If you are planning a trip to Bogota in the future, you will want to read this Bogota Guide. These are 10 things that locals want you to know about Bogota.
When planning a trip, you start by gathering information on the different destinations you want to visit. Almost systematically, we start skimming through travel guides, browsing informational videos online, and scrolling through picturesque travel blogs. But have you ever considered going directly to the source and talking to some of the locals?
In South America, it is incredibly beneficial to hear what the locals have to say. Especially in places like Colombia, where tourism is booming. As an inhabitant of Bogota, I interact with locals on a daily basis. I’ve listened to their unique experiences, basic health and safety tips, and reviews on places worth exploring. Read on for the 10 things locals want you to know about their beloved city: Bogota.
Be wary of driving – the streets are crazy
“Don’t rely on public transportation! Use taxis.” This is the first suggestion you will hear from a local of Bogota. There are thousands of taxis in Bogota, making the streets look overwhelmingly crowded. But don’t be discouraged; it is easy to hail a taxi via cell phone or by asking your hotel concierge. Plan your day’s itinerary ahead of time, so you can relax in the backseat unphased by how much time it takes you to get to your desired destination.
Rush Hour in Bogota:
5:00pm-7:00pm. If you’re daring and plan on renting a car, you need to know the pico y placa rule. This rule explains which vehicles, depending on the license plate, can be driven on certain days of the week. If you’ve packed your Fitbit to stay active on the streets, keep in mind that most of the streets in Bogota are not named. Instead, they are numbered. The number of the street will be higher the further North you are. The same rule applies when heading West from the mountains.
If all this talk about traffic and rush hour is giving you anxiety, don’t panic! Sundays and festivos (national holidays) are known to be more relaxed days. Just remember that every Sunday from 7:00am-2:00pm, the event of Ciclovia takes place. During that time, you will see a lot of Bogotanos riding bikes, and jogging and walking with family. Go ahead and join in the fun!
Security has improved dramatically!
Locals will act as your temporary parental voice, by always encouraging you to be extra careful of your surroundings. There isn’t a lot of crime in Bogota, but as a traveler in a new city, you need to use common sense while exploring. Don’t carry a lot of cash in your purse or pockets, don’t flaunt your cell phone or any other valuables. And do not trust anyone that tells you that they can take you somewhere for half price. Mainly, keep your eyes open to what is going on around you. If you stick to these basic rules, you should have a great experience making your way around and through the city!
Eat like the Locals – Bogota Guide
Bogotanos are very proud of their fresh cuisine and local goodies, which makes it easy to find great restaurants and cafes. The best recommendation for a traditional Colombian dish is ajiaco (chicken and corn soup) served with arepas (cornbread), rice and avocado.
Similarly, to the natives of Seattle, there is no such thing as a day without coffee for Bogotanos. The best coffee is served in small cafes that can be found in various neighborhoods. Sounds pretty vague right? If you don’t want to go on a treasure hunt for a neighborhood cafe, and you are more familiar with your commercial dose of Starbucks, start walking towards Juan Valdez. You can find Juan Valdez coffee shops on almost every corner. Locals want you to know that Starbucks, although present in Bogota, is not the best choice for your caffeine fix. In Bogota, jump out of your coffee comfort shell and choose Juan Valdez.
If you’re a glass-of-wine at night individual, you may need to change up your routine. Take note that unlike the people of Argentina or Chile, the locals of Colombia do not drink a lot of wine. Instead, they choose to indulge in their love for beer. For a night full of cheers, head on over to Colombia’s most famous local pub, the Bogota Beer Company.
Places to Visit in the Bogota
Most tourists start their sightseeing adventure from the historical district of La Candelaria in the South and then continue to Monserrate hill. But locals are desperate to inform you that there is much more to see. If you have a generous trip of more than two days in Bogota, take an afternoon to visit the modern spots of the North in the upscale part of the city. Here, you will be satisfied with a complete palette of sight-seeing by visiting Parque 93, Zona Rosa, and Hacienda Santa Barbara all located in the North.
The Climate Changes
Due to the tropical pictures of the Rosario Islands in Colombia on the left, many people believe that Bogota is a never ending ray of sunshine. What they don’t realize is that, due to the high altitude (8,660 ft), the climate is subject to change all the time. You might wake up to sunshine peeking through the curtains, but by the end of the day, don’t be surprised if it starts to rain. To out-smart the bipolar weather, locals advise you to always have sunscreen and an umbrella handy. Also, try exploring your inner fashionista and start layering. If you’re hot, you can always take a sweater off, but when you find yourself stuck in the cold rain with no jacket, you’re sure to become even moodier than the weather.
Bogota is a popular host to many large-scale cultural events. Every year you can find yourself jamming out to famous artists such as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Offspring, and more. Dance in the open air in Simon Bolivar Park, where there are several kinds of ferias, (food festivals), including the famous Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro. Locals want you to know that there is always something going on in the city! Whether it be Salsa or reggaeton; there are many options for you, as a tourist, to join in on the party.
Local colloquial words – Bogota Guide
Don’t let the language barrier trip you up while you’re traveling abroad. Be aware that every country and every city has specifics when it comes to local slang. There are a couple of phrases that are common in Bogota, and it would be helpful for you to pick them up so you can impress locals with your vocal fluency.
- Tener afan – be in a hurry
- Bacano – cool/great
- Chusco – cool/great
- Que boleta – how embarrassing!
- Chino – a child
- Esfero – a pen
- Guayabo – a hangover
- Juicioso – well behaved
- Mono – blond
- Vieja – a woman
Stereotypes are a thing of the past – Bogota Guide
At this day in age, it’s better that we focus on the hope for the future rather than the despair of the past. Colombia has become infamous for its drug and mafia history, but that is not how locals want you to paint their country. Instead, they have developed a positive attitude that thrives off of making sure that what has happened in the past, stays in the past.
When interacting with the Bogotanos, be kind, careful, and courteous with your words. They prefer not to discuss crime, drugs, or the dark history of their country. You will have much more luck making friends if you take part in conversations about love, family, and a prosperous future.
The Local People
We all want to come home and tell our friends and family, that yes, we made friends with the locals. Luckily for you, Colombian people, also known as “rolos”, are considered some of the nicest people in South America. While some may seem reserved, the inhabitants of the Colombian capital want you to know that they greet tourists with open arms. They place a high emphasis on family values, football (you better know who James Rodriguez is!), and hard work. They might complain a bit about their city, as many of us often do about our homeland, but do remember that they love and cherish Colombia and would not dare move away.
It’s spelled ColOmbia, not ColUmbia
If you don’t want to come off as a tourist the minute you step off the plane, remember this small but crucial tip. It is Colombia with an O not Columbia with a U. Locals in Bogota will not take you seriously if you make this very common tourist mistake. Remember that tip wherever you are. Whether you are in Bogota, Cali, Cartagena or the small town of Raquira.