Bogota in Colombia is nestled high in the Andes at 2620 with a mix of influences including Spanish, English and Indian. It is a city with a mixture of wealth and poverty, crazy traffic and calm oases, futuristic architecture, thieves, graffiti, congestion, street people, drug dealers, bookstores and restaurants. In 1538 Santa Fe Bogota was founded and the name was then shortened to Bogota after independence from Spain.
Bogota was once considered a place to avoid but the capital has cleaned up its reputation and is quickly becoming one of Latin America’s urban features. This bustling metropolis is home to over 7 million people with shantytowns lining the southern portion of the city. Northern Bogota is moving forward as a modern district of capitalist values. Travelers prefer to spend their time in or around historic La Candelaria, a quarter of cafes, museums and churches.
The food of Bogota offers a wide variety of dishes all based on a mixture of fresh indigenous and Spanish ingredients with a strong African influence. It is traditional to eat pork, potatoes, beans, corn, rice and soups as staples. Among the most popular dishes is ‘ajiaco santafereno’, a chicken soup with a variety of potatoes, ‘lechona’, pork stuffed with rice and ‘bandeja paisa’, a mixture of beans, egg, meat, rice and plaintains.
Sites of interest to travelers include the Botero Museum, the famous sculptor and painter, the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), Mount Monserrate – a religious mountain site, Iglesia de San Francisco – Bogot’s oldest surviving church with an ornate beautiful interior, Bogota’s Ciclovia – great for exercising and people watching, Luis Angel Arango Library – the library and art centre, Laguna de Guatavita – the lake where the legend of El Dorado originated, Old Bogota (La Candelaria) – a lively neighborhood of the city that features small shops and ancient churches, Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia, Divercity – a children’s park that allows kids to experience adult activities like driving a car or putting out a fire amongst numerous others.
In small restaurants people tip 1000 pesos or less. A few tip up to 2000 pesos. Most Colombians tip very little or not at all. In finer restaurants about 10% is tipped and some restaurants will automatically add 15% onto your bill so make sure you check the amount before you pay. In hotels most guests tip the maid, doorman and other services. The Colombians are as big on manners as most countries but be sure not to overdress with too much jewelry. Beware of beachside restaurants who claim to be offering everything on their menu but once you’ve sat down with a few drinks will say that they have in fact run out. Be absolutely sure that you can order what you want before you order your drinks.