Travel in Bogota | Colombia

“Are you sure? Colombia is very dangerous, isn’t it?” This is what I heard after I mentioned that our next trip would be to the land of salsa, coffee and lots of natural beauty. Colombia was very dangerous for years. And in some places it is still not convenient to show your tourist head. But since the arrival of President Alvaro Uribe (2000-2010), Colombia is relatively safe. Bogota, with its more than 8 million inhabitants (and there are probably many more), is an interesting and vibrant city.

Eeeuuh Bogota, bustling? We arrived in a deserted and desolate metropolis on Thursday, April 2, thanks to KLM’s direct scheduled flight. Nothing effervescent about it. Apparently the week of Easter is “Semana Santa,” the time to flee Bogota en masse and seek your relatives elsewhere in Colombia. Also, stores are closed and even museums were closed on Good Friday. They were open again on Easter Sunday, though. Then again, they did. So a quiet start in Colombia.

Sleeping in eco-friendly Kozii Hostel in Bogota

The advantage of Semana Santa in Bogota was that we got to our hostel quickly by cab. We stayed at eco-friendly Kozii Hostel, part of Hola Hostels. Kozii Hostel is located in Chaperino, one of the neighborhoods that are relatively safe in Bogota. And besides: you can just walk the streets here at night. In the center, this is not possible. Unless you want to be robbed. We were warmly welcomed by Leana. She is originally Russian and now lives indefinitely in Colombia. Our room was spacious and bright. Lovely place to take a break after being on the road for over 12 hours. Freshened up and then fell asleep.

Transmilenio & free walking tour in Bogota

The next morning we received a fine breakfast to start the day.Two croissants and a boiled egg with coffee or tea. After breakfast, we ran into Leana again. She told us that she is learning to be a guide for the free walking tours in Bogota. Whether we wanted to come along? The tour would be in Spanish, but she assured us she could translate. Fine we thought, we’ll see. First in the Transmilenio to downtown Bogota La Canderia. The Transmilenio is a quick and easy public transportation system of Bogota. And you also see this kind of system in other cities in Colombia, for example in Cali. You buy a pass – kind of like OVchip but easier – and each ride costs 1,500 COP. That’s 0.55 cents converted. When I take the bus from my home to Utrecht central station – well 5 minutes – it costs me 1.11 euros. Here you can spend as much as an hour (or more!)in the Transmilenio for less than 0.55 cents. Long live inexpensive public transportation in Colombia.

When we arrived at the meeting point (museo del oro) we were the only ones. It was soon clear that the Spanish-speaking tourists who were actually supposed to come were not coming. Felipe, the computer science student from Venezuela started the tour. In English. After 5 minutes, it began to rain. Typical of Bogota, where it rains (briefly) every day. As a result, we took shelter and ran into Corrine and Christian. Two Germans. Corrine works for German embassy in Bogota. A nice couple. They joined the free walking tour.

Simon Bolivar in Colombia and Bogota

After a brief “Hello I am….from… our guide Felipe enthusiastically continued his story about Simon Bolivar. The man who created a “Gran Colombia” in which Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador were one. This lasted until 1830. You come across Bolivar everywhere. In every city, village or hamlet there is a square, church, street or the like named after this man. Felipe led us around Bogota and showed us many small streets, beautiful graffiti spots and, of course, museums. After an interesting tour, we went to eat at Crêpes & Waffles and rest our legs for a while. As a vegetarian in foreign countries it is always a matter of waiting to see what you can eat. Fortunately, there was extensive choice for Sander and me. So in no time we were feasting on our veggie crepe. Including a Colombian beer ‘Club Colombia’, because well, we are also on vacation. After the tour, we headed back to Kozii Hostel in Chaperino with Leana. We agreed with Corinne and Christian to go hiking the next day in Chicaque National Park. A national park that is about a 30-minute drive outside of Bogota. A little nature with fresh mountain air will do us good!

Lulo , pitahay & eating out during Semana Santa in Bogota

pitahayAfter the free walking tour of downtown Bogota, we went to the supermarket. I always really enjoy doing that abroad. Weird candies or other unfamiliar food items. But especially for the fruit. When traveling, I am always suddenly a big fruit-eater. We also had a goal, of course. We went to stock up on bread and fruit for the hike the next day. Leana gave me fruit that Colombia is known for: Pitahaya and Lulo. Pitahaya tastes incredibly delicious. This has been my favorite fruit since the moment I tasted Pitahaya. Lulo is another story. I don’t know what people in Colombia like about this. Over lunch, I was given a Lulo juice. Now my taste and smell buds reacted a little differently than I am used to from them. Just the smell alone-it smelled like vomit-was not very appetizing. After one sip, I knew, this is not really my drink. Therefore, no lulo for me. But they say in Colombia: you have to learn to drink/eat it. In time, you start to appreciate it. Eeehmm, I guess I’m too short in Colombia for that then.

From the lulo to dinner. On Good Friday during Semana Santa you can actually forget about having a bite to eat anywhere. Even in Bogota. We therefore ended up back at the Crepes & Waffles. But this time near the hostel. The food is really good. The atmosphere at Crepes & Waffles is quiet and cozy. Also highly recommended for the low-budget backpacker. You already have a crepe (and they are really filling and delicious) for 11,000 COP ( about 4 euros). With a well-filled belly, we walked back. Showered, gathered gear for the hike and slept.