How to move in Bogota: handy information for your next trip
April 15, 2017
So, if you’re coming to town soon, you’ll find this information useful. It can save you some time, money, and even a few headaches to know more about how to transport yourself in such a large city.
Let’s start with the obvious. It is very likely that you arrive at a recently renewed El Dorado airport, which is located on the west side of Bogota. Depending on how tired are you, the size of your luggage and the time of your arrival, there are a few options to consider. Taxi (or cab) is the most common here, and you’ll find a line as soon as you cross the doors in order to get an authorized service. The cost should be around $30.000 to $50.000 Colombian pesos (which would be around $ COP 10-20).
The good news is that you can also take buses that will take you to the main public transport system, Transmilenio, right outside the airport as well. It might be crowded sometimes, especially during rush hours, but if you’re traveling on a low budget, go ahead! A green bus with the Transmilenio logo and the route 16-14 called “Aeropuerto” (Airport), will take you free of charge to “El Dorado”, one of the Transmilenio’s Main stations, where you’ll be able to buy a card for $COP 3000 (a bit more than a dollar), and charge it with the amount you think you’ll need. Each trip costs $COP 2200 (around $US 0,75), and you’ll also be able to pay SITP (blue regular buses) with it. If you think you’ll take the adventure of traveling by bus, I strongly suggest to charge it with more money that you’ll use for the first trip, since it’s not always easy to find a place where you’ll be able to do so besides Transmilenio Stations. There are other options, such as Dual or Hybrid buses, which are smaller red versions or Transmilenio articulated buses, and even an SITP route, but both will require you to have your card recharged prior to your arrival (which is pretty unlikely to happen, so just let’s move forward)
HOW TO USE TRANSMILENIO
Transmilenio is the main public transportation city here in Bogota, and it started running in 2000. It’s one of the fastest ways to move around the city, and it covers a large part of it, with 12 lines that can take you through some of the main highways and avenues avoiding traffic jams. Despite speed is a huge pro, the biggest con is definitely comfort. During rush hours, there are always long lines outside stations to enter (and struggle to try to get out as well), and usually, there are also lines and even crowds inside trying to reach the route they need, so my advice is to avoid it from 7 to 9 am, and from 4:30 to 7 pm. It’s known that this system is not going through its best time, basically because of the lack of infrastructure since the number of users has been growing exponentially, but it’s still the best option to cover long distances in short periods of time.
Here’s a map of the lines and stations:
There are different routes to reach faster the place you need to get. The routes are composed of a letter from A to L, that indicates where it is heading to, and a number.
The basic routes are one digit only, and they stop in every station of their lines. For example, B1 heads to the north, C4 heads to Suba, D3 to the 80 street, and so on. There´s no doubt it’s annoying that the bus stops at every single stop if you’re in a rush, but if you are able to take your time and you’re not sure if a faster route will deliver you at the right station, an easy route or “Ruta fácil” will be a lifesaver.
That’d be boring if I wrote and try to describe every single route it exists, mainly because there are apps that can do it, such as Moovit, Google Transit, or you can even find out on the Transmilenio website, so I suggest you take a look at them before leaving the place you’re staying, because it’s not that common that you find someone that speaks English out there. Your last choice would be to stand in front of the map that is at each station and try to figure out by yourself, so it’s up to you!
COMMUTING BY BIKE
Bogota has earned a reputation as one of the most bike-friendly cities in South America, and there are several facts that explain why has it happened. First of all, its Ciclovia, a free event that closes over 120 Kilometers of main car ways during Sunday mornings to promote an active lifestyle for its population, that has been a role model for different cities (such as Los Angeles CicLAvia) and encourages people not only to exercise, but also to try different ways of transport such as cycling and walking.
The large amount of bike lanes is also a huge pro since the city has put lots of efforts throughout the years to create, maintain and grow a bike lane network that meets the requirements of its large population. Unfortunately, and due to political changes, infrastructure has not been well taken care of during certain periods, but nowadays, its one of the main priorities of the current major, as commuting by bike and find alternative ways of transport to cars is a way to reduce pollution and mobility issues. Riding a bike in Bogota can be challenging at first, but it will be worth it. I have some suggestions that you might find useful as well:
- Helmets used to be mandatory to ride a bike in Bogota, but now there are just optional.
- It is suggested to use reflective elements and lights from 6 pm to 6 am, to make yourself more visible to the others.
- Always use a U-lock to keep your bike safe (for God’s sake, do NOT use just a wire!).
- Bike lanes are nice to keep yourself away from cars, but they can also be unsafe, especially at night, so take care and be suspicious out there.
- I strongly recommend not to use pedestrian bridges at night. It’s always better to use car bridges.
After this recommendations, I hope you find a bike rental at your hotel or hostel to enjoy the city by bike!
Taking a cab on the street is not a good idea, especially after a night of fun and amusement. There are also apps to request a local cab, such as Tappsi, that will prevent you to have a bad time during your stay here. And of course, there are other platforms such as Uber and Cabify, which are offered around the world but are having a battle against legislation to earn a fully regulated operation, offering different kinds of services that go from UberPool (lower rates and shared card) to UberBlack (premium services).
Now it’s your time to let me know if this information was handy for your trip! So feel free to comment below, and tell us your experience