Monday, October 24, 2011

Ultimos dias en Bogota

Colombia! The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay...
Over the past couple of years we have lived in a few cities anywhere up to seven months.  Being in a place that long, you really get to learn the culture, quality of life and differences.  Since Colombia has a reputation of crime, drugs and violence, I thought I would share some things I learned and observed during my six months in Bogota.


Cost of Living
The quality of life in Colombia is much higher these days and the overall safety concern is not as prevalent as it once was.  Bogota is a vibrant city with a strong expat community.  The weather could be ideal for most people if you enjoy living in a spring-like season year round.  The city is at an elevation of about 9,000 feet with average daytime temperatures of 68F and at night drops to around 55F.  This past year they have had an exorbitant amount of rain but I am told this is rare.

The cost to rent an apartment in Bogota varies based on where you live.  In the best neighborhoods for a luxury 2-3 bedroom and 2 1/2 bath apartment could cost around $1,200US/month but other areas for a modern apartment could be as low as $450US/month.
Meals in restaurants generally less expensive.  Having a 2 to 3 course dinner at an nice restaurant is about $50US for two people including tip, excluding alcohol.  Local beer is about $2-3US but wine and cocktails are more expensive.  Wine is all imported so average glass is about $8 - $10US and cocktails are $10-$15 per drink.  Compared to US prices, groceries, clothing and shoes are generally about the same. However they have some of the best quality of meats, chicken and pork as well as wonderful exotic fruits.  American fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King) are comparable to US pricing but local fast food, which are everywhere, are half the price.

Similar to most South American countries I have visited, you rarely will get a vegetable served with your meal.  They have salads but mostly your side options usually include either a potato (baked or mashed), french fries or onion rings.

Something I have not seen anywhere else are plastic gloves for eating.  In restaurants when someone gets a sandwich, french fries, wings or anything you would usually pick up to eat, you are given plastic gloves.  I actually like the idea both for cleanliness and sanitary reasons.
 I love hot chocolate and it is very popular and a staple in most restaurants. In the morning it is usually served with an arepa and cheese or a snack with bread and cheese.
Transportation
It is very easy to get around the city by taxi and there are thousands of them on the street.  Taxis are cheap and you can get most places for less than $5US.  The buses and transmilenio system goes everywhere and costs about .40-90 cents but we never used them.  Most of the time, being in a taxi is like being in a race car with Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian race car driver!  They definitely know how to weave in and out of traffic in these little cars. 
Street vendors are everywhere and very convenient if you want to grab something on the go.  They sell everything from gum, candy and chips to fresh fruit and pizzas.
Certainly there are good and bad people everywhere but overall Colombians tend to be noticeably friendlier.  Everyone I have interacted with from hotel staff, restaurant servers, grocery store attendants, taxi drivers or locals are nice and accommodating. I enjoyed my time in Bogota and I am glad I had the opportunity to visit the country.  It is not a "scary" place, as it probably once was, and I can see why it is becoming a new tourist destination for South America.

Culture
There are several museums in Bogota to visit with the most popular being the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum).  After being in Vienna the last seven months, I wasn't as excited to see museums but decided I should at least go to one so I picked the Botero Museum.  Mostly because Fernando Botero is such a famous Colombian artists and he is well known for his enlargement and deformation of his subjects.

Entrance into the museum
Mona Lisa, his most famous piece
Adam and Eve
Woman with fruit
Adam and Eve

For my last weekend we all got together to play Tejo.  Jesus and Gina cracking open the first beer of the day!
Ready to play Tejo!
Tejo hombres
Tejo Team
Scott, me, Jesus, Gina, Mike, Carlos and Joe
 After Tejo we went to grab a bite to eat at our local spot, Beer Lounge.
Another great day/night out in Bogota!!
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