Welcome to Bogota
Bogota is most visitor's first experience of Colombia, and in
many ways this city encapsulates the attraction, history and modern
reinvention of the continent's most tarnished tourism jewel.
Despite modest tourist numbers, Bogota is actually South
America's fourth largest city, and Colombia's financial and
industrial centre. Founded in 1538, the city occupies a glorious
position 8,500 feet (2,600m) above sea level, in sight of the
Cordillera mountain range. In the 1980s, Bogota's longstanding
reputation for cultural glory and cosmopolitan life gave way to the
corruption and violence of the narco-traffic era. It is only in
recent years that Bogota has regained its appeal and now ranks as
one of the safest cities on the continent, thanks to modern urban
planning and huge emphasis on urban security.
The best of the city is in a condensed area near the centre. La
Candelaria is famed for its colonial architecture, culture and
arts. The residential portion's distinctive wooden balconies and
clay tiled roofs are very photogenic, while the many cafes,
churches and museums make for a rewarding exploration. The Plaza
del Bolivar is ringed with handsome buildings and sites of
interest, including the Palace of Justice, Capitol Building and
Arzobispal Palace. The nearby Museo del Oro is a fabulous treasure
trove of antique gold.
Bogota has a hugely vibrant modern side, too. Its gourmet scene
and nightclubs are cutting edge, while boutique shops and design
centres seem to open weekly. There is little doubt that Bogota has
decisively shed its seedy image to become an essential and highly
rewarding stop on any South American itinerary.
Information & Facts
Spanish is the official language.
The unit of currency is the Colombian Peso (COP), which is
divided into 100 centavos. Banks have no fixed policy on exchanging
cash and travellers cheques. Some provide the service, some not,
and different banks can differ on this from day to day. Generally
foreign exchange is only offered in the early morning. Cash can be
casas de cambio, or money exchange bureaux, located in
cities and border towns. US Dollars are preferred for both cash and
travellers cheque exchanges. Travellers cheques are difficult to
exchange outside of Bogota. Visitors are warned to beware of fake
US Dollars, which are printed in Colombia. Credit cards, especially
Visa, are becoming more widely accepted and are welcome at top
hotels and restaurants, travel agents and car rental agencies. In
the main towns and cities ATMs are becoming more prevalent, but
cards should be used with caution for security reasons.
Local time is GMT -5.