Hello Bogota: Its Not Nice To Meet You

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One of Botero’s works in the museum in Bogota

I am very glad that I decided to live in Medellin instead of Bogota, especially after my visit to the cosmopolitan capital. When I was first planning to live in Colombia it was between Bogota and Medellin. While being a very popular city Bogota is known for its crime, especially at night.

Is Bogota Dangerous I asked myself?  The first red flag is when I picked up my bags from the terminal I immediately buddied up with a local and started asking questions about crime in the city, what I should avoid, and taxis in particular. After chatting with the local, which we will now call Jose Henriquez Rodriguez Lopez Herrera, he pointed to a vending machine to order a taxi.

I thought to myself “how cool is this!” It actually wasn’t to order the taxi it was to get a printout of how much the taxi would cost. You select which hostel or hotel you are going to and the machine spits out a receipt showing you the price, location, and other useless information they always put in receipts.

Now if only they had these kind of machines for the trinkets they sell to tourists, imagine how much money you would save! I have personally never seen an airport that prints out this kind of confirmation and it was the first thing that indicated that Bogota is more dangerous than the other cities in Colombia. There is so much corruption that you need a receipt to confirm the price of the taxi? Now you can easily pick up a taxi off the street but I have a rule when I travel, never buy something from a man that tries (come up to you) to sell you something. I didn’t experience this in Medellin but in Bogota I definitely had to fend off the taxi mafia.

After I did the old fashioned shake and bake around the taxi mafia, I finally found my taxi and headed on my way. I decided to stay at one of the hotels in Bogota because of the recent reports of crime in the city. The popular place to stay is the historic district called La Candelaria. Here you can find the majority of the hostels in the city, the same hostels that have been robbed. There has been more than one occurrence of hostels in that area of town being robbed and I have a certain fancy with my electronics. Not because they are expensive to fix, but because I have an addiction, to Facebook and my blackberry silly. I thought it would be better to get overcharged a few hundred dollars at one of the hotels in Colombia of my choice rather than having all my goodies stolen.

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Typical Meal in Colombia: Bandeja Paisa

“Is Bogota Dangerous” I asked the taxi on our way to the hotel. He promptly replied “no of course not, there are just some bad areas.” I of course didn’t believe a word he said because many of my travel blogger friends that have been living in Colombia told me that I need to be very careful while in Bogota. After refusing to admit that the city is dangerous I walked up to hotel only to be greeting by a dog that loved the scent of my post no shower perfume. Oh wait a sec, he was checking for drugs and bombs, but anyway you get my drift.

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Church in Bogota

The city is under construction; not part of the city, not a Bogota neighborhood of the city, the entire city is under construction. Everywhere I went the streets where torn up because they were under construction. The second thing I immediately noticed is that the air in Bogota smells like a foul 4 year old. It just didn’t seem like a clean city from the start.

As I traveled around and did my sightseeing things were very chaotic. It kind of felt like a city that grew unexpectedly faster than what urban planners thought, hence all the construction. When I was going to see Montserrat to get a view of the city I met a gringa (white woman) that lived in Bogota. And guess what has happened to her twice since she has lived there for 6 months? She got her hair and nails done, she of course saw the fat people art, and she got robbed. Now fancy that.

Bogota didn’t rub me the wrong way it just seemed more chaotic and dangerous than other cities I have visited in Colombia. Coming from a city like Medellin I am used to a different kind of city. I would definitely visit again but another problem is that there really isn’t that many things to see. No Bogota, it isn’t nice to meet you.


  1. You are welcome man!  I told you I wouldn’t lie and that you’d like Medellin better.  I think you were a little hard on Bogota but yes it’s a huge freaking city (12+ million) so there are going to be more problems there because so.  But bottom line, Medellin is more beautiful, easier to move around and offers just as much as BOG, plus it’s central in Colombia for moving about the country. 

    Nice tip though about the vending machine, as I didn’t know about it.  You should have taken a quick pic of it man.  Did the cab driver not use a meter when you left though?

    1. nah it was a set rate to the airport, I figured out how to use the taxis the hard way too how it was a number and then they looked on a little table.. who does that? lol

  2. Dude I love the title to this post, and I’m glad I’m not the only one to have written a somewhat pessimistic post about Bogotá. I share your sentiments, and felt much safer in Medellin than many (most) parts of Bogotá… Why do so many places there make me feel like I need to watch my back? Plus, the weather is like a schizophrenic refrigerator and I always felt like I was inhaling traffic exhaust. Oh well… In July, let’s go back to Medellin for the Feria de las Flores. 🙂

  3.  I’ve heard great things about Medellin and I really want to go there. Happy that you live there now! And I’ve heard scary things about Bogota too! A lot actually. I won’t know till I get there but good to know! 

  4. I’m really glad I read this post. I recently started considering a solo trip down to Bogota. Perhaps if I start considering it a little more seriously, I’ll partner up with a friend for the trip. Thanks for the info!

    1. Elle, be cautious staying in the popular candelario area.. there have been serious hostel robberies there. Spoke to a popular reporter here that said the police basically dont do anything, try to stay out of that area for your accommodation if you can. And thanks for the comment 🙂

  5. I think you were a bit harsh with Bogota, yeah I know the whole city is under construction because it’s under constant change. Another thing I’d say is La Candelaria isn’t really the best place to stay, even though it is near many tourist attractions, the northern part of the city is much better: Andino Mall, 85 Street, 93 Park, all those things are really pretty. I can also say that there are thousands of places where to go in Bogota, it is one of the most cultural cities in Latin America, it has loads of museums, cathedrals, great restaurant zones. And about the crime, I know it’s been decreasing in surprising rates, but still you need to be aware, like in any other city in the world. Follow me on twitter 🙂 @ProcelSimon

    1. Simon.. the prob is when they start the construction it never ends.. you know what latin time is like.. LOL. I would agree about candelaria, especially after the muggings it isn’t the best place to stay at all.

  6. I also thought this was harsh – I’m a solo female who’s been living in Bogota for a year. There is PLENTY to do, believe me! I laughed out loud when you wrote you didn’t find anything to do. And while you do have to take precautions, it’s not so dangerous as long as you keep your wits about you. I’ve never had anything happen to me – despite living in the centre of the city.

  7. i’m only in bogotá for two weeks and from what i’ve experienced so far, i think this city has plenty to offer and can be a cool place to visit if you know where (and where not to!) go, if you’re cautious and if you’re blessed with a bit of luck.
    i’m fully aware that you shouldn’t walk alone after dark, that you should keep an eye on your camera and so on, but what happened to myself and my boyfriend this morning was hard to foresee or avoid. we were attacked on the street during broad daylight. three guys ran up from behind and were all over us within minutes, pushing and pulling and grabbing for our stuff. seconds later they’d pushed me to the ground… i can’t remember much of it, probably because i was in shock… it was a horrible experience and while we can live without the money, the iphone + + + , the feeling of being violated was absolutely horrible and while i wish no one else will have to experience the same, i know for a fact that this happens all the time in ‘la candelaria’, day as well as night…

  8. Robberies of hostels in candelario..Never heard of that! Been here for nearly four months and heard other gringos, on occasion, utter this same, apparent myth but none of my Colombian friends know anything about this, and they are generally always honest. They tell me places to avoid, they admit transport and traffic is horrible, etc. There is a lot to improve But never heard anything about what you claim. I think if there were robberieS, with an S, Bogota would not have millions of tourists per year. Also, the whole city is NOT a construction zone, I have gone throughout the city, even deep into the south many many times and can say for sure, in late 2014, construction is not as vast as you claim.

    Also, if you claim there is nothing to do, you just did not venture out enough. Tons of free and cheap museums, great parks and short day trips.

    Yes the city is chaotic. But if you are a tourist sticking to the major routes, yes, that is all you will see. But plenty of quieter streets to take and lesser known buses where things are not as chaotic…

    And guess what…been here nearly four months and..knock on wood, have yet to be robbed. Did this gringa girl say why she was robbed…would like to know the story behind that one. You are just as likely to be robbed or even shot in many American schools…bad thing is, you are not even safe at the schools over there!!

  9. My friend is from Bogota, she was in the USA for a year that’s how we got to know each other. We dated for a while, then she had to leave back to Colombia witch broke my heart:( so I took a 30 day trip to Bogota we traveled all over Colombia and all I can say is its safe if you know someone. I would live there if I could. Best coffee

  10. Medellin safer than Bogota? What a joke. That city is nice, maybe for an extended weekend before it gets boring. But Bogota is far more cultured, safer and more respectful people. Just because you got mugged does not mean Bogota is less safe than Medellin. That city is known for being more dangerous and more crime.

    1. I wouldn’t live in Bogota if my life depended on it. Every time I go to Bogota I also feel more dangerous. Lets not forget the fact that hostels were being raided and robbed at gunpoint IN BOGOTA. Not in Medellin.

    1. I was born and lived in Bogota for 26 years. I then moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago and I like it here. However, it is nothing like Bogota. Yes its calm and what not, however I rather live in Bogota a million times more. Hence the fact I will be moving there in 6 months again. Most americans believe Bogota is dangerous and yes it is, but so is everywhere else. Its really no different then living here. I know in Chicago about 45 people get shot every weekend, I know for a fact that doesn’t happen in Colombia. So don’t judge by what people say to you, specially foreigners. Yes its “feeling” they got. But I can guarantee you that if you took the time to talk to someone who lives there, you will get to know the true meaning of what it is like to live there.

      1. I’m sorry but I disagree with you. I live in NYC and have been to Chicago a few times. And sure there is crime in every city, but in Chicago I never have to worry about being robbed at gun point or mugged. I can walk around with my wallet in my back pocket . Walk around with my cell phone in hand and have no issues. In Bogota you could never do that anywhere.

  11. Hey MArcelo, if Bogota wasnt nice to met for you, so why are you trying to open a dta center in that city?? it seems like like you dont like the people from bogota, so’?

    1. I never said that I didn’t like the people of Bogota… its just a chaotic city. I want to open up a center there because there is great talent in Bogota.

  12. Is fun to receive here, persons with so much imagination, Bogota is just as any other city with good and bad zones, good and bad people and good and bad tourists with a lot of prejudices. Next time you want to come, try to travel inside some king of bag, that way a dog doesn’t have to smell to you 😀

  13. Bogotá is a safer city than Medellín, just take a look at the statistics, actually, for serious crimes such as murder and rape are way lower than in some American cities and the are going down. What happened is that, due to chaos and the frenetic pace of the city, the perception of crime is higher than in cities were danger is really there, like Cali, Rio or Mexico City; but don’t let yourself fool about Bogotá and how safe it is. Regarding cleanliness, well, I do agree than Medellin is fairly cleaner, but many cities around the world such as Berlin or Buenos Aires are way dirtier than Bogotá. I’m Colombian, half from Bogota and half from Medellín, although I spend the most part of my life in Bogotá I also lived for some years in Medellín, and, in my experience, the problem with Bogotá is that the city itself is so different from the stereotype that foreigners have. They think they are arriving to the Bogotá of Mr and Mss Smith not to this super cold with very distant people, that they just hated because of this. When they start to get acquainted with the country and with its deep cultural differences, they start to understand more Bogota and to like it. Another thing, Bogotá has great place but many of them are not presented for tourists so make sure you meet a local that can show you around.

    1. I live in Medellin and have visited Bogota numerous times. There may be more serious violence (in the ghettos and barrios) but there is far more petty crime in Bogota it seems.

  14. Another thing, Bogotá is not a city if you’re looking for the “latin charm”. If you start looking for it instead of trying to understand the city it would not work!

  15. Bogota is way too noisy, I am sorry. In my neighbourhood — Santa Barbara — they are putting up new residential apartment buildings all around me, drills drive me up the wall during the day. The traffic is also horrendous. It’s expensive. There are no big public parkets. I find the people a bit cold. It does have a great cultural life, a good night life, and good restaurants but I much prefer smaller cities in Colombia, such as Manizales.

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