Bogota, Colombia travel guide
With 93 pages of in-depth information that is designed for location independent digital nomads as well as savvy adventurers and pensioners who enjoy getting the most out of their travels while they experience life on the ground like the people who live there, the Marginal Boundaries Live Like a Local in Bogota, Colombia guide gives you everything you need to know to explore and live in the city just like the locals do. The guide includes:

  • Tips on navigating local immigration
  • Detailed breakdown of the various residency visas and how you can apply for them, including screenshots of the forms and links
  • Local accommodations and referrals based on places I’ve lived so you can enjoy prices as low as $250 a month for fully furnished and equipped studio apartments, houses, condos and beyond, places you will never find on the Internet (for example, find out how I stayed in the Chapinero district in a fully furnished apartment on the 7th floor of an apartment complex with an epic view over the mountains and 24/7 security + underground parking, weekly maid service, Internet and more, all for a mere $300 per month)
  • Local restaurant reviews and recommendations you will never find on Google
  • Local market breakdown, plus a detailed overview of discount days so you can get the best prices on groceries (check out my YouTube video on saving $5,000 a year on your grocery bill by shopping like a local)
  • Negotiation tips and practices specific to Bogota, and Colombia as a whole, as well as local discount rates to avoid paying the gringo tax
  • Detailed overview of transportation options in Bogota, and the real prices for buses, taxis and car rentals, not to mention a detailed map of the Transmilenio and numerous other transportation links
  • Local customs and culture advice to avoid making social errors
  • Detailed breakdown of the various plazas throughout Bogota
  • Referrals ranging from local accommodations to local fixers, handymen, immigration specialists and more
  • My personal connections in the city, ranging from bankers to immigration lawyers to local fixers, shop owners, handymen, restaurant owners, real estate brokers, language teachers, medical tourism experts, school teachers and beyond, straight from my contact list

From markets to restaurant reviews, local accommodation referrals, tips and tricks on navigating the local culture and lifestyle plus Bogota-specific information that can only be gathered through on-the-ground research, you won’t find a better guide to help you settle in to live just like the locals do while you pursue your digital nomad lifestyle. Priced at $15, the Bogota guide is current as of January, 2012 with everything you need to know to start enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle. Click on the image below or the “Buy Now” button to get your copy today.

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The following segment is an excerpt from the Bogota guide. Bear in mind that while the guide is primarily targeted towards people interested in living here on a long-term basis, the information included can benefit you regardless of if you are here for a week or a year, so if you are someone who prides themselves on immersing themselves in the local culture no matter how long they are on the ground, this is the perfect guide for doing so.

The first thing that comes to mind when people hear the name “Colombia” is drugs, cartels, kidnapping and violence. And while it is true that she has a jaded past that for years was a rough-and-tumble environment where even the local Colombians couldn’t leave their own cities for fear of being gunned down by the warring cartels, the days of Pablo Escobar and the drug wars of the 20th century are long behind her. The Colombia of the 21st century is a country that is rapidly developing into a world-class destination, one that boasts a modern infrastructure, a vastly untouched landscape that is pristine and virgin and full of unlimited potential, and most importantly a people who are without a doubt some of the friendliest, most trusting, generous and intelligent in the world. And at the heart of it all is Bogota, a city of ten and a half million Colombians that doubles as the capital city for this South American gem of a country.

The largest city in Colombia, and one of the largest in South America, Bogota has a history stretching back to the pre-Colombian times, long before the Spanish conquistadors first arrived in the mid-1500s. While no official documentation has been found over the years to support the claim, most historians consider her birth to be in August of 1538, when the village of Sante Fe was founded. Since then, the city has evolved over the centuries, emerging in the 21st century as one of the most modern hubs of trade, industry, art, culture, entertainment and music in South America. This is not a quiet, reserved city making its way through the years untouched and forgotten. Bogota is very much alive; she is aggressive, she is passionate and she is the heart of everything that is Colombia.

As a major metropolis, Bogota has everything a pensioner or location independent digital nomad could want in a destination. First class medical care for pennies in comparison to what the Western world asks is first up on the list, making this an ideal destination for the elderly given the fact that there are major hospitals and clinics throughout the city, and the services are extremely affordable. This also makes Bogota perfect for families who are looking to set up shop as location independent broods, because there are plenty of services for the children. In addition, Bogota has everything any other major city in the world has, ranging from high speed Internet to high definition channels on the television to opera houses, ballet, theaters, cinemas, rapid transit public transportation, an international array of restaurants, a complex and varied education system and best of all, a year-round, sub-tropical highlands climate that keeps the average temperature around 67 F/20 C. Bogota has also been nicknamed the Athens of South America given the fact that it has one of the largest collections of universities, museums and libraries, and with a history dating back over the centuries there is no reason to argue otherwise. 

But before you can truly appreciate what the Bogota of the 21st century is, forget everything you think you know about her. Forget everything you’ve heard on the news in your home country. Forget everything you’ve been told over the years about how dangerous and corrupt and drug-ridden the capital of Colombia is. Those are nothing more than rumors, completely unfounded and completely untrue. As of 2011, Bogota has a 21/100,000 murder rate (http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/20454-bogota-murder-rate-falls-8-on-year.html), which compared to Washington D.C.’s rate of 31/100,000 makes it a far safer alternative than the capital of the United States. Yes, it is still higher than that of Cancun (2/100,000) or even New York City (9/100,000), which means there are still some concerns and there are still some basic safety rules and protocols to keep in mind when you are out and about in the city after-hours. But the days of being kidnapped and held for ransom are long forgotten, and while Colombia is still one of the largest producers and exporters of cocaine in South America (as of 2011 the largest exporter for cocaine out of South America is Peru, not Colombia), for the most part Bogota is no different from any other major metropolitan sprawl in the world. As long as you pay attention to the basic rules of a major city (don’t walk alone late at night, don’t go out with large amounts of cash on you, don’t wear a lot of bling if you are in poorer sections of the city, etc.) you shouldn’t have any incidents.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Colombia, at least for me, was how friendly the people are. For years, Colombians have had to deal with the fact that their country was one of the most dangerous in Latin America during the heyday of Escobar and the Cocaine Cowboys. It was so bad during that part of history that people living in Bogota were very much prisoners in their own city, unable to leave given the fact that the highways were so dangerous that not even the local people could travel due to the warring going on in the countryside. But with those days behind her now, Colombians are very eager to prove to visitors that their country is not only completely safe, but that they have a vast array of cultural wonders and pristinely untouched landscapes to share with the world. They are warm, friendly, trusting and are absolutely delighted to know that foreigners are interested in coming to their country and learning more about Colombia, and you will be hard-pressed to find a single Colombian who doesn’t have a massive smile on their face and open arms waiting to embrace you no matter where in the country you might find yourself.

In all my years of traveling, I can honestly say that the friendliest people I have come across in over 12 years of making my way around the world have been the Colombians. Everyone I met in Bogota was the perfect public relations representative for their country, taking time out of their day to show me around, help me out, give me directions, offer me food and drink and shelter and generally do everything they could to show me how proud they are of their country. While it is true that there are still some dangerous parts of the country around the borders where the cartels still hold sway over the crossing points to export drugs out of the country, for the most part the everyday Colombians are far removed from that way of life, and nowhere is this more evident in Bogota. This was hands-down the friendliest place I have been to as of this writing (December 2011). For more information on some of my experiences, you can read my blog post about the friendliness of Colombians, which I wrote during my time in the country. It was completely out of this world, and unlike anything else I have ever experienced. In the United States, everyone assumes that you are trying to rip them off, sue them, steal from them, molest their children, murder their family or in some way harm them, but in Colombia, everyone was warm, inviting, trusting and just damned friendly. It was intoxicating, to say the least. You can read about one of my experiences at the blog, which can be found at http://www.marginalboundaries.com/2011/06/the-friendliness-of-colombians/.

Geographically, Bogota is located around 8,700 feet above sea level in what is known as a high plateau in the Andes Mountains, in a subtropical highland climate. As such, the city is surrounded by mountains in all directions, but it is along the eastern edge of the city where the foothills are the closest, and if you happen to live in one of the downtown districts you will very literally be able to go from urban jungle to mountain path within ten minutes of walking. Above and beyond that, Bogota is located in an amazingly verdant section of the planet, and there are dozens of parks throughout the city, with the largest being the Parque Simon Bolivar. There are no shortage of green spaces in the city, and you can very literally take a 30 minute walk down any avenue and find yourself passing anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen different parks that are part of the metropolitan lifeline. Colombians are very proud of the beauty their country provides, and one of the benefits of living in Bogota is that the people are very keen on embracing their green thumbs. On the weekends in particular you will see traffic on the streets go from jam-packed to almost nothing, and the parks transform into throngs of people enjoying picnics, jogging, hiking or in some form or another enjoying the outdoors and the beautiful weather and climate that Bogota provides.

As mentioned earlier, Bogota has earned the reputation of being the Athens of South America, with dozens of educational institutions, museums, art galleries and beyond. If you take a look at the main Wiki for Bogota (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogot%C3%A1) you will see that as of December of 2011 there are 58 art museums, 62 art galleries, 33 library networks, 45 stage theaters, 75 sports and attraction parks and over 150 national monuments. There are also over 100 different higher education institutions, making this a cultural center for art, theater, reading, writing, film and beyond. When you look at this city from the perspective of a location independent digital nomad, Bogota provides anything and everything you could ever want from a city. Whether you want to take in a play, head to the opera, visit one of the national monuments, take in some international art or learn a new language at one of the universities, the sky is literally the limit.

Colombia is one of the world’s largest producers of emeralds, both raw and cut. While it is not one of the major industries for Bogota herself, this is a great place to start if you have any interest in trading on an international level, or if you are looking to resell for a profit somewhere else or start up and exportation/importation office. While the intricacies of international trade law apply depending on where you plan on setting up shop, Bogota is the capital of the country. This means if you have any interest whatsoever in emeralds or mining you can find out the basics here and explore deeper into the country once you have set down more permanent roots and established your residency.

As an international hotspot, Bogota has an international selection of cuisines to choose from, but one would be remiss if they did not sample some of the Colombian delicacies. And while Colombia may lack vineyards and a decent wine selection, they more than make up for it with numerous beers and lagers. Of particular note is the Bogota Beer Company, which is one of the more well-known breweries located in Bogota. While restaurants and more specifics on the food and gastronomy of the city are covered later in the guide, just keep in mind that as a major metropolis you can find anything and everything you would ever want to eat or drink while in Bogota, and there is no shortage of selection. 

There are numerous shopping centers, malls and plazas. You have your selection from upscale shopping malls with dozens of international brands, to various strip malls and outlet shopping centers. But there are also plenty of local markets to choose from, which means you can pay a fortune for jewelry and clothing if you want to shop at the major shopping centers, or you can polish your bargaining skills at one of the local markets and walk away with a great deal on scarves, pants, shoes, jewelry or beyond. Bogota is also an international fashion hotspot, with numerous fashion shows going on throughout the year. If you are someone who is addicted to clothes, shoes and shopping, you are going to love this city, because fashion is very much at the heart of who and what Colombians living here are all about.

As a major city, Bogota has numerous clinics and hospitals and medical specialists scattered around the city. Colombia operates another variant on the universal healthcare system, which means you pay around $150-200 (depending on the exchange rate) per year for access to the public healthcare system. You can have access regardless if you are a foreigner or a local, so long as you pay your fees. Currently there are restrictions in place towards private medicine, because everything boils down to the System for the Selection of Beneficiaries of Social Programs (El Sistema de Seleccion de Beneficiarios para Programas Sociales), which is a 6 level tiered system, with the poorest people being at number 1 on the scale, and the richest people being 6 on the scale. Your placement on the scale determines what subsidies you have access to. This is a benefit to the pensioner or the location independent traveler, because most foreigners will place around 3 to 4 on the scale (5 and 6 are for the independently wealthy and/or musicians, movie stars, politicians, etc.). The coverage is excellent, and everything is cheap. Health insurance does exist, and there are some differences in the level of coverage, but the bottom line is that regardless of what type of traveler you are, if you want access to cheap, reliable, high standards of medical service, they are available in Bogota.

And lastly, but certainly not least on the list of reasons why you should choose Bogota, is the cost of living. Regardless if you are a pensioner or a location independent freelancer working as a digital nomad around the world, Bogota is relatively affordable when you compare it against Western counterparts. The average income for a professional in Bogota is around $10,000 per year, or around €8,000. This is enough money to live an upper middle class existence. As long as you have around 800 per month in pension or income, you can live an upper middle class lifestyle in Bogota. All of your necessities will be taken care of, you will have all the amenities you want or need and you will still find yourself with ample hours per day to enjoy life. And if you have more than $1,000 a month to spend on your cost of living, the sky is very much the limit. $1,500 a month in Bogota will get you a rock star lifestyle, while on the flip side it is very possible to live on as little as $300 or $400 per month if you need to bare-bones it for some reason or another. But if you are the normal, average Westerner whose salary is €25,000 to €30,000 per year or $30,000 to $36,000 per year, you are going to have triple what the average Colombian has to live on in Bogota. In short…your money is going to go three to four times further in Bogota than it ever would back in your home country, which means you can spend less to enjoy more, which is part of what living like a local is all about. It’s not just about cultural immersion; it’s also about enjoying the ridiculously low cost of living available in countries around the world.

From its international fashion to the ballet and street theaters, from its forested peaks and parks to the valleys and rivers, from the coffee that the country has become known for around the world to the friendliness of Colombians and the presence of every modern amenity you could ever want, there are a million reasons why you should choose Bogota as your next location independent destination as a digital nomad. The climate is absolutely fantastic year-round, the typical Latin pace is in full force here (meaning you can throw away your watch because it’s not going to do you any good here), the food and the beer and the culture are breathtaking, the people are beautiful and friendly and the Latin way of life in Bogota is some of the purest you will find in South America. In short, if you are looking for a place that will forever be branded in your heart as one of your favorite places in the world, you need look no further than Bogota. 

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Bogota, Colombia travel guide

Medical Tourism

Bogota is one of South America’s hottest medical tourism destinations. They are especially well-known for their cosmetic surgery, with the vast majority (85%) of Colombian women having some form of plastic surgery enhancements. The affordability of healthcare (laid out within the guide) based upon the strata system means that once you are a resident you can have access to first-world treatment for pennies in comparison to what you would pay back in the United States.

The capital of Colombia is so popular with foreigners that the government is actually building a massive center that is completely dedicated to medical tourism, known as the Bosque Beauty Garden Hotel & Medical Center, which comes complete with an adjacent hotel so that foreigners can fly in, book a room and then enjoy plush accommodations while undergoing their procedures.

You can also find more information on medical tourism in Bogota here and here.

Schools and Education

As one of the largest and most rapidly-growing cities/economies in South America, Bogota is at the center of the new wave of education for Colombians and other Latin people. There are literally hundreds of schools and universities throughout the city, ranging from kindergartens all the way up to graduate schools for specialized degrees. A fairly comprehensive list can be found at the Wikipedia, but it is by no means completely exhaustive. There are hundreds of other local schools not on that list, and if you are looking for someone to teach you Spanish, for example, all you have to do is ask around and you’ll find someone within your local barrio who can teach you for cash money without needing to go through a university or official course.

The History of Colombia

More info coming soon

General Links

There are literally hundreds of various websites out there dedicated to people’s blogs and quick little vacation stories regarding their time in Bogota and Colombia. And while the purpose of the Marginal Boundaries: Live Like a Local in Bogota, Colombia guide is specifically targeted for this city, there are many other resources for the country as a whole and all it takes is a quick Google search to bring them up.

The Lonely Planet section for Bogota is a good place to start if you are a complete newbie who hasn’t ever been before and you want the quick-and-easy “tourist” information for backpacking and site-seeing. If you speak Spanish, the official city website ran by the government is chock-full of information about the current happenings in the city (although you can also use Google’s translator if needed). However, if you want a more entertainment-oriented publication, the Go Entertainment Guide (also a print publication) is the ultimate resource for all things going on in Bogota on a month-to-month basis, ranging from the Rock in the Park festival to fashion festivals and beyond. You can pick up the print copies all over the place (they are free), such as in the main bus station and the airport at the tourist desks. Otherwise, the guide itself is packed full of city-specific links to help you live like a local in this South American mega city.

 

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