- Capital and largest city of Colombia, with a population of about 7.6 million.
- Officially named Bogotá Distrito Capital, or Bogotá D.C.
- Hosts Carnival every August.
- Home to the largest bicycle network in South America.
- Nickname: Athens of South America (for its many museums and universities)
- Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
- Spoken languages: Spanish
- Best time to visit: from December to March. The weather is always changing, though the most rainfall occurs between April and July. Nights can get chilly, so bring a jacket. Regardless, expect tropical heat during the day. Note: the city is incredibly crowded during Carnival celebrations in August.
- Arriving via airport: El Dorado International Airport serves Bogotá just 20 minutes from downtown. To travel by taxi, visit the regulated booths and explain the teller your destination. They will hand you a printed ticket with the rate of your trip on it, which you then hand to your driver. Rates usually run between 15.000 to 25.000 COP. The Transmilenio is a bus rapid transit system that can take you to all points of town from the airport (1.700 COP per ride) – board the Alimentador shuttle to get there. There’s a bus stop outside the airport’s front gate for busetas or colectivos that can take you to the centro and some suburbs for 1.500 COP.
WHERE TO STAY
La Candelaria is a historic colonial neighbourhood – close to most sights, it is full of backpacker hostels. Mid-range hotels can be found around the Chapinero district, while top-notch places can be found around Plaza Bolívar.
- While the Transmilenio can be a bit confusing, but if you’re just trying to get from A to B, it’s a cheap, efficient, clean, and spacious option. Watch out, as it gets very busy around rush hour.
- Other buses come in different colours and are small in comparison to the Transmilenio. Destinations are posted in the front window – just to be safe, tell the driver to let you know when to get off.
- Taxis shouldn’t be hailed if you can avoid it – many thieves use taxis as a cover to rob people. Call ahead of time and give your driver the password (the last two digits of the number you called him from).
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is around 12:30 AM (bars close at 1 AM). This policy has led to a flourishing of widespread after-hours parties. Note: most of these charge quite a bit.
- The Zona Rosa has most of the nightclubs in Bogotá, as well as some of the best. The Chapinero district has a big gay and electronica scene, while La Candelaria is where you’ll find the poets, bohemians, expats and backpackers drinking in cozy bars.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- There are three must-see museums: the Gold Museum, the Emerald Museum, and the Botero Museum, the last of which holds the works of the world famous Fernando Botero. The Gold Museum is where you’ll see pre-Spanish artwork on gold.
- The Cerro de Monserrate is a mountain whose peak offers the best view of town, especially at night. You can take the transferico or cable car up and back, or take it there and walk down (45 minutes) for free. Bring sunscreen during the day, or a coat if you go at night.
- La Candelaria is a hilly, colonial neighborhood with considerable historical significance. Go for a walk to see the cathedrals, plazas and ancient art bars with your own eyes.
- Stroll the grounds of Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis, Colombia’s largest botanical garden.
- Bogotá has the cleanest drinking water of all Latino capitals, so drink away!
- Where to find good cheap eats: La Candelaria has little bakeries, cafes and Asian-fusion restaurants that don’t cost too much if you look around. El Chapinero has more street food at night that during the day but has plenty of hidden restaurants serving cheap, traditional fare.
- Dangerous areas: beware of Barrio Santa Fe downtown, as it’s full of drugs, crime, and… more drugs. You don’t want to get stuck alone at night in El Centro (or in most places in the south part of the city).
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Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days
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