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.

25 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

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