Colombia’s capital is an ideal starting point for exploring this beautiful country. Within an hour’s flight of Caribbean resorts, Amazonian jungle lodges and the verdant green mountains of Colombia’s zona cafetería, Bogotá is an ideal jumping-off point to explore a country bursting with natural beauty. The capital city of nine million boasts one of Latin America’s most diverse and accessible gay nightlife scenes, and the friendly people set Bogotá apart as a destination.
Cerro de Monserrate, a dramatic and lushly forested mountain, lies at the heart of the city. While Bogotá has more than 3,000 neighborhoods, most of the city’s accommodations, nightlife and cultural offerings are situated alongside the mountain in a line from north to south that is well served by the city’s clean and modern public transit system.
At the southern end lies La Candelaria, an atmospheric colonial district where affordable accommodation and eating options are within walking distance of the major plazas, cathedrals and museums. Bogotá was founded in 1538, but its well-preserved colonial and neo-classical edifices are now alive with modern offices and shops. Modern architecture buffs will enjoy the red brick and curving, natural designs of Rogelio Salmona, whose influence can be spotted alongside more traditional styles.
El Banco de la República Museo in La Candelaria showcases Colombia’s richest collection of arts in 10 galleries that are free to visit and open late. Of note in the Colonial section is a bizarre room dedicated to portraits of deceased nuns and one gigantic photograph of a floating Marina Abramovic. El Banco also houses the Botero museum, which holds 83 pieces from Fernando Botero’s private collection and 123 pieces done by Colombia’s most famous artist himself. Botero paints humorously engorged portraits, nudes and still-life scenes that never fail to win over casual visitors and art lovers alike.
In the early afternoon, a number of restaurants on the eastern side of Plaza Bolivar open up to serve a filling three-course almuerzo for less than US$5. El Artista bustles with a savvy lunch crowd and is a great place to try Colombian specialties like the astonishingly meaty bandeja paisa, a combination of fried beef, sausage, chicharron, avocado and fried egg on a bed of beans and rice.
As you move north of La Candelaria, you enter La Macarena, a neighborhood in transformation that has been profiled by The New York Times. Both the gastronomic heart of the capital and a chic residential district where you can spy eclectic art collections through windows, La Macarena can be explored on foot by strolling between Carreras 4 and 5 between Calle 26 and 30. A perfect example of the whimsical entrepreneurialism that has taken root in the neighborhood, Arepa & Taco (Calle 4ª 27–03) serves margaritas and creative versions of the Colombian street food staple in a colorful and kitschy environment.
One of the few neighbourhoods in Latin America to be prefaced as gay, Chapinero lies a short cab ride north of La Macarena. Since Bogotá’s bars are supposed to close at two in the morning, they become lively earlier than expected. Simply walk along Carrera 9 between Calles 58 and 60 after 9:30pm to explore the tightly packed nightlife district.
A good place to start is Color House Café Bar, where the music ranges from Beyoncé at the Super Bowl to classic Cher. Here you can share a good bottle of Colombian rum with lime and coke for less than US$20. From there, the options could fill several weekends. If you are drawn to big clubs with big sounds, then nothing will do but Theatron, a converted movie theatre that now houses 10 different nightclubs (one is women-only), with music ranging from reggaetón to techno. If you want the opposite, check out Indie Cave Music Bar, which packs very friendly, stylish 20-somethings into a bar the size of a king-size mattress. For something totally different, head to El Perro y la Calandria, where locals pack two floors, drinking heavily and singing along to romantic Spanish ballads. If you want to sleep near the nightlife, Chapinero has few accommodation options beyond the by-the-hour variety, although the High Park Hotel is gay-friendly and comes well reviewed. For the adventurous, there is Dark Club sex club, one of many in this city, where nudity is the dress code and nothing is forbidden.
If you want to relax after the hedonism of Chapinero, upscale hotel accommodation can be found in the Zona Norte, starting around Calle 72 and ending in the 100s. If you want to avoid the nosy concierge, Oasis Collections rents handpicked apartments and studios. You will find most of Europe’s high-end designer stores in Zona Norte’s fashionable malls, as well as a few fashion-forward brands, like Spain’s Pull & Bear. Stylish shoes, clothes and accessories can be bought at the independent BackstageCorp boutique.
The best way to see all of Bogotá’s neighborhoods is by bike on Sundays, when more than 100 blocks, from La Candelara to Calle 125, are closed for cyclists. The route is lined with vendors selling fresh fruit juices and Bogotans burning off the excesses of the weekend.
El Dorado International Airport, west of downtown at the end of Avenue El Dorado, is Bogotá's principal airport. With a central Colombia location it's a Latin American hub for domestic and international airlines. For bus or taxi services into town see a the counter at the arrivals terminal for pre-paid tickets. For taxis this will include the name of the driver and the fare at the official rate - about US$10 to most downtown destinations.
Buses are the main means of mass transit in Bogotá. See the SITP website for routes and schedules. The TransMilenio 'rapid transit system' of articulated buses runs on 12 routes of dedicated bus roads, serving 150 stations, created in place of the proposed but never completed Metro rail system. A network of regular city buses feeds the central lines from the various neighborhoods. TransMilenio system stations are designated on maps with an "M" sign. Smart travel cards (tarjetas) are valid for both TransMilenio and SITP buses and fares should cost under US$1 per trip.
Intercity buses run between major cities, often reaching even the smallest villages, and most towns have local bus services. A tourist train, the Tren Turistico de la Sabana, operates from Bogatá's Sabana station to Zipaquira and Parque Jaime Duque Briceño.
Among the roughly 50,000 taxis on the streets of Bogota, special white taxis for tourists are available at most hotels and other landmarks. A bit more expensive than the yellow ones, they're safer, and drivers may be expected to know tourism details and speak English. Phone apps can also be used to order reliable and legitimate taxi services: find Tappsi, and EasyTaxi at the APP Store and Google Play. Verify the taxi license number (on roof and doors) with the one given on your phone. Most guides strongly advise against hailing a cab off the street, especially if you're alone after drinking.
While Bogota is much safer than it was, it's prudent when out at night to leave your passport in the hotel room safe, and take a photocopy with another photo ID for police requests. Take sufficient but limited cash in small bills and one bank card with low withdrawal limits, for which you have card numbers and bank contact information safely back at the hotel (for which you should have the address and phone number).
Addresses are easy: Avenidas have names, and each Calle (Cl) and Carrera (Kr) has a number. The lower-number cross street number follows (often preceded by "No."), then a hyphen, then the building number on that block. On a grid oriented to the mountain, the Calles run east-west (or SE-NW), rising in numeration from south to north, and Carreras run south to north (or SW-NE), with numbers rising from the east (the mountain) going west. In between there are sometimes a, b, c or more additional streets, plus the occasional "bis" side street. South of Calle 1 the streets become 1S, 2S, 3S, and so on. Beyond the center there are also Transversals (Tv) and Diagonals (Dg).
One of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, Bogota has a 376 km (234 mi) bike path system, the Ciclorruta, and even more routes during Sunday Ciclovía traffic bans that open streets to bikers, skaters and pedestrians. Bogota Bike Tours offers tours or on-your-own half to full-day rentals from their central Carrera 3, 12-72 location. Bikes can also be rented at Parque Simón Bolívar and Plaza Bolívar.
The peso is the currency of Colombia, with code COP, abbreviated to COL$ or just $. As of August, 2014, the exchange rate was COL$1,883 to US$1 (see XE for daily rates). Most stores and restaurants catering to visitors accept the major credit cards, but smaller businesses may only take cash. ATMs are easily found for cash withdrawals, but use inside-the-bank machines during business hours when possible, and consult your home bank about partner bank information before leaving, to maybe save on fees.
Media & Resources
Guia Gay Colombia has bar/club, restaurant, sauna, hotel and services listings, plus beaches and tour information for Bogatá and around the country.
Colombia Diversa is the leading LGBT human rights organization in Colombia. Colombia LGTB is another national website resource, and MachosColombia is a national website for independent male escorts, strippers and masseurs, 24/7.
El Eden is the LGBT radio station for Colombia, with news, music and events listings - listen online.
Nemesis Times with local LGBT listings for the city of Medellín.
Vamos Colombia offers personalized tours throughout Colombia for gay and lesbian guests, and they're straight friendly too.
The Colombia Bear website lists events all around the country, including Bogota, including dance and sauna parties, BearBQ, CinemaBear, and the Mr Oso ColombiaBear contest in July.
Gay Travel Colombia is an LGBT travel agency providing services in Colombia and throughout South America - and beyond.
The AngloInfo/Bogota webiste is an English-language expat guide to living in this city, with tips on just about everything you'll need to get around, including a directory of English-speaking businesses and services.
Foreign films, including those of Hollywood, are generally shown in their original language with Spanish subtitles. The Festival de Cine de Bogotá takes place in October.
Azul Cafe (Carrera 4, 58-90), Chapinero LGBT/mixed neighborhood cafe and cocktail bar, patio.
Calles de San Francisco (Calle 63, 13-11, 2nd fl), LGBT neighborhood party bar in Chapinero, men/women, theme nights.
Cava Club (Carrera 15, 88-71), El Chico/ Chapinero gay/ mixed dancing, men/women, Wednesday stage shows, drag comedy, live music, DJs, 2-for-1 happy hours.
Color House Café Bar (Carrera 9, 60–74), warm-up gay pop music bar/cafe in Chapinero.
Colosos Bear Cafe (Calle 60, 9-65), Chapinero bar for bears, big men and friends; open Thursday-Saturday 6:30pm-3am.
El Mozo (Calle 85,12-51), El Retiro weekend gay dance club, cafe/bar, go-go boys, Sunday T-dance, roofdeck parties, big-production shows, theme events, karaoke; burgers/sandwiches and fries. GPower Events often take place here.
El Perro y la Calandria (Carrera 9, 59–22), romantic Spanish ballads music bar on 2 floors in Chapinero, popular with mixed locals crowd.
Estación (Calle 62, 7-13/19), Chapinero gay-friendly bar, cafe/restaurant; wraps, full meals, crepes.
Geminis Bar (Carrera 103a, 78c-24), small gay cocktails and music bar in Garces Navas.
Indie Cave Music Bar (Carrera 9, 59–06), tiny music video bar in Chapinero, mixed gay-friendly 20s crowd.
Leo's Bar Mística (Calle 59, 9-36), Chapinero gay locals' Wednesday-Sunday party/ dance bar, terrace, drag shows, special event nights.
Modernika (Carrera 13, 65-42), "God Save the Queen" gay Fridays; Chapinero alternative club kids, irreverent drag, live performances, dancing, ecclectic music mix, various DJs, plenty of attitude. Saturdays "Tropicalica" Latin, crossover and bass, Afro beat, salsa, flow and reggaeton. Was Blues Bar, Calle 86, until June 2014.
Theatron De Pelicula (Calle 58, No. 10-32), Chapinero former theater building, 10 nightclub compex crowd of thousands, reggaetón to techno, dancing, drag and other shows, women's nights. Cover about US$13 for all-you-can-drink vodka/rum or whiskey mixed drinks; hot dogs, rooftop city views,
La Trinchera late night roving Saturday after-parties keep going until Sunday noon, for a gay/ mixed crowd. Sometimes held in Chapinero (Calle 63, 13-11), sometimes beyond Engativá neighborhood, ask around and look for flyers.
These are the biggest and best known hangouts in town, but there are many more small gay establishments in Bogota. Our friends at GayScout list over 80 bars and cafes throughout the city, but without websites, facebook pages or other media coverage they're hard to verify. The advice of friendly locals is your best way to venture deep into this larger LGBT community, and let us know about those we should add.
Saunas, Sex Clubs and Escorts
Aires Video (venida Calle 22 Sur, 18C-19, 2nd fl), sex club and adult shop in El Restrepo, open nightly, naked events, live sex shows.
Babylon (Calle 73, 14-32), just north of Chapinero men's saunas, steam room, spa, darkroom maze, video rooms, nude bar, massages.
Baños Turcos Saint Moritz Bogota (Calle 65, 13-30, 2nd fl), large Chapinero men's sauna/steam club, Jacuzzi, dark room, live sex shows.
Casa Romana (Calle 35, 7-24), Wednesday-Saturday men's sauna/steam club in Teusaquillo; Jacuzzi, porn videos, cabins, bar, erotic shows.
Colombia Men Escorts male escorts, masseurs, strippers; agencies and independents, Bogota and throughout Columbia.
Complices Spa (Carrera 13A, 38-60), Teusaquillo men's sauna, steam, whirlpool/spa, porn videos, bar, massage services.
Dagoas Spa (Calle 59, 9-34), men's steam/sauna in Chapinero; Jacuzzi, pool, smoking area, open 24-hours on weekends.
Dark Club & Video (Calle 64, 13-35, 2nd fl), naked sex/fetish club and bar in Chapinero; slings, g-holes, dark dungeon, porn videos.
Dietrich Video Bar (Calle 60, 13-20), Chapinero sauna and bar, karaoke, cabins, male strippers, live sex shows.
El Mediterraneo (Calle 66, 10-15), Chapinero men's sauna/steam, spa, massage services, cabins, bar, porn videos, naked parties.
Eros (Calle 17, 98-84), men/men sex club in Fontibon, open daily 1-9pm.
Gladiador Video (Calle 150a, 103c-68, 3rd fl), gay sex club and sex shop in Suba, open daily, videos, underwear and naked events.
Kamasutra Video (Av. Calle 22S, 13-21, 3rd fl), daily noon-10pm video sex club in El Restrepo, underwear and naked events, live sex and stripper shows.
La Playa (Caller 55, 13-66), 1-9pm daily men's steam/sauna club in Chapinero; erotic strippers, naked parties.
Manbar (Calle 65, 13-61), Chapinero men's video bar and nude sex club, open 8pm-2:30am.
Modelos Club (Carrera 16, 64-23), Chapinero Norte video bar, male strip and erotic shows; 24-hour escorts, on/off-site services.
Nuvo Nude Baths Spa (Calle 5 Sur, 71D-37), Cervantes men's steam/sauna/Jacuzzi; Monday and Thursday nude nights.
Pegasus Video (Carrera 78b, 39a-38 Sur, 2nd fl), sex shop, men's bar and sex club in Kennedy, open daily 1-9pm, orgies and live sex shows.
Saunas y Turcos Ulises (Carrera 15, 31B-26, Teusaquillo), men's steam/sauna, naked and bears nights.
In Villavicencio, to the southeast, Burlesque Club (Calle 24, 39b-22) is another men's club with dry and steam saunas, Jacuzzi, TV and porn video lounges, cabins and stripper shows.
For another dozen or so Bogota gay sex clubs, with naked strippers, sex shows, private shows, orgy nights, private cabins, and porn videos, including: Black Box Video, Escandinavia, Cabinas Boys Online, Cabinas de la 53, Sala Multiple, SKY Sin Limtes, Star Boys, and Video Escandinavia - see the website BogotaGay GuiaGay.