Travel Guide South America Colombia Bogota



Church of Maria del Carmen, Bogota

Church of Maria del Carmen, Bogota

© jimrogers

Bogota is the capital and largest city in Colombia with well over 7 million people living in the city and more than 10 million in the metropolitan area. It is located in the central mountainous part of the country on a plateau at a height of 2,640 metres, which makes it one of the biggest cities in the world at this altitude, together with Quito, La Paz and Lhasa. The city has been inhabited for almost 500 years. Today it is the economical and cultural heart of the country and has good infrastructure for travellers. Still, while it is much more safe than it used to be, crime can be a problem in the city. However, with the normal precautions you shouldn't worry too much about the stories you hear outside Colombia.




The city of Bogotá is divided into 20 distinct localities, or districts, and every visit to this city should include touring at least three or four of them, depending on the purpose and extent of one's travel. The "must-sees" include La Candelaria, Chapinero-Zona T, and the Zona Rosa. A little extra time to explore La Macarena in Santa Fé, Parque 93, and Usaquén's colonial center would be time well spent.

La Candelaria

Despite having a bit of a (snarky) reputation among well-to-do Bogotanos as a slum filled with drug-abusing hipsters, La Candelaria is the city's beautiful historic district, the seat of the national government, a bohemian hotspot for the arts, has a good claim to be the original capital of South America—all travelers must visit.

Santa Fé-Los Mártires

The traditional downtown area, which surrounds La Candelaria, has far less appeal to more cautious tourists due to frequent violent crime, but travelers should make a point to visit the great restaurants in its (safe) northern neighborhood, La Macarena, near the International Center.

Chapinero-Zona G

El Chapinero is one of the city's genuinely coolest neighborhoods, and the center of gay nightlife. Zona G is arguably the best spot in the city for fine dining.

Zona Rosa

Every great South American city has a Zona Rosa—it's the dedicated nightlife district, heavily policed, and filled with restaurants, pretty leafy streets, and expensive clubs!

Parque 93

Of the city's nightlife/fine-dining districts, Parque 93 is the most laid back. The focus is on the establishments lining the park, with its festivals and beautiful views towards the mountains.


Favored by wealthy Bogotanos, Usaquén has huge high-end shopping malls, an old colonial center, a huge golf course, and restaurants and clubs off-the-beaten-path (for tourists).


Teusaquillo-Salitre is home to the National University, shopping at the slightly edgy neighborhood of Galerias, big parks that host major festivals, the planned city of Ciudad Salitre and its burgeoning business district, and virtually all of the city's major sports venues.


A mix of wealthy and middle class neighborhoods, firmly off the beaten path for travelers, despite being just west of the major nightlife districts to the east.


A vast and confusing jumble of poor and middle class neighborhoods, as well as the imposing fortress of the U.S. Embassy and El Dorado International Airport.


The much maligned Sur. It's arguably the most dangerous and pretty clearly the poorest part of town, and it's a rather huge area, with over a quarter of the city's population. There is in fact plenty to do here, for the most intrepid travelers, in addition to Sumapaz National Park in the extreme, rural south.



Sights and Activities

Many landmark events in the history of Colombian and South American independence took place in La Candelaria, the historic mid-sixteenth Century colonial neighborhood that hosts the national government, including the near killing and escape of Simon Bolivar, the execution of revolutionary heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta, known as 'La Pola,' and the Grito de Libertad, known as the beginning of the region's revolution. The district is indeed teeming with history, and there are a lot of interesting museums (arguably the best being the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum) and old churches. Some of its lovely streets are pedestrian-only. The most important places are Catedral Primada and Palacio de Nariño on Plaza de Bolívar, Iglesia del Carmen, Biblioteca Luis A Arango, the Colonial Art Museum, and the colonial architecture of the houses and buildings. Almost all the museums are free. La Candelaria also contains numerous Catholic Churches, many of them centuries-old. The Colombian-American and Colombian-French cultural centers are located in La Candelaria, and a Colombian-Spanish cultural center is under construction.

Outside La Candelaria, the most famous site is up the mountains over Santa Fé at the Sanctuary of Monserrate, which you can see from virtually any place in the city. Take the funicular up, or if you are feeling brave and athletic, hike it. Santa Fé also is home to the National Museum and the Modern Art Museum.

The northern neighborhoods that are so popular for dining and nightlife really don't have all that much to see, in terms of traditional sightseeing, aside from the small colonial center in Usaquén. The park known as Parque 93 is rather pretty, though.

There are a couple interesting sights in Ciudad Salitre, for those either staying out there or those with plenty of time, having seen the more famous sights downtown, including the Botanical Gardens and the Maloka Science Center.



Events and Festivals

With the majority of the city being Catholic all major Catholic holidays are celebrated.

Bogota International Book Fair

The Bogota International Book Fair is a two week event that has been taking place in in April or May since 1988. It is one of the world’s major literary festivals and is one of Latin America’s most significant cultural gatherings. Each year, a different country gets to be the principal character which turns Colombia into the biggest library on the planet, drawing writers, illustrators, publishers, editors, readers and book lovers from all over. Besides a massive trade fair for the publishing industry, the event features talks, workshops, concerts, exhibitions, food, drink and a children’s program. Colombia is, after all, the home of celebrated author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.




The climate is mild yearround and because of its height it is never very hot and humid like most other cities in the tropics. The dry period is from December to March with clear days, frost is possible at night and during the day it is pretty warm. It is never warmer than about 28 °C. During the June-August period it is relatively dry as well, but cloudy and windy conditions rule the city and temperatures vary less than during the sunnier dry period.

Avg Max16.4 °C16.7 °C16.7 °C16 °C16.2 °C15.7 °C14.9 °C15.4 °C15.8 °C15.9 °C16 °C16.1 °C
Avg Min5.6 °C6.5 °C7.6 °C8.6 °C8.7 °C8.3 °C7.7 °C7.3 °C7.1 °C7.7 °C7.9 °C6.3 °C
Rainfall29 mm44 mm66 mm101 mm93 mm54 mm43 mm46 mm72 mm107 mm91 mm53 mm
Rain Days81114182018171616181712



Getting There

By Plane

El Dorado International Airport (BOG), located 15 kilometres west of Bogota, is the base of the Colombian national airline Avianca. Avancia has flights from Bogota to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States and Madrid. To the latter, Iberia has flights as well. Air France flies to and from Paris.

By Bus

Currently, buses run in and out of Bogotá's main station, El Terminal de Transporte de Bogotá. The station is clean and has standard amenities. Located at Calle 22 B, No 69-59, multiple bus companies have regular routes to destinations around the country. The safety of bus travel in Colombia has greatly improved in recent years. However, foreigners should be cautious not to travel to areas of unrest and travel only during the day. Do not carry large amounts of cash with you as robberies are known to occur along some routes. Service in the 'upscale' buses is very good and they are very comfortable. Pick the most expensive service (just a couple of dollars extra) as these buses tend to be newer and better mechanical condition. Bogotá is also building 2 new terminals, one located far south and one on the north corner to serve buses going on those directions.



Getting Around

By Car

Driving yourself as a visitor in Bogota can be tough during rush hour but it is possible. However, with cheap public transit options it is recommended to take a bus or taxi.

By Bus

Bogota is actually home to the world's largest what is called a "bus rapid transit" system which combines the technology of a bus on rails with the flexibilty of standard bus system. Because the bus operates most of the time on a dedicated path and has the right-of-way in most traffic situations, it can be a very quick way to get around. Although it can seem a bit complex to travelers at first it is a great way to get around the city when you get used to it. With the exception of a few select streets, there are very few bus stops. When you want to get off you can simply ring a bell or let the driver know when you're ready to get off. In addition to Bogota's bus system being a great option for transportation because of it's speed, it is also very cost effective. Bus tickets are 1,750 Colombian Pesos, which translates to roughly $0.91 USD. TheTransMilenio, Bogota's bus system, has around 1,400 buses that run 12 lines and serve roughly 150 bus stations.

By Taxi

Taking a taxi to your destination is convenient as well as fairly inexpensive. Fares typically run less than 9,600 pesos, or $5, for short rides. Though, as expected, the price can add up quickly depending on how far you have to go.

By Bike

Bogota has a great network of bicycle routes that cover over 300 kilometres. Getting around on a bike on during low traffic times, especially on Sundays- since several streets close to vehicle traffic, can be very easy and likely the most appealing option to those that like the exercise and enjoy fresh air. If you don't mind taking your time getting places, getting around by way of bicycle can be very fun and rewarding.

By Foot

Because of the grid layout of the city of Bogota, it is easy to get around on foot. However, popular destinations and attractions tend to be spread out. If you want to take your time you will enjoy walking around but if you need to get somewhere quickly it is both cheap and convenient to take the bus or a taxi.




There are a few dedicated gourmet zone, the most impressive of which is Zona G (G for Gourmet). It's a quiet, residential-looking neighborhood jam packed with absolutely incredible, world-class restaurants. Other places to look for high-end dining are (naturally) the Zona Rosa, as well as Parque 93, the La Macarena neighborhood of Santa Fé, and a little further afield in Usaquén.

For dining with a view, there are two restaurants up at Monserrate that are not at all tourist traps - they are excellent, modern, high-end restaurants. Just outside the city on the road to La Calera is Tramonti, another mountaintop restaurant less-known to tourists, but done up like a Swiss mountain chalet and perfect for watching the sunset and the lights come on.




Nightlife in Bogotá is very diverse, and you can almost certainly find whatever experience it is you are looking for. There are English pubs, Latin dance halls, electronic music clubs, quiet storefront bars, wacky themed clubs, salsa clubs, a huge indie-rock scene (if Cali is salsa, Bogotá is rock n' roll), megaclubs, cocktail lounges, etc.

The cosmopolitan side of Bogotá nightlife is overwhelmingly to be found in Zona Rosa and Bogotá/Parque 93. It's a little more spread out and sparse, but you'll find similar places in Chapinero Central, Usaquén, and even Santa Fé and La Candelaria. Chapinero Central and La Candelaria tend to be more bohemian/hipster/artsy/young. Chapinero is also the center of gay nightlife.




If you are going to stay in Bogota, keep in mind the location; Most low-budget visitors choose to stay in La Candelaria, the colonial neighborhood in the center of the city. There are many cheap, nice hostels where you can meet travelers from all around the world. The historic district as well as all the major museums and some nightlife options are within walking distance. The deserted neighborhood streets are unsafe after dark on weeknights, though. Pressure from neighborhood groups to oust the remaining criminals has caused police presence to increase but you must always remain cautious. Check the location very carefully before you choose a place to stay, security is worse in the tiny deserted streets uphill and closer to Egypto neighborhood.

You'll find several hotels in the upscale northern districts like the Zona Rosa, Parque 93, as well as in Ciudad Salitre on the airport highway. Security won't be such an issue but prices are much higher. Nevertheless, you won't have any problem hailing a taxi at 6AM in the morning in the northern districts, because your hotel would be just around the corner from nightclub, or on the way to the airport. On the other hand, you can find low to medium priced hotels and hostels more expensive than La Candelaria's around downtown or near universities, especially in Chapinero Central.

Note than most hostels carry a strict no drugs due to the negative effects that these activities have on Colombian's and their way of life. Cocaine use not only supports the violent conflict that has ravaged this country and this city, but also promotes the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest both through its production and subsequent eradication efforts. Child prostitution is also a current issue for many hostels and hotels who are fighting to prevent this from becoming a way of earning an income for young Colombians.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Officially, it is not legal to work in Colombia without a proper working visa. Visas can be obtained by employers on your behalf.

There is also a significant market for English and other language teachers.




Bogotá has numerous educational institutions. Some of the better known universities include: Universidad Nacional, Universidad de America, Universidad de los Andes, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Universidad Piloto de Colombia, Universidad del Rosario,Universidad Externado, Universidad Santo Tomas, Universidad de la Sabana, Universidad de la Salle and LCI Bogotà. However, there are many privately and publicly funded universities and Schools.

If you want to learn Spanish, universities are a good option since they have all inclusive plans. They not only offer Spanish courses but also Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, Italian, etc. Also, many embassies have institutions that teach languages, such as the Centro Colombo Americano, the British Council, The Italian Institute, Goethe Institut, The French Alliance and the Brazil-Colombia Cultural Institute (IBRACO).

If you are looking for a more personalized education you can look for some of the Spanish schools in Bogota. Some of them are: Relato, Whee Institute (non-profit) and Spanish World Institute Bogotà.



Keep Connected


Internet cafes are easy to find in any city or town. Expect rates to run about $1,250-2,500 (around $US 0.50-1.00) per hour, depending on how much competition there is (i.e., cheap in Bogotá, expensive in the middle of nowhere). Quality of connections varies enormous and tends to better in populated places and tourist areas. Wifi is getting more and more popular in some hotels, restaurants and bars, but don't count on it and be careful regarding your privacy.


See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Colombia is: 57. To make an international call from Colombia, the code is: 005.

Using your own phone and SIM card is expensive so if you are planning to do quite a few calls, buy a phone or just a SIM card. It's simple enough to get a SIM card and even an unlocked phone at the international airport in Bogotá, although there is, of course, a price hike. They're not hard to find in any city either, just ask your hotel or hostel staff where to go. Topping up is also easy, and can be done pretty much on any street corner. The carriers you'll most likely see are Claro, Tigo, and Movistar. Claro is the most expensive (by a little bit), but has the widest coverage in the country, if you expect to get off the beaten path.


4-72 is the unusual name of Colombia's postal service. They have post offices throughout the country, which are open usually from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday mornings as well. That doesn't apply to all offices though, only the larger ones in the big cities. But for example along the Caribbean coast, offices tend to close between noon and 2:00pm. But even at the ones that are officially open all day long, it might be difficult to get anything done during those hours. For domestic services, sending letters and postcards is mostly reliable but takes days, for international services don't hold your breath. Eventually, a postcard or letter might arrive in the country of destination but it's almost not worth it. For parcels, you are better off using companies like FedEx, TNT, DHL or UPS.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 4.647302
  • Longitude: -74.096268

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