Most travellers to Colombia will find themselves transiting between Bogotá and Medellín at some point, swapping the country’s metropolitan capital for the trendy, graffiti-covered streets of the second largest city.
There are essentially just two options for the journey from Bogotá to Medellín, travelling by public bus or booking a quick domestic flight— but how do these options compare in terms of time, convenience, cost, and safety? This Colombia transport guide will cover absolutely everything you need to know about travelling from Bogotá to Medellín via bus or plane, including how to get to the bus terminal or airport in Bogotá, how to buy your tickets, useful tips for the journey, and how to get to your hostel in Medellín.
Travelling between other popular destinations in Colombia? Check out all of my Colombia transport guides:
Buses in Colombia are incredibly nice, very inexpensive, and perfectly safe, which makes them the best transport option about 99% of the time (and, in my opinion, this includes the journey between Bogotá and Medellín).
At a glance: bus from Bogotá to Medellín * 60,000COP / $24AUD * 10-12hrs travel time (+ 1-2hrs getting to & from bus terminal) * Book directly at the bus terminal or online with BusBud
Step 1: Get to the bus terminal in Bogotá
Public transport to the bus terminalin Bogotá
From Bogotá’s popular La Candelaria district (where most of the tourist hostels are), you can take the Transmilenio bus Route 1 to El Tiempo-Maloka and then walk about 10min to reach the city’s main bus terminal, called Terminal de Transporte Salitre.
This option costs just 7,200COPor $2.80AUD (2,200COP fare + Tu Llave transport card) and takes about 1 hour, all said and done. It’s very inexpensive and reasonably easy to figure out, but do be aware that pickpocketing is a known issue on these buses, so you need to be on high alert when you’re travelling.
Uber to the bus terminal in Bogotá
If you’re willing to pay a little more for the safety and convenience of private transport, Uber is the best option for getting around Bogotá (and it’s actually quite inexpensive).
Pick up a local Colombian SIM card in Bogotá so you can use your phone for Uber, Google Maps, and WhatsApp throughout your trip.
There’s an absolutely enormous Claro shop within 15-20min walking distance of La Candelaria (search in Google Maps: Claro Carrera 8 – Centro de Atención y Ventas, Cra. 8 ## 19-41, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia). Bring your passport and your phone, and the staff can get you completely set up (just know that they likely won’t speak a single word of English). Including the SIM itself, you can get 2GB of data to use within 15 days for 20,000COP ($7.50AUD), and then subsequent top-ups can be done at basically any convenience or telecommunications shop around the country.
An Uber from La Candelaria to Terminal de Transporte Salitre (also called Peatonal Terminal Bogotá) costs around 23,000COP, which is less than $9AUD. In terms of overall safety, I think it’s definitely worth it, especially if you can find a fellow traveller to share with! It took me about 30min to get to the station in an Uber, but it can vary depending on time of day and traffic.
Step 2: Buy bus tickets to Medellín
Bogotá’s main bus terminal is divided into sections that service different areas, so you need to navigate towards the blue Módulo 2 (also called Módulo Azul) for buses to Medellín. Don’t worry, everything is really well signed and it’s very obvious once you arrive— your Uber driver might even ask which module you want before he drops you off!
Unless you’re travelling over a public holiday or during peak season, there’s no need to buy bus tickets in advance. Still, it can be helpful to have an idea of the schedule and the available options before rocking up at the station. The best way to check bus routes, current timetables, and prices before you travel on Colombia’s public buses is the super-handy comparison site BusBud.
There are a number of bus companies operating the route from Bogotá to Medellín, including Bolivariano, Flota Magdalena, Rápido Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia, and Arauca.I can’t comment on all companies, but I know Bolivariano and Expreso Brasilia tend to be really nice, so they would be my first choice.
Each company has multiple departures a day, so it would be pretty rare that you can’t find something leaving in the next few hours.
Cost of bus tickets from Bogotá to Medellín
Bus tickets from Bogotá to Medellín should be around 60,000-80,000COP ($24-32AUD), depending on which company you choose and when you’re travelling.
Also note that you’ll be required to show your passport when you purchase your bus ticket, so be sure to have it handy.
I’d recommend taking a night bus if it’s available, as this has the dual benefit of maximising your time in Bogotá and Medellín (no need to waste a whole day on the bus) AND saves you the cost of a hostel for the night. Factoring that into the cost of the ticket, it really is extremely cheap to take the bus from Bogotá to Medellín.
Essential Spanish for buying a bus ticket
Me gustaría comprar un boleto a Medellín, por favor. | I would like to buy a bus ticket to Medellín, please.
A qué hora es el próximo bus? | What time is the next bus?
A qué hora el bus llegas en Medellín? | What time does the bus arrive in Medellín?
Cuánto cuesta este boleto? | How much does this ticket cost?
Es posible pagar con una tarjeta? | Is it possible to pay with a credit card?
El bus tiene un baño? | Does the bus have a toilet?
De donde sale el bus? | Where does the bus depart from?
Before you get on the bus
Just before you get on the bus, staff will sight your ticket, tag your large bag (you get a copy of this tag to reclaim your bag later), and then place it under the bus. This is totally safe (as long as you’re not giving your bag to some random to “put under the bus for you”), but it’s still a good idea to keep your valuables in a carry-on just so they don’t get too knocked around on the journey.
If you have a bit of time before getting on the bus, stock up on snacks and drinks at the bus terminal. I’d also recommend putting a jacket and a scarf in your carry-on, if you haven’t already— expect the bus to be freezing (and as much as that sucks to have the aircon blasting, it’s actually helpful to if you get car sick, so I can’t completely fault the logic).
Step 3: Travel by bus from Bogotá to Medellín
The route from Bogotá to Medellin is always advertised by bus companies as 9-10hrs, but I haven’t spoken to a single person whose bus journey took less than 11hrs— and it’s not unheard of to spend 12hrs on the bus if traffic or road conditions are bad. Do not expect to arrive on time (and that pretty much goes for all buses in Colombia).
Tardiness aside, Colombian buses are incredibly nice, and you can expect comfortable seats and even seat-back TVs (playing Spanish films) with most companies. There wasn’t a toilet on board my bus, but we did make a 20min stop at a roadside restaurant to use their baños and have a bite. Most buses will only stop once between Bogotá and Medellín, so drink accordingly (i.e. probably not the time to catch up on your hydration).
Step 4: Get to your hostel in Medellín
When you do finally arrive into Medellín, reclaim your bag using the ticket the staff previously gave you and then either take the Metro or order an Uber to your hostel.
Public transport from the bus terminal in Medellín
Buses from Bogotá arrive into Medellín’s busier northern bus terminal (Terminal Norte), which is directly and very conveniently connected to the Caribe Metro Station. Follow signs to the Metro and then purchase a ticket for 2,550COP ($1AUD). You can buy the ticket directly from the counter, and there’s no need to say where you’re headed— all tickets on the Medellín Metro cost the same!
Medellín’s metro network is insanely easy to navigate, quite safe, and so convenient that I would actually recommend taking a train from the bus terminal to your hostel rather than an Uber (unlike in Bogotá, where I’d definitely recommend an Uber over public transport).
From Caribe, hop on a train towards La Estrella and then disembark at Poblado Metro Station, which is located in the popular tourist district of El Poblado and should be walking distance from most hostels.
Uber from the bus terminal in Medellín
If you want to take an Uber to your hostel in Medellín, it should only cost around 10,000COP ($4AUD) from Terminal Norteto El Poblado, although that is subject to change based on time of day or how busy the roads are.
Flying from Bogotá to Medellín
Even though I would recommend taking a bus from Bogotá to Medellín, it’s pretty obvious why some travellers choose to fly— it will take you a fraction of the time to fly between these cities as it would to drive AND Colombia has super budget airlines that will get you there without a whole lot of expense.
Once you factor in the need to arrive to the airport early and the irritating extra expense of checking bags, flights aren’t quite as quick or cheap as they first appear, but this option is still likely to appeal to travellers who are short on time.
At a glance: flight from Bogotá to Medellín * 80,000COP (+ 45,000COP checked bag + 20,000COP boarding pass) / $56AUD total * 1-2hrs flight time (+ 2hrs check-in + 1-2hrs getting to & from airport) * Book online with Viva Airor compare flights using Skyscanner
Step 1: Get to the airport in Bogotá
Public transport to the airportin Bogotá
There’s a Transmilenio station connected to the Bogotá Airport (officially the El Dorado Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento International Airport), so this is a fairly convenient way to get there from La Candelaria.
Taking the bus into the airport costs 7,200COP (2,200COP fare + Tu Llave transport card) and takes about 1 hour from the Universidades stop, which you can hopefully walk to from your hostel. As I mentioned previously, just be aware that pickpocketing is a known issue on these buses, so you need to be on high alert when you’re travelling on the Transmilenio in Bogotá, particularly with all of your bags.
Uber to the airport in Bogotá
An Uber to the airport in Bogotá is typically around 40,000COP ($16AUD) and only takes 30min, traffic dependent. This can be a great option if you just want to get there quickly and safely for your flight.
Step 2: Check in for your flight to Medellín
Check-in for your flight as usual, just be aware that budget airlines like Viva Air LOVE to charge you for “extras”, which range from standard add-ons like checked luggage (45,000COP or $18AUD online and double that at the airport) to absolutely ridiculous fees like 20,000COP to print your boarding pass. No joke, we were charged 20,000COP because we didn’t have access to a printer in the middle of our Colombia trip (obviously) and therefore couldn’t print our own boarding passes. Learn from my mistakes and print your boarding pass before you leave home OR ask to print at your hostel!
When you consider the cost of the ticket (80-90,000COP) + checking a backpack (45,000COP) + printing a boarding pass (20,000COP), the total cost of flying from Bogotá to Medellín is easily $60AUD, or about 2.5x the cost of a bus ticket.
Purchase your flights online through Viva Air and buy checked baggage at the same time, as this will save you considerably. If you want to consider other airlines in your search, I’d recommend using Skyscanner to find the best deal.
Step 3: Fly from Bogotá to Medellín
The flight from Bogotá to Medellín is typically just 1hour, and although budget airlines like Viva certainly don’t have any fancy trimmings, it’s more than comfortable on a short journey.
Do remember, though, that you also need to factor in the time to actually check-in for your flight (1-2hrs early), plus the added transport time to the Bogotá Airport (30min-1.5hrs) and from the Medellín airport (30min-2hrs). All up, you’re looking at around 5hrs of total travel time. It’s definitely not as quick to fly as it originally appears— butit is still a lot quicker than the bus.
Step 4: Get to your hostel in Medellín
Public transport from the airport in Medellín
José María Cordova International Airport (MDE) is actually located around 35km out of Medellín, so there’s no option to just hop on a quick and convenient metro train to get to El Poblado.
The best option in terms of shared transport is the official Aeropuerto-Combuses (busetas) departing near gates 2A and 2B (10,000COP or $4AUD; buy your ticket from the driver). It will take approximately 60min to get to Medellín on this bus, which terminates at the Hotel Nutibara.
From here, walk about 300m to the Parque Berrío Metro Station, purchase a one-way ticket (2,550COP / $1AUD), hop on a train bound for La Estrella, and disembark at Poblado about 15min later. Allow around 1.5-2hrs to get to your hostel in El Poblado using this option.
Uber from the airport in Medellín
There are heaps of taxis operating from the airport, and although it’s safe enough to trust these registered companies, the taxi fare into Medellín can be quite expensive (90-100,000COP or $36-40AUD, which is the price of your flight!). Uber is a bit cheaper at 80,000COP ($32AUD), but still adds a considerable amount to the overall cost of flying.
Thanks to a newly completed tunnel running through the mountains, the hour-long drive from the airport to Medellín now only takes around 30min, although this can certainly vary depending on time of day and traffic. If you’re not overly concerned about an extra $25AUD and you just want to get to Medellín quickly and without hassle, this is your best bet.