When I arrived in Bogota, the Colombians that cared about my welfare led me to believe that the only way to get around was either by car or by taxi. These same Colombians said they had never taken the Bogota Transmilenio system, because it was both impractical and dangerous and that it still needed some serious improvements compared to European public transport system.
To my surprise, this seems to be the commonly held belief amongst the majority of car owners here in Bogota. However, not being a car owner myself left me with the following options: take a taxi, ride a bike, walk on my ever so important Chevrolegs, or riding the “Transmi”, as the locals like to call it.
Image: Pedro Felipe/Wikimedia
Being discouraged from taking public transportation, I actually spent my first two months in Bogota just taking taxis, which is fine, as they are relatively cheap, but if you live here, it quickly adds up. I also tried to walk and bike, which although is a decent alternatives, inhaling bus smog all day wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. This made me give in to my next option: The beloved Transmilenio.
I started slow and began Googling how to get from point A to point B. I downloaded all the Transmilenio bus route apps and did my research only to realize it was all too confusing and I would probably have an easier time just getting on a “Transmi” and winging it.
After much hype and precautions, it turned out to be a breeze. Although it doesn’t extend to all parts of the city, it’s straight forward and relatively cost-effective. I take it on a regular basis and I can even say it sometimes beats taking the car as you avoid the hassle of traffic, parking and crazy drivers. well, mostly.
So, here’s how to manage taking the Bogota Transmilenio system without sticking out like a sore thumb asking everyone for directions:
- Check Google Maps to find where you want to go and locate the closest Transmilenio station near your final destination
- Dress simply and keep your belongings in a closed bag in front of you. You will notice most people wear cross-body closed bags and backpacks in the front to avoid trouble. Be wise and do the same
- Walk to the closest Transmilenio station and purchase a travel card for only $2,000 plus recharge for the number of trips you want ($1,800/way)
- Walk inside and locate a big map of all the stations that the buses stop at. Locate your final destination and which buses will get you there. Go stand by the right bus stop and hop on
- Some Transmilenios will display the next stops inside the wagons. If not, simply look out the window as each stop will be clearly indicated. There are often maps displayed inside the wagons, too
There you go! There’s really nothing to it and it will help you go about as locals do. Who knows, you might even pass as a Colombian!
Have you ever caught the Transmilenio in Bogota before? What tips do you have for people navigating the system for the first time? Let us know in the comments section below. And be sure to follow Jade Longelin and her take on living in Colombia via her blog, Bogotastic.