Bogotá: what you need to know and what to do in Colombia’s capital

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.

National Capitol
National Capitol

Currency

Colombian Pesos (COP). See the current currency rate

State

Bogotá is the capital of the state called Cundinamarca.

Climate

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 Street and grafith with Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Bogota Street and grafith with Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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.

Book your accommodation in Bogotá with Booking.com

Traditional dish of Colombia
Traditional dish of Colombia

Safety

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.

Transportation

Monserrate
Monserrate

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


Jericoacoara: tips for the trip, your budget and a 3-day itinerary

Jericoacoara is among the most desired beach destinations in Brazil. Because it is a National Park, Jeri has some particularities that need to be taken into account when planning the trip. We traveled to Jeri in January 2016 with our nephews, aged 10 and 13, and I share with you some tips to organize a trip there, with or without children, our budget and some suggestions for a 3-day itinerary.

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How to get there

Jericoacoara is 300 km away from Fortaleza. The village is in an area of ​​dunes and therefore you can get there only by buggy or a 4-wheel drive car. All of you who aren’t traveling with a 4-wheel drive, it is possible to park your car in Jijoca (there are several parking lots) and from there to take a truck (called Jardineira D-20) to Jericoacoara. Take the route CE-085 from Fortaleza to Jijoca as it is in better conditions than the BR 222. It takes about 4h30. From Jijoca to Jericoacoara you will need another 40 minutes on the truck D-20.

Jericoacoara
Jericoacoara

Parking in Jijoca costs between R$ 10 and R$ 15 a day. The drive Jijoca – Jericoacoara on D-20 costs about R$ 15 per person. Anyone who wants to go Jijoca – Jericoacoara in a private Hilux for up to 4 people will pay around R$ 100. There is also the option to hire a guide to take your own travel car to Jeri. In that case, they flatten a little the tires and charge around R$ 80 to drive the car. I don’t recommend this option, as in addition of a risk to dammage the car, in several areas of the national park it isn’t allowed to drive around in ordinary cars.
For those arriving by plane in Fortaleza and don’t want to rent a car, you have the following options Fortaleza => Jericoacoara:
Option 1 – shared transfer in a Hilux (up to 4 people) where you can go all the way from Fortaleza to Jeri without changing cars. Costs around R$ 150 per person, leaving you at the hotel’s door or hostel (you can ask the directions to your hotel in advance). About 4 hours of driving.

Option 2 – go with a tourist agency which makes the stretch Fortaleza => Jijoca by bus or van, changing to a D-20 vehicle in Jijoca (the guest has to take his/her luggage from the bus to the truck). From Jijoca to Jeri on a D-20 truck, leaving you at the hotel’s door or hostel. About R$ 80,00 per person. Departure from Fortaleza airport daily at 6 am and hotels in Beira-Mar around 7 am. About 6 hours of traveling.

Option 3 – by Fretcar bus that offers the stretch Fortaleza => Jijoca in executive buses, changing for a truck D-20 in Jijoca (the guest has to take his/her luggage from the bus to the truck). Route Jijoca to Jeri in a truck D-20. Descent at the Fretcar agency in Jeri and walking on your own to the hotel or hostel. About R$ 76,00 per person. Purchase through the internet at www.fretcar.com.br (website in Portuguese). Departures from the airport at 7 am, 15 pm and 18 pm. About 7 hours of traveling.

The same options are valid for return.

In our case, we went in our car, leaving from Natal. If we would have went straight it would have been almost 12 hours. As we were with two children, we made the trip in two days. The first night we slept in Mossoró and the following day we went from Mossoró to Jericoacora. On the way back, we slept one night in Fortaleza, and the following day we drove from Fortaleza to Natal. For those who have more time, you can divide the trip into 3 days.

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Where to stay

Jericoacoara is very visited all year round. There are several accommodation options, from hostels to luxury hotels. Prices are often high compared to other national destinations. Therefore, it is very important to make the reservation in advance. Some people stay in Jijoca. But I recommend staying in Jericoacoara, because Jijoca doesn’t have such a nice charm of the village.

See the accommodation options in Jericoacoara

The prices in Jeri vary a lot depending on the type of accommodation. But one bed in a hostel costs around R$ 50 a night. We stayed at a hostel on Rua Principal (the main street) and paid R$ 260 a night for a couple and 2 children.

Our room at Casa Strella
Our room at Casa Strella

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What to do – our 3-day itinerary

Day 1

We arrived in Jeri around 3 pm (check-in was from 2 pm). We had lunch and afterwards spent the afternoon at the beach. As it was cloudy, the sunset wasn’t too beautiful which we saw from the beach itself. In the evening, we went out for dinner and strolled along Rua Principal (the main street) and Forró Street, getting to know the village.

Cloude late afternoon, from Jericoacoara beach
Cloude late afternoon, from Jericoacoara beach

Day 2

As the weather was sunny, we went on the buggy ride (East), which included the famous Lagoas do Paraíso e Azul (lagoons of Paradise and Blue), the beach of Preá, the Sloth Tree (Árvore da Preguiça) and Pedra Furada (Perforated Stone).

Buggy ride
Buggy ride

[Lagoa do Paraíso (Lagoon of Paradise)
[Lagoa do Paraíso (Lagoon of Paradise)
The tour is about 5 hours long, from 9 am to 2 pm, and you will get to know the main attractions of Jeri. We paid R$ 280 for the 4 of us. But prices range from R$ 250 to R$ 300 depending if it is low or high season.

Pedra Furada (Perforated Stone)
Pedra Furada (Perforated Stone)

On our way back, we spent some time on the beach. And at night we had dinner on Rua Principal (the main street).

Day 3

If you want, you can do that day the other buggy ride (West) which goes to Tatajuba village, passes through Mangue Seco beach and crosses Guriú River. On this route, an extra ride is offered to see seahorses and it is possible to rent a surfboard to go surfing. The buggy ride to Tatajuba costs around R$ 250 for 4 people. We didn’t do this tour, so I can’t give you more details on it.

Our nephew, Serginho doing Stand-up Paddling
Our nephew, Serginho doing Stand-up Paddling

On that day, we rented a Stand-Up Paddle board, for R$ 40 (1 hour), which we split between the four of us.

In the afternoon, we finally got to see the famous sunset of Jericoacoara. We climbed the Sunset Dune (Duna do Pôr do Sol) 1h 30 earlier and the kids had fun playing on the dune.

LOVE: With our nephew and niece at Sunset dune (Duna do Pôr do Sol)
LOVE: With our nephew and niece at Sunset dune (Duna do Pôr do Sol)

On our way back from the dune, we stopped at Rua Principal (the main street) for dinner. At night there was a blackout (a common problem when the village is crowded), but luckily we were already in our hotel.

Sunset view from the dune
Sunset view from the dune

Even during a blackout, Jeri’s restaurants continue to function with candlelights.

On the fourth day, we left after breakfast to get the truck D-20 back to Jijoca. The trick is to look for one of the trucks leaving from Rua Sao Francisco (but we got from Rua Principal) and ask the driver to stop at your hotel to pick up the luggage.

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Budget

As you know, we usually travel economically, but with children it is more difficult… The main costs of our trip:

Private Hilux for 4 people Jijoca – Jericoacoara: R$ 100
Parking Jijoca: 3 days x R$ 10 = R$ 30
Accommodation (with a private room and bathroom for a couple + 2 children, tv, air-conditioning and frigobar, breakfast): 3 days x R$ 260 = R $ 780
Meals: between R$ 70 and R$ 120 each meal for the 4 (self-services, a la carte restaurants, pizzerias)
Buggy ride: R$ 280 for the 4 (price ranges from R$ 250 to R$ 300, depending on the season)
Stand-Up Paddle Rentals: R$ 40 (1 hour)
Truck D-20 Jericoacoara – Jijoca: R$ 15 per person

I didn’t include expenses for the petrol from Natal to Jijoca, nor other expenses, such as snacks and water.

Prices are from January 2016.

Written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa

Translation by Juliane Boll


New Zealand – useful things to know before you go

New Zealand is one of my favorite countries I have visited so far! The nature is so incredibly diverse, behind every corner is a new amazing landscape, the people are very friendly and always helpful, the country is very rich in culture and it is easy to get around.

New Zealand is one of the British colonies where both languages are equal, the ancient Maori language and English. So, you will be warmly welcomed in NZ in two languages: Haere mai – Welcome!

As I said, New Zealand is rich in beautiful nature and great culture and they know how to preserve it! One of their main sentences is: “Tō tātou taiāo. Tō tātou hītori. He tāonga tūturu nō Aotearoa. Maioha rawatia. Poipoia rawatia. Tukua. –
Our nature. Our history. It’s New Zealand’s unique legacy. Enjoy it. Enrich it. Pass it on.”

Flower field next to Te Anau – Milford Sound Highway
Flower field next to Te Anau – Milford Sound Highway

I enjoyed this amazing country so much and now want to pass my experiences on to you guys! Continue reading New Zealand – useful things to know before you go