Ever been on a colorful bus without windows and doors, music blaring, and people dancing while it’s on the move? No need to fasten your seatbelt here; riding a Chiva in Bogotá is the ultimate experience you’ll have in this city, and it’s even better during Christmas and New Year’s! Keep reading and hop on this amazing, bumpy ride!
I don’t think you can find a Chiva anywhere else in the world. The concept is an amazing and uniquely Colombian invention. It’s actually a colorful bus that is still used as a means of transportation in the countryside, but nonetheless, in cities like Bogotá, it has transformed into a version of a nightclub on wheels. You heard right: Chivas are buses where you party and where you can dance, drink and have a hell of a good time while you’re moving. Besides, it’s also a touristic ride, so you can get a good glimpse of some of Bogotá’s most famous nightspots. Chivas work year round, but they are most popular around Christmas and New Year’s as people like to celebrate during the last days of the year.
Characteristics of a chiva
Chivas are the easiest buses ever to spot: they have an incredible presence and personality. You’ll probably see a few when coming to Bogotá, that’s a fact! But what are the characteristics that make them so unique and special?
- They don’t have windows or doors. Chivas are actually open-sided buses but don’t worry, you won’tget wet or cold because the ceiling is quite a shield.
- Rather than seats, Chivas have wooden benches lining around a little central “dance floor,” or some rows at the back with the “dance floor” at the front. They aren’t the most comfortable seats, but remember that you are not meant to be seated in a Chiva.
- While it’s not common in the Chivas in Bogotá, some still have a ladder leading to the roof. This is used in the countryside to carry things and sometimes people as well (yeah, crazy I know!)
- To prevent you from falling (it’s a high probability), Chivas have tons of poles and handles to help you stay vertical.
- Chivas have the loudest music to sing and dance to; they actually play tons of Colombian classics, so it’s also an opportunity to get a taste of our own music. You can even have a band on board!
- Chivas are moving masterpieces of art, really! All of them usually have these amazing colorful paintings, designs, and patterns. Take a second to admire this because it’s beautiful and very local. Sometimes the art might even depict stories or popular customs and traditions.
One last thing:
You should, of course, be careful on a Chiva. It will be a bumpy ride, drinks will be spilled (yes, there’s alcohol involved too), and you will probably fall once or twice (nothing dangerous though). It might be a little bit of a bizarre experience for first timers, but the secret is to have fun and soak up the experience. I assure you’ll have the best time ever!
So how and where can you ride a chiva and why is it popular during Christmas and New Year’s?
It’s no secret that Colombians like to party a lot! We do have a celebratory nature running through our veins. On top of this, everything gets better at Christmas and New Year’s because people really like to celebrate the last days of the year and say goodbye to the past 365 days. Adding to that, remember that Chivas also have a touristic purpose, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know some of Bogotá’s most iconic places which will be decorated and lit up. You might also be able to hop on and hop off the bus. So if you are dying to ride a Chiva, the best thing to do is to take a Chiva Tour! There are several companies offering this service, but here are three I personally recommend:
Chivas de mi Tierra: You can hire a Chiva to go around Bogotá with karaoke, music, music videos, a bar, and even a bathroom. Take a look at their webpage for more info.
Tu Chiva: Lights, a variety of music, and different pickup spots where you can hop on. Take a look at their webpage, as well, for more info.
Chivas Tours de Colombia: Different styles of Chivas and different styles of parties (even some with food). Don’t forget to take a look at their webpage.
A very typical route of a Chiva Tour is, for example, passing through Carrera 15 (15th Avenue), Zona Rosa, Zona T, Parque El Virrey, Parque de la 93, and Mirador de la Calera, where you are close to some of the best party places and you can see the entire city from there (the view is absolutely worth it!).
And the cost…
Chivas are not that expensive if you manage to get a large group of people to hop on because the price itself will be divided by a big number. Usually, the prices range from $800.000 COP ($255 USD) and $2.200.000 COP ($700 USD), which means that for approximately 20 people (the standard for a Chiva), everyone will have to pay between $20.000 COP ($6.30 USD) and $110.000 COP ($35 USD). The price variation depends on the services offered by the company: whether the Chiva has a bathroom, if you have a personal guide that talks about historical facts, or if you are eating and drinking on board. You can even pay a little extra for necklaces, party hats, glasses, balloons, etc.
I don’t recall seeing anyone sad or grumpy on a Chiva. The celebratory atmosphere is infectious, which is a quintessential part of our culture (read our articles Novena: the best way to eat, pray, love (and sing) in Christmas and Christmas traditions in Bogotá: Aguinaldos to find out about other ways of having fun at Christmas). It’s the kind of ride that is prohibited in many countries, but not in Colombia, and that’s why it’s so unique and special. Remember that while you are having the time of your life, you’re also riding on a piece of history, so it’s really the ultimate local experience that will never get old!
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