Colombia’s largest city and capital, Bogota, has a reputation, but it’s not what you’re thinking. One of the top 31 destinations to visit in 2010, according to The New York Times, this bustling city is today known for its vibrant nightlife, innovative gastronomy and arts and culture scene. Declared World Book Capital by UNESCO, Bogota is home to more than 60 art galleries and museums, 4,500 parks and nearly 50 shopping malls; clearly there’s plenty to explore in this South American city.
First things first: Where to stay. The JW Marriott Hotel Bogota gets rave reviews from the Insiders community. Marango2012 mentions the “impeccable” service, and dcr022002 says it’s “one of the best I have ever seen.” Kleineente says it was “the best experience I had in a long, long time,” noting communication with the concierge prior to her arrival and the friendly and professional staff. “They make every guest feel welcome and special,” she says. Cancerkiller used Marriott Rewards® points for his stay, which he says was “VERY nice. Everything is new and very modern.” Mgoes2 has a detailed trip report with photos and echoes the thoughts of other Insiders with her glowing review of the staff, rooms and facilities. “The concierge lounge was excellent…outside there is a balcony to watch the sunset over the mountains.”
When it comes time to explore, going with a friend or a guide can be helpful. A funicular ride up Monserrate to see the church is “really beautiful,” mgoes2 says, and can include pastries and shopping on the final leg up the mountain. While you’re up there, marango2012 recommends a meal at San Isidro. Dcr022002 says “Bogota is a wonderful city” and suggests stops at the Gold Museum and Museum of Modern Art, in addition to a day trip to the Salt Cathedral. He also recommends exploring the city’s central plaza and “narrow cobblestone streets with small restaurants that serve local food like ajiaco [potato soup], a must have.” The colonial Candelaria gets a nod from mgoes2, who calls it “a very interesting place and colorful. A good place for pictures.” For “excellent food in a very hip and interactive atmosphere,” kleineente likes Andres Carne de Res near the JW Marriott Hotel Bogota.
Special thanks to members marango2012, dcr022002, kleineente, cancerkiller, and mgoes2. To see one of your posts featured, we encourage you to contribute helpful tips, thoughts, experiences and insights throughout the community.
Bogota is a great city to explore with many dinning and entertainment options; the two Marriott Hotels in Bogota are fantastic! Having stayed at both the JW Marriott Bogota and the Marriott Bogota multiple times, I can honestly say these have been some of the finest Marriott properties I have stayed at. The Marriott Bogota is located close to the Airport in the area known as Ciudad Salitre, close to shopping (Salitre Plaza) and surrounded by upper middle class appartment complexes. The JW Marriott Bogota is closer to the financial district of Bogota, more upscale shopping (Centro Comercial Andino), many dinning options and the best nightlife in Bogota (I do recommend to go to Zona rosa and Parque de la 93 if you like to clubbing).
Being that I am originally from Bogota, I believe that the reviews above covered many of the attarctions in Bogota and great places to eat, shop and party therefore I won't repeat but here is what I can tell you:
Driving: I always rent a car, National will give you the best price, use the entertainment discount! I have looked around and there is no one cheaper than them. With that said driving in Bogota is an act of courage, ifyou avoid driving in LA or NY city... Bogota is also not the place for you to drive. People drives crazy especially taxi and bus drivers; other than Transmilenio (a gigantic bus packed to the max that has it's own lanes), there are no bus stops so buses and taxis stop wherever they feel like stopping to drop off and pick up passengers. People crosses the street wherever is most convenient for them and there is a fair amount of street vendors that walk up to your car in the traffic lights.
Using Public Transportation: There are different ways to get around the city and it will depend on your comfort level. Transmilenio has set schedules and you can get around using it, the only caveat is that it can get crazy packed so if you have concerns about personal space Transmilenio is not for you. Street buses are also plentiful a little more irregular on their cycles and it takes some getting used to them and you also need to know where your destination is since you will have to let the driver know where to stop (they can get packed too) you need to have some knowledge about the city or very good directions before getting into one of these. Which leaves us with taxis which are plentifull in the city, taxis are probably the best way to get where you need to go but also have their caveats. Most taxis are very small in size (Several of them are Chevy Spark, Hyundai Atos and Chery QQ) they are tiny good for a maximum of 3 Passengers with no luggage. Always call the taxi company do not take taxis in the street! it can be frustrating and dangerous; if you take a taxi in the street the driver will ask you where are you going and if it doesn't suit his schedule or you are going to an area with heavy traffic he/she simply won't take you, with taxis there is also a risk of express kidnaping known as paseo millonario or "millionarie's trip" which I will cover under safety and security, street taxis use a units system, make sure you check the unit table and compared against the taximeter to know what your fare should be, taxis also have surcharges for door to door services, goin to or from the airport, nights, weekends and holidays, taxis in Bogota are also known to have something called the "muñeco" which is a computer chip that alters the taxi fare (Taxis in Colombia are fairly cheap and probably not worth fighting with the taxi driver in regards to these situations). The best taxi solution is the hotel taxis (Most of them are white unlike the other taxis which are yellow) These taxis tend to be minivans or larger sedans a little more expensive but better and safer, the only problem is that they are only at the hotels, you might be able to pre-arrange your return trip with them though.
Safety and Security: Exercising common sense is always the best policy, you need to understand that you are in a big city in a third world country where problems like street crime and violent crime are somewhat prevalent. If you don't speak Spanish, if possible hire a tour guide to take you to the different places, even better if he can also drive you around, it will provide you with a better and safer experience. Do call the taxi companies to order taxis, get the confirmation number from them and give it to the taxi driver; write down the license plate number and make sure it matches with the taxi driver information in the car. If the information doesn't match get out of the car as it is highly likely you could end up in a bad situation. If you decide to use public transportation understand that pick pockets are not a rare ocurrence in public transportation make sure you keep an eye on your wallet, cell phone and/or purse, if you are walking around the city avoid the use of expensive jewerly, watches, designer bags or high end cell phones as they are often targeted by street burglars. If you go out clubbing do not accept rides or drinks from random people, there have been many instances people has been drugged and robed from their posessions (especially men, be very careful with women just walking up to you, unless you look like George Clooney... if you are in your 50's and 20 year olds are offering you a drink or a ride back to your hotel, despite your wants be very careful) There is a drug common in Colombia and other countries in latin America used for roberies and kidnappings called escopolamina and is a white powder, it makes you lose your sense of will and self control and could be administrated nasally or orally so I strongly advise you to not accept drinks, food, cigarretes or receive things from strangers. If you see white powder call the emergency line 123 immediately and seek medical help. I suggest you don't go towards what is know as el sur (the south) of the city as is an area where poverty is more prevalent as is crime for the outsiders.
I felt safe in Colombia, but I had planned ahead. I had read about the potential danger of riding in cabs and knew I didn't want to deal with the crowding on the public transportation, so I booked a guide that took me everywhere I wanted to go. Really not that much more than a taxi. They were very reliable, had a new vehicle and provided lots of local information. I had also pre-arranged the Foodie tour and was confident that it would also be a safe outing (it was, even though we were walking around Bogota neighborhoods at late afternoon/evening...the tour operator made sure I was picked-up and dropped off safely at my hotel.) And the JW Marriott itself had excellent security...I was very comfortable as a single female dining in the restaurant and using other hotel facilities, even at night.
Thank you! but please don't think I am trying to discourage you from visiting the city, it is a great city to see that offers different types of cuisine, people for the most part are very nice, has some great museums and attractions. The nightlife is vibrant and there is something for everyone! My description goes more along the lines of what to expect that will differ the most from living in the States. Walking in downtown L.A. is probably just as dangerous as downtown Bogota and you probably have the same chances of getting your drink spiked in a nightclub in Miami as one in Bogota. Going to el sur of Bogota could be just as dangerous as going to some parts of Detroit or Chicago. My intent was to share a little more of what perhaps you won't find in the tourist oriented websites such as tripadvisor.