A Locals Guide to Navigating Bogotá Moving around the City

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Navigating Bogota

María Montes

Traveling to a new city can be quite tricky, especially in a big city like Bogotá. If you make the smart decision to come and visit this amazing city you need to make the most out of your time around. From rush hour to the weather changes and dynamic fares, this quick guide to navigating Bogotá has got you covered. So, get ready to move around the city like a local with these tips!

Pico y Placa:

The first thing you need to understand before exploring this amazing city is Pico y Placa. This driving restriction, initially created in Bogotá back in 1998 to mitigate traffic congestions specifically during rush hour, spread to some of the other main cities in the country and has an important impact in the way Bogotá moves.

How does it work?

Pico y Placa is very straightforward:  all cars in Colombia have a registration plate that ends in 3 numbers that go from 0 to 9. Based on the last number of your car plate, you cannot use your car on some specific days and time frames. For example, if a car plate ends in an even number and it is the 6th of July, that means you can’t use it from 6:00 am to 8:30 am and from 3:00 pm to 7:30 pm. If your car plate ends in an odd number and it is an odd number in the calendar, the restriction will apply to you. Another important thing you need to know about Pico y Placa is that it only works from Monday to Friday and it doesn’t apply for bank holidays or weekends.

Quick Tip:

Avoid moving around the city in rush hour, it might take you a big chunk of the day to arrive to your destination and it is not worth it. For instance I recommend you walk around the area you are staying in, grab some coffee and explore the streets closer to you, at least until Pico y Placa is over and traffic normalizes.  Same for the evening frame; plan your day in advance so you leave at least an hour before 5:00 pm (that is when most of the people finish working), or even consider renting a bike, grab some dinner close to where you are and enjoy a hassle free evening.
Transmilenio, Bogota, Colombia © Photograph by Mariordo59 

Rush hour and public transport:

Rush hour in Bogotá goes from 6:00 am to 8:30 am and from 3:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Public transportation in Bogotá is like in any other city, rush hours are busy and crowded and should be avoided if possible. The best advice I can give you is to plan your day wisely so you can avoid using public transportation during those times, but if you have to do it here is some advice:

Transmilenio:

Transmilenio is without a doubt the fastest and cheapest way to get anywhere in the city. Thanks to its exclusive bus lanes and extensive connections to alternative routes across Bogotá and its surroundings, you can cross the city in an hour and half. Costing less than $1 USD/$2.300 COP per journey, Transmilenio is the best way to move like a local.

Quick Tips:

If you cannot avoid using Transmilenio during rush hour, I advise you to arrive early, sometimes buses tend to be very full and the wait times between buses can be a bit long so I recommend you be at the bus station an hour before your appointment so you can relax and make it on time. Remember that in order to access to Transmilenio you need to get a Tu Llave Card in any Transmilenio station in the city, I advise you to top up the card with plenty of money so you can avoid the long queues before an important meeting. Click here for more detailed information about Tu Llave Card. Another tip you need to keep in mind is that the Pico y Placa restriction doesn’t apply on Saturdays and all the locals tend to use their cars to run errands on this day, therefore traffic can be a bit annoying. I advise you to use Transmilenio on a Saturday, the routes are fully operating and there’s not many people on the buses, it almost feels like a cool adventure when you use it on the weekends.

Uber vs Yellow Cabs:

If you talk to any “Bogotano” it’s very likely that everybody will tell you to use Uber instead of a regular taxi. Here in Bogotá we don’t just have Uber X, you can also have an Uber to pick you and your bicycle in case it breaks in the road, you can use Uber Pool to meet new people or you can even book a Van through Uber in case you want to arrive at a party with all your friends. On the other hand, Yellow Cabs are great if you are in a hurry. There are hundreds on the streets and no one drives faster or knows the city better than them. Also, taxi rates don’t go higher if it’s raining or if the demand is growing so you can save yourself a few bucks.

Quick Tips:

Uber can be very expensive during popular times of the day and the dynamic fare can go up to x 2.8. If you are not in a hurry, I would advise you to use Uber Pool or take a cab. Also, when using Uber X or Uber Pool, please keep in mind that you need to sit in the front seat (Uber is not fully legalized in Colombia so traffic police cannot see somebody sitting in the back seat of a car (unless you are in a limo!)
© Photograph by Marcello Lima
Traditional taxis in Bogotá are quite stigmatized and are know for being nasty when it comes to charging a bit extra to visitors, so I advise you to try to use taxis in the daytime and if you want to take one in the evening avoid taking it in the street or by yourself, instead you can download an app called “Easy Taxi “and set a pick up point and get all your driver information in case you feel you’ve been overcharged. Taxis in Bogotá are very tiny in order to fit in every little space they can find, and they don’t have a dynamic fare, so if you want to arrive somewhere fast and for less money, they can be a good option. Just make sure that once you jump in a taxi the taxi meter starts counting at “28” and don’t bring too much luggage with you because their trucks are way too small to fit more than 2 big pieces of luggage. For more detailed information about taxi fares and payments click here.

In overall

moving across this fantastic city is not as bad as in any other capital city around the world. Having a successful experience commuting in Bogotá is all about making smart choices and planning in advance! I strongly encourage you to try the different options and enjoy all the amazing scenery that this city has to offer. I recommend you click here to check the best apps to help you get around Bogotá, or read some of my other articles for recommendations on where to eat in Usaquen or which flea markets to go to while you are in the city centre. Did you like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for more and less touristy information about Bogotá. Share your thoughts with me and follow my articles on www.colture.com. Are you a local business? Get in contact with us to be featured on our website!
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