February 27, 2019, 6:13 pm
After living in Bogotá, Colombia for more than a year and seeing for my own eyes the country isn’t nearly as dangerous as many assume, I decided to give bus travel in Colombia a try. I’m so glad I did. Not only did I save a lot of money taking a bus instead of a round-trip flight, I was dazzled by some of Colombia’s beautiful landscapes during the journey.
I took a 10-hour bus ride from Bogotá to Cali in the daytime, then took an overnight bus that left Cali at around 9 p.m. and dropped me off in Bogotá around 7 a.m. the next day. However, the following tips can be useful while traveling to any Colombian city by bus:
Just like on an airplane, my large suitcase was placed in the storage compartment under the bus and I was allowed to keep my backpack with me. I was not charged extra fees for either piece of luggage, but some companies do charge if you have over a certain number of bags, so check their specific policies before you buy a ticket.
I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable both journeys were. The one-way overnight bus ticket cost 70,000 pesos (about 25 USD) and the seats were better than what I have seen in first-class sections of planes. The seats were very soft and reclined. There was also ample legroom. The daytime trip cost a little less than 70,000 pesos and the seats weren’t quite as big, but the cheaper seats were still fine in my opinion.
During the 10-hour trip from Bogotá to Cali, we stopped once for lunch and to stretch our legs. The rest area had several restaurants serving traditional Colombian food and we were given about 45 minutes to eat.
Colombian police also stopped our bus several times. Drug dogs sniffed our suitcases stored under the bus. During the last stop, an officer boarded the bus, asked for our identification, searched each bag and patted down all the men on board. After the search, the officer let us go on our way.
Most buses have restrooms and the ones I used were relatively clean, but there was not any toilet paper. Lack of toilet paper in bathrooms is common in Colombia. I suggest you always carry some while traveling, even if you are not riding a bus.
Many of the charter buses in Colombia offer free Wi-Fi. I found that the signal wasn’t very strong and did not work during certain portions of the trip. I attempted to write offline, and even though the roads were paved, it was still very difficult to type on my laptop as the bus curved around the many mountains that separate Bogotá and other Colombian cities. However, the buses offered individual outlets for charging. There were also individual screens so each rider could watch movies and listen to music.
Even though bus travel in Colombia isn’t dangerous like it once was, it’s still important to be cautious (just like you would in any country). I kept my passport, cash and credit cards in one of those small travel pouches and wore it under my clothes. I also made sure a relative knew which bus company I was using, the time of departure and the time of expected arrival.
Popular Colombian Bus Companies
There are many bus companies in Colombia to choose from. Here are three companies with helpful websites: Bolivariano, Expreso Palmira and Velotax.
I can’t believe I wasted so much money flying between Colombian cities instead of just taking a bus. It’s true it takes longer to get to the destination, but the money I can save using buses in Colombia will allow me to explore more cities and take more tours.
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