Santa Marta, Santa Marta in detail
How to get to Santa Marta
- The bus station is ‘Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta’, and it is a 30-minute drive from the center.
- Santa Marta is well connected to the rest of Colombia with buses running to and from: Medellin (15 hours), Bogota (17 hours), Cali (1 day), Bucaramanga (10 hours), Cartagena (5 hours) and Barranquilla (2 hours).
- Cartagena (4 hours) to Santa Marta – $60.000
- Barranquilla (1.5 hours) to Santa Marta – $30.000
The shuttle is more comfortable and quicker than the public buses and they drop you off near the city center.
- Santa Marta has the small but modern Simon Bolivar Airport with frequent routes from Medellin, Bogota, and Cali to Santa Marta. Prices vary substantially depending on the season and schedule, although is common to find low fares to travel to Santa Marta.
- If you can’t find a cheap flight to Santa Marta and want to avoid long bus journeys, try flying into Barranquilla and then catching a shuttle to Santa Marta.
- The center is 30 minutes from the airport and very easy to get to. Taxis will charge $30.000 and bus fare is $2.500.
Santa Marta offers choices for all budgets, from excellent hostels and boutique hotels to occasional jaw-dropping accommodations in la Sierra Nevada or exclusive resort areas in the northern part of the city. Book ahead around major religious holidays and festivals like Easter and Christmas.
- Backpacker hostels: Widely available and often quite good, especially in the City Center.
- Budget hotels: Simple and functional accommodations, often family-run and mostly catering to Colombians. Mostly found in the City Center and Rodadero.
- Midrange hotels: Some international chains have opened and Santa Marta and appeal mostly to the Colombian business crowd or family groups.
- Top-end hotels: Colonial boutique hotels and seaside resorts are rapidly growing.
- Camping: a growing number of campsites welcome tent-toting tourists, particularly in Parque Tayrona.
- Backpacker tourism is booming in Colombia. All hostels have dorm beds for around COP$25,000 to COP$50,000, and most have a few private rooms for COP$65,000 to COP$120,000.
- Also sometimes called residencias, hospedajes or posadas, hotels generally suggest places of a higher standard, or at least higher prices. Cheaper accommodations are usually clustered around the less touristic areas of the city center, Rodadero and other residential areas of the city. If you speak Spanish and wish to avoid the gringo trail, a budget private room with hot water, air-con and cable TV goes for between COP$45,000 and COP$75,000 – cheaper than a hostel.
- Midrange hotels are rare in Santa Marta. Prices tend to jump rapidly from budget cheapies to three- and four-star hotels, with little in between.
- There are a handful of package-style resorts in Santa Marta, mostly frequented by Colombians, rather than foreign package tourists, and are usually excellent value.
- Most conventional5 star hotels are in the City Center and south touristic corridor (Bello Horizonte and Airport areas)
Luxury eco hotels
- Luxury eco hotels and glamping are growing in Santa Marta and usually offer full wellness packages.
- Most of these trending eco hotels are in the Tayrona, Naranjos and Northern Sierra region.
Recent regulations exempt from taxes some travel-oriented services (the 19% IVA tax on accommodations, for example). Although foreign travelers that stay in Colombia for less than 60 days shouldn’t have to pay accommodation tax, some hotels charge it. In such case, VAT returns are possible at the National Department of Taxes and Customs (DIAN) airport offices, before leaving the country.
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