or Medellin?
Cali is closer to my favorite part of the country, the Coffee Region, but Medellin also has some popular surrounding towns like Guatapé. The spring-like temperatures in Medellin are also more pleasant than the hot valley of Cali, but there is a lot of unpleasant smog in the bowl-shaped city of Medellín.
Medellín also has a lot more allergy friendly and healthy food compared to the rest of Colombia, especially vegan and vegetarian food.
It does come down to personal preference but if you had to choose only one, I think there is more to see and do in Medellin than there is in Cali.
Should I Visit Cali Or Bogota?
Bogotá was one of my favorite cities to visit in Colombia because of the history and some nearby towns so I would suggest not leaving this capital city off of your Colombia list.
If you’re not a fan of large cities and prefer some of the lesser traveled places, Cali might be a better option for you.
Bogotá is typically one of the few cities in Colombia you might fly into from international destinations so you may end up being there no matter what. You can see the major Bogotá sights in a day or two, visit the Salt Cathedral on a day trip, and easily get to other Colombia destinations from this capital city.
How Many Days Should You Spend In Cali Colombia?
I was happy with my day trip to Cali from my base in the Coffee Region but if you want to get out and explore some of the nature near Cali, three to four days would be a better option for you to see everything.
What’s The Weather Like In Cali?
Colombia’s weather varies greatly depending on what part of the country you are in. You can find conditions from snow to year round spring to super hot and humid.
Unlike a majority of Colombia, Cali is a valley with few hills or mountains that sits inland about three to four hours from the Pacific Ocean.
🌡 Temperatures in the city are usually pretty consistent throughout the year and don’t go above 86 degrees or below 64 degrees. The hottest month is usually August, the coldest is usually November.
🌧 Spring is rainy season in Colombia, and although rain storms don’t typically last very long, you should be prepared for it any time of the day. The windy and dry season in Colombia is during the fall.
🤑 The first half of the year is typically the cheapest time to visit Colombia as long as you don’t mind a little bit of wet weather, but Colombia is always pretty cheap compared to United States or European prices.
How Do You Get To Cali Colombia?
If you’re flying in from another country, you’ll likely start your Colombia journey in one of the three major cities of Bogotá, Medellín, or Cartagena. To visit Cali, you’ll have to take further transportation to get there.
Is There An Airport In Cali Colombia?
There is an international airport in Cali Colombia and those with limited time or those coming to Cali from pretty much anywhere other than the Coffee Region or Popayán will want to fly into this airport.
The flight to Cali from either Bogotá or Medellín is only about an hour long and from Cartagena it is about an hour and a half.
Can You Get To Cali Colombia By Bus?
Busses are a fantastic way to get around Colombia, especially those smaller towns, and not only are they pretty cheap, you also get to see some pretty incredible views on most routes throughout Colombia.
If you’ve already flown or traveled to areas like the Coffee Region (Pereira, Manizales, Armenia) or Popayán, taking a bus to Cali is the best way to get there and only takes about three and a half hours from either of these places.
Safe Places To Stay In Cali Colombia
Dangerous Areas To Avoid In Cali Colombia
There are some dangerous areas in Cali Colombia that you should avoid but you typically wouldn’t have any reason to go to these neighborhoods during your visit anyway.
Some of the more dangerous neighborhoods border or are close by to popular tourist areas so you do want to make sure you don’t get lost in the city and accidentally end up in the wrong place. We suggest making sure you have data on your phone while visiting Cali, and using Uber to get around different parts of the city.
Also be sure to avoid the east side of the city but again, you wouldn’t really have any reason to go there anyway.
How Do You Get Around In Cali Colombia Safely?
The main areas where you’re likely to stay, sightsee, and eat in Cali are all pretty walkable areas. If it gets late at night and you have a ways to go, it might be a better idea to get a ride.
For places that do require a ride, there are a few transportation options.
Is Public Transportation Dangerous In Cali Colombia?
Cali does not have a metro rail like Bogotá or Medellín but they do still have public transportation options that are safe to use.
The bus systems in Colombia are typically cheap, safe, and the way locals get around, but it does help to speak at least some Spanish.
Is There Uber In Cali Colombia And Is It Safe?
Uber is available in Cali Colombia and typically Uber is a much safer option in Colombia. There are still some safety precautions you should take with Uber in the country, but it is usually a much better and safer option than taxi’s, and a much easier option than public transportation.
If you can’t get data in Colombia from your phone service back home, it is really easy to go into any Claro phone store, buy a cheap SIM card, and load it with data for the duration of your trip in the country.
Is A Tour Better To Get Around Cali?
To avoid having to get yourself around with public transportation or get multiple Uber rides from sight to sight, taking a tour to see all of the best Cali sights is a great way to get around the city.
➡️ For The Best Of Cali City Tour, we recommend booking here with Valley Adventours.
Is It Safe To Drive In Colombia?
If you are just visiting Colombia, we think driving is not a good or very safe option anywhere in the country.
Besides having to drive a manual car, the weather, the road conditions, and the chaotic lack of traffic rule following makes driving in Colombia fairly unsafe.
You also wouldn’t really want to drive yourself around Colombia because of the time it takes to drive from place to place. What looks like a short distance on the map, can take a much longer time winding and weaving though the mountains.
Flying when you can, taking busses for routes five hours and under, using Uber, or using public transportation in the cities are all better options than driving yourself around in Colombia.
#7 Best Things To See & Do In Cali Colombia
➡️ To see all The Best Of Cali, we recommend booking your tour here with Valley Adventours.
No trip to cali is complete without something related to Salsa. Whether it’s just listening to the music or getting up to dance, Cali claims the title as the Salsa Capital so its a must see here.
At Plazoleta Jairo Varela you can listen to salsa music coming out the ends of the large trumpet statue and even visit the small museum dedicated to the salsa musician, Jairo Varela.
The tour with RiCo takes you to all the best Salsa sights including Salsa bars with Salsa classes.
➡️ For a dedicated Salsa Tour, we recommend booking your tour here with RiCo – Ritmos de Colombia.
2. Iglesia Ermita
Iglesia Ermita is one of the most detailed churches I’ve ever seen with a beautiful gothic style that lights up at night. Construction on the church began in the 1930s with many pieces being brought over from Italy and Amsterdam.
The church is located on the south side of Parque Simón Bolívar, about a 20 minute walk from El Peñon neighborhood and just 10 minutes from the Granada neighborhood.
3. Parque De Los Gatos
A visit to the Parque De Los Gatos is one of the most unique things you can do in Cali Colombia. The park sits along the Cali River and is a nice calm place filled with loads of painted and decorated cat statues.
Most of the cats are all about the same size except for the one 3-ton bronze cat statue that sits at the east end of the park. It is free to enter the park and it is within a 5 minute walking distance from El Peñon neighborhood.
4. Zoológico De Cali
The zoo in Cali is a popular and highly recommended attraction in the city but just be aware the the area around the zoo is not very safe so if you do visit, don’t wander around outside of the gates.
5. Monumento Cristo Rey
Visiting the Christ statue up on the hill is one of the most popular things to do in Cali. It resembles the Christ Redeemer statue in Brazil, but it is only 85 feet tall, as opposed to the 125 foot tall Brazilian one.
The statue is one of the furthest sights from the main part of town so a tour or an Uber ride is the best option to reach the monument.
From the monument at the top of the hill, there are also great views of the Cali valley down below.
6. Jordan River
About an hour south of Cali, you can spend time out in nature, hiking in the forest, and swimming in the river with the popular Bosque el Descanso Tour.
7. Hike Pico de Loro
Hiking in Colombia is absolutely incredible so if you have the ability and get the chance, do it. The Pico de Loro hike is located about an hour and a half southwest of Cali, and like most hikes in Colombia, it is a bit strenuous but very rewarding.
➡️ For the Pico de Loro Hike, we recommend booking your tour here with Viajes Che – Colombia Hiking Experience.
Where To Eat In Cali Colombia
To my surprise, Cali had a lot of restaurants that advertised gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian food. We still suggest bringing some snacks with you, but there are a good number of places to eat in the city.
Not a ton places in Cali have websites that you can easily plan ahead but you’re likely to see signs outside of restaurants advertising Comida Vegana (vegan), Vegetariana (vegetarian, Sin Gluten (gluten free), or maybe even Saludable or Sana (healthy).
A few of the best options for healthy and allergy friendly food in Cali are El Buen Alimento Alquimia Vegetariana, Tierra Verde Gluten Free Food, Mascabado Cocina Artesanal y Casa de Té, and Sandwich Lovers (homemade gluten free bread).
Can You Drink Tap Water In Cali Colombia?
Water in Colombia is typically safe for tourists to use or drink but if you want to be extra careful like I was, use the water to brush your teeth but don’t drink it and boil it if you’re going to cook with it.
If you do buy water while you’re there, know that a lot of water is sold in bags instead of bottles and you just tear a corner off the bag to start drinking.
Wrap Up: Is Cali Colombia Dangerous?
Taking some simple precautions to avoid certain dangerous situations during your visit to Cali Colombia is the best way to stay as safe as possible but still enjoy this wonderful salsa obsessed city. If you’re nearby Cali or really love Salsa music and dancing, don’t leave this valley city off your Colombia itinerary!