When the recent meet-up of the Colombian Bloggers Association gave me 3 days in Bogota, it turned into an adventure that could have happened several different ways. And, I wanted to share 3 ways to do it right. Or wrong, if you prefer. Is there really a right way to do Bogota? Well, there are definitely the wrong ways.
I took the trip with my youngest brother Andrew who is in Colombia for the first time. He is also 18. It is legal to drink at 18 in Colombia. I took him under my professional travel wing to pass on some ideas about travel, test out the bar scene and eat our way across Bogota. Here are a few of our experiences…
The Wrong Ways
While we can reasonably debate that there is no “wrong” way to travel, there are things which can go wrong and really jack everything up. This includes: Forgetting your umbrella (because in a rainy place like this, it’s going to happen AND you’re going to regret it). Staying in the wrong part of town (this includes places that, by day are super awesome, but turn super shady at night). Not bringing a sweatshirt or over-shirt (humid and cold day or night is no fun on bare arms, unless you are a bear). Getting lost and wandering around at night after drinking (Really? Couldn’t you just take a taxi, even those last few blocks?). Ok, so those are just a few reasons that we can all reasonably agree on. If you want to split hairs about it, or even better, share your ideas of how to do Bogota wrong then feel free to comment below about your experiences.
The 3 Ways to Do Bogota Right
#1: Plan ahead by contacting someone familiar with the area.
This can include blogs, ratings websites, social media etc. I received great hostel and restaurant recommendations from The Bogota Foodie who is in the know about GOOD Bogota food via her blog Flavors of Bogota. However, due to the holiday on Monday and serendipity we weren’t able to catch one open and then couldn’t make the others. Even so, we were able to find some great Asian food at Wok, and a very nice cappuccino at Lina’s while we were waiting for Centro Commercial Andino to open.
#2 Allow Human Experience to Supercede Personal Pleasure
Sometimes just sitting and listening to a good story can add a better layer of understanding to a place that you are visiting. This might mean putting up with a noisy tour group in order to learn about Colombian street art on the Bogota Graffiti Tour, or sitting down for a chat with other travelers and local residents. Find an expat in the area who is willing to meet you for a cup of coffee. Be sure to offer to pay for their cup in exchange for all the good information they gave you. I caught up with blogger Chris Bell one of the writers from the popular blog – See Colombia Travel, for an afternoon. He was not only very knowledgable about the city of Bogota but he regaled us with stories of his experiences in Colombia. My brother and I both agreed that hearing his stories was every bit as interesting as the exploring we missed out on. Thanks to our experience with Chris we wandered into the strangest bar I had ever seen in my life AND even got to meet CRISP, a very famous street artist not just in Bogota but internationally.
#3 Stay Flexible but Don’t Stop Moving
Bogota can be a tough place for pretty much anyone due to it’s high altitude, but you can’t let it stop you. Pick up a box of Coca tea at any naturalist shop, breathe deep and don’t lose your momentum. We took a top down approach for the Museo Nacional and hoofed it to the very top first so that we would have no excuse to stop or get lazy and “just skip it.” Also, watch out for alcohol and high altitude. It actually takes less to become inebriated at high altitudes than your normal sea level watering hole. Plenty of travelers have missed out on cool places like Montserrat or the capital buildings because it was too comfy great coffee shops like El Taller.
3 Days in Bogota
Saturday: Arrival. We stayed at Fulano Backpackers in Quinta Camacho. Our arrival was a bit late due to the blogger meet-up but they took it in stride and we were able to check in without any problem. That evening we drank at la tienda and then were introduced to the “weird bar” I mentioned previously.
Sunday: Wandering. After eating a pretty greasy “whatever” breakfast (and then discovering a Carulla grocery story only a block away from our hostel), we decided to do at least one meal a day healthy and self-prepared. Due “right way” #3 and Mother’s Day we couldn’t meet up with one of my contacts to discuss Pereira City Guide so we had to find something to do. The result was Centro Commercial Andino. The place is crazy nice for an expat who lives in a much smaller city. Everything from Timberland and North Face to Coach bags and Nine West could be found. Ritzy place! We ate lunch at a burger place near Carulla (sorry forgot the name), and dinner was Wok.
Monday: Puente, or holiday. Two restaurants which were recommended to us were closed, we had to settle for Cajun food over in Zona G at Bourbon Bistro. I ate the best salmon of my life. It was amazing. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Photography Hostel in La Candelaria and wandering the most famous street of that neighborhood and at dusk caught a taxi back to where we stayed. For dinner we had some great Italian food at O Sole Mio.
Tuesday: Brunch at El Taller Pastelero with a friend and then off to the airport. We definitely could have done more, but we were happy and ready to head out. Bogota gets pretty expensive fast so plan to have about 500,000 Colombian pesos or $200 USD to cover all expenses including lodging for a 3 day trip like this one.
No doubt this blog post seems a bit disorganized and out of order. But doesn’t most travel experiences end up that way? Sometimes the best way to travel open minded is to just let it flow any way it wants to as long as we get out there, see new things, get lost, find ourselves and expand our consciousness. Bogota is a big ass city, it has a bite. Most of the time I avoid it completely or get in and out as fast as possible. However, this trip really opened me up to a side of Bogota that a lot of people have a hard time finding. The art. The music. The culture. Why? We had information this time from local expats who showed us THEIR Bogota. It makes a difference. When in Rome…