How To Use The Bogota Transmilenio System Like A Local
***My article was originally published in Sarepa: The travel Colombia blog about living abroad and calling Colombia home
When I arrived to Bogota, the Colombians that cared about my welfare led me to believe that the only way to get around was either by car or by taxi. These same Colombians said they had never taken the Bogota Transmilenio system because they said it was both impractical as well as iffy in terms of security and that it still needed some serious improvements compared to European public transport system.
Sometimes I must say that it is better to arrive at a place without receiving previous input, as this allows you to move around more freely and discover without prejudice.
As a result of being discouraged from taking public transportation, I actually spent my first two months in Bogotá riding taxis, which is fine, as they are relatively cheap, but if you’re here for the long term, it starts to quickly add up.
I also tried to walk, but the distances were too large, the sidewalks poorly maintained, and with no distractions and cool sights to see between point A and point B (I live quite far from the main attractions of the city). I biked a few times and still do where there are adequate ciclorutas and ciclovías but inhaling bus smog all day isn’t exactly my cup of tea. This made me give in to my next option: The beloved Bogota Transmilenio.
I started slow and began Googling how to get from point A to point B. I downloaded all the Transmilenio bus route apps and did my research only to be more confused and figured I would probably have an easier time just getting on a ‘Transmi’ and winging it.
After much hype and precaution, it turned out to be a breeze compared to what I had been expecting. Although it doesn’t extend to all parts of the city, it’s straight forward and relatively cost-effective. I take it on a regular basis and I can even say it sometimes beats taking the car as you avoid the hassle of traffic, parking and crazy drivers…well, mostly.
Of course, the Bogota Transmilenio is a much-debated topic amongst locals and everyone has their opinion of how to take it (or not) and what to do and not to do. Here’s my take on:
How to Take Bogotá’s Transmilenio System
(and not stick out like a sore thumb having to ask everyone for directions):
- Check Google Maps to find where you want to go and locate the closest Transmilenio station near your final destination. Or download the TransmiSITP App and click on the Map to calculate how to get from point A to point B. It will tell you what lines to take and where to switch if you have to.
- Dress plain and keep your belongings in a closed bag in front of you. You will notice most people carry cross-body closed bags and backpacks in the front to avoid trouble. Be wise and do the same!
- Walk to the closest Transmilenio station and purchase a travel card for only $2,000 plus recharge for the number of trips you want ($1,500-$1,800/1-way)
- Walk inside that station and locate a big map if you care to double check your route. The bus numbers are located above the doors at which the buses stop at. Go stand by your bus stop and hop on.
- Some Transmilenios will display the next stops inside the front of the wagon on an electric sign. If not, simply look out the window as each stop will be indicated on the sliding glass doors.
**NOTE: To avoid huge conglomerations of people and long lines, try taking the Bogota Transmilenio outside rush hour, between the hours of 9am-5pm you should be alright. If not, I wish you much luck!
There you go! Hopefully, this helps you go about as locals do. Who knows, you might even pass as a Colombian!
Have you ever caught the Transmilenio in Bogotá before? What tips do you have for people navigating the system for the first time?
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