As is wont to happen anywhere in the world, things weren’t perfect during my time in Colombia.
Below are the five biggest problems I had while living in Bogota, Colombia for three months:
The first Airbnb I stayed at had a great shower; modern and able to pump out steaming hot water. Life was perfect.
After that though, the quality of the shower, and bathroom in general, greatly suffered.
This is because after that first place, each shower was equipped with an electric heater attached to the top of the shower head. This attachment is meant to heat up water that comes through the pipes, but in reality, it has little to zero effect on the water temperature.
On multiple occasions I asked the homeowner for assistance and/or an explanation, to little avail. Unless you’re in a newer building or hotel, the water temperature will be cold.
And by cold, I mean freezing. I couldn’t spend more than ten seconds under the water, just enough time to rinse the soap off my body before shivering and stumbling my way to the comforts of a towel.
My advice, especially if using Airbnb: ask the host how new or old their building is. This will be the best indicator because modern water heaters have not made their way into some of the older infrastructure there.
Sporadic would be the kindest way to describe the Wi-Fi connection down south. My computer could connect fairly well, but the biggest issue came with my phone. If my phone did catch a signal, it often was slow or downright awful, despite the fact that the Wi-Fi signal indicator showed all three bars.
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At one point I decided to give up Wi-Fi and run my phone solely off data, but that quickly proved problematic because the data packages are a rip-off. If you’re not consistently plugged into Wi-Fi, expect to go through a 2GB data package in a few days. 2GB usually costs 43,000 pesos ($13), which lasts awhile if you have good Wi-Fi. If not, you will be running through data like crazy.
Usually if I’m walking down the sidewalk and approach two people walking side-by-side, one of them will move to the side in order for me to slip past. But not in Colombia. People love walking in groups, and even more so right next to each other.
And they do so unabashedly, often leaving no room for someone coming from the opposite direction to walk past without having to step onto the grass or brush against a building in order to squeeze by.
Eventually I grew so irritated by this that I stood my ground and stayed on my path. A few times people moved an inch or two and other times my arm connected with their shoulder (I’m tall). Most shocking is that people then looked at me with anger, like I was in the wrong for being on the sidewalk.
4. Lack of transparency
The two most powerful words in language are `yes’ and `no.’ At least when dealing with gringos (foreigners), local Colombians don’t like to say no.
A good example: I spent an entire afternoon running around the airport trying to find a customs building that I eventually learned wasn’t accessible to the general public.
All I wanted was to secure a package that had been long overdue. When asking for directions, instead of someone telling me they didn’t know or directing me to someone else who might know the answers to my questions, I was on a scavenger hunt with no final destination.
I was shocked to encounter at least eight people telling me to go somewhere, and in each instance the place I had been directed to was the wrong spot.
Most people actually were willing to help, but the sheer lack of knowledge was bothersome. I could have saved hours if people had simply told me they didn’t know.
I also had this problem when dealing with Airbnb owners. One time I had a problem with the Wi-Fi and the woman told me she was fixing it.
Hours later when I checked back, she gave me another excuse that had no relevance to the situation. Frustrated and annoyed, life would have been easier if she told me the Wi-Fi simply wasn’t going to work or that it was an inferior product.
It’s almost as if people didn’t want to seem incapable or incorrect. But like I said, a simple yes or no would have sufficed.
Burritos, tacos, and free chips and salsa at every restaurant? That’s not a thing in Colombia.
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It shows my ignorance, but Colombian cuisine is much different from any Latin food you will find in America.
Their popular items include arepas, empanadas, and bunuelos. After that, I was surprised to find that much of the local fare consisted of hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and ice cream. The lack of originality came as a surprise.
On the bright side, food in supermarkets or on the street is super cheap. You can buy a burger, fries, and soda from a street vendor for 4,000 pesos ($1.25). But be careful: some vendors don’t follow health and sanitation protocol, so you could end up with a runny tummy or pounding headache if you eat the wrong thing.
6. Online dating
I’ve written before about dating in Colombia. The women in Bogota are gorgeous and energetic, an excellent change of pace from an American dating landscape that seems to get worse with each Instagram post from an aspiring model.
But because women down there are attractive, feminine, and in good physical condition, their expectations are astronomically high. With online dating, if your profile isn’t flush with photos of you in nice clothes and a fancy car, her interest will not be piqued.
Even after matching, most exchanges are basic and lifeless. These conversations are charades that accomplish nothing and are ultimately alienating.
BUT THERE IS HOPE!
I was lucky enough to meet a few cool and smart women full of personality. Like I always say, online dating just takes time and luck.
Did I just give you six reasons NOT to go to Colombia?
It’s an excellent place full of great people and a vibrant culture.
Check out a few photos from my time in Colombia, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.