We left Honduras a few weeks ago. You’ve probably been wondering what we thought of Colombia. Thanks to some rather persistent hackers, it’s been difficult to get things updated here as often as I’d like. Thanks to a friend’s techie, we’re back yet again. Hoping the hackers move on to greener pastures. But back to Colombia!
We arrived in Bogota after a very. . . long day of traveling. Our flight to Bogota began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the world’s most dangerous city. From there we did a red-eye flight and arrived in Fort Lauderdale (FLL) at a little after 6 AM. After about 2 hours of very surly Customs and Immigration staff, we made it to the ticket window where we spent another almost 2 hours waiting to check in for our 2nd segment. “When are you coming back to the States?” she asked after confirming I had proof of onward travel out of Colombia. I had never been asked this before. I almost laughed when I replied “I have no idea!” She looked at me like I had sprouted another head. She was convinced she couldn’t let me on the plane with that response but decided to try anyway and the system let me through without a return date. Our FLL drama continued with the ever friendly and helpful TSA. My backpack apparently needed to be checked for explosive residue, but she also decided to do a hand search of the top compartment. I watched her pull my Kindle out and set it down, but when she repacked I didn’t see her pick it back up. She was off in a flash, and I called out for her to stop. I opened my pack to confirm my beloved reader was indeed missing. She had no idea what a Kindle was. I remembered that while she had my Kindle out of view a large group of people had walked by the table, some of them quite close, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. The Sheriff’s officer and other TSA guy sitting nearby who asked me minimal questions were about as concerned as a cat taking a nap. By this point our 4-hour layover left us with about 15 minutes to get to the gate, so there was no point pushing this further. I was so bummed!
The flight itself wasn’t too bad, and we arrived in Bogota ready to explore. We took a taxi to our Couchsurfing host who had generously prepared us lunch, and then it was time to go walking and discovering the area. We spent about 3 days in Bogota meeting up with an online friend, doing a bicycle tour of Bogota, and visiting an interactive museum for Tigger. Bogota is a very large city, and lucky for us we arrived at the beginning of the rainy season. LOL It wasn’t too bad, although we would’ve appreciated more of a reprieve during the 4-hour bike tour.
Then it was on to Medellin, a place I had greatly looked forward to visiting and had planned on staying in for about a month. We took the overnight bus which was an adventure for sure. Tigger slept through the commotion of the bus taking the curves of the mountain roads at high speed. I did fairly well until I had to use the bathroom. THAT was sure . . . interesting. Upon arriving in Medellin I had two surprises: The city is freakin’ HUGE! That was better than the 2nd surprise which was that our Couchsurfing host misunderstood our day of arrival and was expecting us in 2 days. Unfortunately that day he had to run some important errands which meant we were treated to about a 5-hour wait in the bus station. We walked around for a while, but the terminal just wasn’t in a really good area for us to get out much.
We surfed for a couple of days while enjoying Medellin’s pretty cool metro system. We visited the zoo which was really pretty nice, much better than I had expected. There were very few people in the zoo which made it even cooler. Felt like we had a special opening just for us. We found a room in a penthouse apartment to rent and moved there for a week. It was in a part of town that was much more accessible by walking and taking the metro, so we really enjoying exploring the neighborhood while still getting to other parts of Medellin to explore.
We decided to cut our time short in Medellin. It just felt too big for us. We discussed various options. Both of us were pretty excited about moving on to Ecuador, and since we found some relatively cheap flights we decided we would leave Colombia. There were other places to explore, but we just . . . well, we weren’t feeling it. So we flew out of Medellin and headed to Quito where we’ve been for almost 2 weeks now.
Still, I do have some basic Colombia tips for you. While in Bogota definitely do the bike tour! It was tons of fun. Our host joined us. She’s a native of Bogota, and the bike tour took us to places she had never been, and she ended up learning some new things about her city and country’s history. If you’ll be around on a Sunday or holiday Monday, that’s the best time as Bogota shuts down many of its busiest streets to motorized vehicles for the Ciclovia. It costs about $16 per person for the 4-hour tour and includes the bike, helmet, and fruit sampling at the market. If it starts to rain, the guide carries enough ponchos for everyone as well. A mechanic joins the tour so you don’t have to worry about fixing any flats or anything like that. If weather is pure crap and your kids are bouncing off the walls, then it’s worth heading over to the Maloka Museum for its interactive exhibit ($6). They have other interesting parts of the museum to explore as well, each with different admission prices, although you can get a package that includes either the cinema dome or 3D theater plus the interactive museum for under $11. They do accept credit cards. Taxis are metered in Bogota so prices are no surprise.
Medellin has much more to offer, in my opinion, especially for families.
- I already mentioned the zoo. Admission is about $4.50 for adults and children through age 12 are half off. Food inside the zoo is actually quite reasonable. Easiest way to get there is probably a taxi, although if you’re feeling more adventurous take the metro to Industriales. It’s a bit of a walk, but you could hop on one of the buses going down this busy street if you weren’t feeling up for it. The metro costs about 90 cents per person to ride each way. Really hard to beat that price. Taxis are metered, but the drivers appear to be pretty honest. You can get around lots of Medellin for about $2.50 via taxi.
- Parque Explora is one of the absolutely coolest children’s museums I’ve been to. You could easily spend almost a whole day here, but you can still do everything in about 4 hours. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibit areas, and they’re all a blast. We both enjoyed this place immensely. Admission is about $10, and they accept credit/debit cards. There are a few food places on site. Best way to get here is via the metro to Universidad. The exit ramp leads you right to the museum.
- The botanical gardens are another fun place to visit. It’s more like visiting a giant park that has some really cool plants as well. It’s divided into several collections with lots of green space in between each collection. It’s a positively beautiful spot for picnics, relaxing, taking a nice stroll, a romantic spot, etc. And best of all is the admission price which is. . . FREE! It’s a really enjoyable place to visit, and kids will have fun there as well. The gardens are near Parque Explora, so you can exit at the same metro station.
- The downtown area boasts a very cool Barefoot Park (Parque de los Pies Descalzos). It is basically a sensory park where you end up getting a foot massage from the different textures and surfaces, and you get to finish it off in big pools of moving water. It’s a really cool idea and is a nice peaceful place in the middle of a lot of hustle and bustle. By metro it’s easily accessed from station Cisneros, although some locals suggest going on to the next station, Alpujarra, for safety reasons. I would say if you aren’t a very experienced traveller or city person, then yes follow their advice. Otherwise you’re fine getting off at Cisneros. We did both trips, and I personally enjoyed the Cisneros portion much more. It just has more local character and feel. Or naturally you can also take a taxi.
Medellin has worked hard to get past its violent past, induced by executed drug lord Pablo Escobar, and is pretty darn safe. It has a very European feel to it and is very cultured. It’s easy to see why people come here and have a hard time staying. For us about 1-1/2 weeks was enough, though.