Bogotá is usually the first stop for travelers in Colombia. The country’s capital is a huge city with 8 million inhabitants and almost 12 million in its metropolitan region. The city itself is not as pretty as Cartagena but offers many culturally events. You can visit Bogotá for many days and still have attractions which you want to see, but if you don’t have a lot of travel time in Colombia, you should plan to stay at least three or four days in the capital. During the eight days we’ve been in Bogotá, I’ve written several posts about the city, now I summarize what you need to know before you go there and what you can do.
Colombian Pesos (COP). See the current currency rate.
Bogotá is the capital of the state called Cundinamarca.
Bogotá is located pretty high, surrounded by mountains. The altitude of the city varies between 2,540 to 3,600 meters, so most of the time it is cold. The average temperature is 14 ° C, and it just has little variety throughout the year, but it can reach negative temperatures. In a way the climate is pretty crazy as in the same day it can be sunny, rainy, cold and hot. The best would be if you dress in layers.
How to get there
Bogota has a modern international airport, El Dorado, where flights from all over the world fly to. From Brazil the flight connections are with the airlines Avianca, Copa Airlines and LAN. The airport is relatively close to the city center, 30 minutes by car and a little over 1h by bus. The taxi ride to the district La Candelaria, in the city center, costs 25 thousand COP.
The Colombian capital is linked to the rest of the country by many bus lines, arriving and departing from the Bogotá Transportation Terminal. For close cities, such as Zipaquirá and Villa de Leyva, buses leave from the bus terminal Portal Norte.
There is a general recommendation for avoiding night buses, because of the risk of road robberies. But in the whole country the roads are patrolled by military presence which help with its security.
Where to stay
In the district La Candelaria are a lot of tourist activities concentrated, so it’s highly recommended to stay there. It has many dining and transportation options as well. But, like every downtown neighborhood, it’s pretty busy during the day and a bit “suspicious” at night. Staying in La Candelaria or nearby, you save a lot of time as you can walk everywhere and don’t need to wait for public transportation.
When we came to Colombia, we were told to be very careful. It has been years of negative media due to the country’s situation related to drug cartels and the FARC. But a lot of things have changed in the country the past years. Throughout Bogota, there is a strong police presence and in some regions the Army is present as well (which is quite common in the whole country). Therefore, the recommendations to take care are similar as in all the big cities in the world: taking care of your belongings to avoid theft and avoid walking through empty dark streets.
During our fifteen days we have spent in Colombia, we have forgotten our camera in a restaurant, our wallet with money, cards and documents in a hostel and a shoe on a campsite. We always just realized long after we had lost the items and however, we have gotten everything back. The wallet was mailed to us to another city.
Bogotá has a very efficient transportation system, the Sipt: the Transmilenio bus (red), which circulate through the city’s main avenues; helping micro-buses (green), which connect the districts to the main stations and gates; the urban minibuses (blue), that also circulate on the main routes; the complementary buses (orange), which stop at the stations of the Transmilenio as well and, finally, the special buses (purple), that work in the peripheral city zones. You pay for them in a unified system. You need to have credit on a special city transportation card. The ticket costs 1,500 COP during normal hours and 1,800 COP during peak hours.
In most buses and the Transmilenio are electronical signs where the names of the next stops are written at.
Taxis are also very cheap. The minimum for one trip is 3,900 COP.
What to do
Here are the posts about what to do in Bogotá, which were already published. All these attractions can be organized in 3 or 4 days, except for Villa de Leyva, where you should spend at least one night.
Getting to know Bogotá with friends
If you want to get to know Bogotá in the company of locals, I recommend the company Colombian Buddy. It is from our friends Maria Paula and Paola, whose motto is “there is no reason to be alone in a country where you can have a friend”.
Translation to English by Juliane Boll