How do you get around Colombia on a budget while staying safe on the road? Here are a some tips from a female solo traveller.
It is wise to always have your hostel call you a taxi to avoid being scammed. Viva Colombia has really cheap inland flights which is really good for longer distances but overnight buses are always a great alternative, too.
This information is based on my itinerary for 3 weeks in Colombia: Colombia Travel Guide
Medellin to Cartagena: Take a taxi to Terminal del Norte (COP16,000/taxi); buses to Cartagena were booked out online and the schedule was very different than what I saw at the station; there were plenty of seats available in a variety of buses. I paid $145,000 for a bus at 8.40pm with arrival in Cartagena at 10 am (seats recline but it is freezing cold in there!). From the bus station you need to take a taxi to the hostel (to Media Luna it was COP 22,000 (fixed price) or the cheaper option would be to take the Metrocar (bus) to the center for only COP 1,500. There are lots of moto taxis so if you’re brave enough, take one of those.
Cartagena to Playa Blanca: A taxi is so expensive (COP 30,000) so probably opt for the cheaper (and so much more fun, yet slightly scarier) option of bus and moto taxi. So if you stay at Hostal Media Luna/Mamallena, walk away from the city center to the crossroads with the police checkpoint. Take a bus from there to Pasacaballos (you may need to ask several bus drivers, it can be a bit confusing; and yes, you need to stop the bus or they’ll just pass by). You might to instead want to take a bus to Caribe Plaza and change to the bus to Pasacaballos from there (COP 1,800; 20 minutes). Ask locals to tell you when to get out though you will notice as moto taxi drivers will get onto the bus and offer you a ride. Pick a driver you think is strong, or talented enough to take you on the back of his back, your backpack balancing on his handlebars. You will go through a dirt road, then on a highway and back onto a dirt road. This thrilling 20-30 minutes ride will cost you COP 10,000. On the way back, this whole moto taxi journey was taken to another level when an Argentinian guy and I ordered what we thought to be two moto taxis back to Pasacaballos. Turned out to be just one bike – three people on it and two backpacks on the handlebar. Yep, the things you do backpacking.
Cartagena to Minca: I booked a shuttle bus through the hostel to Santa Marta for COP 45,000 (4-5 hours). You will then need to take a taxi to the “Colectivo” station for COP 7,000 and then a colectivo (a shared jeep taxi) for another COP 7,000 to Minca (about 45 minutes). This will get to the village centre. If you’re staying at Casa Loma, you will have to hike up the stairs close to the curch. If you’re off to Casa Elemento, it’s another moto taxi ride for you (unless they’re in town with their jeep and can give you a lift) (COP 20,000 but I negotiated COP 16,000; 50 minutes). Expect an even bumpier and steeper ride than the one to Playa Blanca! You’ll hit some deep holes so hold on tight! You could take a jeep taxi but I think this is around COP 50,000 or more.
Minca/Santa Marta to Palominio Beach: Take a bus from Santa Marta to Palomino (2 hours for COP 8,000), a short walk from where the colectivo will drop you off. This bus is the same bus that would take you to Parque Tayrona, just get off about half way.
Now go, discover new places! Happy travels – and any questions, give me a shout!
You may also be interested in where to eat, sleep and drink in Colombia: Budget accommodation, restaurants and bars