Colombia transportation guide

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Transportation in Colombia is an integral part of the trip!

Landscapes stolen from a window, the sound of the pugs on an old city bus, the hours of waiting in airports, the kilometers that pass under the wheels of a mainline bus, the wind on your face in the back of a Jeep Willis..

Transport is often the best place to create memories, good or bad, but memories!

And Colombia is no exception, so you’ll have to be patient at times, but overall, transport in Colombia is quite practical.

So, what can you expect from airlines in Colombia? How extensive is the country’s bus network? Is it possible to rent a car in Colombia? How do you get around the country, between major cities, within regions, downtown?

Here’s our practical guide to getting around Colombia!

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So for several years now, we’ve been using a free bank debit card specially designed for travelers, and we don’t pay any more fees abroad – no more!

Flying in Colombia

Colombia transportation guide

Colombia transportation guide
credit: Juan Carlos Morales S.

Flying is one of the most polluting means of transport, and we always advise you to try to reduce its use as much as possible during your trip to Colombia. But as we all know, air travel is sometimes the only viable solution for certain journeys in Colombia.

Colombia’s major cities are well connected. All airlines in the country offer connections to the capital Bogotá and the country’s main cities: Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Medellin and Santa Marta.

Airlines in Colombia

National/international airlines

  • Avianca: Colombia’s national airline, the equivalent of our own Air France, serves most Colombian cities.
  • Latam / Lan: a good alternative to Avianca. Chile’s largest airline in Latin America, having acquired LAN (Colombian airline).
  • Copa Airlines: Panamanian airline serving all major Colombian cities.

Low-cost carriers

  • Viva Air: low-cost carrier launched in Colombia in 2009, a subsidiary of Ryan Air, serving only certain major Colombian cities.
  • Wingo: a new competitor to Viva Colombia, created in 2016, serves only a few Colombian cities and neighboring countries.
  • Easyfly: created in 1999, this low-cost airline is interesting because it serves smaller Colombian cities.

Regional airlines

Satena offers flights within the regions, serving the most remote areas of the country. These flights are known as “charters” and enable you to get to remote areas easily. If you want a bit of adventure in your trip, this is the way to go.

How much does an internal flight in Colombia cost?

Here are a few examples of flights from Bogotá to give you an idea of prices for internal flights. Prices will vary according to the time of year and the airline you choose (regular or low-cost).

The easiest way to find out is to use the search engines. Skyscanner has the advantage of comparing all the national airlines operating in Colombia: Avianca, Latam, Viva Colombia and even Satena and Easy Fly.

Flight Bogota – Medellin

  • Duration: approx. 1 hour
  • Fare: between $100,000 and $200,000 COP
  • Airlines : Avianca, Viva Colombia, Satena

Flight Bogota – Santa Marta

  • Duration: approx. 1h30
  • Fare: between $150,000 and $250,000 COP
  • Airlines : Latam, Avianca, Viva Colombia

Flight Bogota – Cali

  • Duration: approx. 1 hour
  • Fare: between $140.000 and $290.000 COP
  • Companies : Latam, Avianca

Flight Bogota – Bucaramanga

  • Duration: approx. 1h30
  • Fare: between $130.000 and $290.000 COP
  • Companies : Latam, Avianca, Viva Colombia

Flight Bogota – Cartagena

  • Duration: approx. 1h30
  • Fare: between $100.000 and $400.000 COP
  • Airlines : Latam, Avianca, Viva Colombia, Wingo

Flight Bogota – Pereira

  • Duration: approx. 1h30
  • Fare: between $70.000 and $150.000 COP
  • Companies : Latam, Avianca, Viva Colombia, Easy Fly

Delays, cancellations, security

Delays and cancellations

In Colombia, it’s more common for flights to be delayed or canceled than for them to take off on time. That’s part of the charm of Latin America!

Safety

National airlines are just as safe as European ones, so there’s nothing to worry about. On regional flights, you may be surprised to fly in small propeller planes.

How to book a plane ticket to Colombia

You can book your plane tickets directly online from the websites of Colombian airlines. That said, you’ll need to arm yourself with your best Spanish or English, depending on the site.

Beware of Viva Air, a subsidiary of Ryan Air, which operates in exactly the same way and where all services are subject to a charge, including ticket printing. Be careful which boxes you tick or don’t tick!

Book an internal flight via a search engine

Search engines like Skyscanner offer the advantage of comparing all the national airlines operating in Colombia: Avianca, Latam, Viva Colombia and even Satena and Easy Fly.

POSTS to consult

Domestic flights travel guide: Book a flight in Colombia

Taking the bus in Colombia

Colombia transportation guide

Colombia transportation guide
Long-distance bus – Credit: Celocor

It’s worth noting that distances in Colombia are very great, and so journeys can be very long. But the bus network in Colombia, whether medium or long-distance, is well-developed and well-organized. Long-distance buses are modern and comfortable, so there’s nothing to worry about.

The bus is clearly the right option if you have the time and want to see a lot of the country. It can also allow you to stop off and visit small villages between two major cities. It’s also a priori the cheapest means of transport in Colombia.

Bus: a more responsible way to travel

If you choose to travel directly from one major city to another, it can be difficult to choose between bus and plane.

Bus travel is the cheapest and easiest way to get around, and bus stations are often located in city centers. It’s a slow means of transport, but less polluting than air travel . What’s more, the bus lets you see the countryside, take time to think, dream and meet new people!

Of course, sometimes air travel is the only way to reach remote regions, not to mention the sometimes attractive fares on certain routes. It’s up to you to choose what suits you best, according to your ethics, your budget and your travel plans. Last but not least, a well thought-out itinerary will help you avoid untimely plane hops.

Search for information: fares, timetables, duration

There are many ways to find information on fares, timetables and distances for almost all bus routes in Colombia. It takes a bit of effort to find them, but you’ll get there in the end!

How much does a long-distance bus ticket cost?

Here are a few examples of bus journeys from Bogotá to give you an idea of prices, but the easiest way is to do your research via the means listed above in the “how to find information” section.

BUS | Bogota – Medellin

  • Duration: approx. 10h
  • Fare: between $65,000 and $85,000 COP
  • Companies: Rapid Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia, Flota Magdalena, Bolivariano, Empresa Arauca

BUS | Bogota – Santa Marta

  • Duration: approx. 16 hours
  • Fare: between $80,000 and $140,000 COP
  • Companies: Copetran, Expreso Brasilia, Berlinas

BUS | Bogota – Cali

  • Duration: approx. 10h
  • Fare: between $60,000 and $90,000 COP
  • Companies: Expreso Palmira, Flota Magdalena, Bolivariano

BUS | Bogota – Bucaramanga

  • Duration: approx. 10h
  • Fare: between $60,000 and $90,000 COP
  • Companies: Omega, Copetran, Berlinas, Concorde

BUS | Bogota – Cartagena

  • Duration: approx. 22h
  • Fare: approximately $100,000 COP
  • Companies: Copetran, Expreso Brasilia, Berlinas

BUS | Bogota – Pereira

  • Duration: approx. 10h
  • Fare: between $65,000 and $80,000 COP
  • Companies : Bolivariano, Flota Magdalena

POSTS to consult

Travelling by bus in Colombia: our ultimate guide

Driving a car in Colombia

Colombia transportation guide

Colombia transportation guide

With the recent development of tourism, car rental in Colombia is just beginning to take off. Although rates are still relatively high, it’s now an option to consider before deciding how to get around during your trip.

The advantage of a car is undeniable: it brings a freedom that some travellers just can’t do without!

Driving in Colombia

Colombians don’t really respect the Highway Code, and you’ll need to adapt to local driving habits. The idea is simple: drive quietly and go with the flow.

Only 30 u of the country’s roads are paved, which means you’ll soon find yourself on dirt tracks. So be sure to take out insurance to cover any bumps or scratches to the bodywork.

It’s also important to bear in mind that distances in Colombia are very long, and are measured in hours of driving rather than kilometers. Much of the country is crossed by the Andes mountain range. The roads are particularly twisty in places, making journey times very long and driving quite tiring.

Speed limits in Colombia are particularly low by our standards, yet Colombian driving is rather anarchic and road accidents are frequent.

POSTS to consult

Driving in Colombia travel guide: our advices

Car rental in Colombia

Colombia transportation guide

Colombia transportation guide

How much does a car rental in Colombia cost?

This will depend on the type of vehicle you take and the agency you book with, but here’s an idea:

Type of vehicle1 day rental8 day rental
Town carbetween $130.000 and $400.000 COPbetween $650.000 COP and $1.800.000 COP
Familybetween $180.000 and $500.000 COPbetween $900.000 and $2.300.000 COP

Rent a car In Colombia

To rent a car, we advise you to use the Rental Cars comparator, which gives you a complete overview of the different rental companies in Colombia.

Car rental with driver in Colombia

For those who wish to combine the freedom of car travel with the comfort of not having to drive themselves, there’s a solution: rent a car with driver in Colombia.

In Colombia, this practice is quite widespread, even if it remains relatively expensive compared to other modes of transport. But there are several advantages to hiring a chauffeur-driven car in Colombia:

  • Freedom:having a driver frees your mind, so you can enjoy the scenery as it passes by, stop whenever you like, improvise as you would with a rental car..
  • Safety: leaving things in the hands of a professional driver is a guarantee of safety, since he or she knows Colombia’s roads and how to drive, and also avoids the fatigue associated with driving, especially in the mountains..
  • Practical: no timetables, no compulsory routes, you can organize your itinerary as you like, and you can take lots of things with you..
  • Accompaniment: having a Colombian with you is a real plus on a trip, as he or she knows the country and its culture, and will be able to help you at every stage of the journey, ensuring a constant exchange of ideas!

The local transport network in Colombia

Colombia transportation guide

Colombia transportation guide

Public transport in town

Buseta / Collectivo

  • Average fare for a short trip: $2,000 COP

This is the Colombian public transport system most commonly used by city dwellers, and consists of small, fun-shaped buses of varying sizes.

The system is relatively simple in appearance: you’re somewhere, you see a buseta, you raise your hand and the bus stops to pick you up. You give the address you want to go to, and the driver tells you whether or not he’s going that way. If so, you hop on, paying the driver the amount requested in cash.

You don’t know the city, you don’t know where to stop, will the driver remember, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask him again. Don’t hesitate to ask him again along the way if he remembers where you want to go. Once you’ve arrived, the driver will signal you to get out and stop you at the corner. That’s it!

Transmilenio buses in Bogotá

  • Price of rechargeable card: $3,000 COP
  • Price per trip: $2,200 COP

Bogotá’s bus system is similar to a metro, with reserved bus lines that avoid the capital’s heavy traffic. It operates on the basis of several lines criss-crossing the city, well-defined stops and a prepaid card system. At rush hour, the Transmilenio in Bogotá is completely saturated, and you’ll find it hard to get on the first bus that arrives.

Metro in Medellin

  • Civica rechargeable card: free, to be picked up with your passport at San Antonio station.
  • Fare: $2,000 COP with card (all transport); $2,300 COP single trip (valid only for metro and streetcar),

Medellin is Colombia’s most modern city. In recent years, it has undergone spectacular development, making it one of the world’s models of urban transformation. Medellin boasts a comprehensive, interconnected public transport system (metro, cable car, tramway, bus, etc.).

Cabs in Colombia

Cabs
Cabs are another popular means of transport in the city. They’re the easiest way to get around. Compared with France, fares are not expensive, but it’s best to find out beforehand (hostels, hotels, etc.) what the fare is, so as not to get ripped off.

If the driver sees you as a foreigner, he’ll always tend to inflate his prices a little, which is fair enough. But even if an extra $1000 or $2000 COP isn’t much, sometimes the driver will go overboard, and that’s when it’s a good idea to be able to negotiate with full knowledge of the facts!

These days, it’s safer to take a cab straight from the street than it used to be. That said, you need to remain vigilant, and if you don’t feel like it, trust your instincts and don’t get in. Always take an official cab, with an official plate and reference number. Make a note of it if you need to, as it may come in handy if you forget something inside or have a problem.

Of course, to be on the safe side, we advise you to order cabs by phone or online. Your hotel/hostal will always have a trusted driver to call. There are also mobile apps to order them from your phone.

Uber
Uber has developed very well in the big cities, and sometimes Colombians prefer Uber to cabs when it comes to quality of service. Uber has the advantage of booking via the mobile app with payment in advance, so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll be paying.

Important precautions

  • Always take an official cab (Yellow) with a visible identification number
  • Always check that the meter is working before you get in
  • Ask for the fare before you get in, as this will give you a good idea of your driver’s intentions.

Local transport in rural areas

Of course, you’ll often find busetas and classic cabs too, but in rural areas local transport can be more exotic and fun than in the big cities. Depending on the region, you’ll find

  • Motorcycle cabs: as the name suggests, the driver takes you out on his motorcycle, usually without a helmet. A must for enthusiasts. Be sure to negotiate the fare before you leave.
  • Tuk Tuk: do you remember the Rickshaw in India? The APE in Italy? Those tiny vehicles with three wheels, motorcycle handlebars and two covered seats in the back? Well, in Colombia too, this means of transport is used to take you wherever you want to go.
  • The “Willis” Jeeps: a popular means of transport in the mountains, the colorful “Willis”, with a tarpaulin roof, two benches in the back to sit on and the possibility of standing on the rear steps by holding onto the body.
  • Cut-up 4Ls: in Guatape, you may be offered a ride in these superb 4Ls with no roof or doors, driven by a kid who looks about 12 years old.
  • Lanchas: in certain areas of the Caribbean coast, the motorboat is the most practical way of getting from A to B.