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


10-day tour in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country for nature lovers. It has beautiful beaches at the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean to offer next to forests, volcanoes and an impressive fauna. The country was one of many which we visited while doing our backpacking through Central America and I share with you our 10-day itinerary now.

Itinerary

We got to Costa Rica crossing the Panama border, leaving Bocas del Toro and arriving in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a small very touristy beach town in the Caribbean. We spent two days in Puerto Viejo and then headed to the capital, San Jose. In San José we stayed longer than we wanted to but as you know, we have to travel and to work. But 2 days are more than enough to get to know the city.

Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo

Our next destination in Costa Rica was the Manuel Antonio National Park, which has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, according to Traveler’s Choice 2016, promoted by Tripadvisor. So that you have enough time to get to know the park and the nearby beaches, you should stay about 2 days as well.

Sloth in Puerto Viejo
Sloth in Puerto Viejo

To go from Quepos (the major city to get to the National Park) to Monteverde, which was our next destination, we had to make a 1-night stop in another beach town: Puntarenas. The ocean of ​Puntarenas doesn’t compete with the beaches of Manuel Antonio. But the waterfront is very charming with a lighthouse and in the late afternoon the sun is setting over the ocean which is very beautiful.

Puntarenas
Puntarenas

Very early the next morning, we left to get to Monteverde, a region of cloud forest (tropical). This is one of the most important tourist destinations in Costa Rica, due to the variety of flora and fauna and as it also offers several outdoor activities, including extreme sports.

Monteverde
Monteverde

Those of you who have more time in Costa Rica can also take advantage to include the city La Fortuna, where the Arenal Volcano is located.

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Accommodation and Transportation

Costa Rica is the most developed country in Central America, both economically and socially. It’s a very organized country with good infrastructure and it is safe.

San José
San José

Traveling through the country is very easy and you can go to the main tourist destinations by bus which are modern and comfortable, compared to other Central American countries. However, you should be aware of the distances in-between one destination and another, because on the map it may seems close, but as the country has many mountain regions, the routes may take longer than it seems.

Costa Rica also offers good accommodation, both hostels and hotels. Some Pacific beaches offer more resort options and are pretty frequented by foreigners, especially Americans. That is the reason why in Costa Rica, the Pacific destinations are more expensive than those in the Caribbean.

Book your accommodation in Costa Rica here

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Costs

The currency of the country is Costa-Rica Colon (CRC). Although 1 Euro is the equivalent of 665 CRC
(Brazil: R$ 1 = 174 CRC; November 2017), don’t take it wrong as living in Costa Rica is very high,
especially in comparison to the other countries in Central America.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the calculation of our average costs in Costa Rica. So that you have an
idea, I compared the cost of living in San José with the one in Bogotá (Colombia) with the help of the
website Expatistan, which pointed out that the capital of Costa Rica is on average 36 % more
expensive than Bogotá. Especially food is 71 % more expensive in San Jose than in Bogotá.

Another important detail is that, in most tourist establishments, including restaurants and national
parks, prices are charged in US dollars.