Have you heard of Bogota? If you’re anything like me then perhaps you’ve been taught from a young age to be afraid of South America, especially Colombia. After what seemed like months of flying domestic I was desperate to see more of the world and decided to pick up a trip to Bogota. When I told my family and friends I was going to Colombia I was told horror story after horror story of why I should hide in my hotel room and never go back. Instead, I asked my fellow flight attendants, natives of Bogota, and of course Pinterest, what I should do during my 24 hours.
When we arrived in Bogota, we were escorted to our hotel which also had armed guards outside. In those early moments I thought perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to Colombia and had listened to all the worry warts. By morning, those worries were gone and replaced with excitement. For some reason, I was vibing, crushing, “feelin” Bogota to the point that I had to see where the energy was coming from.
We, another crew member and I, ordered an Uber from our hotel to the city center of Bolivar Square for about $5USD. Uber is considered the safest form of transportation in Bogota and is extremely affordable. As we drove by on the highways towards the city we could see how crowded and the bus and trains were; if you can, take Uber.
Each time I go on a layover I make a google map for the city. I use these maps because once you save location into maps, you don’t need data to access them! I once lost data in Beijing and was stuck, lost, and alone with only my blue GPS dot and my google maps to get me back to my hotel! My Bogota map is just the places I found most interesting to go visit or take pictures, for each layover I like to stay in one section of the city to save on costs but to maximize time. Unfortunately, Bogota did not have many recommendations by bloggers, pinners, or instagrammers so it was more of an adventure! We decided to stay in the neighborhoods by Bolivar Square using the square, the Presidents home, and a few beautiful cathedrals to be our city markers in case we got lost.
When we arrived to Bolivar Square there was an art exhibit explaining the partnership between Dutch artists and Colombia. This is a vital scene in the geopolitical history of Colombia. In this area you can see the Presidents house but also enjoy the multitude of museums from history of gold to Colombian military. We chose to just explore the city but in this little corner there is much to do and see!
Nearby is a university which is a great meeting place to get coffee at Juan Valdez (a better tasting version of Starbucks), a book store, restaurants, and a convenient ATM. The exchange rate from USD is very generous and while many places accepted card; using cash is my favorite way to spend money on a layover. It’s far easier to budget and universally accepted especially when you want to purchase from local artisans. Unlike many layovers I’ve had in the past where I try to learn about local culture and history, we explored the city on the look out for handicrafts. Along the alleyways you’ll find tons of indigenous artisans making and selling jewelry, paintings, shoes, etc. Most don’t speak any English so we took advantage of google translate this trip. Beware though, as most tried to sell to us at an outrageous markup price point even compared to what the item would cost in the USA. To me money is something meant to be given spread to help others so I don’t have trouble spending a bit more but if you do, haggle with politeness and respect that each and every person deserves.
During the daytime there is nothing to fear in Bogota that you wouldn’t fear in any other city. There are panhandlers, street sellers, protesters, etc. Honestly, it felt safer than downtown Seattle! The highlight of this trip for me was actually just wandering around the back alleys which may be my favorite alleyways of any country. They are bright, colorful, and vibrant with history.
Turns out I didn’t do much this layover except walk around the city center, which I loved, but doesn’t make for the best blog post. I plan to be back in Bogota next month with a clear plan and focus to help others enjoy this beautiful city as much I do!