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Local transport

Local Transport

A regular teleférico (cable car) and funicular run up Cerro de Monserrate from Monserrate Station. The funicular runs in the mornings (until noon), the cable car in the afternoons.

TransMilenio

The ambitiously named TransMilenio, modeled after a similar groundbreaking system in Curitiba, Brazil, revolutionized Bogotá's public transportation when it opened in 2000. Numerous plans and studies were made to build a metro, but after 30 years the project was buried and a decision was taken to introduce a fast urban bus service instead. Today the TransMilenio is the world's largest BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system.

The system is, in essence, a bus network masquerading as a subway. Covering 112km with a fleet of over 2000 buses, the TransMilenio has 12 lines and approximately 147 self-contained stations, which keeps things orderly and safe (and some stations have wi-fi). Buses use dedicated lanes, which keeps them free from car traffic. The service is frequent and cheap (fares run COP$2300). Generally speaking, lines run from 4:30am to midnight Monday to Saturday, 6am to 11pm Sunday, though some lines begin earlier and run later.

TransMilenio serves up to 2.2 million people daily – well over capacity – so buses get very crowded at rush hour (locals jokingly refer to it as the TransmiLLENO, which would translate to TransFULL); transfers at Av Jiménez resemble punk-rock mosh pits. TransMilenio's current plans project completion by 2031, with lines canvassing 388km. Meanwhile, Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa is planning a raised railway to complement (and relieve) the system by 2022.

Fares: Tarjeta Tullave

A frequent-rider smart card, the tarjeta tullave (www.tullaveplus.com; COP$5000; rechargable up to COP$322,000), is used to enter the system. The card is sold at all portals as well as some stations; it can be recharged at all stations as well as some grocery stores, pharmacies and papelerías (stationary shops; check for locations at www.tullaveplus.com/web/public/puntos-de-recarga). It may not be worth your time if you're only visiting for a few days, but the card can be personalized (bring your passport), which means the money on it can be recouped in case of loss or theft.

If you don't have a card, you can pay the attendant, who will swipe you in with their card.

Routes

On maps posted in stations, routes are color coded, with different-numbered buses corresponding to various stops, but it's all very confusing (even for locals). The main TransMilenio lines of interest to visitors run north–south along Av Caracas between Av Jiménez and Portal del Norte stations; northwest–southeast along Av Dorado between Portal El Dorado and Universidades (access to the bus terminal and airport); and north–south along the hybrid line (part dedicated BRT, part regular city bus) introduced in 2014 along Carrera 7, which facilitates access to Chapinero, Zona Rosa and Usaquén. There are nine terminuses, but the only one of real use to travelers is the Portal del Norte. Most key north–central routes change in Calle 22, and Av Jiménez has many more transfers (sometimes involving an underground walk between neighboring stations).

It takes practice to understand which bus to take. Ruta fácil routes (numbered black routes), for example, stop at every station on a line but at faster intervals, while expresos and súper-expresos (colored letter-number-combo routes) zip along some sort of express route – leapfrogging, in confusing patterns, several stations at a time. Color-coded and numbered vagones (wagons) indicate the boarding point for particular lines within stations.

You can plan your routes online using the efficient but slightly confusing – and ad-ridden – app that locals use, TransmiSitp (www.movilixa.com/english); click your departure point and destination, as with most mapping apps.

Key Routes

Key routes (subject to change depending on day and time):

La Candelaria to Portal del Norte Take F23 from Museo del Oro to Av Jiménez; switch to B74 Portal del Norte (last stop).

La Candelaria to Chapinero From San Victorino, take M82 to Calle 67.

La Candelaria to Zona G Take G47 from San Victorino to Guatoque-Veraguas; switch to B72 to Av Chile.

La Candelaria to Zona Rosa Take B74 from Las Aguas or Museo del Oro; switch to B23 to Calle 85.

Portal del Norte to La Candelaria Take J72 from Portal del Norte to Av Jiménez; switch to F23 to Museo del Oro.

Chapinero to La Candelaria Take L82 from Calle 67 or Universidad La Salle to San Victorino.

Zona G to La Candelaria Take H61 from Av Chile to Tygua-San José; switch to M47 to San Victorino.

Zona Rosa to La Candelaria Take K23 from Calle 85 to Calle 57; switch to J72 to Av Jiménez.