Colombia Chapter 1 - Capital Bogota - Andy's Travelogues

Colombia Chapter 1

Capital city Bogota

Skipping a month in Costa Rica and 10 months in Mexico, I’m jumping straight into writing about Colombia. Welcome to Bogotá!

It’s ten in the evening, I’ve finished my fresh coffee and I’m sitting at a wooden table on the terrace of a hostel in the small village of Minca (650 m above sea level). I have a view of the seaside town of Santa Marta, shrouded in night and illuminated by street lights. Across from me, a dark-skinned Colombian woman is typing something on her laptop. I have a beautiful view.

On the way here in a small van, I met a history student from Austria. After settling in the hostel, we explored the village together, drank a few beers and ate at the local alternative restaurant Líná kočka. Tomorrow we are going to discover waterfalls and hopefully we will find a local coffee farm, where for 80 CZK they will show us how they process coffee beans the old way.

20 days earlier…


On November 27th, I am landing on a plane from Mexico in the capital of Colombia. At the airport, I ask how to get to the center. The nice lady at the information shows with a smile that it will be a piece of cake. The free green bus is supposed to take me from the airport to the public transport bus station. Here, all you have to do is get on the right express bus and that’s it.

And indeed. The green bus drops me off at the station in a small alley from which you can only go in one direction and that is to the entrance of the station. You can only go through the turnstile with a valid ticket. So I ask at the checkout if I can pay by card. No. I wonder what I should do, should I go back to the airport and look for an ATM. They’re sending security on me…

He’s actually a nice young police officer. He takes me through the turnstile and takes me about 15 minutes through the bus station. He shows me a small booth and says you can withdraw money there. I choose half a million pesos (approx. 4000 CZK). The guard is still around watching over me. During that 15-minute walk, we only talked about the weather, otherwise he wasn’t very talkative and didn’t respond much to my questions. And so it seemed long… actually we walked for about 5 minutes.

I approach the guard and nod that I already have the money and we can go back to buy a ticket and credit for the ticket. The guard jumps up to the ATM and runs his hand over all the number buttons, warning me that I should always do this or the next time someone misuses my card. Thank you. The guard shows me the express bus to take to the center. I say I have to buy credit first. The policeman waves his hand and says that I can only buy credit in the center… Ouch… I’m Czech, so free riding makes me very happy 🙂 And most of all, I think how nice it starts….


My hostel is in the part called Candelaria. I don’t have a reservation, but according to the reservation system, I know that they have free beds. It was dark before I could reach my part of the city by express bus. I’m wandering with a backpack on my back in Candelaria and I’m looking in vain for my hostel according to a Google map taken from the Internet. Only the police help, who point me in the right direction.

Young constables

In general, after 20 days in Colombia, I have to say that the police here are very friendly and always happy to help me find what I was looking for. Most of them are young guys around 20-25 years old. I didn’t see a single senior constable. The regime probably got rid of them continuously due to corruption. The uniforms of the police officers are very simple, to the point of giving the impression of cheapness and indignity. Only their big machine guns inspire respect.

The best coffee
in my life

And from the solitary… As soon as I get settled in the hostel, I go out into the streets to hunt for something to eat. It seems that the most typical Colombian food is pizza or hamburger. I’m getting one. After Mexico, where food has no taste unless you pour a considerable amount of sauce on it, which will send your taste buds to the arid wasteland of eternal hunting grounds, the Colombian burger is actually an experience. Next is a stop at Oxxo (if you’ve been to Mexico, you know it’s kind of like the Czech Žabka) where I buy a coffee… and now imagine you’re in Žabka and you want a coffee. In the local Oxx, the saleswoman turns her back to the cash register and starts making your coffee using the lever-operated coffee machine you see in better Prague cafes. A queue of people breathing down my neck patiently waiting to pay for their bread. I get a coffee for 3000 pesos (22 CZK) and head out into the streets. The first sip stuns me with its perfect taste. For the next 7 days, I’m heading to Oxxo every night for my coffee. The best I’ve ever had.

A meeting with a Colombian, a Jordanian and a Chinese woman

A Colombian, a Jordanian and … erm … ok, different…
Colombia Chapter 1 1


Adinho is a warm Jordanian and architect, traveling for almost a year on his savings. He went away for 3 months and found that he won’t spend so much on the road and is enjoying life in Brazil for the time being. In December, he went to Colombia to visit his friend. Adinho teaches salsa to a Chinese girl.
Colombia Chapter 1 2


Joy is a loud and surprised Chinese woman. He enjoys everything, he asks everyone about everything, he stops people on the street and asks them what they have in their hands. He stops at all the street food stalls and asks what it is and if it’s good. Joy barely speaks Spanish. Joy is shy to dance in front of people and already knows the basic salsa steps taught to her by Jordanian Adinho.
Colombia Chapter 1 3
Together we visit the local museum, learn about the history of Colombia and Bogota. We taste hot street drinks and complain about the winter.
At night I sleep in a sweatshirt with a hood over my head. Bogota has over 8 million inhabitants and is 2600 m above sea level. And those 8 million people just won’t warm to you anyway. People here are not extra friendly and warm. Hello big city, everything is fast here, people don’t have time and are always in a hurry. So does Oscar, who is a native Colombian from Medellín. He is the brother of Jorque [Chorch], a friend I met in England because he liked my cousin. After almost 4-5 years, I contacted him that I was finally coming to his country and if he would tell me how things are going in his country. He immediately enlisted his brother Oscar, who lives in Bogotá. Word gave word and we are already sitting with Oscar for a beer. Oscar is an architect. Oscar likes life on the big foot. Oscar, with the heart of an architect, has no problem drawing a freehand map of Bogotá and marking everything interesting that I should try. I invite him and pay the expenses for his time and hospitality. A beer for 15,000 pesos (CZK 120) wants to draw a new wrinkle on my face, but I resist and with an expression of “pleasure and pleasure” I pay almost 80,000 for 3 beers and one meal. I’m moving to another bar. Oscar says, now it’s my turn, he invites me for a shot of Aguardiente and a beer. Aguardiente is to Colombians what Tequila is to Mexicans. I would liken it to vodka flavored with anise (licorice). From the map that Oscar drew for me, I visit the first sandwich mini-restaurant. Most of what he drew on the map are restaurants. I pay 18,000 + 2,000 involuntary tip for a sandwich. Waiter: “It’s 18,000 and let’s give it a tip of 2,000…” … wow, different region, different manners… I call it grigovné. I throw two on the table and leave the gourmet sandwich shop… I’d rather check the next place on the Internet. 25,000 for a pizza easily lets me slide under the table like a freshly baked strudel made of undried apples, so I file Mr. Architect’s letter in the archive, under the letter Y.


In Central and South America, they are used to seeing tourists from the US. They refer to them with the word Gringo. A typical Gringo is fair-haired, tall, well-built, does not have a round face, has a neck and sharper facial features. Unfortunately, Andy has the same traits. A typical Gringo comes to the South with one purpose, to have fun. Everything here is extremely cheap for him and the laws are more arbitrary. And so he scatters and does not value anything very much. This is, of course, an opportunity for the local residents to make a little extra money, and bad luck for Andy, who has to constantly explain that he is not a Gringo. Unfortunately, the information that I am from Europe gives the same impression as if I am a rich Gringo.

Tricks of taxi drivers and Bogota with a garbage truck

The Oscar is over. Oscar catches a taxi, he does not recommend walking to the hostel. He allows himself to be taken to his home by a taxi and then instructs the taxi driver not to cheat me… ehhh. On the other hand, Oscar explains to me that I see a taxi meter in the taxi (they didn’t have those in Mexico) and there is a price list on the seat next to me. I can find how much I pay for points taken in the table. So the taxi driver can’t actually rob me in any way. The price should be up to 10 thousand. 20 minutes later… I get out of the taxi, pay 18,000 and stroll through midnight Bogotá as if it belongs here. In 20 minutes I’m at the hostel, on the way I give change to an 18-year-old young man who talks to me about how he sells chocolate on the corner. Back to the taxi driver. He got lost on the way to my hostel and couldn’t find his way. When I had to pay 15 thousand according to the table, I decided to walk it. In order not to say, I still pay a 3 thousand fee for getting into a taxi. Welcome to Bogota!

Don’t give papaya to anyone

Bogota is one big garbage dump, garbage is everywhere on the streets and you have to be careful not to step on homeless people lying around. Which I really feel sorry for, because most of them didn’t even have shoes and socks and overnight temperatures in Bogotá in December are around 6 degrees. Bogota looks dangerous, and it probably is. You can feel it from people. Everyone is constantly looking back to see if someone is behind them to attack or rob them. You hardly see anyone on the streets with a mobile phone in their hand. Whenever I ask about safety, everyone advises me: “Aaaah… it’s not that bad, just be careful and don’t give papaya to anyone…”. Papaya is so readily available in Colombia that the phrase Give papaya is like Opportunity makes thieves.


Monserrate is a hill right next to Bogotá, where you can go either by cable car, small train or on foot. Actually, not on foot anymore, because it was very dangerous, tourists were attacked so often that they preferred to close the road. There is a small village on the hill, full of shops with souvenirs, food and coffee. There is also a church and lots of smaller religious sculptures. Crowds of tourists intertwine with each other like a stream of snakes, but the view of the whole of Bogotá and the picturesqueness of this place are simply worth the visit.

Views from Monserrate


Candelária is a neighborhood with an alternative youth, where street performers gather in the evenings in the local square, play guitar, sing, recite poems, tell jokes, drink coffee during the day and beer in the evening until the local police shut them down. Quite often the police randomly select a group of people and search them. Walking through the streets, you feel like you are in a small village, only every second bar is full of more or less interesting graffiti. The neighborhood is relatively safe and full of hostels. In my hostel, however, for security reasons, for example, the door was always locked. You had to ask the receptionist to unlock it to leave. Upon arrival, it was necessary to ring the bell, the receptionist first always opened the small door window as if from a movie gangster, checked who it was and only then opened the door. They just don’t give papaya here.
After a week of scythe knocking in Bogotá, I am happy to move to a better climate and Escobar-famous city of Medellin.

Tips for visiting Bogota

On the map, I marked the places where you should look, and we also marked some so that you don’t waste time with them. Of course, there is much more to Bogota, but this might be enough to get you started, the rest will come by itself.
  • Watch out for taxi drivers, they often get lost. You can also try UBER, taxi drivers say it’s more expensive than them, but trust them…yikes…
  • Don’t show too much that you have a lot of money on you and don’t hold your mobile phone in your hand so that someone can swipe it. Always stand in a corner somewhere or stand next to the police who are almost on every corner… so a corner is just what you’re looking for 😀
  • Try the local typical drink chicha [čiča], arepas (roasted dumplings with cheese or chicken), ajiaco(cream with chicken, radish and avocado), buňuelos (big sweet croquettes, they are cheap and tasty). Another typical dish is Banda Paisana (a large portion of different types of meat, rejje, fried banana, beans…) but if you plan to visit Medellin, that’s where it’s mecca is.
  • If you see a shop called Oxxo, go there for a coffee. They also have a Juan Valdez coffee chain here, something like Starbucks, but the coffee there is expensive and not much. The paradox is that quality Colombian coffee is intended for export and only average quality remains in Colombia. Juan Valdez is a Colombian chain. Oxxo is something like our Frog, but I think originally from Mexico.
  • Be sure to visit the Botero Museum and the Monserrate hill.