How To Travel From Santa Marta To Cartagena (and more)

How To Travel From Santa Marta To Cartagena (and more)

It’s quite straightforward to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena and the other way around. Let’s find out how to take the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta or a door-to-door shuttle.

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.

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

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

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

Marsol: It’s a door to door service. They pick you up at your hotel, as well as the other passengers.

Berlinastur: It’s a shuttle service. They have their own terminal near the old city center in Cartagena and Santa Marta.

Cost: The bus is a bit less expensive (9$) than the shuttle (13$).

Car rental: There is AVIS in both cities.

Private transportation: it’s expensive. Around 220$ 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 San Gil – 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 to get the best prices.

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

  • Viva Air Colombia: it’s a Ryanair company. Cheap airline with basic services
  • 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 25 000 COP / 25 min
  • Taxi Aiport to Rodadero: Around 12 000 COP / 10 min

Where is the Bus terminal?

The main bus terminal is on the outskirt 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 6 000 COP / 10 min
  • Taxi Bus terminal to Rodadero: Around 10 000 COP / 15 min

Various bus terminals in Santa Marta (+)

Be careful. The private shuttle Berlinastur and the buses for Tayrona and Santa Marta aren’t located in the main bus terminal. (See the map)

  • Berlinastur: Carrera 18, Calle 23
  • 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 Kms.

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

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 Cartagena to Santa Marta

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 maybe.
  • Each bus company has its own counter office
  • You can bargain the price of your bus ticket

There are 3 bus companies you can take from Cartagena to Santa Marta: Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, Unitrasco.

They cost more or less the same.

  • Bus Cartagena to Santa Marta: Around 30 000 COP / 5-6 hours

The bus terminal in Cartagena is far from the old city center. There are 2 options:

  • Taxi: 20 000 COP / 45 min
  • Public Bus Terminal to India Catalina Monument: 1 800 COP / at least 1 hour

3. Private Shuttle from Cartagena

Take a private shuttle from Santa Marta to Cartagena is a great option to save time and effort. It’s a bit more expensive.

Marsol is a door to door shuttle company that works a lot with hostels and hotels on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

They pick and drop you off at your accommodations. It means you save time and money – 0 taxis. Let your hotel knows when you wish to leave. There are various departures during the day.

  • Marsol Private shuttle Santa Marta to Cartagena: 48 000 COP / 4-5 hours
  • Facebook contact

I used them twice without any problems, but they seem to have many unsatisfied customers on the internet.

Marsol inconveniences (+)

  • It can be a bit longer if you’re the first one on the shuttle because they have to pick all the other clients up. And they’re not very organized.
  • There is no legroom
  • Limited space for the luggage

Berlinastur is another shuttle company that you can use to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena.

I never made a trip with them, but Practical wanderlust and other fellow travelers seem to like them more than Marsol.

You have to get to their office to use their private shuttle to Cartagena. There are many departures every day.

  • Berlinastur Office in Santa Marta: Cra. 18 #23-4 | 6 000 COP in taxi
  • Berlinastur Office in Cartagena: Cra. 18 #57, Marbella station | 10 000 COP in taxi

But there are cheaper and faster than Marsol. And there is more space for the luggage.

  • Berlinastur private shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta: 40 000 COP / 4 h

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.

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 20 000 COP / 2.5 hours

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

To help you to calculate if it’s worth it, I did a simulation with 3 airline companies – Every time with 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

There is no direct flight Bucaramanga – Santa Marta. You have to stop in Bogota first.

  • Viva Air Colombia: 240 000 COP / 6 – 8 hours
  • Latam: 445 000 COP / 5 hours
  • Avianca: 340 000 COP / 4 hours

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 60 000 COP / 13 hours

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.

First,  you have to arrive at El Dorado (Bogota’s airport). Medellin Guru wrote a great article about it.

Let’s see what prices you can expect to pay –  with a 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

  • Viva air Colombia: 160 000 COP / 1h30
  • Latam: 330 000 COP / 1h30
  • Avianca: 320 000 COP / 1h30

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

Ok, it’s your choice 😉

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

  • Bus Bogota to Santa Marta: Around 90 000 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

1. Direct flights from Medellin to Santa Marta

First, you have to go to Jose Maria Cordova airport in Medellin.

Let’s see what prices you can expect to pay – with a 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

  • Viva Air Colombia: 180 000 COP / 1h15
  • Latam: 280 000 COP / 1h15
  • Avianca: 250 000 COP / 1h15

2. Bus Medellin to Santa Marta

Book a night bus for saving some time.

  • Bus Medellin to Santa Marta: Around 120 000 COP / 16h
  • Bus Companies: Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa

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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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