Transport in Colombia: By Bus, Taxi, Air and Sea

Transport in Colombia is surprisingly efficient. Despite having no train system, all major cities have at least two mass transit options. Our local insider Erin shows you how to get around town.


Photo © iStock/Joel Carillet

Bus travel around Colombia

Travel by bus in Colombia is probably the most widely-used form of transport. In many areas, you can ride the bus safely.

Check local blogs and forums for the bigger cities. Certain bus routes and stations in the large cities can be very dangerous for theft/robbery.

In many areas you can stop any bus that passes, including regional busses. Just wave and be ready to pay when you board.

Female travelers, try to sit on aisle seats to prevent getting “cornered” and harassed. This doesn’t commonly happen, but can help put you in front of more witnesses in case someone tries to bother you.

Local tip: Watch for “van” bus tickets. Some of the common commuter routes offer van service, which are smaller and arrive faster, especially along the route from Pereira to Medellin, where vans typically cut up to a full hour off the standard travel time.

Taxis in Colombia

You’ll find taxis in all cities and small towns in Colombia. Some places, like Tolu, may even offer bicycle taxis.

Rural regions might have motorcycle taxis and boat taxies, but try to avoid the moto-taxi. These can be quite dangerous with a high motorcycle accident and mortality rates.

Always try to be observant of the taxi number in case you leave anything behind. Some of the larger cities, like Bogota, have had fake taxis pick travelers up and then leave them without their belongings.

Never get in a taxi with license plates that don’t coincide with the city you're in. For example, in Bogota, all license plates will say “Bogota” on the bottom.

Local tip: In Medellin, check with local hotels for shuttle options from the airport, as taxis tend to be quite pricey, even for Colombia. Smart travelers can save big with a hotel shuttle, even if you're staying somewhere else.

Air travel in Colombia

One of the most cost-effective ways to travel in Colombia is by plane. There are a few national carriers that offer very low rates if you book ahead of time.

A round trip, like the one from Pereira to Bogota, can cost US $50 if planned at least two weeks to a month ahead of the planned arrival date.

However, this doesn’t come without risk as these same “cheap” airlines have suffered some bad PR in the last few months due to fuel shortages and maintenance issues.

For domestic flights, plan to arrive at the airport at-least 45min to an hour before your departure time. For international flights, you must be there two hours prior.

Rules have become stricter over the last couple years, along with lower weight limits for baggage. Check with your airline prior to travel to ensure there are no surprises waiting for you.

Boat travel in Colombia

Some locations in Colombia can only be reached by boat. The most common of which is Nuqui and Providencia Island.

Be sure to book your accommodation 2 weeks ahead of time for Providencia Island, as lodging availability is limited. Check the schedule for boats and planes to ensure you have a way to get there, which also coincides with your arrival times.

Talk to your hotel about shuttle options when you make your reservation. While many businesses don't yet have an online presence, don’t hesitate to ask around a bit to ensure the boat company is reputable.

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