Written by Kieran Proctor

What To Expect From A Trip To Bogotá?

Embarking on a journey to Bogotá can stir up a whirlwind of emotions. As the heartbeat of Colombia, Bogotá is ...

Embarking on a journey to Bogotá can stir up a whirlwind of emotions. As the heartbeat of Colombia, Bogotá is a city that never sleeps. And it’s teeming with culture, history and a vibrant social scene.

This Bogotá travel guide is your passport to understanding and appreciating the city’s unique allure. We’ll shine a light on all the must-visit spots, practical travel tips and local insights that will make your first time in Bogotá an unforgettable experience.

Get to Know Bogotá!

Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, is a complex tapestry of contrasts. Located high in the Andes at around 2,600 meters above sea level, this sprawling city is often overlooked by travelers who are drawn to the country’s tropical beaches or lush coffee plantations.

Bogotá’s chilly, often rainy weather, colossal size and gritty urban sprawl can feel overwhelming at first. However, beneath this challenging façade, Bogotá is a city rich in cultural treasures, beautiful architecture, stunning street art and a vibrant social scene.

Arriving in Bogotá: The El Dorado Airport Experience

Your Bogotá travel adventure begins the moment your plane touches down at El Dorado International Airport. Despite its reputation for being chaotic, El Dorado Airport is surprisingly organized.

Immigration procedures are efficient, baggage retrieval is straightforward and there’s a well-organized taxi rank just outside the arrivals area. Officials wearing distinctive orange or yellow jackets can help travelers find hotel transfers and official taxis, ensuring a safe and comfortable trip to your accommodation in Bogotá.

Getting around Bogotá is a breeze thanks to the presence of InDrive. This ride-hailing app revolutionized local transportation in Bogotá, making it easy for travelers to get from point A to point B without the hassle of negotiating fares with taxi drivers or figuring out bus routes.

The InDrive app provides the driver’s information, the car’s license plate number and the exact fare before you confirm your ride. Moreover, sharing a ride with other passengers can cut costs even further.

In Bogotá there’s also DiDi and InDrive that function similar to Uber and an efficient public transport system called the TransMilenio. During peak hours when Bogotá’s notorious traffic becomes a problem it can be quicker to take the bus. And we’ve covered this in our extensive guid to getting around Bogotá.

The Language Barrier: Brush Up on Your Spanish

One of the realities you’ll face in Bogotá is that English is not widely spoken. While this might be a challenge, it also adds to the city’s local charm. And Colombian’s are always eager to learn English or converse with a foreigner.

A few basic Spanish phrases can go a long way in helping you navigate the city, order food, make purchases or make friends. The locals, known for their friendliness and helpfulness, will appreciate your efforts to communicate in their language. And they will be excited to learn about you and why you’ve decided to visit Bogotá.

I would also suggest downloading the Google Translate mobile application. With Google Translate on your device you can use your camera to easily translate menus, maps and signs while in Colombia.

Language Barrier in Bogota Colombia

Explore the Neighborhoods: La Candelaria, Chapinero and Usaquen

Bogotá’s diverse neighborhoods each boast their own unique charm and attractions. La Candelaria, the city’s historic quarter, is a must-visit attraction for any first-time visitor to Bogotá. Here, you’ll find Plaza Bolivar, the heart of the city, bustling with activity and overrun by pigeons.

Also, don’t miss the Gold Museum which is home to an impressive collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts. The International Emerald Museum next to the Gold Museum which explains the history of emeralds and emerald mining in Colombia. Or the Botero Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of works by renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero and a huge range of other international masters.

A step up from La Candelaria is Chapinero. An area known for its trendy vibe, tree-lined avenues and a plethora of dining options.

If you’re looking for a chic neighborhood with a slower pace, Usaquén is your best bet. Once a separate village, it’s now a part of Bogotá and it’s known for its Sunday market, quaint shops, artisans and charming laid-back atmosphere.

Plaza de Bolivar in La Candelaria

Safety in Bogotá: Stay Alert and Savvy

Like any major city, Bogotá has some areas that are safer than others. While the locals are generally warm and friendly, some parts of the city have a more edgy feel. Like the Santa Fe Tolerance Zone.

La Candelaria, for example, can feel a bit dicey at times, especially if you’re walking around at night. Always be aware of your surroundings, avoid displaying valuable items openly and don’t walk alone at night. Particularly if you don’t know where you are or where you are going.

Travel Tip: Don’t carry large sums of cash or use bank cards that link to your main accounts. Carrying lots of cash can make you a target for robbery and card skimming is common in Colombia. Instead, use a Wise prepaid debit card for tap and go payments, like I do.

Weather in Bogotá: Dress in Layers

Bogotá’s weather is a bag of surprises. Its high-altitude location creates a unique climate that can swing from sunny skies to torrential downpours within minutes. Dressing in layers is the key to staying comfortable in Bogotá’s unpredictable weather. Always carry a rain jacket or umbrella, even on a sunny day.

When packing for a trip to Bogotá you also want to keep in mind that it’s best to blend in. Not just in Bogotá but in any large Latin American City, it’s always best to try and dress like the locals. When you blend in with the locals you’ll find that there will be less street touts approaching you and you will be a less obvious mark for any criminals lurking about.

Indulge in the Food Scene in Bogotá

Bogotá is a food lover’s paradise. From street food to high-end dining, the city’s culinary scene is diverse and exciting. Local dishes like empanadas, arepas, pandebono, bandeja paisa, caldos, calentados and more are a must-try. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to indulge in some fine dining.

Areas like Zona T (also called Zona Rosa) and Chico are brimming with fantastic restaurants, offering everything from local to international cuisine. You can find some spectacular restaurants in Bogotá and it should come as no surprise that there are dozens of Michelin Star restaurants in the city.

For an absolutely unique experience you should consider visiting the original Andres Carne de Res in Chía. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe. Andres Carne de Res is a cross between traditional steak house, salsa club and Cirque du Soleil.

The Vibrant Street Art Scene in Bogotá

Bogotá’s street art scene is a visual feast for art enthusiasts. Colorful murals adorn the city’s walls, reflecting the city’s vibrant culture and history.

Taking a free graffiti tour is an excellent way to dive headfirst into Bogotá’s street art scene, where you’ll learn about the artists, their inspirations and the stories behind their art.

Day Trips from Bogotá: Salt Cathedral and Paragliding

If you’re looking to add some adventure to your Bogotá travel itinerary, consider taking a day trip to the Salt Cathedral in the town of Zipaquira or going on a paragliding excursion. These activities offer a thrilling break from the city’s hustle and bustle, presenting opportunities to explore Colombia’s stunning natural landscapes.

And for those wanting to explore further afield, consider visiting Villa de Leyva in the nearby Boyacá Department. Villa de Leyva is about 3 hours from Bogotá.

Wrapping Up Your Bogotá Adventure

Bogotá is a city of contrasts that rewards those who approach it with an open mind and a spirit of adventure. It may not offer the typical tropical paradise that most travelers seek in Colombia, but it has a unique charm and a rich cultural landscape that’s absolutely worth exploring.

With this Bogotá travel guide, you’re now equipped with all the necessary knowledge and local tips to make your first time in Bogotá a memorable journey.

Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?

If you’re planning to visit Bogotá on your next vacation, or you’re simply interested in Colombia in general, you should read my Bogotá City Guide.

My Bogotá City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Bogotá and Colombia in one place. Read my Complete Bogotá City Guide.