In hindsight, it was probably crazy for us to rent a car in Bogota for an eight-hour layover, but it worked out fine and we had a wonderful visit to this vibrant, thriving city.
Our main rationale for renting a car was pretty simple-minded. We wanted to avoid figuring out how many Colombian Pesos to withdraw from the ATM in the airport. For a rental car, we could just plop down a credit card. In order to take a taxi, we would have had to calculate the number of pesos we needed for a round-trip from the airport into town, at 3,000 pesos to the dollar. Frankly, at that moment, our brains weren’t doing calculations that well. So, we put $56 on our credit card and got a car.
Happily, the historic section of Bogota was a straight shot from the airport. And, after having driven a car in Costa Rica for three weeks, we were getting a feel for the road signs and Latin American style driving. After about twenty minutes on the route and ten minutes getting lost, we found public parking and began our exploration of Old Bogota.
The day was beautiful. Clear skies, except for the picture-perfect clouds, and temperatures in the mid 70’s. It was a Saturday and the streets were full of families and street entertainers. And people were so very nice to these language-impaired travelers. We strolled the avenues, watched children placing bets on which plastic bowl a guinea pig would run into, had a great lunch at a museum cafe and drank delicious Colombian coffee. And some of the best memories are of sitting on benches or steps and just people watching.
Oh, and we did withdraw a 20,000 peso note from an ATM at the airport before we picked up the car, just in case there were tolls to be paid. As things turned, it was only about $6 USD. But five hours of parking was 10,000 pesos ($3) and we used the last 10,000 to top off the gas tank on the way back to the airport. How perfect was that?
Our impression of Bogota is that it is a vibrant capital city, with numerous colleges and universities, and a proud happy people. True, Columbia has suffered more than its share of tragedy and political turmoil, but the country, at least from our brief visit, seems poised for a new era of peace and education and, one hopes, prosperity.
With a taste of Colombia, away we flew to Ecuador, our next destination.