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Beyond Bogota

How to Travel by Bus in Colombia the Right Way

March 26, 2016


During my time in Colombia, there were several instances when city hopping by bus came in handy.  When traveling, there are times when having everything planned down to the minute isn’t fun at all.  In reality, most of the best travel experiences come from those unsuspected moments we all cherish so much.

This is exactly when using the bus to travel is your best friend.  The three cities that are good to travel between by bus are Bogota, Medellin and Cali.  First off, you must realize that these are not short rides at all.  Each route is at least 9-12 hours.  If you don’t think you can handle that, then the bus may not work for you.

Why Use the Bus?

Second, if you buy a flight weeks ahead of time, it most likely won’t cost much more than the bus.  The bus from Medellin to Bogota costs around 50,000 pesos on the nicer buses.  So why use the bus?  The best reason is because you don’t have to plan your departure ahead of time.  If you are staying in Colombia for an extended period time, and you should, there are times when saying goodbye to the wonderful people you met because of an obligation to a plane ticket is a bummer.

Instead kick back and enjoy wherever you are to the fullest, and leave whenever you want.  The buses constantly go between the mentioned destinations.  To make things easier, you can choose to use the night bus which is similar to a red eye flight.  In this circumstance, you are able to sleep for most of the ride.  If you use the right bus line, the seats are actually comfortable.

The Best Colombian Bus Lines

The best bus line to use is the Expreso Bolivariano.  When using this bus line, you will get the most comfortable seats.  On board, they offer Wifi and air conditioning.  Keep in mind, the Wifi isn’t always possible to connect to and when it is possible, it’s slow.  It is still better than nothing.  The air conditioning can get strong.  Make sure to have some warm clothes with you or you may turn into a popsicle.

Another good bus line is the Flota Magdalena.  They are slightly cheaper than the Espreso, but the Espreso is definitely worth the extra money.  The Flota has less leg room.

If you decide to travel by bus during the day, you will see some of Colombia’s beautiful countryside along the way.  These are some of the best moments a person can have in a foreign land.  On each route, the buses make stops to get food in a small town along the way.  That’s another cool experience in itself.

Why Not Just Fly?

A lot of people are probably saying, why not just fly?  Well, outside of the reasons already listed, there are a few more.  It is sometimes annoying and stressful trying to catch a flight on time.  You must pack your bags accordingly to comply with the regulations.  On the bus, you don’t have to worry about perfectly organizing your things or being on time.  Have you ever experienced the traffic on the way to the Bogota Airport?  That’s a nightmare at times.  You can cut a good chunk of that trip out by taking the bus.

The Downfalls of Riding the Bus

It’s not all flowers and sunshine.  Here are some of the downfalls.  The ride gets uncomfortable the last couple of hours almost definitely.  It takes much longer than the quick flight.  You will most likely arrive tired from not sleeping very well.  You may see some shady characters on the bus, but in general traveling by bus is very safe.

That should give you a solid overview of the bus system in Colombia.  It is not always the best decision to use it, but sometimes it’s a more logical choice.  The experience is also a worthwhile one, it is one of the best chances you will get to see the beautiful countryside.  Plus you’re traveling, learn to think outside the box, it’s way more fun that way!

By Pedro Felipe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Written by: Pete, check him out here.

by AI_Bogota. Find out more about AI_Bogota here.