Almost all foreign travelers visiting Colombia will have to spend some time in Bogota’s El Dorado airport, as it is the country’s most important hub and where most international flights land and take off. In an average Colombia Tour Package, travelers visit this airport around 3 to 4 times.
Even though this airport is very efficient, we all know that for each flight you take, you will need to spend at least 1.5 hours inside the airport. Multiplying this estimated time by the 3 or 4 visits you will do during your trip to Colombia, gives you a total time spent inside this airport of something between 4.5 and 6 hours.
That is a lot of time! Especially if you don’t use that time to do something productive. Luckily for us, the El Dorado Airport of Bogota is a fantastic airport with plenty of services and facilities that will make your time there a lot more productive and pleasant.
However, most of the airport best places are not that easy to find and the information signs are not always that clear or complete. Additionally, both the information found in the Airport’s official website or in Google, are not always up to date.
After having spent hundreds of hours in this airport, I already know every corner of it, and I have discovered some hidden gems that will certainly help any foreign traveler passing through this airport.
But before I give you all the most important tips and recommendations on how to make the most out of your time in this airport, let me give you a little summary of how it is structured and some interesting facts about it.
El Dorado International Airport of Bogota is a huge and modern airport located in the west of the city. It is currently the 3rd largest airport of Latin America (after Mexico City and Sao Pablo), moving around 30 million passengers a year.
At the beginning of 2019, there were 42 airlines operating from this airport. Out of these 42 airlines, 21 operate international flights, 6 operate domestic flights and the other 15 are cargo airlines.
Besides being a very big airport, it is also a very good one. It has been awarded as the best Airport in South America for the last 3 years and it currently ranks as the 46th best airport in the world, according to Skytrax (an entity in charge of evaluating and ranking all airports in the world).
In general terms, the airport is divided in two terminals. Terminal 1 is the biggest and more modern of the two and serves both domestic and international flights. Terminal 2 (formerly called Puente Aereo), is a small and old terminal only serving domestic flights operated by 2 airlines: Satena and EasyFly.
Both terminals are next to each other and connect by a frequent free shuttle bus.
In this post we are only going to be talking about Terminal 1, as in Terminal 2 there is really nothing to do and you should try to be there for as short as you can.
Terminal 1 consists of 2 floors: the ground floor for arrivals and the 1st floor for departures.
With that introduction in mind, let’s dive into the most essential tips and recommendations to get the most out of your time in the El Dorado Airport of Bogota:
One of the most productive ways of spending your time in the airport is to do all your money errands.
If you are just arriving in Colombia, then you will need to get some Colombian Pesos in cash for your trip. If you are leaving Colombia, then you will want to sell your last pesos.
The following are the 2 best options to do these errands in El Dorado Airport:
In most airports in the world, you should try to avoid changing your USD or EUR in one of those Currency Exchange offices located inside the airport as they usually offer very bad rates.
This is also true in the Airport of Bogota, except for one specific exchange office called Guendi. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that they were offering the same rates as any office in the centre or the north of the city. The difference with the other offices in the airport is huge (around 100 Colombian pesos per dollar).
Why is Guendi offering such a better rate than all the other exchange offices in the airport? I guess it is because of its disadvantageous location.
Most exchange offices (such as Aerocambios or Alcansa) are strategically located in the luggage collection area or in the international arrivals’ hall. The rates offered in these places is so bad, that I don’t really advise travellers to change their money there.
On the contrary, Guendi is located in one remote corner of the airport, far from the international arrivals, but offers a very good exchange rate.
My advice is to avoid Aerocambios and Alcansa and walk to Guendi. The walk doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes and you will save quite a lot of money.
To get there, after passing the last security check and arriving into the International Arrivals’ hall, turn right and keep walking until the end of that corridor (passing over the National Arrivals’ hall). You will find it on your right hand.
Note: you will never get a rate equal or very close to the official rate. This rule applies for all currency exchange offices in the country. So, if you are planning on changing your USD or EUR into Colombian Pesos, don’t panic when you realize that the rates offered in all exchange offices (such as Guendi’s) are far from the official rate you find online.
One of the best ways to get cash in a foreign country is to withdraw it from an ATM. Sure, there are some baking fees involved, but it is usually a better deal than changing currency in an exchange office.
However, there is a very annoying drawback to this system in Colombia: the maximum amount you can withdraw at once is very low.
Most ATMs will only allow you to take up to a maximum of around COP 600.000 (approximately USD 187 or EUR 167). The problem with this, is that most banks charge a fixed fee per transaction. So, every time you withdraw money, you will be charged.
As you can imagine, this could add up to a very high hidden cost for your trip.
To avoid this, we recommend paying with your credit card as much as you can. Nevertheless, you will need quite some cash during your trip in Colombia, so then a combination of changing your USD or EUR in an exchange office and some (but not many) withdrawals, is the best way to go.
That being said, there is another frequent annoyance when withdrawing cash from an ATM: plenty of ATMs in Colombia wont work with your foreign card, even if they have a sign with the Maestro or Cirrus logo.
After having tried all ATMs in the airport, with different cards from different foreign banks, we can conclude that the ATM that works the best is the one of ScotiaBank (formerly CitiBank).
Not only is the one that seems to accept the most cards, but it also allows you to take the biggest possible amount at once (around COP 900.000).
There is only one ScotiaBank ATM in the airport. It is located in the departures’ floor, between gates 5 and 6. Click here and let Google Maps guide you there.
I have mentioned already a couple of times Click here and let Google Maps guide you there, and I am sure you must be thinking that is not going to work if I don’t have internet on my phone.
You are totally right; you need internet for that to work. The good news is that there is a very good Free WiFi in the El Dorado Airport.
As soon as you land or arrive in the airport, I would advise you to turn your cellphone’s WIFI on and connect to ElDoradoFreeAirport network. You will then see a screen pops-up in which you will be shown some advertisement and asked to give a couple of personal details (name, age, gender and email address). After this, you will have 30 minutes of good quality free WIFI.
The best of all is that after those 30 minutes, you can connect again and get another 30 minutes free, and so on.
With this free WIFI, you can easily use Google Maps to guide you around the airport, text you family members to tell them you have arrived safely or just browse the internet for entertainment.
For all customers who buy a Colombia Tour Package with us, we always coordinate airport pick-ups and drop-offs to make things a lot safer and easier for them.
However, for those not having a coordinated pick-up or drop-off, the following tips might come in handy:
– Avoid anyone (I mean ANYONE) approaching you and offering you a taxi or uber service. No matter who professional they look, they are all illegal. The might offer you a cheap price at first and then trick you to pay more. They are scammers.
– Don’t buy your taxi ride from the Taxi Imperial counter that you see right before exiting to the arrivals’ hall. They are legal and safe but more expensive and not necessarily more comfortable or efficient.
My recommendation is to go make the line (which moves quite fast) for the standard yellow taxis right outside of the airport. There are 2 of these lines, one right in front of the International Arrivals’ hall and the other one in front of the domestic arrivals.
Just go there, make the line and ignore anybody who approaches you as they will try to convince you to go somewhere else with whatever lame excuse they can come up with. Once your turn arrives, just jump in the taxi, make sure the driver starts the Taxi-meter (a small black box that is usually attached to the ceiling or next to the rear-view mirror and should start with a number 28) and tell him where you want to go.
You will have to pay him in cash once you arrive at your destination. The calculation to know how much to pay is a complex formula, but in any case, you shouldn’t have to pay more than COP 30.000.
– Don’t take an Uber. I know it is a great service, but it is technically illegal in Colombia and the police is doing a lot of random checks on cars they might suspect to be an Uber.
If you happen to be in an Uber stopped by the police, you will be forced to leave the car right there, in the middle of nowhere. Finding a taxi there to continue the ride to the airport is usually not that easy. So, if you don’t want any risk of missing your flight, don’t go to the airport in an Uber.
My recommendation is to take a normal yellow taxi, or a more comfortable car coordinated by your hotel.
Around the luggage collection belts, there are always some guys offering luggage carts to you. Getting one of them will cost you 2 USD (or 2 EUR).
They say it is a “deposit” and that you can get your money back if you then drop the cart in one of the authorized places. However, it seems that nobody knows where these places are. The official website of the airport does not specify where they are and when you ask around, nobody seems to know.
It seems to me that the ones in charge of these carts just want to scam you for those 2 USD (or 2 EUR). So, my recommendation is that unless you are travelling with huge bags that you cannot carry by yourself, avoid getting one of these carts.
Nowadays, most independent travellers and people who buy a Colombia Tour Package, end up spending quite a lot of time in Bogota’s Airport.
Most people waste their time there by just sitting and waiting for their boarding call. However, there are plenty of ways to make us of your time in the airport in a very productive and efficient way.
Bogota’s El Dorado Airport is a fantastic airport. However, as most big airports in the world, it is not such an easy place to navigate, find what you need and avoid the overpriced places.
With this post, I want to give foreign travellers some essential information regarding some of the most common activities people do in an airport: get money, connect to the internet, use public transport to go to and from the airport and use the luggage carts.