A vista of Bogotá under dark blue skies with a snow-cap mountain in the central Andes in the background

Bogotá is the capital and biggest city of Colombia (a metropolitan of over nine million). On a plateau of 8,600 feet, the city is under perpetual clouds, and anytime it’s not raining, it looks like it’s going to rain. The temperature feels like autumn and the people are bundled-up like it’s winter in New York City. In contrast to the chilly gloom are the lush green landscape and plentiful flowers. Unlike most of Colombia you can actually get good pizza and Mexican food in Bogotá along with many other items one would be missing, if you were an American living elsewhere in Colombia.

My first observation of Bogotá was the extent of graffiti, It’s ubiquitous. I have never seen a city with so much graffiti. You cannot go a city-block without seeing something vandalized, and that even includes the block around the president’s house. The United States has given Colombia billions to stop drug trafficking when they can’t stop indiscriminate scribbling of its capital city and government buildings and monuments. This tells me you have a populace that has no respect for private property and a state that can’t even stop pervasive petty crimes.

Bogotá is a noisy city with small streets. Traffic is bad and it can take 30 minutes or more to flag a taxi during rush hour. In Barranquilla, taxi rates are negotiated, in Bogotá the rate is determined by a meter that takes in account time and distance, which means taxi drivers will often take unsuspecting tourist for a ride to jack-up the price. Hotel prices can also be expensive, a small, stale air, dirty carpeted room with an uncomfortable bed can cost over $100.

Another observation is that many establishments’ leave their doors open. You will go to an expensive restaurant and if you are not wearing a jacket or coat you will be cold. Night temperatures are usually in the 40s, yet they won’t shut their doors. Some of the better malls are the same way, all the doors are open and you’re always feeling that chilly Bogotá air. Taxi drivers also want you to feel the taste of the high altitude. You are in the back seat, the front windows are open and you are being blasted by cold air. This is in sharp difference to the behavior of those on the coast, who go into hypothermia if the temperature drops below 75 degrees. Overall, Bogotá is a place to visit. But like any place in Colombia, first-time visitors should have someone smart to guide you, the crime level is high.

The vast city of Bogotá from Monserrate under cloudy skies
A vista of Bogotá under blue skies with a snow-cap mountain in the background
A vista of south-west Bogotá from Monserrate
Sprawling northern Bogotá vista under blue skies
A vista of north-west Bogotá under blue skies
The rising eastern Andes and Monserrate in the background of Bogotá
The skyscrapers of downtown Bogotá
A front-view of the Lourdes Church from the plaza