Today’s guest post is written by Tyler Tex Horton from Traveling with Tyler who recently moved to Bogota after having lived in Thailand. Enjoy!
Now that I have been in Bogota for over a month, I feel that I get a sense of the city. I would still consider myself a newcomer here so this is my unofficial newcomer’s guide. First, I want to give you some tips on public transport. The Transmilenio is a great way to get around, it is fairly comprehensive around the city and it is also very cheap, just one USD. Sometimes though, it can get crowded and they could stand to improve the entering/exiting process because sometimes as you can see that it can get chaotic.
Overall though, I am a frequent user and big fan of The Transmilenio. I don’t want to paint a totally negative picture of it, I just want to let you know my experiences.
The other main way to get around is by Collectivo. These are small buses that have numbers and signs saying their destinations. You flag them down on the street and pay less than 1 USD for a ride. Generally speaking you enter from the front and exit from the back. The only way to stop the Collectivo is to push the “stop” button located almost always at the back of the bus. If you get a seat, one nearest the back exit is the smartest choice because they can become crowded sometimes. They are less organized than The Transmilenio but they will get you almost anywhere. They do not have proper stops, it is just hop on hop off. Also, they have people coming on and off the buses trying to sell you their wares. You are by no means forced to buy anything though, it is purely optional.
Bogota is laid out in a grid system. It is a little complicated at first, but once you get used to not using street names and just numbers it is pretty easy. The city is surrounded by mountains to the East. You always know you are looking East if you see the mountains and Monserrate the Church on the top of the mountains overlooking Bogota. At night you will see many houses burrowed into the hills and lit up with many lights. If you see that, you are going AL Sur (To the South). The Calle’s of Bogota run parallel to the mountains from South to North. They are abbreviated as CL or CLL.
The Carreas run from East to West and cross the Calle’s perpendicularly, they are abbreviated as Cr,Kr or Crs. Avenidas are abbreviated as Av. They are main or larger streets and sometimes have names but also numbers. For example, Av. Boyaca is also called Carrea 72. Each address in Bogota consists of the Calle,Carrea and house or edificio (building) number. an example would be Carrea 42 # 15-34. This means that the house is on Carrea 42, Calle 15 and the actual house number is 34.
People in Bogota and Colombia in general are friendly and helpful and so far I have had nothing but good experiences here. Learning a new language is always difficult but being immersed in Spanish sure is helping. You don’t need to constantly worry about your safety in Bogota like some in the media would have you believe. You do need to be aware of your surroundings though, because crime can and does happen like in any major city. Of course if you feel like escaping Bogota for a while you can head up to Villavicencio. Both of the above pictures were taken in the Villavicenio region by yours truly.
Well I hope you enjoyed my brief newcomers guide. Your friendly neighborhood Gringo,