Buses, Busetas, Colectivos..., Bogotá
The intercity bus terminal in San Gil is located 3km west of downtown. The easiest way to get there is taking a taxi which only costs 3.000 COP (January 2010). Frequent buses depart to Bogotá, most of them come from Bucaramanga making a stop in San Gil. The journey takes about 6 hours.
My time in San Gil was very limited and filled with day excursions. I knew I would have no time to go to the terminal again so I thought I better secure the seat on the bus to Bogotá as soon as possible and not worry about it anymore. I bought the ticket after my arrival from Bucaramanga, for a 11:40pm bus with Berlinas which was recommended by some people I met in Bucaramanga.
The bus ride took about 6,5 hours so it reached the terminal in Bogotá at 6:00am. After arrival I joined the line for the taxi. I told them the address and they gave me a paper with the number of the car and the price. This is a usual way to get a secure taxi in all big cities in Colombia. To Platypus in La Candelaria I payed 8.000 COP.
The bus terminal of Bogotá (www.terminaldetransporte.gov.co/) is located 5km west of the city centre. It is divided into five módulos (units) with buses leaving to different parts of the country. Buses to Medellín leave from Módulo 2 - Azul. At the bus terminal you find restaurants, cafeterias, bars, many shops, ATMs, waiting and left luggage rooms, bathrooms and even showers, so you'll have no problems to prepare for the long bus journey.
From La Candelaria I took a taxi to the terminal which was 9.000 COP. Many companies run buses from Bogotá to Medellín. I bought a ticket for a 10:00pm bus with Rapido Ochoa. It was a direct bus, it only had one rest stop. The chairs were quite comfortable and there were enough room for the legs. The bus had a bathroom and they showed movies during the night (though I'm wondering who watched them). As usually in long distance buses in Colombia, the air-conditioning was put to the full and we were freezing. People wear warm clothes and they usually bring blankets and pillows to the bus. I learned to do the same.
We arrived to Terminal Norte in Medellin at 7:00am. From there I took a taxi to El Poblado where I was staying.
I wanted to save some time so I took a night bus from Bogotá to San Agustín. To get from Platypus to the terminal I took a taxi. Due to very busy traffic it took almost an hour instead of usual 20-25 minutes and it costed 14.000 COP. Fortunately, I left early enough to catch my bus.
I took Pasajes Verdes bus at 09:30pm and payed 40.000 COP (December 2008). It seems this was a good price as all the other people I talked to payed from 45.000 to 48.000 COP. The bus was quite comfortable, with a toilet and TV showing movies. And I was relieved they did not put the air conditioning to the extreme cold temperatures as they usually do in Colombian night buses.
The bus ride took a little more than 10 hours. On arrival I took a car to El Maco and payed 5.000 COP.
There are only two direct buses daily from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva. Alternativelly you can take a bus to Tunja (3,5 hours) which are very frequent. From Tunja minibuses run regularly and it takes about an hour.
I woke up very early that morning. Some people returned to Platypus and were quite loud. So I thought I better get up and go to the terminal as early as possible. I ask the guy at the reception to call a taxi for me. It took about 25 minutes to get to the terminal and I payed 9.000 COP. I took the early morning direct bus at 05:30am (which left at 06.00am) and costed 18.000 COP (January 2009). The bus was quite small but comfortable.
In about 4,5 hours we arrived in Villa de Leyva. The terminal is three blocks from Plaza Mayor and Casa Puente del Arco just two block further on, so I decided to take a short walk.
The taxi from Casa Platypus to the bus terminal took about 20 minutes and was 9400 pesos (July 2008). I arrived to the terminal about 6.50am and asked for buses to La Plata. The only direct buses are leaving night time so I bought a ticket to Neiva where I could change. The first company I asked had a bus at 7.30, but Copatran had one leaving at 7am so I bought a ticket for that bus. The ticket was 28 000 pesos and the journey took 6 hours. During the journey they showed two films (Too fast too furious, Tokyo drive and Ghost) alost without sound. We made a short break once (I had been at the same place the previous year as well).
In Neiva a man from Copatran brought me to the minibus to La Plata. It was leaving in less then half an hour, 13.30 and the ticket was 12 000 pesos. After a while the bus got a flat tyre, but it took only 15 minutes to change. After that stop some men had to push the minibus so the driver could start it. We were at the terminal in La Plata at 15.50. The terminal is outside the town and a taxi to the main plaza cost 2500 pesos.
Many buses are passing by San Gil on there way to Bogota. I arrived to the terminal in San Gil just after 7am. There were two companies next to each other offering tickets for a bus leaving 7.30. One was Omega that had a small bus and one was Copatran which had a big bus. Both cost 30 000 pesos (July 2008). I bought a ticket with Copatran. The bus didn't arrive until just before 8am (coming from Bucaramanga). The chairs were very comfortable and could be leaned back a lot, with support for the legs. There was still enough space between the rows of chairs. And there were two toilets on the bus. But it was too cold. I don't like air condition and can't understand why it must be so cold on the buses. After 1,5 hours we stopped for a 30 minutes break to eat (I had been at the same place the previous year). After that they showed the film Too fast, too furious - Tokyo Drive.
At 14.15 we stopped at Portal Norte, but I thought it would be more convenient to continue to the terminal and take a taxi from there, instead of the Transmillenio from Portal Norte. I had forgotten that it took as long as another hour to go to the terminal.
At the terminal I stood in line for one of the secure taxis. I gave the address to where I was going and got a paper with the car number and the cost of the journey. To Platapus it was 7400 pesos.
If you want to take the bus from the airport, you should visit the Platypus Hostel Website, where there are great directions and PHOTOS of the journey into town. Most trips are 1000 or 1200 (50 cents).
Near Zipaquira salt cathdral we found this amusing tourist cus. This model is not even that common in my native Bangladesh but even in Bogota city yo see then often. Perhaps it makes a little sense in this high segregated society by wealth.
You don get Transmilenio for all routes. So , what happens when peole don feel like to get a ride with those old ugly buses. These are an alternative. Most of them do have a destination mark in front, so you know which ways they are goin. But, perhaps you don have to use them as a tourist.
There are cars that people drive, then public forms of transportation: taxis, regular city buses, and then the new, modern, red "Transmilenio" system which takes you fast from one end to the other. They are long red buses that have their own lanes in the middle of a major city avenue. My own preference is the regular city buses, I felt I got to see more in those. Bus fare is usu. 700 - 900 pesos, and I think a little bit more on the weekend.
Busetas are the very best way to get around in the chaotic traffic of Bogota. They are everywhere and go everywhere. Of course, you will need a few tips from local people in order to uinderstand the basic rules and traffic flows.
Buses go everywhere in Colombia. La 'terminal rodoviaria' is your leavind/arriving place everywhere in the country.