My Thanksgiving plans fell through, so instead of going home I hopped a last minute flight to Bogotá, Colombia via Mexico City. 24 hour layover in Mexico City on the way in, 24 hour layover in Guadalajara on the way back. It’s an excellent itinerary to go through customs three (or four) times within a week.
(Guadalajara was the first city I ever visited outside the USA — traveling alone at age 18 — and I’m excited to go back in two days.)
Bogotá is my first city in South America and it’s actually fairly intense. More than I expected. I’ve been warned repeatedly to not go out at night. I’m pretty hesitant to believe these things, but I’m also alone in a foreign country for the first time and want to learn the rules before I break them.
Some data points:
- One of the guys working in my hostel is from North Carolina. He told me that everyone here thinks he’s from Argetina, which was great, until they tried to stab him.
- There’s a great hill to the east of town everyone tells me to walk up, but only on Friday, Saturday or Sunday when the cops are around. Otherwise stay away. Also don’t go up after 2pm.
- The second hostel I’m staying in drew a very careful map of about a 10 by 10 block radius and told me not to carry cash or a camera outside of that radius.
- The hostel also has a sign telling me not to take a left after 5pm, only a right.
Am I just a scared foreigner? Probably. It’s hard to tell if I’m being a wimp sometimes. I’m sure that a few bad things have happend. I’m also sure that the city is marvelous and has a reputation worse than it is. Your mileage may vary.
Daylight photos: sadly there aren’t many people in the streets during the day. So my main pictures have been panoramas of buildings. Shot on film and to be uploaded later. Will try early mornings.
If you do come to Bogotá, check out La Candalaria — the basis of old Bogotá — which is a backpacker, food, and hotel haven. It’s gorgoeus and a lot more fun to walk around (in the day!) than Zona Rosa.
The art here is fantastic. South American art remixes reality in ways I find very interesting and uncomfortable. Lots of nudes, demons, sexual references, animal references. The graffiti all over Bogotá is just fantastic. My plan B is to hit all of the museums. Exhibits are in Spanish but I can generally make out what people are talking about. Art transcends language anyway…
The meat here is also fantastic and very cheap. That steak at the top cost $12.
A few other miscellaneous travel notes:
- Bring a chip and pin ATM card, surplus cash, or setup your credit card for cash advances. My ATM cards don’t work down here.
- Much less English is spoken than in Asia and fewer concessions are made for tourists. This really feels like a proper city that exists in it’s own right completely independent of tourism. It’s cool, but it’s different.
- From the USA your best bet might be to use LAN airlines. They seem to have the cheapest fares on normal days. My flight was with AeroMexico.
I have a solid feeling that once startup life is done and I’m unemployed again I’ll end up back in South America. I want to refresh my Spanish and learn French, which will open up vast areas for travel.
P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet watch Salt of the Earth about Sebastiao Salgado. That will make you inspire to take pictures!
P.S.S. Don’t let this scare you away from Colombia. It’s a nice place. Bogotá may just not be the best place for wandering around with a pricey camera. Medellin and Cali are supposed to be fantastic and I do wish I had time to make it out to the Amazon.