Medellin to Santa Marta

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How to get from Medellin to Santa Marta

Santa Marta is one of the main tourist hubs on Colombia’s north coast. It is the door to Tayrona park, one of the most beautiful and visited national parks in Colombia. Santa Marta is also a good jumping-off point to other popular destinations like Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Ciudad Perdida. In addition, it is well known for having some of the most affordable scuba diving centres in South America.

Note that Santa Marta’s city centre is quite small and there is no beach in that area. If you prefer to be by the beach, stay in the Rodadero area. Rodarero is more welcoming to tourists, safer than staying in Santa Marta’s city centre and is closer to the airport. Some backpackers also stay in Taganga, but bear in mind that this area is not as safe as Rodadero.

2 ways to get from Medellin to Santa Marta

Transport ModeDurationCostsAvailability
Flight2 hours150,000 COP ($31)Check Flights
Bus15 hours 30 minutes120,000 COP ($25)Check Bus Tickets

From Medellin to Santa Marta is an 825 km distance(512 miles) and there are two ways to complete this journey: a 1-hour flight or a 15.5-hour bus ride. Fares range between 120,000 COP ($25) and 220,000 COP ($46).

Night buses are a great way to save money on accommodation, whilst 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 because it is over 15 hours!

Flying may be a more convenient option for those short on time. It takes a little more than one hour versus the 15 hours on the road with the bus. 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 just a little above the bus fare.

If you do choose to fly from Medellin to Santa Marta, consider including a carbon compensation fee to help reduce your impact on the environment.

Itinerary from Medellin to Santa Marta

Medellin to Santa Marta by Flight

Duration: 2 hours
Cost: 150,000 COP ($31)220,000 COP ($46)
Duration: 2 hours
Cost: 150,000 COP ($31)220,000 COP ($46)

Step 1: Medellin city centre to airport

Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 10,500 COP ($2.20)80,000 COP ($16.50)
Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 10,500 COP ($2.20)80,000 COP ($16.50)

All flights to Santa Marta depart from Jose Maria Cordoba Airport (MDE), located 30 km from the city centre.

To get to Jose María Cordoba airport from Medellin city centre, there are three main options available every day: taxi, Colectivo or bus.

Taxis have a flat rate of 80,000 COP ($16.50) and take about 30 minutes. They are the safest option if you are flying at night.

Colectivos are shared taxis where you split the taxi cost with the other people. If there are 4 people you will pay 20,000 COP ($4.15). This option is good only if you do not have a lot of luggage. They depart from San Diego Mall in the city centre and go straight to the airport.

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 the cost is 10,500 COP ($2.20), which is to be paid directly to the driver.

Step 2: Medellin to Santa Marta by Flight

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 103,000 COP ($21.50)200,000 COP ($41.50)
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 103,000 COP ($21.50)200,000 COP ($41.50)

There are 3 airlines that offer direct flights from Medellin to Santa Marta; Avianca, Latam and Viva Air. In total, there are five departures a day, from 07:15 to 20:30. Flight time is approximately 1 hour.

Prices start from around 100,000 COP ($20.50) with a cabin-luggage-only option. Note that prices may increase if you book on short notice as well.

In terms of service, Avianca is a bigger airline and their service is superior. They offer refreshments, plus most planes have an individual tv and charging port. Another good option is Latam, who also offers a fairly good service.

Viva air, on the other hand, is a low-cost airline that 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.

Check Flights with Skyscanner

Step 3: Santa Marta airport to city centre

Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 1,500 COP ($0.30)35,000 COP ($7)
Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 1,500 COP ($0.30)35,000 COP ($7)

Simon Bolivar International Airport in Santa Marta (SMR) is located 17 km from the city centre.

To get to the city centre, you can take a taxi from right outside the airport for around 35,000 COP ($7). The ride is about 30 minutes.

A much more affordable option is to take the public bus for 1,500 COP ($0.30), but keep in mind it will take much longer, sometimes over 1 hour, and it may get crowded.

The bus stop is outside the airport, past the car park. The bus line going towards the city centre is the ‘03’. This line also passes through the Rodadero area, in case you are staying there.

Somewhat confusing to most travellers, there are actually no set stops for buses in Santa Marta, so you just have to rely on the driver and other people for knowing where to get off.

Another popular option is to pre-arrange an airport pick-up with your hostel, hotel or Airbnb. This usually costs about the same as a taxi.

Medellin to Santa Marta by Bus

Duration: 15.5 hours
Cost: 120,000 COP ($25)140,000 COP ($29)
Duration: 15.5 hours
Cost: 120,000 COP ($25)140,000 COP ($29)

Step 1: Medellin to Santa Marta

Duration: 15 hours
Cost: 108,000 COP ($22.50)127,000 COP ($26.50)
Duration: 15 hours
Cost: 108,000 COP ($22.50)127,000 COP ($26.50)

Buses operating from Medellin to Santa Marta depart from Terminal del Norte. The main bus companies covering this route are Expreso Brasilia and Rápido Ochoa.

The buses are comfortable and include reclining seats, AC, a toilet, individual tvs and charging ports.

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 Santa Marta

Bus CompanySchedulesCosts
Expreso Brasilia07:00-22:00
09:00-00:00
16:00-07:00
18:00-09:00
20:00-11:00
22:00-13:00
108,000 COP ($22.50)
Check Bus Tickets
Rápido Ochoa09:15-00:15
13:00-21:30
19:00-10:00
21:00-12:00
23:30-14:30
127,000 COP ($26.50)
Check Bus Tickets

Step 2: Santa Marta Bus Terminal to the city centre

Duration: 20 minutes
Cost: 8,000 COP ($1.65)25,000 COP ($INF)
Duration: 20 minutes
Cost: 8,000 COP ($1.65)25,000 COP ($INF)

The best way to get to  Santa Marta city centre is to take a taxi. The fare should be around 8,000 COP ($1.65). If you are staying in either of the El Rodadero or Taganga areas, that fare will increase to around COP 25,000 COP ($5).

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