In my last blog I talked a bit about transportation within the cities of Colombia.
However, travel in Colombia is about so much more than just staying put in one place, so it’s essential to find the most efficient, cheapest or sometimes quickest ways to travel around the country.
For most Colombians, buses are the primary means to travel between cities. Buses are safe, cost-efficient and sometimes can even be taken overnight to save you money on a hotel. Depending on how far you are going and the terrain, you may be in a small buseta, or for longer journeys, a large coach bus.
Unless you are traveling during a busy time like Christmas or Semana Santa (Holy Week) tickets can always be bought the day of travel right at the bus station. At this time you can usually see the bus you will be riding in, so if that is important to you, feel free to ask for a view!
One thing to keep in mind is that the bus terminal can be a bit intimidating and sometimes a welcome spot for crime, just because there are so many people coming and going.
Make sure to watch your things closely and try to have a plan in place when you arrive at the station. Most terminals in Colombia, including Bogota, Cali, and Medellin have websites where you can plan out your trip in advance, so that you know which bus company window to go to and about how much the ticket will cost.
If silence (or sleep) is essential to you when traveling on the bus, I definitely recommend an iPod or earplugs for the journey. There is always the possibility of noisy children around you, and also, most Colombian bus drivers will play movies dubbed in Spanish at extremely high volume.
Planes are certainly the fastest way to travel, and if you have limited time this is definitely the way to go!
Sometimes you can even find super cheap one-way deals, so if time is a concern, you could even consider riding the bus for one leg of your journey and flying for the other. This is a great way to see some countryside without spending hours upon hours in a bus.
I recently did this on a journey from Cali to Pasto and it worked out perfectly! I saw lots of the countryside on the way there, but after the nine-hour bus ride, I was more than happy to have a two-hour flight home.
For a long time the Colombian airline Avianca held a monopoly on air travel. However, now both Aero Republica and newcomer Aires are expanding their routes around the country and a very healthy competition is taking place.
Avianca is still the best bet if you are interested in all the amenities of a large airline, such as good service, larger planes, more routes, and a more user-friendly website.
However, that being said, since I am a teacher on a teacher’s salary, the majority of my domestic flights have all been with Aires. They always have the best prices and with the exception of some minor delays, I have not had any issues with my flights.
One difficult thing about flights in Colombia is that finding the cheapest flight requires some patience. I have found some success using the website Despegar.com. Basically this site is sort of the Expedia of Latin America, as it allows you to compare the times and prices of various airlines in one convenient location.
A word of advice on flying from Colombia to the United States… These flights can often put a dent in your budget, however there are options! All three of the above mentioned airlines fly to the United States, so they are worth exploring, rather than using an American based airline.
Furthermore, Aires has just opened direct routes from Cali and Bogotá to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When I fly home for a visit this summer I have opted to take the direct flight from Cali to Fort Lauderdale, and then I bought a domestic flight from Fort Lauderdale to Minnesota.
According to what Expedia and other websites quoted me, this will end up saving me about $200 in the long run, so if you have the time and patience to fly two separate airlines, it is definitely worth exploring.
For more information on finding cheap airfare around the country, I recommend following Aires, Avianca, and Aero Republica on Twitter, as they all usually send out tweets with ongoing or upcoming deals and news