Taxis and paisas – my time in Colombia

When my friend and I arrived in Bogotá, one of the first things we noticed is the increase in elevation, and the resulting decrease in oxygen! Bogotá is high – a whopping 2640 meters above sea level and much higher than even Norway, the mountainous country I’m used to – and we knew our lungs would have a good bit of change to get used to as soon as we stepped off the plane and breathed in. But of course, my friend (no, not me, my friend!) underestimated the effect it’d have before we got there. ;P

We wandered through the airport toward the exit, and as soon as we withdrew Colombian pesos at the airport ATM, a man walked to us and asked if we needed a taxi. We said yes and followed him, thinking he was taking us to the government-condoned Servicio Publico taxis we had heard about from our online research. Instead, he directed us to a big-boned white taxi that wasn’t in the “Authorized Taxis” section of the airport outside and tried to charge us 60,000 COP (~$23 USD) to take us to La Candelaria, a trip that we ended up only spending 25,000 COP (~$10 USD) for with a yellow Servicio Publico taxi after we rid ourselves of the pushy white taxi guy. Be sure to get the yellow taxis, not the white! Of course, not all the white taxis are scammers or will overcharge, but I definitely recommend the public taxis to be on the safer side.

That said, the taxi culture in Bogotá (and in Medellín, too) is insane! The drivers are fast, reckless, impatient…and very inexpensive, at about $3-5 per your average ride. They’re also extremely easy to get a hold of via the TAPPSI app on your phone; we literally had to wait no more than five minutes for a taxi to arrive to pick us up in most cases. The app grabs the most recent government rate for taxis and lets you calculate what the fare should be based on the distance – you can then show this number to the driver, which is not a bad way to avoid getting scammed! The fare is always a bit higher if you’re being picked up from or dropped off at the airport, if you’re using the taxi at night, or if it’s Sunday.

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