When we moved to Bogotá, I relied heavily on Tripadvisor and a guidebook about Colombia for advice on the must-sees and must-eats of my new city. However, when you find yourself actually living in a new city—especially in a foreign country—you quickly realize travel guides are made for travelers and will only take you so far. Living in Bogotá: A Practical Guide by Expats and Locals for Expats picks up where TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet drop off: with all of the day-to-day info you need to settle in.
Two things make Living in Bogotá a must for any new arrival: firstly is it’s one of the only books focused on the information expats need to set up shop in their new home and secondly is that its content leans heavily on the suggestions of regular expats who’ve already happily settled in. There’s a whole host of professionals (tourism experts, food writers, and bloggers) who lend their expertise as well. The combination of experts and expert expats means that the recommendations are vetted and worth your money—it’s like having a well-connected friend with a recommendation for everything!
As a first time expat, I wish I would have been given a copy of this book during our look-see weekend the few months before we arrived. When you’re making a huge move for the first time, there are so many things you don’t know to ask about and you may not even know where to begin. Relocation companies and realtors may try to point you in one direction for your new home, but a book like Living in Bogotá gives a full overview of popular expat neighborhoods and what they are known for, alongside easy to read maps that show how far you are from popular areas of the city. If you don’t have assistance finding housing, there are comprehensive lists of furnished apartments, realtors, and agencies to help you find your place to put down roots.
Once you’ve settled on a neighborhood and found an apartment, the recommendations of everything from a handyman to help you hang your pictures to curtain companies will help you make up your home without pulling your hair out. And when you’re ready for real life and want more than a checklist of the local museums, you’ll have at your fingertips all the local expat organizations, churches, classes and volunteer opportunities. Also, this guide goes a step further than your usual travel guide and breaks down the best restaurants by occasion and vibe.
One last thing for those with families: I think this is a must purchase. The easy to read rundown of schools (including their accreditations, primary language, and affiliations) would alone be worth the cost, but there are also recommendations for family restaurants, things to do when it’s raining and places to have birthday parties.
Even better is that between the different categories of recommendations are little nuggets of wisdom that every new Bogatano needs to know, from the basics of addresses to deciphering the Spanish translations of your favorite fish or cut of steak. Even after living here a year and a half, there were things I had no idea existed—for instance, I knew about cicilovía but had no idea there was an evening biking group that takes a nighttime spin through the north of the city each Wednesday. So cool!
The edition I’ve discussed today is for 2014- 2015, and the group is currently in the process of seeking input for an updated 2016-2017 edition. The guide costs 35,000COP and you may purchase or view the current edition via their website at livinginbogota.co.