On being accepted to Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, one of the first things to consider is where you are going to live during your exchange experience! Bogotá is a huge, vibrant, fast-paced, exciting, and cultural city, and there are many potential living options. Universidad de Los Andes is located centrally, just north of the historic tourist centre of Bogotá, the neighbourhood of La Candelaria. Most students opt to stay (at least at first) in CityU, a group of three apartment buildings similar to ANU UniLodges, located adjacent to the Los Andes campus, below Bogotá’s beautiful Monserrate Hill.
Los Andes encourages exchange students to live at CityU, and it is very easy to organise this accommodation option, as it is the official university accommodation building. CityU offers options to Los Andes students that range from 4-share apartments to single rooms. All apartments contain bathrooms and a small kitchen, and across the three towers, students have access to communal study rooms, wellness rooms, games rooms, a gym, a larger communal kitchen, and a rooftop terrace. Within the CityU complex, there are many shops and services, including restaurants, coffee shops, a grocery store, a bakery, a hairdresser, and a printing and photocopying shop. As well as this, CityU is located next to Bogotá’s excellent independent cinema and cultural centre, ‘Cinemateca de Bogotá’. Tickets cost less than $2 AUD for students.
I am living in a four-share apartment in CityU’s second tower, Torre Seneca. The relative safety, extremely close proximity to Los Andes, and ease makes it the right option for me. However, the main disadvantages of CityU are the small kitchens and lack of community spirit. The kitchens contain only one burner, one mini-fridge, no oven, and only a small amount of cupboard space, which can make storing food and sharing the kitchen between four people difficult.
For a single apartment for the semester (about 5 months of accommodation), CityU costs around $9.450.000 Colombian Pesos (COP), which (at the time of writing) is around $4,070 AUD. For a four-share apartment, the cost is around $5.750.000 Colombian Pesos, which is around $2,475 AUD. Discounts are frequently available to exchange students. Although the four-share option is cheap by Australian standards, this is still considered expensive by Colombian standards. If you are undertaking your exchange on a strict budget, you can likely find cheaper accommodation further away from campus.
One thing to keep in mind is that although the blocks surrounding Los Andes, and CityU, are well protected by a private security patrol paid for by the university, La Candelaria itself is not the safest neighbourhood. Many exchange students will experience pickpocketing and theft, and though rare, these incidents can turn violent, as thieves commonly use weapons. Unfortunately, safety is always something to consider very carefully when choosing accommodation in Colombia. However, within the patrolled blocks around CityU and the university, I have always felt safe and secure, and this is one of the biggest advantages of CityU.
If CityU isn’t for you, alternative options range from renting an apartment with other students, to living in a long-term student hostel. These options are popular among students who want to live in a more social environment, or who want to explore a different neighbourhood. Some students opt to live within the La Candelaria neighbourhood, but many students venture further north, to the more affluent, trendy neighbourhoods of Chapinero Central, Chapinero Alto, and Zona T. The advantages of these northern neighbourhoods are that they are generally safer than La Candelaria, and closer to the bars and clubs commonly frequented by students. The main disadvantage is that travel time to university can be anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour on Bogotá’s public bus system, the Transmilenio. Classes can start from 6am at Los Andes, so this long commute is unattractive to many students! One thing to keep in mind is that in Colombia it is illegal to request a deposit from a tenant. So if your landlord is asking for a deposit before you move in, it is worth looking for alternative accommodation.
CityU generally require students to pay for their semester accommodation up front, however, they also offer students the option to pay for only the first month initially, before paying for the rest of the semester. This is a great option for students who are unsure if CityU is the right option for them, or if they want to spend the first month searching for alternative accommodation. With all these factors considered, I believe trying CityU for the first month is the best option.
I wish you all the best in your upcoming exchange experience!