Travelling in Colombia is always an adventure and one that I truly enjoyed the entire time even if it wasn’t always comfortable. While I sometimes joke about feeling scared and creeped out part of the fun the journey to the destination. I also do my best to show you what to do in order to not make the same mistakes I made throughout my time travelling Colombia.
Our journey from Medellin to Salento was one we planned just a day or two before we actually headed that way. After researching online we could not find an easy way to just fly to Salento and to be honest got confused at what airport was closest. We ended up buying bus tickets after talking to some people at our hostel and ended up having a full day adventure that ended up with a confusing taxi ride to our hostel in Salento.
How to buy bus tickets in Colombia
My recommended way to purchase bus tickets in Colombia would be to go in person to the bus company if you are purchasing bus tickets for one of the large charter bus companies in the country. If you are buying tickets for a small shuttle bus such as a hostel to hostel transfer those are best bought through the hostel you are heading too or leaving from. I wrote an article on that recently “Here” on transferring from out hostel in Cartagena to our hostel in Santa Marta.
The bus route we picked would take us from Medellin to Armenia where we would have to catch either a local bus to Salento or get a taxi to take us to our hostel. From the start we had very little information and where extremely confused on where we needed to go but we ran with it and hoped for the best.
To purchase bus tickets in Medellin you can go directly to the city’s main bus depot where all bus lines leave from and purchase it at the Flota Occidental ticket counter. There’s quite a few bus companies in the country but this one is by far the biggest and if you are willing to splurge you can get a very comfortable ride.
The reason I push to visit in person and buy tickets if you can at the counter is due to how poorly some of the bus websites are. There are options to purchase tickets through third party sites like Rome2Rio and BusBud, but I felt more comfortable going to the company and being able to pick our seats together.
Once at the ticket counter the process is smooth, you let the attendant know what route you want and what bus on that route you would like to take. The attendant spoke decent English so that should not be a worry if you are not bilingual. The routes are all listed on the board and they have seat maps so you are able to decide where you would like yo sit if you are travelling as a group.
What Bus Should You Choose
This is where things will depend on your budget and how comfortable you want to be through this journey. Remember buses even these charter buses rarely arrive on time to their destinations so get ready to go over the ETA they post.
There are quite a few bus options when you visit the bus station and depending on your price range and departure availability you will have the options of some small mini buses, regular charter buses and double decker charter buses. All the buses offer different levels of comfort and speed which is why we chose to go with the Gran Emperador Elite Bus line. This is the top of the line travel experience for Flota Occidental and it is not something you will regret.
The bus is divided into two levels with the bottom level being the “executive class” and upstairs where you will find a regular charter bus layout. The “executive class” seats are extremely spacious with a 1 – 2 layout, reclining seats and individual entertainment centers. There is also wifi on the bus but just like the entertainment center in each seat we didn’t really get it to work.
Medellin to Armenia
Once you have picked your bus and are ready to go I recommend to get there early on the bus departure day to make sure there are no problems checking in and getting to your bus. The process of checking in and walking to our bus was pretty painless and as long as you can read some signs you should be set.
At the bus loading area you check your bags in the back cargo hold and get a ticket just like you would on a plane ride. Settling into the bus for the trip we were happy to have brought our personal tablets and laptops for entertainment since the entire trip will take an estimated 8-9 hours. The trip length depends on a lot of factors since traffic in Colombia is hard to predict to say the least. Especially since most of the trip will be through the mountainsides of Colombia where anything can cause a traffic jam or block a street.
Overall the ride was smooth sailing all the way until Armenia where you get dropped off at the central bus station in town. I do recommend bringing snacks and drinks on the bus since it is a pretty long journey. There is an option at the start of the journey to order a meal with the bus attendant that gets picked up about 2 hours into the trip. We did not do this option since we did not know that was the only food option the entire trip. I do highly recommend to get the meal since we got pretty hungry at the end of the trip before getting to Armenia.
Armenia to Salento
Once you get to the Armenia bus station you have two options on how to get to Salento. The cheapest option will be to get a local bus that makes daily trips from Armenia to Salento but depending how late it is these might all be gone. The other option and the one we went with was getting a taxi to take you to Salento and directly to your hostel.
The prices do vary but since it is late at night and drivers are tired you will have limited options. We ended up paying 80,000 COP which is around 30-40 USD, with the currency levels fluctuation this might all change.
A lot of people recommend to stay the night in Armenia if you arrive as late as we did but we just wanted to get to our hostel and be done with the day long travel. The main reason people recommend to stay the night is due to how curvy and dark the road to Salento from Armenia is at night. We felt mostly safe or as safe as you feel at night in a foreign country in a taxi in pitch black roads.
The driver was easy to call at the bus station but there where some detours along the way which I was told are normal. The drive is at least 45 minutes out of town especially at night so the driver must get gas and a permit to drive out of Armenia with passengers. This was something we did not expect originally but later found out taxis in Colombia are extremely regulated which is something we also noticed in Peru the year before.
After getting gas and paperwork the drive was mostly uneventful and took us directly to our hostel in Salento which I could not recommend enough! The hostel was El Viajero in Salento and I will do a review on it soon but to say we extended our stay should suffice as a rave review.
Overall the trip down to Salento was a day trip I personally would recommend as long as you have the time to waste a day. I say that because part of the travel experience in South America and the world is to enjoy the adventure. I am a big believer that the journey is part of the trip and flying around to cities just doesn’t always cut it for me as a fun experience. I also think even if you where flying you would have spent most of the day travelling and through security so time saved would be minimal in my eyes.
Let me know if you have taken a long bus trip in Colombia or South America? Have you been to Medellin or Salento?
If you are in Medellin check out my main article on how I fell in love with the City of Eternal Spring!
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