Hi, Friends -
Here is my trip report regarding my April 30 to May 8 vacation to Bogota, Colombia. I hope this information assists anyone planning on visiting the city:
1) Airport Arrival: You may be loaded onto a bus and driven a short distance to the terminal when you exit your airplane. Proceed through Customs, which may X-ray your carry-on luggage. The exit doors immediately past Customs will be crowded with well-dressed individuals who work for hotels and will attempt to convince you to stay at the hotel they represent. Walk past these people and hail a yellow taxi about 50 feet away. Ignore ANYONE (taxi driver, hotel representative, etc.) who tells you that La Candelaria is "muy peligroso" (very dangerous) and insists on taking you to a hotel of their choice. Remember, these people lie in order to get a kickback from the hotel!
2) Airport Departure: Arrive at the airport two hours in advance of your departing flight. A taxi ride from my hotel to the airport was 20,000 Colombian Pesos (about $10 American).
3) Hotel: I stayed eight nights at Hotel Casa Deco in the La Candelaria area. My very positive review will be posted by TripAdvisor shortly.
4) Scams: Most of the scams I encountered occurred along Av. Jimenez and Carrera 7. First, on three seperate occasions, a man walked up to me, unwrapped a folded piece of paper, and showed me what appeared to be emeralds. An emerald expert in Bogota told me that these "emeralds" were likely cut green glass. Second, a man in his mid-20s offered me two pieces of candy from an open bag. I'm not sure where this scam would have led, but I learned a long time ago not to accept candy from strangers! Third, in front of the Iglesia de San Francisco, a well-dressed elderly man walked up to me and asked me a question. When I asked him to repeat himself (I speak a little Spanish), another man quickly walked up and said "He asked you where the Casa de Cambio is." These two men shook hands and acted like they didn't know each other. The elderly man said he was from Bolivia and the other said he from Colombia. As the elderly man stepped back a little, the other man quickly flashed an identification card that had Police printed on it. He then rambled something off in Spanish about "cocaine" and "false papers" and "problems," then attempted to escort me down a vacant alley and away from the church and the busy street. When I said no, the man said "okay," shook my hand, and then both men melted into the crowd.
5) Sidewalks: Watch out for random piles of dog doo, as well as holes made from missing natural gas and water covers. And, when the bricks get wet from rain or any other moisture, they are VERY slippery.
6) Restaurants: The following restuarants were so good, I ate at them two or three times:
- L'Jaim: Carrera 3, #14-79. Try the tres mixto shawarma and, for dessert, the baklava.
- Sanalejo: Av Jimenez, #3-73. Try the ceviche or champinones al gratin for an appetizer, the baby beef for the main course, and then finish it off with a hot cup of canelazo.
- Restaurante La Pola: Calle 19, #1-85. Try the ajiaco with a side of arroz. CAUTION: There are a lot of restaurants in the area with the name La Pola in it. The Restaurante La Pola has an inner courtyard with ivy growing in it, and is directly beside the Trotamundos business.
- Hamburgesas El Corral: Calle 11, #2-16, with several other locations around Bogota. Okay, YES, it IS a $10 fast-food meal, but the locals love the food and it IS delicious.
- Crepes and Waffles: Av. Jimenez between Carrera 4 and 5. Delicious crepes and ice cream sundaes. The street-level part of the restaurant is for take-away orders only. Go inside the restaurant and go down the stairs for the basement-level part of the restaurant with the waitresses.
One final word about restaurants: I visited Andres Carnes de Res, the new location in Bogota (not Chia) across from the Andino Mall, and left very disappointed. Although the atmosphere was nice, my sirloin was tough, even though it was cooked medium rare. I had a much better cut of meat (twice) with the baby beef at Sanalejo.
7) Sights: Be sure to visit Monserrate, Museo Botero, Arte Coleccion, Museo Historico Policia, Museo del Oro, and the 46th floor of the Colpatria Tower.
The Museo del 20 de Julio is closed for renovation.