Our ManAboutWorld Correspondent Kai Whiting is a Colombia-based journalist who submitted this piece about Bogota’s expanding gay community centered around the gay-p0pular Chapinero district.
This year has air carriers offering new and more frequent routes to the Colombian capital. In short, getting here has never been easier. This is good, because Colombia is interesting and culturally rich and you want to travel around. We’ll cover Colombia’s other destinations in the future; for now, here’s a fun long weekend in Bogota before heading off to the more exotic destinations. So what can you get up to here?
The answer is anything and everything thanks to Chapinero, Bogota’s very own gay district. The gay hub is located between Calle 53 and Calle 60, Carrera 7 and Av. Caracas. It is officially a “zone of tolerance” for anyone identifying as “alternative.” Unofficially it is like Madrid’s Chueca or Chicago’s Boystown but smaller and with Latin flavor.
Chapinero is “For Us By Us.” Gays design and make clothing, with an eye for fashion that only those in the know can appreciate. They open hair styling salons and give you that extra service that says “Are you sure you only want me to give you a haircut?” Oh yeah and they throw the biggest and best parties — which leads on to the next surprise. The biggest gay club in Latin America is not in Brazil, it is right here in Bogota.
OK, Colombia has its challenges. If you don´t speak Spanish, just order a taxi outside the terminal for your safety and comfort. Pay the man who helps you with your luggage and away you go. If you are staying in Chapinero expect to pay between US $10-12.50 from the airport.
Safety is the utmost concern in Colombia, so it is advisable to select a hotel in stumbling distance from the bars and clubs you expect to frequent. This is why everything listed here is all within a stone’s throw. Taxis are not always secure due to the infamous “Paseo Millonario.” (Scams whereby a supposed taxi driver lures you into his parked taxi then takes you elsewhere and robs you.) If you need a taxi, at night, get one that is moving. Avoid getting into a stationary cab. Check the State Department’s gay travel microsite for other warnings and advice.
If you happen to “get lucky” with a local, but don’t want to take him back to your hotel, we recommend Hotel Sheraton (Calle 58 Bis # 9-24, not the Sheraton Hotel) located in the midst of all the bars and clubs. Prices start from $38 for two people. If that is full, there is Hotel Wicirare nearby (Calle 57 # 9-49).
Health and Beauty
Before hitting the clubs, make sure you look your best. Drop in to the Manager Gym (Cra 13 # 57-35, 2nd Floor- ) and Carlos will welcome you with a free gym pass! With all the eye contact and smiles, you will come away with more than just sore muscles. If you prefer pampering over pumping iron, Miguel Angel at Peluqueria Truccarsi (Calle 59 # 9-01) offers the best and most reasonably priced haircut in Chapinero at only $5. The flirting is outrageous but then so is the attention to detail. Beauty treatments are also available.
There are many gay clubs but one is an absolute must. Theatron, the biggest on the continent. So many music options, so many men and for $15 you get an open bar until 2 am. (Calle 58BIS # 9-32.)
The little shops have more than just charm. They have bespoke character, with a striking sense of daring and chic design, that you would struggle to find in Spain’s Sitges. Step into Centro de Lourdes (Calle 63 # 10-87) and you will find an intriguing collection of gay fashion and swimwear. Just ask Nicole atSherrot or Alejandro at SNK. Jhon at J.F Colors (Calle 62 # 11-45), local 224) also offers reasonable prices. Finally, for the upmarket look, turn to Andres at GX Vomo (Cr 13 # 59-08) whose sexy collection for men can be found on YouTube .
David at the gay friendly restaurant Parrilla Pimenton (Cra 13 # 61-80) will cater to your first Colombian food experience. There is also a burger on the menu, for those who prefer something less adventurous.
The sisters Carolina and Catalina (fluent in Spanish, English and French) at NY Café Lounge (Cra 9a #60-79) offer great ground coffee and cheesecake, at a fraction of the price you will normally find. Why pay more? They also offer vegetarian dining, environmental talks and gay speed dating! For vegan dining, look no further than La Revolución de la Cuchara which is located opposite the NY Café Lounge. A soup, drink, main and dessert cost just $4.
It’s not gay, but it is spectacular, especially at sunset and worthy of an Instagram. You will have to head on up 48 floors in Colpatria, Colombia’s highest building but the view of the entire city will take your breath away. Just please take your passport, as it’s also a bank!