Destination guide: Bogota, Colombia

Bogota is the capital of Colombia and is in the middle of a plain, more than 2,500 meters above sea level. For many, this city is the country’s main cultural hub and one of the most important in South America. For this reason, on your next trip to Bogota, don’t forget to visit the Botero Museum (with work by artists such as Picasso, Miro, Monet and Degas) and the marvelous Gold Museum. 

Also remember to try the exquisite local cuisine, which mainly involves a fusion of indigenous and Spanish influences. Purchase your tickets at LAN.com and fly to a place with friendly customs and a fertile landscape.

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  • Bogota - Transportation

    To/From The Airport

    Both El Dorado and Puente Aéreo terminals are accessible from the center by busetas and colectivos marked ‘Aeropuerto.’ In the center you catch them on Calle 19 or Carrera 10. At the airport they park next to the El Dorado terminal. They all pass by Puente Aéreo en route. Urban transport to the airport stops at about 8pm.

    If going by taxi (about COP$15,000), you pay a sobrecargo (surcharge) of COP$3100.

    El Dorado terminal has a special taxi service aimed at protecting passengers from overcharging by taxi drivers. At the exit from the baggage-claim area there’s a taxi booth where you get a computer printout indicating the expected fare to your destination. You then take the taxi, which waits at the door, and show the printout to the driver. The fare is paid upon arrival at your destination.

    To/From The Bus Terminal

    There are both buses and colectivos running between the bus terminal and the city center, but the service stops around 9pm. During rush hour the bus trip between the terminal and the city center may take up to an hour.

    Take a northbound colectivo marked ‘Terminal’ from Carrera 10 anywhere between Calles 17 and 26. You can also take a bus or colectivo from Calle 13 west of Av Caracas.

    The best and fastest way is a taxi (COP$8000 to COP$12,000). The same applies if you are going from the terminal to the city center; you can take a bus or colectivo, but it’s best to go by taxi.

    The bus terminal has an organized taxi service like the one at the airport.

    Bicycle

    Bogotá has one of the world’s most extensive bike-route networks, with over 300km of separated, clearly marked bike paths called CicloRuta. Free Bogotá maps from tourist information centers show the CicloRuta paths.

    In addition, on Sunday and holidays, about 120km of city roads are closed to traffic from 7am to 2pm for a citywide Ciclovia, a well-run event to get Bogotá out on two wheels. Fruit juice vendors and bike repair stands line the cross-town event. The catch is that no one – and we tried hard to find someone – rents bikes currently. Consider going on a bike tour or buying a cheapie. Ciclovia runs along Carrera 7 all the way from La Candelaria to Usaquén – it’s worth witnessing even if on foot.

    Bus & Buseta

    Apart from TransMilenio, Bogotá’s public transport is operated by buses and buseta (small buses). They all run the length and breadth of the city, usually at full speed if traffic allows.

    Except on a few streets, there are no bus stops – just wave down the bus or buseta. Board via the front door and pay the driver or the assistant; you won’t get a ticket. In buses you get off through the back door, where there’s a bell to ring to let the driver know to stop. In busetas there’s usually only a front door through which all passengers get on and off. When you want to get off tell the driver ‘por acá, por favor’ (here, please).

    Each bus and buseta displays a board on the windscreen indicating the route and number. For locals they are easily recognizable from a distance, but for newcomers it can be difficult to decipher the route description quickly enough to wave down the right bus.

    Flat fares, regardless of distance traveled, are posted, and range from COP$1000 to COP$1200. It’s sometimes slightly higher at night (after 8pm) and on Sunday and holidays.
    There are also minibuses called colectivos, which operate on major routes. They are faster and cost about COP$1200.

    Taxi

    Bogotá’s impressive fleet of Korean-made yellow cabs are a safe, reliable and relatively inexpensive way of getting around. They all have meters and drivers almost always use them. When you enter a cab, the meter should read ‘25’ – which relates to a coded pricing scheme (a laminated card should be hanging on the front passenger seat to see). Taxi trips on Sundays and holidays, or after dark, include a COP$1500 surcharge; trips to the airport have a COP$3100 surcharge.

    A 10km ride (eg from Plaza de Bolívar to Calle 100 in northern Bogotá) shouldn’t cost more than COP$15,000. If you are going to make a couple of trips to distant places, it may be cheaper to hire a taxi by the hour for about COP$14,000 per hour.

    You can either wave down a taxi on the street or request one by phone from numerous companies that provide radio service; try Taxis Libres ([tel] 311 1111), Taxi Express ([tel] 411 1111), Radio Taxi ([tel] 288 8888) or Taxi Real ([tel] 333 3333).

    Naturally don’t ride with a taxi that refuses to use a meter. Most drivers are honest, but it’s worth confirming the final fare with the price card. Some drivers, particularly in late hours, will round fares up a bit. Drivers don’t often get tips.

    TransMilenio

    The ambitiously named TransMilenio has revolutionized Bogotá’s public transport. After numerous plans and studies drawn up over 30 years to build a metro, the project was eventually buried and a decision to introduce a fast urban bus service called TransMilenio was taken instead.

    It is, in essence, a bus system masquerading as a subway. Covering 84km with a fleet of 1100 buses, TransMilenio has 114 of its own self-contained stations (keeping things orderly and safe). Buses run have their own lanes, which keeps them free from auto traffic. The service is cheap (COP$1500), frequent and operates from 5am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, 6am to 10pm Sunday. Tickets are bought at the entrance of any TransMilenio station. TransMilenio serves up to one million people daily, so buses get very crowded at rush hour; transfers at Av Jiménez resemble punk-rock mosh pits.

    On posted maps in stations, routes are color coded, with different numbered buses corresponding to various stops. The main TransMilenio line runs along Av Caracas from the north to south of town. There are also lines on Carrera 30, Av 81, Av de Las Americas and a short spur on Av Jiménez to Carrera 3. There are plans to build more lines, including one to the airport. There are three terminuses, but the only one of real use to travelers is the northern terminus (Portal del Norte; Calle 170).

    It takes practice to understand which bus to take. ‘Ruta Facil’ routes, for example, stop at every station on a line, while others zip along some sort of express route – leapfrogging, in confusing patterns, several stations at a time.

    You can also preplan your routes online at; click on your departure and destination station for options. Most key north–central routes change in Calle 22, while Av Jiménez has many more transfers (sometimes meaning an underground walk between neighboring stations).

    Key routes:
    La Candelaria to Zona G From ‘Las Aguas’ or ‘Museo del Oro’ stations, take D70 to Calle 22, switch to B13 to ‘Flores.’
    La Candelaria to Zona Rosa From ‘Las Aguas’ or ‘Museo del Oro, ’ take D70 to Calle 22, switch to B13 to Calle 85.
    La Candelaria to PortaldelNorte (for Zipaquirá buses) Take B74 direct to ‘Portal del Norte’ (last stop).
    PortaldelNorte to La Candelaria Take J72 from ‘Portal del Norte’ direct to ‘Museo del Oro’ or ‘Las Aguas.’
    Zona G to La Candelaria From ‘Flores’ take H13 to ‘Calle 22, ’ switch to J24 to ‘Museo del Oro’ or ‘Las Aguas.’
    Zona G to Zona Rosa From ‘Flores’ take B1 or B13 to ‘Calle 85.’
    Zona Rosa to La Candelaria From ‘Calle 85’ take H13 to Calle 22, switch to J24 to ‘Museo del Oro’ or ‘Las Aguas.’
    The free maps available from tourist information centers show all TransMilenio stations.