Taxis within the cities in Colombia are widely available and are an economical way of getting around. Licensed vehicles are bright yellow in color and are generally easy to hail from the street as they pass. Tipping of taxi drivers – beyond perhaps rounding up journey prices to the nearest thousand pesos – is not customary.
Ordering taxis by telephone is also possible, and is preferred by some as a more convenient and more secure service. The most popular telephone taxi services include Taxi Libre in Bogota and Taxi Individual in Medellin. These can be accessed by dialing (031)211 1111 in Bogota and (034)444 4444 in Medellin. When calling from a land-line, these companies will automatically detect your address and dispatch a taxi to it, without requiring any interaction between users and operators.
Use of mobile applications such as Easy Taxi and Tapsi are also an increasingly prevalent way of ordering taxis in the country. These have additional advantages in that they allow users to order a taxi from any location (not just a fixed address), and benefit from measures to enhance security, such as vehicle identification and driver / passenger profiles.
In most areas, taxi journeys are metered, with the minimum fare in the region of 4,000 COP
In most areas, taxi journeys are metered, with the minimum fare in the region of 4,000 COP and a price of approximately 1,000 COP/km (the precise figures vary from city to city). In Cali, Medellin and elsewhere, the meter straightforwardly displays the final journey price in pesos.
Taxis in Bogota however, operate a slightly different system. Here fares are divided into ‘cost bands’ with the number on the meter indicating the band in which your journey currently falls. To reach the final peso price, users should consult the conversion table which will be displayed on a laminated sheet, generally hanging off the back of the passenger sheet. Unfortunately, taxi drivers in Bogota have been known to use this somewhat convoluted process to overcharge foreign passengers. (See also the following guide for more tips on avoiding the potential pitfalls of taking taxis in Bogota and Colombia. )
In Cartagena visitors will need to negotiate the cost of any journey before getting into the vehicle
There are some exceptions to the use of meters in taxi rides, the most notable of which being Cartagena. Here visitors will need to negotiate the cost of any journey before getting into the vehicle. The potential for overcharging is obviously much greater in such circumstances. To minimize the risk of this, consider consulting with hotel / restaurant staff or other locals about what the price of the journey should be before entering negotiations with your driver. As a general rule though, fares tend to be higher in this city than for comparative journeys made elsewhere, in part because of the greater numbers of tourists there. Taxis going to/from the airport in Medellin will also not use the meter, as the journey is a fixed-rate fare.
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One final note on taxis in Colombia is that upon exiting the vehicle you should make sure to shut doors gently. Taxi doors in the country are far lighter than you're probably used to, and shutting them with a standard bit of force will cause them to slam. The immediate result will be an extremely irate driver. Close the door gently and avoid any such problems.
Uber in Colombia
Since 2013, the taxi platform Uber has been operational in Colombia and is currently available in major cities including Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena. The firm is planning to further expand its coverage across other cities, but - as in many places - has faced strong opposition from traditional taxi drivers which has limited its growth.
Unlike elsewhere, however, Uber in Colombia seems to compete mainly in terms of quality of service, and safety, than on price. This is probably because journeys in the normal yellow cabs in Colombia are dirt cheap anyway so it would be difficult to charge less. The traditional cabs are not famed for their customer service though - Colombians often complain that drivers are rude, take long routes or refuse to take them to a particular part of town (something they are not legally allowed to do). Such problems are particularly common in Bogota.
As Uber and the other ride sharing apps, have systems of giving feedback and leaving ratings for their drivers, the service provided tends to be a bit better overall.