Domestic Air Travel Made Easy

Airport in Santa Marta
View from the airport in Santa Marta.
View from the airport in Santa Marta.

The more time I spend in Colombia, the more I begin to appreciate how easy and inexpensive the domestic air travel is in the country.

In 2009, I experienced my first 25-minute flight from Bogota to Medellin, and later flew back to Medellin from Barranquilla after celebrating Carnival. By bus, both those trips can easily average 12 hours, and sap you of your energy in ways quick, cheap flights will not.

Specifically, Colombian buses are known to have air-conditioning on full blast, the whole trip, thereby turning the cabin into a freezer. You can also expect loud Latin music, which I like as much as the next guy, but not for 12 hours straight.

In 2010, I flew from Cartagena to Medellin, and between Medellin and Cali several times.

This year, I flew back and forth from Santa Marta during my recent trip to the coast.

Almost all of these flights were booked within a week of departure, and often within just a few days because I tend to procrastinate.

My carrier of choice is Aires, the Colombian discount airline recently purchased by the much larger LAN Airlines.

I used Avianca in 2009, and while they still may be cheaper for certain routes, especially when booked in advance, I’ve yet to see any meaningful savings should I choose them over Aires.

Both the Aires and Avianca websites are available in English, and easy to use. I realize some may argue this point, but I’ve used both enough to stand behind it.

Sales result in e-ticket information being emailed to you. I normally take note of the confirmation number, and simply show up at the ticket counters with my passport (a required form of ID for foreigners traveling within the country by air).

I’ve never had a problem with lost baggage, including the time I flew Avianca from Madrid to Bogota in 2009, and my Aires flight from New York City to Cartagena (via Bogota) in 2010.

Aside from the same-day flight booked from Santa Marta to Medellin when I was feeling sick, all my one-way domestic flights within Colombia have been $100 or less.

I realize this still might be a lot for backpackers or frequent travelers to cover, but as I enter my mid-30’s, and travel full time for my job, it seems like a cheap price to pay.

Which do you prefer for long trips in Colombia, buses or planes?


This post was written by Dave, and brought to you by TravelRepublic.

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  1. Thank you for this information. I love your posts, and your entire blog actually. I am currently living in Brazil (moved here from the US recently) and air travel is not all that easy here. Sure it is convenient, however it promises a lot more than it has to offer. There are to many people coming to Brazil nowadays, and the country does not have enough infrastructure to cater to large amounts of people, but its much better than riding around on a bus, that’s for sure! However with the world cup coming along, we are definitely shaping up and getting back on track!!

    • Hi Julia, thanks so much for the feedback, and the heads up about air travel in Brazil. For such a large country, I’m sure it has plenty of room to improve.

      By bus, due to the mountains, Colombia can feel very big. But once you get on a plane, and can go just about anywhere in an hour, it feels so much smaller.

  2. I have to say that flying is the only way to go.. especially if you are only viditing the country. Like you said the bus takes a long time so flying will help you see more without freezing in the bus.