Moving around in Colombia can be tricky – the options are somehow both too many and too few, depending on your needs, and there’s a veritable sea of sketchiness to watch out for among the legitimate choices. But with a little know-how you’ll be well on your way (both literally and figuratively) to your destination.
What type of transportation is used in Colombia?
Colombia has 3 main transportation options: busses, taxis, or private cars. If you’re on a budget, the bus is the cheapest way to travel in Colombia, but they are usually crowded and don’t have air conditioning. If you want something more comfortable and convenient, a taxi or private car is a better option. Just be careful with taxis as the drivers sometimes have a few tricks they use to hike up the fare.
Are taxis safe in Colombia?
We’ll spare you the intro: yes, taxis are safe, BUT, there is a whole lot to be aware of with your taxi options at the same time.
First: do not hail a taxi off the street, and do not get into a taxi when there is someone else in there besides the driver. Any taxi which you hail randomly is probably going to be a fake taxi. Their intention is to rob you, price-gouge you, or worse. And while some legitimate taxi drivers want to have another person with them for safety, it is best to never take the risk – this is a common scheme to rob tourists.
A couple more pieces of advice: do not fall asleep in a taxi, lest the driver drive around in circles to hike up the meter before arriving at your destination. Occasionally there will be taxis without meters which have fixed rates (usually outside of major cities. The prices are determined by destination). In this case, be sure to decide on the price with the driver before getting inside – some (not all) drivers will be eager to take advantage of tourist naivete.
The best assurance of your safety is to always call a taxi from a reputable company, or only get into parked taxis at designated taxi ranks outside hotels, malls, etc. Depending on where you are, you will find apps like Tappsi (www.tappsi.co) and Easy Taxi (www.easytaxi.com) invaluable tools for increased taxi security. In addition, it’s never a bad idea to take a photo of the taxi’s license number or other identifying information in case it may be needed. If you feel especially unsure, call a friend (or pretend to) and mention that you’re in a taxi, stating the taxi number. It will offer you a much-needed feeling of security.
Do they have Uber in Colombia?
While Uber had to stop operating in Colombia at the beginning of 2020, they are back!
Is Uber safe in Colombia?
Uber is actually an excellent option. Its set prices, review-based system, and automatic built-in GPS tracking will put service over price haggling and immediately negate many of the risks associated with taxi use.
Is bus travel safe in Colombia?
Public transportation in Colombia has vastly improved in recent years, particularly Medellin (with a state-of-the-art subway system) and Bogota public transportation with it’s fairly good TransMilenio bus system.
The rules here are pretty similar to other local buses in Central and South America: there are no tickets or tokens, simply pay the driver (or assistant) the flat fare when you hop on board. Sometimes there are specific stops, but in general you can hop on or off anywhere along the route as long as you manage to get the driver’s attention. As usual with public transit, watch your belongings carefully, as buses are ripe with pickpockets.
In general, the state of the vehicle will be unpredictable, but most will have air-conditioning and be quite crowded as a rule. One type of smaller bus, called a buseta, is in popular use in the large cities, and will prove an extremely exciting ride, even vital cultural experience. It’s best to research bus routes ahead of time, or they will be of little use to you. The bus fare is typically between COP$1000 and COP$2500 for these smaller buses.
Bus travel in Colombia is quite safe, though there is one precaution you’ll always want to take: keep your bags in sight! It’s not uncommon for thieves to simply walk off with someone else’s bag that was left in the overhead rack.
How do you travel between cities in Colombia?
Is bus travel safe in Colombia?
During the height of armed conflict between the government and FARC, simply being on the roads of Colombia was asking for disaster and ambush from guerilla troops. This is no longer true, but driving on the roads of Colombia is still a daunting task for foreigners because of the bustling traffic, maniac road fellows, and twisting curves in the mountains. Buses are a decent alternative to driving yourself.
That said: public buses should still be used with caution, especially by solo travelers (and in particular solo female travelers). It is possible for the bus to be robbed, and we do not recommend women to use the night bus, in order to practice caution. The following information is for you if you choose to use the bus anyway:
You’ll find with larger bus companies that the buses are quite comfortable and well-equipped, with excellent air conditioning and even, occasionally, wifi. We recommend bringing ear plugs and a sweater, as you never know when the driver will be cranking music and/or an action movie, or be relentless with the A/C. While driving by yourself at night is not advisable, night buses are considered perfectly safe.
Something to keep in mind – there are military checkpoints on the major highways where the buses will be required to stop, the passengers to exit, and be searched/have their IDs checked. This is perfectly normal, but they will do it anytime, including in the middle of the night.
You typically won’t need reservations, unless it’s peak holiday seasons. Feel free to go to the station an hour before you want to leave, but a ticket, and read a nice book to pass the time.
There’s another class of transportation altogether, which you’ll notice all around you – the colectivos. These can be….anything, really. A small bus, a packed taxi, or any slightly-enlarged vehicle which can function as a rideshare. This one is, as can be expected, more chaotic than your other options. Colectivos can be a bit more expensive and can be found either at major bus terminals, or just in the town square. Don’t plan to use them if you’re on a tight schedule, as they will usually only depart when they’re full.
Alternatives: Private Car Transfer
There are plenty of travelers out there who don’t want to drive themselves (understandably) or handle the unexpected nature of bus travel. After all, there are a lot of options and not many ways to vet the best bus company.
If you want the most stress-free travel option possible, we would recommend a private transfer service such as Daytrip. A friendly, local, professional driver can pick you up directly from your accommodation and take you to your hotel at your destination in a safe, comfortable, and clean vehicle. Some services (such as Daytrip) even offer the option to stop and see attractions along the way. Best part is, you can choose when you want to leave, any time of day.