Bogota, the vibrant capital of Colombia, is a captivating city that offers a unique blend of rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Despite its reputation for being an expensive destination, it is possible to explore Bogota on a budget without sacrificing quality experiences. In this comprehensive travel guide, we will share tips and recommendations on how to make the most of your Bogota adventure without breaking the bank.
Planning your trip
To save on travel costs, plan your trip to Bogota during the off-peak season. The months of April, May, September, and October generally offer the best combination of good weather and lower prices for flights and accommodations. Also, consider booking your flights and accommodations well in advance to secure the best deals.
Affordable accommodation options
Bogota offers a range of budget-friendly accommodation options, including hostels, guesthouses, and budget hotels. Popular neighborhoods for affordable accommodations include La Candelaria, Chapinero, and Teusaquillo. Research and book your accommodations in advance to secure the best prices and availability.
Navigating Bogota on a budget is relatively easy, thanks to the city’s efficient public transportation system. The TransMilenio bus system is an affordable and convenient way to get around the city, with tickets costing approximately COP 2,500 (USD 0.65) per ride. You can also use local buses, known as SITP, which offer lower fares.
Taxis in Bogota can be more expensive, but they are still an affordable option if shared with fellow travelers. Make sure to use a taxi app like Tappsi or Cabify to ensure a safe ride and avoid being overcharged.
Free and budget-friendly attractions
Bogota boasts numerous free or budget-friendly attractions that allow you to explore the city’s rich history and vibrant culture without spending a fortune. Some of the must-visit attractions include:
Plaza de Bolivar: This historic square is the heart of Bogota and features important landmarks such as the Cathedral of Bogota, the Palace of Justice, and the Capitolio Nacional. Admission is free, and it’s a great place to observe local life and enjoy street performances.
Museo del Oro: The Gold Museum houses an impressive collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts and offers free admission on Sundays. Regular admission is COP 4,000 (USD 1.10), which is still budget-friendly.
Monserrate: For breathtaking views of the city, take a hike up to the Cerro de Monserrate, a hill that overlooks Bogota. The hike is free, but if you prefer to take the funicular or cable car, the cost is COP 22,000 (USD 6) round trip on weekdays and COP 28,000 (USD 7.70) on weekends and holidays.
Graffiti tour: Bogota is known for its vibrant street art scene. Join a free walking graffiti tour offered by Bogota Graffiti Tour to explore the city’s street art and learn about its cultural significance.
Budget-friendly dining options
Bogota offers an array of budget-friendly dining options, including street food, local markets, and small eateries known as “fondas” or “tiendas de barrio.” Some delicious and affordable Colombian dishes to try include arepas, empanadas, tamales, and ajiaco.
Local markets, such as Paloquemao Market, are excellent places to enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local delicacies at low prices. Additionally, many restaurants offer affordable lunch specials called “menu del día,” which typically include a soup, main course, dessert, and a drink.
6. Enjoy the city’s parks and green spaces
Bogota is home to numerous parks and green spaces that provide a budget-friendly way to relax and enjoy the city’s natural beauty. Some popular parks include:
Parque Simón Bolívar: This expansive park features beautiful gardens, walking trails, picnic areas, and a lake where you can rent paddleboats at an affordable price. Admission is free, and it’s a great spot to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Jardín Botánico de Bogotá: The Bogota Botanical Garden offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city and showcases a diverse collection of Colombian flora. Admission is only COP 3,500 (USD 1) per person.
Parque Nacional Enrique Olaya Herrera: This large park is ideal for hiking, picnicking, and enjoying various sports activities. With free admission, it’s a perfect place to unwind and enjoy nature.
Take advantage of free walking tours
Several companies in Bogota offer free walking tours that give you an opportunity to learn about the city’s history, architecture, and culture while exploring its vibrant neighborhoods. Beyond Colombia and Gran Colombia Tours are two popular options that offer daily tours in English and Spanish. Remember to tip your guide at the end of the tour as a token of appreciation.
Explore Bogota’s vibrant nightlife
Bogota is known for its lively nightlife, and there are plenty of budget-friendly options to experience it. Head to neighborhoods such as Zona T, La Candelaria, or Chapinero, where you can find affordable bars and clubs offering local beer, aguardiente (a popular Colombian spirit), and live music. Salsa dancing is a must-try experience, and many venues offer free salsa lessons.
Shop at local markets
Instead of shopping at expensive malls and boutiques, visit Bogota’s local markets for unique and affordable souvenirs. Mercado de las Pulgas in Usaquén and Mercado de San Alejo are two popular flea markets where you can find handmade crafts, vintage items, and local artwork at reasonable prices.
Leverage student and senior discounts
Many attractions in Bogota offer discounted admission prices for students and seniors. If you fall into either of these categories, don’t forget to carry your ID or an international student card to take advantage of these discounts.
Use a local SIM card
Using a local SIM card can help you save money on data and call charges during your stay in Bogota. Carriers such as Claro, Tigo, and Movistar offer affordable prepaid SIM cards that can be easily purchased at the airport or in the city.
Learn some basic Spanish
While many locals in Bogota speak English, knowing some basic Spanish can help you better navigate the city and potentially save money. By being able to communicate with locals, you can negotiate prices, ask for directions, and get insider tips on budget-friendly attractions and dining options.
Stay safe and be aware of common scams
Bogota is generally safe for tourists, but like any other city, it’s essential to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Keep your belongings secure, be cautious when using ATMs, and avoid displaying valuable items in public. Being vigilant and informed can help you avoid common scams and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Bogota is a fascinating city that can be explored on a budget without compromising on the quality of your experience. By planning your trip carefully, staying in affordable accommodations, using public transportation, and taking advantage of budget-friendly attractions, dining options, and local markets, you can make the most of your Bogota adventure without breaking the bank.