Bogota, Colombia. A place on the list of many travelers. It’s a place rightfully associated with crime, drugs and cartels. And, although this is still true in some parts of Colombia, a lot has changed.
I landed at El Dorado airport outside of Bogota at about 11PM. It was late and cold and I needed a ride to my AirBnB in downtown Bogota, about a 25 minute car ride. Sounds like a simple solution given that airports are always surrounded by an endless supply of taxis, but in Colombia, the taxi situation is complicated, at least I was told by multiple Colombian travelers on the trip there.
The taxi situation is Colombia has a regulation problem. There are too many drivers who work and act as taxi drivers without actually being authorized.
Why is this a problem? I was warned that drive-by-robberies are common in Bogota. What is that? Well, you’ll get in a taxi, while stopped at a traffic light, someone on a motorcycle or car will pull up next to your taxi, they’ll jump in the backseat with you and rob you at gun point. The taxi driver is in on it. He or she will even drive you to the nearest ATM and force you to pull out cash.
It sounds scary, right? I’m a pretty fearless traveler, so I always like to give a place the benefit of the doubt, but since I was traveling alone, I decided not to risk it right from the gate.
Luckily, in Bogota, you can also request an Uber. This is a bit safer since Uber somewhat verifies its drivers. All you have to do is compare the driver to the driver’s profile photo in the app.
Before you tell yourself that you’ll just take Uber in Bogota everywhere you go, you should note that the Uber process isn’t what you’re used to. You see, when opening the Uber app to request your ride, you’ll probably experience long wait times.
This is the case for a couple reasons. Traffic in Bogota can get ridiculous. It’s a big city with big city traffic. Drivers don’t have a sense of urgency. Most drivers will be hanging out at home, or at a restaurant with their Uber Driver app open to taking riders. This means they’ll accept new riders, but will take their time until actually getting in their cars to go get you.
I know this because after my third Uber ride, I finally asked the driver why the hell it takes them so long to get to me when the app says they’re like 6 minutes away.
He said, “many drivers will be eating at a restaurant or hanging out with friends, they’ll accept riders, but will finish their food or conversations before they leave”.
Needless to say, my Uber usage while in Colombia was at a minimum after that.
In terms of the whole safety with Taxis goes, Bogota has what is known as “Verified Safe Taxi” kiosks in many popular parts of the city. Only real verified taxi drivers are allowed to pick up riders there. That is a safe option.
I was told to not hail a cab off the street, because this was dangerous, but tempting fate, I did this multiple times and nothing bad happened.
Please note, that I was smart about it, I made sure I didn’t carry my credit cards or passport on me. I only had a small amount of cash.
Overall, I had a great time adventuring in Bogota and highly recommend it to any Traveler.