Getting around in Colombia
Spontaneous travel in Colombia is pretty not much trouble and hassle free.
It's easy and uncomplicated to travel by bus for little money. Especially when you arrive in the morning at a bus terminal, normally there are enough busses heading for your destination. Sellers will ask you where you want to go and lead you to the right place to buy a ticket. In the evening night busses are leaving from the big cities. If you travel during a public holiday, we do advice to buy your ticket in advance.
Modern buses, each with 2 bus drivers and several breaks en route, air conditioning, WIFI and toilet, can quickly convince you to travel by bus. Don’t forget your extra sweater or blanket because of the freezing AC! And don’t take the cheapest option. Bus drivers who work for cheaper bus companies take less breaks and may more easily drive like crazy. It may also be that they stop at more places and even for everybody at the side of the road. Or they drive very slowly, screaming the destination in an attempt to fill the bus. What can also be quite charming, it depends what you prefer…
The bigger companies are Expreso Brasilia (www.expresobrasilia.com) in central and northern Colombia, and Expreso Bolivariano (www.bolivariano.com.co) in central and southern areas of the country. Colombia Fácil has had the best experiences with them.
DISCOUNT at EXPRESO BRASILIA, EXPRESO BOLIVARIANO and CONTINENTAL BUS
Get 5% (high season) and 15% (low season) discount on their bus tickets by showing your hard copy of the CF guide at their desk. Discounts cannot be combined with other promotions. Some buses have free WiFi and a personal TV-screen! Note: offer does not apply for regulated routes Bolivariano: Bogotá-Villavicencio-Bogotá, Bogotá-Llanos Orientales-Bogotá, Medellín-Bogotá-Medellín. Expreso Brasilia: Medellín-Bogotá-Medellín.
Mostly a place has one bus terminal but check general information of the bigger towns, sometimes there are more. For smaller destinations it is possible that just smaller cars operate the line. Usually they leave when the car is full. Be aware that you might have to wait for a while! If you're not sure that the car will leave soon, don’t pay your ticket in advance and keep your luggage with you. Therefore you won't be obliged to wait for other travellers.
When you travel by small local bus for short distances, you don’t need to pay directly when you get in. The bus drivers’ assistant collects the money during the trip or you pay when you exit. When you took the bus at the road and you don’t have a ticket you can bargain or ask your neighbour what he paid for the trip to check what the official price is.
When you take the bus in Bogota to La Candelaria: Ask better two times to be sure because you have two different La Canderaria-areas in Bogota. When you want to go where all the hostels are, ask for La Candelaria Centro.
The Colombian Metro is not the underground system what you may be used to but a special speed bus line in the big cities. They all work with their own cards or single trips which you can't buy in the bus itself. Ask around where to buy them, in any case you can at the big metro stations. You need to have one with enough charge if you want to take a bus which seems ordinary but takes part of the metro system. In case you don’t have the official metro bus card or its not charged, ask anybody inside the bus to use their card and you can pay them with cash, Colombians are usually very nice and will help you!
How it is called?
Bogotá -> Transmilenio
Cali -> Mío
Barranquilla -> Transmetro
Medellin -> Metro and Metroplus
Here are some tips when you like to take the metro in Medellín. Article by Colombia Reports.
If you want to take a cab at the airport, it’s best to buy a ticket at the taxi stand office. That gives you certainty about the price and it is safer. To get a cheaper price, look for a taxi outside of the terminal but don’t forget this can be more risky. Another option is to share a ride with some of your airplane mates.
In some places every taxi has a meter. Before starting, insist that the driver turns it on. They do not start at 0. When you arrived at your destination in Bogotá, a number will show up on the meter. Check this number on the list (yellow laminated document on the back of the seat in front of you) and see how much you need to pay. Night rates or outside the city destinations are always more expensive. If you order a taxi to pick you up somewhere it will cost an extra ±3000 COP/tr.
If you’re in a place without a meter, always discuss the price before you set off. After a while you will certainly become a master at knowing what is correct and what is over the top.
HIRING A CAR
Driving by yourself, use service line #767 to get national road information and info about Pico y Placa, a concept to reduce traffic in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Cartagena, Pereira, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla and Armenia. Pico y Placa obliges reduction of the days you are allowed to drive in that city. The #767 service also provides traffic management and national police transport for emergencies.
The condition of the Pan American Highway is excellent, but from the moment you switch on to more off-the-beaten-track destinations, roads will be rougher or less smooth. Don’t forget that the Andes mountain range contains the majority of the country's urban life.
Check this site for road conditions: www.invias.gov.co. You can find maps of all the roads (‘Red vial nacional’) and reports on closed highways during rainy season.
3xD: Don’t Drink and Drive. In Colombia, 1 beer is too much to get behind the wheel!
Do you have car problems on the road? Do not worry, the locals will stop definitely to give you a helping hand!
Especially at the Pacific coast and the region of Capurganá/Sapzurro, you may only have one possibility: the boat (lancha). Also at other spots at the coasts like the ferries from Taganga to Parque Tayrona: the sea can be rough and most captains don't like to drive slowly. Have some waterproof/windbreaking clothing and take special care of your electronic equipment. An easy and often used trick is to wrap your luggage in plastic bags. Do not forget to wear dark glasses, since the sun, the wind and the sea water will bathe you during the whole journey and you definitely don’t want to miss the beauty of the landscape! If you have back problems, try to get a place in the back of the boat. Eventually ask for an extra life jacket to use as a seat and backrest for your chair.
Unfortunately, the original train network is no longer operational. Planes however, are an attractive alternative for the longer distances and especially if you’re booking far ahead, sometimes you only have to pay a few extra pesos comparing to the buses. However, some companies don’t accept online payment with foreign credit cards. In that case it can take some communication before the deal is done. In Colombia itself the easiest solution is visiting an airline office.
Voyhoy (see their advertisement at the left of our website) offers you the possibility to compare all transportation options to get anywhere in Colombia. They also work with airlines who don't accept online foreign payment. Well... Voyhoy does!
The company works in Colombia with the bus companies of: Expreso Bolivariano, Fronteras, Rápido Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia, Unitransco, Copetran, Berlinas del Fonce, Coomotor, Flota Occidental, Omega, Libertadores, Empresa Arauca, Transportes Gómez Hernández and Flota Magdalena.
Tip Viva Colombia: Be aware that you make your web-check-in online and print your boarding pass, otherwise you pay extra!
International airports in Colombia:
- Bogotá = El Dorado. Take care: there's another terminal right from the international one (Puente Aereo) with most domestic flights from Avianca. Taxi to la Candelaria centro histórico = 20-40min, from COP 25.000/tr or take the Transmilenio or another bus 30-50min.
- Barranquilla = Ernesto Cortissoz: Taxi to the centre = 35min, COP 27.000/tr.
- Cali = Palmaseca: Taxi to San Antonio = 30min, COP 50.000/tr.
- Cartagena = Rafael Núñez: Taxi to Getsemaní = 10 min, COP 15.000/tr. and taxi to the Old Town = 10min, COP 10.000/tr.
- Medellín = José María Córdova at Rionegro: Taxi to El Poblado = COP 58.000/tr or with the bus to bus terminals South or North. Be aware: some domestic flights depart from city airport Olaya Herrera! This is next to bus terminal South and very near El Poblado.
- Armenia / La Tebaida = El Edén: Taxi = ± COP 15-20.000/tr.
- Bucaramanga / Lebrija = Palonegro: Taxi to the centre = ± 30min, ± COP 30.000/tr or choose a shared taxi (by going to the ticket booth, located by the exit of baggage recovery).
- Cúcuta = Camilo Daza
- Leticia = Alfredo Vásquez Cobo: The airport is in the centre.
- Pereira = Matecaña: Taxi to downtown = ± 15min, ± COP 8.000/tr.
- San Andrés = Gustavo Rojas: Taxi = 10min, COP 10.000/tr to the centre.
International Airlines: Avianca, Lufthansa, Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Iberia, KLM, United & Continental Airlines, Aerolíneas Argentinas, FlyTap, LAN and more Airline Tickets via CheapOair.co.uk.
Check also Insel Air! You can fly to Caribbean destinations close by!
All Colombian streets are numbered and divided into calles (cll, streets running east-west) and carreras (cra, north-south). Yeah, we’re NOT talking about ‘transversal, diagonal, avenidas, ... ‘ yet, but to keep it simple, follow these instructions:
e.g. ‘cra 98 # 18-49' means:
1) the place that you are looking for is on the cra 98.
2) the last n° ‘49’ also shows you which side of the cra you can find the place you are looking for. So the uneven n° 1,3,5,… are on 1 side and the even n° 2,4,6,... on the other side.
Avión = Plane
Barco = Ship
Bicicleta = Bike
Brujita = A wooden cart powered by a motorcycle on top of the train railroads
Bus = Bus
Bus ejecutivo = Fast city bus
Buseta = Small city bus
Busineta = Small bus
Camioneta = Pickup truck
Campero = Willy Jeep (at Coffee region)
Carro = Car
Carrotaxi or motocarro = Tuktuk, a motorbike with a small cabin (3 persons)
Carro = Car
Chiva = Traditional bus from the country side
Collectivo = Smaller local bus
Flota = Overland truck
Lancha = Small boat
Micro = Microbus in rural regions
Mototaxi = Taxi motorbike
Parada de autobuses = Bus stop
Quatro por quatro = 4x4 Overland truck
TransMilenio = Replacement of metro on wheels (is like a bus)