Transportation in Colombia

The El Dorado International Airport in Bogota is Colombia's main airport. This airport is one of Latin America's biggest and most exclusive. Because it is centrally located in Colombia, as well as in America, it is the choice of both land and air transportation providers in the nation. The national highways of Columbia are maintained by the Instituto Nacional de Vías (INVIAS - National Institute of Roadways), which is a government agency run by the Ministry of Transport. Columbia is connected to Venezuela in the east and Ecuador in the south by the Pan-American Highway which traverses the country.

Colombia's good air links and bus network make getting to and around Colombia fairly easy and straightforward.

The Colombia transportation guide below has useful information about getting to and around Colombia. You may also find our Colombia country guide useful when planning your trip, and the perfect way to see the highlights is by taking one of our Colombia tours. You can also find out what the local transport is like in:

- Santa Marta
- Cartagena

Colombia Transportation Guide

Getting to Colombia

By Air

You can catch a flight to Colombia from all the major European cities, the USA, Australia, and the neighbouring countries of Latin America. Bogota is the preferred destination for most visitors flying to Colombia. There are other international airports such as Cartagena (12 km from the city), Cali (19 km) and Baranquilla (10 km). If you have an International Driving Licence, you can hire a car from any of these airports. The national airline, Avianca (AV) flies direct from New York and Madrid to Bogotá. But you won't find a direct flight to Colombia from the UK.

The flight time from New York to Bogota is about 5 hours 30 minutes, and from Madrid about 12 hours.

The main airport in Colombia is the Bogota El Dorado International Airport (BOG) which is located 12km (8 miles) east of Bogota.

To/from the airport: It will take you 30 minutes by bus or taxi to the centre of the city.

Facilities: Bank, ATMs, tourist information, duty-free shop, restaurants, bars, pharmacist, internet access and car rentals are all available at the airport.

Please note: International airfares are expensive in Colombia as you pay a 10% tax on international air tickets. It's best to purchase return tickets before you travel to Colombia. If you are a transit passenger, you won't need to pay departure tax. But if you have been in Colombia for more than two months, it will cost you an additional US$19.

Air Passes

You could get a One World Visit South America Pass, which is valid in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile (except Easter Island), Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay. This pass is recognised by American Airlines (AA), Cathay Pacific (CX), British Airways (BA), Finnair (AY), JAL Japan Airlines (JL), Iberia (IB), LAN (LA), Qantas (QF), Malév Hungarian Airlines (MA), and Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ). You will have to buy this pass in the country of your residence, outside South America. You can enjoy unlimited trips to 30 cities but must book at least three flights (maximum 20). The cost will depend on the number of flight zones. For more information, you can contact one of the airlines above that are participating in this scheme.

For transport from the airport to the city (or from the city to the airport), we recommend Green Path Transfers, who offer eco-friendly airport transfers in hundreds of destinations around the world, including Cali, Cartagena, Medellin and Santa Marta.

By Land

Once the Pan American Highway from Colombia to Panama is ready, you can drive across. You can also drive over from Venezuela or you can take the bus. Roads are reasonably good, and the buses are comfortable.

By Rail

There are no international rail links.

By Waterways

You can travel by boat to Colombia from Panama in Central America. Just make sure that you go directly to Buenaventura or Turbo, and get the entry stamp on your passport from the DAS office in these places. Many major ports in the US and Europe connect to Colombia. The most important port in the country is Cartagena.

Getting Around Colombia

By Air

Colombia's excellent domestic air network makes it easy to travel around the country. You could even take a local helicopter to your destination. Note that reservations need to be reconfirmed at least 72 hours before flight time, and flights may be postponed or rescheduled. On domestic flights you'll be required to pay airport tax of US$3.50.

By Land

A cheap and efficient way to travel around Colombia is by bus, and you are sure to find buses easily as this is the main mode of transport. However, except for the main routes, the roads in Colombia are a bit messy. In the cities, the buses are usually very crowded and getting around can be very slow. A better bet is a taxi, which gives you excellent value and is available for long distance travel.

You could also travel by other means such as the chivas, which is the traditional wooden bus used mainly on outback roads, and the collectivos, which is a kind of taxi bus that plies fixed routes. Driving around in your own car or riding a motorcycle in Colombia is not advisable due to the state of the roads and the expense involved.

By Rail

There are no inter-city passenger trains in the country.

By Waterways

A ferry plies from Mulle de Pegasos to the Providencia and the San Andre islands. The journey takes 72 hours but the service is regular and inexpensive. However, water transport to other places, particularly along the Pacific coast where there are no roads, is primitive and irregular.

You'll find many cruises on the Amazon River and there are sightseeing tours as well as jungle expeditions along the river. These jungles are teeming with wildlife and are a not-to-be-missed experience for adventurers.