Country: Colombia
Currency: Peso (COP)
Peak Season: December-February, July-August
Shoulder Season: September-October
Median Temperature: 13.00 C / 55.4 F
Main Languages: Spanish, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, taxi, bicycle rental
Recommended Duration of Stay: 3 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $80.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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Bogota’s founding was similar to Mexico’s: conquistadors conquering the seas, setting foot on native (Indian) territory, and plundering hard-labored lands. Fast forward and following the new reign, the Spanish government had easily embellished the then-uncivilized region with all the trappings of colonialism and Christianity—evident still in its well-preserved historic center and outlying neighborhoods. Bogota gained true traction during the late 19th century, after much political turmoil stemming from the ideals of liberating Columbia from Spain. The tides of independence gave the country ample time to create a unique persona via the unwavering support for artistic talent, which is still evident today in many active opera houses and art galleries.

Unlike most cities, Bogota has no pretenses, despite its many plush parks and imposing architecture; it remains to its faithful to its virtues of stalwart democracy and progress. It isn’t as “fun” as the cities Mexico, Chile, or Argentina, but only here can you witness firsthand the most refined individuals South America has to offer. There aren’t a lot of children playing in the streets or tank-topped men playing chess on their porches. Everything is business as usual in Bogota, with the occasional nightly niceties. There is a sprawl of five-star hotels and restaurants and much of the entertainment you’ll find inside, except for a few major festivals, including the three Carnivals and Festival of Flowers.

If you feel boxed out with all the city concrete, there rests two paramos (plateaus) at the outskirts— Chingaza and Sumapaz. Also of important note is the Savanna of Bogota, fertile highlands where the Spaniards initiated their conquests. However, you’ll find the urban sprawl to suffice your cultural appetite.

Packing List

  • Credit cards and local currency for boutique purchases; be apprehensive of where your credit card is being swiped, especially in small stores where there have been many tourist accounts of overcharging
  • Layers of clothing for the warm daytime and chilly evenings—the city is on a plateau, so expect sudden temperature shifts; bring jackets, cardigans and compact umbrellas for the changeable weather
  • Essential medication and toiletries; almost everything is available at convenience stores and pharmacies; a phrasebook definitely helps when dealing Spanish-speaking attendants and pedestrians
  • A decent camera, plenty of film and batteries for the wonderful city architecture; bring something to keep you company inside hotel rooms: some magazines, books and portable media
  • Pocket books containing guides to the best restaurants and hotel accommodations; pick a guide that details opera and art gallery schedules—since these two are the focal point of your stay in the city

Things to Do

  • Visiting the El Museo del Oro, which houses significant pre-Hispanic treasures made of gold; the treasures are meticulously carved right down to the smallest detail—proof of nimble artisanship
  • Visiting the seemingly simple Church of Our Lady of Candelaria, whose national significance is worth of examination and reflection; the now-restored cathedral is more than three centuries old
  • Embracing the rich blend of narrow walkways and quaint Colonial architecture; place of interest within the district include Botero Museum, El Museo del Oro, Colon Theater and Monserrate
  • Enjoying the ambiance at Bolivar Square, flanked by important government offices, namely the Palace of Justice (N), National Capitol (S), Primate Cathedral (E) and San Bartolomé (SE)
  • Visiting the Palacio de San Carlos of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Casa de Nariño (named after Antonio Nariño) on the other hand, is currently the official residence of the President of Colombia

DON'T

  • Purchase from tourist outlets scattered through the city—you’ll be charged twice to thrice as much; also, be aware of street vendors who pass of fake jewelry and mass-produced handicraft as authentic
  • Go to nightclubs without accompaniment; if partying alone, try to keep your sobriety in check periodically—you might wake up from a hangover only to find that your wallet and jewelry are missing
  • Dress like a tourist; given that Hispanics are easily discernable from the rest of the world’s races, wearing a big backpack and shorts in a city where suits and briefcases are the norm will attract attention
  • Visit shady districts—tourists are easily traceable within a sea of people due to their skin color; visiting alleys and fringes heightens your safety risk—remember Latin America’s reputation for kidnappers
  • Take lightly the temperament of Columbians—they aren’t too far from the Spaniards in terms of they perceive punctuality and afternoon naps; don’t expect brutal honesty despite their friendliness