Accepted bus travel in Colombia takes longer than flying but:
- you see the country,
- the seats are more comfortable,
- you don’t have to arrive hours before departure,
- there is far less bureaucratic sludge to tramp through (all for you good you know!),
- you can make jokes or comments about the driver or baggage handler without threats of prosecution!
- there's no delay waiting for your assigned luggage carousel to start spitting out cases.
- there’s no luggage lottery hoping to see your suitcase.
So altogether bus travel is a far more enjoyable, cheaper and predictable experience.
Bus Travel in Colombia - Medellin to Bogota
The Colombia bus trip from Medellin to Bogota takes about 10 hours. We didn’t take a chance on arriving and getting a seat so went to the bus office and booked tickets. We arrived to book our tickets without our passports and had some hassles getting them.
As there’s a risk of losing a passport we now use scanned copies on the phone for this information.
Bus terminals in both Asia and South America can be intimidating as they are very big and very busy. We arrived early and despite asking did a fair bit of searching for the departure point. The search was more of a challenge as our bus had not yet arrived!
Sometimes there are weird moments. Before leaving someone came through the bus taking pictures of all the passengers. Who knows why?
Our luggage was tagged as we climbed aboard and we had assigned seats. Although we left a few minutes late it was in a very comfortable, single level luxury bus.
The trip has a elevation profile starting in Medellin at 1 500 metres (4 900 feet) down to 200 metres (600 feet) before climbing up to Bogota at over 2 600 metres (8 600 feet).
The first few hours are through big mountains. Winding roads steep up and steep down – with no straight section longer than 200 metres. The driver used this section and the full road to get back on time … throwing the bus through the corners and taking every opportunity to overtake slower moving traffic.
Clinging to the towering mountain sides were houses, little shops, hotels and restaurants. Little farms with “mountain” cows and fields with crops virtually growing horizontally. Streams tumbling down over the rocky beds.
We were stopped for the customary police check.
Roads are not busy but there’s many large trucks. The roads around towns have very effective speed bumps which have to be negotiated slowly.
After 3 hours you reach the flat central valley of the Magdalena River. Flat and lush. We sped on past herds of cattle in lush pastures and large haciendas.
As we crossed the Rio Magdalena we saw evidence of the conflict – a large sign saying militaria zona no photographs.
After a rapid drive through the valley we stopped for lunch at a busy roadside restaurant. Gone was the mild temperature of Medellin and now you felt you were in the tropics.
As we ordered lunch we realized that our survival Spanish without Google translate wouldn't do much for our survival! With the help of a local we were served chicken with rice and onions and two “soup bowls” of coffee
Soon after leaving the lunch stop we started the climb up to Bogota rapidly winding roads down again precipitous drop offs. Hundreds and hundreds of meters with more farms on the steep slopes and more land for sale.
Another valley another town. Bustling and full of life.
On the climb we passed many slow moving trucks and tankers. Overtaking is not easy but this wasn’t a deterent to our driver … who kept things on the edge
We arrived in Bogota in the pouring rain to start our next city adventure.
Bus travel in Colombia reflects the Colombian society … vibrant with a raw, spirited and pulsating energy.