Driving in Colombia
Driving in Colombia is really expensive. Almost all the paved roads are toll roads with relatively expensive tolls – we’ve paid between 6,300 and 16,400 pesos. The tolls are around every 50-100km although we’ve had them twice in 10km. The total cost for us was 251,200 COP or around US$140.
The tolls depend on the no. of axles and size of vehicle. We have successfully argued that we are Category 1 at all the tolls that we’ve been through, except one at the beginning when we didn’t really know what they were looking for. Usually the person at the toll booth has to make a phone call but we’ve stuck to our guns and got the cheapest rate. So if you have 4 tyres it doesn’t matter how big you are you should get Category 1!
There are a lot of roadworks in Colombia. We’ve had to wait over an hour a number of times before our lane has been opened to go past the roadworks. You have to be really patient and don’t expect to make fast miles. In ten years time there will be an amazing road system but for now expect delays.
There are lots of police checkpoints. We’ve been stopped a number of times but all they want to see is your passport, driving licence and vehicle import document. After a few minutes they will let you move on. We haven’t been asked for our SOAT insurance and we have only been stopped by one of the military checkpoints and they were very polite and just checked the same things as the Police.
The driving standards in the North around the Caribbean coast seemed to be much worse than when you get further south.
In the Zona de Cafetera on the main roads there are roadside places called “Cau”. These offer free local coffee and tourist information (not much that’s useful though). What makes these places so useful is the free WIFI and nice bathrooms.
Once of the main roads the quality can deteriorate really fast. The dirt roads through the mountains are in fairly bad shape and have lots of trucks on them. The Road from Mocoa to Pasto is particularly bad and expect it to take 7 hours from Mocoa.
When in the mountains leave more time than you expect for even relatively short distances. Trucks on narrow roads will really limit your speed – unless of course you throw caution to the wind and overtake like a local. Also although straight line distance looks short the road winds and twists so much it limits speed and takes a lot longer.