Transportation in Bogota
Bogota’s street grid can be best compared to Manhattan’s (NYC), where Carreras (Avenues) run from north and south and Calles (Streets) run from east to west. Be aware that occasionally major streets are also called Avenidas.
Address numbers will then correspond to the nearby intersection’s latitude and longitude Calle or Carrera number.
For example, the address for the Teatro Libre de Bogota is:
Calle 13 Number 9 A – 65
…and the Museo el Chico is located at:
Carrera 7 A Number 93 – 01
Modes of Transport:
There are multiple modes of transportation, such as an extensive bus system known as the Colectivas, taxis, private drivers, private cars, motorcycles, pedi-taxis, bicycling on the dedicated routes called Cicloloroutas, and the rapid transit system – TransMilenio. The city has implemented what is called the Pico y Placa system of limiting the number of vehicles driving in the city each day. PyP matches certain days with the last digit of three license plate numbers, allowing only those vehicles with matching numbers to drive on that day. Of course it is a controversial system, with supporters and nay Sayers. PyP is not in effect on the weekends, and a marked increase can be seen in the traffic flow. Many roads are closed to vehicles on Sundays and holidays for the Cicloveas, creating bike and pedestrian only zones. This event has garnered international accolades, and is being implemented by many other cities, such as New York and Paris.
Remember: It is recommended that you always carry small bills and change with you for your transportation needs.
TransMilenio, the mass transit system is comprised of articulated (extra long) buses that travel on a vast network of dedicated bus lanes connected throughout the city. The routes are currently being expanded to reach even more communities.
Please see the following link to the TransMilenio website for additional information.
Effective August 1, 2012, the TransMilenio fares have been reduced:
Mondays - Saturdays; all day Sundays and Holidays:
"Valley" times - Start of operations to 5:29 a.m.; 8:30 a.m. to 4:29 p.m.; 4:30 p.m. to 7:31 p.m. to close of operations: $1.400
Mondays - Saturdays:
"Peak" times - 5:30 a.m. to 8:29 a.m.; 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: $1.500
Operating like a dedicated bus line/above-ground subway system, this network of red fuel-efficient vehicles is safe, efficient (if on a somewhat elusive timetable) and very easy to ride. This system has garnered many international urban design awards. So successful has the TransMilenio system been that the international community has taken notice and is studying it as a possible application in their cities. The NY Times also had a major story and video report about it.
Two mayors of Bogota were also invited to Denver, Colorado to talk about the TransMilenio, and other interesting projects Bogota has had success with.
Some NOTES about riding the TransMilenio:
Yes, it is a mass transit system that moves thousands of people a day. Yes, it does get very crowded at any time, redefining “rush hour.” Yes, there is personnel on hand to assist travelers and fellow passengers are generally helpful and courteous. What? Real people? Helpful and courteous passengers in mass transit? Be aware that the blue seats are reserved for the elderly, parents with children, mothers with child or the infirm. This code is usually honored, and fellow passengers will let you know if you are in violation when someone in need enters the bus. The more modern buses have monitors that constantly display the ultimate destination, and the next two upcoming stops. This is extremely helpful, but if in a bus without a monitor, you should try to have a clear view of the platform so that you can see where it is stopping. Or, you can ask a fellow traveler, and you might get more than one helpful response from those around you. Don’t be surprised if you are standing, a seated passenger offers to hold your personal belongings. No – this is not an attempt to rob you – it is an honest offer of assistance. This is very common behavior, and another illustration of how helpful Colombians tend to be. Generally, if someone touches you while moving through the bus, don’t interpret it as a sign of aggression, most likely they are just trying to get into a comfortable spot –riders are simply accustomed to wiggling through, and quickly holding on to handrails, seldom is anyone pushy or aggressive on purpose. Please also respect the signs advising against talking to the driver.
Do be aware of pickpockets. Though rare, some prowl the crowded buses. But, one call out of “ladron” (thief) and the entire bus load of passengers will be all over the perpetrator, and the driver will be on the radio calling in for police assistance at the next stop. Most Colombians take such violations very seriously.
All in all, the TransMilenio is a great system that is leading the way in fuel efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective travel.
Subway – After many delays, Bogota is about to embark upon one of the most major civil engineering projects in South America - the construction of four underground subway lines system along major arteries that will integrate with Transmilenio and suburban train lines.
Colectivas – These buses run routes throughout Bogota and can be flagged-down almost at any point. The window signs display the direction and destinations. Be sure to confirm with the driver that you are boarding the right bus.
Taxis – Despite what you may have read in haphazard travel guides, Bogota’s taxis are generally wonderful. They are clean, modern, safe and drivers are usually very knowledgeable of destinations and helpful. Though you can easily flag one down on the street, as most Bogotanos do, we recommend that you call ahead for one whenever possible, as this will better ensure your safety. If hailing a cab, be sure that the vehicle is not just a yellow car, but that it also has ID numbers on the doors, as you can see below. It is also a good sign if the cab has a dispatcher’s antenna and radio.
Remember, Bogota is a formal city and protocol is important even when using a taxi. When entering the cab do not slam the door. You will notice that the doors close very easily with a slight pull. Slamming the door can cause damage to the vehicle, and hurt the driver’s livelihood.
Be sure to greet the driver (buenas…días, tarde, noche...señor or señora), you might even ask “Como estas?” and then give him or her the address, followed by “por favor”. This exchange is very important as drivers in Bogota are not accustomed to the rapid-fire orders given to their colleagues other cities. A typical exchange might sound like this:
You: “Buenas dias, señor.”
Driver: “Buenas dias. A sus orden”
You: “Gracias. Centro Comercial Unicentro, por favor.”
Make sure that the meter is turned on –the minimum charge is 3,000 pesos, plus 50 pesos per 80 meters (260 feet). After paying, thank the driver when exiting the taxi (gracias, señor or señora), and do not slam the door. Step away as quickly as possible –the vehicles sit a bit low to the ground and it is easy to get your feet stuck under a wheel.
You will find most drivers to be friendly, accommodating and helpful.
If travelling beyond the city boundaries, such as to Zipaquira, please be aware that there will be a surcharge. Other surcharges exist on Sundays, Holidays and evenings.
Some taxi service phone numbers:
Private Car Services – Most are affordable and easy to obtain, as most hotels will have the ability to arrange this service for you. Vehicles are most often late models, and range from regular sedans to stretch limousines.
Pedi-Taxis – Pedi-taxis in Bogota are generally very clean and the drivers are as safe as could be expected. On the rare occasion that you do see them, be sure to look for a license positioned in the back of the vehicle.