So I’ve been MIA this summer, basically for the BEST reason possible. Thanks to the Global Engagement Fellowship and the LEAF Leadership Fellowship, ya girl was able to go back to the motherland and explore its wonders. Colombia has a special place in my heart, but not because of the “life-changing experiences” I had while traveling it. It’s because my family is there, mi sangre, and this summer I had the amazing opportunity to get to know them. They showed me their country and loved me like they’ve known me forever. Talking about this is makin me emotional, mainly because I miss them so much even though it’s only been a week and a half. So let’s move on to the stuff people want to know.
This isn’t really a travel blog I guess, but I remember before my trip I looked up “best places to visit in Colombia” or “places to go out in San Andres”. What I found was typically very broad information, with basic touristy locations and/or really out of the way places and I didn’t really trust them. But they were typically right so if this sounds repetitive, sorry but know that I Actually went to these places and liked them.
OK LET’S BEGIN
The exchange rate is currently really great for any American or European visiting, 3000 Colombian pesos to $1. You will love this so much.
I’m going to start with Bogota, because I got to know this place better than the other places.
FOOD IN BOGOTA
So so cheap here and so good. I typically paid $3-$5 per meal, and if I was wanting high-class gourmet food, $10-20. If you want some delicious food, Go Anywhere. But I know being a foreigner, it’s kind of scary just walking out in Bogota and asking around for places to eat. That also isn’t necessarily the safest or most reliable thing to do. But Parque Usaquen has some great food. This was a 15-20 minute taxi ride from my place (on Calle 138) but every restaurant there is amazing. They also have a flea market on Sunday mornings called Mercado de las Pulgas. 11/10 recommend. They have great fresh food at this market and amazing art. Leave your house around 9 in the morning, because it will be a little difficult with Ciclovia- which happens every Sunday where streets are shut down and people go running or bike riding. If you want to eat at a restaurant in Usaquen on Sunday, expect a wait.
If you’re closer to the centre, there are good places to eat that I don’t really know of. I’m not going to lie, I got really comfortable where I was and my grandmother made me a lot of amazing food. I wasn’t the explorer that I said I would be. But in the Candelaria area there are great restaurants. Zona G is also really good, G standing for gourmet. Zona T also has some really great food places. Domicillios is also an app where you can order food. This is very good for hypothetical mornings where you’re so hypothetically hungover you can’t move. Andres DC (Andres Carne de Res in Bogota not Chia) is also a good option if you want to go to a restaurant. If we’re talkin chain restaurants, Bogota Beer Company has great beer and food (I don’t really like beer but it was good there?) and so does Crepes & Waffles. If you want a good cheap burger, El Corral is also good. Also, at the base of La Calera, there are some really good restaurants that serve lots of food in huge baskets. WOK is also amazing and right next to the Museo de Oro and the Museo de Botero.
Also a staple of Bogota is the ajiaco. It is so good and will warm your soul. Side note: be careful with street food.
ok enough of that
PLACES TO GO OUT & GET YAH GROOVE ON IN BOGOTA
We’ll keep this short because this was a university funded trip. Zona T aka la 85. This is where you will find the good “discotecas” or clubs in Bogota. Bogota Beer Company is always a good place to chill. I was told that Baum is a good club and apparently the restaurant Andres DC transforms into club which is also cool. Not sure where Baum is. I went to a place called Plaza Mexico one night, and they have really amazing mariachis. And I’m not really a mariachi girl but they were so good, and the atmosphere was really fun.
Before I got here, my mom and family were all telling me “don’t use TransMilenio” or “don’t use taxis”. If you’re in Bogota to study, you will have to use both. I used Uber a lot, it’s apparently illegal to use because stupid politics, but if you’re going home after 6 it’s the best option. For TransMilenio, you will need to get a card. I’m going to ask family where they got mine.
Phones suck. Get the international plan where you can still physically call and also send texts for free. Because you will need it when you get lost. If you’re really thinking in advance and have the ca$h munee, get a phone and a plan with from TMobile. They have unlimited international data, phone calls, and texts for apparently $100/month. If you’re not going to change your plan (which makes total sense), just know that I survived on ONLY WIFI and WhatsApp for 2.5 months.
I hated it so much, but it’s easier than getting a burner phone there. My parents gave me an old phone from the States but to use a Colombian SIM card in phone from the States, you have to get a code from your carrier’s website. With AT&T it was pretty easy, but getting the Colombian SIM card to work in that phone was hard because the phone was old. You also have to do this 72 hours before you leave.
PLACES TO VISIT
- Museo de Oro
- Museo de Botero
- La Calera
- Andres Carne de Res in Bogota and in Chia
- Zona T
- Guatavita (45 min from Bogota)
- Any place that sells aguardiente. It’s part of the culture, you need to try it.
- Downtown. Kind of gross (anybody from there would agree) and dangerous but has a lot of cool buildings and old churches.
- La Candelaria
- Any Bogota Beer Company
- Jardin Botanico Bogota if you like green stuff
- Nemocon mines
- Zipaquira mines
This is where my family is from and it is the capital of Colombia. I didn’t really live the tourist life here, living in the northern part of the city for a month with my family. Here I worked with the NGO Smile Education Foundation, updating and collating their website material and social media accounts.
When I arrived, the altitude HIT me. Some people can take the change from Houston to Bogota really well. I did NOT. If you’re not a international triathelete (idk if that is even a thing, just somebody really really fit), this may not affect you. But normal people: pack some strong ibuprofen or Aleve because sleeping will be v hard or v easy. It took me 2 weeks to really acclimate to the altitude.
And don’t even get me started on the water there. I love reading travel blogs on Colombia because they tell you “drink bottled water and you’ll be fine!”. Maybe if you’re there for a few days. But if you are playing the long game, lol at those blogs because you will go to any restaurant and they will offer the most delicious, fresh juice that you Will order. Trust me, you will want this juice with every fibre in your body. And you’ll order it, knowing that you can only drink bottled water. Or you won’t even remember, because you want said juice so badly. It comes with the $3 meal you’re ordering and you will see everybody around you drinking them. Your family or friends will tell you it’s fine. You will drink it and love it because them juices are delicious.
*ONE DAY LATER*
You will be sitting on the toilet all day, watching telenovelas on the Netflix app on your phone, not getting up because it is futile. Accept it. Love it. You may be missing a day of exploring but you will be practicing your listening skills by watching these telenovelas.
Ok now things to bring to Bogota if you’re an American studying there (my future list hopefully!!):
- Peanut butter. Trust me, if you’re a peanut butter fan, you will want a big tub a JIF (Peter Pan if you’re weird) that doesn’t cost you $20. Plus for some reason the peanut butter, even if it’s JIF from Carulla, tastes different. T r u s t m e.
- Nice clothes. People here dress super well. Also it’s pretty cold there, I don’t really know degrees and whatnot, but during the morning you won’t want to get out of bed it’s so cold. During the day, jeans and a shirt are perfect. At night, you will need pants, boots, a jacket, and probably a scarf. The weather in Bogota is my favourite.
- Gifts for people that help you. Trust me, even though Rollos (people from Bogota) are known for being on the colder side, they Will help you. And people love gifts.
- A credit/debit card with a bank that has partners in Colombia. I messed this up so badly. I legit was living on $300 that I had switched for pesos with my tia for basically a month. Western Union is a good option but not that accessible. Really best to just get a Wells Fargo card that you can use at ATMs. People also don’t use cards that much there and you Will need Colombian pesos. Also don’t forget to call your bank in 2 days before you leave!
- Make sure your passport won’t expire while you’re gone.
- Probably some other stuff I can’t remember.