The neighborhood, San Victorino, has the fame of being the largest confection sales area in Colombia or at least Bogota. It is also known as an unsafe place where there used to be a lot of junkies and people getting robbed, especially “outsiders” meaning foreigners and people from the more wealthy areas.
Leaving at home our phones, watches, bank cards and camera, just taking some money for the taxis and the things we wanted to buy, we decided to give it a try and see what we could find there. It started out properly as the taxi driver that took us there decided to “rob” us from some change and “forgot” to turn on the meter. Normally we are very keen on these sort of things, but it must have been the early hour that we missed it. So after negotiating with him the price to a reasonable one (about 5USD for 30 minutes) we arrived to busy streets filled with people, shops, merchandise, stray dogs and some bums/junkies. I am not sure if it is always the same but this day (Saturday) it was very busy and with all the people around we actually felt quite comfortable.
Walking towards the main square, we passed many different shops with all sorts of merchandise. It seems that besides clothing you can find here almost everything at a lot lower price than where we live. From office supplies, to suitcases, from washing machines to party utilities can be found, all new and normally grouped in a street together based on the kind of product. As we are planing a party for my suegra “mother in law”, whom is turning 60, we were on the lookout for some Mexican looking party items, like sombreros, piñatas etc.
One of the stores on a national holiday I imagine…
After about 2 hours of searching we found all we needed and just wandered around some more to see what else we could find. We were offered some good white T-shirts at 5000COP each, about 2USD. Jeans at 10USD each and so on. Cheap and reasonable quality but in some cases you have to buy the product in volume, a dozen for example.
After a successful and cheap shopping experience we decided to head back to the North. In Bogota normally it is not suggested to take a taxi on the street however. Instead you should call one, which will register your trip with the taxi company and they use a security code to make sure it is really the taxi of the company you called. Taking a bus with some of the larger stuff we bought (can not mention what as my suegra might read this) was not an option however as it would get crushed by the overload of people stuffed in the bus.
So we decided to walk a little out of the area and take a taxi there. That was the worst idea of the day! As soon as we left the masses of people, the neighborhood turned kind of ugly and we started to pass some people sniffing glue bags, smoking crack and others sleeping on the sidewalk. The police has done a great job at clearing the shopping area from most “problems” (or at least you don’t notice them with so many people around) but you really need to do an in-buy-out by taxi or bus to make sure you come home with the things you bought!
So, San Victorino is a very interesting place to go and we will definitely go back soon again, but you have to take care and watch your stuff!Ah and if you are interested in buying artesanias (the typical tourist memorabillia), you should go to Pasaje Rivas in this area which is a small warehouse filled with little stores full of this stuff. It is at 10th with 10th, or just ask a local.