Things to see with only 48 Hours in Bogotá!
Getting to Bogotá was no easy feat.
No, really – my Air Canada flight screwed up and left me stranded in Toronto overnight and in Mexico the following day for 8 hours. I didn’t get to Bogotá until 30 hours after originally planned.
Disclaimer: off topic rant about Air Canada
I cannot complain about Air Canada enough; the food was terrible (not that I’m expecting Michelin star cuisine, but whilst eating my food the saying ‘you are more likely to die from food poising on the flight than from the plain crashing’ did cross my mind) and the plane was grotty. The worst thing? No in flight entertainment! I sat down at my seat, looked around totally bamboozled and then called over the air hostess.
“Um I’m a bit confused, where is the screen on the back of my seat?”
“Sorry ma’am we don’t have any in flight entertainment, but for $10 you can rent a tablet and watch some of our movies.”
Cheeky wotsists!!!! So I rented a tablet and there were about 5 English films and only 1 from the last decade. Great.
When I finally arrived in Toronto 3 hours after planned, I learned that I’d missed my connection to Bogotá (along with 2 other travellers). There wasn’t another direct flight with available seats for 4 days so instead (after waiting 2 in reception) we were put up in a hotel in Toronto and booked onto the 6am flight to Cancún – hoping that the Mexicans could serve us better. I was actually buzzing initially to see Toronto – and to be put up in a Marriott – but when my fellow castaways and I returned from a pub in downtown Toronto to get into bed (alarm set for 4am) the fire alarm was set off. I actually panicked when it was set off and ran out of my room keyless and wearing only a dressing gown. Embarassing!
Air Canada as a consolidation gave us each a $15 voucher to be used in any airport restaurant. What they didn’t mention was that it had to be an airport in Canada – something we learnt whilst ordering a slap up meal in Cancún. Lets just say Air Canada have received a very long and strongly worded E-mail… (threatening or what 😏😏😏).
Amber, this is not an article on Air Canada. Please tell me about Bogotá.
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, and a good starting point for those travelling round Colombia (according to Lonely Planet, not me – I’m no maven on Colombia yet). Bogotá is a surprisingly big city comprising of around 8 million people making it more populous than London! Most people think of Bogotá as a gritty crime haven; to be honest after reading the UK FCO page for Colombia I almost had a nervous breakdown whilst waiting in the Manchester Airport departure lounge. However now that I have visited Bogotá and have come out of the experience alive and well (at time of writing), I can confirm that Bogotá is a forward-thinking city that is rich in both history and culture.
TIP: before you come to Colombia make sure you pack some jeans and a fleece for Bogotá. The weather is mild and wet all year round – it felt like I’d brought West Yorkshire with me to South America. My sexy Berghaus fleece has had a few outings. It gets many a compliment, especially when worn with my hiking shoes and bumbag.
TIP: Bogotá sits at an altitude of 2,644m making it one of the highest capital cities in the world. Altitude sickness (or soroche in Español) can start over 1500m – so get some Diamox whilst here.
Sounds exciting (except for the FCO advice) – how do I get to Bogotá?
El Dorado Airport is about 20 minutes drive from the city centre. You can grab a yellow taxi from the airport for the quickest ride into Bogotá – taking around 20 minutes and costing around 24,000 Colombian pesos (about £8). You can also order an UBER. FYI: UBER is illegal in Bogotá. Sit in the front and if the police pull you over pretend you’re the taxi drivers pal.
Two locals that worked in El Dorado Airport took one of the boys I was stranded with and I under their wing (or wings, I guess). They took us to a cajero automático, helped us to draw some cash out and even escorted us to central Bogotá in an UBER. In hindsight what I did was completely and utterly stupid (getting into a cab with random Colombians) but again, I am still alive and well to tell the tale. They actually they took me for a drink once we got to La Candelaria!
Where should I stay in Bogotá?
Anywhere in La Candelaria – despite the FCO describing British Nationals being held up by gunpoint (ok I’ll stop now) I never ever felt unsafe. And I go through the 7 stages of grief when a plane hits turbulence or when I send a risky E-mail to my manager. Basically, I’m not chill at all with anything.
I stayed at the Cranky Crock Hostel; the beds are comfortable, it is in the heart of La Candelaria and more importantly there are hot showers and a dog! 😍
La Candelaria is a foodie hotspot. It also has plenty of options for us pesky vegetarians (and vegans). We plant munchers can enjoy the meat free menu at nearby Quinua y Amaranto. I had some delicious huevos al gusto with corn bread and a hot chocolate (you need to ask for it con azúcar as it is sooooo bitter without). Huevos al gusto is a normal breakfast option in Colombia: it basically means eggs as you like. I like mine poached, but they don’t really get poached eggs outside of Europe. The nearest compromised is soft boiled and you have to do the peeling (i.e. admin, nay, eggmin) yourself so I opted to have mine fried. My bill came to a 10,000 pesos (£2.63).
Bogota Grafitti Tour 🎨
Bogota seems to have gone through a graffiti movement – something I didn’t know before arriving. The turbulent political and social situations in Colombia have inspired some pretty awesome artworks. Dazed and confused by jet lag, I followed some fellow backpackers from my hostel to El Parque de Periodistas (Journalists Park to those who no habla calquier Español) where the daily tour commences.
The graffiti artists have really had to fight for their right to paint and make Bogotá look beautiful. One artist was even shot dead by police after being discovered spray painting at night!
In 2013, Justin Bieber played a huge role in changing the laws on graffiti in Colombia. After a concert in the capital, Beebz drunkenly painted a Canadian flag except with a marijuana leaf rather than a maple leaf in the middle (#original). Whilst creating his masterpiece in downtown Bogotá, the same police department who shot the local boy protected Beebz whilst he was painting.
The local artists had an uprising (“If Justin Bieber can do it, so can we!”) and the following day hundreds of artists flocked to paint over Justin’s artwork on 26th street. The artists continued to paint for 48 hours straight and the police couldn’t do anything to stop it. Now the street art scene in Bogotá is a bit of a grey area, with the government and local businesses commissioning many artists to paint around the city.
The tour guide told us that the police continue to paint over the street art, so some of the images I’m sharing with you here you may not see if you choose to do the tour yourself! However with 8000 graffiti/street artists active in Bogotá new murals are being painted all the time. Some of the pictures only take hours to paint. The painting below took the artist only 3 hours. 3 hours!!!! It took me 3 months to finish my final AS art project – and I only achieved a B.
The tour is free with Bogotá Graffiti and at the end you pay what you think. I paid 30,000 pesos because I’m not tight and I was genuinely inspired by the end of the tour.
Bogota Food Tour 🌯 🌮
After the Graffiti tour I was rather hungry, so I went to Bogotá’s Paloquemao Market for the free Bogota Foodie tour. On the tour I tasted locally grown fruit (one tasted of bubble gum), vegetables and freshly prepared Colombian dishes. The tour was a great way to navigate the hustle and bustle of the local market, made worse by my lack of sleep and lack of Español. Sadly as a vegetarian there wasn’t much I could eat so I just ate a lot of the same thing. That is my own fault for being so bloody difficult – I don’t expect the entire market to accommodate to my needs (unlike another vegan on the tour 🤔) – the meat dishes did smell lovely and Loon (the tour guide) was an absolute babe. The meat eaters on the tour were all very satisfied by the end.
Admire the street vendors on Carrera 7
Carrera 7 is the main shopping district just by La Candelaria – a bit like Bogotá’s answer to Leeds Briggate or Manchester Market St. You can admire all the artisan market stalls and purchase a few fake Nike trainers or Colombia football shirts. Make sure you size up if you decide to buy a fake football shirt – one of the backpackers I went with bought their normal size, and it turned out to be rather cropped. Hey – that could be the next fashion trend: cropped viscose football shirts on men. You saw it here first.
Head out boozing to Andre Carné de Res
A restaurant AND a nightclub?! Count me in! Basically the whole of Bogota heads there on a weekend. There is a big one in Chía (a party bus will collect you and take you there) but I went to the one in Zona T. It has a few dining areas and two dance floors – no excuse not to line your stomach before ordering vast amounts of tequila. The drinks are extremely strong which is good news as it wasn’t the cheapest place. There is also a climbing wall, which is probably a poor idea after said vast amounts of tequila.
There were a group of Brazilian girls there who attempted to teach me and two Dutch blokes how to dance. Brazilian women are something else; their dancing basically consists of squatting in a short skirt and rubbing their bums onto local men in the club. I think I’ll pass.
Visit Bolivar Square
Plaza De Bolivar is the historic square in Bogota. It is named after the first president who freed for Colombia (and other countries in the region) from the Spanish. The legislature, judiciary and the administrative arms of the Colombian government are all on this square. It is also full of vendors flocking postcards and other Bogotá themed souvenirs we didn’t want.
I have to be honest – I hated it here. THE SQUARE WAS FILLED WITH PIGEONS!!! One of the locals thought it was so hilarious that I screamed every time a flock of pigeons came close to me, that they started to throw bread my way. This made all all the pigeons swarm towards me and squark around me in a circle. I probably have PTSD now as a result.
Apparently on Sunday the Cathedral is also open to the locals – the church is supposed to be beautiful, but I wouldn’t know because I refused to walk through that pigeon filled square. I never want to deal with those pigeons ever again.
For the best views in Bogotá make sure you visit the top of Monseratte! You can either climb or if you’re a princess like myself you can pay 20,000 Pesos and get a cable car to the top.
The top of Monseratte is a whopping 3,152m above sea level – so make sure you take some altitude sickness pills to avoid the dreaded soroche! When walking to the higher viewpoints of Monserrate I actually found myself gasping for breath, bringing back some dreaded memories of PE at school (I was a lazy child). Monserrate has been a pilgrim hotspot since the early 17th century, and is famous for it’s statue of ‘El Señor Caido’ – Jesus Christ after being taken off of the cross.
If you’ve hiked to the top and need some energy (or taken the cable car and fancy some food anyway) there are a couple of cafés with the best views of Bogota. Try a chocolate caliente con queso – basically a hot chocolate but with the local white squishy cheese on the side. The concept was… interesting. I won’t be adding any to my cocoa at home – I’ll stick to milk or baileys if its Christmas. When I was younger my Dad once made me Nutella and cheddar cheese sandwiches for lunch. At the time I thought he was loco and refused to eat them, but perhaps he was onto something. He eats eggs with hummus though, so maybe not.
Shop till you drop in Zona T 🛍
I visited Centro Comercial Andino in Zona T to buy some emergency jeans (as you do) but I was really impressed by this upmarket area! So it turns out that Bogotá is a shoppers paradise – who knew? A poor start to my backpacking trip; I was hoping to use my travels to curb my horrific spending habit. Zona T (and the surrounding areas on Calle 85) is where the posher locals go for a bevvy. A gin and tonic cost 22,000 pesos which is almost UK prices – so that was my dinner. Nutritious!
FYI: Zona T is where the aforementioned Andre Carne de Res is. You could combine Zona T with Andre Carne de Res; I didn’t because when I went on the first night I had no clue where I was in relation to the rest of Bogotá.
Overall Bogotá was good and I wish I was able to spend a bit more time there. Colombian food has a lot to answer for (the crisps here are terrible, as is the cheese – a bit of a failure of the Spanish, who colonized most of Latin America and failed to bring over those AMAZING kettle pan chips and Manchego). That being said the people are warm and friendly, and will go out of their way to help you. I urge you to ignore the FCO who make out Colombian locals to all be guerrillas desperate to kidnap you. I am sure they exist but just don’t walk around alone at night or flash your valuables – basic advice that you likely already knew.
Visited Bogotá? Been somewhere that isn’t listed here? Comment below and let me know what I’ve missed!
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