Let me start off with what sucks about Bogota. First, it’s massive. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, when you consider it has no metro system, it means that it’s hard to get around. Essentially, all movements require taxis. Sure it has a bus system, and it’s decent but limited. There are also private colectivo type buses as well, but in a city this big, it’s an intimidating option. Getting lost is quite easy here. There’s also the fact that it’s high up in the mountains, which means it’s cold. Constantly cold. Not snow kind of cold but often below 20. For me, that’s not fun. It also means my energy levels get sapped and my motivation along with it. So truth be told, I haven’t done much in this city as compared to most others. Even just walks have been at a minimum. Sure I’ve walked around and done a few activities here and there but they have been quite limited. I’ve spent most of my time in Sayta Hostel working, writing, getting ahead on my chores and tasks, and being productive with personal projects and the like. So it’s been good all around. I’ve spent the entire time in Candelaria, the old sector. And while it has a sketchy vibe, particularly at night, it’s also quite different from a lot of places and has a lot of character.
Bogota doesn’t have the same in your face charisma as Medellin. There can be no doubt about that. Parties don’t find you in Bogota the way they do in Medellin. You step outside in Medellin and within an hour you have a few options of things to do. In Bogota, you have to seek entertainment out. It’s much more subtle, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this city doesn’t have anything to offer. Its size means it has an incredibly diverse range of neighborhoods, those ranging from Candelaria, old, dirty, grungy, to areas that feel very much like Toronto at night, and everything in between. You have the tall buildings of most major cities and slums on the outskirts, malls and open-air markets. It’s quite diverse. And this applies to its people. Like everywhere in Colombia, the people are warm, sweet and approachable. Colombians in general are the most down to earth and happiest people I’ve met in Latin America so far, and the people here are no different, though they aren’t quite as outgoing as other parts of Colombia.
Candelaria for example is overflowing with young Colombians. This is the university district and it’s brimming with small private universities. Easily 20 in an area about 30 square blocks. So, you can expect to see thousands of early 20 years olds walking around at almost all times of the day. And their style might surprise you. There’s an 80 punk feel here that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Latin America except for small sections of DF. No, it’s not massive spikey hair I’m talking about. Not quite that radical, but the jackets, in some cases the boots, just this different way of dressing here. I’ve only seen it in Candelaria, the area where almost everything goes, but it’s here nonetheless. But it’s also here that you’ll find tons of cops, who can, at times be harassing. Not a big deal, but they are ever present. Candelaria is a municipal heritage site so people aren’t allowed to change the facades of building or make any modifications to the exteriors. This is great because it’s a great part of the city. But I think they’ve taken it a bit too far. This policy means that there are NO garbage cans. I mean none. So, you guessed it, everything is thrown on the streets. This includes the garbage of the day. Whether in bags or not, people just leave it out on the sidewalks. It’s not pretty, though the rats are extremely grateful. Of course, Candelaria and Bogota in general has legions of street cleaners who pass by every night to clean it up, which means the mornings, the place looks quite sharp. But I’m a night guy, so I’ve seen the dirty side of this area.
Bogota is cheap. Very cheap. In fact, I believe I’ve managed to spend less here than anywhere else I’ve been in the past 10 months. I’m averaging less than $20/day and that includes room and board. So, it’s been great on the wallet, which happens to be convenient considering the wallet is thin these days while I pay off debts and wait for payments from my clients. The cost of being here has been quite convenient. Even taxis, which as I mentioned you’ll need to take if you want to go anywhere at night, are dirt cheap. You can spent 30 minutes in one and end up spending about $5 USD. Really easy that way.
Apparently, Bogota is known for its street art and is reputed to be the city with the most street art in all of Latin America. A walk through any part of the central core will prove this to you quite rapidly. They even have graffiti tours on a daily basis for all the travelers and tourists who stream through here. It turns out, that most travelers only really come here because it’s the flight hub of Colombia. So, most international flights leave from here and are considerably cheaper from Bogota than say Medellin. But Bogota seems, within the traveler community to have the reputation of being a massive but boring and ugly city. I disagree, as you can probably tell. It’s not the prettiest, sure, and again, it’s not in your face with its siren calls to party but it’s got plenty. Tons of museums, churches, plazas. It’s surrounded by mountains, some of which have cable cars running up them so you can catch the views of the city. And it’s got a pretty reliable nightlife. I haven’t gone out much here but what I have seen the few times I have gone out has impressed me. Places like Baum and Octava are very popular electronic clubs that attract both travelers and locals and offer an escape from the majority of places which are predominantly salsa clubs and popular music venues. Octava with female djs. Baum with a healthy gay population. Teatro which is apparently the biggest gay club in South America but this is complete hear say so I can’t confirm but the point remains that Bogota has a healthy nightlife. And there are hip-hop bars and clubs, reggae, and jazz bars peppered throughout the city. I’m not quite ready for salsa yet. Sadly I still can’t dance it and should definitely take some lessons at some point, so salsa clubs are not particularly interesting to me, especially not as a single guy going out alone. So, having places I can go to to dance electronica, find a little corner where I can dance alone, are very welcomed. Yes, Bogota is full of life.
But there’s much more to be experienced here, from paragliding to bike tours, to walking tours and museums. Just don’t expect to be swept off your feet right away. Bogota requires you to grow into it a bit, but I think you’ll find spending some time here rather pleasant and potentially quite relaxing.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CULTURAL HEART OF COLOMBIA