Buses are the most affordable transport option for long distance travel in Colombia and South America. The buses themselves range in quality but for inter-city travel you will generally travel in four or five star coaches with onboard toilet, air-conditioning (see below) and on occasion, movies (mostly in Spanish).


Wikipedia CC. Aleko

You can catch a bus to Santa Marta from Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin or Cali. You can find a directory of the bus terminals in the major cities below.

If you use a taxi to get to the terminal the minimum fare for metered taxis ranges from 3,000-5,000 COP (approximately USD$1.50-$2.50). Some taxis may work off a fixed fare system depending on distance so you’ll need to ask the driver how much it will be. Bus terminals are a well-known landmark in each city so you should not need to provide the address to the driver. Be aware that some cities like Medellin have more than one terminal.

Most terminals will have counters (taquillas in Spanish) for the different areas around the country. You may find more than one counter offering trips to the same area when multiple companies service a particular region. It’s not necessary to book ahead for bus trips. Expect to pay around 80,000 to 110,000 COP (approximately USD$40-50) to travel from somewhere like Medellin to Santa Marta (16hrs around 1000km).

Quick Facts about Buses in Colombia:

  • When going on an overnight journey make sure to have something warm to wear, or carry a blanket. The air conditioning on overnight buses is set to cold and the driver will not adjust it.
  • The bus will make the occasional stop on longer journeys for driver switches and also for food. It pays to take some small snacks.
  • Occasionally you may have people board the bus trying to sell various items to you or perform an act (juggling etc) for money. You should not feel pressured to pay or buy from these people.
  • Most bus companies will offer to check your baggage – similar to an airport system. You should recieve a baggage tag if you check an item of baggage.
  • For security – you may be videotaped by a bus company employee when you first board. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Distances and Travel Times:
Bogotá to Cali: 12 Hours (511km / 318 miles)
Bogotá to Medellín: 9 Hours (440km / 273 miles)
Bogotá to Cartagena: 23 Hours (1090km / 677 miles)
Bogotá to Barranquilla: 20 Hours (985km / 612 miles)
Bogotá to Santa Marta: 19 Hours (952km / 592 miles)

Santa Marta:
Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta
Website: Santa Marta Bus Terminal
Calle 30, Santa Marta, Magdalena

Minibuses go to the terminal from Carrera 1C in the centre of the city.

Terminal de Transporte Barranquilla
Website: Barranquilla Bus Terminal
Av Murillo, Barranquilla, Atlantico

Terminal de Transportes de Cartagena
Website: Cartagena Bus Terminal

Green and white shuttle buses leave the city every 10 minutes. Catch one from Av Daniel Lemaitre. Approximate cost is 1,000 COP / USD$0.50.

Terminal De Transporte Bogotá
Website: Bogotá Bus Terminal

The Bogotá bus terminal is color coded to show which companies travel to a particular area: Yellow = South, Blue = East and West, Red = North and International, Purple = Arrivals.

Terminal De Transporte Del Norte
Terminal De Transporte Del Sur

Website: Medellín Bus Terminal

Medellín has both a northern and southern bus terminal. (Terminal del Norte and Terminal del Sur) It takes around 16 hours to reach Santa Marta from the northern terminal which is located at Caribe station on the metro.

Centrales de Transportes S.A. – Terminal Cali
Website: Cali Bus Terminal
Calle 30N 2an-29 Piso 2 Of 312

You can catch a bus from Cali up to the Caribbean or break the trip up by going through

You can reach the Cali bus terminal in about 25 minutes if you walk from the center of the city. Or you can take a ten minute ride on a city bus. And a taxi will cost you about 3,000 COP or USD$1.50. Medellin is a nine hour bus ride away while it takes 12 hours to get to Bogotá.