Emergency measures in the wake of Covid-19: Travel Bans/Colombia.
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.
Further north, between Calles 79 and 85 and Carreras 11 to 15, the Zona Rosa is an upscale fashion, dining and nightlife enclave. The area includes Zona T, a cluster of pedestrian-only streets lined with stylish restaurants, live music bars and clubs, many with patio terraces, along with fashion boutiques by the best local designers.
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. At El Perro y la Calandria, the 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. Andino and El Retiro are two upscale shopping malls next to one another in the Zona Rosa, and SantaFé is one of the largest malls in South America, at Calle 185 on the north side. Other modern malls include Centro 93, Centro Mayor, Palatino, Portal 80, and UniCentro Bogotá.
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 a very reasonable official rate, 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 (Cra) 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 $ within the country. For these past two years, 2016-17, the exchange rate has settled around COL$3,000 per US$1 (see XE for daily rates). Most stores and restaurants catering to visitors accept 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 save on fees whenever possible.
Media & Resources
BogotáGay website has news, LGBT business and events listings, photos and videos. Their BG-GuiaGay site covers all the sex clubs, saunas and escort services, not only for Bogota, but also in Cali, Medellín and other cities in Colombia.
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 strippers and masseurs, 24/7.
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.
El Tiempo is a gay-friendly Spanish-language newspaper.
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.
Lodgings Bogota has several gay/ gay-friendly hostels and a full range of hotel options.
Casa Quinta (Carrera 4, 17-59; 57-1-337-6500), five central rooms near La Candelaria, television, internet access, patio, bar, gym, sauna and Jacuzzi.
High Park Hotel (Carrera 4, 58–58, Chapinera Alto; 57-1-249-5149), gay-friendly boutique hotel, cable TV, WiFi, guest laundry, American or buffet breakfasts.
Hostel Pink (Calle 63a, 24-23, Chapinero; 57-1-255-5259), 14-room guesthouse, gay host couple, private baths, cable TV, DVD library, internet/WiFi, condoms and lube. Rooms by the hour, short nights to extended stays.
Hotel Matisse (Calle 67, 6-55, Chapinero Alto; 57-1-235-6879), quiet B&B, five single and double rooms, breakfast, parking, free WiFi.
Óle Mi Casa Hostal (Calle 27, 4A-26; 57-320-323-3780), B&B private single and double rooms, 3-person dorm bedroom; Mediterranian, Continental or full American breakfast options, computer station.
San Sebastian Boutique Hotel (Calle 62, 9-49, Chapinero; 57-51-488-4917), LGBT hotel, men/women, Babylon Sauna access, cafe/bar, breakfast, package deals.
Suites Real 85 (Carrera 18, 84-56, Antiguo; 57-1-218-0100), and Suites Real 97 (Calle 97a, 10-45; 57-1-610-9700), offer apartment rentals, with living and dining rooms, kitchen, internet access, breakfast, plus cleaning and laundry services.
Cavú Bar (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), (may be closed), Chapinero bar for bears, big men and friends; open Thursday-Saturday 6:30pm-3am.
El Mozo (Calle 85,12-51), Zona Rosa 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.
Leo's Bar Mística (Calle 59, 9-36), Chapinero gay locals' Wednesday-Sunday party/ dance bar, terrace, drag shows, special event nights.
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. Low cover charge for all-you-can-drink vodka/rum or whiskey mixed drinks; hot dogs, rooftop city views,
These are some of 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.
Drugs have always been around the clubs in Bogotá, but Colombia was once an epicenter of the US War on Drugs -- apparently no longer. Colombia’s Supreme Court recently ruled that growing up to 20 pot plants for personal use is not a crime. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed a law that legalized the growth and sale of medicinal marijuana. Colombian authorities, along with those of another South American country, Uruguay, hope to take the trade out of the hands of drug traffickers. Santos calls this reframing of "a problem," a good example of “using natural resources to fight disease.”
Sex Clubs & Saunas
Angel's Naked Party (Calle 45, Palermo), 9pm-6am monthly men's socks-only sex party, open bar, buffet; map location approximate, contact for exact address.
Aries 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 Baths (Calle 73, 14-32) - CLOSED - just north of Chapinero, men's saunas, steam room, spa, darkroom maze, video rooms, nude bar, massages.
Bagoas Club (Calle 69, 10-30), 24/7 men's steam/sauna, Jacuzzi, cafe/bar, fireplace lounge, cable TV, WiFi, gym, smoker's area.
Baño Turco Saint Moritz (Calle 65, 13-30), Jacuzzi, steam+dry saunas, dark zones, videos, cabins, cafe/bar, smoking room, TV lounge, massage; naked night, live sex shows.
Black Box Video (Carrera 9a, 23-87, 2nd/3rd floors), Alameda gay porn video store/rentals, bar, sex club.
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), video bar, porn, cabins, maze, glory holes, dark room, massage, 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.
Gigolo Erotic House (Calle 65, 13-30, 3rd fl), men-only sex club/bar in Chapinero, strippers, live sex shows.
Gladiador Video (Calle 150a, 103c-68, 3rd fl), gay sex club and sex shop in Suba, open daily, videos, underwear and naked events.
He and He (Carrera 9a, 60-84, Chapinero), sexual play space for men, internet access, private cabins, glory holes.
La Playa (Caller 55, 13-66), 1-9pm daily men's steam/sauna club in Chapinero; erotic strippers, naked parties.
Nuvo Nude Baths Spa (Calle 5 Sur, 71D-37), Cervantes men's steam/sauna and Jacuzzi, bar, maze, dark room, massage services, open 24 hours; 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.
Sauna Concorde (Avenida Caracus, 65-23, Chapinera), daily 11am-10pm nude sauna, private cabins, bar, terrace, dark room, youth nights.
Troya (Calle 26, 7d-32, Soacha), daily 10am-10pm sex club; glory holes, private, cabins, porn videos, live sex shows, nude strippers, bar.
Video Cabinas Cowboys (Carrera 13, 64-55, 3rd fl, Chapinera), porn videos, private cabins, glory holes, dark room.
For more Bogota gay sex clubs, with naked strippers, sex shows, private shows, orgy nights, private cabins, and porn videos, including: Casa Romana, La Playa, and Poseidon, see the BogotaGay/GuiaGay website
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.
Note: as a North American website we can no longer provide links to escort services - see the local Bogota media/websites for information on Colombia Escorts; Machos Colombianos; and Masajes Bogota.
For more Daily Xtra articles about Colombia, see: