Getting there and away, Getting around by Air, Train, Bus, Car, Motorcycle, Boat, Hitchhiking, Bicycle ...Getting There by Air
The national airline is Avianca (AV) (website: www.avianca.com.co). Avianca and British Airways each operate flights daily to Bogotá. Other airlines flying to Colombia include Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Iberia and Spanair, but, as with Avianca, some may not fly directly there but with other airlines as part of a Code Share agreement.
Bogotá (El Dorado) (BOG) is situated 12km (8 miles) east of the city. To/from the airport: Buses to the city depart every 20 minutes from 0600-2200 (travel time – 30 minutes). Taxis are also available. Facilities: Bank, duty free shop, bar, restaurant, tourist information, post office, chemist/pharmacist and car hire.
Barranquilla (Ernesto Cortissoz) (BAQ) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Facilities: Car hire is available.
Cali (Palmaseca) (CLO) is 19km (12 miles) from the city.
Cartagena (Crespo) (CTG) is 2km (1 mile) from the city.
Approximate Flight Times
Approximate flight times
From London to Bogotá is 11 hours 45 minutes, from Los Angeles is 10 hours 30 minutes, from New York is six hours 30 minutes, and from Sydney is 29 hours.
Either collected upon ticket issuance or levied upon embarkation. Transit passengers continuing their journey on the same day are exempt. The price will be £28 or possibly more - payable by cash only.
The Visit South America Pass
This must be bought outside South America in country of residence and allows unlimited travel to 34 cities in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile (except Easter Island), Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines include Aer Lingus (EI), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Finnair (AY), Iberia (IB), LAN-Chile (LA) and Qantas (QF). A minimum of three flights must be booked, with no maximum; the maximum stay is 60 days, with no minimum, and prices depend on the amount of flight zones covered. Children under 12 years of age are entitled to a 33 per cent discount and infants (under two years old) only pay 10 per cent of the adult fare. For further details, contact one of the participating airlines. For more information visit www.oneworld.com.
All air tickets purchased in Colombia for destinations outside the country are liable to a total tax of 15 per cent on one-way tickets and 7.5 per cent on return tickets.
Getting There by Water
Major ports on the Caribbean coast include Cartagena, Baranquilla, Santa Marta and Turnaco. Buenaventura is the main port on the Pacific coast. Many ships and cruise lines visit these ports from the USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Leticia is the upper Amazonian port.
Getting There by Rail
There are no international rail connections.
Getting There by Road
Colombia can be reached from Panama via the Darien Gap, but the route is not advised as it can be long, arduous and dangerous. Vehicles can also be freighted from Panama to one of Colombia’s Caribbean or Pacific ports. There are also road links with Ecuador and Venezuela, although travellers should check with the local embassy about safety of roads before crossing the border to Venezuela. Coach/bus: TEPSA buses connect with Venezuela. Coaches are comfortable and services good. There are second-class buses from Maracaibo to Santa Marta and Cartagena, but this method of travelling can be uncomfortable.
Getting Around by Air
There is an excellent internal air network connecting major cities, including those in the Caribbean coastal area. There are also local helicopter flights. There are flights between the mainland and the islands of San Andrés and Providencia operating from most major Colombian cities. Services are offered by Avianca, SAM and Aires. San Andrés is a regular stop for Avianca, Lacsa and Sahsa airlines.
Getting Around by Water
There is a ferry service between the mainland and the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, leaving from the Muelle de los Pegasos. The journey is long (72 hours) but cheap. Information about other sailings to San Andrés can be obtained from the Maritima San Andrés office.
The Magdalena River is the main artery of Colombia. Some cargo boats take passengers, though this is a slow way to travel. It is possible to hire boats for particular trips. Paddle steamers no longer run services up and down the river and hiring can be expensive. From Leticia, on the Peruvian border, a number of operators run sightseeing tours and jungle expeditions up the Amazon. It is necessary to make enquiries locally, and wise to shop around before booking on any one trip.
Getting Around by Rail
Although trains still carry freight, inter-city passenger services are virtually non-existent. Services have been frequently suspended during recent years owing to operators’ financial difficulties. The main route is between Bogotá and Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, east of Barranquilla. Because of the distances, it is easier to take a plane if speed is important.
Getting Around by Road
A good highway links Santa Marta in the east with Cartagena, and passes Barranquilla en route. The Trans-Caribbean Highway has placed Barranquilla only five hours away from Venezuela. Northeast of Santa Marta, in the Guajira Peninsula, roads are usually passable except during rainy periods. There is highway transportation between the coastal cities and the capital and other cities of the interior, but much of the highway is rutted. Travellers are advised against driving in rural areas as guerilla and paramilitary groups have a strong presence. Bus: The long distances make air travel advisable. However, the best bus lines are said to be the Flota Magdalena, Expreso Bolivariano and, especially, the Expreso Palmira. Approximately 40 companies with modern buses and minibuses provide transportation between coastal towns and cities. There are also collectivos (taxi-buses) for shorter distances which can often be a cheaper alternative. Car hire: The major international companies have offices, but driving in cities is not recommended. Traffic drives on the right. Seat belts in the front two seats are mandatory; however, car seats for children are not compulsory. Children under ten years of age cannot sit in the front seat. The urban speed limit is 45-60kph (28-37mph), and the rural speed limit is 80kph (50mph). Documentation: An International Driving Permit is required.
Bogotá has extensive trolleybus, bus and minibus services, and a funicular railway; flat fares are charged. There are also shared taxis (buseta) which are not expensive and stop on demand. Drivers are authorised to add a supplement for out-of-town trips and to airports. At hotels, the green-and-cream coloured taxis are available for tourists. They are more expensive than the others, but some of the drivers may have a working knowledge of English. Passengers should insist that meters are used. For those without a meter the fare should be agreed before starting a journey.
This must be bought with an international air ticket and includes travel to all Colombian domestic points served by Avianca, SAM and Aires. It excludes travel to Leticia and San Andrés Pass. Air passes are valid for a maximum of 30 days if longhaul flight is with Avianca and 21 days if longhaul flight with any other carrier.
Travel Company in Colombia: www.travelcolombiadirect.com
COP6800-8500, usually included in the ticket price.
The following chart gives approximate travel times from Bogotá (in hours and minutes) to other major towns/cities in Colombia.
IDD service to most areas; calls to smaller centres must be made through the international operator. Country code: 57. Outgoing international code: 90. Many public telephones now work only with phone cards produced by Empresa de Teléfonos de Bogotá (ETB), which can be bought in many shops and kiosks.
Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies. Coverage is variable.
Internet cafes exist in the main cities.
Colombia is a very dangerous place for journalists who face intimidation by drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary groups. More than 120 Colombian journalists were killed in the 1990s, many for reporting on drug trafficking and corruption.
Press: Spanish dailies include El Tiempo, El Espacio, El Nuevo Siglo and Vanguardia Liberal. TV: Senal Colombia is state-run; Caracol TV is a private commercial network. Other channels include Cadena Uno, Telecaribe and RCN TV.
Radio: There are hundreds of stations. The main networks are state run Radio Nacional de Colombia, Cadena Super including Radio Super and Super Stereo FM, Caracol, which runs flagship station Caracol Colombia and Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN Radio) which is a mediumwave (AM) network with many affiliates.
Post offices are marked Correos. Post office opening hours: Mon-Sat 0800-1200. There are two types of service: urban post (green letter boxes) and inter-urban and international (yellow boxes). Letters and packets sent by airmail normally take five to seven days to reach their destination.