All about taking the bus from Bogotá to Santa Marta | 2023

Reviewed

on: 2023-07-06

by: Lisa Gembrini

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    19 hours 0 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    beaches, aquariums, museums

  • Best Price

    USD $ 62

  • Maximum comfort or class

    Good

  • Departures

    10 Departures Daily

  • Recommended by

    578 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

The Bogota to Santa Marta Bus Route

El Rodadero beach in Santa Marta, Colombia

Many international travelers come to Colombia who are mostly interested in visiting Colombia’s Caribbean beaches and famous parks like Tayrona or the Lost City.

The problem is that they arrive to Bogotá and then must spend ghastly amounts of money to travel backwards to Barranquilla, Cartagena, or Santa Marta.

The other problem is that by doing that extra flight they’re missing a HUGE opportunity and wasting a lot of hard-earned cash.

What lies between Bogota and Santa Marta on the ground is the real Colombia. For a fraction of the price of a flight, you get tons more Colombian experience by taking the bus from Bogotá to Santa Marta.

See the beauty of the highlands, then the cloud forest, then the swamps and savannahs, all in a single trip before reaching the coast. Learn just by watching out your window how the different landscapes create cultural and economic practices that make one Colombian look and act quite different from the next.

But let’s answer all the practical questions first, and then help you plan some things to do in Santa Marta once you get there.

What are the buses in Colombia like?

The quick answer is that it varies greatly. What's the long answer? What you pay for is what you get. The quality of care, comfort, and dependability of scheduled departures varies greatly when choosing a bus to take a trip in Colombia.

For example, a more regional bus (as opposed to a national brand) might be cheaper, but their buses are probably older with worn seats that are more apt to break down along the way. Sometimes, because the more local or regional company is focused on profit margins for the few trips they make, they sell more tickets than they have seats, and most locals are fine with that. Their buses may also not have air conditioning, an onboard bathroom, or entertainment.

You still will get an authentic experience of riding a bus through Colombia and have vastly more stories to tell about your adventure. If you buy a ticket online, you’ll definitely get a seat reserved and a magnificent view of the scenery opening under your window accompanied by joyful vallenato music to make it a party. If this sounds appealing to you, you're more than ready to jump on board.

But that is far from the only choice. You will be no doubt be relieved to learn that, despite their name, "luxury buses" in Colombia are available and are not at all expensive. They only cost a small percentage more and are for the more highly reputable and modern carriers that not only have updated vehicles, but more highly trained staff and operations.

How long is the bus ride from Bogotá to Santa Marta?

From Bogotá to Santa Marta is 954km, a journey that lasts about 18-20 hours on the bus. For this reason, you’ll notice while reserving a ticket online there are several night departures because it’s popular to sleep through the first part of the journey, then wake up for the second half.

If you want the opposite, to see the mountains and sleep through the savannah, then you can choose from one of the morning or afternoon departures.

Between Bogotá and Santa Marta, the bus routes mostly follow the Magdalena River north to Santa Marta, passing through the river port towns of Honda and Puerto Boyacá. Eventually the highway empties out into the large marsh and savannah region of north-central Colombia, passing through numerous small agricultural and petroleum-producing towns until passing over the Sogamoso River. From there on you will notice the landscape changing to a more tropical climate, with banana and cotton farmers going about their work, and both the food, music and dress reflecting an orientation more towards the tropical coast ahead of you. You will even notice the dialect of Spanish change dramatically that is influenced by Afro-Colombian culture.

What is the cost of traveling by bus from Bogotá to Santa Marta?

The bus ride between Bogotá and Santa Marta will cost between $62 and $69 USD, which can fluctuate depending on the exchange rate with COP. Here are some other factors that can affect the price.

When you go

With regards to bus travel, weekends and holidays are a little more expensive as that is when demand is highest and bus companies must staff up and spend extra to maintain their operations. In the case of bus tickets between Bogotá and Santa Marta (both popular with tourists and Colombian weekenders alike), Fridays and Sundays are the days that tend to be slightly more expensive, but not much more.

When you book

If you book tickets in advance, they’ll be a little bit cheaper than waiting until the last moment when bus companies take advantage of demand for the few unoccupied seats. If you’ve already decided when you will be going, save a few bucks and book your bus tickets in advance.

Which bus carrier you choose

As previously said, there is a significant difference in the quality of buses in Colombia. Most of the time, the more you pay, the more comfortable your travel will be. If you want a more comfortable experience, such as air conditioning, reclining seats, bathrooms, and other amenities, you'll have to pay a bit more (but not heaps more).

What are the bus schedules from Bogotá to Santa Marta?

Bus schedules change often, are rarely fixed and immutable, and are frequently compromised by on-the-ground events like weather, traffic, and driver shortages. Our travel experts at AndesTransit are very used to this and have an extensive knowledge of which companies tend to be more consistent than others and create back channels with all of them to know what’s truly going on that regular travelers are not informed about.

When using AndesTransit, you can look up the best bus schedules and choose which schedule best fits your own plans. We pride ourselves on always keeping our ear to the ground with bus companies and their operators to get the latest news. We do the grunt work so that you don’t have to.

Where can I book bus tickets from Bogotá to Santa Marta?

There are two ways you can go about doing this:

Online

This is unquestionably the least expensive overall, most dependable, and quickest way to book a bus ticket these days - kind of a no-brainer, right?

If you want to book yourself a ticket from Bogotá to Santa Marta, it’s easy to use our booking engine to do that by simply clicking the Reserve Now button at the top of the page. You’ll instantly get a lineup of the carriers and schedules we and travelers like you trust the most.

In-person

If truth be told, we don’t really recommend this. As veteran bus travelers ourselves, we know that sometimes it’s unavoidable but time and time again, it is so annoying and a drain of our energy and time. Countless times travelers take an extra day out of their hard-earned vacation to go all the way down to the bus office at the other end of a city, only to find out that the precise time you wanted to leave isn't available. In addition, there are two bus stations in Bogotá that are not conveniently accessed to other sightseeing attractions, and you may end up going to one only to find out you have to go to the opposite one on the other side of the city.

Moreover, we’ve seen many travelers who risked getting their ticket to the last minute, only to spend hours sleeping on their backpacks in the terminal because what they wanted was sold out by the time they got there.

Why book with AndesTransit?

AndesTransit distinguishes itself from the pack by offering excellent customer service in both English and Spanish (not just the language, but the communication styles and customs). This has made us the #1 choice for international travelers who don’t want to risk making decisions on websites they can’t read or talking with support who doesn’t interpret correctly what they want.

We provide you with more insight, more personal attention, and better preparation, all while offering tickets at prices you'll love.

Our guiding philosophy is that slow travel equals meaningful travel. The stories you get to tell of the real Colombia will only be found in the places you see in between the big tourist cities. This is especially the case when it comes to traversing the breathtaking back roads of Colombia.

What is the best bus from Bogotá to Santa Marta?

There are other bus companies that travel between Bogotá and Santa Marta, but if you want the most comfortable and undeniably the greatest value for money, our editors and travelers agree on Expreso Brasilia.

It may sound like we’re confusing it with some company that operates in the capital of Brazil, but no, this is a widely respected and consistently reliable national operator that specializes in routes between the capital and coastal regions.

You can expect professional and well-trained staff, and coaches that are in top condition.

What to see in Santa Marta

Termales Volcan is a natural hot spring pond complex near Santa Marta.

Santa Marta was Colombia's first Spanish settlement, founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish Conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, making it Colombia’s oldest surviving city and the second oldest of such Spanish-colonized cities in South America.

Most travel here because of Santa Marta’s proximity to the renowned paradise of Tayrona National Park, but because that has received more than adequate press, we are going to instead focus on lesser-known sights to round out your visit.

#1 – El Rodadero and Aquariums

Santa Marta is divided into two parts, separated by a large hill called Cerro Ziruma. Most of the city is on the northern side of the hill but make your way to the southern side for the best and safest beach in Colombia, full stop. Yes, Cartagena has beaches, but they get really dirty and dangerous fast. Tayrona has fabulous beaches, but as it’s in wilderness they leave you vulnerable to the sea sweeping you away. However, in Santa Marta you have El Rodadero, a beach that is clean, family friendly, and the water and sand is perfect. You will walk away feeling you’ve had the happiest swim and beach snooze in your life.

Plus, at both ends of the beach are not just one, but two aquariums! So, when you need a diversion from soaking up the sun and surf, make you way to the nearest aquarium, Acuario Mundo Marino, where for $5 (or $4 for kids) you will get treated to a world-class set of marine exhibits to everything from seahorses to stingrays and sharks.

However, up at the more remote end of El Rodadero near Playa Inca Inca is a special aquarium reserved for dolphins that is beyond cool, and its name is Acuario Rodadero. This aquarium also has rays and sharks, as well as turtles, but the big draw is the playful dolphins (including shows and the ability to even swim with them) and the more natural setting. Prices are more expensive at Acuario Rodadero, ranging from $11 to $50 USD depending on how much time you want to spend and how personal an experience you want to have with the dolphins.

#2 - Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Everyone around the world likely knows the name of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan-born general who in the early 19th century successfully liberated much of South America from Spanish colonizers. But few may know that it is in Santa Marta where Bolívar died and was initially buried.

The stately house and grounds of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino was his frequent retreat and where he spent his final minutes before he succumbed to illness. Today the Quinta is an excellently staffed and operated museum as well as all of its surroundings preserved as a park that make for some therapeutic respite, just as I’m sure was the reason Bolívar sought it out too.

#3 – Termales el Volcán

If you went to Santa Marta to go hiking in Tayrona, Ciudad Perdida, or perhaps Minca, then no doubt you’ll have some sore muscles that deserve a good soak.

Santa Marta has the perfect solution, a geothermal mud springs full of naturally occurring healing minerals to soothe away your aches and pains.

Not to be confused with the more famous Totumo mud volcano baths that are closer to Cartagena, Termales el Volcán is a much smaller and less touristy operation on the outskirst of Santa Marta on the way to Cienaga.

When they talk of pools or piscinas, these are not man-made artifices of tile and concrete. It is more akin to a bog or a pond, with separate areas marked where the water is closer or farther from a spring. They will also clearly tell you which parts of the bog are just too hot, so you don’t hurt yourself.

After spending a limited time in the termales, take advantage of the outdoor showers to wash yourself off and feel fresh as new.

To get there, you can hire a taxi from Santa Marta, but you can also take the bus (towards Cienaga and Barranquilla). Ask the driver to let you off at the parada de Aguas Termales in Cordobita, which is a small village on the way. Then you walk about 20 minutes (1.5 km) due west on a small road and the entrance to the termales will be on your left.

Conclusion

We’ve covered how to book the bus, the cost, what kind of journey to expect as well as some of our favorite things to do in Santa Marta!

All that remains now is to go ahead and book your reservation to Santa Marta by clicking the Reserve Now button at the top of the page. Happy traveling!

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it possible to take a bus from Bogota to Santa Marta?
Yes. Plenty of people choose to do this to find a cheaper alternative to flying as well as to see a big section of the country, landscape, and culture on the way. You can get buses that start at night so you can save on lodging and be in Santa Marta the next day.
What cities does the bus from Bogota to Santa Marta pass through?
No major cities. The route goes through a lot of small towns and rural villages, with the largest being the modest-sized city of Aguachica.
How much are the bus tickets from Bogota to Santa Marta?
It depends on the class of seats you’re choosing, amenities, and whether the carrier is a major or minor brand. Because it’s a long journey, for your comfort and safety we recommend sticking to choices above $60 USD.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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