Living conditions in Bogota

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 16-22, 1998
Living conditions in Bogota
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Living conditions in Bogota
Question: I have been offered an internship in Bogota, Colombia working for a telecommunications company. I really want to go on an internship to take a year off from my legal studies. I want to find an international placement preferably in Europe, Central, or South America. Is Bogota that dangerous? What about living conditions and cost of living?

Montreal, Quebec

Bolivar Square in downtown Bogota
Adventure Adviser: Unless you're a person who thrives on a feeling of heightened danger, I might consider holding out for an internship in a country with a little less incidence of foreign kidnappings. The most recent abduction took place on March 23 when four American birders were taken at a rebel roadblock near the town of Villavicencio. The tourists, members of the American Birding Association, were visiting Colombia to observe some of the nations 1,700 bird species. Though one of the kidnappers escaped, and the most recent news accounts report that the remaining three could be released "within hours," it's very rare that people get away without having to pay stiff ransoms or without losing their lives.

Though U.S. State Department warnings err somewhat on the conservative side, its latest warning for Colombia, dated April 8, says, "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against unnecessary travel to Colombia. Violence by narcotraffickers, guerrillas, paramilitary groups and other criminal elements continues to affect all parts of the country ... U.S. citizens of all age groups and occupations have been kidnapped, and kidnappings have occurred in all major regions of Colombia." Granted, you're not a U.S. citizen, but chances are you'd be mistaken for one at a rebel roadblock.

On the other hand, the city of Bogota is considerably safer than virtually any other part of the country and, compared to other Latin American cities, it's very lively with a sophisticated urban European feel. If you went there knowing that you won't be able to travel very far on the weekends, you may be perfectly fine. If you do decide to take the internship, be sure to keep a low profile. Kidnappers look for flashy jewelry, clothing, and cars. If you show no outward signs of wealth, exercise extreme caution when you are taking taxis, and traveling about the city, chances are, you may be left alone.

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