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How to get from Medellin to Cartagena
Time to enjoy some Caribbean vibes! Cartagena is a flurry of vibrant colours and cheerful smiles that radiate from the faces of locals. It’s the ideal place to get lost in the colonial style streets whilst following the sounds of the music that drift throughout the city.
Medellin to Cartagena is a 634 km (400 miles) journey. The two main ways to cover this distance are a 1-hour flight or a 13-hour bus ride. Fares range between $19 (87,000 COP) to $32.50 (150,000 COP).
2 ways to get from Medellin to Cartagena
|Flight||1 hour||$19 (87,000 COP)||Check Flights|
|Bus||13 hours||$32.50 (150,000 COP)||Check Bus Tickets|
Night buses are a great way to save money on accommodation, while catching some sleep at the same time. Most buses are very comfortable and offer a number of facilities, usually having more space than a plane. However, this particular ride may be too long for some people as it takes over 13 hours from Medellin to Cartagena!
Flying may be a more convenient option for those short on time, as it takes just over one hour as opposed to the 13 hours on the road. However, transfers to and from airports may increase the total cost in case you are on a budget.
In Colombia domestic flights are affordable and the price is often competitive with the bus rates. If you book some time in advance as well, the chances of finding a cheap flight significantly increase and can be equal or even cheaper than the bus fare.
If you do choose to fly, consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment.
Medellin to Cartagena by Flight
Medellin has two airports, however all direct flights from Medellin to Cartagena depart from Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE), located 30 km from the city in Rionegro.
Step 1: From Medellin to the airport
To get to Jose María Cordoba Airport from Medellin there are three main options available every day: taxi, Colectivo or bus.
Taxis have a flat rate of $17.50 (80,000 COP) and take about 30 minutes. They are the safest option if you are flying at night.
Colectivos are shared taxis where you share the taxi cost with other people. If there are 4 people you will pay $4.30 (20,000 COP) and they will go straight to the airport. This option is good only if you do not have a lot of luggage. They depart from San Diego Mall in the city centre.
The bus service is provided by the company, Combuses. They depart every 15 minutes from San Diego Mall or in front of Nutibara hotel, both within the city centre area. They will all say ‘Aeropuerto JMC’ on the front and cost $2.30 (10,500 COP), which is to be paid directly to the driver.
Step 2: Medellin to Cartagena by Flight
There are 3 airlines covering the Medellin to Cartagena route; Avianca, Latam and Viva Air. They all offer a cabin-luggage-only fare so, if you’re travelling light, you can save some money here. There are around 6 departures a day from 06:30 to 19:00 and the flight time is approximately 1 hour.
In terms of service, Avianca is a bigger airline and their service is superior. They offer refreshments and most planes have an individual tv and charging ports. Latam is a good second choice though, offering a fairly good service too.
Viva air, on the other hand, is a low-cost airline and they will charge extra for everything, even checking in at the airport. Most of the time their service is poor, so unless the price difference with the other airlines is significant (which is not often the case), we don’t really recommend it.
Step 3: Cartagena airport to the city centre
You’ll arrive at Rafael Nunez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena, about 5 km (3 miles) away from the city centre.
There are 3 ways to get from the airport to the city centre: bus, taxi or private transfer.
Buses are a good option if you don’t have a lot of luggage, but keep in mind that drop off stations can sometimes be 15-minute walks away from most hostels/hotels. Therefore, the most comfortable way is to take a taxi.
Option 1: Cartagena Airport by Transcaribe Bus
The orange and white buses by Transcaribe, line T102, run frequently from just outside of the airport. This service passes by the city centre and runs from 05:30-21:00 every day. The ride takes about 20 minutes, depending on traffic.
The bus stop is on Calle 70 and Carrera 4, one block from the airport. The only Transcaribe line stopping there is the T102, so you won’t get lost. The bus rate is $0.50 (2,500 COP)
There are 2 stops equally close to the city centre, one is called ‘Parque Apolo’ and the other one ‘Boquete San Diego’. Don’t be afraid of the long names, you can just ask for ‘Centro’ or ‘San Diego’ and the driver or other passengers will help you to get off at the right stop.
Option 2: Cartagena Airport by Taxi
The taxi service runs 24 hours per day and is available from just outside of the arrivals gate.
Taxi prices are fixed depending on your destination area. Follow the signs to the taxi counter right outside the arrivals gate and indicate the area or neighbourhood where you are going. They will hand you a ticket with the price printed on it. You should give this ticket to the driver at the end of the ride along with your payment.
An average price for a ride to most hotel areas is $3.20 (15,000 COP), but it can be slightly more or less depending on the distance.
Option 3: Cartagena Airport by Private Transfer
Unlike other countries, Colombia’s taxi’s service is relatively poor; most vehicles are small and drivers are often rude. If you prefer comfort and good customer service, the best option is to hire a private transfer.
Multiple companies offer transfer services between the airport and the city centre where the driver usually waits for you outside the terminal.
You can book the type of car you want, and most will offer amenities such as water bottles, AC and music.
The price of a private transfer for 2 people starts from $10.50 (50,000 COP) and it’s a set price to any location within the urban area. You can book online via BookAway.
Medellin to Cartagena by Bus
Step 1: Medellin to Cartagena
There are two major bus companies that can take you from Medellin to Cartagena: Expreso Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa. They depart from Terminal del Norte in MedellinThe buses are quite comfortable. They have meal services, reclining seats, wifi (not always reliable though), individual TVs, AC, charging ports and toilets.
Expreso Brasilia is considered to be ahead in terms of services and amenities. Rapido Ochoa, on the other hand, could be a little bit cheaper, but still does the job just as well.
Rapido Ochoa has four departures a day, while Expreso Brasilia schedules ten buses. Both company’s buses run between 05:30 and 22:30.
Buses scheduled between 16:30 and 22:30 are overnight buses, and perfect for arriving at your destination during the day.
You can book your tickets online (showing them on a mobile is not sufficient, so make sure to print your ticket in advance!). You can also buy your ticket directly at the bus terminal, but keep in mind that night buses tend to sell out quickly, especially on weekends, so it is better to book ahead.
Bus schedule from Medellin to Cartagena
|Expreso Brasilia||7 departures a day from |
05:30 to 21:30
|13 hours|| $39 (180,000 COP)|
Check Bus Tickets
|Rapido Ochoa||4 departures from 05:30-18:30; |
17:30-06:30; 20:15-09:15; 22:30-11:30
|13 hours|| $32 (147,000 COP)|
Check Bus Tickets
Step 2: Cartagena Bus Terminal to the city centre
Cartagena bus terminal is quite far from the city centre. There are 2 ways to connect from there: a 1-hour bus or a 30-minute taxi ride.
Option 1: Cartagena Bus Terminal to city centre by Transcaribe Bus
The bus terminal is well connected via the Transcaribe buses to Cartagena city centre and the popular neighbourhoods of Getsemani and San Diego. You can find these buses just outside the bus terminal and run once every 30 minutes. The line that takes you to the city centre is X104.
You should get off at the last stop, ‘La Bodeguita’, for the old city, or the one before called ‘Centro’ if you’re going to the Getsemani and San Diego areas.
Option 2: Cartagena Bus Terminal to city centre by Taxi
Taxis can be found right outside the bus terminal. Expect to pay $3.90 (18,000 COP) for a ride to the old city. Taxi rates are regulated by the local government. Nevertheless, as a general rule in Cartagena, it is better to agree on the price before stepping in.
Uber does not really work in Cartagena, but if you prefer using an app, locals use InDriver, which allows you to bid the rate you want to pay and drivers will accept or decline it.
Our favourite places to stay in Cartagena
Cartagena is a popular international tourist destination in Colombia. This means that it’s flooded with hotels, particularly luxury resorts.
Finding a cheap place to stay here can be a bit harder due to the high demand, but there are many great options to choose from.
Here are our favourite places to stay in Cartagena:
San Lazaro Art Hotel - Treat Yourself
How often do you get to stay in a hotel that overlooks a castle? With floor to ceiling windows in most rooms, you’ll never want to close your curtains and stop looking at San Felipe de Barajas Castle.
The rooftop pool, terrace restaurant and bar also offer the same incredible view. All of the rooms offer ultimate comfort, with huge beds and modern bathrooms.
- Rooftop pool
- Incredible views from the restaurant and terrace
- Amazing staff
- Great breakfast included
Double rooms available from $80 per night
Posada La Fe - Mid Range
Cartagena can get hot, so having a pool to take a dip in is the perfect touch. All of the modern and spacious rooms have air conditioning too.
The staff go above and beyond to make sure that your stay is nothing short of perfect. By the end of your stay, you’ll feel like you’re leaving family. The location is also hard to beat!
- Exceptional staff
- Light and airy rooms with air conditioning
- Swimming pool
- Delicious breakfast included
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Hotel Santa Cecilia B&B - Mid Range
Offering a light and neutral colour palette, Santa Cecilia oozes relaxation. The large beds guarantee a great night’s sleep too.
The location is great, with some rooms offering balcony views over the city. Just across the road, you’ll find a selection of food trucks, a nice place to grab some delicious food and chill out.
- Friendly and welcoming staff
- Calm and relaxing rooms
- Great location
- A large and delicious breakfast included
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Ayenda Casa Roman - Budget Friendly
Ayenda is a chain of hotels found in Colombia, and Casa Roman in Cartagena is one of the best. Being close to the main boulevard and the beach makes this an ideal location to stay.
The modern rooms and terrace with hammocks are perfect for relaxing after a busy day. Helpful staff and a delicious breakfast will help to set you up right for the day ahead.
- Large and modern rooms
- Terrace with hammocks
- Great location
- Superb breakfast included
Double rooms between $20-$40 per night
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Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.