Colombia Internet and Transportation
What You Should Know Before Your Move

RetirePedia's Roving Reporter Jim VeinotBy Jim Veinot

Before you move to or even visit Colombia, you may want to know what to expect in terms of its infrastructure.

Let's take a look at getting there, getting around and staying connected.

Flying to Colombia

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There are fifteen international airports in Colombia, which allows you to pretty much get everywhere in the country easily. Flights originating in the USA proceed via Miami.

From Europe, Madrid (Spain) is the usual point of departure. Iberia, LAN and Avianca all offer direct flights from Madrid to Bogotá. 

Rates will vary, of course, by airline, time of year, level of service chosen and point of origin. I just found a non-stop return flight from Toronto, Canada to Bogotá, Colombia for $600 CAD or about $480 USD. This flight was in September (2016), returning in December. This is just an example, of course.

Avianca Taca is the national airline of Colombia, and they offer the same flight as above for a similar price. This is certainly the way to go for domestic flights.

Driving in Colombia

The highway system in Colombia is the result of major investment on the part of the nation and of private investors. As much as 23 billion USD is being invested, representing about 3% of GDP. The result will be about 175,000 km of roadway, with some 75% of it drained and paved.

Much of the population lives in the Andes and this is where most production is located; however the ports are on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

The later being the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. In the absence of railways through the Andes, roadway transport is used for most goods and for people.

There are three major North-South highways in Colombia, namely the Caribbean, Eastern and Central Trunk (troncales). As well the Magdalena Trunk now crosses from Ecuador to the Caribbean.

Most highways terminate at the Caribbean coast, as this is the major line of trade. However routes are being developed to the Pacific side as trade is pursued toward the West. Ports will also be developed on this coast eventually.

Getting Around Colombia by Bus

Every major city will have a bus terminal, generally on the outskirts but connected by local transit. The prices can be negotiated at times, by asking if you got the discount or if the price is the minimum. If more than one vendor, it’s worth shopping for price, even if it’s just for fun!

The buses are very comfortable from a seating perspective and generally Arctic from a temperature perspective. I’m not sure if it’s the novelty of A/C but drivers like to keep the temperature as cold as possible, so bring a jacket or sweater and perhaps gloves and a hat. 

Buses will stop for meals but not necessarily at mealtime. They generally stop when the driver is hungry. Also, drivers seem compelled to play music or movies as loud as the speaker system can handle, so earplugs would be handy. 

All of this is not Colombia style, it’s Latin American style. Whether you’re on a chicken bus or a highway bus, expect the unexpected.

Getting Around Town

Taxis and local buses are very inexpensive, with a bus ticket running around $0.60 one way or $30 for a monthly pass.

Taxis charge $1 to get it and anywhere from $0.60/km in Medellin to $2.50/km in Bogotá. Always remember to negotiate the rate before you get in the car and make it clear that you want private transportation; otherwise the driver will pick up and discharge people on the way and it will take you much longer to arrive at your destination.

Gasoline is currently (June 2016) $2.50 per gallon or $0.66 per liter and unlikely to change very much.

Official Colombian Taxis in Bright YellowTaxis in Bogotá [Image by Pedro Felipe (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons]

Colombia Internet Options

In today’s world, if you want to retire in Colombia or anywhere else, you probably want to be connected. The two major service providers in Central and South America, Claro and Movistar, are, you guessed it, the main Colombia Internet providers too.

Internet service in Colombia works a little different than in some places, because in order to have an account you need a cedula (national identity card) of some kind. Some people have reported that if you knock on enough doors, visit enough offices and talk to enough people, there might be a way around this.

However the corporate position is that you need the document to get Colombia Internet service. This position might soften if you are a property owner, but as a renter it’s a good idea to have the landlord arrange the service.

If you can get it, Colombia Internet is inexpensive at $47,000 COP to start or about $15 USD. Service ranges from 3mb/sec to 100mb/sec and the prices vary accordingly. There will also be variations based on usage and there are all sorts of bundles available from both companies when you include TV or telephone, wired or wireless.

For the full range of Claro prices and services go here. Likewise, for the full range of Movistar pricing and services, follow this link.

Not to worry though! There is free WIFI in most cities in the shopping centers or parks. Cyber cafés abound, with rates as little as 80 cents (USD) or $2500 COP per hour.

You can also get a dongle or rocket stick from either service, providing prepaid 3G wireless, for about $45 USD. This would allow about 2 weeks of normal browsing.

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