Practical Life in Bogotá

Shopping in Bogotá

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Bogota offers a wide range of options for shopping, from giant supermarkets and modern commercial centers, to small neighborhood stores, to large areas where informal street stalls invade nearly the entire public space.

Cost of Living in Bogota

The cost of living in Bogota is not as low as may expect and is particularly high compared to the average salary. Expect to spend a minimum of COP 1,500,000 (usd 500) per person per month with an average accommodation and little to no important expenses, whereas for a more comfortable lifestyle you need at least COP 3,000,000.

Food is affordable compared to other countries, and you can find good quality coffee at a decent price. Alcohol is rather expensive, except for beer. Other prices such as electronics, clothing, books, or beauty care products are rather expensive.

Some examples of prices:

  • One-bedroom apartment in the North of the city – COP 1,500,000
  • Public transportation ticket – COP 2,300
  • Lunch in an average restaurant – COP 10,000-15,000
  • Coffee (tinto) in a coffee shop – COP 2,000
  • Restaurant dinner – COP 30,000
  • Sandwich – COP 8,000
  • Bottle of shampoo – COP 20,000
  • Eggs – COP 300 – 700 each
  • Liter of milk – COP 3,000
  • Apples – COP 1,000 each

Use the EasyExpat Cost of Living Calculator to compare.

Specialties and Souvenirs from Bogota

Displaying unlikely combinations of vivid colors, Colombian arts and crafts are candy to the eyes for most foreigners. And Bogota is an excellent place to find artisan handicrafts from all regions of the country.

Some arts and crafts that you may want to buy while in Colombia include:

  • Mochilas – Traditional bags made by indigenous communities, mochilas can make for an unusual and stylish fashion accessory. Each indigenous community has its own style, but the most popular ones are the colorful bags handwoven by the women of the wayuu community from the Guajira northern peninsula, and the mochilas made by the arhuaco community from the Sierra Nevada.
  • Hats – With its black and white patterns, the unusual sombrero vueltiao hat typical of the Caribbean coast is another popular souvenir.
  • Hammocks – Many Colombian homes have a large living room with hooks on the walls, so buying a hammock is not such a crazy idea. The most sought after are the hand-woven wayuu hammocks, that also make for a comfortable sleeping place.
  • Artisan handicrafts – There are many decorative handicrafts that depict Colombian scenes or objects, such as the "chiva", a colorful bus still found in some remote rural areas, carnival masks, and hand-made jewelry.
  • Clothing items - Indigenous motifs are another favorite. Molas are intricate kuna patterns sewn on pieces of cloth, and they are increasingly used to make unique, visually striking pieces of clothing.
  • Specialty foods -arequipe, a caramel cream, bocadillo, or guava jelly, or some of the country's high-quality coffee.

Many specialties can be found in big shopping centers, however artisan commercial galleries in the historical center offer the best variety. Look for the galleries on the Carrera 7, as well as near the Gold Museum.

Where to Shop in Bogota

In a city where distances are a serious issue, shopping will depend heavily on where you are based. Each area in the city has its shopping district, and offerings and prices will vary accordingly.

If you are looking for luxury products, the shopping areas around Zona Rosa and Usaquen will be most recommended, as the local shops of most international luxury brands are there.

For regular items you can walk along Carrera 13 in Chapinero, Galerias, or Salitre. Areas such as Restrepo or Ricaurte, while more to the South, are excellent value for money, but try going there with a Colombian friend and during daytime, as the areas are not very safe.

Major international clothing retailers will be found in shopping malls, as will be most boutique shops.

There are over 70 malls in the city. Some of the ones with the most diversified offers are :

Markets in Bogota

The city also has a number of either permanent or temporary flea markets where you may find the most surprising merchandise.

Fruit and vegetable markets offer the best alternative to grocery shopping. There are 44 markets (plazas de mercado) in Bogota, at least one in each district of the city.

The biggest one open to the general public is undoubtedly the Paloquemao market. Located in an unassuming industrial area just outside the city center, it boasts an array of fresh produce unparalleled elsewhere in the country. All types of fruit and vegetables that are grown in Colombia can be found here, together with fresh meat, dairy products, and other grocery items that you may struggle to find elsewhere. Exotic flowers are also traded early in the morning.

The opening hours are:

  • Monday to Friday: 04.30 – 16.30
  • Sunday: 05.00 – 14.30

To catch the best offers, or to see the daily flower fair, you should arrive before eight in the morning.  

Besides markets, fruit and vegetables are generally found in specialized shops in residential areas, called FruVer. They usually have fresher and wider product choices that supermarkets or grocery stores. 

There are also farmers' markets (mercados campesinos) that occasionally take place in the city, where you can buy your food directly from small-scale producers. They generally don't have fixed places or dates, so you will want to keep an eye on the city hall webpage to find out where the next ones are. Some may also be organized by local NGOs or community centers.

Supermarkets in Bogota

Grocery shops in residential parts of town are open every day, generally form 08:00 to 22:00, with shorter hours on Sundays, whereas stores in commercial-only areas tend to close at 19:00 and don't open on Sundays. 

International supermarket chains are not common in Colombia except some other South-American ones. There are, however, excellent local supermarkets that cater to all the needs and budgets.

Most supermarkets are open every day, and close no later than 22.00, sometimes even earlier.

Update 20/08/2018


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