Book the best bus tickets from Santa Marta to Cartagena

Reviewed

on: 2021-06-09

by: Oliver Williams, Staff

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    4 hours 30 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    Beach, historic site, Totumo volcano, mud pool

  • Best Price Pricing information icon

    USD $14

  • Maximum comfort or class

    Excellent

  • Departures

    6 Departures Daily

  • Recommended by

    1639 travelers

Pricing information iconPrice may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

All about the bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena

Colombia has a variety of cultures and traditions.

At AndesTransit we hold true to the belief that the bus is more convenient than the plane when it comes to MAKING A travel throughout South America.

If that sounds ideal to you, why not use the Reserve Now button above to book your bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?

But if you want to find out more first, no problem! We’ve created this article as an all-encompassing “Santa Marta to Cartagena Bus Journey Guide”.

What are the buses in Colombia like?

The short answer: varied. The long answer? You get what you pay for. You see, the level of service, comfort, and reliability provided when riding a bus through Colombia is considerably inconsistent.

For example, if you take one of the cheapest buses, known as a local bus, mentally strap yourself in for what may be somewhat of an uncomfortable journey.

First, if you get any seating at all, it will be basic. That's because, on local buses, the number of passengers often exceeds the number of seats!

Furthermore, there almost certainly won’t be any AC, onboard toilet or entertainment facilities like a TV.

Of course, you’ll still be privy to the main perk of riding a bus through South America, with an incredible view of the landscape unfolding out beneath your window, complete with cheery vallenato music played over the loudspeakers.

However, if that's all cool with you, then you're ready to hop on board.

But there's something even better. Despite living up to their name, “luxury buses” in Colombia are exceptionally cheap.

You can easily ride on a luxury bus that features reclining (and reserved!) seats, AC, an onboard toilet, and entertainment facilities, for not very much money at all. We’ll give more details on that later!

How long is the bus ride?

From Santa Marta to Cartagena is a 240km (149 miles) ride in total, giving you a journey that should take just 5 hours to complete.

You’ll have enough time to explore your departure and arrival destinations. Plus, many of the bus routes between Santa Marta and Cartagena can let you off at a place you surely don't want to pass by the incredible Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, a real volcano gurgling up medicinal mud you can bathe in!

And of course; you’ll get a feel for the entire stretch of land that lies between these two mighty cities. This is without a doubt, the only way to truly appreciate what ties Santa Marta and Cartagena together.

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

Generally speaking, the drive or trip between Santa Marta and Cartagena will cost between $14 - $40 (51,000- 135,000 COP). Why the difference, why do the prices vary? That’s actually due to several factors:

When you should go

In the case of bus tickets between Santa Marta and Cartagena (both popular with tourists and Colombian weekenders alike), Fridays and Sundays are the weekdays that tend to be slightly more expensive, but not much more.

When you should book

If you book these tickets in advance, they’ll be a little bit cheaper. If you already know what date you want to travel, this will help you save a few bucks!

Which Bus Carrier you should Choose

As we mentioned earlier, there are different bus travel options in Colombia. The more you pay, the more comfortable your trip will be, including air conditioning, more comfortable seats, bathrooms, and more. Keep in mind that the price difference is not much and the experience of traveling in greater comfort is certainly worth it.

What are the bus schedules from Santa Marta to Cartagena?

Although Latin American bus systems have improved significantly over the last decade, the bus schedules can still be subject to unforeseen change.

However, if you use AndesTransit, this won’t be a problem that you’re likely to encounter. That’s because we pride ourselves on always keeping our ear to the ground with bus companies and their operators to get the latest news and updates! We do the grunt work so that you don’t have to.

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

There are two ways you can go about doing this:

Online

Without a doubt, this is the most convenient way to secure your bus ticket. If you want to book yourself a ticket from Santa Marta to Cartagena, you would only need to go to the search engine above, where you will find the best prices for the best seats. Just click the Reserve Now button at the top of this page to get started!

In-person

We don’t advise this option. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also not unheard of locals and travelers going all the way down to go all the way down to the bus office only to find out that the departure and seat are not available anymore. Moreover, the bus station in Santa Marta is on the exact opposite side of the city than where you want to be spending your time.

Why book with AndesTransit?

At AndesTransit we separate ourselves from the pack by providing fantastic customer service and are fluent in both English and Spanish (not just the language, but the communication styles and customs).

That’s why, unlike so many other bus booking companies, we provide you better insight, better personal attention, and better preparation, while still offering tickets at prices you'll love.

What is the best bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?

There’s a fair number of bus carriers that run between Santa Marta and Cartagena, but if you’re looking for the most comfortable and without a doubt the best value for money, the choice is obvious:

Atlantic Shared Shuttle. This isn’t actually a bus, but a shared mini-van that’s able to take up to fifteen passengers. Despite the wagon being modernized and having air-con, it’s just $40 for a seat, which is infinitely less than you would ever pay for a taxi or Uber running this service. Get ready to travel in uncrowded, aircon-refreshed, ultra-comfortable bliss, and meet some new friends to pass the time!

What to see in Cartagena

Cartagena was a stronghold built by the Spanish conquerors to fight pirates.

Founded in 1533, Cartagena is another of Colombia's oldest cities and is also located alongside the glistening Caribbean Sea.

In addition to its incredible beaches, Cartagena also attracts flocks of tourists thanks to its stunning colonial-era cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and thriving nightlife.

Surrounded by a sea wall built to fend off invading pirates, and studded with museums and exhibits, Cartagena has a rich and colorful history just waiting to be explored.

Add to that a nightlife of dancing and street parades, friendly Colombians all too eager to party the night away, a mud volcano, the Rosario Islands, and exquisite food - it’s easy to see why this city is currently seen as a number one must-visit destination in South America.

It was hard, but we’ve picked just three of our favorite things to do there - and these are:

#1 - Go for a swim in the Crater of...El Totumo Volcano!

The legend goes that El Totumo was once an active volcano that spewed fire, lava, and ashes until a local priest used holy water to transform it into the mud.

Well, we can neither 100% confirm nor deny this, but what we can tell you with complete certainty, is that it’s entirely possible to take a mud bath in the crater of this 15m volcano. It’s even rumored that the mud has healing properties.

One of the reasons we picked El Totumo as a top activity in Cartagena is because of the stunning journey you have to make there, and it's an easy day-trip outside the city including a stop for a lunch of fresh-caught fish.

Once you get to the small town of El Totumo (Totumo is the name of a hard-shelled gourd the size of grapefruit), you’ll see a staircase leading to the crater, where visitors can climb into the volcano and brace themselves for a somewhat bizarre sensation.

You see, the mud is neither hot nor cold - nor can it be accurately described as thin or thick. Travelers report feeling weightless, as though they’re floating in the vast vacuum of space.

Next, you get to wash off, by stripping down to your shorts and clambering into the adjacent lake where attendants pour buckets of water over you to wash you off.

#2 - Take a stroll along the historic, pirate-proof City Walls

Don’t worry. The notorious pirates Francis Drake and Henry Morgan won't be attacking Cartagena anymore, but the city had to build massive walls to keep them out, and they stand to this day.

Nearly from Cartagena's founding and another 200 years following, the city was the main port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain as well as the import of African slaves.

That’s why the city of Cartagena surrounded itself with a truly mammoth seven-mile-long stone wall that took nearly two hundred years to finish (completing in 1796).

This wall still stands today and surrounds the historic center of Cartagena, complete with fortifications and bastions.

Nowadays, you don’t have to be employed as a military guard in order to take a stroll along this historic fortification. Tourists and locals saunter along the wide walkway to catch the ocean breeze and a birds-eye view of the old city! Speaking of which…

#3 - Explore the Old City of Cartagena

You simply can’t visit Cartagena without getting playfully lost in the byzantine cobblestone streets that meander around vibrantly colorful colonial buildings, because this is Cartagena's fame.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old city is overflowing with stunning colonial architecture, markets, performing artists, and trinkets sold by street vendors all along its alleys and boulevards.

Make sure you check out the vibrant Plaza Santo Domingo, famous for its Botero statue, which you can touch for good luck. Then there’s the leafy green Plaza Bolivar, always brimming with flamboyant dancers and eccentric performance artists.

If you’re hunting for souvenirs, head on over to the Bovedas Market - a collection of souvenir shops, each one built into one of the old cells of the former Cartagena prison that is so close to the sea that at high tide prisoners used to be up to their ankles in seawater!

To delve back even further into the history of Cartagena, do not miss the Zenu Gold Museum, which gives a window into the ancient cultures that once lived here, at least as far back as 4000 BC.

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface of all the incredible things that there are to do in the old city of Cartagena. For the most all-inclusive and informative way of learning about the old city, we recommended a guided tour.

It’s also worth noting that you can actually stay in the old city since it’s where all of the best hostels and hotels can be found.

Conclusion

And there you have it! In this Santa Marta to Cartagena Bus Route Guide, we’ve taught you everything you’ll need to know about catching a bus between these two incredible cities.

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

All that remains now is to go ahead and get booking that bus by clicking the Reserve Now button at the top of the page. Good luck and happy traveling!

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long is the bus ride from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
The distance from Santa Marta to Cartagena is around 240km (149 miles). It will take you around 5 hours to get from one place to the other.
What is the cost of traveling by bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
It ranges between USD $14 to $40 depending on a carrier’s reputation and services afforded to passengers.
Where can I book bus tickets from Santa Marta to Cartagena or the other way around?
The best option is to buy online at andestransit.com. You can also get it in person.
Where do I catch the bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena?
From the bus company office in town.
Where does the Santa Marta to Cartagena bus arrive?
At the bus company office in Cartagena.
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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