Planning a trip to Colombia and wondering if Ubers even exist or are a safe form of transportation there?
To answer that question, yes Uber does exist in Colombia and yes in my experience Ubers were a safe form of transportation, but there are more details you should know about using Uber in Colombia, alternatives to Uber and other safety tips while in Colombia.
Are Ubers In Colombia Safe?
A few years ago I moved to Colombia as a solo female and when I first got there one of my biggest questions was whether or not Ubers were safe? Being in a brand new country all alone, I wanted something that was familiar and of course the safest option.
After living there for a few months, I rode on pretty much every possible form of transportation (planes, busses, Ubers, taxis, motorcycles, etc.) and I never experienced any problems with any of them.
Of course that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few bad apples out there but if you are cautious and follow some simple safety tips, you’ll be just as safe as you would in any other country or with any other form of transportation.
Safety Tips & Info For Using Ubers In Colombia
Uber has technically existed in Colombia for many years but about two years ago they left the country only to come back a few months later. The reason for the issues Uber’s had in Colombia are due to the Taxi drivers.
Even back when I lived there (in 2017) the Taxi drivers had it out for Uber, their drivers and even their riders. Protesting in Colombia is very common, and the Taxi drivers were always some of the most frequent protesters.
The town I worked in was separated from the town I lived in by a two lane road up the mountain, and this was the only way in between the two towns. On more than one occasion, the Taxi drivers would protest by parking their cars across these two lanes, blocking all traffic for hours.
This is probably the most peaceful form of protest they did because although I didn’t see this personally, I was told by Uber drivers that in some places Taxi drivers would light Uber cars on fire (thankfully without people inside).
Supposedly Uber resolved these problems after their brief exit from the country, but below are some safety tips you can still follow while using Uber in Colombia.
1. Sit In The Front Seat
If you are by yourself or even if you have a group of people with you, a lot of Uber drivers will ask you or someone to sit in the front seat. This helps keep them from looking like an Uber driver to Taxi drivers or even the Police.
2. Be A Little Inconspicuous
Again Uber drivers typically don’t want others to know that they are Uber drivers so being aware of this while getting in and out of the car will help them out. Just try not to be as obvious when they pull up and you’re wondering if they match your app.
3. Always Check Their Name And License Plate
Cars should have both front and back license plates so as they pull up you can double check that it matches your app.
When they pull up and you’re being as discreet as possible, ask them what their name is (“Como te llamas” or “Como se llama”). Don’t ask them “Are you Pablo?”. Let them tell you their name to make sure it matches in your app.
4. Share Your Ride With Someone You Know
If possible, share your ride with someone back home or send a picture of the license plate before you get in. In the event of anything bad happening, it’s good to have someone know where you are or where you might be.
5. Follow Your Ride In The App
Follow along with your ride in the app to make sure the driver is going the right way or going at all. In another country I’ve heard of drivers cancelling the ride once the rider gets in, leaving no proof or trail of the ride so the driver can take the rider to the ATM to get money.
If you don’t have international data or don’t want to pay higher prices for it, you can go to a phone store (Claro is the most popular) and get a Colombian SIM card, pop it in your phone and pay at the store to load your card with data. Either way, be sure to follow along with your ride.
6. Only Accept Highly Rated Drivers
Although a cancellation fee may be applied (check Uber for more info), if you’re matched with a driver that has low ratings or bad reviews, it’d be better to pay the cancellation fee than get in a possible bad situation.
That doesn’t mean that highly rated drivers will always be perfect, but it is a better chance with them than the low rated ones.
7. Make Sure The Driver Ends The Ride
In another country and even in the US, we’ve had ride share drivers continue the ride after we exited the vehicle so that they could get more money.
Try to pay attention to this in your app and send a message to the app company immediately if this happens to you so you don’t get charged more than you should.
8. Don’t Take Uber To And From The Airport
To be as safe as possible, skip Ubers at the airport in Colombia and use a hotel shuttle or private transfer instead (keep reading for more info about airport transfers).
In the past Uber drivers and even riders have had lots of issues at airports. Police would look out for them and in some cases even detain the drivers.
In addition to that, when you travel with all of your things, that gives drivers an easier opportunity to hold your things “hostage” until you pay them more money. If you don’t have more money with you, they’ll “escort” you to the nearest ATM.
9. Close The Car Door Gently
In Colombia, drivers hate it when you slam their car door the way we do here in the United States. To be polite and not irritate your drivers, carefully close car doors, gently enough to just barely shut it.
Where Are Ubers Available In Colombia?
Currently Uber is available in 13 different cities throughout Colombia. Four of the largest cities (Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena and Medellín) all have Uber available in their cities. In addition, Uber is also available in Bucaramanga, Cucuta, Ibague, Monteria, Pasto, Pereira, Popayán, Valledupar and Villavicencio.
Generally it is not easy or advised to use Uber at the airports in Colombia, but there are plenty of reasonable private transfers in many cities.
➡️ For those arriving to the Bogotá Airport, we recommend booking your transfer here with Bogota Driver Guide Service.
➡️ For those arriving to the Cartagena Airport, we recommend booking your transfer here with the Guianza Express S.A.S.
What About The Towns Where Uber Isn’t Available?
If you are traveling to some of the smaller towns like Salento or Villa de Leyva (check our other post here for more info), Uber won’t be an option but outside of arriving to the towns by bus, you probably won’t need to use much transportation other than walking.
Getting a tour is also a good alternative if you don’t feel comfortable trying to use public transportation in Colombia. Or spending a little more on a private transfer service would definitely be the safest and easiest option.
Are Taxi’s As Safe As Ubers In Colombia?
Although taxi drivers have been heavily protesting the use of ride sharing apps, the reason for their existence and popularity is because taxi’s are notorious for being unsafe in Colombia.
We don’t ever suggest hailing a taxi from the street, but there may be some situations where you might have to use a taxi.
These were a few scenarios where I had to use taxi services in Colombia but I was very cautious during the whole process:
🚕 In a smaller city leaving a restaurant later in the evening; I asked the restaurant to call in a taxi for me and they helped me confirm it was the correct taxi once it arrived.
🚕 Leaving a bus transportation terminal where ride sharing wasn’t allowed; Outside of the terminal they had a ticket system and line you had to wait in to get a “certified” taxi.
Is Driving Yourself As Safe As Ubers In Colombia?
If all this sounds like it’s too much, you may be wondering if driving yourself is a good alternative? Although it is possible, we do not recommend driving yourself in Colombia.
Besides many roads winding and curving all over the place, most cars are manual (you may know how to drive stick but most Americans don’t), there is lots of traffic and lots of motorcycles to watch out for, traffic rules are often a suggestion to many drivers on the road and if that isn’t enough, it rains quite often in most parts of Colombia so that adds to the extra unsafe conditions.
Safe Alternatives To Ubers In Colombia
There are a lot of alternative transportation options in Colombia but the most popular especially in between cities and towns are the busses. They’re super cheap, usually very safe and one of the most popular ways locals get around.
But each city and town is different so below are some options within a few areas.
Safe Alternatives To Ubers In Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá is the capital and largest city in Colombia, which makes it less safe than others but not one that needs to be avoided. Just be aware and cautious in the city and while using any form of transportation.
🚊 The Bogotá Metro is a cheap and fairly quick option to get you from one part of the city to the next. I stayed by the airport when I visited Bogotá and took the Metro from there to the Plaza de Bolívar area everyday in about 30 to 40 minutes.
🚌 Using the bus system to get from Bogotá to other towns like Zipaquirá (where the Salt Cathedral is located) or Villa de Leyva (the beautiful colonial town, check our other post here for more info) is cheap and easy. You’ll most likely use the Terminal de Transporte S.A. in the middle of the city or the Terminal del Norte in the north part of the city.
✈️ As stated earlier, Ubers to and from the airports aren’t the best idea so booking a private transfer ahead of time is one of the best and safest options, or you can check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service.
➡️ For those arriving to the Bogotá El Dorado Airport, we recommend booking your transfer here with the Private Transfer from El Dorado Airport to Bogota Hotels.
Safe Alternatives To Ubers In Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is a very popular tourist destination especially for cruise ships. If you end up staying within the historic city walls, you probably won’t need much transportation within the city but you may need it from the airport or cruise terminal, or to other destinations outside of Cartagena.
✈️ The airport is only about 15 to 20 minutes from the historic city center so hotels may offer a free or paid shuttle service to their guests. If not, booking a private transfer ahead of time is the safest option.
➡️ For those arriving at the Rafael Nuñez International Airport, we recommend booking your transfer here with the Private Airport Transfer to Hotel in the City.
🏝 The most popular white sandy beach destination is Playa Blanca about an hour outside of Cartagena. The easiest and safest way to get there is on a tour.
➡️ To get a tour in advance rather than waiting until you arrive in Cartagena, we recommend booking your tour here with the Playa Blanca in Baru Island Tour.
🚌 Another popular destination outside of Cartagena is the city of Santa Marta. Cartagena does have public bus transportation like others in Colombia, but I have not personally used it between these two cities. You can find day trips between the two cities but it is over four hours one way so you may want to spend the night.
➡️ For the best car transfer between the two cities, we recommend booking your transfer here with the Private Transportation from Cartagena to Santa Marta.
Safe Alternatives To Ubers In Medellín, Colombia
Medellín is a large but fairly safe city with lots of safe transportation options.
🚉 The Medellín Metro is one of the most popular, safe and cheap options for getting around the city. We took it both day and night but the only issue we had was an attempted pickpocketer (we caught him and he didn’t get anything) because it was so busy and crowded.
✈️ Aside from using a ride sharing app or a taxi, the easiest and cheapest way to get to and from the airport in Medellín is the Airport Bus that drops off and picks up at two locations in the city (Sandiego Mall and the City Center). The ticket should be around $2 to $3, which you would purchase as you get on the bus.
🚌 To get to other destinations outside of Medellín, using the bus system is the best option. The larger and more popular bus terminal is the Terminal del Sur where you can find easy and cheap tickets to places like Guatapé or Santa Fe de Antioquia.
🪨 The most popular destination two hours outside of Medellín is Guatapé. It is very doable on your own through bus transportation but if you’d rather have the most hassle free experience, going with a tour is the best option.
➡️ For the best tour from Medellín to Guatapé, we recommend booking your tour here with Full-Day Guatapé (Pueblo de Zocalos) from Medellín.
Wrap Up: Are Ubers In Colombia Safe
If you are traveling to Colombia, you do have to be more cautious and aware especially while using transportation but in addition to Ubers, there are plenty of cheap and safe options throughout the country. Be diligent and smart about your safety but have fun and enjoy this amazing country!