Getting Around Colombia

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Getting Around Colombia

By Plane

The most important domestic carriers in Colombia are : Avianca, COPA Colombia (formerly AeroRepublica), Satena, LAN Colombia, EasyFly and VivaColombia (starting in mid 2012). They all have well-kept fleets and regular service to major towns and cities in Colombia. The major Colombian airports have been certified as "Highly Safe" by international organizations. Please be aware that the online payment process of some domestic airlines is complicated: For example Easyfly does not accept international credit cards. Payments can be done at the airport or official ticket offices.

By Train

There is limited train service in Colombia. There is metro service in Medellin and its surroundings.

By Bus

Travel by bus is widespread and has different levels of quality. Long-distance trips rarely cost over US$55.00 (one way). When acquiring tickets for the bus, the local custom is that the passanger comes to the terminal and buys the next available bus going to the desired destination. Depending on the company or terminal, it may be even not possible to purchase a ticket 1 or several days in advance! Therefore, it is recommendable to know at least when a particular service starts and ends in a day. Long distance bus travel tends to be very slow because main highways are two-lane roads with lots of truck traffic. For any distance more than 5 hours, you may want to check into air travel. Aires often has very competitive rates (www.aires.com.co)- Aires is no longer operating having been bought out by LAN, which has significantly higher costs. For low-cost fairs Viva Colombia is the best option (www.vivacolombia.co)

Distance and travel time from Bogotá:
 
Destination Distance (km) Time (h)
Armenia 296 8
Barranquilla 985 20
Bucaramanga 429 10
Cali 511 12
Cartagena 1090 23
Cúcuta 630 16
Ipiales 948 24
Manizales 278 8
Medellín 440 9
Neiva 309 6
Pasto 865 22
Pereira 360 9
Popayán 646 15
San Agustín 529 12
Santa Marta 952 19
Tunja 147 3

By Urban Bus

Around the turn of this century urban centers in Colombia saw the development of a highly efficient and neat bus transit systems that are spreading to other countries. In Bogotá you can find the Transmilenio, in Medellin el Metroplus, in Cali el Mio, in Barranquilla Transmetro, in Bucaramanga Metrolínea, in Pereira the Megabús. It is still recommended that you keep an eye on your belongings and that you do not carry valuables, excess cash (more than $20,000 COP visible) or unnecessary items. Never accept food or drinks from strangers. Avoid talking to strangers at bus stops or terminals. It is possible you may be stopped at police check points. A calm attitude is the best key to avoid inconveniences.

By Car

Driving is on the right hand side of the road-most cars have standard transmissions. Colombia's fleet is composed mainly of cars with 4-Cylinder engines that are of European and Japanese manufacture. Foreign visitors may drive if they show an international driver's license (a multilingual endorsement card issued by automobile and driver's clubs around the world).

The speed limit in residential areas is 30 km/h (19 mph), and in urban areas it is 60 km/h (37 mph). There is a national speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph).

The country has a well-maintained network of roads that connect all major cities in the Andean areas, as well as the ones in the Caribbean Coast. There may be significant landslides on roads and highways during the rainy season (November to February), by which traffic gets interrupted. This usually is resolved within 6 hours to 4 days. There are many toll crossings; the fee is about US$3.00. There are also plenty of dirt roads of variable quality. International land travel is only possible to Ecuador and Venezuela.

By Taxi

The taxi networks in big cities such as in Bogota are extensive and very cheap. A (bright yellow) taxi journey across Bogota, can take up to a day but cost less than US$15.If you order a taxi by phone the company will then give you the taxi registration number. Then the taxi will be waiting at the given address. You may need to give them a three or four digit code given to you when you book the taxi. During the day some taxi ranks outside hotels, office buildings and government offices will only allow certified drivers and companies and will also take your name and details when you board the taxi. Taxis from city to city are easy to arrange by phoning ahead and agreeing the price, it will still be cheap by western standards and is safe and quite agreeable. The meter in all taxis starts at 25, and then increases over distance. The number it arrives at corresponds to a tariff that will be on display on the front seat of the cab. Note that taxi and bus prices increase on sundays, public holidays, early in the morning and late at night. For taxis there are also extra charges for baggage and for booking in advance by telephone. Unlike many other countries it is not customary to tip the taxi driver. It's up to the individual. Many taxis are not allowed to travel outside of Bogota due to boundary restrictions with their licences. You should always make arrangements to travel outside of Bogota by taxi ahead of time. In some locations (Las Aguas in the Candelaria district of Bogota for example) you may find an individual acting as a tout for taxi drivers - they will offer you a taxi and lead you to a particular cab. They then recevie a small tip from the driver. Taxis (and much else besides) are much more expensive in Cartagena than in other cities.

By Metro

The only metro system of Colombia is in Medellín, in the Department (state) of Antioquia. It connects the outlying suburban towns with the barrios of Medellín - Line A departs from Itagüí to Barrio Niquía, Line B from Barrio San Antonio to Barrio San Javíer. The metro system also has two cable car lines : Metrocable Line K from Barrio Acevedo to Barrio Santo Domingo Savio and Metrocable Line J departing from Barrio San Javier. Riding the cable cars is a unique experience, as passengers travel up the mountains in gondolas. The MetroCable has six stations and an extension to the Parque Arví ecopark. Ride to Parque Arvi costs about 4USD (3500 COP). There, after a 20 minutes trip in the gondola carts you reach an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level.

By Cable Car

Since most of the Colombian population lives in the Andes, cable car systems are becoming popular for both commuting and tourist transportation. You can ride the ones in Manizales and Medellín, which are integrated in the Metro system , as well as the ones in rural small towns of Antioquia : Jardín, Jericó, Sopetrán and San Andrés de Cuerquia. Also enjoy the magnificent view of the new cable car above the Chicamocha river canyon in Santander.

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