Well it’s getting down to the final countdown for me. After almost three months living in Bogota, I’m getting ready to move on soon to my next position: teaching English in Manizales.
I’ve loved living in Bogota as a local. The city is full of interesting cultural things to do, great food, and amazing parks. However – for the budget-conscious, it’s a city that can get pretty pricy if you’re not careful!
In fact, it’s one of the most expensive cities in Colombia, along with Cartagena. That means that going out to eat, shopping, going to the cinema, or going out at night may cost you roughly the same as it would in North America or Europe.
Of course, I am the type of person who likes to pinch her pennies while travelling. I avoid unnecessary expenses like clothes, fancy meals, or tours that I could take on my own. However, I feel that I have still managed to get a good sense of Bogota and how to enjoy the city without spending too much, and really, it’s not that hard!
Here is a guideline on how to stick to your budget in Bogota while still having a great time.
The Gold Museum
– Sundays are free. Other days and holidays, it will cost you only $4000. ($1.40 USD).
– It is always closed on Mondays.
– More info on the address and open hours can be found here.
The Botero Museum
– Entrance is free!
– It is closed on Tuesdays.
– More info can be found here.
– Visit on Sundays for the best price: $10000 to go up and down ($3.40 USD).
– On other days, it will cost you $18000 for both trips ($6.12 USD).
– These prices are the same whether you use the funicular or the cable car.
– Walking up the mountain is also sometimes a free option, however at the time of writing the trail is closed indefinitely. You can check the website to see if it has reopened!
– Find more information here.
Take part in the Ciclovia
On Sundays and holidays, many streets in the city are closed to vehicles from 7AM-2PM for the “Ciclovia.” Bicycles take over the streets instead! Along the route you can find food and drink stands, as well as occasional live music. But don’t fret if you don’t have a bike or don’t want to rent one – just walking or jogging along parts of the route is very enjoyable as well!
– Cost: Free!
– You can find more information and maps of the routes here.
Graffiti Walking Tour
This is an awesome spin on the usual free city tours (which you can also find in Bogota), focusing on the amazing street art in Bogota. I took this tour and absolutely loved it – you can see the post I made about it here.
– Cost: Tip (suggested 20000-30000)
– 10AM & 2PM everyday.
– You can find more information on their website.
Explore the Candelaria by walking
The Candelaria is the historic centre of Bogota. There you will find colourful streets lined
with old houses and cool street art.
Highlights to hit are the following:
– Plaza Simon Bolivar: the main square of Bogota
– Carrera 7: starting at the Plaza above, you can walk along this street as it is pedestrian-only for quite a while. A lot of vendors and entertainers can be found along the way for some quick eats, buys, or entertainment.
– Chorro de Quevedo: this plaza is believed to be where Bogota was founded in 1538.
– Calle de Embudo: connected to Chorro de Quevedo. It’s a very narrow cobblestone street packed with cool restaurants and shops.
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cultural Centre: this is a cultural centre where you can enjoy some free art displays, sip a coffee, explore books in the bookstore, see a movie screening, or just enjoy the cool architecture.
– Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Carmen: this is a unique-looking church that stands out from far away for its striped exterior.
– Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango: visit this library to see some more neat architecture, and to enjoy some free literary displays.
– Teatro Colon: this is a beautiful old theatre near Bolivar plaza. You can admire it from the outside, or ask about tours to visit the inside.
– Casa de Nariño: also near Bolivar plaza, this is the presidential palace. It’s very pretty, but be careful not to get too close to the fence and do not try to take photos – you’ll promptly be shouted at by the guarding police officers.
– Gold Museum & Botero Musem: as mentioned above, these are definitely worth the visit, and can be found in Bogota’s centre.
Visit a park
Parks are always free, and lucky for budget travellers, there are some really beautiful ones in Bogota!
– Parque Nacional: near the centre, this is a lively park with lots to see and do. On Sundays during the “ciclovia,” you can also sometimes find live music and free group exercise classes going on.
– Parque Simon Bolivar: an enormous park in the middle of the city with a large and peaceful pond at its centre. It is often the host to large outdoor events like concerts. The beautiful Virgilio Barco library and Botanical Gardens are also nearby.
– Parque El Virrey: situated near the trendy Zona Rosa area. It’s a very green park that offers a nice view of the mountains on a clear day. You can come here to use some free outdoor exercise equipment or to jog along the canal. Or, if you’re like me, you can visit just to admire the large amount of dogs that play there.
– Parque de la 93: a picturesque park in another trendy restaurant area. Well maintained and with a big play area, it’s especially great for those with kids.
Some of the most delicious Colombian foods are easy and cheap fast-foods. Look around for vendors selling empanadas, arepas, pan de bono, pan de yucca, and almohabanas among many other things. Pan Pa Ya! is one example of a chain that sells these types of foods, but you can find random shops selling these practically everywhere in the city. Perfect for hungry budget travellers on the go!
Additionally, fruit is amazingly cheap in Colombia. You can find vendors all over selling sliced mango or fruit juices or “salpicon” – a fruit salad drink. Quench your thirst with some fresh exotic fruits at one of these stands!
If you’re looking for a more complete meal at a restaurant that won’t break the bank, look for one of the following:
– Crepes & Waffles: amazing selection of crepes… and waffles.
– Wok: delicious assortment of pan-Asian dishes.
– Cali Mio: tasty fast food, particularly Colombian specialties.
Look or ask for “menu” options at restaurants. They will often include an entrée, a main dish, and a drink for a great fixed price. Lunch menus are most popular.
Alcoholic drinks are easy to find in grocery stores and convenience stores. You can buy them there instead of ordering them at bars. It’s actually quite common for people to just gather in certain areas drinking in plazas with their friends.
If that’s not your thing, don’t worry, there are lots of decently-priced bars too. Try El Candelario, Theatron, or bars in the Zona Rosa (although beware – some here are very pricy!) for a fun night out after some drinks.
Taxis are very cheap in Colombia. You can travel quite far and still pay under $10USD. It is suggested to download and use apps such as “Uber” and “Tappsi” to get around more safely.
The local transit system is called the Transmilenio. The red buses run in their own lanes so are often faster than driving if going long distances. One trip will cost you just $2000. It is a bit tricky to navigate at first, but if you ask at the ticket office at any station, they can likely help you out.
You buy a transit card and recharge it at the offices whenever you need. To enter the stations, you just tap this card. When looking for what bus to take, make sure to check on the plaques above the doors to see all the stops that they will make. Most buses do not stop at all stations so make sure you get on the right route.
Download the Transmilenio & SITP app for iPhone or android to see a map and figure out your route.
Always watch out for your belongings, and oh, and if it’s rush hour, get ready to push your way on!
Hostels are abundant in Bogota as well. Walking around the Candelaria, you pass one every few blocks it seems. As I’ve been lucky enough to stay with family in Bogota, I haven’t stayed in any of them, but here are some of the most popular ones I’ve heard of:
Kozii Hostel – from 25000 a night.
Casa Bellavista Hostel – from 26000 a night.
12:12 Hostels – from 32000 a night
Masaya Hostel – from 35000 a night.
I hope you enjoyed these budget tips for visiting Bogota. I’d love to hear if you have any more suggestions, or questions – feel free to comment below or send me a message if you do!