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Bogota, Colombia

What Can You Expect, Living In Bogota?

Colombia’s capital city, Bogota is Colombia’s number one city in many ways. Here you will find most of Colombia’s culture, such as museums, galleries and theatre. Bogota is also home to many of Colombia’s most prestigious Universities as well as being the political and administrative capital of Colombia.

Bogota is a mountain town, at an altitude of 2,640 meters above sea level. This can take a little getting used to, don’t be surprised if you’re a little short of breath for the first few days. Try to avoid strenuous exercise until you’re acclimatized.

The sun’s rays are also stronger at this height. It’s easy to get burned even if the temperature is mild and the sky overcast.

Living In Bogota

Bogota has everything you would expect from a major capital city. However there are a few areas which could be improved. Public transport is OK, but not great.

The Transmi busses are the best way to get around the city, and the fastest, but can very crowded during rush hours. You will need to use a pre-paid card to get you through the gates at the bus stations.

This card is also good for use on the SITP busses which are the more modern fleet of busses Bogota is unveiling. These SITP busses are reliable and comfortable, but they don’t yet cover the whole of the city. The other option is the Buseta, old, brightly painted busses that operate more like a giant taxi, pulling over wherever you hail them. There is no set fair and these busses are usually packed out during peak times.

Driving in Bogota is not recommended thanks to the traffic. Cars are also expensive to buy, meaning that most people get by using public transport and taxis. The taxi’s, are generally safe, and cheap by American standards. Taxi drivers are not averse to trying to rip off foreigners, so agree on the fee before you get in. It’s not unheard of for taxi drivers to take the longest route to the destination. If you’re not familiar with the city, check how long the journey should take, and the recommended route.

Perhaps surprisingly, Bogota has a well maintained and extensive network of bike paths throughout the city. Getting around via bike is a viable option. Another good reason to own a bike is for the Sunday Cicoliva. Main roads are closed to traffic during the morning, until 2pm, bikes along with skaters and joggers, get exclusive use of the roads.

Where to Live

Like the rest of Colombia, Bogota’s real estate market is appreciating each year. This has been driven by the rise in the middle class. Foreign investors are able to take advantage of the undervalued Colombian peso and pick up some absolute bargains.

La Candelaria is the historic center of Bogota, and popular with expats and tourists. A good option for a short stay, it might not be the best option for long-term living. Although the cobbled streets and colonial buildings are attractive, the infrastructure is old. Power outages can be a problem and buildings are more likely to need repairs. La Candeleria isn’t the safest place to live in Bogota. The tourists attract pickpockets, and the area is also close to some of the poorest regions in Bogota.

El Nogal, or Zona T is the most expensive area in Bogota. If you can afford it, this area has everything you could need including great restaurants, bars, and malls. The public transport links are good and there are lots of attractive buildings to choose from.

Chapinero is popular with students, young professionals, and expats. As an up and coming area, investors are starting to buy apartments here. If you’re looking to buy somewhere to rent out, you will have no difficulty finding people to rent. Chapinero is well situated, close to many of Bogota’s best restaurants and nightlife.

Safety

Bogota is far safer than the mainstream media like to portray. Walking round the tourist areas you notice a strong police presence, and they’re all armed. Every few hundred meters you come across a pair of policemen holding a Rottweiler. Nobody in their right mind will be committing a crime close to one of these units.

The drug related crime that haunted Colombian cities through so much of the 80s and 90s is now a thing of the past. One of the after effects can be seen today and that is the strong desire to make Bogota to be a peaceful city. When visiting in 2018 someone I noticed how shoppers worked together to help the police catch a shoplifter who was trying to run away. In other big cities people would try not to get involved. In Bogota, people are tired of crime and actively working towards building the kind of society they want to live in.

As with many big cities, pickpockets can be a problem. Keep your wits about you and you should be fine.

Things To Do

A graffiti tour of Bogota, is one of the things people associate with the city. After a popular graffiti artist was shot dead by policemen painting a mural, there was a huge uprising against the police. All aspects of society were shocked. After an outpouring of grief, the mayor took the decision to legalize graffiti in certain areas. A decision was made to promote it as part of Bogota’s unique culture. There are guided walking tours that will take you around the most famous murals. These include a donation only tour through the Candelaria district.

The Monserrate Mountain offers unrivalled views across the city. At over 3000 meters above sea level the air is a little thin, but you can purchase a cup of coca tea which will help you to acclimatize. Monserrate is popular with pilgrims, who come to the church at the top of the mountain. Some of them even climb the 500 meters from the base on their knees. Fortunately there is also the option of taking the cable car instead.

The church that sits on top of the mountain has regular services, and the bells can be heard ringing throughout the day. One of the churches claims to fame is a statue of a black Virgin Mary which stands behind the altar. The rest of the church is impressive, with an ornate gold decorations, taken from the indigenous people who used to worship the sun on the same spot.

On the subject of gold, the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) is one of the most incredible museums in all of Latin America. It’s home to numerous gold artefacts dating back to pre-Hispanic era. The Spanish melted down much of the gold they found in South America, destroying huge amounts of ancient artworks in the process, making the displays here even more special.

Expat Community

Bogota has the largest expat community in Bogota. There are various groups which arrange meetups, quiz nights, and events, to keep the expat community together. The community is active, and offer help and assistance on all aspects of life in Bogota. The city is big enough that you can also avoid running into expats, if that’s your preference.

Getting To Bogota

Bogota International Airport, otherwise known as El Dorado International Airport, is the third busiest in all of Latin America. You can get flights here from across Europe and the America’s, including multiple airports in the United States. The airport is modern and efficient and located within the city limits.

Cost Of Living In Bogota

Apartment or House Ownership Budget (for a couple)

Click here for currency conversion at today’s exchange rate.

Expense ItemCostNotes
MortgageN/ANot included here as too variable.
HOA Fees35,000 Pesos
Property Taxes:250,000 Pesos
Transportation300,000 PesosUsing a combination of Uber, public transit, and walking.
Gas15,000 PesosUsed for cooking and hot water.
Electricity60,000 PesosMost apartments do not have heaters or air conditioning.
Water50,000 Pesos
Telephone80,000 PesosTwo cell phones on pre-paid Tigo plan
Internet147,000 PesosThis includes internet, TV, and phone with Claro Tripleplay.
Cable TV
Household Help400,000 PesosTwice a week. Daily rate is 50,000 pesos for 3–5 hours.
Entertainment1,000,000 PesosA couples’ cost for eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant (75,000 pesos for a couple eating at a nice restaurant); (local) drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole (20,000 pesos for a cocktail); movie theater trip twice a month 9,000 pesos.
Gym Membership90,000 PesosGym membership at Stark Gym.
Groceries700,000 PesosBasic items for a couple shopping at Carulla supermarket.
Medical Appointment40,000 PesosWalk-in appointment at basic clinic.
Total3,482,000 Pesos 

Apartment or House Rental Budget (for a couple)

Expense ItemCostNotes
Rent2,000,000 PesosUnfurnished, 2-bedroom apartment in estrato 4 or 5 neighborhood.
Transportation300,000 PesosUsing a combination of Uber, public transit, and walking.
Gas15,000 PesosUsed for cooking and hot water.
Electricity60,000 PesosMost apartments do not have heaters or air conditioning.
Water50,000 Pesos
Telephone80,000 PesosTwo cell phones on pre-paid Tigo plan
Internet147,000 PesosThis includes internet, TV, and phone with Claro Tripleplay.
Cable TV
Household Help400,000 PesosTwice a week. Daily rate is 50,000 pesos for 3–5 hours.
Entertainment1,000,000 PesosA couples’ cost for eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant (75,000 pesos for a couple eating at a nice restaurant); (local) drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole (20,000 pesos for a cocktail); movie theater trip twice a month 9,000 pesos.
Gym Membership90,000 PesosGym membership at Stark Gym.
Groceries700,000 PesosBasic items for a couple shopping at Carulla supermarket.
Medical Appointment40,000 PesosWalk-in appointment at basic clinic.
Total4,882,000 Pesos

Penny-Pincher’s Budget (for a couple, bare minimum costs for all)

Expense ItemCostNotes
Rent1,200,000 PesosUnfurnished, 1-bedroom apartment in Chapinero (estrato 4)
Transportation288,000 PesosIf both of you use the bus twice a day to get around.

Will be less if you walk or bike everywhere.

Gas15,000 PesosUsed for cooking and hot water.
Electricity60,000 PesosMost apartments do not have heaters or air conditioning.
Water50,000 Pesos
Telephone80,000 PesosTwo cell phones on pre-paid Tigo plan
Internet72,000 Pesos10 MB internet using Claro.
Cable TV16,900 PesosInternet TV only.

Cancel your U.S. Netflix account and sign up again once you’re in Colombia. The cost is about half of what you’ll pay in the states and offers much better programming than Colombian cable TV.

Entertainment600,000 PesosGoing to free cultural events, having dinner at moderately priced places a few times a week, seeing the occasional movie or play.
Groceries600,000 Pesos
Total2,981,000 Pesos

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