Buses are the most economical commercial means of transportation in Medellin. As of 05 August 2009 fares for trips within the metropolitan area were set at $COL 1300 on most routes. At the concurrent exchange rate that would be about $US 0.65. Intracity microbus routes have higher fares costing $COL 1400, or about $US 0.70.
The most comprensive information on bus transportation and routes is provided by Medellin’s Secretary of Transportation. This page is in Spanish.
Service can be variable and appears to depend on the company. I only ride a few buses regularly and my comments should be read with this in mind.
Comercial Hotelera is operated by INVETRANS. This line runs up and down 33rd Street (Calle 33) as well as serving other portions of southern Medellin. They have well disciplined, professional drivers and very good service. Stops are made at the Metro Station (Exposiciones) and at the San Diego Shopping Center (Centro Comercial San Diego).
The Coonatra Circular line can be convenient for many destinations. Its routes roughly encircle Medellin passing for the downtown area on the east and Robledo to the west. The southern segment passes along Calle 33 past the Exposiciones Metro Station and near the San Diego and Unicentro shopping centers. The northern leg passes by the University of Antioquia on Barranquilla, the Hospital Metro Station and through the Prado Centro neighborhood. Fares are $COL 1300.
In my opinion the Circular has had problems with its service. The following criticism is meant to be constructive and I have noticed improvements over the last few months. Some of the drivers are good and provide a comfortable and safe ride. Unfortunatly, many of their drivers have not taken the comfort and safety of passengers into account, have frequently passed by regular stops, and some drivers have had a down right surly attitude. On a number of occasions I have seen elderly passengers thrown about the bus when the driver made sudden stops, accelerations or took turns at excessive speed. Riding this line can be very uncomfortable. There also has been a tendency for many drivers to race or compete with other Coonatra buses. This can be dangerous for the passengers as well as other people using the streets. It also has resulted in many missed fares as customers are left watching the spectacle. To be fair to the drivers it appears that the company has a tight timing policy which may influence and in some cases force driver behavior. I am looking forward to Coonatra reviewing its policies and improving their service.
TRASANCOOP Medellín to the Santa Elena Area
Santa Elena is located in the mountains east of Medellin. TRASACOOP provides bus transportation to this popular tourism area. The fare from Medellin to Santa Elena is $COL 1600, and 2400 pesos to the end of the line at El Tambo. Direct service from Medellin to El Tambo and back is provided on weekends for 2400 pesos each way.
Service prior to 1300 is directly to Santa Elena. From there one can catch a bus to the surrounding towns. After 1300 direct service to the small towns in the area is provided.
My experience with TRASANCOOP has generally been positive. The drivers are polite and professional. In my experience the buses depart and arrive near to their scheduled times. At El Tambo they may be off by about 10 minutes but even near the end of this rural route they are very close to schedule. The El Tambo stop provides access to the Piedras Blancas Ecological Park and other recreational opportunities nearby.
One note of caution. If you ride these buses back on a Sunday or Holiday afternoon be prepared to stand up for the ride to Medellin. Leaving the El Tambo area by 1430 or 1500 is generally a good idea if you want to sit. After the bus passes by Mazo and Piedra Gorda the chances of getting a seat drop off steeply.
METRO-BUS INTEGRATED SERVICE
Some bus lines provided integrated service with the Metro (light-rail and cable cars). One can buy a ticket at a Metro station which includes a transfer to the bus. This service is very reasonable where available. Transfers from the bus to the Metro also may be purchased on the bus. More detailed information on these services will be forthcoming.
I will expand this area in the future as time and experience allows.
Regional and Long Distance Buses
There are two major terrestrial transporation terminals in Medellin coordinateing bus and taxi services.
The Northern Terminal (Terminal de Transporte Intermunicipal del Norte) in the Caribe neighborhood has direct access from the Caribe Metro Station. Here you may catch buses for points north such as the Caribbean coast.
The Southern Terminal (Terminal de Transporte Intermunicipal del Sur) located in Guayabal. This terminal serves bus routes to locations south of Medellin.