Let’s talk BOGOTA, one of my favorite cities in the Southern hemisphere. This place is full of exotic cuisine, romantic culture and rich colonial history. Colombia still has a bad reputation here in the US… cartels, the FARC, street violence, etc. BUT Bogota has progressed over the years into a thriving, non-touristy metropolis and like most cities, has trendy, safe neighborhoods. Colombians are typically very friendly and many speak English in Bogota, so take advantage of their knowledge of the city.
I spent 5 days working on a music documentary, 2 of which were spent in a recording studio. Outside of the studio, we spent most of our time exploring neighborhoods like Zona G, Zona Rosa, and La Candelaria.
Here’s a rundown of my itinerary and what I experienced.
Stay: Bogota has a great budding boutique hotel scene and Airbnb’s everywhere. If you are looking for a safer, more relaxing stay, I suggest the Zona Rosa neighborhood with beautifully manicured streets, gourmet restaurants, nightclubs and armed security on almost every corner. Think of it as the Beverly Hills of Bogota. I felt incredibly safe in this neighborhood. It’s also a 10-minute walk to Zona G (Zona “Gourmet”) which is appropriately named for all of its great restaurants and bars.
There are also many colorful, historic neighborhoods full of museums, cathedrals and cafes.
Getting Around: DON’T hail a taxi on the street. Before you leave the US, make sure you download and setup an Uber account, as well as Tappsi (a Colombian app). Taxi drivers will rip you off and some are fake. You get a much better deal using Uber. Always remember to take a photo of your driver’s license plate and keep email receipts. My friend left her purse (containing her passport, credit cards and cash) in an Uber one night and didn’t realize it until the next morning. Luckily, we were able to contact the driver through the emailed receipt from Uber and he returned everything to us intact the next morning. That is just another great example of Colombian character.
Food, Drinks, and Dancing: I basically ate my way through Colombia. It’s hard not to with amazing restaurants on every corner. Lima, Peru may be the food capital of South America, but Bogota is a close second. If you stay in Zona Rosa, walk to Masa for a beautiful breakfast on the patio. While out sightseeing in La Candelaria, grab lunch at the oldest restaurant in Bogota, La Puerta Falsa, open since 1816. The menu only consists of their famous tamales, soup and hot chocolate with cheese. I suggest ordering everything. Your options for dinner are limitless, but one of my favorites is Nazca in Zona Rosa, a fine-dining Peruvian restaurant for ceviche-lovers like myself. Work off all those meals by dancing the night away in any of the dance clubs in Zona G. Local friends brought us to a Thursday night Cumbia dance party in Redrum on the 4th floor of a restaurant called Cine Tonola. Colombians can MOVE and I realized I really need to take some dance lessons.
-Explore La Candelaria’s cobblestone alleyways, colored with political and social street art. Here, you can visit great museums like the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) and admire the stunning architecture in Plaza Bolivar. Make sure to stop in one of the markets for some local Chica, a corn-based, home-brewed “beer” and pick up hand-crafted jewelry.
-Take a cable car up to Monserrate, the highest point in the city sitting at over 10,000ft above sea level. It began to storm on our way up to the top which was a little frightening but gave us some great photos! They sell ponchos at the top in case you forget yours 🙂
-I spent my last night in a sold-out Estadio El Campin seeing The Rolling Stones for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, none of you will be able to witness this, but just know that it was epic.
Some quick tips:
-Wifi is available at the El Dorado airport in Bogota. It isn’t always reliable, but it does exist so you can call an Uber, send iMessages, emails, etc. Wifi can easily be found throughout the city at cafes, restaurants and hotels.
-The American dollar can go a long way in Colombia right now. $1USD= $3,049 COP. Frequently used notes come in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, and 50000.
-Bogota is one of the highest cities in the world, at an altitude of over 8,000ft. If you aren’t used to high elevation, you may experience mild altitude sickness. Give yourself a day to relax and adjust, and be sure to drink plenty of bottled water and eat plenty of food. My favorite Andean preventative for this sickness is the coca leaf, a plant that is illegal in the US because it is used to create, you guessed it, cocaine. However, steeping the coca leaf in hot water creates a beautiful, earthy tea that helps prevent altitude sickness. You can find coca tea in most cafes around Bogota. It is completely safe and will not give you a high because the leaves contain only a very tiny amount of the alkaloids used to make cocaine.
-The temperature is very mild and doesn’t change much from season to season. However, you can expect weather to change consistently through the day from overcast, to sunny, to a downpour. Pack a raincoat.