October 1, 2018, 9:43 pm
If you are like me, you skimp on certain luxuries while traveling to spend money on unforgettable experiences like guided day trips. Bogotá, Colombia is the ideal city for this kind of travel strategy because it’s so easy to be a budget traveler in Colombia’s capital.
I’m not the queen of frugality. (I’ve been known to opt for private rooms instead of shared ones in hostels). But after living in Bogotá for more than a year, the following tips have helped me save money so I can spend my hard-earned pesos on making memories:
Corrientazo is what Colombians call cheap, traditional lunches and they're something you definitely should take advantage of while visiting Bogotá. The typical corrientazo meal will start with an appetizer of fruit or soup and a small cup of fresh fruit juice. Don’t make the same mistake I did during my first week in Colombia and try to pay after finishing the soup because there’s more to come! You’ll normally also be served rice, a cut of meat (usually beef, pork or chicken) and beans. The meal could also some with a “salad,” which normally just looks like the fixings that have fallen out of a taco.
Even in the more affluent parts of Bogotá, a good corrientazo will only set you back about 10,000 pesos, about 3.50 USD. Usually corrientazos are presented in restaurants like the daily specials and will be written on a blackboard outside the establishment instead of on a menu.
Take the Public Bus
The public bus system in Bogotá is called TransMilenio. They’re the long, red buses that zoom through the city in their own lanes. TransMilenio can be a little intimating for travelers, but I highly recommend using it because you’ll save money on transportation costs and see how Rolos (people from Bogotá) start and end their days.
A TransMilenio card can be purchased at any station ticket booth. I suggest you buy the actual card then load money on it so you don’t have to keep standing in line to buy individual fares during your stay in Bogotá. Each ride costs 2,200 pesos, about 75 cents if you’re converting to USD. You won’t have to pay more to transfer to another red TransMilenio bus, but you will have to pay if you leave the station or take a blue SITP bus. You can figure out bus routes and find the closest TransMilenio station by downloading the app in the Apple or Play Store. If you don’t have international data, figure out your route when you have Wi-Fi, then screenshot the information.
Drink Like the Locals
If you’re on a budget, but still want to see what goes on in Bogotá after the sun goes down, order beers at a small neighborhood store instead of a ritzy bar. Even the more affluent areas like Zona Rosa and Parque 93 will have small shops where you can buy beer for about 4,000 to 5,000 pesos per can, about 1.50 USD. These shops will have tables and chairs and there’s usually music playing in the background and a soccer game on TV.
Of course, it’s nice to dance the night away at a Salsa club or visit a more upscale bar at least one time while in Bogotá, but the neighborhood shops offer a cheaper alternative if you don’t want to break the bank every single night of your trip.
These tips will help you save money while visiting Bogotá, but if you can help it, don’t be so frugal that you miss out on the unique experiences Bogotá has to offer like visiting a working coffee farm or taking a food and cooking tour that starts in an authentic market.
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