Many visitors choose to enter Colombia via land crossing from neighboring countries. The ease of access varies considerably depending on which of the five bordering states - Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – is your starting point.
The easiest crossings are via road from Venezuela and Ecuador. Arrival from Brazil and Peru is slightly more difficult in that the border town, Leticia, is surrounding by dense jungle. As such, the only option for onward travel within Colombia is via internal flight. Crossing from Panama (via land, at least) is essentially impossible as the border region, dense jungle terrain lacking any transport infrastructure, is extremely difficult to traverse and suffers the presence of illegal armed groups.
Land Crossing from Ecuador
The simplest way to get to Colombia from Ecuador is via the crossing along the Panamerican Highway, which passes through Tulcan on the Ecuadorian side (approximately 5 hours from Quito) to Ipiales in Colombia. From the bus terminal in Tulcan taxis run to the border, where tourists will need to present their travel documents at both Ecuadorian and Colombian immigration posts.
The simplest way to arrive from Ecuador is via the crossing along the Panamerican Highway
From Ipiales, buses run to destinations including Popayan, Cali and Bogota. The shortest of these journeys, to Popayan, takes eight hours. You may prefer to undertake this journey by day as parts of the Nariño province, through which the bus travels, suffer periodic security problems. However, you are unlikely to encounter difficulties if you do need to travel by night.
Land Crossing from Venezuela
The easiest, most popular and safest border crossing from Venezuela is from San Antonio del Táchira in Venezuela, to Cucuta in Colombia. Upon arrival at the Venezuelan town of San Antonio you will need to catch a bus or shared taxi the short distance to the border. Here you will need to disembark to pass customs and immigration on either side of the Simon Bolivar Bridge. A brief bus ride, leaving from outside the official buildings on the Colombian side, will take you to the main bus terminal in Cucuta. From here you can catch one of the frequent buses to Bogota, Bucaramanga and other destinations.
Other border crossings exist at Paraguachon in the northern coastal province of La Guajira, and in the Eastern provinces of Vichada (at Puerto Carreño) and Arauca. Only the first of these is regularly used by tourists, particularly those travelling from or arriving to coastal destinations in the northeast. This crossing lies on the road between Colombia’s Maicao and Venezuela’s Maracaibo, with buses running regularly along the route. The latter two, eastern border, crossings are infrequently used by tourists as they lie in areas with greater security issues and are significantly less well served by onward transport connections.
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Eastern border crossings lie in areas with greater security issues and are less well served by transport connections
Land Crossing from Peru and Brazil
Arrival from both Peru and Brazil is via the jungle town of Leticia, in the far south east of the country. From Peru, visitors will need to travel by boat from Iquitos or Yurimaguas. There are both slow and fast trip options, the quickest of which still takes about 12 hours. On-board facilities on such vessels are also generally fairly limited. To Brazil, boats run between Leticia and Manaus and Tabatinga. These journeys can take between one and several days to complete.
SEE ALSO: The Peruvian Slang You Can't Do Without
Travel options from Leticia to the rest of Colombia are restricted by its remote location. The pleasant town does however, make a good base from which to explore the country’s Amazon region and there are plenty of tours available from here. To reach the rest of the country, visitors must catch a flight, to Bogota, or the smaller destinations of La Chorrera, La Pedrera, and Tarapaca.
Arrival By Air
Colombia's main international airports are in Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena. The country has direct and regular connections to North and South America, as well as several European destinations. The most popular times to travel are in December, around Easter and in mid-June to July. While places on planes are still likely to be available during such periods, prices may increase by up to 40%. As such, booking well in advance is advisable.
Below are links to selected airlines operating direct flights to Colombia:
Flights within Latin America to Colombia:
Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) flights between Toronto and Bogota
Avianca (www.avianca.com) flies between Colombia and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela
Copa (www.copaair.com) direct flights to Panama, and from there to many other destinations throughout the region
LAN (www.lan.com) to Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru
Tame (www.tame.com.ec) operates flights between Colombia and Ecuador
Flights from Europe to Colombia:
Avianca (www.avianca.com) operates direct flights to Spain and to the UK.
Air France (www.airfrance.com) direct flights from France
Iberia (www.iberia.com) flights from Madrid to Bogota
KLM (www.klm.com) flights from the Netherlands
Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) from Germany to Colombia
Air Portugal (www.flytap.com) from Lisbon to Bogota.
Flights from North America to Colombia:
There are no direct flights from Colombia to destinations in Asia. Flights from Australia and New Zealand generally stop off in the city of Santiago in Chile.
Arrival By Sea
Despite its extensive stretches of Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, Colombia has limited options if you want to travel by sea to the country. The overwhelmingly majority of visitors who arrive to the country via this method will disembark in Cartagena on Colombia’s northern shore.
The city has a large port area and is frequently visited by Caribbean cruises, which stop outside Cartagena for a day or two. Smaller sailing boats and yachts also regularly arrive to the city from neighboring Panama. Such trips generally take about five days to sail from Panama City to Cartagena, or vice versa, and stop for a couple of days to enjoy the idyllic San Blas islands off the Panamanian coast. Such journeys invariably start in one country and end in the other; round trips Cartagena - San Blas - Cartagena (i.e. not calling at Panama City) are not available.
Small yachts travel from Panama to Colombia, stopping for a couple of days to enjoy the idyllic San Blas islands
Travel by sail boat from Panama costs in the region of US$ 400 – 500, on way, and is a highly popular option for backpackers on trips round both South and Central America. The quality of food, drink and service provided on these boats varies dramatically so it’s worth seeking out a recommendation before committing to any particular company. Another sensible precaution is to check carefully what is included in the price, as some firms offer significantly more comprehensive packages than others. For the most up-to-date information about when the various boats are leaving, and which trips are of the highest quality, consult staff or other travelers at backpacker hostels in Panama City.
Access to Colombia by river is possible from Brazil/Peru, via the Amazon to Leticia. From Leticia, you will need to continue your journey by plane, as the city is separated from the rest of the country by vast expanses of dense jungle.