Accessible Travel

Calling Bogotá accessible for travelers with disabilities would be a stretch: it's not. But in recent years the government has made advances country-wide in this regard.

Cafes, restaurants, hotels and residential buildings will occasionally have an entrance ramp, but don't count on it. Midrange to top-end hotels will often have a wheelchair-accessible room, however. The TransMilenio public-transport system was designed with people with disabilities and reduced mobility in mind, so entrance ramps, preferred seating, elevators, and wider turnstiles and entrance portals are common.

Vehicles carrying people with disabilities are exempt from Bogotá's traffic-congestion-mitigating driving-rotation scheme, Pico y Placa, with regard to which days of the week they are permitted to travel within the city limits – this means they're free to drive in the city on any day.

Turismo Accesible (www.turismoaccesible.com) is a recommended resource (in Spanish) dedicated to accessible travel in Colombia.

Dangers & Annoyances

Generally speaking, Bogotá's south is a bit more dangerous, while the north is, on the whole, a different story. Many locals walk well after dark between, say, Zona Rosa and Parque 93's club and restaurant scene, whereas in La Candelaria you'd want to be way more cautious.

  • Always be on guard – pickpocketing is rampant on buses and the TransMilenio.
  • Avoid deserted streets and take taxis after hours – the extra security of a taxi app is always best.
  • Police posts known as Comando de Acción Inmediata (CAI) are strategically placed around the city – use them in an emergency.

Safety in Bogotá

Since the mid-'90s Bogotá has made many significant advances, among them reducing its homicide rate from 80 murders per 100,000 residents in 1993 to 15.8 in 2016 (mobile-phone theft fell by 20% from the previous year as well). These statistics mirror the downward trend of the overall Colombian murder rate for the same year (it was the lowest in four decades). Today Bogotá is one of the safest urban areas in Latin America – so safe, in fact, that Pope Francis visited in 2017.

In 2016 the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC; Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) signed a historic cease-fire deal, so Bogotá potentially sees fewer bombings than it did at the height of Colombia's armed conflict, but that doesn't mean the bombings have stopped entirely: an explosion at Centro Comerical Andino killed three people in 2017. (The bomb was attributed to members of a smaller urban guerrilla group known as the Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo, or MRP; this was its first attack to cause fatalities). Also in 2017, a bomb injured 29 (26 were police officers) in La Macarena. Though no arrests have been made, known members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) are wanted for the attack. While tourists are not specifically targeted, it's easy to be in areas where these things happen. Thankfully, the Colombian government announced a cease-fire with ELN in late 2017, and wavering peace talks in Havana, Cuba, continued through 2018; Bogotà – and Colombia – breathed a sigh of relief.

Hostel owners report a considerable drop in robberies in La Candelaria, which is generally safe during the day but can still be dicey at night. Always be aware of your surroundings. Be wary of handling your phone near the edge of streets, as thieves on motorcycles and bikes have been known to ride by and snatch them. If you opt to stay in La Candelaria, choose accommodations based not only on your general criteria but also on security. Avoid walking alone or with anything valuable after dark – these days the area has more of a police presence at night, though it's still a far cry from the show of force during the day.

Muggings are common around Calle 9 up the hill nearer the poorer neighborhood of Barrio Egipto, which remains a notable hot spot. Although tours of the barrio are now offered, under no circumstances should you wander there on your own. Do not stray beyond Carrera 1. At the Barrio Egipto's northern end there's private security in Parque de los Periodistas (you'll see personnel walking around with dogs) hired by the universities, so this once-sketchy area is now a lot safer. Solo travelers should always exercise caution on the road between the Universidad de Los Andes and Monserrate, though a police presence on the mountainside trails from 6am has curbed incidents here dramatically.

Police presence has been stepped up in La Macarena as well, though it's still a good idea to take a taxi and stick to the main restaurant streets – La Perseverancia barrio, just north of La Macarena, has a very dodgy reputation and it's not difficult to stray into it if you're unfamiliar with the area.

Police Stations

Embassies & Consulates

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance125
Police112
Fire119

Entry & Exit Formalities

Visas

Generally not required for stays of up 90 days.

Visa Extensions

Visa extensions are handled by the Migración Colombia office north of Parque 93. To reach the office, catch the M80 TransMilenio from 'Museo Nacional' to the 'Escuela de Caballería' bus stop (Carrera 7 and Calle 100) and walk four blocks west.

LGBT Travellers

Bogotá has a large and frequently changing gay-nightlife scene. It's mostly centered in Chapinero, nicknamed 'Chapi Gay', between Carrera 7 and 13 from Calles 58 to 63. If you want to make an event of it, Queer Scout (www.thequeerscout.co) claims to offer Colombia's only gay-nightlife tour.

Browse Guia Gay Colombia (www.guiagaycolombia.com/bogota) for details on dozens of varied clubs and bars, or check online listings from Colombia Diversa, a not-for-profit organization promoting gay and lesbian rights in Colombia. Lesbian-only places haven't really caught on here yet, so most gay bars and clubs attract a mixed crowd, including Video Club, which throws Sunday parties on bank-holiday weekends.

Internet Access

Wi-fi is ubiquitous among bars, restaurants and, of course, hotels and hostels. Bogotá also runs a hot-spot scheme with various access points around town; look for the network called Wi-Fi Gratis para la Gente or check the website for the zone nearest you (http://micrositios.mintic.gov.co/zonas-wifi).

Maps

The widest selection of maps of Colombia is produced and sold by the Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi, the government mapping body.

Money

There are two exchange houses in the Emerald Trade Center, but it's best to use one of the plentiful ATMs.

Banco de Bogotá

Bancolombia

Western Union

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary enormously. Unless stated otherwise, the following businesses are open at these times:

Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, to noon Saturday

Restaurants noon–3pm and 7pm–10pm

Cafes 8am–8pm

Bars 6pm-midnight Monday to Thursday, to 1am Friday to Saturday

Clubs 9pm–3am Thursday to Saturday

Shops 9am–5pm Monday to Saturday

Post

Tourist Information

Colombia's energetic Instituto Distrital de Turismo is making visitors feel very welcome, with a series of Puntos de Información Turística (PIT) branches opening at key locations around Bogotá, operated by very friendly English-speaking staff. A couple of locations offer free walking tours (scheduled separately in English or Spanish). There are PITs at each of the airport terminals as well as other locations around the city, including the following:

Casa de Las Comuneros

Centro Internacional

Terminal de Transportes

Travel with Children

Bogotá isn't any more or less kid-friendly than other South American cities of its size and the usual quirks apply. Generally speaking, the capital is a safe destination for kids, though you shouldn't expect facilities on par with those in European or North American destinations. Diaper-changing rooms aren't guaranteed but are a fairly common sight in non-basic establishments. With its wealth of museums, Bogotá is a wonderful spot for teaching moments, giving young travelers valuable insight into culture and history at every turn. The obvious standout kid destination, Maloka, is a child-oriented science museum with a dome cinema, but Botero's chubby art at Museo Botero can be fun as well. Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar, Bogotá's signature green space, is perfect for picnics, a game of tag or throwing a frisbee around, and popping up to the top of Monserrate is a surefire winner. Vendors sell birdseed for the (many) pigeons in Plaza de Bolívar. And you can marvel at the hats at the changing of the presidential guard at nearby Casa de Nariño.

Friendly and fun food options include diner chain Crepes & Waffles, fast-food burgers at El Corral and popsicles at La Paletteria. And don't miss Andrés Carne de Res. Better yet, if your little one has a birthday, Andrés is set up to throw the party of a lifetime!