What to pack and wear to enjoy Bogotá

January 2015

Michael:  There is a joke that goes: A man calls up his wife and says, “Honey start packing. I just won the lottery.”

The wife responds, “Should I pack for warm weather or cold?

The husband says, “I don’t care just don’t be there when I get home.”

Though I am pretty sure readers did not win the lottery they may be thinking about what to pack when visiting Bogotá. In this writing we will also include a few of those accessories that may make your visit more pleasant.

Graciela: The first thing to keep in mind is that the weather year round is similar to a chilly spring in the Midwest of the USA. The temperatures range from 9 degrees Celsius to about 20 degrees Celsius (more or less 48 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Rain is always a possibility but seems more prevalent in March, April, November and December.

Michael: If you are coming for business then the dress is pretty much what it is in many other countries with similar weather. Men frequently wear suits and/or sport jackets.

Graciela: In my opinion you will find pant suits common for executive women. Female office workers can also be found in dresses and skirts. Though I believe that Colombian women wear more colorful blouses than what you find in offices in the Midwest of the USA.

Michael: Each year the number of tourists visiting this capital city increases. The best way to enjoy it is to be comfortable. My thought process is also that making a reasonable attempt at blending in is best. Of course almost any seasoned traveler will advise keeping a low profile no matter where you visit. I know that if you have a gringo white face like mine it is often a little difficult.

Small sampling of scarves in Colombia

Small sampling of scarves in Colombia

Graciela: It is simple for women. No matter what age you are, blue jeans are perfect. A blouse of any color is acceptable. Many ladies wear a scarf. I highly recommend that you check out some of the mall stores and purchase the beautiful Colombian made tops and scarfs. Medellin, Colombia is a major world supplier of clothes and Bogotá stores carry many unique pieces. Since there is often a chill in the city a light sweater or jacket is advisable to carry with you. I have noticed  many women wearing sweaters that button up the front. And while you will see women wearing high heels, I recommend comfortable shoes for tourism. This is a walking city.

Michael: For men, blue jeans are certainly acceptable for any age and they are almost a given for the younger crowd. But it seems that dark colored casual pants are more the norm for mature men. T-shirts are acceptable, but I notice that more men wear something with a collar. And I have been told that Colombian women prefer men who wear nice shirts. Some gentlemen wear a sport coat but the majority have a light sweater. When not needed it is slung over the back with the arms loosely tied in the front. It took me awhile to get use to wearing the sweater like that as I had never seen anyone do it where I lived in the USA. Of course light jackets are also seen. But I have seen more than one gringo accidentally leave his jacket on the back of a chair.sweater

Like my wife pointed out for women, shoes are important. They should be comfortable walking shoes with a good gripping sole. Bogotá sidewalks are not the most even in the world. The colors of black and brown are the most commonplace.

Graciela: Rain is always a possibility. Most Bogotano ladies carry a small umbrella in their purse. Since the city is 2,600 meters (8,600 feet) above sea level. UV filtering is much less than at sea level. The temperature may feel cool however a person can easily get very sun burnt. Michael, not heeding my advice, has looked like a lobster more than once.I recommend that visitors wear some sunscreen.

Michael: Perhaps we should mention what not to wear. Bogotá is a city of eight million people. Like visiting any other large city such as Rome, London, Berlin or New York it is best not to wear expensive jewelry on the street. Do not pull out and flash large amounts of money. And do not have that bulging wallet sticking out your back pants pocket. Above I mentioned about men wearing light sweaters. I keep my money in a small wallet inside my shirt pocket under the sweater. While you can always find some people doing it, you are still better off not wearing T-shirts with derogatory sayings on them.

Graciela: Of course for women it is important to have a purse that is not easy for others to take things out of. Colombia is known for their purse manufacturers. We wrote about two places selling wonderful examples of the country’s art, Boots ‘N Bags which can be found in most malls and Pandora is well known for its leather handbags. It is easy to need more space to carry things. I recommend, for both women and men, to use a mochila

Michael: One first time out of the USA gringo told me that when he was in Bogotá he felt everyone staring at him. His initial thought went with being gringo. Paying attention to the surroundings revealed he was the only person wearing dress shorts. After changing to pants the stares stopped. However to this day, in the gringolandia areas of the city, I still see those white legged men sticking out like sore thumbs.

Graciela: Using the layered clothing method, wearing comfortable shoes and being prepared for rain is the best way to throughly enjoy this South American capital city.**