As technology continues to advance, we have to be prepared for this to affect our travelling. As we need specific applications (apps) for when we plan on visiting or moving to another country as an expat.
Within Colombia there are certain apps that many Colombians use to make everyday expat life easier. And to my surprise, Colombia, especially Bogotá was even more technologically advanced than I expected.
There are apps for delivery services, rideshare, bus transport, and then other generic ones as well. So if you’re planning to travel to Colombia, try to download the most important apps beforehand just to make it easier if you need anything after you land.
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Discovering the Rappi app was the best thing ever! This is the most popular app in Colombia, for locals and expats, to have food or other items delivered straight to your door. Simply download the app and set up your information and address.
Then you will see places close by either restaurants, supermarkets, pharmacies and other locations. Usually deliveries costs between $3,000-$6,500 pesos (USD $1-$2).
They also allow you to track your order from when you make the order until it arrives at your door. If an item of your order if not available, they will message or call you to ask if you would like alternatives and send you photos of other options to choose from.
They even have the option of a “Rappi Favor” where you can get something delivered from one place to another.
For example, if you want to send something to a friend, you can give the Rappitendero the item and they will take it to your friend. Usually, these favours are a bit more expensive than a regular delivery, about $11,000 pesos (USD$4).
Rappi has saved me several times for all the friends who have had babies during the pandemic. It was easy to send them a present from Pepe Ganga and have it delivered straight to my friend’s place.
Just change the address before the order so you order from the closest store. Rappi made my expat life so much more comfortable living in Colombia. Anyone just visiting, I still recommend that they download Rappi for their visit.
Domicilios.com is the second most popular food delivery app in Bogotá. However, this app is only used to order food. The logistics are pretty similar to Rappi.
The delivery costs are also between $3,000-$6,500 pesos (USD $1-$2) and you can track your order. These seem to be the standard for food delivery apps. It seems since I have last used them, they have updated to have supermarket items as well.
3. Uber Eats
The third most popular food delivery app in Bogotá is Uber Eats. Again, it is almost identical to the features of Domicilios. $3,000-$6,500 pesos (USD $1-$2) is the range for delivery costs and you are able to track your order. On Uber Eats, there are no other stores on the app, nor do they have favours.
A great supermarket app that most Colombians use is Merqueo. It was only during the pandemic that I found out about this app as I started ordering groceries online more often.
The disadvantage of this app however was that if a product could not be found, rather than giving you an alternative, they would simply not add it. However, I often made big orders on this app and it was not often that I experienced out of stocks.
Download here: Android
5. Mercado Libre
Another super helpful app to have is Mercado Libre, for everything you can’t get on Rappi. This is basically like the local version of Amazon in Bogotá and Colombia where you can order many different items for good prices. That’s the easiest was to explain to tourists or other expats.
Before ordering, please check the reviews and how many times this product has been sold. If the seller looks sketchy then maybe best to trust your gut and not buy.
If you have any issues after receiving an item, they will allow you to exchange it. The additional costs include delivery depending on where it’s coming from in Colombia although there are some items with free delivery.
A widely used app for clothes in Bogotá is Dafiti. This can be used for both men and women. Once you find something you like, you can shop by the seller of that item. This was you only pay one delivery cost.
However, there is no issue to order from several sellers within Colombia as you will just be charged different delivery fees and they may arrive on different days. This was especially helpful to cheer me up on days I felt homesick, a common disadvantage of expat life.
TRANSPORT APPS – CAR/SCOOTER
Although rideshare apps are illegal in Colombia, many of these companies still operate. Therefore, there are some typical rules that Colombians abide by when using such apps.
You should not be checking your phone too obviously to show that you are using the app. And usually, someone has to sit in the front seat. I have used these apps during my 3 years of living in Colombia and never had an issue.
For example, if you are going to the airport, the driver will simply let you know that they are dropping you off a little after your door in case police are there. And of course, for your own safety, always check the number plate before entering the car. Locals can usually look at you and know you’re a tourist or expat so be aware.
In Bogotá, I experienced two uncomfortable situations as a female expat by myself. Once a car had come to pick me up, but the number plate was different when he arrived. The driver said my name to prove that he was the driver however, alarms were ringing in my head.
I told him the number plate was different and I was not getting into the car. He continued arguing but I walked closer to the security in case he threatened me in any way. Thankfully, the car just drove off.
The other time, I was actually in the car with the driver, just me alone in the front seat. The driver was staring at me so much, I was planning my escape to jump out of the car if I needed to.
Fortunately, nothing happened and reached my destination safely. However, in hindsight, I should have found a way to casually mention my “boyfriend” or “husband” as driver usually stop talking to me once I mention this.
All the apps in this category are pretty similar in terms of how they work. You put in your location and the destination you would like to go to, and the map will show up with drivers close by before connecting you to one.
A point to note is that the prices go up during peak hours so if you can, try to avoid peak hours as much as possible.
The most popular rideshare app is Uber in Bogotá. Having many drivers means that it is usually quicker to get a driver and also there is a wider coverage.
I would not suggest Uber Pool even though it is cheaper as the driver may make stops in areas that you would not regularly go to. Also, it is risky to be stuck in a car with people you don’t know especially as a foreigner, “gringo”. This felt like the safest way for me to get around as an expat.
A very common car to be picked up in is a Chevrolet Spark in Bogotá, Colombia.
In Bogotá, another option for rideshare apps is Cabify. When booking a ride on Cabify, there is usually a 10–15-minute delay as the driver may be far away. The cars that pick you up usually tend to be a little bit more premium, for example a Chevrolet Aveo instead of a Spark.
The cheapest rideshare app in Bogotá is Beat. However, it is only just growing in popularity so it may take longer to get a ride. I have used this app a couple of times, but I was not too pleased as drivers cancelled too regularly.
This left me waiting for too long and it wasn’t worth the price for my sanity. I ended up deleting the app. However, I know other persons who still use it.
Download here: Android
10. Grin Scooters
Scooters are becoming very popular as a mode of transport in Bogotá. One of these is the Grin Scooters app where you can rent a scooter by the minute.
As there are many bicycle lanes, people generally use these to ride scooters. I have never used it, but I know a lot of people do however they you may have to walk a bit before you even find one.
TRANSPORT APPS – BUS
Bus transportation has come a long way in the past few years. In Bogotá, I only used the blue SITP buses, never Transmilenio, and never ever the white buses (as advised not to).
Before the technology advancements, taking a bus was absolutely frustrating as you didn’t know which buses to take, and you were never sure of the route.
There are so many times, you will see someone go up to the driver and ask if it goes to or passes a particular location. Fortunately, Bogotá has come a long way in begin able to predict the schedule a bit better with the following apps.
11. Transmilenio and SITP
This was the first bus app that I found out about in Bogotá that helped me feel much more settled as an expat. It showed each bus number and the route that it took. This way I was able to know what bus I needed to take in order to get from my home to another location for example.
Another great advantage of this app is being able to see the balance on your card with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on your phone and your spending.
12. TransMi App
The second app I discovered which was introduced in 2019. This completely revolutionised bus travel within Bogotá. If you knew what bus you knew the name of your bus station, as well as the name of the bus, you could find out when the next bus would be arriving at your station.
This absolutely transformed the tedious process of waiting for a bus as you were better able to predict when a bus would arrive and what time you should arrive at the bus stop.
Although, the app was not absolutely precise as there could be up to a 5-minute variance in the arrival time suggested. It was still so much better than waiting and not knowing if the next bus would be coming.
13. RESTAURANT APP – Degusta
This app is basically a local restaurant guide with recommendations and ratings of restaurants for you to choose from in Bogotá. I have not used it myself but recommended even by Colombians.
14. AIRPORT APP – Aeropuerto El Dorado
Want to check your flight and don’t know how? This Bogotá airport app is just for you to check airports arrivals and departures of both local and international flights. Another one recommended by locals.
Download here: Android
15. AIR QUALITY APP – Aire Bogotá
The quality of the air in Bogotá and other cities in Colombia is not the best therefore there are apps to monitor this.
There are high levels of pollution however most times it is not that noticeable unless a bus passes close to you engulfing you in its’ fumes. Or when you’re outside of the city centre and look towards it, you can see the haze of pollution. This was tough to get used to as an expat. However, there are still a lot of parks and greenery in the city.
Download here: Android
These are all the apps that you will need specifically for Bogotá/Colombia. The more generic apps like a map, currency converter, and translator to use when travelling will be in another post not too far in the future. These apps made my 3 years in Bogotá much easier, and I hope they can do the same for you. What app do you love?