While I live by the life principle of ‘never letting fear stop you from what you endeavour’, it is important to take caution and not act
in stupidity precariously when one is travelling in a foreign land. So how dangerous/unsafe is it to travel as a solo female traveller in Colombia? And how dangerous is it to take a night bus from anywhere in Colombia?
So far (touching wood!), my experience has been pleasant and there is not much difference as compared to travelling alone in Vietnam or even Japan. A few weeks back, I was planning a trip to Colombia’s 2nd most populous city and after doing research, it seems that my best transportation choice from Armenia to Medellin (in terms of convenience, time and finance factors) is the night bus. I was slightly apprehensive but the logical mind said to go ahead.
F.Y.I. To get to Medellin from Armenia, one can choose one of the following options:
Travelling from Armenia to Medellin, Colombia
|Transport options||Convenience||Costs||Time||Potential Cons / Difficulties|
|Bus||㋡㋡㋡㋡||$$||6 – 7 hours||Bad traffic|
|Car||㋡㋡㋡㋡㋡||$$$||4 – 5 hours||Need to find someone to drive.|
|Bus + Flight||㋡㋡ Necessary to travel to Pereira for budget flight to Medellin.||$$$$||1 hour from Armenia – Pereira; 3 hours Pereira – Bogota – Medellin||Inconvenient and time-consuming|
|Flight||㋡㋡ Most flights require transit in Bogota.||$$$$$||2 hours 35 mins Armenia – Bogota – Medellin||Expensive|
There are at least three bus companies that provide transport services from Armenia to Medellin. Flota Occidental is the most expensive but have a good reputation and they have double-decker buses that provide first-class seats, which can be adjusted/lowered to 180-degree for comfortable sleeping. The cheapest option (sorry, I forgot the name) did not allowed me to purchase my tickets in advance. I was told to purchase the tickets on the day of my departure and I was not comfortable with that option. The ever wary and suspicious me wondered if last-minute bus fares may be inflated or perhaps seats may be sold out miraculously.
Being the kiasu Singaporean, I ended up buying the mid-range Empresa Arauca two days ahead of my departure. I don’t know if it was due to a case of good fortune, but my journey with Empresa Arauca was more than pleasant!
“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.” ― Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy
At the time of travelling, my Spanish vocabulary was rather sparse (not that it is much better now) but I was able to source, ask questions and buy my tickets in broken Spanish. The ticket counter seller must have took pity on me, for I was given a really nice window seat and it turned out that it was not a full bus, so nobody sat beside me the entire journey.
Night bus from Armenia to Medellin on Empresa Arauca
|Amenities onboard||㋡㋡㋡㋡㋡ Toilet, Wi-Fi, power source/supply, air-conditioned, movie screening for 1 – 2 hours (at start of journey), reading light, etc.|
|Cleanliness||㋡㋡㋡㋡㋡ No signs of debris and even the floor looks super clean.|
|Comfort / Safety||㋡㋡㋡㋡ Seats can be adjusted/lowered to 45-degree, armrest can be lifted and there are adequate seat belts|
|Driver’s skills||㋡㋡㋡㋡㋡ Smooth ride with no constant jerking in spite of driving along winding mountainous roads in the dark|
Armenia is the capital city of Quindio department, located in the central west of Colombia. Strategically located, it lies between three major popular cities, namely Bogota, Medellin and Cali. Although buses from Armenia to Medellin are often considered/supposed to be direct, there will almost always be a stop at Pereira – a city bigger than Armenia – about an hour drive away. My bus journey to Medellin with Empresa Arauca is no different. After an hour, the bus pulled into Pereira bus terminal for less than 10 minutes to drop off/pick up passengers. After that, we zoomed off towards our intended destination.
Although the movie was playing on a central TV, I soon felt asleep, feeling comfortable and safe in my lone seat. During the night ride, I had a vague sense of winding roads (I later confirmed this on my return journey during the day) and was thankful for the secure seat belt and smooth driving. Before I knew it, we were on a straight road and a check on my GPS showed me that I have arrived in Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring.
Note: Seat belts should not be taken for granted because (unfortunately) some buses do not have them or seat belts tend to be faulty.
It took me approximately 7 hours on bus to travel from Armenia to Medellin that night. My bus departed on time (another reason why I love Empresa Arauca) at 10pm and I reached the South Terminal of Medellin just before 5am. Upon arrival, there are information counters and signboards to help disorientated travellers to make their way. Grab a coffee to wake yourself up – I did and was instantly revived. 🙂
To get to the city center or your hotel conveniently, you may either take a cab or UBER (my preferred choice).
“to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
Was I crazy? I admit that part of the appeal for taking a night bus will allow me to write an article on the safety of travelling as a solo female at night in Colombia. However, this inspiration came belatedly when I was on the bus and to be honest, my one-time experience does not really warrant much for the next traveller (though I hope the info will be of some help). Should you decide to travel alone at night by bus from Armenia to Medellin, do take due diligence to ensure personal safety.
The above information is based on the author’s own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out: http://www.colombia.travel/en/