How To Travel From Santa Marta To Cartagena: My 3 Best Options

There are various options to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena and the other way around.

You can take a bus, a van, or private transportation.

I’ve made the journey from Santa Marta to Cartagena many times and in every possible way. Find out the pros and cons of each option and make the right decision.

4 hours
Private Car Santa Marta - Cartagena
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Enjoy a convenient and comfortable journey from Santa Marta to Cartagena with a private transfer service. Avoid the complexities of public transportation and costly taxis. Travel in an air-conditioned vehicle, enjoying the scenery while your driver handles the road.

See on Viator

Cartagena to Santa Marta: What you must know

Duration Bus Cartagena to Santa Marta: It takes 5-6 hours with a bus leaving from the terminal.

Flights: There are no direct flights between Cartagena and Santa Marta.

Bus Company: Use a good one to avoid changing buses in Barranquilla – Copetran and Expreso Brasilia.

Cartagena bus terminal: It’s 45 minutes from the old city center.

Duration shuttle Cartagena to Santa Marta: It takes around 4-5 hours.

Berlinastur & Marson: Both are transportation companies using vans. They have their own terminal near the old city center in Cartagena and Santa Marta.

Cost: The bus is a bit less expensive (about 15 USD) than the shuttle (about 23 USD).

Car rental: I recommend Localiza.

Private transportation: it’s expensive. Around 200$ per trip.

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Where is Santa Marta

Santa Marta is on the Caribbean Coast, nestled among the Sierra Nevada, between Cartagena and Tayrona National Park. The place became a tourist hub because of its perfect location to explore the surroundings:

Moreover, there is no direct night bus from San Gil to Cartagena. Travelers have to stop in Santa Marta first.

Some people also prefer visiting Santa Marta rather than Cartagena. Although there is a more authentic Colombian vibe in Santa Marta – and better beaches -, the walled city of Cartagena is much nicer.

Map of the tourist attractions near Santa Marta

Map Activities around Santa Marta

Is there an Airport in Santa Marta?


National flights are cheap in Colombia, so don’t hesitate to use them when backpacking through Colombia. 

But book them at least one week in advance for the best prices.

1. Which airlines can you use to fly to Santa Marta? 

  • Avianca: It’s the main national Airline in Colombia
  • Latam

2. How to get to Santa Marta Airport

The Santa Marta Airport is a bit far from the city – 16 km away, near Rodadero. Catch the bus “Aeropuerto Rodadero.” : Santa Marta Airport to the center by bus: 45 min / 2 000 COP

But if you’ve booked your accommodation in Rodadero, it’s a lot closer: Santa Marta Airport to Rodadero by bus: 20 min / 2 000 COP

Always agree on the price before getting inside the taxi. It will avoid misunderstanding 🙂

  • Taxi Airport to the city center: Around 33 000 COP / 25 min
  • Taxi Aiport to Rodadero: Around 15 000 COP / 10 min

Where is the Bus terminal in Santa Marta?

The main bus terminal is on the outskirts of the city. You will arrive there if you take the classic long buses from Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Medellin.

There are always taxis waiting for new clients.

  • Taxi Bus terminal to the city center: Around 8,000 COP / 10 min
  • Taxi Bus terminal to Rodadero: Around 20 000 COP / 15 min

Berlinastur, Marsol, and the buses for Tayrona and Santa Marta aren’t located in the main bus terminal. (See the map)

  • Berlinastur: Carrera 18, Calle 23
  • Marsol: Cra. 4 #23-49, Comuna 2, Santa Marta, Magdalena
  • Bus Santa Marta to Tayrona: Carrera 11, Calle 11
  • Bus Santa Marta to Minca: Calle 11 con Carrera 12

Map To Travel To Santa Marta

Map to travel to Santa Marta from Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin & San Gil

How to get from Santa Marta To Cartagena

The distance between Cartagena and Santa Marta is not that big: 240 Km.

If you’re in a rush, you can book private transport or a taxi to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta—you should save 2 hours.

1. Direct flights from Cartagena

There is no direct flight Santa Marta to Cartagena. You will have to stop in Bogota first.

It would be silly. Don’t do it.

2. Buses from Santa Marta to Cartagena

There are plenty of buses for getting to Santa Marta from Cartagena!

First, a few tips about buses in Colombia:

  • You don’t need to buy your bus ticket in advance – Except during public holidays.
  • Each bus company has its own booth.
  • You can bargain the price of your bus ticket.
  • You’ll probably leave late from the terminal.

There are 3 bus companies that I recommend to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta: Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, and Unitrasco.

They cost more or less the same.

  • Bus Cartagena to Santa Marta: Around 60 000 COP / 5-6 hours

The bus terminal in Cartagena is far from the old city center:

  • Taxi: 30 000 COP / 45 min

3. Shared shuttle from Santa Marta to Cartagena

Taking a private shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta is a great option to save time.

You have the choice between Marsol or Berlinastur.

I used them several times without any problems, but they seem to have many unsatisfied customers on the internet. From what I understood, Berlinastur seems a bit more serious than Marsol.

  • Price: Around 90,000 COP
  • Duration: 4-5 hours

Shared shuttle advantages

  • Daily departures every 30 min.
  • Each company has a terminal bus closer to the historic center—Santa Marta and Cartagena.
  • It’s faster. Save at least 1 hour.

Shared shuttle inconveniences

  • There is no legroom.
  • Limited space for the luggage.
  • You can’t book in advance.
  • It’s more expensive than the bus.

You have to get to their office to use their private shuttle to Cartagena.

  • Berlinastur Office in Santa Marta: Cra. 18 #23-4
  • Berlinastur Office in Cartagena: Cl. 46B #3-80,
  • Marsol office in Santa Marta: Cra. 4 #23-49, Comuna 2
  • Marsol office in Cartagena: Cra. 1 #43-115, Barrio El Cabrero

4. Private transportation from Santa Marta to Cartagena

If you’re in a rush and you don’t want to bother with the transport, ask your hotel to find you a taxi to drive you to Cartagena.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

Be ready to pay about 200 USD. Confirms that the cab takes the toll road. It’s the fastest. Otherwise, it takes 2 hours longer. Double-check with your GPS ;).

4 hours
Private Car Santa Marta - Cartagena
From 235$ / 3 pers

Enjoy a convenient and comfortable journey from Santa Marta to Cartagena with a private transfer service. Avoid the complexities of public transportation and costly taxis. Travel in an air-conditioned vehicle, enjoying the scenery while your driver handles the road.

See on Viator

How to get from San Gil to Santa Marta

With a night bus from San Gil or a flight from Bucaramanga.

1. A direct flight from San Gil

There is no airport in San Gil. If you don’t wanna take the long night bus from San Gil to Santa Marta, you have to fly from Bucaramanga to Santa Marta.

There are many buses from San Gil to Bucaramanga but if your flight is early in the morning, I recommend you to sleep in Giron.

  • Bus San Gil to Bucaramanga: Around 35,000 COP / 3.5 hours

Then, it’s quick to get from Giron or Bucaramanga to the airport.

2. Night Bus in San Gil

Ok, it’s not the most comfortable way of traveling, but it’s practical. Especially in this case.

  • Night Bus San Gil to Santa Marta: Around 120,000 COP / 13 hours | Only 1 per day with Expreso Brasilia. Double-check with your hotel to know if this option is still available.

Psss: Don’t forget to take a blanket for the bus, they love Air-con.

How To Get From Bogota to Santa Marta

It’s a bit too long to travel by bus from Bogota to Santa Marta! So I advise you to book a flight.

Unfortunately, you will miss Villa de Leyva & San Gil.

1. Direct flights from Bogota

The good thing is there are many flights from Bogota to Santa Marta. It should take about 1h30. You can get flights from about 40-50 USD.

2. I prefer to spend my whole day on the bus Bogota – Santa Marta

Ok, it’s your choice 😉

Buy wood, water and be ready to cross half the country by bus.

  • Bus Bogota to Santa Marta: Around 170 000 COP / 18-20 h
  • Bus Companies: Copetran, Berlinas del Fonce, Brasilia

You will have to spend the night on the bus – It’s safe.

How To Get From Medellin To Santa Marta

Bus or flight.

1. Direct flights from Medellin to Santa Marta

First, you have to go to Jose Maria Cordova airport in Medellin. It should take about 1h15. You can get flights from about 40-50 USD.

2. Bus Medellin to Santa Marta

Book a night bus to save some time.

  • Bus Medellin to Santa Marta: Around 180 000 COP / 16h
  • Bus Companies: Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa

What to read next

Here are our top-notch Cartagena guides:


I have been traveling around Colombia and Mexico since 2015 to discover new experiences and help travelers make the right choices.

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