Last updated on November 15th, 2023 at 11:22 am
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
Traveling by bus in Colombia is an adventure that lets you explore the entire country, but it requires planning. In this blog, I’ll provide information and tips for a smooth bus journey.
Why Choose Buses in Colombia?
One of the key advantages of bus travel in Colombia is the access it provides to places that are otherwise inaccessible by other means of transport, such as remote or rural areas of the country.
This allows you to enjoy a unique adventure, discovering the diverse landscapes and cultural richness of Colombia at each stop. However, to do so, you must stay vigilant and pay close attention to your surroundings.
Another benefit of bus travel is its cost-effectiveness compared to air travel. It also offers more flexibility in terms of luggage, and you can even negotiate with the bus driver if you need to transport more items than the standard allowance, something not possible on a plane.
Considerations for bus travel in Colombia
On the flip side, bus travel in Colombia does come with some disadvantages to take into account. One of them is the limited availability of restroom facilities on some buses and the scarcity of restroom stops.
Another downside is the extended travel times, often substantially longer than other forms of transportation due to the country’s geographical layout, road conditions, and the potential for incidents such as accidents or landslides.
Here are some of the lengthiest bus routes in Colombia:
- Cali to Maicao Route: Covering a distance of 1,291 kilometers (802 miles) and taking around 25.5 hours to complete.
- Cali to Cartagena Route: Spanning 1,371 kilometers (851 miles) and taking between 25 and 26 hours, depending on the chosen route.
- Cúcuta to Ipiales Route: The longest route in Colombia, with a total length of 1,440 kilometers (895 miles) and a travel time of 34 hours.
Additionally, during peak seasons or holidays, ticket prices can significantly increase. Therefore, it is advisable to make reservations well in advance to secure availability.
Colombian geography and bus travel
Colombia’s geography affects bus travel significantly. Three mountain ranges running from south to north result in winding, narrow, and steep roads, making bus journeys slower and less comfortable. For example, the Bogotá to Medellín route covers only 412 km (256 mi) but can take up to 10 hours due to the mountainous terrain.
Flat regions like the Caribbean coast have straighter and wider roads, but they can present challenges such as road deterioration and toll booths that increase fares.
Colombia’s diverse climate means different weather at varying altitudes, so pack accordingly.
How to Purchase Bus Tickets to Travel across Colombia
In Colombia, you have several options for buying bus tickets.
One option is to visit the bus terminal in the city where you are located. All major and intermediate cities have their own terminals where you can find different transportation companies. There are also some small towns with offices or branches of these companies, allowing you to board or disembark without going through a terminal. For example, if you’re traveling from Bogotá to Medellín, you can make a stop in La Dorada.
Another option is to purchase your tickets online using digital platforms like Pinbus or Redbus. These websites enable you to compare prices, schedules, and services from various bus companies and make your reservation and payment online. This way, you can save time and secure your spot on your preferred bus.
Prices for bus travel across Colombia
The prices for intercity bus travel in Colombia depend on the season (high or low), the transportation company, and the route. Here are some price examples:
- Bogotá to Medellín: between $60,000 and $120,000 (15 USD – 30 USD).
- Medellín to Cali: between $50,000 and $90,000 (12 USD – 22 USD).
- Cali to Barranquilla: between $100,000 and $150,000 (25 USD – 36 USD).
Remember: Prices can vary, and these are just reference figures. Whenever possible, negotiate, as it’s often possible to get better prices in Colombia.
High and low seasons for bus travel across Colombia
The low season in Colombia aligns with the school periods, excluding certain holidays. These periods are from mid-January to mid-June and from mid-August to mid-November.
Easter Week, the October holiday break, and holiday weekends are considered high season.
Bus Companies in Colombia
Colombia is home to numerous bus companies, and here are some of the most prominent ones and the regions where they operate:
- Expreso Bolivariano
- Expreso Brasilia
|Aguachica||La Jagua de Ibirico||San Gil|
|Barbosa||La Loma||San Martín|
- Expreso Palmira
|Chiquinquirá||Villa de Leyva|
|Bogotá||La Argentina||San Agustín|
|Buga||La Plata||San Vicente del Caguán|
- Rápido Ochoa
|Arboletes||El Siete del Carmen||San Antonio|
|Carmen de Bolívar||La Dorada||Tarazá|
- Flota Magdalena
|Calarcá||La Virginia||Santander de Quilichao|
- Flota Occidental
|Balboa||La Virginia||San Antonio del Chamí|
|Belén de Umbría||Marmato||Santa Rosa|
|Chinchiná||Pueblo Rico||Villanueva (Valle)|
- Berlinas del Fonce
- Empresa Arauca
|Aránzazu||La Estrella||Pueblo Rico|
|Buenaventura||La Pintada||Santa Rosa de Cabal|
|Charalá||La Paz||San Gil|
|Facatativá||Oiba||Villa de Leyva|
Expreso Bolivariano and Expreso Brasilia also have operations in Lima, Peru.
What Are Buses Like in Colombia
Intercity buses in Colombia often use Brazilian-made Marcopolo Paradiso buses, which offer comfort, safety, and connectivity features such as reclining seats, air conditioning, restrooms, Wi-Fi, power outlets, and individual screens.
However, not all buses have these amenities; companies usually reserve them for longer journeys, so shorter trips may have simpler buses with fewer comforts.
First Class Bus Service in Colombia
Certain transportation companies in Colombia provide a first-class service that sets itself apart from the standard service. This premium option offers larger, more comfortable seats with ample legroom and enhanced audiovisual experiences.
Notable companies known for offering this first-class service include Bolivariano and Copetran.
Door-to-Door Travel in Colombia
Door-to-door travel in Colombia means passengers are picked up and dropped off at their chosen locations, saving time and money.
This service typically uses vans or minivans. Notable companies providing this service include:
Tips for Bus Travel in Colombia
Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your bus journey in Colombia:
- Carry light hand luggage. For a comfortable and safe bus journey in Colombia, pack light with essential items. Use a backpack or small suitcase, keep valuables with you, and consider using a lock for added security.
- Dress comfortably and appropriately. Dress in layers to adapt to changing temperatures and cold air conditioning during Colombian bus journeys.
- Prevent motion sickness and altitude sickness. Prevent motion sickness by taking medication, avoiding heavy foods, and staying hydrated. Chewing gum or candies can help alleviate symptoms. Mareol is a common brand of pills for motion sickness.
- Interact with locals and other travelers. Enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their culture. Be respectful and cautious, avoiding revealing personal information or accepting suspicious offers.
- Choose overnight travel to make the most of your time, or opt for daytime travel to enjoy the scenery along the way.