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Travel Insurance Claims - True Stories Just some of the weird and wonderful things that happen to World Nomads travellers while on the road

True Travel Tales - Jail in Bogota, Colombia

COLOMBIA | Tuesday, 2 November 2010 | Views [7609] | Comments [1]

Every journey has a story; every trip has its unexpected twists. Plan and prepare as you may, some things happen on the road that take you out of your element, push you to your limit, and even put you in danger. These are the tales of triumph over tragedy, when you were in a sticky situation that you had to find your way out of – in another country.

David Johnson shares his story of how an evening with friends turned into a night in the slammer in Bogota, Colombia. Read his story and learn how to prepare yourself in the event of a similar situation. 

The Story

A Walk with Friends

A group of friends were on our way home from a going away event in the neighborhood of La Candeleria, Bogota. As we were walking home and stopped at a small tienda la policia rolled up and ordered us all to stand against the wall. They had their guns drawn and were screaming ‘Estamos en Colombia’ while waving around their arms. At this point I was not sure if they were even real cops. They asked to see our passports and as I was the first they asked and did not have it on me because I did not want to get it stolen, they threw me into the back of their paddy wagon.
La Policia
Those minutes alone in the back of the truck were intense. They then threw in 3 other friends, which was a relief to me, and allowed the others to go back to the hostel, which was only a few blocks away. We then proceeded to go on a high speed cruise of Bogota, picking up other street dwellers and watching the cops beat the crap out of these poor people. They would seriously inflict pain on them, batoning them in the head and crushing their ribs with their clubs and then throw them in the back with us and go look for more. When we arrived at the jailhouse, the beatings continued and one particular guy was handcuffed to a goalpost, which later broke due to his weight hanging off the bar. My Spanish was better than the other guys and they took it easy on the ‘gringos.’ The conditions inside the prison were pretty awful and very cold, Bogota is the 3rd highest capital city in South America. We had no idea what the procedure was going to be or how long they would keep us.

The Outcome

Detained & Released

Fortunately the cops did not detain us in the same small cells crammed with the people they picked up that night. I am also proud to say I did not give the commandante a dime. Our hostel owner brought our passports to the jail and we were able to communicate passing notes between the guards. They also brought us something to eat and drink as they do not provide anything to prisoners in custody. Finally the tourist police intervened and negotiated our release. We were escorted through the streets of Bogota by a huge entourage of guards and returned to our hostel.

My Advice

Be a prepared:

  • Carry a copy of your passport. 
  • Don’t carry drugs on you, had we had anything illegal on us we would have been in for a lot worse. 

Use common sense:
  • Don’t whine with the cops, it will get you nowhere. 
  • Know where you are staying and how to contact them, carry a business card of the hotel/hostel you are at.

Travel Safety advice from World Nomads

It's not a big secret that at times, dealing with Colombian police will be hairy - and if you are unlucky, you could be stuck with a rotten bunch.

Last year nearly 8000 Colombian policemen were investigated for corruption and abuse of authority allegations, and scandal has plagued the force.

Many Colombian police officers are quite young, and can suffer from a level of immaturity - which can lead to situations like the one you found yourself in.

It's important to take extra care to behave yourself while in Colombia - you don't want to give the police extra reason to detain you.

Your advice is very sound, we can all learn from your experience!

Related Articles:

True Travel Tales - Pesky Parasite

True Travel Tales - World Cup Alive

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Tags: bogota, colombia, jail, passport, police, south america, terrifying travel tales




  rob Nov 15, 2010 11:07 PM

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