Colombia: Local Travel Info
Internal Flights and Major International Airports:
Colombia has a well connected internal and international air network, with most flights operating from the country’s main airports. Bogota, the capital of Colombia, has the El Dorado International Airport which is the largest Latin American airport in terms of cargo movement, the largest airport in Colombia and the primary domestic and international gateway of the country, handling over 49% of the entire country’s air traffic. The Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in the city of Medellin is the 2nd most important airport of Colombia serving all major international and domestic routes. Major international airlines ply to Colombia on a regular basis. Domestic or internal airlines that operate in Colombia include Avianca, Aerorepublica, Easyfly, Aires and Satena. Most Colombian cities have their own domestic airports and air travel is the most preferred way of travel in the country.
To and From: El Dorado International Airport (Bogota):
The El Dorado International Airport has a well connected ground transport system that connects travelers to the main city. Apart from hotel pick-ups, taxis are available to take passengers from the airport to surrounding areas, but some precautions should be taken. Only take government licensed taxis. Taxis can be found in the arrivals area of the airport, and the average trip to the city takes 30-45 minutes. A ride from the airport to the city will cost US . Public buses operate from the airport to the surrounding area and can be identified by the word ‘Aeropuerto’. Travelers can obtain fare and schedule information from the arrivals area of the airport. Rental car kiosks are also present in the airport terminal where cars can be booked, but are expensive.
Travel Costs in Colombia:
Colombia, compared to other South American countries, is fairly inexpensive to travel around in. Taxis, buses, cable cars and the metro line are the most common forms of public transport in the country. Travel by bus is easy, widespread and cost effective. The inter-state bus transit system is fairly popular as well. A bus ticket within the city will cost between COP100 to 500 (US$ 1). The Metro System is only present in the city of Medellin. A ticket on the metro system costs COP000 (US 50 cents). Taxis are more expensive than other modes of transport in Colombia, but still cheap. Try and use government registered taxis only. A 30 minute ride in a taxi will cost COP2,000 (US.50). Cable cars are used for tourists as well as the local population living up in the Andes Mountains. A one-way ticket on the cable cars costs COP1,000 (US).
Renting Cars in Colombia:
Colombia is a very picturesque country and a great way to soak in the landscapes is to drive through the country. Renting cars is popular but make sure you are safe. Every city in Colombia has a number of car rental agencies and travelers are spoilt for choice, with competitive rates to choose from. A medium sized 5 seater will cost US28. Insurance is optional at the time of rental but it is always advisable to pay a little extra and get an insurance coverage for the car you are renting.
Driver’s License Requirements in Colombia:
An international driver’s license is a must to drive in Colombia. For a stay extending over a month, tourists have to apply for a local license.
Rules in Colombia:
Traffic violation fines are harsh in Colombia and a ticket will set you back by COP50k! The permissible blood-alcohol limit while driving is 0.04. Violation of this invites heavy penalties. There are speed limits in different areas and usually residential areas have a speed limit of 30km per hour, while highways and free- ways are at 80 km per hour. Seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat. It is against the law to talk on a cellular phone while driving in Colombia, and violators may be fined. While driving outside major cities, it is mandatory to drive with your lights on. If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive; this rule is strictly enforced, and moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.
Buses in Colombia:
Buses are the lifeline of the country and the most efficient and cost effective way of getting around Colombia. The cities and towns have their own bus services that operate within the cities as well as inter-state. Owing to their popularity, buses are always crowded. Ticket prices are standard and cost the same amount, whether you are in the bus for 10 minutes or more than an hour. Prices differ from city to city. Bogota has the Bus Rapid Transit System which is locally called ‘Transmilenio’, offering fast transportation at a slightly higher cost. There are designated bus stops in most cities. In smaller towns, however, there are no proper bus stops, and passengers have to tell the conductor before-hand where they wish to disembark. To board a bus, you have to wave it down. In the city of Medellin, the bus routes may be a little confusing and often require travelers to change buses to get to their destinations, so be careful and get all the details before-hand. The ‘buseta’ (small bus) is a dominant means of urban transport in cities such as Bogota and Cartagena. The bus fare is somewhere between COP50 to 870 (USsh.25-USsh.40), depending on the city and type of bus.
Taxis in Colombia:
Taxis are cheap and easily available, though certain risks are involved sometimes. Though most areas are safe to take a taxi, isolated areas should be avoided. Always travel in Government registered taxis only. They are safe and reliable. Taxis have a minimum charge which is usually around COP500 (US). Avoid taking taxis where the driver has someone else sitting alongside him in the front seat. Each city has a number of taxi companies to choose from, but the rates are more or less the same. Taxis can also be used for long distances, with a fare decided upon before- hand. Most taxis have meters but few use them. Check the going rate for the destination you are traveling to, and fix on a price with the driver before the start of your journey, in case he refuses to go by the meter. Taxis can be identified by their yellow colored bodies.
Cycling in Colombia:
Colombia is not the most preferred country for cyclists. The roads and traffic conditions pose a serious threat for cyclists. Main roads should especially be avoided owing to the rash driving practices of most locals. Traffic signs are rarely followed, leading to a great deal of lawlessness on the roads, making it very difficult and dangerous for cyclists to ride. Smaller towns and the countryside are more preferable areas if you want to cycle. The traffic is minimal and travelers get to cycle alongside some breathtaking scenic beauty. There are a very few shops where you can rent a bicycle, so either you bring your own bicycle or buy one.
Water Transport in Colombia:
Though Colombia has a vast coastline, travel by boats, ferries or ships are not very common. The coastline is mainly used for cargo ships, while the country’s rivers are used by locals to get from one area to another. Along the Pacific coast, where there are no roads, boats ply passengers from place to place, but the transport is primitive and irregular. Rivers and the areas surrounding them are notorious for the presence of guerilla and paramilitary activities and best avoided by tourists.
Hitchhiking in Colombia:
The country is not safe to hitchhike in and hitchhiking is rarely practiced. The roads of Colombia are not always the safest place to hang out, and not all Colombians can be trusted. Female travelers should certainly think twice before starting their hitchhiking adventure. The only place to hitchhike is in the countryside where there are no other ways of transportation available. Getting on the back of a jeep is generally accepted in those areas. If you get a ride, it may not be free. So ask the driver after he dropped you off if he wants something in return.