How To Get From Medellin to Cartagena

(And Cartagena To Medellin)

How To Get From Medellin to Cartagena

(And Cartagena To Medellin)

If you’ve read our Medellin vs Cartagena blog, you will probably agree with us that seeing both cities are absolutely necessary during your Colombia backpacking trip.

During my travels there, I often overheard debates among other backpackers of whether to fly from Medellin to Cartagena or to take a bus.

I guess when you’re backpacking one of the biggest priorities is to save money where you can, which almost always tempts travelers to take the cheapest method of transportation to and from cities.

Even if that means spending 24 hours on a bus!

el poblado medellin 2

The cheapest method of transportation anywhere you go is usually the bus, however, that’s not always the case in Colombia.

Keep reading to find out the best ways to get from Medellin to Cartagena (And Cartagena to Medellin)…

And while you’re here and planning to visit Medellin and Cartagena, feel free to read these:

15 Best Things To Do In Cartagena Colombia

Top Things To Do In El Poblado Medellin (The Last Guide You’ll Ever Need)


bocagrande beach


where to stay in medellin colombia



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How To Get From Cartagena To Medellin (And Medellin To Cartagena)

There are three options when it comes to travelling from Cartagena to Medellin or Medellin to Cartagena.

  • Plane | 1 hour
  • Bus (or drive) | 13 hours
  • Train | 20+ hours

cartagena old town


cafe havana cartagena colombia

Medellin To Cartagena Flight

I’m going to begin with the best option, which is to get from Cartagena to Medellin via plane.

You can usually find some pretty cheap flights going non-stop from Cartagena to Medellin and vice versa.

The flight time to get from Cartagena to Medellin is 1 hour 10 mins.

The major airlines that take you on this route are LATAM, Viva Air, or Avianca.


Depending on what time of year you go and how soon you book, the flight can cost you as little as $24 USD for a one-way non-stop flight. (And the Cartagena to Medellin flight cost is the same).

Needless to say, this is the quickest and easiest option to travel from Cartagena to Medellin and vice versa.

It’s usually not too expensive, however, if money is your first priority and you are struggling to find a cheap flight, you may want to look into taking a bus or a train there instead.

Keep in mind that while Medellin has two airports (international and domestic), you’ll most likely be traveling via the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE) which is located in Rionegro, about 35 minutes away (without traffic) from where you’ll be staying in Medellin, so allow this extra time for transportation.

The Rafael Nunez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena is only located a few miles from the city center, so it’s nice and convenient to get to and from.

where to stay in cartagena colombia


medellin view

Medellin To Cartagena Bus

The second option is to take a bus from Cartagena to Medellin or from Medellin to Cartagena.

The driving distance between Cartagena and Medellin is just under 400 miles (634km), which will take around 13 hours.

Although it’s supposed to take 13 hours, I’ve heard that it can take much longer depending on how many stops are made and what time of the day you’re traveling.

Pro Tip
The timetable has buses running at different times during the day, however it might be wise to catch a night bus seeing as the trip is super long.

This way you avoid daytime traffic, you can get some sleep and not have to spend money on accommodation for that night! Bonus!

The two bus companies that can drive you between Cartagena and Medellin are Expreso Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa. You can book your ticket on

Make sure you print your ticket!

medellin to cartagena

The Medellin to Cartagena bus ticket costs around $45 USD and this includes food, 1 carry-on bag and 1 checked bag up to 20kg.

So as you can see, the bus is not actually cheaper than flying, but if you cannot find a cheap flight then at least you know you have this option to consider.

Be sure to book your ticket a couple of days in advance especially if you’re planning on taking the night bus, as they do tend to sell out quickly.

The buses are quite comfortable, they have reclining seats, toilets, WiFi (though I wouldn’t depend on it), and even individual TV’s.

Again, this option is a good one if you cannot find a cheap flight, but if you can find a cheap flight then flying is still the better option in my opinion, as you save all that time.

The bus leaves/arrives in Cartagena at the Cartagena Bus Terminal.

The bus leaves/arrives in Medellin at the Medellin North Terminal.

self-guided Comuna 13 tour

Drive from Medellin to Cartagena

Of course, if there’s the option to take the bus then there’s the option to just hire a car and drive yourself, and while this could be an awesome adventure, it’s probably better to leave the long haul drive up to an experienced bus driver who has driven the same route many times.

The last thing you want is to be stranded somewhere in the middle of the Colombian jungle without a clue of what to do next.

getsemani cartagena 3

Medellin to Cartagena Train

The train in the least desirable option and I don’t really recommend it, but I may as well mention it anyway just in case.

It takes over 20 hours to get from Cartagena to Medellin via train, and you will have to take a route from Cartagena – Bucaramanga – Medellin.

It’s a huge hassle, it’s probably not as safe, and I’d (obviously) much rather spend 13 hours on a bus or 1 hour on a plane instead, even if they cost 5x the price.

You’ll have to take the train from Medellin North Terminal, and then you can choose between a few different train companies that not only travel interstate, but to other countries within South America.

The price to take a train from Medellin to Cartagena should cost no more than 100,000 COP (about $28 USD).

Again, I don’t recommend this option at all because there are clearly much better options above, but it’s up to you.

You can find more information about Medellin to Cartagena trains here at

medellin to cartagena train


medellin to cartagena street


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