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Is Bogotá Safe? A Complete Backpacking Guide

Montserrate Bogota
Monserrate. Bogotá, Colombia

Bogotá is Colombia’s capital and largest city with 10 million residents, and many travelers have concerns about whether they will feel safe here. It’s not the prettiest city, nor does it have the best weather, but there are plenty of reasons to visit. The city has fascinating museums, exciting day trips to escape the chaos, and markets with tasty exotic fruit.

You can spend the day learning the insane 20th-century history of Colombia and go salsa dancing at night at one of the most iconic clubs in the Americas. Bogotá is the first stop for most backpackers in Colombia and many only stay 2-3 days, but if you have the time, it’s worth a longer stay.

Related: A Complete Guide to Medellín

Is Bogotá Safe?

I felt safe in Bogotá during the day and uneasy on the street after sunset. Be sure to listen to the safety advice of locals and hostel staff. Most young people stay in La Candelaria and walking around here at night does put you at risk of robbery.Uber and DiDi operate in Bogotá and both are safe options at night.

During the day, stick to the main roads in La Candelaria, Santa Fe, Chapinero, and Marly. These neighborhoods have many people on the streets and a noticeable police presence. The western part of Bogotá is more dangerous and you may want to think twice about visiting areas like the Graffiti District. 

Check out the most important things to know before visiting Colombia!

What to Do 

La Chorrera Waterfall – Colombia’s tallest waterfall is a the best day trip from Bogotá. It’s a 4-hour roundtrip hike and the lush scenery is gorgeous. The waterfall is a well-kept secret that averages just 250 visitors per day. You need to organize your own transport for the one hour drive to reach the trail.

is bogotá safe
Scenery near La Chorrera

Palquemao Fruit Market – Colombia has exotic fruits like lulo and mangostino that are delicious. Not all of the stalls have exotic fruit, but other vendors are happy to tell you where to find it.

Monserrate – A must-visit for the fantastic views of the city. The cable car costs 23,500 Colombian pesos (COP) round trip (14,000 COP on Sundays). Hiking is an option, but you must go in the morning because the trail closes for safety reasons in the afternoon. The steep 1-hour hike is especially challenging due to the altitude. Be sure to bring a jacket because it gets cold up there.

Botero Museum – Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist and he draws exaggerated figures which makes people look fat. Even if you aren’t into art, this free museum will make you laugh.  

Botero museum
Botero Museum

Explore La Candelaria – This is one of Bogotá’s oldest neighborhoods and it’s filled with colorful buildings, street art, and views of the city. 

Gold Museum – This museum exhibits gold artifacts dating back more than 2,000 years. The intricate design of the pieces is incredible and you can expect to spend about 60-90 minutes here. The entrance is 4,000 COP (free on Sundays) and it’s closed on Mondays.

Free Walking Tour – The perfect way to spend your first morning in Bogotá is by learning the insane history of Colombia and getting inside tips on the city. Beyond Colombia gives an awesome tour.

Salt Cathedral – Make the trip to the nearby town of Zipaquirá to see a cathedral built inside a salt mine. The cathedral is Colombia’s first wonder and mass is still held here every Sunday. Make sure to bring water as being in the salt mine will make you feel a bit dehydrated.

You can hire a driver or take the bus. The bus leaves from Portal Norte and costs 6,500 COP each way, plus 6,000 COP for a transit card and 2,500 COP for access to the bus platform. The entrance to the cathedral is 77,500 COP. 

Related: The 12 Best Things to Do in Cali, Colombia

War and Peace Walking Tour – For history lovers, Beyond Colombia offers a fantastic tour of Colombia’s bloody past and the ongoing progress towards a more peaceful future. 

Catch a show at Teatro Colón – The national theater has a beautiful interior and hosts a wide array of musical performances. The tickets go for as cheap as 40,000 COP.

Where to Eat 

La Puerta de la Catedral – A cozy Colombian restaurant near the plaza serving a variety of traditional dishes.

is bogotá safe
Bandeja Paisa from La Puerta de la Catedral

Aquí en Santa Fe – An intimate restaurant with delicious food at a great price. They specialize in arepas and also have a fabulous bandeja paisa. 

Restaurante El Antioqueño – A popular lunch spot with generous portions of Antioquian cuisine near the city center.

La Perseverancia Market – Bogotá’s most popular market is open from 12-4 PM everyday. Eat at Mamá Luz’s Tolú Restaurante whose ajiaco soup features on Netflix’s Street Food Latin America series. Be prepared for a wait on weekends as it gets busy.

La perseverancia market
La Perseverancia Market

Crepes & Waffles – I was skeptical of this place even after getting a recommendation from a Bogotá native. I expected it to be your run-of-the-mill breakfast and dessert crepes, but it turned out to be quite the experience. The crepes here are delicious and they have fun flavors like Thai curry and cochinita pibil. 

Pandebono y Café El Dorado – The name says it all. Come here to start your day with pandebono and coffee with locals. 

Pastelería Florida – This bakery and coffee shop with delicious sweets opened back in the 1930s.

Where to Stay 

Most of the hostels are in La Candelaria which is the best district to stay in to experience the city. If your priorities are nightlife and feeling safe, Chapinero is the best option in Bogotá. Keep in mind that the taxi ride between Chapinero and most attractions is 25 minutes.

The Cranky Croc Hostel – This is Bogotá’s most popular hostel and I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s located in the heart of La Candelaria and has a wonderful staff. They offer terrific tours and organized activities that are perfect for meeting other travelers. It has the amenities of a hotel while maintaining a buzzing social atmosphere. 

Botanico Hostel Bogotá – An aesthetic hostel in a colonial house in La Candelaria with a beautiful garden and views. Rooftop yoga classes and the onsite bar make for a nice atmosphere.

Selina Parque 93 -A typical Selina with modern amenities and a location in the high-end Chapinero neighborhood.

Where to Spend a Night Out 

Andres Carne de Res – One of the most famous nightclubs in South America has a 78-page menu full of outstanding food. As the night goes on the dinner tables make way for salsa dancing. For those who drink too much, there are hammocks where you can sleep it off. It’s quite expensive by Bogotá standards, but it’s a memorable experience

Gringo Tuesdays – This happens every Tuesday and many hostels offer a party bus to the event. It starts with a language exchange with locals and the dancing begins as the night goes on.

How Long to Stay 

4-5 days is enough time to discover the best of Bogotá without feeling rushed. You will likely need a day to acclimate because the city sits at 2,800 meters.

Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!

Where to Next

Villa de Leyva (4 hours by bus) – A colonial town known for its 125 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

San Gil (8 hours) – Adventure sports capital with a day trip to the country’s most beautiful town.

Medellín (10 hours) – Renowned for its nightlife, the city of eternal spring is famed for its history surrounding Colombia’s drug cartels.

Salento (10 hours via Armenia) – A charming town in the coffee axis with the best day hike in the country and a tejo bar.

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