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Taxis in Colombia

If you're visiting Colombia as a tourist or backpacker, you're going to need to take taxis. Fortunately, this is not New York or London...even travelers on modest budgets will find taxi prices quite affordable...But you need to know how the taxi system works, and it's a little bit different in each city. Basically, you will either pay a fare based on a standard metered rate, or you'll negotiate a set price with the taxi driver. Larger cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cali) have taximetros, small boxes that typically start at 25 and increase upwards relative to the distance traveled. In smaller cities (Tunja, Villavicencio, Pereira) or on the coast (Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta), you'll typically be quoted a flat rate by the taxi driver, based on how far you're going.

Bogota

taxis-in-colombia-1Bogota is a geographically enormous city...so the taxi system is designed to take that into account. The taxi meter starts at 25, and the "carta de precios" or price list, tells you how much you will pay. Roughly a 10 minute taxi ride will cost $7.000 or $8.000, while a 20 minute taxi ride should cost around $15.000. There is a surcharge of $2.500 at night time, on Sundays, and if you're going to the airport. You can hail taxis off the street, but for added security, it's a good idea to call a taxi company. Dial either 031.311.1111 or 031.411.1111, and they will dispatch a taxi to your address very quickly. Also, they will give you a numerical two digit security code. You have the right as a passenger to see the carta de precios...

Medellin

Medellin is a smaller city than Bogota and taxis are about 50% more expensive...however you're typically traveling much shorter distances in Medellin. Unlike in Bogota, in Medellin the taximetro will tell you exactly what you will pay. A 10 minute taxi ride should be about $10.000 while a 20 minute ride should be a little less than $20.000. It's a bit more expensive, but as Medellin does not have the well-developed bus network that Bogota has, you'll want to splurge on taxis quite a bit in Medellin.

Cali

Cali also has a taximetro system. Taxis are reasonably priced, and cost about the same as in Bogota. The amount that you pay roughly corresponds to the numerical value of the taximetro. For example, if the taximetro says 68, you'll pay $6.800 pesos.taxis-in-colombia-2

Smaller Cities and the Coast

Outside of Colombia's largest three cities, taxis typically operate on a flat rate price that you negotiate beforehand with the driver. Usually a standard fare for a short distance is about $5.000, and a medium distance is usually around $8.000 to $10.000.

Most taxi drivers in Colombia are honest, but there are some who may try to take advantage of you if they know you're a foreigner, and especially if you don't speak good Spanish. Don't be afraid to bargain a little, and if a taxi driver is really trying to rip you off, just get out and hail another cab.

In general, it's always easy to find a cab in Colombia. Prices are low, and there is a large supply, even at night. If you're looking to save a little money, walk a couple blocks away from the ritzy parts of town (Zona Rosa, Milla de Oro, Parque 93, etc). Taxis are known to try to charge you more if you are coming out of an expensive club.

All in all, taxis sometimes get a bad rap in Colombia. But in my experience in four years in Colombia, the vast majority of Colombian cabbies are honest hard-working folk trying to make a living. They'll get you where you need to go cheaply and safely. But of course, always follow the basic safety and security recommendations of Colombia Backpacking.

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