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Bus terminals in Bogotá: how to use them

Bus terminals in Bogotá

With so much to explore and do in every corner of the country, what’s the most convenient and affordable means of doing so? Meet Bogotá’s bus terminal (Terminal de Transporte).  It may not be the quickest way to travel, but with buses constantly coming and going, it’s definitely the easiest!  And because Bogotá is basically in the middle of the whole country, it’s the perfect place to start your journey!

Most cities have only one terminal and that’s enough, but Bogotá is so big it has three:  the main one in the center of the city (Diagonal 23 #69-11) and two smaller satellites in the north (Calle 192 #19-43) and south (Calle 57Q #75F-82).  As the main terminal in Bogotá, Salitre is the largest and where the routes originate.  When you walk in, it can be a little intimidating with the myriad of bus companies, but finding a well-priced ticket to where you want to go is actually quite simple.

Step 1:

Figure out what direction you need to go. Salitre is organized into three separate modules (almost like terminals within the terminal):  buses headed north, south and those headed everywhere else (“oriente o occidente”) and they are clearly marked when you pull up to the terminal.  If you’re looking for Places Near Bogotá to Escape the Cold, check out some of our suggestions!  Once you know you’re in the right area, you can start looking at your options.

Bus Terminal in Bogotá
© Photograph by Terminal de Transportes de Bogotá

Step 2:

Choose a bus company.  Every company has its own ticket window office with their name printed big and bold so you can identify them.  Under their name, you will find signs saying the cities they service.  Because Salitre is so massive, you will likely find several companies that provide transportation to the city you want.  The North and South terminal are much smaller and all ticket offices are in one place.  To find out when their buses leave and how much they cost, you just have to go around and ask. The terminal does have a website that you can check departure times and prices, but it’s not always accurate so you’re better off going in person.  Keep in mind, the farther the destination is, the less often buses will be leaving, but you will always find at least one or two departure times a day and for the nearby pueblos (you might want to also read Places to Visit and Stay Near Bogotá) buses can leave as often as every 30 minutes.

Step 3:

Purchase your ticket.  Once you’ve decided on which company you’d like to go with, buy your ticket!  Most companies don’t accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash (we have some recommendations if you need to Exchange Currency in Bogotá before you leave).  The employee will ask for your name and I.D. number (you can use your passport) and then they will issue you a ticket that looks like a receipt and direct you where to wait/board.  IMPORTANT:  only buy your bus ticket from a window.  Sometimes drivers and other people will try to convince you to go with a certain bus company, but this gives them the ability to essentially charge whatever they want (which could end up being more than normal) and give you a bad seat or no seat at all and you end up standing the whole trip.

Step 4:

Boarding.  There will be another employee near the door of the waiting area to check your ticket and direct you on to the right bus.  If the bus is already at the terminal, usually the driver will let you on. If you have luggage or a big backpack with you, you’ll need to stow it in the compartment either at the back or under the bus and there is always an employee to put it away who will typically tag your bag and give you a ticket to claim it.  Otherwise, if it’s small enough, keep it in your lap.

Bus Terminal in Bogotá
© Photograph by Terminal de Transportes de Bogotá

Step 5:

Find your seat.  Before you sit down, make sure you check your bus ticket for an assigned seat.  The vans/small buses going to the nearby pueblos (like Zipaquirá) aren’t strict about sitting in that seat, but if you’re on a large charter bus going far, you’ll have to.  If you have an empty seat next to you, wait before you stretch out.  From Salitre, you can expect to stop at the terminal in the north or south to pick up more people on your way out of the city.

Step 6:

Enjoy the ride!  You might want to consider bringing a pillow and blanket (sometimes they blast the AC) to make your ride more comfortable.  Then you can just roll your seat back, put in some headphones and sleep or enjoy the movie they typically show on longer trips. Depending on the length of your bus ride, the bus may turn out at rest stops, giving you a chance to get snacks or use the restroom.  Sometimes, the drivers will even pick up vendors that sell food and drinks.  Also, there’s no need to pay attention to the random stops drivers make throughout the trip to drop people off; these stops are not the final destination. The bus will arrive at the terminal of the destination city and this is where you should always get off.

Amenities at Salitre:

  • Lots of food options – cafés, bakeries, convenience stores and restaurants.
  • Luggage storage – $4,000 COP (less than $1.50 USD) per piece of luggage per day.
  • Showers – $7,000 COP (a little more than $2 USD) and you will also get a towel, soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Vaccinations – there is a medical office inside the terminal where you can get the yellow fever, measles or rubella vaccine FOR FREE.
  • Taxi dispatch – there are a few offices located around the terminal open 24 hours a day that will assign you a taxi to ensure safety (you could also use Uber or other Apps to Help You Get Around Bogotá from the terminal)
  • Chapel – Colombia is a Catholic country and it’s common to find chapels everywhere

Much like the Taxis in Bogotá, the bus drivers go a little fast and sometimes crazy, but remember that they do this all the time, so no need to panic!  Smart Travel Tip:  if you’ve got a ways to go, take an overnight bus.  It’ll save you on accommodation and those buses are usually the most comfortable.  My favorites for long distance travel are Velotax (their double decker bus has a VIP section), Bolivariano (they also have buses with a VIP section) and Flota Magdalena.  They’re some of the largest bus companies so they provide service to quite a few cities.

I’ve come through the Salitre terminal many times and I’m sure I’ll be using it plenty more in the future.  It’s a great starting point and despite its size, really easy to navigate. If you get lost, just follow the signs; they’re everywhere and a lot of them are even in English!

What are you must see places in Colombia?  I bet there’s a bus that will take you there! Let me know in the comments and be sure to follow my articles on www.colture.com!  Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for all things Bogotá related.

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