How to waste 5 hours in Colombia

‘Isn’t it dangerous?’ asked my family when I mentioned that I wanted to travel in Colombia, ‘why do you want to go?’ Having chatted to a Colombian girl who had told them that it’s not really a safe country, particularly for a solo female traveller, they were worried. Understandable.

But no need to worry! My new idea of crewing on a sailing yacht across the Pacific Ocean meant I’d have to skip Colombia in any case. In order to stay within a safe sailing window I had to act quickly and be in either Panama or Galapagos, Ecuador within the next few weeks. No cyclones and stormy seas for me, please. And Colombia? Well, it would have to wait.

Or would it?

As often happens, life likes to have a bit of a giggle. The cheapest flights I found routed me via Bogota, Colombia. And when in Colombia, even if just for a few hours, it would be rude not to check out a little of the capital.

Now, on hindsight, I wish I hadn’t bothered. Sure, I can smile about some of the confusion and discomfort and the waiting around, but was it really worth it? Hmmm…

I’d half hoped one of two friends might be waiting at arrivals for a few hours of brunch time catch-up, but the exit was lined with taxi touting middle-aged men. Although unsurprised, my heart sunk. Just a little. After nine months of travelling, arriving into places with no familiar faces to greet me was starting to become a bit tiresome. Ah, what I wouldn’t have done for a big hug, a warm smile and a friend to show me around.

But! – no time to get down in the dumps.  Climb back into your gutsiness and get out there, girl! After changing up some money, I went for a chat with a guy in the tourist info point. He turned out to be a smartly suited bearer of bad news.

The city and all the interesting things are too far away for your stopover’, he told me. I thought momentarily about retreating back into the comforts of the airport lounge. No. Come on! I’m in Colombia! Let’s go live it, even if only for a moment. ‘You could get a bus to Gran Estación ’, he said, ‘There are shops and places to eat, and it’s only ten minutes away’.

Everyone stared hard at the solo gringa as she tried to figure out where to catch a ride, as she struggled to make sense of buses that bore signs stating that they were going to Gran Estación but actually weren’t going anywhere close. She was clearly no Latina and curiosity stopped the odd passer-by. If they looked a little beyond the straggly, mousey hair, the tall, fair-skinned body and the light, blue eyes, they would have seen a touch of deflation and a mood that was synonymous with the grey, morning sky.

Getting excited yet?

And then at 930AM I was finally there, wandering around an empty shopping centre close to Bogota airport. Nondescript, homogenised, brand focused. Yawn. Do I project my excitement with enough conviction?

Clean, slick and nondescript

Within an hour everything was open and trickles of people got down to some serious spending, interspersed with fast food refuels.

After a few hours of watching the wealthier and professional people of Bogota meet with colleagues or tap away on laptops over a McCafé coffee, I reversed my Colombian journey back to the airport and a promise of a better tomorrow.

Ecuador, my love, I am returning to you.


Filed under cities, colombia, culture, solo travel, south america

6 responses to “How to waste 5 hours in Colombia

  1. zetoune2

    You have to get back asap to Colombia, this is the hidden gem of South America!

    • Colombia and me definitely have unfinished business. Friends keep telling me how special Colombia is and for years now I’ve wanted to get out there and discover the place… so I’ll take their advice and your advice and I’ll definitely go back there to discover its amazingness before too long.

  2. Lucia

    I hope you have another opportunity to go to Colombia because it as a wonderful country with amazing places to see and people to meet. I think it is very sad that there is still so much prejudice about it being so dangerous, especially from a Colombian. Of course things can happen, but so is the case is many other places. In fact, when I went there and to Ecuador recently I was told that Quito is now so much more dangerous than Bogota… who knows, but I would encourage anyone wanting to visit Colobia to do so, and just take care of yourself like you would in any other place

    • Yes, I’ve heard Quito is much more dangerous than Bogota (and Mexico City too, apparently! – just to throw in another random danger comparison)… but Bogota and me will hopefully meet before too long, and hopefully all will be well. Because of timing to sail across the South Pacific (to avoid cyclones) I had to skip on Colombia this time… but I’ll be back. Maybe see you there?!


    i think is more danger in los angeles dude saludos gringos

    • Yeah, you could be right! I’ll go back for sure and see for myself, but for the moment I’m not buying into the danger factor. Cheers for stopping by and commenting.

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