What do I need to know for a short trip to Bogota, Colombia?
August 26, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Bogota, Colombia for work in a couple of weeks and am looking for advice and suggestions on several aspects of the trip.

I'm traveling for work, at the invitation of a group there, and they are arranging the hotel and travel logistics. I am hoping to squeeze in a day or two around the meeting to see more of the city than a meeting room, but I'm unlikely to be able to add enough time to get very far outside of Bogota. I speak the most minimal of Spanish. I've traveled internationally (and lived outside the US a couple of times), most recently to Beirut and Istanbul, but I've never been to South America.

Here are my questions:

1. If I only have a small amount of free time in Bogota (up to a day), what should I not miss? Museo del Oro? If anyone has ideas that include seeing some of the amazing birds of Colombia, please let me know (yes, it's killing me that I will be in one of the best birding countries in the world and not have time to travel to see many of them.)

2. How challenging is it going to be to eat a mostly pescetarian, lower carb diet while I'm there? I made it through the Middle East last year eating a more restricted carb diet, and I'm willing to loosen up my carb restrictions some, but not the no-red-meat part. Anything food-related that I shouldn't miss, or should miss?

3. Any insight on business dress code? I'll be meeting with government and NGO representatives. How closely does South American business dress for women map to North American? Should I be counting on wearing skirt suits? I understand that the temperature will be chilly there -- seems about the same climate as San Francisco in the summer, actually.

4. If I were to bring home a good bottle of rum, what should I be looking for and where? Types, brands, etc. Will I be able to get something at the duty free on the way home, or am I better off finding a bottle in Bogota and checking my bag on the way back?

5. Any other advice or insight? Any mefites in Bogota? I've read the Lonely Planet chapters on Bogota (and the handful of previous Asks), and I have co-workers who were just there for a related meeting, but I'm interested in hearing what the hivemind has to say.
posted by gingerbeer to Travel & Transportation around Bogota, Colombia (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I wasn't, like, crazy impressed with the gold museum, although it was pretty cool -- not sure it's a must see, but I doubt you'll regret it, either.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2012

Botero Museum. Here are the opening times. This is very close to the old Candelaria district.
The Transmilenio is a quick, clean, safe way to get around.
posted by adamvasco at 11:26 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bogota (and of course, Colombia) can be a very interesting city. Most of the days are long gone when it was just known for the troubles and its "infamous" reputation - but exercise healthy caution nonetheless.

Not knowing your gender, I will assume you are a man, and advise you accordingly. First, the attractions you should see/not see:

- Gold Museum is rather boring- Botero Museum is better and more enjoyable
- Go to Monserrate (a mountain that dominates Bogota's city center, with great views if not air polluted)
- Iglesia de Santa Clara - gorgeous
- Alcaldia walking tour - good, free and in English
- Bogota Botanical Garden

Your questions:

You can find plenty of low-carb options (asado, Lechona, chorizo, Changua (breakfast), Sancocho (soup), however they will usually be accompanied by carb-heavy options as a meal.
There are plenty of international restaurants in Bogota as alternatives.

Dress code: for professional meetings, business suit, usually with a tie. You can drop the tie if you know in advance they are casual (they will never be casual as Americans are). Even in the city during the day, you will find locals dress a bit formal. Anecdote: I was often "advised" to change my casual American style before going out with my friend who was a local, although she did say "your choice."

Best Rum for me was Viejo de Caldas Añejo. Expensive, but good and unique.

Other things: People of Bogota love culture and are passionate. Many men + women are confident people, and proud. You may be approached by women if you are dining alone, or walking about alone. Do not be offended, and do not rush to judgment. If you get invited out by your business contacts, usually will be a 2 or 3 step process (drinks, more drinks, dinner, etc).

posted by Kruger5 at 12:03 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I'm a woman, fyi. Hence the reference to a skirt suit.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you take a taxi, don't just grab one off the street -- get an official one.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:17 PM on August 26, 2012

I simply missed the one word indicating your gender - forgive me if you're able to. My revised suggestions are as follows:

- Botero Museum
- Iglesia de Santa Clara - gorgeous
- Alcaldia walking tour - good, free and in English
- Bogota Botanical Garden
- Centro Andino (major mall with good stores in Bogota)
- Salome Pagana for dancing

Your questions:

You can find plenty of low-carb options (asado, Lechona, chorizo, Changua (breakfast), Sancocho (soup), however they will usually be accompanied by carb-heavy options as a meal. There are plenty of international restaurants in Bogota as alternatives.

Dress code: women often wear various combinations of suits in a corporate/professional setting

Rum: SANTERO Rum line

Other things: As a woman, being "bold" in dealing with men is not recommended. Firm is fine, but forwardness is not an acceptable quality in their eyes. In fact, it can lead to misunderstanding.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: Hey! I live in Bogotá!

So, you'll be here for a couple of weeks. Foodwise there are all kinds of things. There is a big local chain called crepes and waffles that has lots of salads, vegetarian crepes, and good desserts. They are also partners in another vaguely asian chain called wok, that also has a lot of vegetarian options. But coming here to eat vaguely asian food is kinda weird.

If you are asking about normal (i.e. non chain) restaurants, what most people here eat for lunch is called a 'menú ejecutivo'. it's like a daily special that includes some sort of soup and a plate with rice, some sort of meat, some beans or vegetables, and a glass of real fruit juice. there are vegetarian places where they have this too. My favorite vegetarian restaurant with a menú ejecutivo is called Felipan, it's in the neighborhood of Chapinero, but I don't know if that's close to where you are staying or having your meetings. In La Candelaria there is another good one called Quinua y amaranto.

I am a semi-vegetarian and I sometimes go to these menú places and ask them to replace the meat with an egg, and they happily oblige.

As far as clothing, a skirt suit sounds fine. Weather here is mostly like a light autumn in the northeast. So I would bring a jacket, although not a heavy one.

As for rums, in the last couple of years Ron Medellín has been putting out a rather tasty "añejo" brand. They have 3, 8 and 12 year versions. A friend says he likes the 8 year better than the 12, and it's also cheaper.

As for activities, Museo del oro is great, if you want to see pre columbian art. The Botero museum (very close by) is good too, but they have more contemporary art. Museo Nacional has lots of portraits of generals and presidents and is located in what used to be a fortified prison. I second the suggestion of going up to Monserrate. And if you can escape and see the countryside, close to Bogotá you can find really beautiful landscapes. MeMail me if you have any other questions.
posted by MrMisterio at 2:25 PM on August 26, 2012

Response by poster: No worries, Kruger5 -- seems like I wasn't as obvious in my question as I thought. I'm interested in why you changed your rum recommendation -- what's the difference between the Santero line and the Viejo de Caldas Añejo?

MrMisterio -- thank you, that's all really helpful. I will likely followup via memail. I'm actually only there for a few days, not a few weeks, alas, or I would have a whole different set of questions.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:52 PM on August 26, 2012

The rum adjustment was from my experience of most women not reacting very well with the 1st recommendation vs. the 2nd. The men, on the other hand, enjoyed both, the 1st considerably more.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2012

The fruits in Colombia are amazing. See if you can get a Colombian to take you to a fruteria and guide you through all the amazing fruits you can sample. Also drink much jugo (juice), the delicious fruit juices they have everywhere. That isn't particularly low-carb, but neither is ginger beer.

I enjoyed a Bogota Bike Tour-- you can, as they promise, see a ton of the city. There is a relatively decent network of bike lanes, though I probably wouldn't suggest it to someone with no urban biking experience. (The fruteria visit was part of my bike tour, in fact).

I preferred the Botero Museum to the Gold Museum.
posted by akgerber at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2012

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