I never thought I'd recommend Bogotá, Colombia as a tourist destination. To me it was always the capital and a cold place to go. I'm so happy to say that after this last trip to the Capital, I think Bogotá DF would make for a great starting place for someone getting to know Colombia. Bogotá does not have the beaches of Cartagena, it does not have Medellín's springtime weather, but what it lacks there, it makes up in culture, dining, and much more. Today, I'll tell you why you're going to love the city, and I'll tell you all the things you need to know about Bogotá so you can have a fun (safe) and memorable trip.
Things You need to Know About Bogotá Colombia
The weather in Bogotá can be a little fickle. The city is colder than most in the country since it is nestled in the Andes, but for someone from the States, the weather was heavenly. The city can go from sunny to rainy in seconds. We are here in January and the weather is quite mild. It's been wavering between 45F to 70F. Basically, you can wear a dress with boots & stockings and then put on a light jacket at night.
Getting Around in Bogotá
TAXIS/UBER: I really dislike taxis in Colombia. They try to nickel and dime you by taking you longer ways and will argue with you when you disagree with them. The cars are older and kinda icky. If you do take a taxi, don't hail one on the street. Ask the restaurant or hotel where you are staying to call one for you.
I'm an Uber fan. Uber may be a little more expensive, but it's so worth it. However, Uber is illegal in Colombia. When you do get an Uber, make sure one of you gets in the front seat and that you greet your driver as if you know him/her so they don't get in trouble with the cops. If you are getting picked up at the airport, the driver will meet you on the 2nd floor where there are less taxis.
BUSES: The buses are super cheap and since for the most part they have designated lanes, they are faster than a taxi or Uber would be. However, they can get quite crowded. If you take the bus during off hours, you should be a-ok. Just mind your valuables. Bogotá is much safer than it has been, but this is still a good precaution to take.
Colombian People are quite Friendly ( some would say they overstep peoples personal space) but also very relaxed with schedules (even with hours appart). I am sure Colombian people can extend a big and warm welcome to you.
How to Dress in Bogotá
People in Bogotá dress well. There is a large financial district and there is a good amount of wealthier people in the city.
MEN: Do not wear shorts and flip flops, crocks, or tevas. Do not wear cheesy tee shirts. Do wear a nice pair of casual pants and a polo during the day and a button down at night. Did I mention NEVER wear shorts?
LADIES: Do not wear those ugly Victoria's Secret sweatpants. During the day, wear jeans with a nice pair of boots and a nice sweater. In the evening, wear nice dresses (just keep weather in mind). In Bogotá, you dress to impress.
Sex & Sex Tourism
If you think you're coming to Bogotá to get laid easily or to find some young hookers, go elsewhere. Sex tourism is not cool and Bogotá is not the place for that. No place should be. The majority of Bogotanas demand respect and aren't easy. Colombians are born with dance in their blood, so just because you dance with a woman at a club, it does not mean she is going home with you. Have fun, flirt, but understand that this is not in Bogotá's culture. Please don't misunderstand friendliness as an invitation for sex.
Places to Visit In and Near Bogotá
MUSEO DEL ORO: If you have been reading this blog at all, you know I'm a sucker for museums...but this is a museum even a museum hater would love. There are tons of Pre-Columbian pieces made of gold that will blow your mind.
The Museo del Oro de Bogotá is located at Carrera 6 #1588, Bogotá.
Hours of Operation: Mon Closed, Tue-Sat 9AM-6PM, Sun 10am-4pm
MONSERRATE: If you want one of the most spectacular views of the city, this is where you want to go. It's located 10400 feet above sea level. To get there you can take a funicular or the teleférico . The other attractions besides the view is a beautiful church, artisan shops, and food.
Funicular Hours: Mon-Fri: 7am to 11:45am
Teleférico Hours: Mon-Sat: 12pm to 12am
USAQUEN: It's been a part of Bogotá since the 1950's and is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the area. There's a super cute Colonial area that has a great flea market on Sundays. Some of the city's best restaurants are in Usaquén, so if you like to eat, make sure to schedule a few lunches or dinners there.
ZIPAQUIRA: Zipaquira is known for the salt cathedral, but the town itself is darling. You can take a train there from Bogotá which really makes for a lovely day.
NEMOCON: This is another salt mine in the area. It's smaller and less fancy than Zipaquira, but the scenery is gorgeous. There's also a cool fossil museum, so if you have kids (or grown up kids like me) it's a pretty cool experience.
LEYVA: It's a great little town with nice restaurants, cafes, music and art galleries. It's more of a vibe like the village.
Places to Stay Away From
I would not recommend that you visit the area above Carrera 5a or the Centro if you are alone, with only other Americans, and certainly not after dark.
How to Stay Safe in Bogotá
No des Papaya: You'll hear this phrase all over Colombia. It basically means don't tempt robbers. I hate this phrase because it's the equivalent of telling a woman that she deserves to get groped if she wears a revealing outfit (this makes me so angry), but sadly, this is still solid advice all over Colombia. What this means is that if you have a smart phone, you should not be using it on the street. Don't wear fancy jewelry and flash it around. It is better to be minimalist in Bogotá if you want to stay safe. If anything does happen, just give the thieves what they want.
Pay attention: Especially when crossing streets. Drivers (I'm looking at you taxis) drive like maniacs in Bogotá. So be very careful when crossing the streets.