FLIGHT OF THE BUSPACKERS
Now that we have settled in a bit more in Bogotá, Colombia, we can go a little further in depth describing our experiences up until now. First, we will describe our long journey to Bogotá. Then, in our next post, we will share some of the experiences we had during our first few days in Bogotá.
We started our journey on January 9th, 2018, after several extremely stressful and chaotic weeks of making preparations, packing for our trip, tetris-style cramming of all of our belongings not going on the trip into our 5′ x 10′ storage unit, selling our cars, and bidding ‘until later’ to as many of our dear friends and family that we were able to manage. #NoSleepTillBogotá was much more than a hashtag, it was more or less our modus operandi for the days, weeks, and months leading up to our South American adventure.
We left what was our home in Stillwater, Minnesota at roughly 8:35pm on Tuesday, January 9th. Sally’s mother, Sara, gave us a ride to the Minneapolis St. Paul International airport, accompanied by Mimy and her adorable pooch, Latke. We arrived at the airport shortly after 9pm, said our goodbyes to Sara, Mimy, and Latke, and then proceeded to the Spirit Airlines counter to check our bags and show proof of onward travel.
The representative from Spirit who helped us must have been relatively new on the job as she insisted that we needed to show proof of a return flight to the United States. This presented us with a problem as we, unsure of our possible return date and not being able to book a round trip that lasted longer than a year, had not booked a returning flight to the US. We did however have proof of onward travel, which at first she told us was not good enough to meet the Colombian entry requirement. We assured her that we had done our research and that we only needed proof of onward travel, i.e. a ticket to leave Colombia. She continued to insist that we needed a return ticket to the United States until, lucky for us, one of the more senior Spirit representatives corrected her and explained to her that our proof of onward travel would suffice. That was all it took. We were then able to check our bags and proceed through security.
We waited roughly 3 hours to board our 12:30am red-eye flight to Fort Lauderdale, where we pumped ourselves full of coffee to survive our 5-hour layover. Shortly before 10:00 am, we finally boarded our flight to Bogotá!
On the plane to Bogotá, we met a gentleman named Rafael who had dual-citizenship for Colombia and the United States. He was originally from Bogotá. Rafael talked to us a little about Bogotá and we explained to him the nature of our journey. He suggested that we use Uber for getting around the city as it was very cheap, safe, and reliable. We gave him our blog information and he said that he might contact us.
When we had at last arrived in Bogotá, we were very excited. Stepping off of a plane into another country is a surreal experience.
Everything was new, different, and interesting. First we passed through immigration (migraciones):
The immigration officer was very friendly. He asked for our passports, the address of our hostel, and the purpose of our trip. We got entry stamps put into our passports and he wished us a nice stay.
The whole immigration process only took a few minutes and then we were on our way to pick up our checked bags and pass through customs. We filled out the declarations form to the best of our ability and presented it to the customs agents who just collected the forms without asking any questions or even looking over the form in detail. We passed our bags on a belt through the scanners and then we were free to go.
Next, before getting a taxi, we decided to exchange some of our US dollars for Colombian pesos. We did this so that we didn’t have to occupy ourselves with exchanging money later on, and also so that we could pay our taxi driver in pesos. We traded in $700 USD and received a whopping 1,862,000 Colombian pesos! Millionaires we were!
After loading up on pesos we started to look for an official taxi. Taking an unofficial taxi or accepting a ride from anyone who is offering to drive you is not only a potential rip-off pricewise, but it can also be quite dangerous as many kidnappings are known occur as a result of unauthorized taxi rides.
We began looking for a taxi counter where we could order an official taxi when a man approached us asking us where we were headed and if we needed a ride. He was wearing a suit and he showed us an identification badge to encourage us to accept a ride from him. We were immediately suspicious and we were not going to accept his offer. We explained to him that we were not just going to accept a ride from anyone that approached us. He assured us that his taxis were the official ones that were waiting right outside, but we were not about to buy his story. He very well could have been telling the truth, and afterwards it seemed like he was, but we were not about to take any chances. We asked a police officer where we could get an official taxi and she pointed us to the line of yellow cabs right outside of the airport, telling us to wait in line for the next available taxi and that they were legitimate. After waiting less than a minute, a taxi driver pulled up, got out of his cab, and helped us load our bags into his car.
The taxi driver, Alex, was very friendly and he seemed to enjoy talking to us very much. He pointed out many different sites along our route and told us a little bit about Bogotá. He told us that we have to try one of the most popular dishes in Bogotá, ajiaco, which is a sort of chicken soup with potatoes and vegetables. He also pointed a few good places where we could do some shopping. Here are a few pictures we took during our taxi ride:
After a very enjoyable and interesting ride lasting about 35 minutes we had finally arrived at Hobu Hostel, where we would spend the next three nights.