Arriving in Bogotá: Things you NEED to know

Fortunately, Bogotá is one of those cities with its airport 30 minutes by car from the city center. El Dorado International Airport is located at the end of Calle 26 or Avenida El Dorado, the street that is known as the division between the north and center/south of the city. Calle 26, the main road that runs east-west from the airport to the edge of the mountains, is one of the most important streets in Bogotá, talking about getting around.

Traveling around the city is relatively easy with plenty of good choices of transport. The use of mapping or transport applications on your phone also helps a lot. Having Google Maps on hand is always a good idea as it accurately shows the bus lines you need for wherever you want to go. Another great app (our favorite!), that you can use offline is the TransmiSitp app, the official app for Bogotá’s bus system. It shows lists of all the buses, their times, their routes, the stations they stop at, and you can make your own route and they will select the buses you have to take for you. One navigation app that has always been a choice for many travelers here is Moovit, which has a navigating system more similar to Google Maps.

Here are the means of transport you can use to get around the city and to/from the airport:

Taxi: Taxis are the quickest way to get into town, although the adequate costs for each trip are worth knowing before getting into one. First of all, make sure the meter is turned on as soon as you get on. The starting number is 28; this a reference number that will then be converted to the amount in pesos digitally at the end of the trip, which will only happen if the driver presses the button on the meter, make sure she/he does. (28 equals to 4,100 pesos, almost US$2, which is the starting rate.) There should also always be a physical conversion table you can look at hanging behind the driver or passenger seat. Visitors heading to La Candelaria and Chapinero should not pay more than 35,000 pesos, approximately US$10 . Just make sure the meter is on and you will be paying between 25,000 and 30,000 pesos. We cannot stress this enough… DO NOT PAY MORE THAN 35,000.

Note: Now, there is an airport charge of 4,400 pesos besides the non-cumulative charge on Sundays, holidays, and after 8pm of 2,100 pesos.

What we do: We take taxis whenever we need/want to get a car right then and there, when Uber is at higher prices (when it’s raining or rush hour), and for very short distances; the taxi rate goes up from the starting rate 4,100 pesos when the reference number exceeds 50.

Uber: Sometimes Uber costs can turn out to be cheaper than taking a taxi. Even though Uber is a popular mode of transport here, it is not regulated. You can take Uber around the city and to the airport with no problem, where normally the drivers will ask you to sit in the passenger seat to try to not give out the Uber image. From the airport, it is a little more complicated as there are more police patrolling and checking vehicles. To call an Uber from there, put the pin at the entrance of the central parking lot, parqueadero centro. (See map below, marked Uber, circled in red).

In general, around areas such as Chapinero, La Candelaria, Zona T, there are always large amounts of Ubers waiting around. One thing to keep as a precaution is that you might not want to call and wait for an Uber in a zone full of taxis as they’re not really friends, neither right in front of a policeman. We have personally been stopped by police at the airport before for using Uber. The penalty for Uber drivers is pretty bad, so for their sake, better not to get caught right? Besides that, Uber is a great tool to use in Bogotá.

What we do: We use Uber a lot for many reasons: it is generally safer, we know the fare beforehand, the drivers usually follow a GPS route and it doesn’t have the Taxi’s extra 2,100 pesos at night or Sundays and Holidays. Best choice for a traveler. Uber is a great option when it comes to going back home late at night from a night out as well as when you’re traveling in a group where sometimes fare come out cheaper than buses.

Transmilenio: Transmilenio is the public bus system here in Bogotá. The majority of the routes have their own lanes so many times it helps beat traffic. To use the system, you will need to get a rechargeable ‘tullave’ card. Each ride costs a flat rate of 2,300 pesos, less than US$1, for the big red, and sometimes grey, Transmilenio buses and 2,100 pesos for Sitp, smaller (usually blue or orange) buses. Each Transmilenio route is clearly marked by a letter and number, each letter (for example, M or J) mean different zones around the city.

You can buy a tullave card in a kiosk on the Arrivals floor just next to the escalator. There is only one Transmilenio route that reaches the airport, K86 that arrives at the airport and M86 that leaves from the airport. Buses with the same number and different letters are buses going on the same route in either direction(K86 going towards the airport and M86 going away from the airport). It’s pretty simple! The M86 bus takes you to Portal El Dorado, a big hub station where you can connect to other buses, and then downtown to the international district of Bogotá, to a big station called Museo Nacional. You can hop on the M86 just outside Exit/Entrance 7 where you will see a big sign for a bus stop. (See map above; circled in purple).

For visitors heading to La Candelaria, take the M86 to Portal El Dorado where you get off to change to line 1 to Universidades/Las Aguas, the last station. This special station is actually two different stations connected by an underground tunnel.

For visitors going to Chapinero or Zona T, take the M86 to Portal El Dorado and change to B23 to stations in the Chapinero area which are Calle 45 and Calle 57, and Calle 85 station around Zona T area.

Also, as it can get very crowded, make sure to have your personal belongings in safe locations.

The Transmilenio app is very helpful in providing information about bus routes and connections at each station, as well as the many different ways you can get to a place.

What we do: We have a love-hate relationship with Transmilenio, as it takes us anywhere for cheap, but it can be very crowded. We usually use it for long distances, for example, going to the bus terminals in the far north or south or the city, or when there’s too much traffic.

Busetas: These are the small colorful buses with signs on the windshield listing the places they pass by. They are not part of the Transmilenio system so they are paid by cash. They cost around 1,600 pesos, US 50 cents, and are also flat rates. You can call them on the street and simply push the buzzer to get off anywhere, unlike Transmilenio and Sitp where you have to get off at their own stations or particular stops.

What we do: We take busetas only when we know the route very well or when we don’t have our tullave card. When taking busetas, speaking Spanish really helps a lot.

Note: Busetas do not go to the airport. They also require some experience with the city, unless you are up for an adventure! We also do not recommend these buses for anyone taller than 180 cm.

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