Colombia Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving In Colombia

Colombia drives on the right and you can use the photo licence of any country to drive here for up to 90 days,if the licence is written in anything other than Roman alphabet It’s also worth bringing an international driving permit. Speed limits are 90-100kmh on highways, 80km on rural roads and 30-50kmh in urban areas.

Colombia has around 200,000 km of roads with 18,000 km are classed as primary roads, with 2300km of dual carriageway roads. Main routes in the country are-

Western Trunk – National Route 25-  Is part of the Pan-American Highway) and runs from the south at the Ecuador border near Ipiales, and heads North through Pasto, Cali, Medellín, Sincelejo and Barranquilla, where it connects to the Caribbean Transverse highway.

Magdalena Trunk road – National Route 45-  The Magdalena Trunk runs from San Miguel at the border with Ecuador to Santa Marta on the Caribbean Sea.

Caribbean Transverse road – National Route 90 -The Caribbean Transverse highway runs along the Caribbean Sea coastline from the town of Turbo, past  Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta to Paraguachón and the Venezuela border.

Buenaventura Transverse road– National Route 40 -runs from the port of Buenaventura on the west coast to the Venezuelan border at Puerto Carreño, and passes Bogota where sections of the road become part of the Autopista al Llano toll road.

Central Trunk road – National Route 45A – Runs from Bogotá to San Alberto, where it connects with the Magdalena Trunk highway .

North-Central Trunk road – National Route 55 – The North-Central Trunk highway begins near Chía on the Northern outskirts of Bogota and runs to near Puerto Santander near the Venezuela border.

Jungle Border Highway/ Carretera Marginal de la Selva – National Route 65 – officially begins at the San Miguel International Bridge on the border with Ecuador and follows the Magdalena Trunk highway/NR45 to Villagarzon, where National Route 65  is planned to turn north toward the right side of the Cordillera Oriental mountains, then head North East to the Venzuela border. However, the section between the NR45 and the village of Yuracao hasn’t yet been built so the NR65 actually starts as a dirt road in this tiny village. It the  heads North East and ends just North of Mina Blanca near the Venezuela border.

Colombia has around 125 toll roads and most dual carriageway sections of road are toll roads. Charges are generally $3-6USD and payment is generally made at a toll booth on the road. This site provides a toll route planner and map but is in Spanish only.

Main roads and roads around cities are generally in a well maintained condition. Rural roads are likely to be unpaved, will be in a worse condition and will deteriorate rapidly after heavy rain. Some routes are prone to flooding so after a period of rain, ask locals for an upadte on likey road conditions in the area you’re heading towards.

Some major routes pass through mountainous areas such as  Cartagena–Medellín, Cartagena–Bogotá, Medellín–Bogotá, Bogotá-Cali, and Bogotá-Santa Marta. These winding, steep, two-lane roads slow trucks down to a crawl, which makes overtaking difficuly, particularly at night or in foggy weather. Avoid travel at night if at all possible.

You shouldn’t need a 4WD to drive in cities but should consider one if driving away from main highways.  Speed humps are present both in cities and on larger roads outside cities and may not always have a warning sign. Accidents are frequently caused by seeing a speed bump late, braking and the car behind hitting you. Many cities have a “pico y placa” system in place, whereby if your plate number ends in one of those listed, you can’t drive on city streets that day.The rental company should make you aware if that affecst the vehicle you rent.

Driving style tends to be fast and aggressive on open roads away from towns, with cars sometiomes overtaking recklessly. Always expect the unexpected when roundinga  bend or the brow of a hill.

In some areas it’s unsafe to travel outside cities, especially after dark due to political instablity and the risk of paramilitary roadblocks, though major routes usually have a heavy police presence. Alwaays check the travel advice on your government’s website before driving away from populated areas.

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Colombia Car Rental –
Hertz, National, Avis,  and Localiza have branches here.

We currently have no local car rental partners in Colombia. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on



Leave a Reply