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Arriving in Bogota, Colombia for the First Time

After a very relaxing and belly-filling 2 weeks in North America, the Bear and I began our year of travels in earnest when we landed in Bogota’s El Dorado airport late last Monday night.

We walked out of the terminal, ready to take our first breath of South American air, but before we could take in our surrounding, we were immediately accosted by 5 or 6 airport touts selling overpriced taxis and hotels. Ah yes, I remember this. NOW we’re really traveling.

Normally, we don’t book accommodation in advance, but since we were arriving in an “unsafe” and unfamiliar city late at night, we had actually made a hotel reservation and could walk right past all of the people holding signs advertising their hotels. This move was not so easy to accomplish with the taxi touts, who aggressively followed us through the airport as we tried to find an ATM and the prepaid taxi stand.

I suppose they could seem scary or intimidating if you’re not used to touts, but there is really nothing to worry about. It’s just that they really really need to get you committed and into their car, before you reach the official taxi stand. They are banking on your ignorance and with good reason. To get from the airport to our hotel, they quoted us 70,000 Colombian pesos – around $38. The price at the taxi stand for the exact same journey? 22,000 Colombian pesos or $13. BIG DIFFERENCE. So make sure you find the taxi stand in the airport.

In Bogota, you exit Arrivals, turn left and walk to the very end of the airport. There’s a line of yellow taxis and a square booth, where you get a printout that states your destination and price. Take this with you and give it to one of the taxis waiting for a fare. You pay ONLY the amount on the printout.

After a super fast 30 minute ride downtown, which we later discovered totally rested on there being no traffic (a shorter journey during rush hour a few days later would take 2 hours!), we finally arrived safe and sound in downtown Bogota!

There was not a soul walking the streets near our hotel and most of the businesses were locked up. Still, first impressions were of a clean and modern city…whether this would hold up, we would soon find out…

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