Bogotá was once considered off limits because of years of violence. With both modern and historic areas to appeal to many tastes, it is slowly being reborn and is worth a couple days of exploration.
El Dorado International Airport
Flying into Bogotá will take you to the very modern El Dorado International Airport. It is very clean and full of shops and restaurants. A taxi ride from the airport to the historic city center of La Candelaria shouldn’t cost more than COP$25,000. You will be approached by several private drivers looking to give you a ride, and they shouldn’t charge more than COP$30,000 – $40,000 to La Candelaria. If you don’t want to pay that much, don’t let them pressure you into it – they will try their hardest to tell you they’re cheaper than a taxi.
I didn’t use the main bus terminal but I did use Portal del Norte to get to a few towns north of Bogotá, such as Chia, Zipaquirá, Guatavita, and more. Also, Calle 72 and Carrera 13 has buses to a few towns like La Calera and Guasca.
If you’re looking to change money, I got the best rates at the airport. There is a currency exchange just after walking out to the international arrivals area. Don’t exchange money until AFTER you reach the greeting area – rates are much better and I got burned the first time I went through. The exchanges I found in La Candelaria didn’t post any rates so I didn’t trust them.
Bogotá is a huge city with heavy traffic. Getting around can be overwhelming, but it’s very easy and relatively cheap by taxi. Sitting in a taxi for 45 minutes only cost me COP$20,000 from one part of the city to the other. Small sections of the city like La Candelaria are easily walkable.
The Transmilenio is Bogotá’s bus system running in a dedicated lane. It’s fast, cheap, and convenient but also can be quite confusing for visitors. It seemed like there were hundreds of different bus lines in use spreading out all over the city. The best thing to do is just ask an attendant on duty which bus to take to your destination. A Tarjeta Cliente Frecuente (Frequent Client Card) costs an initial COP$2,000. Peak hours cost COP$1,800 per ride while off-peak was COP$1,500 (as of October 2014).
Bogotá’s reputation for crime scares a lot of people away, but I never felt threatened during the day. I was a lot more careful after dark. I didn’t wander too far away from my hotel. There were a lot of junkies gathered around in the plazas when I walked around at night. They were harmless, even helpful at times, but anyone should still take caution even with police presence. It also seemed like the whole city shut down after 9pm, unless I was in the more upscale parts of the city to the north.