Buses in Medellin are definitely the way to go.
I was afraid to take them when I first arrived because I didn’t know how they run and didn’t know where they go or how to ask for information. But with a little help from a few locals, it has become one of my favorite adventures.
Taking the bus is cheaper than the Metro (by a little) and you always find yourself taking routes and seeing places you otherwise wouldn’t see. The drivers are extremely helpful and always polite. And, they appreciate it when you are polite with them.
1. All buses within Medellín cost between 1,400 and 1,600 COP (80 – 90 cents US).
a. Bus drivers will always have change for you (and will prefer smaller denominations bills, like 5,000 or 10,000 COP).
b. You must go through a turn-style and then pay the driver.
c. To get off the bus, there is usually a red button to press near the front of back door. (I had a hard time finding that the first few times and I panicked).
d. Everyone I have sat next to so far has helped to inform me of when to get off the bus. I also ask the driver to shout out to me when I reach my destination and he almost always remembers!
2. The bus routes in Medellin are usually listed on the lower left-hand corner of the outer windshield, which means nothing if you cannot understand what they are saying or if you don’t really know where you need to go.
(Really important: ask someone… Everyone in Medellín wants to help you, especially if you are a tourist! Even the bus drivers will stop and try to walk you through it. Do not be afraid of holding the bus up!)
3. There are two types of buses in Medellin:
a. The circulars, which literally just go in one big, round circle around the city.
b. The “others” which only go in one direction.
4. The most useful information I have to-date: the website for bus routes
Transporte en Linea: Find where you are located, click on the spot and then a list of buses will appear in a pop-up box. Click on each bus and the route will show up on the map so you can have various choices of places to go.
And here’s a new resource for visualizing Medellin bus routes.