Traveling from Medellin, to Cali I decided to take the bus not the plane. 80% of people who I told that declared “You are muy loco, crazy!” Flying from Medellin via one of the low cost carriers is really inexpensive, and taking the bus isn’t a huge cost savings. So why did I do it? As you know I’m travelling the world, looking for the best country to retire cheap. In the years that I’ve been doing, I’ve learned one thing. If you get a chance to take the bus/train, do it.
Taking the bus took roughly 11 hours versus the hour or two it takes by plane. But as you know taking the plane isn’t just “taking the plane” anymore. Factor in the 3 hours it takes to get to the airport, get through customs and taxis all of a sudden it’s not a huge time savings.
Taking the bus cost 45 000 COP ($22 CDN) and it’s totally worth it. You get to see the beautiful countryside and the seats on the Bolivariano bus I took were full recline. It also had wifi, movies (all in Spanish…no subtitles) and were really polite. Compare that to a cramped no leg room plane, your choice. (I also was travelling with two 30kg suitcases, and carryon. The cost of taking the plane was roughly 200 000 ($100 CDN) after all the fees, taxis, etc.)
STEP BY STEP GUIDE
- Take an Uber to Terminal Sur. This should be roughly 8000 COP ($4 CDN) from anywhere in Medellin.
- Go to the ticketing booths. There are about 50 of them, all for different companies. Go Bolivariano, it’s awesome.
- After buying your ticket, go the departures area. They won’t let you through until it’s close to your bus departure time. Buses leave 5 times a day. (I chose a bus that got me into town at 11pm.)
- When the bus arrives, most people will rush on. Don’t worry about it. Seats are assigned when you buy the ticket.
- You’ll get luggage tags when you throw your checked in luggage under the bus. Under no condition should you put anything valuable in there. (I’ve heard of several horror stories from people who had their stuff stolen. Two girls from England wound up losing their 80 litre backpacks.) For security, they videotape everybody on the bus!
- The bus is air conditioned. Think really cold movie theater air conditioned. 90% of people on the bus had a giant blanket with them. These are the fuzzy blanket things that you see being sold at super flea markets with pictures of cats or Elvis on them. Seriously bring a blanket. I was so cold that my Colombian seat mate, took pity on me and shared her blanket.
- Halfway through the journey, they stopped at a little road side cafe. You can buy a chorizo, arepa and potato for 7000 COP ($3.50 CDN). If you get hungry about one or two times during the trip a vendor will get onto the bus and sell chips and snacks. It’s not frequent, so I would recommend bringing some powerbars.
- Enjoy the ride! I slept for bits, watched the countryside for other bits, and watched Netflix for other bits. (The free wifi isn’t great, download your shows.) There is an overhead rack for your carryon. For safeties sake, do not put your valuables up there and fall asleep. There’s plenty of space by your feet.
- When you get to Cali, the bus stop has a queue of cabs waiting to take you to where you’re going. I was going to a popular hostel, so need to fumble around with a screenshot and map. That’s all! Enjoy the bus! It’s worth it.