Warnings and Dangers in Bogota, Altitude
If you’ve never been to Colombia’s capital before it’s important to understand Bogotá’s high altitude and the precautions you should take to stay safe and enjoy your time there.
About Bogotá’s High Altitude
Bogotá’s altitude is 8,675 feet (2,644 meters) above sea level and is one of the highest in South America. Upon your arrival to the city, especially if you come from a much lower altitude place, you’ll immediately notice the difference in the air; the change is usually extreme for most people. Things will probably feel a little lighter at first (i.e. your baggage) as your blood adapts to the different oxygen levels.
What to Do When You Arrive
People who aren’t used to this kind of elevation need to take special precautions to avoid injury or sickness. It is essential to acclimate yourself before you try to do too much. This generally has nothing to do with age nor physical condition nor athletic prowess.
- Plan to take it easy when you arrive – no exertion or strenuous activity
- Don’t try to go on longer walks, this is likely to tire you out quickly
- Watch your food intake
- Stick to bottled water, just to avoid any other potential complications
- Alcohol will affect you more quickly
Basically, avoid any real physical activity, even if it is movement you’re normally used to doing, until your body is adjusted. You’re likely to get pretty fatigued without doing much at all; even carrying your backpack might make you feel drained. If you plan about three days to let your body adapt to the low ambient oxygen levels, you should be fine.
What Can Happen to You?
If you try to do much too soon without getting used to the high elevation you could develop altitude sickness and a dangerous condition known as “chronic hypoxia”. Pushing yourself when you feel tired at high elevations can exacerbate brain and tissue anoxia to the point where you either need supplemental oxygen or an immediate descent to lower elevations. As pilots are taught, one of the first symptoms of hypoxia in any form is euphoria, the idea held by the oxygen-starved brain that things are getting better, creating a misconception about how you really are feeling.
Remember, acclimation is the only way to go, even frequent exposure to altitude changes won’t help. However, if you give yourself a good amount of time to adjust, you will be fine.
Editor’s Note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about the altitude in Bogotá.