We took the 9:30pm Expreso Brasilia bus from Cartagena to Medellin. It wasn’t a great experience. It was loud. And freezing cold.
Matt suffered most because he wore shorts. At one point he looked at me helplessly and said “I need to use you as a blanket”. And then he proceed to sit-sleep sideways with his legs tangled in mine for a little bit of warmth.
I wrote this while sitting in the bus (at 6am) so you know these tips are based on recent firsthand experience! Make a rather long journey from Cartagena to Medellin more pleasant with our tips.
Where to Buy Your Ticket
You can book the bus either at the bus station (which is a 12.000-20.000 COP taxi ride from the Centro Historico) or at the Supertienda, Olympica. We booked at Olympica a day in advance. It’s best to buy a little bit in advance so that you can choose your seat.
Where to Sit
The good thing is you can choose your seat on Expreso Brasilia. The bad thing is if you’ve never taken this bus before, how can you know where to sit!? Let me tell you.
Get a seat on the left side of the bus for an amazing sunrise and mountain view in the morning.
Pick a seat that is in the second half of the bus, near the back but not at the back.
Why not the back of the bus? If you choose the very back, you’ll be too close to the toilet, which will smell eventually. Even if you have no sense of smell, the toilet light is bright and people will be opening the door all night long. It’s best to avoid the back.
Why not the middle/front? It’s freezing cold! There are vents in the middle of the bus that blow freezing cold air all night and morning. It’s so cold, trust me – I’ve had them blowing in my all night!
Try for seats 25, 26, 29, or 30. Or for the very front!
How Much Does it Cost? How Long Does it Take?
The cost is more straightforward. It cost us 240.000 COP for 2 tickets so they’re 120.000 COP each. It was slightly cheaper than flying but if you factor in the taxi costs from airports, the bus is better for budget travellers.
The bus should take 12-13 hours. The bus I’m in has been driving for 13 hours and we’re not there yet. So I think it takes 12-15 hours, depending on traffic in the mountains.
Update: we left Cartagena at 9:30pm and got to Medellin at 12pm the next day. Jeeze.
Is It Safe to Take a Night Bus in Colombia?
I’m not advising on this because it’s impossible for me to know for sure. But I can tell you that our drivers were responsible and didn’t bomb it down any roads or drive like they didn’t care if they lived or died. Based on my experience, the drivers have been safe!
Is The Expreso Brasilia Bus Comfortable?
Meh. I think it’s different for everyone. The seats are nicely padded and recline quite a bit, and there’s lots of leg room. However, it’s not a sleeper bus with beds like in Vietnam!
What to Wear and Bring On the Bus for Maximum Comfort
- Pants because it’s cold
- Sweater because it’s cold
- Pillow to make you more comfortable
- Blanket because it will be colder than you expect
- Eye mask because people don’t close the window covers until it’s light out (really stupid if you ask me)
- Ear plugs because you might get sandwiched between a freaking annoying girls’ rugby team (and they won’t give a shit what time it is, they’ll be playing music loudly and taking millions of selfies with the flash on and shouting over everyone on the bus, it happened to us).
What About Toilets and Food?
There’s a toilet on board at the back of the bus. Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer/wipes.
The bus stopped for breakfast at about 9:00am. There were bathrooms there that you can use free of charge as well.
Sit back and enjoy the view when the sun rises!
If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments!