Since today is laundry day, I will write about getting around Bogota and share some of Ol's photos of beautiful street art (graffiti) while Oliver navigates the Spanish washing machine. It is a bit confusing, the laundry that is, because it washes clothes and then turns into a dryer. Though the laundry is free, Oliver keeps running back to the room for more pesos. It appears that he is tipping the staff who insists on helping him, apparently in Colombia men do not do laundry!
So let me tell you a bit about Bogota’s transportation system. In any city with over 14 million people, traffic is going to be an issue. So far the traffic is the only negative, but it is expected and somehow more enjoyable than traffic in Seattle or Los Angeles. That may be because of some of this amazing artwork.
We have decided to use taxi’s if we are traveling somewhere we cannot walk, because a long taxi ride costs less than $10 USD.
The Metro is very accessible from everywhere, but does not run underground. It is a series of long colorful buses with direct lines going in all directions throughout the city. There are large platforms in the middle of dedicated lanes for the buses. This system appears to be efficient and it is heavily used. It is incredible to see the buses packed with people hanging out of open doors, zipping around corners.
To supplement this public system, there are also numerous private buses that race along the outside lanes mixed in with the cars and motor bikes. Simply flag down a private bus and jump on. Get off anywhere along the route by pulling a cord to notify the driver of your stop. They are very popular and brimming with people. The private buses cost $1 USD.
Somehow, Colombians make all of this chaos make sense. Most of the bridges and roadsides are decorated with street art, some of it quite beautiful and fun. In Bogota, graffiti is taken to another level!
We are surprised that we have yet to witness an accident as taxi’s, buses and motorbikes drive at break neck speeds, darting in and out of traffic. After a few days, I have quit gripping Ol’s hand and my armrest and have settled into enjoying the sights of the city.
The US State department recommends travel by taxis because petty theft can be a problem on buses. They also recommend the use of an app or to have a hotel or restaurant call for a taxi. We have followed this recommendation with one exception: when we were leaving Monserrate where we accidentally stole someone elses taxi!
As we exited Monserrate, employees asked if they could call us a taxi. Ol had seen a line of taxi’s at the curb and said "no gracias." As soon as we crossed the street, the drivers began saying ",taxi, taxi." We said, "Si" and jumped in. About 15 minutes into out trip, the driver received a call and realized that we were not the clients he was called to pick up! Apparently all Americans look alike! He still graciously took us to our hotel, but ended up losing a 6 hour commission, as the couple had hired him for the evening. We felt terrible!
It also came as a surprise that Uber is also available here, However, Uber is more expensive here than taxis. We tried to use it once but were unsuccessful as we lost our cell service. Most of the taxi’s we have taken from our hotel have been nice white SUV’s. It's only been two weeks and we love being chauffeured!
So transportation in Bogota is easy and very safe to use. We have also felt very safe walking from our apartment, but we are staying in the Usaquen Santa Barbara neighborhood, a very nice area. There are parks, embassies, upscale shopping malls and blocks of wonderful restaurants, all within walking distance. And as an added benefit, we enjoy the beautiful street art as we stroll!