Armed Assault / Robbery Locations against Cycle Tourists in Latin America

A place where information can be shared about known relevant assaults that have occurred in specific locations so people can take some precautions when passing through an area. These are locations where a cycle tourist or backpacker has been robbed or attacked by force (e.g. gun or knifepoint) or an area that is particularly well known for its delinquency. It is less about opportunistic theft. There’s a reasonable chance that these incidents are carried out repeatedly by locals (although not always obviously) so knowing where this has happened could be useful.

If you know of an incident that has happened please let me know the location (coordinates ideally), when it happened and a brief summary of what happened. Also note that it probably looks worse than it is because the icons are so big. Remember these incidents are relatively rare compared to how many people tour on bicycle and to put it in perspective traffic on the road is still almost certainly the greatest risk. So don’t let it stop you touring and take care with traffic on the road (more than anything).

‘Enlarge map’ for the KML file

General observations and speculation:

  • Areas for particular precaution: Northern Caribbean coast of Colombia and Northern coast of Peru.
  • Assault in the mountains of South America seem far less common than the coast.

Logical precautions one can take in known hotspots:
– Avoid camping, or if you must camp do it on someone’s land with their permission out of sight from the road
– Get off the road early (e.g. before 3.30pm)
– Get a police escort (assuming you can trust the police!)
– Ask locals for advice (an older Señora may be a safer bet than a young man with a motorbike), be vague about where you’re going.
– Don’t get out anything of value (phones, cameras etc).
– Don’t hang about, keep going; particularly in isolated areas.
– Any other ideas?… please comment below.

48 thoughts on “Armed Assault / Robbery Locations against Cycle Tourists in Latin America

  1. Hey Nick, another one that definitely should be on there is the railroad along the southern edge of center city Guadalajara. 20°39’44.4″N 103°22’00.7″W I’m just pointing a random crossing here, but all crossings should be avoided at night. There are a lot of dangerous armed gangs of thieves on the rails and they hang out here. A couple of touring cyclists we know were robbed there by five dudes with guns and all the local cyclists they met told them they were very lucky to keep their bikes. Most locals report having had a bike stolen crossing those tracks.

  2. Hey Nick,

    Just saw this one in the cycling the Americas FB group. I can’t link to the image he posted, but it looks like it’s in a town called Evangalista. I guess the evangelist didn’t do his job very well.

    “Columbia North warning for Cartagena area
    Guys I don’t want to scaremonger here but a word of caution if you are going to be traveling south from Cartagena towards Cruz del Vizo along the 90b toll road.
    Myself and my buddy Australian Mike Conway (4 year tourer) had 2 bad encounters with 2 guys with a machete on a motorbike this morning.
    They managed to get Mikes camera on the second encounter.
    Based on how they acted we feel they have previous experience in hassling cyclists. We notified some traffic police of the incident but they were not helpful in any sense.
    The toll road 90b is low in traffic so useful for them. Alt route is the non toll and might be better option with higher traffic volumes. We spoke to some locals and they said the area outside Cartagena is quite dangerous on either route. So be careful and prob best to travel in tight group where possible.
    Red dot marks area we encountered them (just outside Evangelista)
    Ps No injuries encountered just a renewed sense of heightened awareness”

  3. Hi Nich:
    I am a 65 year old cyclist with good experience and lots of kms on my back, this was my first tour in Latin America. I was attacked just east of Popayan in km 4 Popayan-San Jose de Iznos road, in Colombia , on December 20. It was very distressing. As I cycled down the hill a bike coming up, slowed down and the guy in the back seat jumped over me trying to make me fall down. I was just lucky and the guy miscalculated his jump and hit me on the leg and on the back of the bicycle. I was able to keep on the bicycle and reach help before anything happened. I was told by locals that that stretch of road is very dangerous, because it is quiet. That incident make me abandon my four month trip through Colombia. (Corrected spelling)

    • Hi Antonio, sorry to hear about this incident; glad you managed to escape unscathed. Thanks for the information, I have updated the map. Regards Nicholas

    • Thanks for this, I have updated the map with my best estimate of the location. Sorry for the delay in responding, hard to get wifi access in these parts…

  4. Hey Nick, got robbed by 2 masked guys with guns on a small mt road comming from cucutilla towards pamplona!
    Took money, phone, gps watch, camera! Here the coordinates
    7.380985, -72.680903
    Police said that whole area around ocaña towards cucuta and pamplona is unsafe!
    Thanks for the great idea and effort!

    • Sorry to hear about that, I hadn’t heard of that area being unsafe. I updated the map, thanks for sending it through.

  5. Got robbed at the cycleway in Praia Grande, 15km south of Santos, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. By a group of maybe 6 young guys, also on bikes, blocked the roadway, beat me down, took whatever they could. Police said this beach is hell. Don’t go there, highway might be safer choice (or take a bus).

  6. Thank you for the information! I had a thought that another useful map might be road accidents/deaths… for anyone who has the time!

  7. Sharing a post from the Baja Divide Facebook page:

    The following is a comment from a Baja Divide rider named Keith, reporting an incident on route just outside of Tecate. I have updated the website and Route Narrative PDF to reflect our current recommendation, which is to leave Tecate during the day and camp well beyond Canon Manteca. Please report any suspicious activity in this area to local police and to bajadivide@gmail.com.

    “Hey folks! My buddy and I started the Baja Divide recently and unfortunately we got robbed at gunpoint right outside of Tecate at the marked possible campsite in Canon Manteca. Our unfriendly assailant was on a bike as well and we believe that we just had some bad luck and happened to pass this asshole right before we descended the canyon. He then passed us again at full speed going towards the canyon and we think he laid in wait for us to pass him and for us to be in the canyon away from other people. He waited until nightfall to rob us, and was wearing a hoodie, mask and baseball cap, so we have no idea what he looked like other than that he was young male and skinny, riding an older mountain bike. The fact that he was on a bicycle leads us to believe that he lives in the area.

    Bottom line: We ran into some bad luck but still have our bikes, almost all our gear and our lives (also he didn’t steal our beer, so that was a big plus).

  8. 2 kids on a bicycle crashed in to me, took out there weapons and one started hitting me with it. Then he grabbed my bike and took of whle the other was in front of me with some sort of knife. It happened on the 186 from masaya to Granada right at the beginning of Granada. Before that happened there were also 3 guys and 1 grabbed me a bit by the waist and asked for money. It’s a bit of a sketchy road. Don’t know if it’s a hotspot though. In the end I got my bicycle back BTW and I took his weapon too 🙂

    • Did it happen recently? well done for getting back your bike!! I have updated the map, thanks for sharing…

  9. I had a attempted robbery in ‘Loma de arena’ between Cartegena and baranquila. Colombia

    Two guys got on either side of me,
    Grabbed me and tried to throw me off my bicycle while I was peddeling. Luckily I was high on coffee and going 23kmh so managed to stay on. They pursued me for a bit but to no avail. This happend about 2 pm yesterday.

    BEWARE OF THE CARRIBEAN COAST IN COLOMBIA. MANY ROBBERIES.

    • Thanks for the info, well done on getting away! I agree, the Northern Caribbean coast of Colombia requires special precaution.

  10. HI, here a description what happend to me in Peru (I published this on http://ioverlander.com/ so this is a copy)

    GPS: -10.665380, -77.803020
    I was on my bicycle on the the Panamericana in the evening. One side is closed because of contruction. Two men with a gun stopped me on the closed side and pulled me and my bicycle on a track into the sugar cane field. They searched everything and stole the valuables (Camera, Phone, Wallets) and my tent, etc. I kept my bicycle and the not interesting luggage.
    What happend next?
    I went to the next police station in Paramonga. Police made a protocol but not asked about location, description or fingerprints. Robbery is “normal” in Peru. I slept in the police station (absolute no money left). The next an officer bought a bus ticket to Lima for me with his private money.

    (I assume the robbers live in Paramonga. Frankly, I sugguest now to avoid the area and not stop or camp there.)

    • Hi Johnny, Thanks for the info – sorry for what happened. I have updated the map. I assume this was in June this year? Cheers, Nicholas

  11. Good info in this blog Nick. I had my bike and everything on it stolen while on the Baja Divide. Everything I had except my passport and wallet thankfully. If I had locked it, well I’d probably still be riding it. Near the town of San Quintin. For the record this is the result of my carelessness and not because the area is dangerous. I wouldn’t let my friends start a go fund me because that’s greasy.

    I’m going to Colombia and Ecuador this winter I’ll bring a lock and buy a machete should be good! Hoping to get to the Los nevados route after boyaca. I’ll keep reading your blog for info thanks.

    • Hi Mike, how incredibly tedious for you, hope it works out better in Colombia & Ecuador! Let me know if there’s any info you need that you can’t find on the blog..
      Cheers,
      N

  12. Hello Nicholas;

    Thanks for doing this. Have you considered adding this to some wiki so we could also contribute to this?
    Also I didn’t see this one on the info here;

    https://elchorrillero.com/nota/2017/06/09/42174-recorria-el-pais-hasta-que-la-asaltaron-y-golpearon-en-san-luis/amp/

    Happened on June 8th, she’s find and hopefully will resume the trip soon…

    Let me know if I can help you somehow, I am going towards the atacama desert now and during february will enter bolivia and maybe brasil…

    Cheers!

    • Thanks, I will add that new one shortly. Interesting idea with the wiki.

      I’m in Brazil at the moment. Florianopolis. 🙂

  13. September 6, 2016.

    On my ride from Alaska to Ushuaia, I was robbed 4 km north of Mendoza, Argentina.

    It was a cold morning and I wore my Gore-tex type rain coat until it warmed up. When I took off the coat I stuck it under a bungee on the back of the bike.

    Late in the day, I was happily pedaling along the road when a small motorcycle with two teens (or early 20’s) pulled alongside me. I thought they were going to say hello, instead, I felt the bike shake violently and then saw the motorcycle speed off with my rain coat in hand.

    I immediately wrote down the license, 261-KMO, and quickly rode to the police station in Mendoza. The police kept me there for four hours, finally admitting that they weren’t going to pursue the case, even though they had the license plate number. As I later learned, cops in Argentina don’t get involved in these things.

    I was so angry, but I guess I was lucky that I wasn’t injured. Also lucky that my money and passport weren’t in the pockets. And lucky that it didn’t rain for the next week, while I got another coat shipped from Buenos Aires to Bariloche.

    Not a violent crime, but a really annoying one… I’m still more mad at the police than the robbers.

    But all in all, after riding across 49 of the US states and Alaska to Argentina, that was the only robbery, so I can’t say that bike touring has proved to be at all dangerous.

  14. You could have nightmares reading this page. There are also many more incidents recorded over the years on CGOAB.com. Sadly as helpful as your map is there have been many many more robberies than your map shows.

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, it does look a bit overwhelming but hopefully people realise these cases are not the norm. 🙂

      Would be interesting to know if those additional cases are in the same rough locations.

  15. Januray 2018, Michoacán – México

    19°02’22.6″N 102°26’31.0″W
    19.039611, -102.441944
    https://goo.gl/maps/Fs6v32RxBhx

    Got asked for my documentation (passport and ID) by a young guy on a motorbike who covered his mouth with a handkerchief. Being used to this happening in remote communities in Mexico, I asked him what kind of authority he was and proceeded to give him my passport after he offered me a glimpse of the gun under his belt.

    He then checked with the “comandante” via radio, sent pictures of my IDs through his mobile phone and interrogated me for 20 minutes about my trip, what I was doing there, if I was armed, if I had seen military coming this way, where was I going, etc, which I answered as usual making jokes and smiling. All this at 8.00 am in a nice stretch of road between lemon fields while motorbikes and cars passed by.

    Things got negative when he started asking about money and I told him I had very little — just for eating. He asked about credit card and how much I could get out of the cash machine daily…then he checked with the “comandante” again — my IDs had been “investigated” — but he insisted to get me off the road and to check my belongings adding: “I know you have dough, you bastard”…then I got really scared.

    Luckily, the “Chief” called again and I was free to go…still this guy asked me to give him all the cash I had with me, told me not to tell anyone, and also that I should not worry from here on, he had communicated with “the others” and I had already paid my toll for this road 🙂 I THANKED him and set off, being afraid for the first time in my life to turn my back to someone…

    He never touched me, never pulled the gun out and probably my life was never in real danger, but…the Guerrero / Michoacán area in México is notoriously a “hotspot” and I’d been warned by most, other locals told me I should be fine, the tension is between locals and military, nothing to do with tourists. Which is true, but alcohol/drugs/guns and young people are usually not the best of mixes, and I guess this guy just wanted to make some quick cash.

    In any case, had I become violent or un-cooperative, things can always go wayyyy worse.

    Thanks for reading and safe travels to all of you cyclists in Latin-America, such beautiful people and such a great place but too many guns and very poor education, so take care! 😉

    • Hi Shimoda, thanks for the info! Sounds like a rather unpleasant experience but glad to hear there was no physical harm. (sorry for delay in responding)

  16. I’ve heard bad press about the Mendoza area in general. I cyclist I met there camped not too far from the city and had a violent encounter and was seriously injured.

    I wanted to add that the cyclo-via in Mexico city is notorious for delinquency. If you are cycling in or out of Mexico city take the most trafficed roads and avoid narrow back streets at all costs. The Cyclo Via which runs from Polanco Southbound runs parallel to the Autopista Norte ends up going through some sketchy barrios. I has an encounter with two armed delinquents.

    • Thanks Ross. Yes exactly, I’ve heard north and southbound leaving the city of Mendoza (on Ruta 40) to be particularly bad. Does that sound like the rough location? Have added a note on the DF. (sorry for the delay in responding).

  17. I toured from Ushuaia to San Pedro de Atacama from March to June 2015.

    I only had friendly encounter but I have heard from other cyclists who I have met and got robbed coming from north.
    Apart from the obvious (avoid coastal towns etc), here are my thoughts of avoid being mugged.

    1. Talk to the local and other cyclists/motorist when you can to get idea of problem area ahead, while travelling in the Catarmaca region heading north, I was told by the local cyclists to avoid Tucuman area as it has issues.

    2. Shabby clothing will help and dont emit light at night, I’ve never used my torch and cooked after dark, Human eyes picks up light very quickly at night especially in South America as there are not much light in the wilderness.

    3. show you can defend yourself? I have met a couple cyclists from Liechtenstein, the guy had a large machete strapped on his bike, I am not sure this helped?

    • Thanks Albert, some useful thoughts. I agree with you. I always try to keep torch light use to an absolute minimum and whenever practical only use the dim orange colour option that my Blackdiamond headlight has. Even in the middle of nowhere I do this, along with trying to time it so that you’re not seen when ducking off into your stealth camp spot. Perhaps slight overkill but I still think it’s good practice.

      Yes, I’ve always wondered about taking a weapon. I found bear spray to be a particularly good comforter although it did no good when I had a .44 gun stuck in my face in the Colombian Guajira desert. 🙂 (I would still carry it, and maybe my preferred choice of defence thinking about it).

      Fortunately most of the time these types of incidents are extremely rare. In fact that was the only one of such nature after years of bicycle travel through the Americas.

  18. I’d like to see a site like this encompassing not only SA, but the world.
    Broken up into regions would be better.

    We’ve been robbed at gunpoint south of Cuzco many years ago but would say the culprits are somewhere else now.

    Most recent mugging was on Lombok, Indonesia.

    Fred

    • Thanks Fred. Yes, a global map would be useful, it started initially in Latin America because that’s where I know best. Sorry to hear about your mugging.

  19. Recently there was a murder (accident according to the authorities, but clearly it was not) of two cyclists in Chiapas, Mexico. The deceased are Krzysztof Chmielewski and Holguer Haguenbush. The location where Chmielewski was found is kilometer 158 of the road between Ocosingo and San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Hanguenbusch was found 200 meters below. It seems that Chiapas is becoming a hot zone.

    References for this incident can be found here:
    English

    https://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/body-of-polish-cyclist-german-s-bike-found-in-mexico/article_6f479be1-7aa6-57fe-83f1-08cb4c46b00a.html

    Spanish:
    http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2018/05/03/fiscalia-de-chiapas-halla-cadaver-de-ciclista-desaparecido-1940.html

    http://m.milenio.com/estados/ciclista-aleman-cayo-barranco-cuerpo-ciclista-polaco-carretera-san_cristobal-ocosingo_0_1169283107.html

    https://www.facebook.com/AlertaChiapasOficial/videos/2111211185586056/

    This in an interesting read for those that understand spanish, someone that met one of the guys and who talked to the officers in charge of the investigation: https://www.noticiasenlinea.com.mx/noticias-hoy/2018/05/05/conoce-lo-sucedido-con-el-aleman/

    I’m sad to report this to be honest….

  20. Hi,
    Area of Sabanitas , specifically Puerto Pilon on the road to Portobelo in Panama. We (French cycling family of 5 people) were assaulted there a month ago by three knifed armed robbers.
    The police and people of the area told us that this place is very dangerous.
    The robbers were waiting for us they should have spotted us few Kms ago. Only bruises and material things to cry about hopefully!
    http://Www.leschamavelo.fr

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