Thursday, March 10, 2016

What was Bogota like?

Buenos dias! I recently got a chance to visit Colombia's capital, Bogota and I had an amazing experience!

Let me first start by saying that you don't need to know Spanish to travel to a spanish speaking country. However, it would help to know the basics. Which I thought I knew, but clearly I didn't. There were several confusing moments on this trip that I was just like uhhhhh... and me and the person I was talking to literally had to communicate with gestures/body language. Such as the first day I went outside to play and got an uber to take me to this spot called Crepes & Waffles that I had heard about in a blog. Except I didn't bother to check what time it opened. It was morning, and it was a breakfast spot, sooooooo it should be open right? Well i'm pretty sure my uber driver tried to tell me that it was closed but because I couldn't understand anything he was saying, I just smiled and nodded and said si. He drops me off and the doors are locked. I go next door and ask them what time does the restaurant open and they say 10. It was only 8:45. :-( Oh well, maybe next time.

But let me back up! Deciding to go to Colombia was one of the most spontaneous courageous things I've ever done. Because of that, it was the most exciting and fulfilling trip I've ever been on. I had been contemplating solo travel for quite sometime. I go away for work solo all the time but that was different. There were still colleagues expecting me to report to a certain office at a certain time so if I didn't show, someone would notify someone. Solo travel for pleasure I think is a little different in that no one is expecting you. Maybe a hotel or air bnb but they don't know you to really be concerned if you don't show up. Anywho, while looking for flight glitches during Christmas, I spotted it. Roundtrip ticket to Bogota, Colombia via Jet Blue airlines. Colombia never crossed my mind as an option but it was kind of like, why not? I stared at it. I kept playing around with it. Looking at other deals. I mentioned it to a few peeps. I searched info in my travel group that had a TON of information as far as what to do, where to go, members who had went and their blog posts, etc. Fuck it, i'm going. What else do I have to lose? As soon as I booked, I started frantically researching. Places to stay, things to eat, places to party, things to see, and what to expect were all the things I was looking for. I came across Rachel Travel's post on how she did Bogota for $126 and Passport Required's post on 20 things to do and remember in Bogota. IT WAS LIT! By the beginning of February, I had compiled a list of the things I wanted to do and I was ready to go!

I get into the airport around 9pm on Sunday night. I had already arranged a driver through my airbnb host so all I had to do was grab my bags and look for a sign with my name on it. Spotted my name with a young man who was smiling and i'm on my way. I remembered reading something that said the ATMs were within that area so I asked the smiling guy with the sign but he didn't speak english. Luckily a young lady heard me and translated to him and he said Oh! and took me to the ATM lol. The ATMs only allow you to take out $300,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) at one time which is roughly 95 bux. So I figured i'd start with this then if I needed more, i'll grab some more somewhere else. Off to my air bnb! I arrived within 20 mins to the cutest little condo in a secure building. My host was waiting for me with lots of enthusiasm. We went over everything I wanted to do, where everything was, how to access the condo and so on. Then I took my ass to bed.

Day 1 - I met up with a young lady I had connected with after I saw her comment about going to Bogota on Rachel Travels. I had a list of things to do but this is what I was able to accomplish.

  • Walking Graffiti Tour - This was so fun and probably the best part of my short trip. It was about 2 hours and took you to various spots in the La Candelaria neighborhood to see some awesome graffiti. Graffiti isn't illegal there like a lot of places so artists are actually able to spend time on their art, producing some of the dopest graffiti you've ever seen. The tour is free but you typically give a tip for the tour guide. I took a ton of pictures but here are some of my favorites.

  • Monserrate - it's a mountain 3,152 meters above sea level with a church at the top. You can go up via cable car, train, or walking. The train was out so we opted for the cable car. In the cable car you can see the entire ride up and down the mountain. It costs 14,000 pesos which is roughly 4 bux. The views are GORGEOUS. My pictures really do it no justice. But I must warn you, you will feel like you just finished running a marathon after taking a few simple steps. Being that high above sea level takes a number on you and I found myself constantly out of breath. They have two restaurants at the top but I wasn't interested. There were also a few small shopping booths where you could find cute local items and some food.

  • Botero Museum - we had a little bit more time and energy left to tackle one more tourist attraction. I never really took advantage of museums in NY, Philly, or DC but I figured since I was in a new country, I must see at least one. The Gold Museum was on my list but it was closed on Mondays. The Botero Museum or Museo Botero includes pieces donated by Colombian artist Fernando Botero as well as pieces from other international artists. Botero was famous for his 'fat people' pieces as you'll see in some of the pics. The museum was pretty large with lots of cool things to see. It's free.

We ended up eating at a decent restaurant that evening that was pretty delicious but I can't remember the name.

Day 2 - my stomach was a little weird so I grabbed a pretzel and what I thought was orange juice from a little cafe across the street from my air bnb. It turned out to be turmeric and carrot juice. Wth? Whatever. I headed to the Bogota Bike Tours shop which is how I would start my day.

  • Bogota Bike Tour - I honestly don't know why I always opt for a bike tour when going places as if riding a bike is something i'm good at. I always start shaking the handle bars uncontrollably and sometimes fall off. Anywho, the shop was literally one block from my airbnb which was convenient. We had agreed to do the Salt Cathedral which would take us outside of Bogota so I knew we had to cut the tour short. I asked the tour guide would we be able to leave by noon (the tour started at 10:30 and was supposed to go to 1:30). He assured us it would be fine. However, when it he shared with the other tour guide, he acted like he was so upset we would be leaving early. Dude, it's not that serious. Anyway, we get our bikes and head on this tour flying through the streets of Bogota. As usual, I am last. Not only am I last but I am actually scared i'm going to get hit by a car. There are people and cars everywhere and I'm bobbing and weaving through them hoping that I don't run someone over, or worse, I get ran over. At one point i'm so far behind everyone, one of the employees is like 'mida' waving for me to hurry the hell up. But how are yall pedaling so fast? Anyways it was super cool because you get to ride through various parts of the city which I wouldn't have been able to see on foot in my little neighborhood. We made a few stops and checked out this dope fruit market. Unfortunately, this is when we had to depart so we didn't get to stay for more fruit and see additional sites. I was actually happy we left when we did because my legs were physically unable to go any further. However, the parts we did see were pretty cool and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who checks out Bogota. It is 35,000 pesos which is about 11 bux.

  • Salt Cathedral - last but not least was the Salt Cathedral or Catedral de Sal. My cousin had put me in touch with a friend of his who lived in Bogota named Mauricio. I hit him up before I went and he so happened to be a tour guide. Everyone I talked to about the Salt Cathedral said you could either take a bus there or hire a driver since it was bout an hour and a half away. Hit up Mauricio and he agreed to be our driver. Headed out there and noticed how much nicer North Bogota was than South Bogota where we were staying. Just like most places, the rich are separated from the poor where most of them reside in North Bogota while the poor reside in South Bogota. Anyway, the Salt Cathedral was pretty dope. It's an underground Roman Catholic church built within a salt mine 200 meters underground. There's a tour and plenty of gift shops. The pictures don't do it any justice but it was amazing to see. 

We ended the day at Andres dc located in the Zona T area. It's a very yummy restaurant with live entertainment.  The Zona T area is a neighborhood with nice bars, restaurants, shopping, and casinos. It kind of gave me a Miami vibe. I wish I could've spent more time exploring it but maybe next time.

Because I have received quite a few questions from people I know as well as travelers I don't know regarding Bogota, I put some frequently asked questions together with my answers.

  1. Was it dangerous? Absolutely not. There are literally cops with dogs everywhere. At night, there's another level of law enforcement out on every corner with army wear and AK-47s. You will be fine. When it comes to going to dangerous places, talk to people who have been, not those who have just heard. I never understood how people can offer their opinion about a place if they've never been. I've felt more scared in parts of DC and Philadelphia than I did in Bogota. There are also people walking everywhere at all times. 
  2. How did you handle your money exchange? For me, wherever I go, I prefer to withdraw from the ATM when I get there. As long as you notify your bank in advance about your travels, you should be fine.
  3. How was the weather? Chilly. Especially at night. I would suggest fall/spring clothes. Bogota is very high above sea level so it's not warm and tropical like other cities in Colombia or other countries in South America. 
  4. Where should I stay? It depends on what you want to see but I chose to stay in the La Candelaria area based on the ease of walking to various places and it being in a very artsy/historical neighborhood with plenty to see. There is also an area called Zona T that had tons of shopping, bars, restaurants, etc. I didn't get to spend much time there so that's all the information I have on that.
  5. How did you know where to go and what to do? It sounds simple but seriously, any information you need about anything in life can be found on google. To help find things, type in searches like 'Top things to do in Bogota' or 'Best foods to try in Bogota.' There will be plenty of links to choose from and tons of information. Use it! Bogota also has uber which is pretty dope because I didn't have to worry about hailing a safe taxi nor did I have to exchange cash.
  6. How much did everything cost? Non-travelers have this misconception that one has to spend thousands of dollars on travel. WRONG. Travel is only expensive when you're not flexible. Here's a short breakdown below of all my expenses.

    Impressive right? I could've probably gotten it less than that if I did more walking and less taxing, and didn't buy unnecessary drinks. Not to mention there have been flights to Bogota on the deal sites for around $180 lately. 
All in all, I had an amazing time and I can't wait to explore more of South America! Who's coming with me next time?!


  1. LOVE IT!! Solo travel is definitely on my to do list this year, glad you had such a good time!

  2. When Brazil is on the list im out with you!

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