If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love Pereira. It’s safe, reasonably clean, cheaper than big cities but it’s not without its flaws.
Drugs is Colombia’s elephant in the room. Recently, a guy who owns a shop in El Lago was busted. I have heard stories that cops keep half of the contraband they confiscate which they later sell themselves. While drug related crimes have mostly gone down and cartels taken down, it’s not quite hard to find drugs if you are looking for it. One of the most common is coke. I’ve been to all types of parties in and around Pereira – the ones in finca, house parties, street fiestas, parties in discotecas etc. There’s a high 100% chance that at least one or more person will have coke. And they will be more than generous to share it with you. As a stranger and foreigner, I have been offered drugs multiple times without soliciting. Two incidents stay in my mind.
Two years ago when I first came to Colombia, I was hanging out at Centro and was invited to a street party just off the main road of Av. Circunvalar – it was a party at a shop which spilled on the street. I did not know anyone but went through the usual small chat. The host was friendly and it was his wife’s b’day. Along with alcohol there were cupcakes laced with marijuana and weed brownies. Both of these were quite potent and when I went inside to pee, there it was – the one thing which every Colombian denies about, pure white coke. This wasn’t the first time I had seen it in Colombia but this was the first time I as a stranger, in someone else’s party came across. The second incident is most recent one when Colombia beat Japan during the FIFA World Cup 2014. The entire city was celebrating and the bars were overflowing with people. There’s a bar called Tropical Cocktails on Av. Circunvalar which offers slush with alcohol and has electronic music. I was waiting for my turn outside the loo when I heard the door being shut. It opened after a minute and about 3 guys stepped out from a loo which has just one urinal. I entered and looked at a guy. I smiled, he did the “What’s up?” head nod and offered me coke. No words exchanged. Colombians always offer you coke two times – one for each nostril. In hindsight, I realise it was quite a dangerous thing as they could have been undercover cops.
Carrera 7 or Septima as it is popularly called at night becomes a place for transvestite prostitutes. Just off El Lago, most of these are dangerous because they will rob you of everything. I have seen a guy just minding his own business, being assaulted (they held his balls) by two prostitutes while being relieved of cellphone and money. But Septima isn’t that dangerous like Parque Libertad. If you walk on Carrera 8 past Plaza Bolivar and keep going straight you will come across Parque Libertad – this area is quite shady. The streets in and around Parque Libertad are well known as zona de tolerancia or Red Light District. Even during the day, this is not a good area to be in and you will know sense uneasiness if you just walk into it. It’s just like Santa Fe in Bogota but on a smaller scale.
Another slightly dangerous area can be the one near the main bus terminal. My neighbour’s daughter was robbed there at 10 pm at the gate of the terminal by two robbers on a bike. But inside the terminal it is safe. Rest of the Pereira is safe and shouldn’t be a problem.