By Analisa Bell
When I was looking at places to renew my visa, all the usual spots were either closed or booked up through mid-2022, and being from Perth, going home just wasn’t an option. Then I started seeing people post about Bogotá, Colombia.
Initially, I had my reservations about going there with visions of Narcos and guerrilla fighting popping into my mind.
Even my lawyer suggested Bogotá, Colombia wouldn’t be the safest option to renew my visa. But with very few options available, I decided to run with it. And I am so glad I did!
Why consider a visa renewal in Bogotá?
If you don’t speak Spanish, just download a translation app and you can get around. Ubers are ridiculously cheap. The most expensive ride I had cost $12.50, and that was from one end of the city to the other. All the other rides were around $2.50-$5.00. In fact, pretty much everything was super cheap!
What to do before your visa appointment
Before the actual visa appointment, you have to attend a photo/fingerprinting appointment at a place called the Centro de Atención al Solicitante, or Applicant Services Center, which is located in a different part of the city to the U.S. Embassy. Using the visa appointment portal, I booked my appointment there for the day before my visa interview.
I arrived approximately 15 minutes before my scheduled time and was able to join the line outside the office straight away. If you arrive any earlier you would likely have to wait at the nearby Starbucks or in the Plaza outside the building. The staff at the center didn’t speak much English but they knew I was there to get my photo and fingerprints done so it was a quick and easy appointment.
It’s visa appointment day in Bogotá—here’s how it went
The next day, I arrived at the U.S. Embassy bright and early, and was a little overwhelmed as the announcements were all in Spanish. But I managed to pick up some of what was said on my translate app and worked out that I had to wait until 15 minutes before my appointment to join the extensive line outside the Embassy.
Once in the line, it moved relatively quickly, but when I entered the Embassy there were more lines. By the time I got to the window for my interview, I had waited approximately 90 minutes. But I will say the visa appointment itself was the quickest I have ever had!
However, the processing time, due to staff shortages, was the longest I have ever had. It took 14 days to get my passport back! Overall, I ended up in Colombia for a total of three weeks.
How to pass the time until you get your passport back
There is so much to do in Bogotá, so three weeks didn’t feel that long.
I was able to pass the time hiking the Andes mountains to La Chorrera the tallest waterfall in Colombia (pictured), visiting La Campesina coffee farm in Choachi where I learned about coffee cultivation and harvesting (pictured). I visited countless museums including El Museo del Oro (The Museum of Gold). Plus I ventured out of town to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira (pictured), an old salt mine that has been converted into an incredible underground church.
The final word from Analisa!
If you are looking for a new place to renew your visa, I highly recommend Bogotá, Colombia!
Analisa Bell is a cabaret artist who arrived in New York to pursue her dream of performing in one of the world’s most vibrant cities.