Who wants gold?? If you want gold, then Bogota is your place to be!
Wow. I am not sure what I expected in Bogota, Colombia, but this was certainly not it. If you are like me, your thoughts of Colombia were the drug trade, especially cocaine. When I think of Colombia I immediately think of the movie Cocaine Cowboys which is an awesome documentary on the cocaine trade in Miami. I also envisioned gunfights, stepping over decapitated heads, and people asking me to be a drug mule. Bogota did have a very violent past with a lot of deaths caused by FARC, the government, and drugs. Fortunately, that is not the city today. When you fly into Bogota you are treated to a very nice and modern airport with Wi-Fi (only for 30 minutes though). It is a pretty large airport with numerous gates, more than I honestly expected. I think it goes up to the 80s and there are domestic and international departure areas. After leaving the airport and driving toward the city of Bogota you are treated to an almost suburban view of grassy parks with equipment for kids to play on, nice high rise apartment buildings, and gorgeous views of the mountains. Once in Bogota, it gives the appearance of any other urban city, the deeper into the city and into the downtown area the more homelessness is painfully obvious- especially with kids.
I was lucky enough to be hosted by a young lady through couchsurfing.com who was amazing. She gave me a tour of the city, told me the ins and outs of Bogota, gave me information on what I should visit, made maps and notes, and was just a great human. Bogota is relatively safe. I felt safer walking the streets of Bogota than I would have in some US cities. I wasn’t really catcalled, maybe a few times, but nothing like Cartagena. I walked an average of 10 miles each day and had no worries. I would highly suggest walking the city as much as you could. Of course please make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Like any big city, please do not walk around blind.
Below are some helpful hints to make your time in Bogota as fun and enjoyable as possible.
Uber is available and cheap. My costs to and from the airport was about $6-$7 US each way, and it was about 12 miles each way.
Taxis are all around, and you are able to hail one with no issue. I needed one in the pouring rain and got one almost immediately. The taxis are still pretty cheap in comparison to US prices. Just try to ask beforehand so you know your price.
Transmileno: This is the main bus that you will see people waiting on ramps in the middle of the street for. This bus does not stop on the side of the road; you will have to go to the bus terminal area. The bus is comfortable and clean. I took it to Cathedral de Sal and was very happy with it. You will need to buy a card and put money on it. You pay when you are at the bus terminal, and going to get on the bus, not when you get off. The price of a ride is $2200 pesos (less than a dollar ya’ll!)
Micobuses: These buses are everywhere and cheap. They have signs in the front of the bus that tell you what areas or cities they go to. Jump on one and see where it takes you.
Fruit carts: Is a must here just like it was in Cartagena. They are selling mango, watermelon, papaya, and so on in cups ready to eat. The fruit you will get is very fresh. Enjoy!
Fruit juice vendors: It is fresh and cheap; you definitely won’t find prices like this in the states. They are everywhere throughout the day and usually head home around 4-5pm. Just ask for a cup of fresh orange juice. It won’t cost you more than $3,000 pesos on the high end.
Fruit markets: There seems to be a fruit market on every corner and they have delicious, unusual fruit inside for cheap. One of the fruits I fell in love with was the Guandilla which is only found in Colombia and Peru. It is akin to the passion fruit but a little different. It is an interesting fruit as it looks like an orange but is nothing like it. Please watch the video below on how to eat it!!
Nativo: This is a vegetarian restaurant in a hostel. It has great vegetarian options. It is in the La Candelaria district.
Crepes and Waffles: Lucky for me and you- this restaurant is a chain! They have quite a few locations around Bogota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t hit at least half of them while I was there. They have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert crepes.I had a strawberry, Nutella, and banana to start my day off. I had an appetizer called Greek Tartar which is vegetarian and DELICIOUS. It is like nectar from the Greek gods. It had olives, cucumbers, yogurt, onions, avocado, and a few other things in it. I actually went back to the Calle 4 location and had two of the Greek Tartar appetizers. Also, the Calle 4 location doesn’t have plugins for your phone, BUT they do have these Boost charger things they will bring to your table that will literally charge your phone at warp speed! Wow! It charged my phone to 75% in an hour. You have to go to at least one location while inColombia. It will change your life. As I said before, the only hire single moms, which means everyone working there- at least who I was able to see were women.
I honestly just ate a lot of street food vendors. Try out foods you aren’t sure what they are because you never know what you will love.
Here are a few of the foods I ate:
- Patacones: twice-fried plantains. They will put different ingredients on top almost like a pizza.
- Bunelos: fried dough with cheese. These are sold everywhere and are very cheap. If you are int he middle of walking around this is a great snack.
- Chorizo: get it anywhere you can. Sold on a stick, which allows you to grab and go.
- Queso Arepa: cheese arepa slathered with butter. I could feel my arteries getting clogged but they are great.
- Obleas: they are thin flat waffles slathered inside with caramel, chocolate, cheese, fruit spread or any other sweet topping and another flat thin waffle slapped on top. It is a waffle sandwich. They are delicious, with the caramel inside being my favorite.
Museo del Oro: $4,000pesos. This is the gold museum which is very well known throughout Bogota. The cost is very much worth it as the museum does a great job of going into detail about all aspects of gold. Not just information on the metal, but also on the history of mining the metal, the history of the metal, mining methods, and the social and cultural effects of gold. A lot of the information is in English.
National Museum: $4,000 adult/$3,000 student. This is a museum that shows the artistic side of Colombia as well as explaining the history of the country. It is a cheap tourist spot, right on Calle 7. Some of the information is in English.
Torre Colpatria: $7,000 pesos. It is only open on the weekends. This is the tallest building in Bogota that will allow you to go to the top and have a panoramic view of Bogota.
Museo Botero del Banco dela Republica: Free. This museum is huge inside, do not let the outside fool you.It is a museum dedicated to the artist Fernando Botero, but showcases other artists like Picasso, Dali, and less well-known artists. You all also see interesting parts of Colombian heritage. It is a great museum to meander around.
Monserrate : $9,000one way, $16,000 round trip. If you look towards the mountains in the east, you will see a cathedral at the top of the mountain. This is that cathedral. There are a few ways up or down the mountain. You can take the cable car, which unfortunately wasn’t working when I went. You can take the funicular which is railway car, or you can walk up/down the mountain, which was also under construction when I went. It is worth going as you get amazing views of the city. You also get to see a gorgeous cathedral and walk around the top of the mountain. There are several food vendors and a few restaurants if you want to dine on the mountain. They have many light decorations around which would be amazing to see in the dark. They also have a row of souvenir shops which are a little bit overpriced and not interested in haggling. It is best if you buy your ticket before 11 am or else you will stand in line for the ticket for about 30 min and waiting in line for about 20-30 minutes as well for the cablecar or funicular. Also, you have to pay $600 pesos to use the bathroom.
Graffiti Tour: Free (but tip at least $20,000 pesos) This was my favorite part of Bogota. Bogota is within the top 10 in the world for graffiti and it is so artistically gorgeous. You will see it everywhere in Bogota. This tour is 2.5 hours long and goes from 10 am and 2 pm. The tour guide Monica does a great job of explaining the graffiti, the artists, the city, stories of the indigenous people, the social and cultural issues, and lastly, the legality of what the artists are doing. It was very enjoyable and one I suggest you go on if possible. It is also a good chance to see the city with a tour guide without paying the tour guide price. They have a website to reserve a spot (website link), but if you don’t have a chance to do that just meet them at the Parque de los Periodistas by the dome that has a statute in it. The tours are done in English (yaaa!).
Cathedral de Sal: $50,000 pesos-package1 (1 hour 15 min), $53,000 pesos -package 2 (1 hour 45 min), $56,000 pesos -package 3 (2 hours), $59,000 pesos -package 4 (under 3 hours). This is the saltCathedral within the town of Zipquria, and the only salt Cathedral in the world. It is about 2 hours each way away from Bogota and very easy to get to by bus. If you are interested in going by bus take the Transmileno bus B74 toPortal Norte. This will cost $2,200 pesos, you will need to get the Transmileno card and will take about 45 minutes. Portal Norte is the last stop on the line, and from there you will get off and take an intermunicipal bus to Zipaquira.Once you exit the Transmileno bus B74 you will see the intermunicipal buses straight in front of you. These buses are pretty nice and comfortable. The cost of the trip to Zipaquria is $5,000 pesos one way and is also about 45 minutes.Once you get to Zipaquira just ask the driver for the Cathedral de Sal and he will point you in the direction. It will be a 30 min walk. If walking is not your thing, then take a taxi because it is walking and a lot of stairs (holy baby Jesus it is a lot of stairs). Once you get to the entrance of theCathedral de Sal there is a white line you will follow to get to the actualCathedral de Sal and that takes about 15 minutes of walking up stairs to get to the actual entrance and the area to buy your ticket. I am not religious but it is a pretty cool experience and an amazing story. It is still a working salt mine and if you want, and willing to pay, you can be put to work mining salt.The crosses are amazing, and they did a wonderful job with the lighting. Seethe pictures below.
La Candelaria: This is one of the fun neighbors you can walk around. There are interesting historical landmarks as well cool little shops. You will have to walk up some hilly areas to get there, but it is very worth it.
Street Calle7/ Downtown: This is sketchy like a normal downtown. There are lots of people milling around but I didn’t feel unsafe at all. I actually walked from Calle 4to Calle 56 with no issues at all. If you wonder what the downtown people are like just imagine Time Square in NYC. Just pay attention to your bag when in crowds and to who is around you. There are a few museums and tourist spots, but nothing else exciting. There are food vendors galore- literally galore. During the day you will see a lot of fruit and juice vendors and around 5 pm the hotdogs, arepas, and hamburger vendors come out.
Souvenirs: Weirdly, there hasn’t been too many places that sell tourist souvenirs. There are only a few big souvenir areas with shops inside. There is one place by The Museum Del Oro which bills itself as having artisan shops, but in reality, they just have souvenir booths which are pretty expensive. They are selling shot glasses for$20,000 each, but I was able to get a set of three for $18,000 at a little spot in downtown on Calle 23 and CR 7. Finding postcards are decently tough as many places do not sell postcards and I did not want to wait until the airport whereI know they would be grossly expensive. Do not fall for places selling pictures as postcards, if you want a picture instead of a postcard just print yours off and save some money.
If you are interested in learning about Cartagena and Medellin please click on their names to go directly to the blog. Also, shout out to John Timothy Conroy who spent time writing up the places I need to eat and go to! I appreciate it.
Colombia uses the same wall prong adapter and voltage as the US and Canada!! Hip-hip-hooray! No blowing out transformers or hoping you can use a straightener in other countries. We have all been there before when our straighteners or blowdryers do not work so we have to rock the ponytail or scarf. If you are interested in some dual voltage straighteners or blow dryer please check out my blog on How to be a Backpack Traveler, I give some options on what to buy for countries with different voltage.
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