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How to get from Medellin to Cartagena

If you are backpacking around Colombia it is important to know the best way to get from A to B. In this guide, I’m going to share with you the different ways you can travel from Medellin to Cartagena (or travel from Cartagena to Medellin).

I normally split these posts into 3 categories, the cheapest way to get from Medellin to Cartagena, the mid-budget way, and the no-expenses-spared way. However, prices fluctuate in Colombia so this changes from day to day.

Need a Colombia backpacking route? Click here to read mine.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Fly from Medellin to Cartagena

Flying from Medellin to Cartagena is actually the best and cheapest option normally… You can get some really cheap flights from Medellin to Cartagena on Skyscanner. Having traveled both by bus and by plane I can 100% say fly if you can. Over Christmas and during peak times airfares go up so it may be cheaper to get the bus. In my experience booking a few weeks in advance, it was at least $10 cheaper to fly.

There are 2 airports in Medellin. A small one close to the south bus terminal and a large international one in Reonegro. Most flights from Medellin to Cartagena go from the international airport but do check.

Extra Charges

Be aware if the direct flight you book is with Viva Colombia. They are very strict about printing out boarding passes and luggage. If you book with them read the fine print and don’t break the rules, otherwise, it is likely to cost you a lot more than the airfare. If you want to take more than 5kg of hand luggage you will need to pay extra, you need to take this into account.

Getting to the Medellin Airport

The airport in Medellin is an hour away in Rionegro. A colectivo will cost around $15mil COP and you can catch it from San Diego shopping center. They normally park at the petrol station. A private taxi is more like $70 mil COP.

To get to the airport in Cartagena you will need to get a taxi. There are buses but you need a card to pay for it as they don’t take cash. Unless you are going to be there for a while and taking the bus a lot it’s not worth it. A taxi shouldn’t cost more than $10mil COP.

How long is the flight from Medellin to Cartagena?

The flight between Medellin and Cartagena is really quick, under 45 minutes. If you are not checking in luggage you just need to be there an hour before boarding and you will walk right out of the airport at the other side. It should take around 3 hours max in total. If you have to change to Bogota then the flight will take longer.

Medellin Cartagena by Bus

The best way to book your bus from Medellin to Cartagena is through GuateGo.The Cartagena Medellin bus is by far the easiest way to go when you take into consideration having to deal with airport security etc. However it isn’t much cheaper, it is often more expensive, and it takes a LONG time. They may tell you 12 hours but expect more like 18-20.

Medellin to Cartagena,cartagena,medellin,How to get from Medellin to Cartagena

Do You Need to Book the Bus from Medellin to Cartagena?

To take the bus from Medellin to Cartagena I would strongly recommend booking early! Especially if you are planning to travel on one of the night buses. They often get booked up so don’t risk it if you want a night bus. Book your ticket on Busbud (you MUST print off your ticket). Or go to the bus station and pre-book the bus at least 24 hours before.

Medellin to Cartagena,cartagena,medellin,How to get from Medellin to Cartagena

Getting to the Bus Station in Medellin and Cartagena

In Cartagena, the easiest way is to take a taxi. The bus station is about 11km to the east of the city and it should cost around 15mil COP. Or if you want to save some money you can take a bus from Avenue Santander, just look for one that says Terminal des Transportes. The bus will stop right outside the bus terminal and should only cost a few mil COP.

In Medellin , the Cartagena bus drops off and picks up from the North Terminal (Terminal Norte) you can take a colectivo there (just find one that says Terminal Norte) or a taxi from Laureles should be around $6Mi COP. If you don’t know Medellin and your Spanish isn’t great I would get a taxi and the colectivos can be confusing!

Why Take the Bus?

Even though taking the bus takes a ridiculous amount of time and isn’t that much different in cost I often prefer the bus. If I have luggage it’s just so much easier to sling my bag on a bus and sit there for a day than have to deal with packing my bag, weighing it, and dealing with the whole airport security stress. So if you aren’t in any rush and you hate airports as much as me then the bus is a good option. They are comfortable, the food is better and cheaper (well that’s if you are lucky and the driver lets the guys who board the bus to sell food on) and there are no hidden costs!

Need some tips to help you survive long bus journeys? Read this!

By Private Transfer from Medellin to Cartagena

Does anyone even do this? Honestly, I really wouldn’t recommend it. But if you want someone to organize everything for you and money is no object then speak to my friends at Colombian Buddy. They can organize an English or Spanish-speaking driver who can drive you around Colombia.

A bit about travel in Colombia

It is no secret that Colombia is emerging out of decades of civil war. During this time it was extremely unsafe to travel by road anywhere. For that reason, Colombia’s infrastructure for traveling between cities isn’t great. Even though the geographical distance may not look far, for the most part, you have to go over and around the mountains on single-track roads. It can be slow going! However, as the roads are now considered safe and as more people are traveling the government is investing in the country’s roads. Within the next decade, bus journeys will get quicker and it will be much easier to travel. For example, a new tunnel due to be completed at the end of 2018 connecting Medellin and San Jose airport will half the drive time.

Wondering where to stay in Medellin? I recommend staying in either El Poblado or Laureles, and here are a few of my favorite places to stay:

Parceros Med Hostel (I stayed here for a month and loved it!)
Los Patios Hostel Boutique
Purple Monkey Hostel
Hostal Medellin -Laureles
El Jardín de la 10 – El Poblado

You can also read my full Where to Stay in Medellin Guide here.

Wondering where to stay in Cartagena? Here are my personal recommendations:

Selina Cartagena

El Barrio Hostal

Bourbon St Hostal Boutique

Casa La Fe by BespokeColombia

Hotel InterContinental Cartagena

Claire's Itchy feet | How to get from Medellín to Cartagena

This post was proofread by Grammarly