I use to think that organized, tour guided tours were boring, with mono-voiced tour guides taking you through every statue of a famous general in a city and filled with American seniors. The pumpkin-spice late’s of travel.
There are tours like this but, there are also fun, not boring ones and when your travelling solo, a walking tour can be the best way to do a super touristy thing on your own and meet people. Bogotá had a number of great free or affordable tours – everything from food tours to craft beer tours. I did three tours in Bogotá – the Bogotá Graffiti Tour, Hero’s Anti-Cliché Walking Tour and the Bogotá Craft Beer Tour.
Tour Rating: 4.5/5
Recommendation: If you only have time to do one walking tour in Bogotá, do this one.
The Bogotá Graffiti Tour is probably the most well-known tour of Bogotá. It takes you through the streets of Candelaria, which houses the majority of the cities graffiti, where you learn the meaning of the neighbourhoods graffiti art and its relationship with the community. The graffiti artists in Bogotá use graffiti to beautify Bogotá to give the community a sense of hope and as a form of commentary on the political issues of Colombia.
The tour is about 2 hours long and offered twice a day at 10 am and at 2pm. I booked the 10 am Bogotá Graffiti Tour for my first day in Bogotá as I was a bit nervous about exploring on my own after having read about the “dangers” of Bogotá for solo travellers and figured a tour would be the best way to get to know the city. Our tour guide was an artist herself and that added an interesting perspective to the tour as she told us about the point of view of the artists themselves. Why they believed graffiti art was important to the city, the cultural norms of the different graffiti Artist collectives, their struggles with local politicians who are on a campaign to “preserve” the historical parts of Bogotá and the struggles of female artists in a patriarchal culture. It was all extremely fascinating, the art was beautiful and I got to see parts of the city I would not have ventured into myself.
Tour Rating: 5/5
Recommendation: If you are looking something that doesn’t resemble your grandma’s tour of the Vatican, you like to explore the history of the places you travel and want a unique experience than this is the tour you want to take.
By far my favourite tour in Bogotá was the Hero’s Anti-Cliché tour. It was not your standard walking tour as it focused on telling the history of the last 80 years of Bogotá and didn’t shy away from the controversial topics of Colombia’s history such as the FARC Conflict, Pablo Escobar and the current challenges. I loved it! I had read a bit about Colombia before my trip and the history of Colombia is truly fascinating. Our guide, Orlando was very knowledgable and didn’t hesitate to answer any of our questions or to discuss a topic in greater detail. The Anti-Cliché tour was also different in that you got food with the tour! We had a snack at a typical Bogotán cafe and lunch at A Seis Manos a hip restaurant in the center.
My plan for Bogotá was to book myself a few tours through out my week’s stay there to break up my solo wanderings and to give myself an opportunity to meet people. On this tour I meet my two Bogotá travel friends, Nick and Ale, and the three of us ended up spending the rest of our time in Bogotá together. We were surprised by how well we bonded and got on together, and by our third day it was as if we had known each other for much longer.
Tour Rating: 3.5/5
Recommendation: If you like beer and have a companion than this is a great way to spend an afternoon in Bogotá.
The beer in Colombia is a light Pilsner, which means you end up drinking expensive, watery beer so why bother? Enter, Bogotá growing craft beer scene which offers up some great variety for beer drinkers. The most well know craft beer company is the Bogotá Beer Company, or BBC, which came into existence 15 years ago and spearheaded the craft beer scene in the city. The main reason Bogotá’s craft breweries are small and few in numbers is the regulation in place, it make it very expensive for small breweries to grow and flourish. For example, Colombia charges the same entry fee taxes to the large corporations as small breweries and there is only one bottling vendor with a flat rate bottling fee. This keeps production of craft beer low and so many breweries open their own bars so they can at least cut the bottling fee. (These are things I learned on the tour!)
The Bogotá Craft Beer Tour is a paid tour but, the fee includes the beer you sample, food and the van which chauffeured us around to each location. I loved the discovery of Teusaquillo, a upper-class artsy neighbourhood which I hadn’t even know existed but, was the type of place I would normally want to explore. Simon, our tour guide and one of the creators of the tour was a great guide who worked to foster an friendly, social atmosphere and shared his experience of Bogotá.
I really enjoyed this tour but, it wasn’t my favourite because I realized that there is a certain type of traveler that attends such tours. I was the only solo person the tour with two groups – a group of clique Canadian girls looking to party and a lovely Taiwanese group who were more than open to chatting with others. I’d recommend this tour if you have a travel companion to chat with as you sit at bars sipping beers if your group mates aren’t of the socializing variety.