Top 40 Things to do in Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia is one of Latin Americas up and coming cities, for both tourists and businesses. Bogota has a number of amazing things to see and do, including;

  • Take the cable car or walk up to the top of the Monserrate, a church at the top of the mountain with a incredible view of the city.
  • Eat dinner at Zona Rosa a collection of restaurants and bars.
  • Fly a kite in Simón Bolívar Park.
  • Celebrate Colombia’s Independence Day by watching the military parade through the city (July 20th).
  • Spend a night partying in Andrés de Carne (either in Chia or Bogota).
  • Take a tour of the amazing street art around the city with Bogota Graffiti 
  • Visit the Salt Catherdral in Zipaquira
  • Walk up to the sacred Lake Guatavita and discover the legend of El Dorado
  • Go Sailing on the Lake Guatavita dam
  • Hike up to the top of the Cerro de la Virgen
  • Visit the Nemocón Salt Cathedral
  • Hike up to the Paramo near Guasca and discover where the water touches the earth.
  • Take a walk around the Gold Museum, discovering the ancient myths of El Dorado
  • Visit the Museum of the famous artist Botero
  • Walk around the streets of La Candelaria
  • Participate in Ciclo de Vida on a Sunday morning and cycle around the city while the roads are closed.
  • Visit the Sunday market in Usaquén
  • Have a drink in the rooftop bar Apache
  • Visit the Plaza de Bolivar
  • Dance Salsa at Exchange Salsa Party
  • Eat Empanadas from the street sellers
  • Try a famous street oblea
  • Visit the Alimentarte food festival in the park.
  • Visit Estereo picnic festival in Simón Bolívar Park (March).
  • Take a walk around the arts and crafts fair Expoartesanias (December)
  • Eat an ice cream in Park 93
  • Eat at Crepes and Waffles
  • Have a traditional lunch at Andrés Plaza
  • Eat at one of the many unique restaurants in Usaquén
  • Party at Armando Records and their open sky roof
  • Spend the weekend celebrating at the Carnaval de Bogota (August)
  • Eat Ajiaco for lunch (Colombian soup)
  • Take a coffee tour of Bogota
  • Spend an evening playing Tejo
  • Take a Bogota Food Tour
  • Have a beer from Bogota’s brewery Bogota Beer Company
  • Eat an Arepa de Huevo in Usaquén
  • Visit the Colombian National Museum
  • Take a look at Bogota’s stripped church Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen
  • Go shopping at one of Bogota’s many markets or malls

 

 

Dear World Media, Please Give Colombia a Break

Colombia, South America, a country with a bad reputation thanks to the world’s media, Pablo Escobar and war. In the 80s and 90s Colombia was thrust onto the world’s stage for feeding America’s drug problem, war, kidnappings, Guerrilla and FARC. When people think of Colombia 20 – 30 years on that’s what they still believe the country is all about. Yes everyone knows Pablo died but any media story still, in 2016, involving Colombia I can pretty much guarantee is a negative feature with some reference to drugs or violence. This has been even more present thanks to movies and tv shows such as Narcos.
Colombia has moved so far forward in the last 20- 30 years that there is rarely any evidence of the war on drugs and Colombia is in the process of negotiating a peace treaty and ending the war.
Colombia is one of the most up and coming countries in South America, steps ahead of the rest of South America in technology, education and medicine, and Bogota is fast becoming the new hub for multi-national companies. With all these positive things happening within the country, why is the media still reporting and giving Colombia a negative image? If Colombia was still a dangerous place, why has the country been voted the happiest country in the world for the last two years in a row (with 87% of Colombians stating that they are happy)? 

Media Coverage

News and the media love to publish articles titled ‘Cocaine farm destroyed in Colombia’, ‘(a number of) people murdered in Colombia’ or ‘ UK or US Government help Colombia fight war’. Whilst all of these articles and stories are true, the whole country shouldn’t be blamed. For example ‘Cocaine farm destroyed in Colombia’ should be retitled as ‘Cocaine farm destroyed in remote area of Colombian rainforest, thousands and thousands of miles away from civilisation’ or ‘(a number of) people murdered in Buenaventura, a city where Colombia’s violence and war is concentrated to, thousands of miles away from the next big city’- making sense? If it was a story about America or England they wouldn’t generalise the whole country: no one headlines an article ‘thousands die in America’ or ‘Marijuana lab destroyed in England’ so why do they do it about Colombia?

Colombia Reality

Colombia is actually one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited; it’s a country which has it all, Caribbean and Pacific coast beaches and islands, Amazon Rainforest, Andes Mountain ranges, desert and plains. Colombia is a country on the Equator, giving it a year round isothermal climate (only varying within regions and altitude). I was blown away when I first visited the country so I thought ‘how can a country so amazing still have such a bad reputation’?!
Colombian people are the nicest people I have ever met and the year round climate gives Colombia some of the best and freshest food in the world. Colombia also doesn’t buy into the materialistic or self indulged culture, but everyone has national pride and loves a good celebration alongside being active and healthy. In Colombia there is no sense of self entitlement, the little things are the big things and you work for what you get.
Yes Colombia still has some problems, but what country in the world doesn’t.

Working Abroad – Teaching English

Teaching English is not only rewarding but it can allow you to travel to many destinations, meet new people and spend time living in other countries.

The need for English Language teachers around the world is a growing business, people have discovered the importance of the English Language with everyday life and in businesses. English is the universal business language and allows businesses to become multinational, the world is a small place and businesses are moving abroad exporting and importing goods. With this increased need for the English language people have identified that having good knowledge of the English language can allow people to gain jobs anywhere in the world, higher paid jobs in third world countries and increase job opportunities. To keep up with this need for teachers, many companies have started offering native English teachers chances to work in schools or companies in Latin American, Asia, Western Europe, China, Indonesia and Japan.

To teach English abroad you don’t necessarily need to have a teaching degree (obviously you will get a better job with a teaching degree or masters). You can gain employment with an English Language teaching qualification through companies offering 4 week courses, online courses and weekly training courses. It depends which type of job you want to get, many schools and companies will allow you to work with just a online teaching course which can be purchased online for between £49 – £200. Research is necessary to find the best and accredited courses available, there are lots of cheap courses online which aren’t accredited.

There are two ways in which you can acquire a job teaching English abroad;

1. Find a job yourself in a school or an English company in the country you want to work in. 

2. Find a TEFL company and apply to them, they will train you and find you a placement in a school or organisation in the country of your choice.

These two ways of finding jobs have their positives and negatives.

English company or School;

Finding an English company on your own can be hard, there are a number of companies and schools which you can apply to directly in the place you want to travel. Although this is true, finding a English company on your own can allow you to choose between companies, find one that is the best fit for you, the one which gives you the best working hours, the best pay and ages which you would like to teach.

TEFL Company 

Finding a TEFL Company can allow you to gain the necessary qualifications from a accredited source, they will find you a job and help you find accommodation, some will even pay for your visa and flight, which is good for people who want to pay someone to sort out everything for them. Although this is true many companies request a deposit, don’t allow you to choose your destination within the country, provide you with a set wage which can be subsequently lower than you deserve. They take away money from your wages for expenses such as finding you the job, some even have to pay schools for you to be there.

Teaching English is rewarding and allows people to earn a wage in a country before travelling around the country.

I recently moved to Bogota, Colombia with the idea of teaching English in mind, I recently just gained a working visa, a job with a English teaching company, I work 4 hours a day and get paid a set hourly fee. My monthly wage is significantly higher, maybe double the amount of which I would have received working for a TEFL Company.

10 Myths about the Amazon Rainforest travellers always get wrong 

Whilst preparing for a recent trip to the Brazilian, Peruivan and Colombian Amazon Rainforest I had a few ideas and expectations of what the Amazon was going to be like, I did research online to see if these expectations were true. I was unable to find a source which told me information about the Amazon and what to expect, so I went on my journey with my ideas and expectations of what I believed the Amazon to be like. All of these expectations turned out to be false.

The media and society presents us with certain expectations of places and ideas of what to expect, many of these are false, written and influenced by people who have never actually experienced these places.

As a result of this I have created a list of the expectations I believed were true of the Amazon before I undertook my trip and the actual reality of the Amazon Rainforest.

1. The Amazon Rainforest is located in Brazil

High School Geography lessons taught me that the Amazon Rainforest was in Brazil. This is true but the Amazon isn’t only in Brazil, whilst Brazil is home to the majority of the Rainforest, 10% of the Amazon is in Colombia, 13% is in Peru and a small percentage in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Whilst flying from Leticia, a town on the Amazon River in Colombia to Bogota, a 2 hour flight, over 1 hour of the flight was over Rainforest. Colombia’s 10% of the Amazon covers a large area of the bottom of Colombia, showing how varst the Amazon is as a whole.

 

2. The Amazon is dense Rainforest

Whilst there is parts of the Rainforest which is dense and unexplored, there is a large number of towns and communities on the river fronts, with large cleared areas. These cleared areas provide perfect locations for homes, schools, airports, football pitches and other buildings. The vast majority of the Amazon is unexplored, meaning they may be communities out there yet to be explored, animals yet to be discovered and societies with no idea of the outside world.

3. The Amazon is full of dangerous animals and mosquitos 

The Amazon isn’t full of dangerous creatures, I went there expecting to see a whole range of dangerous wildlife and I didn’t, I saw an anaconda which I only saw because someone caught it to show us, a monkey which was someone’s pet and the closest thing I saw to a jaguar was the skins of one hug on someone’s wall. I’m not saying there isn’t dangerous animals in the Amazon, if your lucky you might see one on your trip but don’t expect to be chased by Jaguars or bitten by a snake. The animals are the same as every other animal around the world, you mess with them and they will mess with you, but leave them alone and you won’t even know they are there.

4. If you fall in the Amazon River you will get eaten by Pirañas

We have all seen the movies, explorers in the Amazon in a boat going down the river, suddenly someone falls in the water, instantly a thousand Pirañas come and eat the body with no chance of escaping. What if I told you the majority of Pirañas are normal fish swimming at the bottom of the river, yes they have sharp teeth, yes if you catch one on a fishing line it will get angry and try and bit you but no way would a Piraña instantly bite your finger off if you put your hand in the water. Pirañas are also really really small fish, they taste pretty good too. I’m not saying you should swim in the Amazon River because there is definitely Crocodiles and other fish who will bite you, but there are parts of the river which you can swim in and I did. I also caught a Piraña whilst fishing in the same piece of river.

5. The Amazon River is the backbone of the Rainforest

The Amazon River does run through the Rainforest but it is one of the lesser utilised rivers due to its varst width meaning big currents and large waves, making it almost impossible for small boats with little engines to use the river. There are many many more smaller rivers which break away from the Amazon River which are heavily utilised for transporting good and people around the area. These rivers are smaller in width and sheltered more from the wind. Communities are located on these river fronts and in some places there’s even floating houses, shops, a boat mechanic and petrol stations floating on the water.

6. No one lives in the Amazon and those adventurous few who do live in hammocks in the jungle

The Amazon is home to many families, indigenous communities and just general people, there are major cities in the Amazon; Leticia (Colombia), Benjamin Constant (Brazil), Tabatinga (Brazil), Manaus (Brazil) and many more. A large number of people live in these large towns and first looking in you wouldn’t even realise they were in the Amazon. There are also a large number of communities along the stretch of rivers, utilising the rivers for fishing in order to make a living. Some of these communities are fairly large with 50 or so families calling it home, many communities have schools, shops, hospitals and some even have military bases. These communities are well established many generations have lived and grown up there, with wood houses, openings for crops and some even have electricity and running water. I stayed in a community without electricity or running water but they had a generator and tv, to which in turn brought them knowledge of the outside world. Communities have learnt to adapt to their environment, I went to a town in Peru which was entirely build on stilts, with a walk way in the middle connecting each house, shop and school. This was a result of the regular flooding from the river and heavy rainfall, showing how communities have adapted to the environment and struggles they face.

7. The mosquitos are deadly

Yes there are mosquitos in the Amazon but not as many as you many first expect, in the deep rainforest there are definitely a lot of mosquitos but in cleared areas, around the water and in communities you don’t real notice them. At night there are more but nothing more than a typical high heat environment. Some places have worse mosquitos than others and yes occasionally some do carry harmful diseases. Mosquitoes shouldn’t be a excuse not to visit the Amazon, with the right repellent they won’t even bother you.

8. You should wear long pants and long sleeve shirts all the time

Again long pants and long sleeve shirts are only necessary when trekking through the jungle, when in communities, towns or on the waterfront, these are not necessary. The weather in the Amazon is very hot and very humid and you would sweat more than you could drink if you wore long pants and long sleeve shirts 24/7. The Amazon is so humid that nothing drys, clothes will stay damp and not dry even when hanging in the sunshine.

9. You need to be fit and active to go to the Amazon

This is untrue, anyone who is willing can visit the Amazon, there’s nothing adventurous or difficult about it. Obviously tours vary by company but many tours are suited to normal people and everyone should go, search for a tour with the things you want to do, do you want to sleep in the jungle? Do you want a hotel style room each night? Research tours and find the one which suits you best, there are a large number of tours, you will be able to find one which suits your needs. On my tour there was an elderly gentleman and a 5 year old child. There’s nothing dangerous or daring about the tour and guides are very knowledgable and experienced.

10. You need to have special equipment 

Many think going to the Amazon requires specialist clothes, equipment and items in order to stay safe, this is incorrect. In fact all you really need is rain boots, long sleeve shirts, long pants (linen), shorts and tank top for around the communities, tennis shoes, flip flops, long pj pants, toiletries and mosquitos repellent. Nothing specialist there, the one specialist thing is would advise taking is a small medical supply kit, as there are no pharmacies once you leave Leticia.

I hope these 10 myths busted have given you a better idea of what to expect in the Amazon Rainforest. 


 

Life is meant to be lived happily, if you aren't happy change it

Everyone is unique with different interests, dreams and desires. Different things make people happy, different careers, people and hobbies. Happiness comes in many shapes and forms; achieving greatness, friends, family, jobs, pets and many more.

Although this is true many people forget to be happy, people get so caught up in routine that they forget to live. Routine takes over their lives, people get comfortable, in their careers, relationships and life, that they take things for granted. People sometimes settle for what they believe is right, what they think is acceptable and safe.

Everyone deserves to be happy and some people don’t even realise that they are unhappy, until they take themselves out of their routine. Breaking away from routine or the norm allows people to discover if they really are happy. Everyone should challenge themselves, remember what makes them happy and change if they are not happy with their current situation.

Travelling whether for a holiday, for a long period of time or just a weekend getaway, is the easiest way for people to think about things, break away from routine or society and help them discover what they wish.

Society forms many social norms for everyone to follow, what jobs people to should do, how they should live and how they should grow up. Society controls everything, the media, what people should believe about things and what they think is normal. People who break away from these social norms gain the biggest rewards. Travelling to another country, submersing in a different culture and meeting people with different views, allows people to have different experiences and new ideas on life.

Everyone believes moving on is scary, unsafe and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be, new chapters are good, new people are good and a challenge is good. If people feel like their job isn’t challenging, they aren’t learning, they stare at the clock every second and they wish they were somewhere else. Then they should move on, if they have dreams, wishes and spend time thinking about what else could be out there then they should take the risk. Being comfortable is a lot more scary than taking risks, routine destroys people.

Happiness is the most important thing in life, in the end people shouldn’t look back and think what if, what if they had done this instead, would things have been different. Every choice a person makes defines them, people choose their own paths in life. They have the ability to change everything, if they don’t like the path they are heading down, then they have the ability to choose another road. Everyone has the ability to decide where they end up in life.

If a persons dreams and desires are to go travelling, then they should go. It will most definitely change their life, the people they meet, the experiences they have, fate happens anything can happen, it could lead to a completely new path. If someone doesn’t like their job, they should find another one, find something they love to do and go with it. If someones dreams are to run their own business, they should take the risk, gain experience and if it doesn’t work out, they tried, it wasn’t meant to be.

People will judge others on their choices and decisions, when people learn not to be influenced by what others think they can think clearly and understand what they truly desire. There is more than one way for someone to lead a successful life and no one has all the answers.