TRAVELLING TO BOGOTÁ
Most international flights arrive at and depart from El Dorado International Airport (airport code BOG), which is located about 13 kilometres from the city center. Other major international airports in Colombia include Rio Negro International Airport in Medellín and Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena.
From the United States, Avianca, Colombia’s national airline, offers direct flights from New York, Atlanta, Miami, and Washington D.C. American Airlines has three daily flights from Miami to Bogotá and Delta has one daily direct flight to Bogotá. JetBlue flies direct from Orlando to Bogotá daily.
Air Canada offers a direct flight between Toronto and Bogotá several times a week.
From Europe, Air France offers one daily direct flight to Bogotá. Iberia flies direct to Bogotá from Madrid. Avianca, American, Continental, and Air France have flights from Madrid to Bogotá, connecting through Paris or in the United States.
When exiting Colombia, there is a departure tax of $59, which is payable in U.S. dollars or Colombian pesos. This generally is included in the ticket price.
To get into the city from the airport, it is recommended to take a regulated taxi. Exit the baggage area and look for a booth where you can give the attendant the address of your destination, and you will receive a slip of paper out with the price of the ride. Take the next available taxi in the queue, and give the driver the slip. Do not pay more than the rate on the slip of paper. Tipping is not expected, but you can round up to the nearest hundred.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of three months from the date of entry into Colombia.
Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa to enter and temporarily stay in Colombia:
Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei-Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Holland, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.
Visitors from other countries must apply for a tourist visa at the Colombian consulate in their home country.
Located on a high plateau in the Northern Andes Mountains, 2,640 metres above sea level, Bogotá has a subtropical highland climate, meaning that it is often cool during the day. In October, the months of the CIBJO Congress, average high temperatures are 19 degrees centigrade and lows are 8 degrees centigrade.
October is typically a wet month in Bogotá, with 19 rainy days on average.
DEALING WITH THE ALTITUDE
Because of the city’s location at a height of 2,640 metres above sea level, some visitors are prone to suffer mild effects of soroche, or altitude sickness, which could include headaches, loss of appetite, dehydration, heavy breathing, insomnia and /or nose bleeding. This sounds alarming, but only a small number of people experience notable symptoms after their ascent into the city. Many people don’t suffer, especially when arriving by plane, as they land from a higher altitude.
Sensible steps are recommended during your first few days in the city, after which your body will acclimatise naturally to the altitude. These include:
- Drinking water to prevent dehydration
- Take time to relax within the first few days of arriving in the city, and not exerting yourselves.
- Eating leafy greens, due to their high levels of salicylic acid.
- Taking on carbohydrates, which helps to generate glycolysis (carbohydrate storage), releasing energy at a faster rate.
- Drinking coca tea, which is a long running tradition in the Andes region. It is a herbal tea made from coca leaves which is high in glucose. Sugary drinks like Coca Cola are also helpful.
Spanish is the lingua franca, and relatively few Colombians are fluent in English. However, Bogotá is the city in which you are most likely to find English speakers.
The Colombian peso (COL$) is the official currency, with bank notes denominated amounts of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000, and coins of 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 pesos. Currently, one U.S. dollar roughly equals 3,000 pesos.
U.S. dollar bank notes are widely accepted by vendors. Currency can be converted in hotels, money-exchange houses (casas de cambio), at most banks and at the airport.
Cash ATM machines are generally easy to find, and withdrawing money from ATMs is preferable to exchanging money in banks. It is advisable use ATM machines located inside buildings from the point of view of personal safety.
The major credit cards are generally accepted in mid-range and upscale shops, restaurants and hotels.
TransMilenio: This largest BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system in the world, operating more than 2,000 and vehicles, with 12 lines and approximately 147 self-contained bus stations. Buses use dedicated lanes, which keeps them free from auto traffic, and services are frequent and inexpensive. Services generally are provided from 4:30 AM to midnight from Monday through Saturday, and from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM on Sundays, though some lines begin earlier and run later. A bus rise should cost COP$2,300
Buses: Bogotá’s regular bus system consists mainly of Servicio Urbano (blue buses, nicknamed “azules,” covering routes not served by TransMilenio), Servicio Complementario (orange buses; serves routes to and from nearby TransMilenio stations), Servicio Alimentador (green buses; serves routes to and from TransMilenio portals) and Servicio Troncal (red buses; basically extensions of TransMilenio lines). Payment is by smart card only, known as Tarjeta TuLlave (www.tullaveplus.com), which can be purchased and recharged at stations and select markets/newsstands. Flat fares, regardless of distance traveled, are COP$2,000 to COP$2,200.
Taxis: Bogotá’s fleet of Korean-made yellow taxis are considered safe, reliable and a relatively inexpensive way of getting around. They used to all have metres, but city legislation has called for all taxi meters to be uninstalled in favor of a digital pricing app scheme similar to those used by Uber. Taxis being hailed off the street are required to install tablets on the passenger side backseat to display the route and fare in advance. Nonetheless, it is advisable not to wave down a taxi in the street unless you are traveling with a local. Drivers generally do not expect to be tipped.
Bogotá is not as dangerous as many other major Latin American cities, with the principal safety concerns for travelers being muggings and taxi crime. Neighborhoods that are frequented by travelers that have a significant problem with muggings include La Candelaria (after dark on weeknights), most parts of Santa Fé, and to a much lesser extent the more southern parts of Chapinero close to Avenida Caracas. Los Mártires is a place to be on guard any time of day.
To avoid becoming a victim of taxi crime, it is best to call cabs and not hail them off the street. Any cab dispatched can be considered safe.
Pay attention when using ATM machines that nobody follows you after you have withdrawn the money. Try to use ATMs that are inside buildings.
Bogotá’s tap water is safe to drink and of high quality. If you are unconvinced, bottled water is easily available.
In Colombia, the standard voltage is 110 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. Plug sockets are Type A and B, similar to those used throughout North and Central America, China and Japan.
CIBJO Congress participants will have free Internet access at the Grand Hyatt Bogotá. But broadband is widely available from many Internet providers, and pre-paid and contractual plans can be taken out.
WiFi hotspots are widely available, as are cyber cafes. There, connections are generally fast and cheap. Expect to pay about COP$2,500 per hour.
For those who come to Colombia without a cedula (national identity card), Claro and Movistar both companies offer a pre-paid 3G dongle, which works like an antennae and can be plugged into the USB port of your laptop or PC to provide Internet on the go.
EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS
In the event of an emergency in Colombia, most emergency contact numbers are three digits, making them easy to remember. Tourist police will guarantee English-speaking operators. The national emergency number allows for any type of emergency call and will re-direct to the appropriate service.
- National emergency number (24-hour general line): 123
- Tourist: (1) 3374413
- Metropolitan Police: 112
- Information: 113
- Fire: 119
- Medical Emergencies: 125
- Traffic Police: 127
- Red Cross (24 hour ambulance): 132