Last Wednesday, I was robbed in Medellin while in a taxi heading west on Calle 33 to renew my tourist visa at the DAS office in barrio Belen.
It was 11:20 AM when my taxi came to a halt at a stoplight. We were surrounded by other vehicles. I was sitting in the front passenger seat with the window down. A figure with dark pants approached my window from behind. I’d been playing with my Blackberry and, instinctively, I swung it toward the center of the car in case the street vendor or beggar tried to snag it.
When I looked back to my right, I was staring at a silver revolver held against the man’s stomach, pointing toward the front of the car. I don’t remember if he said anything. Words weren’t necessary. I handed over my Blackberry and 75,000 pesos ($40) cash. The thief, thinking there was something more of value, reached in the window and felt my shirt pocket.
I pulled out my passport, saying “solo pasaporte” in a vain attempt to save it. He grabbed it and went back to the motorbike where his accomplice was waiting. They sped off to the right so we couldn’t note the license plate.
The light turned green and my driver pulled away, not saying a word or expressing any emotion.
I wondered why they took my passport. I knew it could be sold to counterfeiters, but all I could think about was the hassle and cost required to replace it, and my lack of comprehensive travel insurance to help cover the cost of my phone.
At DAS I explained what happened. The local police were called. The taxi driver reported what he saw, and gave me his business card before departing. I was taken to the new Belen police station to file a report, which would be the documentation needed to report the loss at the US embassy in Bogota, as well as explain to DAS why I would have to overstay my tourist visa.
All the police were courteous and friendly. They did their part to take down the details, though we all knew the chances of catching the thieves were slim to none. An official one page report in hand, the police then dropped me off back at my apartment. One of the officers gave me his phone number.
I’ve been living in Medellin 16 months, and this is the first time I’ve ever been threatened or confronted. I hope by sharing my experience honestly and openly, it does not deter people from visiting this amazing city. At the same time, visitors and residents should not take their safety for granted.
See Dave’s original article, Robbed in Medellin.
See a longer, more in-depth version on Dave’s other site GoBackpacking, Anatomy of an Armed Robbery in South America.
Colin’s take: I agree this should not deter people from visiting Medellin. I’ve always felt safe, even in sketchy downtown areas. However, Medellin is statistically the most dangerous in Colombia. I always attributed that to extreme violence confined in the slums and among the cocaine trade, while most of the city is safe. However, the worst news in the country of violence against foreigners continues to come from Medellin. In April a US tourist was killed in a hostel robbery. In January another was killed (Daniel Fernandez). And last year a Brit was shot and killed.
So don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Travel abroad is not for the faint of heart and can be quite dangerous. If you want to minimize your risk then maybe you should just stay home and seek your thrills on PokerBlog.
Support what Expat Chronicles is all about. Leave a tip to keep the laughs coming (and the news, insight and other stuff too).