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Bogotá , officially Bogotá, Distrito Capital, abbreviated Bogotá, D.C(during the time of Spanish rule, and also from 1991 to 2000, called Santafé de Bogotá) is the capital and largest city of Colombia administered as the Capital District, although often thought of as part of Cundinamarca. Bogotá is a territorial entity of the first order, with the same administrative status as the departments of Colombia. It is the political, economic, administrative, industrial, artistic, cultural, and sports center of the country.
The city is located in the center of Colombia, on a high plateau known as the Bogotá savanna, part of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes. It is the third-highest capital in South America (after La Paz and Quito), at an average of 2,640 metres (8,660 ft) above sea level. Subdivided into 20 localities, Bogotá has an area of 1,587 square kilometres (613 square miles) and a relatively fresh climate that is constant over the year.
Bogotá was founded as the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada on August 6, 1538 by Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada after a harsh expedition into the Andes conquering the Muisca. The Muisca people were the indigenous inhabitants of the region and called the settlement where Bogotá was foundedBacatá. After the Battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1819, Bogotá became the capital of the independent nation of Colombia, then called Gran Colombia.
The city is home to senior agencies of the executive branch (Office of the President), the legislative branch (Congress of Colombia) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court of Justice,Constitutional Court, Council of State and the Superior Council of Judicature). Bogotá stands out for its economic strength and associated financial maturity, its attractiveness to global companies and the quality of human capital; it is the largest business platform of Colombia where most high-impact ventures occur. The capital hosts the main market of Colombia and the Andean natural region, and the leading destination for new projects of foreign direct investment coming into Latin America and Colombia . It has the highest nominal GDP in the country, contributing most to the national total (24.7%), and it is the seventh-largest city by size of GDP in Latin America (about USD 159,850 million);
The airport of the city,El Dorado International Airport, named after the mythical El Dorado, has the largest volume of cargo transported in Latin America, and is second in number of people. It is the city of Colombia with the largest number of universities and research centers, and has an important cultural offer, which is represented in many museums, of which the Museo del Oro is the most important, theaters and libraries. Bogotá ranks 52th on the Global Cities Index 2014, and is considered a global city type "Beta" by GaWC.
|POPULATION :||• Capital city 7,878,783 |
• Metro 9,800,000
|FOUNDED :||6 August 1538|
|TIME ZONE :||COT (UTC−5b)|
|AREA :||• Capital city 1,587 km2 (613 sq mi)|
• Urban 307.36 km2 (118.67 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||2,640 m (8,660 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||4°35′53″N 74°4′33″W|
|SEX RATIO :|
|AREA CODE :||1|
|POSTAL CODE :||11XXXX|
|DIALING CODE :||+57 1|
|WEBSITE :||City Official Site|
Bogotá's sheer size and (outdated) violent reputation are intimidating for visitors, but the city opens up to the savvy traveler with incredible riches befitting the capital of Colombia, and one of the biggest cities in Latin America. Historic riches—its well preserved historic quarter has a good claim to be the original capital of Spanish colonial South America, as the capital of the vast New Kingdom of Granada, placed strategically close to mythical El Dorado. Artistic riches—the small historic quarter alone is home to dozens of experimental theaters, and diverse art galleries dot the most popular neighborhoods pressed against the dramatic Eastern Andes peaks. Culinary riches—its several dining districts play host to world-class restaurants representing all the world's cuisines, traditional and modern, frequented by the local jet set crowd. Rich with nightlife, the party lasts well into the night at sweaty salsa clubs, English pubs, caffeinated indie rock shows, cocktail lounges, steakhouses-cum-dance parties, and amidst drawn-out conversations in coffee shops and corner cafes in this decidedly intellectual university town known as the Athens of South America. You could see the sights in a few days, or linger for a month to live the cosmopolitan life.
With a population of about 8.8 million people, Bogotá sits approximately 8,660 feet (2640 m) above sea level in the Colombian Andes region. Orientation is relatively easy, as the mountains to the east are generally visible from most parts of the city.
To understand the sheer size of the city, consider that Mexico City and New York City are the only North American cities larger than Bogotá. In fact, in 2008 the World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) from the United Kingdom ranked Bogotá as a world city comparable to San Francisco, Washington DC, Dubai,Buenos Aires or Berlin, grouped by their economical, political and cultural developments. What this means for the traveler is a world class urban destination.
Bogotá is a city of contrasts, and as such it offers a unique experience to its visitors. Prepare to find a hectic balance between the new and the old; the peaceful and the frantic. Encounter century-old plazas and churches shadowed by towering skyscrapers. Find peaceful tree lined bicycle routes cut through by wild-traffic avenues. Bogotá is a city with many layers. From internationally recognized universities to regional offices for multinational companies, Bogotá is Colombia's capital for official business dealings. It is a city that caters to a population that has been exposed to European and North American influences, which ensures that anything from traditional dishes (Ajiaco) to sushi or fast food restaurants can be found. It's one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities of Latin America.
Bogotá is divided by 4 sections:The South which is mainly the poorer section of the city; El Centro, which translates "Center", is the city's original Downtown and hosts most of its traditional heritage locations, city and public offices, and financial headquarters. El Occidente, which is home to Bogotá's major sporting venues and outdoor parks, as well as residence areas for main middle and some upper class living; and The North which is where most modern development has taken place, and combines many upscale living spaces with affluent shopping centers, boutiques, cafes, nightclubs, and many new business neighborhoods offering headquarters to many multinational corporations.
During the last decades, due to the city's exponential growth, some of neighboring towns have been absorbed and are now considered within the metropolitan area of Greater Bogotá, like Chia, Soacha and Mosquera.
The area of modern Bogotá was first populated by groups of indigenous people who migrated south based on the relation with the other Chibcha languages; the Bogotá savanna was the southernmost Chibcha-speaking group that exists from Nicaragua to the Andes in Colombia. The civilisation built by the Muisca, who settled in the valleys and fertile highlands of and surrounding the Altiplano Cundiboyacense (modern-day departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá and small parts of Santander), was one of the four great civilisations in the Americas. The name Muisca Confederation has been given to a loose egalitarian society of various chiefs (caciques) who lived in small settlements of maximum 100 bohíos. The agriculture and salt-based society of the people was rich in goldworking,trade and mummification. The religion of the Muisca consisted of various gods, mostly related to natural phenomena as the Sun (Sué) and his wife, the Moon;Chía, rain Chibchacum, rainbow Cuchavira and with building and feasting (Nencatacoa) and wisdom (Bochica). Their complex luni-solar calendar, deciphered by Manuel Izquierdo based on work by Duquesne, followed three different sets of years, where the sidereal and synodic months were represented. Their astronomical knowledge is represented in one of the few extant landmarks of the architecture of the Muisca in El Infiernito outside Villa de Leyva to the north of Bogotá.
The first populations inhabiting the present-day Metropolitan Area of Bogotá, were hunter-gatherer people in the late Pleistocene. The oldest dated evidence thus far has been discovered in El Abra (12,500 BP), north of Zipaquirá. Slightly later dated excavations in a rock shelter southwest of the city in Soacha provided ages of ~11,000 BP;Tequendama. Since around 0 AD, the Muisca domesticated guinea pigs, part of their meat diet. The people inhabiting the Bogotá savanna in the late 15th century were the Muisca, speaking Muysccubun, a member of the Chibcha language family. Muisca means "people" or "person", making Muisca people, how they are called, a tautology. At the arrival of the conquerors, the population was estimated to be half a million indigenous people on the Bogotá savanna of up to two million in the Muisca Confederation. They occupied the highland and mild climate flanks between the Sumapaz Mountains to the southwest and Cocuy's snowy peak to the northeast, covering an approximate area of 25,000 km2 (9,653 sq mi), comprising Bogotá's high plain, the current Boyacá department portion and a small Santander region.
Trade was the most important activity of the Muisca with other Chibcha-speaking neighbours, such as the Guane,Lache and U'wa and with Cariban groups as the Muzo or "Emerald People". Their knowledge of salt production from brines, a task exclusively for the Muisca women, gave them the name "Salt People". Tropical fruits that didn't grow on the cool highlands, coca, cotton and gold were traded at markets that took place every Muisca week; every four days. At these frequent markets, the Muisca obtained various luxury goods that seem worthless in modern sense and precious metals and gemstones that seem valuable to us became abundant and used for various purposes. The Muisca warrior elite was allowed to wear feathered crowns, from parrots and macacs whose habitat was to the east of the Andes; the Arawkan-speaking Guayupe, Tegua and Achagua.
The Muisca cuisine consisted of a stable and varied diet of tubers,potatoes and fruits. Maize was the main ingredient of the Muisca, cultivated on elevated and irrigated terraces. In Muysccubun exist many words for maize, corn and the various types and forms of it. The product was also the base for chicha; the alcoholic beverage of the people, still sold in central Bogotá today. It was the drink for construction of houses, celebrations of harvests and sowing, ritual practices around the various sacred sites of the Altiplano, music and dances, trade at special ferias with farther away trading indigenous groups of Colombia and to inaugurate the new highest regarded member of the community; zipas, zaques, caciques and the religious ruler iraca from Sacred City of the Sun Sugamuxi.
The zipa at the moment of Spanish conquest was Tisquesusa. His main bohíowas in Bacatá with others in Funza and Cajicá, giving name to the present day capital of Colombia. A prophecy in his life came true; he would be dying, bathing in his own blood. Defending Funza with a reduced army of guecha warriorsagainst the heavily exhausted but heavily armed strangers, his reign fell in the hands of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and his younger brother Hernán Pérez on April 20, 1537. Upon his death, his brother Sagipa became the last zipa, against the inheritance tradition of the Muisca. Sagipa used to be a main captain for Tisquesusa but quickly submitted to the Spanish rulers. The first encomenderos asked high prices in valuable products and agricultural production from the indigenous people. On top of that various epidemics of European viruses razed through the population, of which in current Boyacá 65-85 % of the Muisca were killed within 100 years.
Bogotá was founded by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada traditionally on the 6th of August 1538. Other documents state a second establishment was done on April 27, 1539. Gonzalo Jiménez and main conquerors De Belalcázar and Federmann, left for Spain in April 1539, founding Guataquí together on April 6, 1539. The rule over the fresh New Kingdom of Granada was left to Hernán. Bogotá became the capital of the later Viceroyalty of New Granada. With independence, Bogotá became capital of Gran Colombia and later the capital of the Republic of Colombia.
On the other side to Plaza de Bolívar, the Chapter and the Royal Audience were located. The street joining the Major Plaza and Herbs Plaza —currently Santander Park— was named Calle Real (Royal Street), now Carrera Séptima (or "Seventh Street"; counted from the mountains to the east of the city).
Formed by Europeans, mestizos, indigenous people, and slaves, from the second half of the 16th century, the population began to grow rapidly. The 1789 census recorded 18,161 inhabitants, and by 1819 the city population reached 30,000 inhabitants distributed in 195 blocks. Importance grew when the Diocese was established.
The city mayor and the chapter formed by two councilmen, assisted by the constable and the police chief, governed the city. For better administration of these domains, in April 1550, the Audience of Santafé de Bogotá was organized. At that time, the city became the capital and the home of New Kingdom of Granada government. Fourteen years later in 1564, the Spanish Crown designated the first Royal Audience chairman, Andrés Díaz Venero de Leyva.
Political uneasiness felt all over Spanish colonies in America was expressed in New Granada in many different ways, accelerating the movement to independence. One of the most transcendent was the Revolution of Comuneros, a riot of the inhabitants started in Villa del Socorro —current Department of Santander—in March 1781. Spanish authorities suppressed the riot, and José Antonio Galán, the leader was executed. He left an imprint, though. He was followed in 1794 by Antonio Nariño, precursor of independence by translating and publishing in Santa Fe, the Rights of Men and the Citizen, and by 20 July movement leaders in 1810.
Between 1819 and 1849, there were no fundamental structural changes from the colonial period. By the mid-19th century, a series of fundamental reforms were enacted, some of the most important being slavery abolition and religious, teaching, print and speech industry and trade freedom, among others. During the decade of the 70s, radicalism accelerated reforms and state and social institutions were substantially modified. However, during the second half of the century, the country faced permanent pronouncements, declarations of rebellions between states, and factions which resulted in civil wars: the last and bloodiest was the Thousand Days' War from 1899 to 1902.
In 1823, a few years after the formation of Gran Colombia, the Public Library, now the National Library, was enlarged and modernized with new volumes and better facilities. The National Museum was founded. Those institutions were of great importance to the new republic's cultural development. The Central University was the first State school, precursor of the current National University, founded in 1867 and domiciled in Bogotá.
Early in the 20th century, Colombia had to face devastating consequences from the One Thousand Days War, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, and the loss of Panama. Between 1904 and 1909, the lawfulness of the liberal party was re-established and President Rafael Reyes endeavored to implement a national government. Peace and state reorganization generated the increase of economic activities. Bogotá started deep architectural and urban transformation with significant industrial and artisan production increases. In 1910, the Industrial Exposition of the Century took place at Park of Independence. Stands built evidenced industrial, artisan work, beaux arts, electricity and machinery progress achieved. The period from 1910 to 1930 is designated conservative hegemony. Between 1924 and 1928, hard union struggles began, with oil fields and banana zone workers' strikes, leaving numerous people dead.
Bogotá had practically no industry. Production was basically artisan work grouped in specific places, similar to commercial sectors. Plaza de Bolívar and surroundings lodged hat stores, at Calle del Comercio –current Carrera Seventh– and Calle Florián –now Carrera Eight– luxurious stores selling imported products opened their doors; at Pasaje Hernández, tailor's shops provided their services, and between 1870 and 1883, four main banks opened their doors: Bogotá, Colombia, Popular and Mortgage Credit banks.
Following the banana zone killings and conservative party division, Enrique Olaya Herrera took office in 1930. The liberal party reformed during 16 years of the so-called Liberal Republic, agricultural, social, political, labor, educational, economic and administrative sectors. Unionism strengthened and education coverage expanded.
The celebration produced a large number of infrastructure works, new construction and work sources. Following the 1946 liberal party division, a conservative candidate took presidential office again in 1948, after the killing of liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Bogotá's downtown was virtually destroyed as violence reigned. From then, Bogotá's urban, architectural and population sectors were substantially reorganized.
Bogotá has a subtropical highland climate(Köppen Cwb). The average temperature is 14.5 °C (58 °F), and it varies from 6 to 19 °C (43 to 66 °F) in fair skies days, to 10 to 18 °C (50 to 64 °F) in heavy rain days. Dry and rainy seasons alternate throughout the year. The driest months are December, January, July and August. The warmest month is March, bringing a maximum of 19.7 °C (67.5 °F). The coolest nights occur in January, with an average of 7.6 °C (45.7 °F) in the city; fog is very usual in early morning, 220 days per year, whilst clear sky sunny full days are quite unusual.
The official highest temperature recorded within the city limits is 30.0 °C (86 °F), and the lowest temperature recorded is −7.1 °C (19 °F).
The rainiest months are April, May, September, October and November, in which typical days are mostly overcast, with low clouds and some winds, bringing maximum temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F) and lows of 7 °C (45 °F).
|Record high °C (°F)||26.4|
|Average high °C (°F)||20.2|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||14.3|
|Average low °C (°F)||7.6|
|Record low °C (°F)||−1.5|
|Source: Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (IDEAM)|
Bogotá is located in the southeasterm part of the Bogotá savanna (Sabana de Bogotá) at an average altitude of 2,640 metres (8,660 ft) above sea level. The Bogotá savanna is popularly called "savannah" (sabana), but constitutes actually a high plateau in the Andes mountains, part of an extended region known as theAltiplano Cundiboyacense, which literally means "high plateau of Cundinamarca and Boyacá".
In the extreme south of Bogota's District, the world's largest continuous paramoecosystem can be found; Sumapaz paramo in the locality Sumapaz.
The Bogotá River running NE-SW crosses the sabana, forming Tequendama Falls(Salto del Tequendama) to the south. Tributary rivers form valleys with flourishing villages, whose economy is based on agriculture, livestock raising and artisanal production.
The sabana is bordered to the east by the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes mountain range. The Eastern Hills, which limit city growth, run from south to north, and form east of the centre the Guadalupe and Monserrate mountains. The western city limit is the Bogotá River. The Sumapaz Paramo (moorland) borders the south and to the north Bogotá extends over the plateau up to the towns of Chía and Sopó.
Bogotá is the main economic and industrial centre of Colombia. The Colombian government fosters the import of capital goods, Bogotá being one of the main destinations of these imports.
In 2008 the World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) from the United Kingdom ranked Bogotá as a beta-level city, a medium ranking. Beta-level cities are important world cities that are instrumental in linking their region or state into the world economy.
Bogotá is responsible for 56% of the tourism that arrives to Colombia and is home 1,423 multinational companies. Bogotá also ranked highly as a global city where business is done and meetings are held. Bogotá is a growing international meetings destination.
The hotels in the historical center of La Candelaria and its surrounding areas cater to lovers of culture and the arts. This area also has the bulk of hostels in the city as well. In La Candelaria, there are many museums, including the Botero Museum and the Gold Museum. Close to La Candelaria is the Cerro Monserrate, which you can reach by cable car or funicular. The hotels located near Ciudad Salitre are intended for visitors who make short stops in Bogotá and near El Dorado International Airport.
Important landmarks and tourist stops in Bogotá include the botanical garden José Celestino Mutis, La Quinta de Bolivar, the national observatory, the planetarium, Maloka, the Colpatria observation point, the observation point of La Calera, the monument of the American flags, and La Candelaria (the historical district of the city). There is also Usaquen, a colonial landmark where brunch and flea market on Sundays is a traditional activity. The city has numerous green parks and amusement parks like Salitre Magico or Mundo Aventura.
Green areas surrounding Bogota are perfect locations for eco-tourism and hiking activities, in the eastern mountains of the city, just a few minutes walking from main roads, there are Quebrada La vieja and Chapinero Waterfalls, two of many green spots for sightseeing and tourism with clean air.
There are also several areas of the city where fine restaurants can be found. The G Zone, the T Zone and La Macarena are well known for their gastronomic offerings.
Since the 2000s, major hotel chains have established in the city.
Bogotá's economy has been significantly boosted due to new shopping malls built within the last few years. As of December 2011, over 160 new malls are planned in addition to the existing 100 malls.
Notable malls include:
- Centro Andino
- Centro Mayor
- Gran Estación
- Portal de la 80
- Titán Plaza
- Atlantis Plaza
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.
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 travelersmust 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.
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.
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!
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.
Prices in Bogota
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$0.90|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$10.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$0.90|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$10.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$15.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$35.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$5.10|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$2.10|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.10|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$5.80|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.80|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$58.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$46.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$85.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.70|
35 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
114 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
The city is served by El Dorado International Airport (IATA: BOG) (~20 minutes from downtown in a taxi), that receives several flights daily from New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Paris,São Paulo, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Mexico City, San José, Lima, Buenos Aires, Panamá City, Quito, Guayaquil, Oranjestad (Aruba), Willemstad (Curaçao) and Toronto among others. Tourists can also take advantage of the convenient connections and direct flights from Los Angeles, Washington, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Punta Cana, Valencia (Venezuela), La Habana, Montego Bay, London, Frankfurt and Orlando. Many international airlines such as JetBlue, United, Delta, Iberia, Air France, Lufthansa, Air Canada, American Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Gol, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Spirit, and AeroGal amongst others.
Domestic flights are served by many airlines including Avianca (main Colombian airline), Copa Airlines, LAN, EasyFly, Satena, and VivaColombia (the low-cost, Ryanair-like airline). Domestic flights of Avianca are served from the Puente Aéreo terminal, next to El Dorado terminal, and features WiFi access to the Internet from almost every location. There are more than 20 daily flights to the 2 airports located in Medellín, over 15 daily flights to Cali and more than 10 to Cartagena. Taxis are regulated, reasonably priced and safe from the airport. El Dorado Airport is undergoing a complete makeover, which will end in 2012 and will make it bigger and more comfortable. El Dorado is also the third busiest airport in Latin America and the largest by cargo movement.
To get out from the airport into the city there are a couple of options:
- Regulated taxis. You first have to search for a stand where you will have to point out your destination and then they will print out a ticket indicating the price you will have pay. Then, pick up a taxi from the line and explain to the driver your destination. At the end of the journey you will have to pay ONLY what is printed out in the ticket. The typical price will range from 15.000 up to 25.000 COP.
- Bus. Walking only some meters outside the main door entrance, you will find a "paradero" (bus stop) with frequent busetas passing by. Although this is by far the cheapest option (around 1.500 COP), it can be daring if you don't know the city already, since the bus only indicates the main places where it passes by. However, bus drivers are friendly and quite helpful, and you can ask them to indicate you when the bus is passing a certain point of the city. A good option is to ask him to drop you close by a Transmilenio station and then continue your trip from there.
- Transmilenio. In 2012, Bogotá's bus rapid transit (BRT) system expanded to El Dorado avenue, so it is now possible to use the system to get into and out of the airport. You can only use the system if you have small luggage - you might not be allowed into the stations if you are carrying big suitcases. To get out, find the "Alimentador" (feeder) stops in front of the main terminal or the Puente Aéreo (if you travel with Avianca) - it is a green bus with "Transmilenio" on the side. This bus will bring you for free to the main "Portal El Dorado" station. Buy the Tullave card before entering the station, and take the bus you need. People with Transmilenio or blue SITP jackets are ready to help (although most of them do not speak English - bring your Spanish phrasebook).
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.
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. To get there from the airport, you can take a short taxi ride.
Take into consideration that most of the restaurants serving within the terminal can be expensive by Colombian standards, but well served. In case of need, it may be advisable to order a dish for 2 people or just to check places around the station.
The Terminal is divided in several color-coded areas that indicate the destinations to which companies in that area travel to : Yellow = South, Blue = East and West, Red = North and International, Purple = Arrivals.
Search Engine by Destination [www] Destino=Destination Empresa=Bus Company. Simply enter destination and a list of companies serving that route will return along with average prices.
Some common bus companies in Colombia that are found in this Terminal are :
Transportation - Get Around
The city of Bogotá is built on a grid system. A rather imperfect one, actually. Chaotic urban sprawl in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly driven by violence in the countryside and the immigration that ensued, made the city develop without any effective long term urban planning (or, in some cases, just plain bad urban planning). This has resulted in a lot of irregular blocks, twisting streets, and diagonals cutting across what is supposed to be a perfect grid. Therefore, the apparently straightforward street address system has historically been more of a guideline as to where things are than a precise way to get to places. A recent update of the street addresses in much of the city was directed towards solving some glaring inconsistencies in getting around. Most places that tourists visit are easy to find nowadays, but you have been warned.
Carreras (streets) are abbreviated as Cr., Kra., and Cra. and run parallel to the mountains from South to North. Carrera numbers increase from East to West, away from the mountains - so Carrera 7 is near the mountains and Carrera 100 is far from them - except for a very few carreras near the mountains that increase in reverse order and that have names like "Carrera 1 E" ('E' standing for East).
Calles (also streets) cross the carreras and run from East to West. Calles are abbreviated as Cll. and Cl. For half of the city (the northern half tourists are most likely to visit) calle numbers increase from South to North - so Calle 13 is near the center of the city, whereas Calle 200 is one the last streets before exiting Bogota on the northern side. Calles in the southern half work similarly to 'East' carreras near the mountains: the southern calle numbers increase from North to South, mirroring streets in the northern half. These are called things like "Calle 85 S" ('S' standing for South).
Aside from calles and carreras, there are 'diagonales' and 'transversales'. As their names suggest, they are not perfectly parallel to calles and carreras. However, the same numbering system applies to them. Diagonales are supposed to be deviations from calles, whereas transversales are supposed to be deviations from carreras. So, for example, Diagonal 107 runs sort of East-West and is somewhere around Calle 106 or 108.
Avenidas, abbreviated as Av. or Avda., are usually larger, main streets. Geographically speaking, most avenidas somehow fit into one the four categories mentioned above, although some avenidas twist around. They usually have a classification and number as described above, but they also have a distinct name, like "Avenida Suba", "Avenida Boyacá" and whatnot. So, for example, Avenida Jiménez is a main street and, in the number system, is also called Calle 13.
Each address consists of a street and a series of numbers. For example, Cl. 45 24-15 (sometimes written as Cl. 45 # 24-15 or Cl. 45 No. 24-15), means (1) the location is on Calle 45, (2) of the two insecting carreras nearby, the one with the lower number is Carrera 24 (since in this case we are talking about carreras, it means the nearest carrera to the East of the location; if we were talking about calles, it would be the nearest calle to the South of the location), and (3) the location is roughly 15 meters from the intersection of Calle 45 and Carrera 24. Furthermore, since the last number, 15, is odd, the location is on the North side of Calle 24 (if the location were on a carrera, it would be on the East side of it). Even numbers at the end have the opposite meaning.
While ubiquitous and affordable, taxis are arguably the most visible representative to the world of Bogotá's worst side. Travelers used to being cheated by taxi drivers probably aren't yet acquainted with the paseo millionario, or "Millionaire Ride," where a taxi driver swings by to pick up well-armed accomplices who then rob you, possibly drug you, and almost certainly take you to multiple ATMs to forcibly withdraw a large sums of money. This rather extreme practice is actually pretty common. Taxis should not be hailed off the street—only called through dispatch. Nice restaurants and any place of lodging will be happy to do this for you, and will express genuine concern if they think you are going to try to hail one. Otherwise, call one yourself at 599-9999, 311-1111 or 411-1111. Sometimes it can take a while to get one, though, so it's good to have a back up. If public transit isn't your thing, consider keeping a private car service on hand. They are pretty good deal for the money, when all is considered, and your hotel or business should be able to recommend one.
The cab hailing app Uber is a safe and affordable option in Bogota, though will require you to have Internet access from your phone. Uber rides can take a while to reach you, particularly if you are in the La Candelaria area.
If calling for a taxi, the driver will want to confirm that it is you who called by asking for a "clave" (key), which is always the last two digits of the phone from which you called to request the taxi. Each taxi has a meter which should increment one tick every 1/10 kilometer or 30 seconds and starts at 25 ticks. The rate chart is printed on a card in the taxi. Nearly all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of you in one way or another; be sure the taxi meter is started when you begin your trip. Tipping is never necessary—be sure to count your change and be on the lookout for both counterfeit coins and notes. There are surcharges for the airport, holidays, and nights (after 8PM). Surcharge details are printed on the fare card. Surcharge for ordering a taxi arriving at your house is currently 600 pesos, surcharge after 8PM is 1.600 pesos, even if you are starting your trip before that time. Holidays and Sundays are also surcharged 1.600 pesos. Lock the doors of the taxi, especially after dark. If you experience a problem in a taxi or with the driver, dial 123 to report a complaint with the police. You should also call the company with which the taxi is registered. In other hand If you are interested in a more private and professional option, you can hire a Shuttle Service. This kind of services often have wide range of vehicles and can be paid by credit card so you won't have to worry about carrying cash all the time.
Bogota's rapid bus service, the Transmilenio is extremely affordable, clean and efficient. It carries commuters to numerous corners of the city in exclusive lanes, bypassing the notorious city traffic. Tickets cost 2.000 - 1.700 COP (you need to buy the card beforehand - 3.000 COP). The downside, though, is a result of is own success—it's terribly crowded during rush hour, and even sometimes during the rest of the day.
The vehicles used in that systems are articulated buses; they are fast and safe, but could be full during the afternoon times. The system also uses different kinds of stations: the simples offers bus services at the right and left sides (north-south;east-west) and the intermediates are usually located in middle points and have complete services, such as elevators, station libraries, bikes parks, restrooms. Alimentadores services (buses that reach zones the articulated buses do not) and the portals, the nine arrival and departure places of the buses, are located near the entrances to the city. Service ends 10PM–11PM, depending on the station. Intercity buses from the metropolitan area also arrive at these stations.
The sheer number of bus numbers is quite intimidating, but has a simple logic to it. (If you don't have time, use the trip planner, and still probably ask some people at the station where to go.) There are actually only ten routes, demarcated by letters (and names, but don't worry about that). J and L routes will take you into the historic/political center, with J buses even stopping right at the Gold Museum. A buses will take you up through Chapinorte, with Calle 72 being the stop closest to the popular Zona Rosa. K buses head out towards the airport.B buses take you to Portal del Norte, where you can catch inter-city buses up to Zipaquirá (for the Salt Cathedral).
Privately owned buses cruise all the main thorough fares and many side streets, and are the principal form of transport for the working class and student class. Though they do follow specific routes, they do not have bus "stops"; you merely call to them like taxis and they will stop for you where you are standing. Placards in the large front windows list destinations, either neighborhoods or main street names. Upon entering you will be asked for the fare; if you are not traveling alone you may be asked "Para ambos?", for example, meaning "For both?", to see if you are paying for just yourself or for your companion. Then you pass through a turnstile to the seating areas. The buses come in three sizes, usually, long (like a school bus), medium and small (called busetas). All have turnstiles. To exit these buses, you go to the back door and either push a button located usually on one of the hand rails or next to the exit, or simply call out "Aqui, por favor!" or "Pare!" (Stop!). Passengers are often expected to embark and disembark even from the middle of the street.
Sometimes vendors are allowed to enter the buses to sell candy or small gift items (occasionally donating one to the driver for the privilege). Or, you may find entertainers such as singers or guitar players, and even the more creative of the street beggars who will regale you with a long, poetic story of their sad situation before asking for donations. Even in the smallest buses, cramped full of people standing and sitting, it is a common sight. Interestingly, a recent Grammy-nominated singer named Ilona got her start performing on buses around Bogotá.
You can plan which bus you need to take ahead of time using a combination of Google maps (which shows stops and bus lines) and the SITP website, though that works only for SITP buses.
The cost for riding on a private bus normally costs 1450 COP during the day and 1500 COP during the night.
Colectivos cover practically every major route of the city, and can generally be flagged down at any point on a main road. Watch these small buses for lists of destinations displayed on their windshields, or ask the driver (in Spanish) if he passes the neighborhood or intersection you are going to. Not very comfortable, but they are faster than a common bus and it's also used as a shuttle for routes that don't have so much affluence, it can take you almost anywhere.
Bogotá has Latin America's largest network of bicycle routes, called 'Ciclorutas.' On Sunday's and public holidays, many main and secondary roads are closed to cars for the Ciclovia from 7AM-2PM, a special feature of Bogotá, where people can run, bicycle, inline skate or just watch from the side. There are refreshment stands along the way and most parks host some type of event such as yoga, dancing, stretching, spinning, etc. To get a bicycle you can rent a bike or going for a guided Bike tour on Bogota's Ciclorutas or participating in the Ciclovia are fun and healthy ways to get to know the city, and to get closer to the people.
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Local products worth bringing home include :
- Inexpensive handicrafts and jewelry from vendors. One of the cheapest and picturesque places to buy handicrafts is Pasaje Rivas (Calle 9 no. 9). You can access the narrow hall filled with small stores crossing Plaza de Bolívar, where de Major's and president's office is located.
- Coffee-based products
- Leather handbags, shoes, and wallets.
- Uncut and cut emeralds brought in from the world's best emerald mines
- Inexpensive silver jewelry
- Dress suits and shoes
In Usaquen (or Uzacan) you can find a huge flea market on Sundays.
The nicest malls in town are generally in Usaquén, but there is a great one in Ciudad Salitre, closer to the airport, as well.
The chicest area of Bogota, Zona T, is surrounded by the upscale malls of Centro Andino, Atlantis Plaza and El Retiro which holds various upscale boutiques such as Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Cartier, Loewe and many more.
More Affordable Shopping Malls : Center: San Martín, Calima. Western and Northwestern: Gran Estacion, Salitre Plaza, Hayuelos, Floresta, Iserra 100, Unicentro de Occidente, Titan. South: Plaza de las Americas, Ciudad Tunal, Tintal Plaza.
Arepas: Corn flour based pancakes, sometimes made with cheese or slightly salted.
Empanadas: The closest comparison would be pastries. These are popular all over South America, so generally each country/region has their own recipe. The filling usually consists of meat, potato, vegetables and rice wrapped in a corn flour crust.
Tamal: Usually eaten for breakfast. A mixture of meat, chicken, potato, vegetables and yellow corn wrapped in plantain leaves and then boiled. Should be accompanied by a large mug of hot chocolate.
Ajiaco: Traditional thick soup based on three kinds of potatoes, chicken, avocado, dairy cream, herbs, corn, among others. Typically from the altiplano region, and considered the city's official dish.
Pizza and burgers. OK, can we really call these traditional Bogotá meals? One could surmise they're from here, seeing their omnipresence. The city does both quite well, and you just need to do a 360° turn to find some.
Options are many for casual dining, unsurprisingly for a Latin American city of seven million people. Bogotanos love food from all over, so you'll find a good mix of Colombian food, as well as cheap food from North America (especially pizza and burgers!) and Asia. Note that the Chinese food is almost always Colombianized, which can be pretty good anyway, but is almost never the real deal. Sushi is likewise easy to find, but usually of below-average quality. The clear exception is (upscale) Wok, which has several locations, and for a North American-price will serve you top-notch sushi and other authentic East and Southeast Asian dishes.
For lunch, definitely try a corrientazo—a small eatery that is only open for lunch, serving people on their lunch break a delicious full meal, with soup, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a meat dish, several starch offerings, and usually additional fruit on the side. You'll know corrientazos by their well-advertised and extremely limited menu, which often consists of only one available main course! Best options are usually traditional ajiaco, bandeja paisa, or fish. Sometimes the advertisement is just "ALMUERZO" (lunch) on a cardboard sign. Prices are astoundingly low: around $3,500-10,000/meal.
Rotisserie chicken is usually not far away, often called chicken "broaster," and is just fabulous. They'll pass you plastic gloves to wear while you eat it to keep your fingers clean.
If constant meat and starch isn't your thing, the more popular neighborhoods have lots of places just selling fruit and fruit juice/smoothies, often selling ice cream too. The fruit in Colombia is outstanding, and the juice bars are unbelievably cheap.
And there's always Crepes & Waffles, a ubiquitous Bogotá chain that—with such a focus—can't help but be great.
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.
Sights & Landmarks
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.
Downtown Day Tour
No visitor to Bogota skips the historic Downtownand La Candelaria neighborhood. In fact most affordable lodging and dining options can be found this side of town making it highly desirable by low-budget travelers and backpackers, given its close location to many of the city's attractions. Start your way on Avenida Septima and Calle 14, just arriving Parque Santander. Take the opportunity to visit the world famous Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum for its legendary El Dorado collections. Then continue south one block up to Avenida Jimenez and give your camera a workout at one of Bogota's most famous and historic intersections, where a couple of ancient churches and 19th century buildings collide. Turn east (towards the mountains) and walk up Avenida Jimenez alongside downtown's famous Eje Ambiental or Environmental Axis, which is a section of the avenue that has been closed off to vehicles except Transmilenio, to make way for a generous tree-lined pedestrian sidewalk and an enclosed water stream. Many historic and famous buildings are located alongside the Eje Ambiental, home to Bogota's most renowned and traditional companies like El Tiempo and the Bank of the Republic. A few blocks east just past the Parque de los Periodistas the Eje Ambiental starts bending northwise, so leave the axis and turn south instead via one of the small streets that branch into the neighborhood and make your way up to Calle 13 and Carrera 2, el Chorro de Quevedo, unofficial center of La Candelaria, where it is argued that the City of Bogota was founded back in 1538. Today, bohemian life meets to enjoy arts, culture and music at this spot. On the way make sure to take in the whimsical coloring and architecture of the neighborhood's streets and colonial houses. Continue on Carrera 2 southward a couple of blocks up until Calle 11, and turn west once again just in front of La Salle University: You'll be glad you do since you've been climbing constantly eastward so enjoy your walk back down. Make sure to notice the eccentric street names found on picturesque signs at every corner. Make your way down west on Calle 11 and you will pass by the Museo Botero, museum showcasing some of famous Colombian painter Botero's private art collection and work. Another block down is the Centro Cultural Garcia Marquez, modern cultural center and venue that includes Library, Art Galleries, concert halls and lesson rooms, with year-round events and displays for all tastes and audiences interested in culture and the arts. Continue down west and reach the Plaza de Bolivar, the city's overwhelming main square surrounded by neoclasic government palaces and the Catedral Primada, largest church in the country. After taking in the many sights, you might want to leave the square southbound for a couple of blocks on Carrera Septima to check out the Presidential Palaceand its Presidential Guard. Finally turn around back Carrera Septima northward until you find Transmilenio, just about where you started!
Museums & Galleries
The city offers 58 museums and over 70 art galleries. The Colombian National Museum has acquisitions divided into four collections: art, history, archeology and ethnography. The Gold Museum, with 35,000 pieces of tumbaga gold, along with 30,000 objects in ceramic, stone and textiles, represents the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold in the world.
The Botero Museum has 123 works of Fernando Botero and 87 works by international artists. The Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá has a collection of graphic arts, industrial design and photography. The Museum of Colonial Art is home to an important collection of colonial art from Colombia. Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño hosts activities related to the performing arts and shows temporary exhibits of art in its halls and galleries.
Among the scientific museums are the Archeological Museum – Casa del Marqués de San Jorge, which has about 30 thousand pieces of pre-Columbian art, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales (UN), one of the four largest museums of natural sciences in Latin America, and the Geological Museum, which has a collection specializing in Geology and Paleontology.
Bogotá has historical museums like the Jorge Eliecer Gaitan Museum, the Museum of Independence (Museo de la Independencia), the Quinta de Bolívar and the Casa Museo Francisco José de Caldas, as well as the headquarters of Maloka and the Children's Museum of Bogotá. New museums include the Art Deco and the Museum of Bogotá.
Things to do
Outside of Bogota
- Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá. An impressive Cathedral hewn out of a salt mine in Zipaquira, which itself is a cute colonial town. Inside th Catedral there is an hourly tour included in the price that goes in several languages so ask at the entrance. To get there you can take a share or private guided tour that can be booked in your hotel/hostel. Other option is to take the Transmilenio to Portal del Norte and then a bus to Zipaquirá (2 hours / 5,750 COP). Consider taking a taxi (4000 COP), as it is a 20-minute uphill walk from where the Zipa bus drops you off. You can walk back through the town and enjoy nice views. Another way to get there is by the a train that is mentioned underneath. Entrance : 20,000 COP.
- Tren Turistico De La Sabana. Nice way to get to Zipaquirá and the Catedral del Sal is by train. There is a turistic train that leaves every day in the morning to a full day tour in Zipaquirá area. On the train you will be offered a package that includes entrance to the Catedral, transportation from the train station in Zipaquirá to the Catedral and from there transportation to Cajirá where you can eat typical lunch and later the train will pick you up from there. It is all well organized and on the train they sell some food, beverages and all while local music bands go along the train and entertain the passangers. Train tickets you can buy only in the train stations, the closet one to the turistic areas of Bogota is Usaquén Train Station right infornt of Centro Comercial Santa Ana. Especially in pick season and weekends you better arive to the station early because the train is usually full. The train leaves at 09:15 AM so you better be there before 08:00 AM. Round Trip: 43,000 COP Cathdral Package: 35,00 COP.
Performances and Festivals
- On some Friday nights, parts of Avenida Septima are closed in the Centro and you can see all sorts of street performers, live music, magic shows, buy crafts and street food. If you don't mind crowds its worth a visit.
- Check out the Iberoamerican Theater Festival, the biggest theater festival in the world (occurs every two years during Easter Week).
- Catch a football (soccer) game at El Campin Stadium. Easily accessible by Transmillenio and with a capacity of 48,000 spectators, it hosts games for the Colombian international squad as well as for professional league home teams Millionarios and Santa Fe. Avoid the north and south section for these home games which are populated by rival supporter groups; instead get a ticket for the eastern or western wings. International game tickets start at 20,000 COP and home games at 16,000 COP.
- Take a cab or Transmilenio to a working-class neighborhood in the southside. Sit down in a 'panaderia' (bakery), order a "colombiana" brand soda and some good bread...sit down and breathe the environment of the regular Colombian...don't narrow yourself to the upscale Norte. Since picking out one of these neighborhoods can be dangerous, the best ones to do so: Santa Isabel, 20 de Julio, The Tunal area.
- Go to Parque Simon Bolivar and chill like rolos (Bogota citizens) do, walk around the cities biggest park or ride the train.
- Ciclovía. Every Sunday and national holiday from 7AM-2PM, major avenues are closed to cars and thousands of people turn out to bike, skate, jog and walk. You can join on foot or by renting a bicycle in the Candelaria neighborhood with Bogotravel tours.
- Who would have imagined that there exists a fascinating natural wonder right in the heart of Bogotá? The wetlands of the Sabana (savannah) de Bogotá is where the rivers slow down a bit to rest on the plateau and “clean up” after flowing down from mountains. The water then continues to flow into the valleys to rejoin with the rivers below, including the Bogotá and Magdalena rivers.
Festivals and events
Bogota Hosts the Iberoamerican Theater Festival every two years, is the biggest Teather festival in the world!
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.
Things to know
The Spanish spoken in Bogotá is considered among the most neutral and clear in the world. If you know the basics, you'll probably be fine. Bogotá is full of English academies and bilingual schools, so English is spoken by many people. The most "touristy" areas are full of young students who go to bilingual schools, and generally, they will help you translate. Colombians love to show off the best of their country to reduce the negative image it has among foreigners.
Safety in Bogota
Bogotá is not as dangerous as it is perceived to be, but still a little crazy. Its once insanely high murder rate, which was the highest in the world, has dropped to a rate comfortably below most major Latin American cities, like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Caracas, and Mexico City. Bombings and kidnappings are a thing of the past, and should not be a concern to visitors at all—this is no war zone.
The principal safety concerns for travelers are muggings and taxi crime. Muggers are usually high on drugs and armed with knives or guns, and you should simply give them what they ask for without a fight—it's never anything worth dying over. Neighborhoods that are frequented by travelers that have a significant problem with muggings include La Candelaria (after dark on weeknights—daytime walks and F-Sa nights are fine), most parts of Santa Fé, and to a much lesser extent the more southern parts of Chapinero close to Avenida Caracas. Los Mártires is a place to be on guard any time of day.
Taxi crime is a weird problem here (see "Million Dollar Ride" below). While longer-term visitors will find themselves lazily hailing cabs now and then, it is best to call cabs and not hail them off the street. Any cab dispatched will be safe, while hailed cabs are infrequently, but a little too frequently for comfort, dangerous. It may take a bit longer, but your safety is worth an extra wait. Hotels and nicer restaurants will always be happy to call one for you, and often offer to unprompted.
Oh, the Million Dollar Ride (Spanish: Paseo Millonario). It happens frequently enough where in most social situations with Bogotanos, at least someone or someone close to them has had an experience. It occurs when you hail a taxi on the street, the taxi stops, you get in, then someone else gets in with you, and they take you for a ride until you have taken an important sum out of your bank accounts. This is usually accomplished with legitimate threats of violence.
ATM muggings. Pay attention when using cash machines that nobody follows you after you have withdrawn the money. It's a precaution foreign visitors aren't always used to taking, but it's not hard—look around as you step up to the machine to see if anyone's paying too much attention, then do the same afterwards. If someone is, abort and/or go into a store or eatery and stay put. Try to use ATMs that are inside (the supermarket Éxito always has them), while still paying attention to your surroundings.
Bogotá's water is safe to drink and of high quality. Beware of street foods that may cause an upset stomach. Bogotá has no tropical diseases like malaria because of its altitude. Altitude sickness is, in fact, the largest health problem affecting foreigners—expect to be panting while going uphill or up stairs at first! Generally, a few days without hard physical activity or time spent in a mid-altitude city like Medellín will do the trick. If you have heart disease or a respiratory condition, talk to your doctor. El Dorado Airport provides wheelchairs for travelers with special needs. Private hospitals offer excellent health care.