Road travel is the main means of transport; 69 percent of cargo is transported by road, as compared with 27 percent by railroad, 3 percent by internal waterways, and 1 percent by air.
Transportation in Colombia
These are the most common means of transportation in Colombia.
Taxis are cheap, convenient and ubiquitous in the major cities and most midsized towns. In most big and medium-sized cities taxis have meters, but in some parts of the Caribbean coast and in smaller towns prices are fixed according to the destination. While in theory these prices should be listed on a card hung from the passenger seat, this is in reality often missing, in which case you should agree on a price before getting in.
- Apps like Tappsi (www.tappsi.co), Easy Taxi (www.easytaxi.com) and Uber (www.uber.com) have drastically improved taxi security and should be used by all with a smartphone. They operate in most of Colombia’s major cities.
- Taxi fares are always per taxi, never per the number of passengers. Many taxis have somewhat flimsy doors – be kind, do not slam doors when getting into or out of vehicles.
Many smaller towns and some cities, especially in the north, plus Leticia in the Amazon, use motorcycle-taxis, which are a quick way of getting around if you’re on your own. These, however, are not the safest method of transportation and are even illegal in some places, including Cartagena (though no one seems to stop them).
Chinese-made tuk-tuks are increasingly popular in smaller tourist towns. Moto-taxis seat three and have a covered roof, plus a tarp that can be lowered around the sides in case of rain. You’ll see these in Barichara, Darién, Mompós, Santa Fe de Antioquia, the Desierto de la Tatacoa and in some of the small towns on the Pacific coast.
Almost every urban center of more than 100,000 inhabitants has a bus service, as do many smaller towns. The standard, speed, and efficiency of local buses vary from place to place, but on the whole, they are slow and crowded. City buses have a flat fare, so the distance of the ride makes no difference. You get on by the front door and pay the driver or the assistant. You never get a ticket.
- There are lots of different types of local buses, ranging from old wrecks to modern air-conditioned vehicles. One common type is the buseta (small bus), a dominant means of urban transportation in cities such as Bogotá and Cartagena. The bus fare is usually somewhere between COP$1000 and COP$2500, depending on the city and type of bus.
- A bus or buseta trip, particularly in large cities such as Bogotá or Barranquilla, is not a smooth and silent ride but rather a sort of breathtaking adventure with a taste of local folklore thrown in. You’ll have an opportunity to be saturated with loud tropical music, learn about the Colombian meaning of road rules, and observe your driver desperately trying to make his way through an ocean of vehicles.
Colombia has a nationwide network of train track that is largely unused (or is overgrown or has been ripped up and sold off). The only train you’re likely to board is Turistren, which runs on weekends from Bogotá to Zipaquirá.
Those visiting San Cipriano, just off the Cali–Buenaventura highway, can enjoy the novel sensation of traveling on a railroad handcart (trolley) powered by a motorcycle.
Getting around by air
The easiest way to cover the huge distances between big cities in Colombia, air travel has become more accessible lately with the advent of budget airlines, and booking in advance can make it a very reasonable way to travel. Nearly all cities have airports, as well as many smaller, remoter towns.
While flights are normally more expensive than a bus on the same route the difference is not always that great – especially on longer, high-volume routes. It’s not worth taking a bus from Medellín to the Costa to save COP$30,000.
Shop around among airlines as prices can vary greatly on the same route. Ticket prices to some destinations drop in the last week or two before the date; for some other destinations, they may rise significantly.
It’s cheaper to purchase online than in agencies and airline offices.
Hitchhiking in Colombia is uncommon and difficult. Given the complex internal situation, drivers don’t want to take risks and simply don’t stop on the road.
Hitchhiking is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travelers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk.
Source: Lonely Planet