Navigating Bogotá: How to Find Lodging and Travel

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You’re thousands of miles away amidst a dizzying array of new sights and sounds. It can be exciting, but it can also be numbing or even terrifying. When traveling abroad to another country, any of us can experience culture shock. But when you’re a native Colombian in Bogotá, simply traveling to a bordering district can give you the feeling.

While it doesn’t quite get the publicity of other metropolises, Bogotá is one of the largest cities in the Western hemisphere − comparable to San Francisco in terms of size and population density. It is full of diversity and culture from the eccentricity of La Macarena, the LGBT haven of Chapinero Alto, to the booming nightlife mecca of Parque de la 93. However, Bogotá can also pose risks to those who don’t know how to navigate this dazzling landscape.

The country has made enormous strides towards safety. Since the 90’s, it has become an increasingly desirable travel destination for those who want to experience Latin America at its fullest. All the same, here are a few things that every tourist should know before stepping off of the plane to meet Bogotá.

Photo credit: Alma Apatrida

Find a Safe, Affordable Hotel

In historic or upper-class districts, the costs of lodging can set a traveler back by far more pesos more than they bargained for. On the other hand, settling with a hotel in a shadier country-side district can pose a far greater risk to one’s person and valuables. Luxurious, affordable hotels in Bogotá can be hard to come by, but there are options for those who want to enjoy the safety and comfort of a room in one of the more tourism-friendly areas.

To discern the best options available to you depending on your district of choice, there are several ways to find something safe and within your price range:

  • When it comes to in-city lodging, proximity to the airport can make a huge difference to your cost. Bogotá’s unconventional street layout can be confusing to novice travelers, which accessible hotels recognize as a means of increasing their prices. Look up nearby, more affordable lodging options instead of settling for what appears first in your travels.
  • Beware that prejudices are not always necessarily true. While Bogotá’s countryside has been known to be problematic for tourists, there are safe options available in countryside regions. Carefully researching potential hotels and booking in advance is recommended.
  • Given that Bogotá is a rapidly developing metropolis with a skyrocketing real estate market, shady establishments have grown to recognize how to take advantage of their business clientele. Always verify payment ahead of time when possible, and make time to dispute charges if necessary before your flight time draws near.

Have Travel Accommodations Ready Ahead of Time

Bogotá is a favorite destination for bicyclists, since it has more routes available than anywhere else in all of Latin America. However, if your visit is more than just a biking trip, it’s important to know how to find safe traveling options beforehand. This is especially true when dealing with taxis.

Unfortunately, taxis frequently target tourists to take advantage of in urban Latin America. Sometimes, drivers will demand exorbitant fares and threaten tourists who refuse to pay. The worst that happens is what is known as the “paseo millonario” – or a kidnapping fueled by extortion. Taxi drivers who engage in this scam pick up tourists followed by accomplices under the guise as other passengers. This is unfortunately common in some districts.

And sometimes, you might just get a lousy, reckless driver. To avoid an unpleasant taxi experience such as these, remember these tips:

  • Upon arriving, seek out official taxi drivers just outside of the airport terminal. Official taxis provide a place where you give your name, which lets authorities know which cab you took.
  • Whenever traveling, always call a taxi ahead of time at a safe place, such as a public restaurant or your hotel. Never “flag down” a taxi, since this can invite scam artists to target you.
  • When greeting a taxi that you’ve called, always confirm your phone number with them to verify that you’re traveling with the right driver.

This being said, you should keep in mind that Bogotá is more or less as safe as other metropolises. Countless tourists have visited Bogotá to be greeted by warm, helpful locals to guide the way. Still, one should always be on guard against those who would take advantage of travelers while traveling abroad.

Felipe Santos is a traveler whose journeys go across all of Latin America. He’s currently writing to promote business hotels in Bogotá and Colombian tourism.

1 Comment

  1. manisha

    February 13, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Great post and really useful one to read. thanks for sharing.

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