Getting Around Colombia

  • Transportation
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Most Viewed Transportation in Colombia

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    El Nuevo Dorado International Airport

    by traveldave Updated Dec 19, 2013

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    Located about nine miles (13 kilometers) west of Bogota's city center, El Nuevo Dorado International Airport (BOG) is the main international gateway to Colombia, and is the third-busiest airport in South America in terms of passenger traffic. The airport handles flights from within South America and from Central America, North America, the Caribbean region, and Europe. It also serves as the hub for Avianca, the national carrier of Colombia.

    Airlines serving El Nuevo Dorado International Airport: AeroGal, Aerolineas Argentinas, AeroRepublica, Air Canada, Air Comet, Air France, AIRES, American Airlines, Avianca, Conviasa, Copa Airlines, Cubana Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Dutch Antilles Express, EasyFly, Grupo TACA, Iberia, Interjet, jetBlue, LACSA, LANColombia, LANPeru, SAM, SATENA, Spirit Airlines, TAM Brazilian Airlines, TAME, TAP Air Portugal, and United Airlines.

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    City Map of Medellín

    by wavesport Written Apr 29, 2011

    City Map of Medellín

    Others have posted about the unavailability of a good city map of Medellín. At the end of March 2011, I arrived at the José María Córdova airport on a domestic flight and after collecting my luggage; I turned right and walked a short distance to the international flight arrival gate outside of customs. Alongside the wall are several rental car booths. Hidden among them is a Medellín Tourist booth and they have an excellent free city map.

    When I travel, I collect maps as souvenirs and to help me navigate the area. In Medellín, a good map is essential to make sense of the confusing streets and the less complicated Metro system. The free city map is one of the best that I've seen in all my travels. It's a large map since it covers almost all of Medellín and it shows details with readable print including street numbers and their proper names, e.g., Cra. 47 Sucre; the names of the many different neighborhoods; the Metro and Metrocable lines; and it lists and shows the locations of all the major tourists sites.

    On the backside of the map, there are enlarged maps of the Centro and Zona Norte sections. The Centro map section includes 5 suggested walking tour routes which is helpful for those who are on a self-guided trip.

    After a several days, my map had gotten trashed from the rain, torn at the creases, and marked by me with a pen. I tried finding a new one at the city tourism kiosks in the city, but I was told that none were available.

    While visiting Pueblito Paisa, I again went to a tourism kiosk and asked for a city map, but this time I asked for one in English. The woman who was manning the kiosk seemed a bit hesitant to give me one until I said in English that I was lost and confused. I think the tourism kiosks ration out their city maps. Once she was sure that I was a lost and confused tourist, she gave me the map.

    The tourism information centers that are suppose to have the city maps are located at:

    José María Córdova International Airport
    Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport
    Plaza Mayor Convention Center
    Pueblito Paisa - Cerro Nutibara
    Subsecretaría de Turismo - Palacio de Exposiciones

    You're best bet for a map is at the airport. If you arrive by bus, try the other tourism information centers in the city. I don't know if asking for the map in English and acting lost and confused makes a difference, but it won't hurt to try if it'll get you a map.

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    How to get to Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral . .

    by wavesport Written Apr 29, 2011

    Unless you’re totally petrified about traveling unescorted (i.e., without a guide), visiting the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira using public transportation is easy, much cheaper, and it gives you more flexibility with your time. It’s especially easier if you go on a weekday when it’s less crowded.

    If you’re in Bogota, go to a TranMilenio (TM) station, go to the ticket booth and pay COP$1,700 (US$1.00) for a fare card. Board a bus that’s marked “Portal del Norte.” There are different numbered buses which stop at specific stations, but all of them will end at the northern terminal (Portal del Norte). Do NOT get on any bus that’s marked “Ruta Facil” because it’ll stop at every stop so it takes forever to get to Portal del Norte.

    When you get off at Portal del Norte (end of the route), it might seem hectic with hoards of people, but don’t panic. Stop, breathe, and relax. Look around and you’ll see the bright multi-colored collectivo buses parked on the other side of the station platform. Go to the exit turnstile and look up above the exit and you’ll see a sign “Zipaquira.” That’s your reassurance that you’re heading in the right direction.

    When you get on the other side of the platform, look for a collectivo bus with the sign “Zip - Chia.” That the bus that you want to board for Zipaquira. Jump on the bus and find a seat!

    After the collectivo bus leaves the Portal del Norte station, it’ll pick up a few more passengers from the street. As it leaves Bogota, a man will come around to collect the fare which is COP$3,700 (US$2.10). Now you can relax . . . nap . . . or sight-see.

    When the collectivo bus arrives in Zipaquira, it’ll stop about a block from the bus station and all passengers will have to get off. As you get off, be sure to take note of your surroundings so you know where you’ll have to return to take the bus back to Bogota.

    The Salt Cathedral is southwest of the town and I always carry a compass so I got my bearings. Instead of heading directly there, I wandered around town to sight-see and eat lunch. If you get lost, just ask someone to point the way. If you don’t speak Spanish, or you can’t properly pronounce the word “Zipaquira”, have it written down on a piece of paper to show someone for directions.

    You can take a taxi to the Salt Cathedral, but I walked. You’ll see road signs for Zipaquira so you know you’re heading in the right direction. I thought it was a fairly easy walk.

    When you get to the Salt Cathedral, find the ticket booth. You’ll be given different options on what to see and do (climbing wall). I just opted for the general admission and passed up the 3-D movie and the other extras.

    With your entry ticket, go to the main entrance of the Salt Cathedral where you have to join a guided tour which is included with the entry fee. There’s no exception. If you don’t understand Spanish, ask when there’s an English speaking tour guide. You might have to wait 30 minutes, but an English speaking tour guide is well worth the wait. If you have to wait, go to the nearby snack shops for ice cream, drinks, food, etc. Once you get inside, the tour will take about 40-45 minutes. Afterwards, you’re free to explore the Salt Cathedral on your own.

    When you’re done, walk or take a taxi back to town. You can catch the Bogota bound collectivo bus on the street, but since I didn’t know what street, I found it easier to go to the bus station and look for a collectivo bus with a sign “Portal del Norte.” The fare back to Bogota is the same as to Zipaquira.

    When the collectivo bus arrives in Portal del Norte, go to a TM ticket booth and pay COP$1,500 (I don’t know why it’s cheaper) to board a TM bus back to Bogota. If you’re staying in the La Candelaria area, look for a TM bus with the sign “Museo del Oro” or “Las Aguas.” If you intend to take a taxi from Portal del Norte, be sure to exit the collectivo bus BEFORE it enters the Portal del Norte station.

    If you’ve got more money than time, paying for a “escorted tour” from Bogota is an option, but for the average budget tourist, it’s a no-brainer on how to get to Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral.

    Whether or not the Salt Cathedral is a “must see” destination is a personal opinion . . . For me, a “must see” destination is one that I would come back to see again and again. The Salt Cathedral is a one and done visit for me.

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    Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport

    by traveldave Updated Apr 13, 2011

    Located about seven miles (12 kilometers) south of downtown Barranquilla, Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport (BAQ) is Colombia's main airport serving the northern part of the country and the Caribbean coast. It mainly handles domestic flights, although it does serve some international destinations including Panama City, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. Built in 1919, it is the oldest airport in South America.

    Airlines serving Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport: Aerolinea de Antioquia, AIRES, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Copa Airlines Colombia, EasyFly, Satena, and Spirit Airlines.

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    Long distance buses

    by nhoolb Updated Feb 23, 2011

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    Some websites for long distance buses:

    http://www.bolivariano.com.co/

    http://www.fronteras.com.co/

    http://www.berlinasdelfonce.com/

    http://expresobrasilia.com/

    For an overview:

    http://www.viajaporcolombia.com/buses-intermunicipales/

    Most are comfortable, preferably, when feasible, to travel by day.

    Info updated February 2011.

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    Flying

    by nhoolb Updated Feb 23, 2011

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    From Europe Avianca, Iberia and Air France. Air Plus Comet went bankrupt in 2009. From the USA: Delta, Continental, American and the LCC Spirit Airlines from FLL.
    Bogota has 2 terminals, one called El Dorado (Int. + domestic), the other Puente Aereo. The latter is only Avianca-domestic and almost all (but not all) domestic departures/arrivals of AV are handled here. Check. See also the Avianca website. All other domestic airlines use the main terminal (El Dorado, domestic part).

    A taxi to/from Bogota city will cost around 9 Euros, well organised. Outside the arrivals hall (domestic as well as international) are booths where you get your taxi, safe procedure.

    Leaving Colombia: get the Exencion stamp at the AeroCivil office BEFORE going to the check-in counter if you stayed less than 60 days. Otherwise you pay around $ 30 more as extra departure tax. Sometimes, if you arrive before 9.45 pm, there is a desk in the luggage hall where you can get the stamp beforehand. The airport tax itself of $ 32 is now included in the ticket itself, otherwise you have to pay it at the check-in counter.

    SAM is a fully subsidiary of Avianca. Both good and reliable. ACES doesn't exist anymore. Another good domestic airline is AIRES with Dash-8 turbo-props and now also 737's to smaller cities. Aerorepublica (now: COPA Colombia) operates closely with Continental (USA) and COPA (Panama) and is now a member of the Star Alliance. SATENA is the civil operations of the military and flies mostly to remote areas. In general, domestic tickets are reasonably priced. Tickets can be bought on-line through most airlines' website. Check and compare. When possible, travel by airplane; it's safer. All have modern and new airplanes.

    If connecting with Avianca via Puente Aereo, AV has connecting-check-in just after leaving customs and arranges bus transportation to Puente Aereo. Can be hectic when several int. flights have arrived-allow ample time to connect when having to change terminals.

    Within S-America, the airlines Avianca, LAN (from Santiago, Quito and Lima), COPA (Panama), and TACA (San Salvador, San Jose and Lima) serve BOG via their respective hubs with extensive networks.

    Info updated February 2011.

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    one big country requires different modes

    by richiecdisc Updated Feb 13, 2011

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    Getting around Colombia is quite easy though expect some very long travel times unless you are willing to break up your journeys in small towns between the main attractions. Colombia is one of South America's bigger countries and distances if traveling entirely by land are great. There are no trains to speak of so bus if the choice of those on a budget though private car hire is entirely possible and probably cheaper than renting a car. I know nothing about the latter and perhaps more than I'd like to about the former, after traveling around by bus for two months. To be fair, Colombian buses are amongst the very nicest in all of South America but you do pay for the privilege with some of the highest prices on the continent as well. People coming from other countries will remark at how expensive it is but if you are from North America or Europe and Colombia is your first or only stop, it will seem relatively cheap. Expect to pay about 4000 COP ($2) for every hour of travel which depends as much of the terrain as the distance. Mountainous trips take longer and though spectacular can mean queasy stomachs for those prone to car sickness!

    With so many long bus trips, we decided to do an internal flight from Santa Marta to Armenia in the Zona Cafetera which set us back 205,000 COP each. It was not cheap but saved us about 20 hours on a bus to Medellin alone. We also flew from Pasto in the far south back up to Bogotá at the tail end of our trip to save considerable time and this flight was included in our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Bogotá.

    While your itinerary will surely vary from ours, this is what we did just to give you an idea: Bogotá to Zipaquirá (2.5 hours in each direction/5000 COP or $2.50 each way) round trip, Bogotá to El Cocuy (11-14 hours/45000 COP or $22 one way), El Cocuy to Güicán (45 minutes/3000 COP or $1.50 each way) and return, El Cocuy to Tunja (7 hours/30,000 COP), Tunja to Villa de Leyva (45 minutes/5500 COP each way), Tunja to San Gil (4.5 hours/30,000 COP), San Gil to Barichara (45 minutes/3500 COP each way), San Gil to Bucamaranga (2.5 hours plus 5 hours to El Banco/45,000 COP to El Banco with six-hour stopover in Buca!), El Banco to Mompós (a few hours/25,000 COP) in 4x4, Mompós to Cartagena (8 hours/40,000 COP), Cartagena to Santa Marta (4 hours/15,000 COP), Santa Marta to Taganga (15 minutes/1200 COP each way), Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park (1 hour/5000 COP), Armenia to Salento (30 minutes/6400 COP) each way, Armenia to Cali (3.5 hours/20,000 COP), Cali to Popayán (2.5 hours/20,000 COP), Popayán to Silvia (90 minutes/5000 COP each way), Popayán to Pasto (6 hours/28,000 COP), and finally Pasto to Ipiales (90 minutes/7-9,000 COP depending on comfort level!) each way.

    While we did primarily use buses to get around as mentioned previously, we did a few internal flights to save time even if not overly cheap. We also found it necessary to use taxis more than we normally do as generally speaking bus terminals were quite a way from the center of the towns. They were relatively cheap by North American and European standards but seemed pricey compared to the bus trips. That said, they were often the only smart thing to do. No use killing yourself walking in the heat and wasting time as well if you have the money for the ride. Some locations like Laguna de la Cocha are really only accessible by taxi and when that is the case, you can sometimes share a ride if you have the time to wait for other travelers.

    We did a few alternative type trips like the 4x4 trip from El Banco to Mompós as mentioned above which were quite memorable but none more so than the milk truck to El Cocuy National Park. Though it was not an easy trip, my guess is that 20 years from now it will be one of the fondest (and certainly deepest) memories we have. Getting around Colombia may be time consuming but it is very scenic and something you should not miss. We had no problems on any route and it seems that at least for now, it is as safe as in any other SA country.

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    arriving by air is easiest

    by richiecdisc Updated Feb 13, 2011

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    Getting to Colombia is generally easy if arriving by air. The capital of Bogotá is probably the most common entry point and is where we flew into and out of the country. Other large cities are serviced internationally but don't be surprised if your plane touches down in Bogotá en route. It is particularly easy flying to Bogotá from South Florida in North America where we were living at the time of our trip. With many Colombian immigrants in the area, flights are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. We paid $430 each for a round trip flight from our then hometown of Fort Lauderdale to Bogotá and this included one internal flight from Pasto in the far south of Colombia back to the capital.

    Arriving by land is not much more involved though more time consuming. The easiest is coming from Ecuador with relatively easy border procedures. Venezuela is perhaps a bit more dicey but many are doing it. The Panama border is still uncrossable and everyone coming from that direction does it by boat or air.

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    Buses

    by tampa_shawn Written Oct 19, 2009

    The buses here are reliable. Clean and very easy to use.

    There are MANY different types of buses here and too many different lines to count. If I'd have to guess I would say a pretty small portion of the population here actually own a car, quite a few have motorcycles but many seem to rely on public transportation.

    Buses
    1) Greyhound type buses - for long hall trips. Very nice super reclining seats and even footstools. this is what I take for my overnight trips. Also FREEZING cold no matter what the temperature is outside so bring a sleeping bag (if you have one) and lots of thermals..I wear hat, gloves and mittens it is so cold
    2) city buses - these are probably like our city buses in the US except they are decked out in very bright colors and lots and lots of chrome. Red and blue seem to be the favorites
    3) open sided "party" buses - these often have wooden sides and no doors just straight seats that you slide into. ALMOST like a US trolley but not quite. These are often bright red, blue, green etc but normally have painted pictures of the area.
    4) bussitas - these are vans or like small church buses and shockingly painted...white...always white. these follow a set route and all seem to charge 1200 for the ride no matter when you get on or off (about 60 cents). these may also wait until they are full before leaving so you may be waiting in the sun for awhile

    today I saw 4 more types.. several were smaller wooden like versions (think over the top Disneyland making mini versions of the above buses) and of course my beloved colecetiva (from asia - its a motorcycle basically with a seat that sits 2 or 3 depending on the size of the collectiva and of course your bum)

    OK then... now that you have a picture of the various buses you need to understand bus culture here...first of all except for the grayhound hound type buses there are no places to pick up the buses. the Greyhound buses and actually some of the city buses start at the bus terminal the rest just have their own route that they follow...

    OK so except for the bus terminal there are NO firm bus stops. What you do if you want a bus is stand on the side of the road where the bus will pass and look for the correct type of bus with the correct name in the window and wave it down. Some bus routes of course will have names different than the ones you know and so if you are a gringo and they are going to a known tourist area they may stop and say they are going to "el central" or another tourist district and you jump on.

    There are also always two people working the bus. The driver and the guy who collects the fairs.

    Then their are the touts. The buses stop at set (? maybe) places and pick up touts selling all sorts of things...but usually junk food. candy, fried stuff that I haven't figured out yet. Potato chips. They go up and down the isles selling stuff. Sometimes they make a big speech at the front of the bus about lets say how good their candy is and how much you will make your children happy by purchasing it for them. Then they normally go down the line and hand out their candy or junk food. the Colombians politely take it and hold on to it until the guy comes back and then they give it back if they don't want it.

    when all the sales are done and the guy has collected his stuff back he jumps off the bus. We go a mile or so down the road and the process starts all over again! Seriously.

    It is pretty amazing actually. A different culture at its best. One time I even had a bum come on and do the same thing he could make all sorts of popping music with his hands and air in his cheeks he asked for donations and then left

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    Colombia ....essential information for orientating

    by tampa_shawn Written Oct 19, 2009

    Step 1 - throw out your compass. The maps here are not oriented with the North on the top of the map. They are oriented to the mountains or major momuments or I am not kidding here to best fit on the paper. Most maps will not tell you where north is so a compass is totally useless. If you are using more than one map of a city or area....both may be oriented differently..ie one may have SE on the top and the other NW on the top....

    So this is what you need to know....

    Most cities also have Callies and Carreras (streets and roads) and you orient yourself from there

    In Bogota
    Callies run East-West
    Carreras run North-South (increasing in number as they go away from the mountain)

    So for example I am staying at the Postad del Sol hostel - address Calle 9 No 3-71, La Candeleria

    La Candeleria is the district I am in. which is VERY important since you need to be in the right district to start this process
    The hostel is on Calle 9
    Near the intersection of Carrera 3
    The #71 is not a house # but the number of meters I am from Carrera 3 heading North (I think I have that right)

    and there you go!

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    Departure Tax

    by tampa_shawn Written Oct 19, 2009

    I have heard a MILLION different stories about the Colombia Departure tax....all different all crazy (you can get out of it if you skip the line..if you keep a piece of paper or get a piece of paper stamped when you enter the country...etc all bogus by the way)

    ....to help with the confusion I have copied the following directly from the Colombian tourist board.
    http://www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/practical-information/travel-to-colombia-information-and-advice/upon-departure

    Airport tax

    An exit tax of US$ 66 must be paid by all Colombian citizens and foreigners whose stay in Colombia was longer than two months. In the case of shorter stays, the exit tax for foreigners is US$ 33.

    Depending on the itinerary, some airlines, such as Air France, American Airlines and Avianca, include the cost of the tax in the cost of the ticket. The exit tax must be paid at the airport, at the time of departure, in cash and in only one currency (Colombian pesos or US dollars, excluding US$ 100 bills).

    Persons exempted from paying airport tax Colombian nationals who:

    * Are employees or officials in central government service or the decentralized sector traveling on official business, on presentation of government authorization.
    * Study abroad with grants or loans from the Colombian Institute of Educational Credit and technical studies abroad and students who travel under the auspices of universities recognized by the Ministry of Education.
    * Are officials and workers of international land, sea and air transport who travel abroad on official business, when the company accredits the service of international transport and the official or worker, who should present to the civil aviation authority the certification of the head of personnel of the company specifying the position held and purpose of the trip.
    * Are residents of the archipelago of San Andrés and Old Providence when they travel to a Central American country for a maximum of ten days.
    * Are official sports delegations accredited by the Colombian government.
    * Are visiting residents abroad or who are in transit in Colombia when their stay in the country does not exceed 180 days.
    * Travel on a diplomatic passport.
    * Are children under age.
    * Are the regular crews of ships and aircraft of Colombian maritime and air transport companies.

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    To Pamplona from San Antonio (Venezuela)

    by MalenaN Written Oct 25, 2008

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    Before you leave Venezuela you must pay the departure tax and get the exit stamp in your passport from the DIEX office in San Antonio (you don’t get it at the border). The office is situated on Carrera 9, between Calle 6 and 7. I arrived at the office at 6.50 in the morning and first paid the departure tax (46 BsF in July 2008) in a shop on the opposite side of the street. After getting the exit stamp I walked the five blocks down to Avenida Venezuela. A lot of people were walking over the border in both directions, but there were no one who asked for the passports. When I had crossed the bridge and had arrived in Colombia I couldn’t see the building where to get my entry stamp. I asked a police man and he pointed to a big white house, down a road I had already passed. The office is on the right side if you come from Venezuela.
    Well it is easy to miss the immigration/emigration office in both countries, but make sure you really get the stamp, or it can be very expensive later.
    From the immigration office I took a taxi to the bus terminal in Cúcuta. It was 10 000 pesos and took 20 minutes. In Cúcuta I found a shared taxi that was soon leaving for Pamplona. It was 13 000 pesos and with a lot of road construction along the road it took two hours to Pamplona. The family I had shared the taxi with were going to the same hotel as me so in Pamplona we shared another taxi, but it is actually walking distance to the hotel from the terminal.

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    Boat to Panama

    by elsadran Written Aug 28, 2008

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    There are sailboats transporting passengers from Cartagena to Panama. You can contact them yourself at a Yacht Club or arrange it through your hotel. The trip usually takes about 5 days to reach Porvenir, in San Blas Islands. San Blas by the way are the precious jewels of Panama. I remember them with joy and I think they will be in my mind for a long long time. From there you can get a plane to Panama City for 50$. There is also a more adventurous way to Panama City by boat and jeep which I am sure would be far more interesting.
    Sometimes they take one more day and end up in Portobelo from where a bus can take you to Panama City in 2 hours.
    It is not easy to find a boat available when you need to go so it is best to call in advance or as soon as you arrive in Cartagena, especially if you are traveling alone. The fare is 300$ food and water provided. It is possible that you get your own food supplies and cook in the yacht kitchen. Travelers told me it is a fascinating trip so most prefer it to the quick boring flight.
    Hostel Casa Viena recommended Lucho to me but he was booked up and I couldn't wait for his next trip. His cellphone is 317 806 2497
    The flight to Panama costs 285$ and gets there in 45 minutes.
    Copa airlines is in the building “Edificio Banco Cafetero” No 103 very near the Clock Gate.
    e-mail: viesco@enred.com
    Tel: 6644485 / 6640058

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    To go to Cali

    by vivacolombia Written Aug 22, 2008

    Take the plane which will get you there fastly and safely as this look to be your main concern. I've done it with American Airlines (Miami-Cali) or from Bogota on Avianca (nice airline - ticket around 100$)

    Now, you can off course, take buses but the trip is long and roads bumpy. From what i've heard, there are no security worries to have on that road.

    So, have fun!!!

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    To Maracaibo (Venezuela) from Santa Marta

    by MalenaN Written Aug 15, 2008

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    I took a taxi from Casa Familiar to the terminal in Santa Marta and it was 4000 pesos (August 2008). Brasilia Expresos had a bus to Maicao at 7am for 20 000 pesos. The bus arrived at 7.15 and it was a small comfortable bus. It took four hours to Maicao and I had not even left the bus before men started to call Maracaibo, Maracaibo.
    Before going to Venezuela I wanted to change my Colombian pesos for Venezuelan Bolivares and that you can do in an office inside the terminal (It is a better rate here than the money changers have at the border in Paraguachon).
    I took a shared taxi to Maracaibo and there was only one other passenger, a woman. The taxi was 23 000 pesos or 40 Bs (August 2008). The other passenger didn’t have to get a stamp in her passport so as I went inside the immigration office on the Colombian side the driver said they were driving on to the Venezuelan side because there were a lot of cars. I was a bit worried about my luggage in the back of the car but as I came walking to the Venezuelan side the car was waiting there and it had already passed the line of cars that were waiting. After leaving the border we were stopped several times, five times I had to show my passport and other times the police only looked in through the window and said we could pass.
    About halfway we stopped at a shop (for water and bathroom) and the driver was checking the engine of the car. After that we drove even slower and all other cars (and taxis) passed us. As we reached Maracaibo we went to a gas station and then we stopped along the road to wait for a taxi for the woman who was going to another part of the town. The driver thought I could take a taxi from the same spot but I wanted to go to the terminal as it is not far from the hotel where I stayed. I was dropped only one block from the hotel. The taxi drive from Maicao took more than 3,5 hours.

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Colombia Transportation

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