Getting About Bogota

By: Gaizka Pujana

The city is built around a grid-like system using Carrera and Calles. In a nutshell, Calles are streets that run east and west, while Carrera's are big avenues that run North to South. Once you understand the basic concept of how Bogota's streets and avenues are set out, perhaps by studying a map or two, the system is quite logical and easy to understand.

Prior to 2000, transportation in Bogota was much to be desired. Air pollution was at its peak and a serious plan of action was required. The mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, began by closing several streets to traffic and banning cars (on a rotation basis) from entering Bogota's downtown for 2 days out of every week. Pollution rates quickly came down and commuting time was cut from over 2 hours to just 21 minutes.

Another improvement was the TransMilenio rapid bus system that was put into place in 2001, and since then the city has experienced a revolution when it comes to mass transport solutions. This super efficient bus service runs through the entire city, with more municipal locations being gradually added into the system in a phased plan. It is hoped that the success of the TransMilenio will convince politicians and taxpayers that this is a project worth investing in. The Transmilenio essentially works as a system of bus terminals that are fed passengers by side bus services called alimentadores.

Other busses, known as flotas, provide transport services for locals and visitors who wish to enter and leave the city. These busses also carry passengers to towns and cities further away from Bogota itself very similar to the Greyhound service.

In general, busses in Bogota are divided into two main categories: normal services which comprise of busses that can carry standing passengers. These are known as corrientes. The second category, known as ejecutivo, is made of more luxurious coach type busses that only allow seated passengers.

Another popular form of transportation in Bogota is its taxi service. The shuttle service, consisting of white taxis, is generally used by tourists to get to and from the airport, although they can also choose to use the slightly more expensive yellow cabs.

Authorities have given thumbs up to cycling around Bogota in recent years, both for health reasons and also to control congestion caused by so many people in one city. As such, Bogota officials have installed many routes in and around the city around 70 miles of them - known as ciclo-rutos. Most of Bogota is flat and this makes for ideal cycling conditions and an excellent way to see what this grand city has to offer for a fraction of the price. With temperatures averaging at 14 degrees Fahrenheit, the climate is also not an obstacle when it comes to riding about the city.

Of course, walking around Bogota can take you to places that were not even on your itinerary. Choosing a section of Bogota that is rich in architectural and historical importance and discovering these hidden treasures for yourself is truly one of the most rewarding and interesting aspects of any visit to the city.

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