When travelling in these Equatorial areas make sure that you always are carrying and using a strong and reliable Mosquito and Insect repellant. Malaria is prevelant along with Dengue fever and by not using a good repellant you can put yourself at serious risk...When the sun goes down make sure that you have on long sleeves and long pants..then cover bare areas of skin with repellant..
It's not worth the risk
There's nothing wrong with exploring Bogota on foot and the last thing you want to do is to be afraid to enjoy a city that generally is quite safe. Of course, you should heed the warnings of locals about not going too far in a particular direction as in a city like Bogota, your safety is very much a matter of where you walk as well as what time it is. Some places are perfectly safe during the day but should be avoided at night. As a rule, we didn't go out much at night. We were out after dark most days but generally were heading home from dinner or maybe one after dinner drink. We didn't party into the wee hours and straggle back to our hostel like vampires trying to escape the first rays of the sun. If that is your scene. I suggest you use get used to using taxis. Oddly enough, the only time we ever had any problem was on our first traffic-free Sunday.
We were strolling up Carrera 7 like all the locals, enjoying street snacks along the way but made the mistake of stopping to consult our map even though really it was pretty much impossible to get lost on this straight wide street. I was merely checking to see how much further we had to get to the Museo Nacional and someone came up and said hi in English and started to talk to us. He was less than a desirable type of guy and most likely a junkie looking for money but his English was excellent and I didn't want to appear a snob so I made my second mistake of talking to him, though very much conscious of my belongings at all times. My wife was none-too-happy especially when he went to greet us with a warm embrace. Again, we both watched each other like eagles and being from a big North Eastern city in the US, I was ready for just about anything to happen. We pried ourselves away and of course as we did he asked for money which we declined. We turned back towards La Plaza and decided not to go to the museum that day. It was only our second day in town but it was a lesson well-learned. We never stopped like that again and on our return to Bogota two months later, we did the same walk but just marched up the street right to the museum with no problem. Walking with purpose in a town like Bogota is critical. If you look like you know where you are going and not just checking out the new town, you are much less likely to be approached.
So, some pages on VT will say that the crime and dangers of Bogota are overblown, sensationalized and just not real. I would caution against this line of thinking, while agreeing that the city should not be avoided. You can come here and enjoy all of the many things that Bogota has to offer, but by all means, stay alert. It is a place that has and still does experience a higher rate of violent crime than most large cities on earth. If you are a tourist from another land, you may be targeted, so it's important to use common sense. Be cautious with strangers. Be guarded with your money. Never hail a taxi on the street, instead have your hotel, the restaurant or museum call a cab for you. In La Candelaria, be aware of pickpockets and scam artists. Following some basic guidelines and, in general, keeping your alertness on high can avoid most problems.
Other warnings would include the usual. Unless you have an iron stomach, avoid eating in restaurants that are unclean in appearance. I was told that the water is safe here by one local, but most others told me to stick with bottled water only, which is always a good idea. Altitude can also be a problem if you're unaccustomed to higher conditions, so take it easy on your first day or two in Bogota. Don't overexert yourself or drink too much alcohol and always drink plenty of water.
It´s my pleasure to always include a photo of a hole in the street with no manhole, ever since I fell into one in Kashgar China.
Bogota can be dangerous at night coming back from clubs. Just listen to local advise on where to walk. Otherwise, it´s generally fine during day.
There are lots sidewalks in Bogotá, and plenty of them have plenty of holes one to two feet deep in sidewalks. There was even one in the sidewalk right in front of the door to my friend's place. See the nice cover on the sidewalk in the picture? Well that one has its cover, but many of those covers are missing in sidewalks, so they're not just little holes!
On holes not so big as that size, it seems some people will try to fix the hole by putting a rock over it. It really does not solve the problem, so look out for rocks in your path too!
And don't miss uneven sidewalks. There's no use in getting bruised and banged up shins and knees on your trip!
Get this-- I was told that those sidewalk hole covers are in many cases stolen (what would someone want with those?) The other side of the story is that the stealer becomes the supplier and the city apparently buys them back. So the answer I guess is that they want money. Crazy. it's another one of those Latin America things, that just makes you shake your head.
Don't go just anywhere in the city on your own or even with whom you're traveling. Be wise about where you choose to venture / have a connection(s) there if possible so have someone trustworthy with whom you can consult about places to see / go.
Well... As with all major cities in the world you should be careful on the street. DO NOT wear expensive jewlery at sight. Never, ever count money, specially Dollars, in public. Just take with you what is necessary. Always use hotel-provided transportation and/or call-in taxis. They are very reliable and safe.
If you venture outside Bogota, first of all talk with locals (could be your hotel personnel) about the place you will like to visit. It is well known that some rural areas of the country are under guerrilla's control.... not near Bogota, but is better safe than sorry.
O.K. we've all heard about the problems in Colombia, but I must say that I experienced nothing untoward. However, don't wear flashy jewelry, don't carry a lot of cash--basically follow the same advice as if you were traveling to say, Mexico City.
P.S. take ONLY a taxi from a hotel, or one that has been called for by a known service. There are 'renegade' taxi drivers who pick up fares only to rob the passengers.
Santafé de Bogotá is not a good city to explore if you have noone you know there and who stays with you! But for any experienced traveler it shouldn't be a problem. Just act like normal and TAKE CARE!!!
Avoid walking at the streets at night (especially in South- and Central-Bogotá) and never take superfluous money with you. If you have lots of money with you, watch if someone is following you. If you're not sure if someone follows you just make a quick stop at some street shop and pretend watching the items. You'll see how the person reacts. Leave your passport at home or the hotel.(Exept if you like to change traveller's cheques!!!) Take your ID instead!
Don't try to drive for your own...the traffic is horrible if you're not used to it! If you still want to drive, avoid stopping at a red traffic light at night!
If you take a backpack with you, try to wear it the other way around (over your chest). So you avoid somebody opening your backpack and stealing something!
Now you might think that Bogotá is dangerissimo!!!
Ok, it might be more dangerous than other cities, but like everywhere most citizens are just normal people. (Colombians may be the most friendly people in the world)
Just observe the proverb:
Caution is better than forbearance!!!
---Sure, crimes can occur a little bit faster than elsewhere. Outside of my friend's apartment, for example, is a small park with a small police station. Once, we just went back home, a criminal tried to escape...and the policemen tried to shoot him across the park...we really looked forward to lying down as fast as possible...but nothing happened as there were nearly no people and actually we were not in the way the shooting, fortunately. By the way, they missed the guy...
Don't remain late at night in solitary sites around all city, but places like the downtown, chapinero, and many others are populated sites even late at night.
Like in most of south american countries you must take care with the thieves, simply don't boast with jewels or things like that.
Read my intro paragraph for more of the latest, as of 8/10/01.
It was told to me by nationals:
a. leave diamond rings at home.
b. do not attract attention to yourself, if American.
c. Do not yell out in English. Speak softly in English. There are guerillas in many places watching. KIDNAPPING is a reality. Americans are prime targets.
d. Do not be out after dark, alone. Groups are best.
e. If driving after dark, it is best to not stop at lights, keep the car locked and rolling. There are few road/traffic laws.
Limit the amount of TV which you allow your cat to watch...there is so much to do in Bogota, your cat will get hooked on television while you are out exploring.
Cazuca, a poor neighborhood in Bogota, receives a steady flow of families displaced from their homes in Colombia's countryside.