Colombia is a big country and the distances from city to city are sometimes immense. You can take a plane to cover the distances, but traveling by public transport is just as relaxed and very easy to do. How is public transport organized in Colombia? How do you get from A to B by public transport?
First of all, a number of apps are useful to have on your phone to plan your trip. Google Maps is recommended for a map of the country or city. Maps.me is another great app, which also often includes hiking trails on other hiking routes. Download the maps of the relevant region you are going to, so you can also use the maps when you are offline. The Rome2Rio and Moovit apps provide insight into which buses you need from A to B. However, they are not always up to date.
In general, the roads in Colombia are in good condition. Mainly the main roads between the (large) cities are good and there are many toll roads to maintain the roads. Practically all roads are asphalted, but especially in the smallest villages and towns you can encounter dirt roads and many potholes. Keep this in mind if you want to drive a car/motorcycle yourself. If Google Maps or Maps.me indicate a long travel time for the number of kilometers, you can assume that parts of the road are less passable.
For each destination in Colombia described, we also describe how to get there and how to get around by public transport. In addition, we also describe details such as travel routes, costs and the length of the trips. At the highlights of Colombia there are photos of the means of transport and bus stations on instagram.
To regulate traffic and especially the amount of cars, each major city has its own rules. For example, in Bogotá, cars with a license plate ending in an even number are allowed to drive on certain days and not on other days, alternating with cars with a license plate ending in an odd number. If you pay, you can drive on all days. If you do not pay, and if you drive on a day when it is actually not allowed, the fines are (very) high. If you want to buy a car in Colombia, it is advisable to read the traffic rules carefully. On weekends and special days, everyone is allowed to drive within a certain time zone. Then it can get very busy and significantly extend your travel time. It is good to take this into account if you want to get from A to B on certain days.
Almost every major city in Colombia has one (or more) Terminal de Transporte outside the center. This is a larger bus station from which the buses depart for the longer distances. There are all bus companies’ counters in the terminal. It sometimes takes a while to find where and which bus company you need to go to for the destination you want to go to, because it is not always clearly indicated. Fortunately, there are always people willing to help you if you can’t figure it out. If you say where you want to go, they will tell you which counter to go to. Several bus companies also go to the same destination, so there is always a bus that goes to and where you want.
In addition, each Terminal de Transporte often has its own website where you can find online routes, bus companies, costs and tickets. You can also often book your tickets online so that you are assured of your seat. This is not always necessary, however, there are often buses and there is space. For the very long distances it is advisable to make a reservation. You pay online with a credit card. If you reserve tickets online, you sometimes still have to indicate at the terminal that you are there and you will receive a physical ticket. But often your ticket on your phone also suffices. In addition to the terminals’ own websites, there are other websites that you can consult to find out your bus journey: Redbus and Busbud. Good and reliable bus companies (for longer distances) are Copetran, Bolivariano and Brasilia.
A city also often has smaller bus companies that bridge short distances to cities in the vicinity. This often concerns minibuses, such as between Cartagena and Santa Marta or Santa Marta and Minca. These are direct shuttle buses that run directly from A to B, but can stop regularly to let people get on and off. Sometimes these minibuses have their own bus station like in San Gil, but often the buses for the shorter distances can be found in a separate part of the terminal. Most buses, at least the long-distance buses and some shuttle buses, have air conditioning and sometimes WiFi on board. The seats are generally comfortable, especially on the long-distance buses from Copetran, Bolivariano and Brasilia. In these buses, the seats and seating areas are spacious, with plenty of legroom, reclining seats and sometimes even an animation screen. There are also toilets on board. A long-distance bus often stops once around lunchtime (if you have a day bus) at a roadhouse and at the intermediate station, but these stops are often only short (5 – 10 minutes). In general, people also value the seat number on their ticket. Sometimes it is possible to change something through consultation, but assume that the seat number on your ticket is the seat of your trip. If you want a specific seat, it is recommended to book (online) in advance.
Taxis can be found everywhere and drive wherever you are. You always see yellow taxis driving everywhere. With these taxis it is important to agree on a price in advance. There are few taxis that run on the meter, and more often they are more expensive. For more security and certainty about the price you pay for your ride, there are a number of taxi applications that you can download and use in South America. But how do these taxi apps differ from each other and which one should you use? In any case, it is good to know that all these taxi applications are officially banned in Colombia. However, everyone knows that they exist and they are in full use. It is possible that a taxi driver will not drop you off at the entrance of a bus station, but away from it, for example, because there is a police check. If they were caught by the police, there could be unpleasant consequences for them.
Uber, Didi and Beat
These are taxi apps that are very similar. You create an account, link your credit card to your account and enter your ride online. Then you will be linked to a taxi driver. The cars of taxi drivers that are linked to the apps are often of good quality. Although these apps are similar, the prices of the rides can differ greatly per country and per app. So it can be interesting to compare the taxi apps in the country where you are in South America.
Is actually just like Uber, Beat and Didi, but with the difference that you can also have a motorcycle come as a taxi.
In the coffee region of Colombia (at Jardín and Salento for example) the taxis are a jeep. You call these jeep taxis Willy’s and drive back and forth on certain routes. They serve the same purpose as a minibus, but sometimes in the mountains on unpaved roads and then a jeep is easier. In addition, it is also a great means of transport.