Bucaramanga is a medium sized city, home to nearly 1 million inhabitants (all of the metropolitan area). It's a major commercial hub in northeastern Colombia, playing a significant role in trade between Colombia and Venezuela. It's not a huge touristy destination like Cartagena or Santa Marta but nonetheless it is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and ancient towns with a lot of history, which overall makes the visit to Bucaramanga worthwhile.
Most people in Bucaramanga speak Spanish only, and you will probably have a hard time trying to get addresses and other information from people on streets, but if you go to big hangout places like malls, parks or supermarkets, English speaking people will certainly be found around.
Palonegro Airport (BGA) is located about 45 minutes from town near Lebrija. Domestic flights include Bogotá, both airports in Medellín, Cúcuta, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Yopal. It is undergoing renovations to further expand its flights. Domestic airlines serving Bucaramanga are: Avianca, LAN, Satena, Copa Airlines, ADA . Also both low-cost carriers: Viva Colombia and EasyFly .
There is an international non-stop flight to Panama City. There is also a new flight to Fort Lauderdale USA, via LAN with a short layover of 20 min in Cartagena, you do the customs and Immigration in Bucaramanga.
The city offers a clean, modern and nice bus station (La Terminal de Transportes de Bucaramanga) from where you can take busses to almost any destination around Colombia; you can even take buses from here that will take you to Venezuela and Ecuador. There are frequent buses from Bogota.
- from Bogotá : 40,000 COP / 10 hours
- from Santa Marta : 60,000 COP / 9 hours
- from Cartagena : 80,000 COP / 12 hours
- from Pamplona : 25,000 COP / 4 hours
- from Cúcuta : 30,000 COP / 6 hours
As any Colombian city, busetas cover Bucaramanga, making their irregular stops at just about any corner. Tickets around COP 1900.
Opened in December 2009, the new Metrolínea bus system rides by exclusive lanes making many trips faster and more comfortable. It is safe a clean although it is almost always full. Tickets around COP 1850.
Plentiful, and all run on meters. For added security take a note of the number plates, or even better: Request a cab by telephone..
There are plenty of things to sight seeing in Bucaramanga, starting from the east side via Cúcuta you can find nice and large balconies and enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The center of Bucaramanga, like any downtown in the world, gets really crowded on weekends and peak hours, however you can enjoy lots of bargains and sales in the shops, nice quality of clothes and shoes of course.
In the south of Bucaramanga you can find different resorts or clubs where you can play golf, futbol, swim, or just chill out with your friends.
Generally the most popular zone in Bucaramanga is Cabecera, this is the most modern area in the city with lots of malls and entertainment like cinemas, restaurants and shops.
- Visit the parks because Bucaramanga is the city of parks, it is known as "la ciudad de los parques"
- Visit the colonial town of Girón
- Visit Panachi (Chicamocha's National Park)
- Visit la Mesa de Los Santos
- Practice extreme sports (rappel, kayak, paragliding, etc...)
- Colombia Paragliding. Ruitoque is the best place in Colombia for both tandem and paragliding courses. Colombia paragliding is an Internationally qualified company offering the best and most qualified guides.
- Visit the many shopping centers.
To buy shoes, there is not a better place than Bucaramanga, due to the many shoe factories the prices are inexpensive. Good leather and excellent manufacturing.
Traditional Santanderean dishes include:
- Cabro : Goat meat.
- Mute : A thick soup made with beans, corn, garbanzos, potatoes, various meats (including fresh pig feet, pork loin chops, beef spareribs).
- Pepitoria: rice with peaces of special meats. The Pepitoria is served with Cabro, fried yucca or plantains.
- Fritanga : If you don't mind some grease and fried food, you should try fritanga. It consists of an assortment of different kind of sausages, yuca, potatoes, corn, steak, and others, all deep-fried. You can find a traditional Fritanga market in the town of Girón located about 15 minutes from Bucaramanga.
- Culonas : Short for Hormigas Culonas which literally translates 'big ass ants', is a traditional dish, found nowhere else in Colombia, and maybe around the world. The Culonas are 'leaf-cutter' ants (big ones!). Their heads, wings and legs are removed and the rest of the body is toasted and salted.
- Caldo : It's a light soup. It contains water (of course, but sometimes milk is added), potatoes, cilantro (coriander), and tostados (traditional flat round toasted bread). Additionally it may contain rib meat (with bone) or 1 or 2 eggs. It's accompanied with Santanderean Arepa.
Don't forget to try all the fresh fruits you can find at either the traditional markets, or at the supermarkets. Pineapples from Lebrija (Located 35–40 minutes from Bucaramanga) are famous for their size and sweetness. The best pineapples in the world, with only competition from the Hawaiian pineapples. Oranges, tangerines and limes are traditional crops and can be found all year round (like most of the other fruits). Mango, Papaya, Watermelon, Maracuyá (passion fruit), Guava, Curuba, Pitahaya... the list is very extensive.
Some of the most popular places to eat in Bucaramanga are:
- "Desayunadero Tony"
- "Desayunadero El Viejo Chiflas"
- "Restaurante Mercagán"
- "Restaurante Bella Napoli"
- "Restaruante Shanghai"
- "Pizzería Caracol"
- "Zirus Pizza"
Three mid/upscale concentrations of bars and clubs, all within a few minutes walk from one another:
- Parque Las Palmas (Calle 44 con Carrera 29)
- Calle 52 between Carreras 34 and 35
- Carreras 34 and 35 between Calles 47 and 48
For more working class audience walk westwards along Carrera 33 from Calle 44.
Some of the popular places to hang out in Bucaramanga are:
- "Con Arte"
- "Opus 27"
- "La Calle"
- "Giron Chill Out - Cocktail Bar y Restaurante Italiano"
- Hotel Asturias, Carrera 22, No. 35-01, ☎ +57 7 6351914, e-mail: email@example.com. Nice hotel with a pretty courtyard and clean rooms. Hot water, cable TV, free Wi-Fi. Single occupancy for 45,000. Some rooms have multiple beds, like dorms. Like the rest of Bucaramanga, prices are a bit higher than in neighboring cities, but this is one of the better places in an area with a wide range of hotels.
- Fly Site Hostel (Colombia Paragliding), Km 2 via Mesa Ruitoque, ☎ +57 312 432 6266. Come to our fly-site hostal, right next to Las Aguilas launch in Ruitoque. A rustic cabana, 20 steps from a groomed, grassy launch. Wake up, eat breakfast and fly all day long. Thermal, XC in the morning and ridge soar all afternoon. Pilot’s dream come true! Top land in your house. Hammocks, fire pit, city views, and cafeteria service on weekends. 30.000.
- Kasa Guane Bucaramanga (KGB), Calle 49 #28-21. Excellent location, shared kitchen. Dorms 20.000, single 35.000.
The new aerial cable is among the longest in the world. You can board in the neighboring towns of Mesa de los Santos or Panachi across the national park , it covers a fantastic view of a deep canyon .
Girón is a small and pretty colonial style town just about 10 km outside Bucaramanga.
If you are going to Pamplona or Cúcuta, the cheapest (and probably fastest) way is to take a buseta (COP 20,000-25,000 depending on your negotiation skills and their mood) from Parque del Agua, not the main bus terminal. To get there, take the #6 bus (Morro) from the center or take a taxi. If you are in La Cabecera and don't have much stuff, you can maybe walk to Parque del Agua.