Bogota Is Weird:
Bogota was more of a weird feeling I got than anything I can put in to words. So I’m just going to start with telling you some of the key takeaways.
- Don’t spend your whole Colombia trip in Bogota.
- Taxi‘s are picky about where they take people. Multi-stops generally aren’t something they love to do and would prefer to take you if they’re already going in that direction.
- I used Uber in Bogota but you’ll be made to sit in the front seat since it is still illegal. Police conduct random stops of locals whether walking or driving, so there’s a chance you’ll still be stopped if you’re sitting in the front seat and the driver will ask you to lie.
- La Candelaria is considered the safe neighborhood to stay in but still be careful when walking around at night or just don’t do it. If you have a male with you that’s an added layer of comfort but I have a male friend who visited and was cornered by 4-5 crackheads at their hostel. Things were starting to get bad right when a local “security” guard popped out of nowhere and started tasing the crackheads.
- Which leads me to Devil’s Breath. You may have heard of it if you’ve traveled to other South American countries but some say it originated and is more prevalent in Colombia. It’s a substance that can be blown into your face or soaked into a business card. You’re in a zombie like state and lose all will power. So police and security guards don’t know to help you when you let the predator, who is acting like your friend, in to your apartment or give them your bank account information.. or your organs.
- ATM’s. I had no issues getting money out in Medellin. Once landing in Bogota my friend and I tried about 8 different ATM’s with no luck. So go before arriving in Bogota or if you have to go to an ATM and they happen to be on the fritz, the ones in casinos will always disperse money.
- Cell phones, just don’t be a typical tourist and wave this shit around. Pay attention to your surroundings then take it out for a picture and put it back. Don’t leave it out on tables when eating, don’t put your purses on the back of chairs, etc.
- See Zipaquira and a futbol game.
- Aguardiente is the liquor drink of this country. Even if you’re like me and don’t enjoy licorice flavored anything, you should try it at least once. When in Rome, and all that.
Or just do what I did a lot of… drink in the streets 🙂
What to do:
M̶o̶n̶s̶e̶r̶r̶a̶t̶e̶,̶ ̶G̶o̶l̶d̶ ̶M̶u̶s̶e̶u̶m̶,̶ ̶M̶u̶s̶e̶o̶ ̶B̶o̶t̶e̶r̶o̶,̶ ̶B̶o̶l̶i̶v̶a̶r̶ ̶S̶q̶u̶a̶r̶e̶. Not a whole lot! Truly it can be done in one day. For me, Bogota was kind of a disappointment. I appreciated it for what it was and am happy knowing I don’t need to spend the money going back any time soon. I’ve read other blogs who liked Bogota more than Medellin, as with everything else in life, it’s personal preference.
Graffiti tours are a thing but you can see that by walking around certain areas of La Candelaria for free or riding the Transmilenio on your way somewhere else. Like to Chapinero which is a stretch of road with second hand stores and vintage clothing. So when you get on the Transmilenio you can get off at Marly or Calle 45 and walk it.
The Monserrate is really only worth it if clouds aren’t hovering over the city which is kind of rare but this isn’t something you need to plan in advance. If you choose to do it don’t hike it, we heard of people that will hide up there and rob tourists.
Museo del Oro is 3COP so if you’re looking to do something it’s not like it will break the bank.
Bolivar Square is free and has a shit ton of pigeons if you want to feed them. Try to look cute while having them swarm you, I’d love to see it! You can get there via Carrera 7 which is a strip of trinkets being sold on sheets, street performers and some seriously prime people watching.
I enjoyed Bolivar Square because the Cease Fire negotiations were occurring so we felt as if we were watching history happen. The government, FARC and residents hadn’t come to an agreement on terms so they had displacement camps in the middle of the square to protest. They’ve since come to an agreement and a permanent cease-fire took effect to end the 52 year bloody combat.
I started writing this post weeks ago and it just so happens that I was done and ready to post it today 2/1/17. This is an important day for Colombia as FARC rebels are leaving their camps in the jungle and are gathering for the final demobilization and “final march.”
(Pictures and full article at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38826392)
Where to Sleep & Consume Carbs:
The Blue Dot is where our AirBnB was in reference to the city center
La Candelaria neighborhood is the safest and even then be careful about walking around at night. It kind of reminded me of Beijing with the ruthless beggars and homeless people scooting around with deformed limbs. I didn’t love the AirBnB we were in because the lady who ran it was creepy. She didn’t live there but was ALWAYS there hovering and would just stare at us, it was awkward as hell. It was through a friend of a friend, so I’m not going to include the link but it did have a guard at the front door and I would suggest picking a place with that in mind.
The location was perfect, on the corner of Carrera 5 and Calle 19. By foot you can easily reach the city center, Transmilenio, grocery store, ATM and beer. If you want to party, La Candelaria has bars speckled around it and the city center. Or you can take a taxi to Zona Rosa where the club and salsa scene is more prevalent.
A friend giving us Salsa Lessons in Zona Rosa. Our mud-blood ethnicity didn’t help our hips move like we had hoped..
After you’re done seeing Plaza Bolivar you need to eat at La Puerta Falsa which is off Calle 11 between Carrera 6 & 7 (See map at top of page). Ajiaco is a popular dish and just gives you all of the warm and fuzzies (carbs) on a cold, wet day in Bogota. The restaurant is tiny and authentic, it’s not a place that you really sit for long periods of time and chat. Get in, get out, grab a chocolate con queso and walk off all those calories you just consumed.
There are a couple of locations of the famous Andres Carne De Res and if you have the time you should go to the original which is about a 45 min – 1 hour trip outside of the city. We went to the one in Zona T which is in an upscale shopping area, if you’re in to that sort of thing you can kill two birds. I literally had the best fucking empanada at Andres DC.. and I ate a LOT throughout Colombia. The menu is a book and it’s hard to narrow down what to get but you can’t go wrong with empanadas.
It’s impossible to get a good picture of the restaurant because there are 7 floors of purgatory with eclectic shit everywhere, music and entertainers running around throwing confetti. It came off kind of cheesy to me and the service left a lot to be desired. But like I said there’s not a whole lot to do in Bogota so may as well go to say you went. Especially if you are traveling with kids, they’ll be entertained but be sure to make a reservation in advance.
The restaurant where we watched the US election and cried into our tequila with the waitstaff who kept calling Trump, “loco.” Good food and drinks, too!
Go to a Futbol Game:
While we were in Medellin our hostel told us they didn’t sell tickets to the game and to go to this ambiguous shop by the cable car. We never found that mystery shop. During our trip to Guatape we spoke to our tour guide who called our hostel, they then said they were selling tickets and would leave them at the front desk for us. Since we were staying in Guatape we gave our friend the money who was going to the hostel with a note stating we would be back before the game to collect.
We arrive about 45 minutes prior to the start of the game and the desk attendant said he didn’t have them because it was a tour and the tour left a couple of hours ago to have beers before the game. I fought with the douche bag who never once explained that it was a tour when we bought the tickets, we didn’t need the beers before and why couldn’t they have left the tickets for us!?
No money back, acted clueless about it and said there was no way for us to meet them at the stadium to get the tickets. He also said we would not be able to buy tickets at the stadium because scalpers would charge us too much since we aren’t locals. So, we were fucked and I was fuming. This is another reason I suggest you not to stay at Happy Buddha Hostel, check out my Medellin post. (This is not just me being dramatic, my friend who knows the owner of Happy Buddha even said this was ridiculous).
Look at our much COOOLLLLEEERRR beer options at the Bogota game! We really showed them…
This was a highlight of the Bogota trip but if you don’t speak any Spanish you’ll definitely need to do your research to work out the logistics. After hitting a couple of obstacles I was still so determined to go to a game I’m sure I annoyed my friend. Talking with people from Bogota before and after the game the consensus was always the same, they avoided the games due to how dangerous it could be. So we didn’t have a whole lot of informational resources except for the few brave posts we came across online saying, “You’ll never forget a Colombian futbol game!!!” So naturally, I had FOMO and was dead set on going.
The plan was to see a game in Medellin because we heard the stadiums in Bogota were shadier… everything in Bogota was shadier. The two stadiums we had read about were Estadio Nemesio Camacho El Campin and Estadio Metropolitano de Techo, the latter was the one they suggest gringos don’t go to. Everything we saw online said the game was at Campin but we got in the uber and the driver said there was construction and he thought it was closed.
Thankfully, we knew someone who lived there that offered to go last minute. She and her boyfriend got us tickets at a window across from the stadium for 40COP. You can tell where they’re selling tickets only by small lines, I didn’t really notice signs indicating that they sell them. And what we read was true, we saw zero white people.
I would suggest not wearing a purse, don’t have your cell phones out at all and once you have your tickets hide those, too.
After getting through security they wouldn’t let us go to our seats, the section on our tickets were where the “locals” sit. I’m assuming the majority of sections are locals though since most tourists are advised not to go. These sections can get extremely rowdy, crude and sometimes dangerous. So the security guards and police kept shoveling us around until they found a spot they felt was calm enough for us.
The teams playing were high rivals, Atletico Nacional and Santa Fe.
At one point one of the fans from the visiting team came over to the Santa Fe side. The fans lost their shit, tried fighting the guy and subsequently the massive police presence had to get involved. They started hitting anyone in range with batons… and we were in the calm side. The fans didn’t reserve the rude comments for just the opposing team, they called all players, “A Gonorrhea,” in Spanish of course.
I loved every second of the excitement and passion that exuded from this futbol game. It’s unlike the games in the United States and I would definitely do it again. With that being said, I was kind of happy that this game was a draw because shitttttt, I would be scared had one of those teams won.
A month after seeing this match I got texts from friends about the Chapecoense Brazilian Soccer team who was due to play in the final Copasudamericana against Medellin’s team Atletico Nacional. Their plane crashed in Medellin and was initially blamed on the weather, which we knew about firsthand (click on the link above for the latest). My friend and I had fallen in love with this unique Colombian experience and were pretty sad over the tragic news.
If things had gone as planned in Medellin, we wouldn’t have had a chance to see Atletico Nacional play. It wouldn’t have impacted us as much to hear that Atletico Nacional requested the championship trophy be given to the Chapecoense team and were cited saying, “runner up has never felt so good, this trophy is going to heaven.”
How to get to Zipaquira without a tour guide:
If you’re in Bogota and don’t go to Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral, you’re living under a stupid rock. Everybody talks about Catedral de Sal but nobody mentions how adorable the actual town of Zipaquira is. Maybe I’m the only one so shocked because of the comparison to Bogota but you should definitely walk around the area.
Let me tell you how to get there from La Candelaria:
- Catch the Transmillenio bus from Las Aguas station. This is where you’ll buy your bus card.
- Take bus line B74 to Portal del Norte. This should take about 40 minutes and where you will switch buses.
- Switch buses and just go across to the other side through the tiny gates, there will be a bus sitting there clearly labeled Zipaquira. Or a passionate bus driver yelling at you to get on.
- This bus should take about an hour and a guy will randomly jump on from one of the stops and ask you for your bus fare. It’s okay, this is normal. The price will range from $4500-$5000COP.
- They don’t announce the stops, you’ll just need to pay attention.
- You’ll come to a stop that looks like the first real town you’ve seen in an hour. We went on a week day and there were a ton of kids walking around with tiny restaurants along this road. Get out here.
- There will be signs for the Catedral de Sal but you basically just need to get off the bus, take a left and keep walking.
We grabbed some empanadas, beers, fed some dogs and moseyed up to the Cathedral
You can wait for a bilingual guide but there wasn’t one available for another 30-60 minutes so we just went in ourselves.
I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t just a cathedral. Catedral de Sal was this massive, underground maze which broke off into different chambers and rooms.
It was eerie and had minimal people there. We started later in the day so I’m sure we just missed the big tour buses.
I’m not a religious person but I got goosebumps multiple times walking throughout the cathedral
Even better is that nothing is really off limits. You can walk up close, sit in the pews, touch the salt.. go ahead, taste it.
I’ve seen a website suggesting to see The Gold Museum beforehand so you have some background info on it. We didn’t, but it’s your life do what you want.
There are only two salt cathedrals in the world with the other one being in Poland so this is a very unique experience to add to your visit to Colombia.
Rush hour is a real bitch in Bogota so try timing it to leave no later than 3pm or you can start later in the day and leave after rush hour.