Your Transportation Guide to Moving Around Bogotá
Planning to visit Bogotá, Colombia and wondering how to get about with local transportation? Mass transportation in Bogotá can get a bit complicated. Some means of transport can be more efficient than others depending on the time of the day and where you’re headed. And also for you to arrive safely and on time without being frazzled for the rest of the day. It’s no fun starting the day squished, groped and pushed, but nor is it being stuck in a traffic that moves at 2 m.p.h.
I would get my hands slapped for doing so, but I’ve happened to flag down taxis in the street. This seems like no big deal, but in Bogotá you should absolutely avoid doing so(for safety reasons). If you think it’s okay and that you will be the exception, contact me and I’d be glad to share a few stories that will stop you in your tracks.
So how do you go about getting a taxi? In today’s day and age where WiFi is available just about anywhere, download any taxi App such as Easy Taxi or Tappsi to call a cab.
Crossing about 80 streets will cost around $15,000-$20,000 pesos, less than $8. On average, getting to any single location will cost you anywhere from $10,000-$15,000. Just avoid peak hours (7-10am, 12-1pm, 5-8pm) for smoother traffic. If your App tells you no drivers are available at the moment, see what adding $1,000-$3,000 tip will do. I guarantee that within minutes, a cab will magically appear at your doorstep.
To summarize: Reasonably priced and safe, taxis are the most comfortable travel option for traveling. Just be careful to order your cab through an App and not in the street.
I hope you did not rent a car while visiting Bogotá because driving here is insane! Unless you are a local and already own a car, driving is a good solution. But once again, avoid peak hours as traffic can get so dense in Bogotá it can even be faster to go by foot…I’m not kidding. (Try going to La Calera from the North on Ciclovía Sunday). In addition, mind the many challenges on the roads of Bogotá including but not limited to:
- Huge craters due to complete lack of maintenance
- Chaotic drivers (license test is optional here)
- Private buses that stop wherever they want without prior notice
- Pedestrians jaywalking and/or taking their sweet time walking on the road
To summarize: driving here is quite a challenge. But is you can manage, I find it the best way to travel during off-peak hours.
The Transmilenio is effective and quick as it has its own lane allowing the buses to zoom past traffic. Unfortunately, the Transmi’ does not reach all parts of the city and there are limited buses during peak hours, causing huge agglomerations of people at the entrances of the bus doors. Squished like sardines along the windows of the bus, not only do people not move aside to let you in or out, for every 3 that come out, 6 go in.
Yet, outside peak hours are fine and a bus ticket is only $1,800 pesos. You will notice many people walking with their belongings in the front of their persons. This should be a sign for you to be careful with your things as the Transmilenio and all other public transportations are renown locations for theft. In many bus stops, you will also notice that the doors of the bus station that open onto the doors of the bus are often stuck open or shut, making it problematic to go in or out.
To summarize: The Transmilenio is the cheapest and fastest way to travel when there is traffic. Just avoid the hours at which employees go or come back from work. And (although I personally find it confusing) if you would like calculate your route in advance, I suggest downloading the phone App ‘TransmiSITP’ for buses and Transmilenio stops.
BY SITPS BUS (BLUE PUBLIC BUS)
The new bus system implemented by the government to drop privatized buses are a good beginning. This doesn’t mean that it still needs huge improvements. Unlike the rest of the buses, the blue buses actually stop at their assigned stops, but it seems the benefits stop right there. Why?
- Bus routes and bus schedules are not indicated anywhere, nor at the bus stops at which they stop, nor on the buses themselves. The only sign of where they are heading is the name of the general direction in the front window of the bus. This might or might not be helpful, depending on how well you know where you are going. there is also a general route indicated inside the bus which is quite confusing.
2. Absolute lack of timetables make it difficult to calculate how long you will have to wait until your bus arrives. And as they are less frequent then private buses, for every Sitp bus that stops, 10 private buses have already driven through. So as good as the intention might seem, unfortunately, it is still work in progress.
To summarize: Not really useful. It’s easier to catch a private bus.
BY PRIVATE BUS
Coming in all different colors, there are no time tables or routes indicated anywhere. This might seem daunting as the only directions are broad destinations listed on a small sign in the front window. But surprisingly, it’s most likely to get you to where you need to go. They are pretty straightforward: the buses stop wherever you want as long as they are headed in the same direction. They’ll usually drive all the way down a carrera. To hop on, just raise your hand and wave as you would for a taxi. Plus, you can find them everywhere.
However, private buses are extremely problematic. Bus drivers act like maniacs on the road, and stop wherever they please, thus being an absolute danger to other drivers. Not to mention their gas emissions…
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I’ve heard they have not yet disappeared because they are owned by the same politicians who are supposedly trying to remove them.
To summarize: As corrupt and polluted as these buses are, they are your cheapest option to travel where the Transmilenio does not reach.
And then you always have your foolproof pair of feet and plenty of ‘ciclorutas’ to go by bike:)