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 Medellín to Santa Marta (or travel from Santa Marta to Medellín).
I normally split these posts into 3 categories, the cheapest way the mid-budget way and the no expenses spared way. However, prices fluctuate in Colombia so this changes from day to day.
Traveling by Air from Medellin to Santa Marta
This is actually the best and cheapest option normally! 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 go from the international airport but do check.
Be sure to check for the best flights on Skyscanner.
Be aware of the direct flights if they are with Viva Colombia. They are very strict on 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 hand luggage you will need to pay extra. So take this into account.
Getting to the airport in Medellin
The airport in Medellin is an hour away in Rionegro. A colectivo from Medellin to the airport will cost around $15mil COP and you can catch it from San Diego shopping center. The Colectivos to the airport in Medellin park at the petrol station.
A private taxi from Medellin to the airport is more like $70 mil COP.
To get to the airport in Santa Marta it is super easy and really cheap. You can get on one of the blue colectivos from Santa Marta to the airport for the bargain cost of $12,00 COP. Take the collectivo from the Carrera 1 (seafront) and it will drop you right outside Santa Marta airport. If you are coming from the airport then just wait outside airport arrivals until you see one of the blue buses.
How long does it take to fly between Medellin and Santa Marta?
The flight between Medellin and Santa Marta 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.
Traveling by Bus from Medellin to Santa Marta
The bus is by far the easiest way to go between Santa Marta and Medellin. However it isn’t much cheaper, in fact, it is often more expensive, and it takes a LONG time. They may tell you 15 hours, but that would be a lie! I was on the bus for at least 20 hours and this is pretty normal. That’s a long time to be on a bus!
To take the bus from Santa Marta to Medellin I would strongly recommend booking! Especially if you are planning to travel on one of the night buses. I didn’t book and ended up stranded overnight, the bus station closes at 10 pm so it’s not possible to sleep there! 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.
Getting to the bus station in Santa Marta
This is really easy. In Santa Marta just head to the market area and ask for a bus that goes to the bus terminal. This will cost $1200 COP or a taxi should be $5mil COP.
The bus will stop right outside the bus terminal. If you just find your way out onto the main road you can take a bus into town. Just ask the driver if you are unsure.
The Santa Marta bus drops off and picks up from the North Terminal (Terminal Norte) in Medellin you can take a colectivo there (just find one that says Terminal Norte) or a taxi from Laureles should be around $6 mil COP.
Why Get the Bus from Santa Marta to Medellin?
Even though taking the bus taken 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!
By Private Transfer from Medellin to Santa Marta
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.
Is it safe to travel by road in Colombia
I personally traveled many times by bus and at no point did I feel in danger. I also didn’t hear any issues from other travelers.
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 countries 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.
I hope this is helpful if you are backpacking in Colombia be sure to check out my other guides!
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:
If you need help getting to your next destination take a read of my Colombia transport guides:
This post was proofread by Grammarly
Book your trip now
Are you ready to book your trip? To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.
- Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with.
- Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
- Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there.
- Workpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Workpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership!
- 12Go – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then 12Go is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and air travel.
- RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
- World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review.
- SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here.
- Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration.
- Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.