The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia

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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 pretty convenient.

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 travel guide to transportation in Colombia!

We were fed up with paying fees abroad

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!

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

Flying in Colombia

our travel guide to transportation in Colombia

The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia
credit: Juan Carlos Morales S.

Air travel 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. As we all know, however, air travel is sometimes the only viable means of transport in Colombia for certain journeys.

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: Chilean airline that bought LAN (Colombian airline), an alternative to Avianca.

Low-cost airlines

  • Wingo: a new competitor to Viva Air, created in 2016, serves only a few Colombian cities and a few neighboring countries.

Regional airlines

  • Satena: state-owned airline offering flights within the regions and serving the most remote areas of the country. These flights are known as “charter” flights, and usually involve small propeller-driven aircraft with limited space.
  • Clicair: another very interesting airline, as it also flies to lesser-known destinations in Colombia, sometimes at much lower fares than Satena.

How to book your flight to Colombia

The best way to book your domestic flight to Colombia is directly online from the Colombian airline websites. That said, you’ll need to arm yourself with your best Spanish or English, depending on the site.

How much does an internal flight to Colombia cost?

Prices will vary depending on the destination, the time of year and the airline you fly. So it’s hard to give you an idea!

Since 2022, when global inflation was rampant, prices for domestic flights in Colombia have risen sharply.

For example, the average price of a flight from Bogota to Medellin with hold baggage is around $300.000 COP one-way.

To save money, play around with dates, compare prices between airlines… and there are sometimes special offers during certain periods.

Delays, cancellations, security

Delays and cancellations

In Colombia, it’s more common for flights to be delayed or cancelled 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.

Taking the bus in Colombia

our travel guide to transportation in Colombia

The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia
Long-distance bus – Credit: Celocor

It’s important to remember that distances in Colombia are very great, 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.

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

Search for information: fares, timetables, durations

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

We’ve published an post where you’ll find all the answers to your questions, plus tips on how to find fares, timetables and durations for your bus journeys

Renting a car in Colombia

our travel guide to transportation in Colombia

The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia

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% of the road network is asphalted, which means that off the main roads you can quickly 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.

How much does it cost to rent a car in Colombia?

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

City car rental (Chevrolet Spark type) for 1 day (from noon to noon the next day)

Rates for a budget car rental, city car model:

Family car rental (Renault Logan type) for 1 day (from noon to noon the following day)

Rates for the rental of a mid-range car, family model:

City car rental (Chevrolet Spark type) for 7 full days (lunchtime to lunchtime)

Rates for a budget car rental, city car model:

Family rental (Renault Logan type) for 7 full days (lunchtime to lunchtime)

Rates for the rental of a mid-range car, family model:

Car rental with driver in Colombia

our travel guide to transportation in Colombia

The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia

For those who want 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!

If you’d like to use this mode of transport, we advise you to contact our local partner, a english-speaking agency that offers (among other things) this chauffeur-driven vehicle service throughout Colombia.

Please note, however, that this is an expensive service, costing a minimum of €250 per trip.

Hiring a chauffeur-driven vehicle

Chauffeur (#8)

To request a quote for a vehicle with chauffeur, please contact our local partner using the form below. You won’t pay more, but it will let them know you’re coming from us.

IMPORTANT: If you don’t hear back from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAMS first before contacting us.

The local transport network in Colombia

Buseta, cabs, colectivos, motocarro, jeep, etc.

The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia

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 to France, fares are not expensive, but it’s best to find out beforehand (hostels, hotels, etc.) what the fares are, 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 some areas of the Caribbean coast, the motorboat is the most practical way of getting from A to B, and is a veritable water cab.

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Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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20 thoughts on “The ultimate travel guide to transportation in Colombia”

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your advice!
    We’ll be in Minca, and we have to get to Isla Grande the next day. Is it possible to give us examples of transport companies that can take us by boat to Isla Grande around 14h-15h? We are a family of 4. Do you know how much this would cost?
    We’re staying two nights on the island.

    Thank you very much!
    🤗

    Reply
    • Hello ! Thanks for your message. Well, first you’ll have to get to Cartagena. The lanchas all leave from the port “la bodeguita”. We don’t know of any special transport. But if you want a private lancha for the 4 of you, you can negotiate directly there. For collective lanchas, the price is around 30000 pesos per person, with a 17000 peso tax to be paid at the port. We don’t really have an idea of the rates for private services (we asked Andrés, whom you contacted for the diving, to answer this question 😉 )

      Reply
  2. Very interesting blog!
    How can I reach San Augustin and the desierto de Tatacoa without taking a bus?
    Is it possible to rent a car with driver between Cartagena and Bogota via Barichara?
    Thank you very much!

    Reply
      • Thank you for your reply. I’m at the stage of optimizing the itinerary for 18 days there
        Unless I miss a ‘must seem’, I’m thinking Bogota, Cartagena, Tayrona national park, Barichara, Medellin, desierto de Tatacoa, San Agustin, zona cafetera (where?)
        And I’m wondering about the best means of transport between these different points
        Thanks a lot!

        Reply
        • From our point of view, in 18 days your itinerary is too ambitious and you’ll regret not being able to spend more time in each place. You can read our article where we give our advice on how to make your itinerary. What’s more, if you stick to this itinerary, you’ll have to multiply the number of domestic flights, because in absolute terms your entire itinerary could be done by bus or car, but it would take much longer. The distance/time ratio for road journeys in Colombia is very special, and journeys are very long. So, of course, the plane is sometimes useful, and we’re not saying that it’s forbidden to take it, but when it’s possible we prefer to guide travellers to rethink their itinerary to avoid using the plane excessively in such a short space of time. Hope this helps a little 😉

          Reply
      • Thank you Angélica and Samuel
        Does this itinerary seem ok to you?
        3 days in Bogota. Bogota-Tatacoa(1d). Tatacoa-San Agustin(1d). 2 days in San Agustin. S.Agustin-Bogota (1d) Is a direct Neiva-Cartagena flight possible? If not, return to Bogota. Bogota-Cartagena(0.5d by plane). 3 days in Cartagena. Cartagena-Tayronas (0.5d). 1d to Tayronas. Tayronas-Cartagena (0.5d). Fly back to Bogotá. Bogotá-Barichara-Bogota in 3 d with 1 d in Barichara. Last day in Bogotá.

        Reply
  3. Hello , I would like to go from Villa de leyva to Barrichara by bus . I’ve only found this route: a bus to tunja, then san gil and finally barrichara. But it looks like a 5h35 journey?
    Could a cab do the trick (more expensive, of course, but quicker?)?
    thank you for your feedback

    Reply
    • Hi Anne-Laure, the bus journey from Villa de Leyva > Tunja > San Gil > Barichara does indeed make sense, and as for time, we’re in the middle of mountain roads… count on a 6-hour journey. As for making the same journey by cab, it’s going to cost you a lot of money (I’ve no idea of the exact price) and you won’t save much time, as buses in Colombia tend to go… fast 😉 After that, you can always ask someone in Villa de Leyva to take you by car to Barichara, to see if the price is worth it, just in case!

      Reply
  4. Hello,

    Your blog is a real gold mine! Thank you for all your advice, it’s invaluable! I’m going to Colombia for a month with my family (2 adults, 2 6-year-old girls and 1 1-year-old baby). I’d like to know the norms for transporting young children in Colombia. Is it possible to keep baby in a baby carrier in cabs, or do we need a baby seat?

    Thank you very much!

    Alexandra Desrosiers, Quebec, Canada

    Reply
    • So the standards in Colombia… let’s say there are texts that say children must be put in car seats according to age, yes… but in reality we see moms putting their babies on their laps, whether on motorcycles, in cars, buses, lanchas, etc., with their arms for seat belts… In short, it’s a bit freestyle! In short, it’s all a bit freestyle 😉 After all, we don’t have kids, so we’re not exactly up to speed on the subject, but here’s what we can tell you from our experience.

      Reply
  5. bonjour, merci beaucoup pour tous ces renseignements… une agence de voyage me conseillait de voir un transport privé pour se déplacer, comment contacter ces transports privés, quels sont leurs statuts ??? merci de m’éclairer sur ce point qui est peut-être intéressant … cordialement Nadine

    Reply
    • We recommend traveling by bus, which is the most practical and economical means of transport. Car rental is also a good option if you want to be independent. We’ve already used private transport on specific routes, but it’s more or less the same as taking a cab for long distances, which you can imagine would be quite expensive for a whole trip. As for their “status”, I’m not sure what you mean: they’re often simply cab companies or private transport companies. Finally, if you don’t want to take public transport or hire a car, then simply going through an agency that will take care of organizing everything for you is the solution. To do this, we advise you to request a quote from Aventure Colombie, which we particularly recommend. You can contact them via our form here: https://mytriptocolombia.com/agence-voyage-colombie-circuits/#contact-aventure-colombia

      Reply
  6. Hi Samuel, I’m having the same problem as Cusimano, I went on Busbud last week and today seeing his email and your reply I went back, but looking for different dates (it’s for November, I know it’s too far away but I looked in August and September) to see.. i sent a comment to find out how to get to Cali-Quito, or Pasto-Quito, or Ibarra, or Otavalo… No way… Discouraging.. As I’m leaving for 170 days, the airline is asking me for proof that I’m leaving Colombian territory before the 90 days allowed… I’ve already been there without any problem, I know that at the end of the 90 days I can extend my trip through the Migracion service, but the airline is demanding proof of transport anyway… So I’m very annoyed. It’s impossible to explain to them that over there from Ipiales (which is what I did a few years ago), you take a collectivo that goes to Tulcan, or Ibarra … (this is in fact the proof of transport that I think would be enough for me, but I don’t see any bus company that does this… Do you have any advice for me? I’d be very grateful, as I’m afraid I’ll be denied entry to the plane in Paris… as my round trip is over 90 days (and this despite the fact that we have the right to stay in Colombia for 180 days).I have a letter from the Cancilleria in Bogotá telling me that it’s “no problem” because I can go to Migracion Col. after 85 days, but it’s the Cie Aérienne that’s more royalist than the king…. Thanks for your advice if you can..

    Reply
    • Hi, we’ve changed the answer given to Cusimano because the sites like Busbud, Pinbus, Redbus, etc. mentioned in this article only offer national routes. We’ve covered the subject of proof of exit from the country in our article on formalities, and you’ll see that there are two possible solutions: either buy a ticket online via a cross-border airline, but it’s still relatively expensive, or use a temporary air ticket issuing service, which is less expensive.

      Reply
  7. Hello,
    My husband, my two sons and I are getting ready to spend our vacations in Colombia. We’ve completed our round-trip airfare, domestic flights, hotel and accommodation reservations, and now all we have to do is rent a car for 2 legs of our trip
    That’s hell, the prices are prohibitive if you go directly through localiza. Should I book with a rental company in France like Alamo, Hertz ect…Can you give me some advice, as we’re leaving in a month and I don’t want to be disappointed, I really don’t want to spoil my trip with an indelicate rental company
    Thank you for your help

    Reply
    • Car rental rates are indeed expensive, especially if you don’t return the car to the same place you picked it up. Otherwise, they’re about the same as in France. This is due to the fact that it’s still very new and not yet very common. Localiza is the biggest rental company in Colombia, so it’s hard to miss out, they have a pretty good reputation, but we’ve never tried renting a car before. Then there’s Avis and Europecar, but they’re often more expensive. In any case, you can’t book a rental car in Colombia through an agency in France. The easiest way is to use a comparison service like Rental Cars

      Reply
  8. ola!
    i’ve come across your site, which doesn’t give me the information i’m looking for, but ………… you’ll probably be able to help me. i’m leaving france for colombia and i need to find a bus or other means of transport (with proof of purchase) that will allow me to get my entry stamp for colombia. but i want to visit several south american states by land and not by plane. i have the impression that it’s not possible to book a bus ticket from france… in that case, what can i do?
    merci de ton aide
    antoinette

    Reply