Bucaramanga is the capital of Santander. It is called the Beautiful City and the City of Parks. It is a middle sized city and its metropolitan area is actually composed of four cities, Bucaramanga, Giron, Floridablanca, and Piedecuesta. A fifth city/town called Lebrija is not part of the metropolitan area, but it is really close and this is actually where the International Airport of Palonegro is located

Since the city is located 3,146 feet above sea level, the temperature is a comfortable 78°F all year long. This means that people dress in Spring attire year round. So, if you’re going to the ICBF office or court, you don’t have to wear a suit, just think of whatever you’d wear to go to your office during spring time, and for women -- sandals are appropriate. For the rest of your stay, casual dress is fine. However, T-shirts are typically considered to be underwear, and therefore, a polo type shirt or a collared shirt is a better choice.

The people of Santander are really helpful and will be willing to aid you in anything you need. However, be warned, the Spanish spoken by the people of this area has a really rough sound. Often outsiders think that people in common conversation are angry with each other. So, if you’re a Spanish speaker, don’t get scared by their accent, they may speak “golpeado” (as if they are fighting), but you’ll be surprised with the how warm Bumangueses can be.

However, that said, throughout Colombia they are stereotyped as fighters. And the women of Santander are seen as fiesty and direct.
An interesting sidenote to add here is that there is a saying in Colombia which I will translate into English -- "What do you call a group of 2 or more people from the Coast? -- A party. What do you call a meeting with 2 or more Paisas? -- A business. AND What do you call a group of 2 or more Santandereanos? -- A fight."

If you’re going to Bucaramanga, as in any other city in the world, you have to be aware of where you go. The city in general is very safe; you just have to be aware to not go to the North at any time, or to the center of the city late at night.

So, how do you know where the North, East, West and South are? If you don’t have a compass with you, the easiest way is understanding the city’s layout. It is set on a grid of streets called calles (running from East to West) and carrerras (running from North to South) . The center of the city is considered to be at the Carrera 15 & Calle 36. As a rule of thumb, the higher the number, the safer you are.

Bucaramanga’s nicest areas are towards the East and the South. Neighborhoods like Cabecera and Canaveral are well known because they are nice and have malls, restaurants, and a lot of other commercial establishments.

The easiest way to get around is to take a taxi. Always call it, and avoid taking a taxi off the street. You can even tell the lady at the taxi company that you want a service by the hour and they will send you someone. It is really cheap and easy way to do some sight-seeing or especially if you have to go to the ICBF regional office, because it is actually located in a semi-dangerous area (North).

I would like to thank Inés and Carolina. Two wonderful Santandereanas and adoptive moms for the wonderful information they are providing for the blog this week.

* Photo by Fred Fraces


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