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Transportation in Colombia - our ultimate guide
Although many routes are now relatively well developed, the Transportation in Colombia is still a lengthy and time consuming affair. After all, Colombia is around three times the size of Germany in terms of area and a bus trip can take 12 hours or more.
In this article we will introduce you to the most common means of transport in and out of town and give you some recommendations for typical routes used by tourists.
Transport in Colombia out of town
The number one mode of transport in Colombia is the bus. Depending on the length of the connection, the size and comfort varies, but generally we were very pleasantly surprised by the modern long-distance busestraveling on Colombia's roads.
For longer journeys, it is worth asking for a night bus, because you not only save valuable travel time, but also an overnight stay. Particularly suitable for travelers who are pressed for time and / or can do without the scenic panorama in daylight.
Be sure to pack warm clothing for longer bus trips, as the air conditioning usually works at full power. If you suffer from a weak stomach, tablets against travel sickness are worthwhile on many winding stretches. Due to their calming effect, they are also ideal for getting a few hours of sleep when driving at night.
The plane is a time-saving alternative to taking the bus. If you are not out and about in the high season, prices can also compete with buses on many routes.
For transport in Colombia by plane, the airlines VivaColombia, Avianca and Latam Airlines are particularly worthwhile. Although we had a very annoying experience with VivaColombia, we still used the airline for our journey from Panama as well as the return flight to the Amazon region around Leticia.
If you want to visit the Panama border in Capurganá, the last part can only be done by speedboat. Such a ride is not for weak stomachs and the crossing can safely be described as adventurous. For us it was still a nice experience and otherwise we would never have had the opportunity to indulge our new Colombian friends with aguardiente for days.
Mini bus / colectivo
When transporting in Colombia you will also have to use mini buses again and again. There are usually no other options, especially for shorter distances. Some of these mini-buses run as colectivos, i.e. they only leave when all seats are occupied.
The comfort of these mini buses is often a matter of luck, but you can expect space problems if you are not shorter than 1.70 meters.
Actually frowned upon among individual travelers, there are also so-called tourist shuttles for transport in Colombia. They usually offer this a door-to-door service , i.e. you will be picked up at your accommodation at the starting point and dropped off at your new accommodation at the destination. But for this you usually have to dig deeper into your pocket.
Urban transport in Colombia
You will come across the yellow taxis practically everywhere. Their drivers often have a bad reputation around the world. In any case, it is advisable to know how expensive the respective route is and to negotiate this price before starting your journey. Of course, a switched on taximeter is even better.
Since express kidnapping is widespread throughout Latin America, only official taxis should be taken from official taxi stands. Most of the Colombians we met do not use taxis in the big cities for safety reasons.
Before our time in Colombia, we had never used Uber and the company is rightly in a bad light in many places because of its exploitative system. But Uber is the locals' preferred alternative to taxis and so the app also migrated to our smartphones.
It is particularly practical that you will be informed of the approximate price via the app before you start your journey. After the ride, Uber will calculate the actual price so you don't even get embarrassed about haggling. And since every trip is recorded by Uber, yours is Safety significantly higher than with a taxi.
Note:Please note that Uber is not legal in Colombia. Nevertheless, it is apparently tolerated and used very extensively by the locals in the big cities.
Tricycle / motorcycle
Especially in smaller places where there are hardly any taxis and certainly no Uber, locals offer more or less professional trips with tricycles or motorbikes. We haven't heard of kidnappings, but the breakneck driving style could make you fear for your safety.
Of course, there is also a system of city buses in practically every city. If you are traveling with several people, however, a taxi or Uber has the same price. In the city buses, payment is made either when the driver gets in, or there is a conductor who collects the money during the journey.
In Medellín there is a state-of-the-art metro system that will get you to almost any point in the city in record time for little money. The residents are so proud of their metro that no one would dare to leave trash or graffiti behind. We would like that for public transport in Germany as well.
Classic routes for transportation in Colombia
Since you are now well informed about the common means of transport in Colombia, it is time we took a closer look at the individual routes.
Medellin to Santa Fe
From Medellín you can easily take a day trip to the typical Colombian city of Santa Fé. To get from Medellín to Santa Fé, you first have to take the metro to Terminal Norte for 2,150 COP (= € 0.60) to get on a mini-bus that will take you for 10,000 COP (= € 3.00 €) brings you to Santa Fé in an hour and a half.
2. Bus from Medellín to Santa Fé | Duration: 1 1/2 hours | Price: 10,000 COP
Medellin to Guatapé
Almost too far for a day trip from Medellín is Guatapé. To get from Medellín to Guatapé, you first have to go back to Terminal Norte. There you can take a bus for 12,500 COP (= € 3.70) to La Piedra or drive straight through to Guatapé for 13,500 COP. The journey takes a good two and a half hours. From La Piedra you can get to Guatapé by tricycle for 3,000 COP per person.
2. Bus from Medellín to Guatapé | Duration: 2 1/2 hours | Price: 13,500 COP
Medellín to Capurganá
For the route from Medellín to Capurganá, you have to go to Terminal Norte first. Because of our luggage we took an Uber, for which the two of us paid 11,500 COP (= 3.30 €).
You now have the choice of going to Turbo or Necocli to take the speedboat to Capurganá. Our tip is clearly Necocli, because Turbo on the one hand should be quite dodgy and on the other hand the crossing from Necocli only takes half as long. Your stomachs will thank you!
The Night bus from Medellín to Necocli gave us 70,000 COP (= 20.00 €) cost and takes ten hours. All hell broke loose in Necocli because it was the main travel time of the Colombians and we had to wait a full seven hours for our speedboat.
For the one hour crossing you pay 60,000 COP (= 17.00 €) and you also have to pay a fee of 2,300 COP (= 0.60 €) for the use of the "port".
2. Night bus from Medellín to Necocli | Duration: 10 hours | Price: 70,000 COP
3. Speedboat from Necocli to Capurganá | Duration: 1 H. | Price: 62,300 COP
Capurganá to Cartagena
Don't make the same mistake as we did and buy your bus ticket from Necocli to Cartagena in Capurganá. We felt we got a huge commission for the 80,000 COP (= € 23.00) expensive bus ticket paid. It was also the most uncomfortable long-distance bus we used in Colombia.
Our impression is that you can easily get this trip in Necocli on site. After our horror waiting time on arrival, we were simply afraid that this would happen to us again in high season and therefore unfortunately bought the bus ticket in Capurganá.
2. Bus from Necocli to Cartagena | Duration: 8 hours | Price: 80,000 COP
3. Taxi from the bus terminal to Getsemani | Duration: 45 min. | Price: 20-25,000 COP[/ su_box]
Cartagena to Santa Marta
Because we were a bit lazy and the price difference was not particularly high compared to the bus, we used a tourist shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta. For the price of 48,000 COP (= € 14.00) picked it up at the door of our accommodation and took us to our next accommodation in Santa Marta within a good four hours.
Santa Marta to Palomino / Santa Marta to Tayrona
The buses from Santa Marta to Palomino leave very regularly at the Santa Marta market. For the good two hours of travel you pay 9,000 COP (= € 2.60).
If you want to go from Santa Marta to the Tayrona National Park, then you take the same bus and get off halfway in front of the park entrance. You pay 7,000 COP (= € 2.00) for the one-hour journey.
Santa Marta to San Gil
We used a night bus again for the route from Santa Marta to San Gil. The Santa Marta terminal is a few kilometers outside and we had a taxi called for us that took us there in 20 minutes for 7,000 COP.
From the terminal in Santa Marta we then took a night bus to San Gil, which took a total of 15 hours. For this trip we had to 104,000 COP (= € 30.00) put .... on the table. Since the terminal in San Gil is also a bit out of the way, we took a taxi again and paid 4,000 COP (= 1.15 €) for the 10-minute drive.
2. Night bus from Santa Marta to San Gil | Duration: 15 hours | Price: 104,000 COP
3. Taxi in San Gil to accommodation | Duration: 10 Min. | Price: 4,000 COP
San Gil to Villa de Leyva
To get from San Gil to Villa de Leyva, you first have to take a bus to Tunja. We paid for the almost 6-hour drive including a flat tire 30,000 COP (= € 8.50).
At the Tunja terminal you can then take one of the numerous mini-buses to Villa de Leyva. The journey takes a good 45 minutes and cost us 6,500 COP (= 1.80 €).
2. Bus from San Gil to Tunja | Duration: max. 6 hours | Price: 30,000 COP
3. Mini-bus from Tunja to Villa de Leyva | Duration: 45 Min. | Price: 6,500 COP
Villa de Leyva to Salento
From Villa de Leyva to Salento you first have to take a mini bus to Bogotá. We paid 22,000 COP (= € 6.00) for just under four hours of driving.
In Bogotá we took another night bus that took us to Perreira within eight hours. The trip cost 53,000 COP (= € 15.00).
Unfortunately, we arrived in Perreira around four in the morning and had to wait some time for the first mini-bus to Salento, which took us to Salento after another hour for 7,000 COP (= € 2.00).
2. Night bus from Bogotá to Perreira | Duration: 8 hours | Price: 53,000 COP
3. Mini bus from Perreira to Salento | Duration: 1 H. | Price: 7,000 COP
Salento to Neiva / Desierto de Tatacoa
If you want to go to the Tatacoa desert (Desierto de Tatacoa), it's best to drive from Salento to Neiva. For this we first took a mini bus to Armenia for 4,200 COP (= 1.20 €).
There are various buses at the Armenia terminal that will take you directly to Neiva. We were lucky and caught a mini bus that was ready to leave. The route to Ibaqué is very winding. Since it leads through the mountains, it gets quite cold while driving. Including a detour due to an accident and a lunch break, it took us seven hours. The price for the trip is 45,000 COP (= € 13.00).
In Neiva we took a taxi for the 10-minute journey to our accommodation, which should not be more expensive than 6,000 COP (= 1.70 €). If you want to go straight to the Desierto de Tatacoa, you can continue with a mini-bus from the bus terminal in Neiva in just under an hour for 15,000 COP (= € 4.30).
2. Bus from Armenia to Neiva | Duration: 7 hours | Price: 45,000 COP
3. Taxi in Neiva to the accommodation | Duration: 10 min. | Price: 6,000 COP
Neiva to Bogotá
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