Random Transportation Thoughts on Colombia

One of a number of horses we saw in Popayan, with or without a rider, wagon, and/or carriage.

In no particular order, here are some of my random thoughts and observations in Colombia.

  • In smaller towns, horses are not uncommon. I saw a sign that showed a horse and buggy with a line through it but didn’t have a chance to take a picture of the sign. In another town, I did see a horse and buggy but again couldn’t take a picture as we drove by.
  • You sometimes see horses in larger towns as well. Popayan is about 400,000 people and there are a number of horses and buggies/wagons used here. We even saw an unsaddled horse walking by itself on a busy street the other day but I couldn’t get a picture in time to show you. Really, we did!
  • Motorcycles, or motos as they are called in Spanish, are very common. The ones is Costa Rica are even more daring than the other countries we have been in so far (or are we just getting more used to them?).¬† Unlike in the USA there seems to be no pretense about staying in a lane (remember the one that I hit getting out of the taxi in Medellin, and I was at the curb?!) I did see a moto pulling 3 kids on bicycles and a different one that was leading a horse. Very versatile vehicles. Of course they are used to haul things and as 3 wheeled taxis in many smaller towns. Or imagine a wheelbarrow upside down on a motorcycle; folks make it work!

    License plate matches placard on sides/top of commercial vehicles.
  • All commercial vehicles have, in addition to their license plates, decals on the sides and top of the vehicle with the license plate number. This includes buses, taxis, and all sorts of commercial trucks, etc.
Plates with city names
  • And speaking of license plates, instead of showing the “district” names on the plates (roughly the same as a state), they show the city name, not the country. (Motorcycle plates just say “Colombia”.)

Getting up into a chiva bus can be a challenge for shorties!!! Note that the first step is higher than my knees.

It takes a boost to get up the first step to get on the chiva. Definitely NOT handicap accessible.

And a word of advice…never ask directions from someone wearing a motorcycle helmet that covers their mouth unless you are very fluent in the local language.

Image compliments of Amazon.com
  • There are various checks on city and country wide buses. In Popayan, we saw a man checking the time that buses pass a certain point. Sometime the drivers gave them a little money, 1 mil or less ($0.30). For buses that go between different towns, there is a check when they leave the transit station and one time there was even a person stopping buses at a check station in the country.
  • I think every bus we have taken from city to city has had to pay at least one toll along the way. Sometimes several.

Proof of Paid Exit Transport

There is the requirement that you have proof of exit transport when entering Costa Rica. I had put off dealing with until two days before our departure to Costa Rica.

I thought that I could get an online bus ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama. Nope. I could not even get one by calling the bus company. It has to be in person and you show passports.

My initial solution was to buy a plane ticket from San Jose to Panama City, Panama. This would at least move us in the direction we want to travel. What a surprise to find out that Travelocity would allow me to buy the tickets and then cancel them, at no charge, within 24 hours.

At the Southwest Airlines boarding gate desk in Houston, they did check our documents to verify that we had exit transportation from Costa Rica. At customs in Costa Rica, they did not ask for proof, so the airlines monitor it.

We flew to Costa Rica, cancelled the flight to Panama City, and the next day went to the bus station to buy our tickets in person.

In the future, I will figure things out a little quicker, as I do not expect to fly again until we leave South America. Panama to Columbia will be by sailboat or ferry as there are no roads connecting the two countries.