Driving in Colombia with a US License: A Guide to Navigating the Roads in South America

Driving in Colombia with a US License: A Guide to Navigating the Roads in South America

Are you planning a road trip through Colombia with your US driver's license?

Navigating the roads in a foreign country can be a daunting task, but with the right information, you can travel with confidence. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about driving in Colombia with a US license. From understanding the local traffic laws to renting a car and exploring the stunning landscapes, we've got you covered.

Let us explain how you can drive in Colombia with your US license and why IDL's International drivers license recommends you to apply for an international drivers license online. 

Colombia is a breathtaking country with diverse landscapes, from lush rainforests to picturesque beaches and bustling cities. With your US driver's license, you have the freedom to explore its wonders at your own pace. But before you hit the road, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the local driving rules and regulations. We'll provide you with all the information you need to avoid any surprises and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

So buckle up and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure as we guide you through the ins and outs of driving in Colombia with your US license. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, this guide will help you make the most of your road trip and discover the mesmerizing beauty of South America.

Understanding the driving laws and regulations in Colombia


Colombia has its own set of driving laws and regulations that you need to be aware of before hitting the road. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Driving age and license requirements: The minimum driving age in Colombia is 16 for motorcycles and 18 for cars. To drive in Colombia with a US license, you must be at least 18 years old. Make sure your US license is valid and carry it with you at all times.
  2. Traffic rules and signs: Traffic rules in Colombia are similar to those in the US, with a few differences. For example, in Colombia, you must always drive on the right side of the road, and it is mandatory to wear seat belts. Pay attention to road signs and follow speed limits.
  3. Drink driving laws: Colombia has strict laws regarding drink driving. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.05%. It is best to avoid drinking and driving altogether to ensure your safety and comply with the law.
  4. Insurance and liability: It is mandatory to have liability insurance in Colombia. If you are renting a car, make sure it includes insurance coverage. If you are driving your own vehicle, check with your insurance provider to ensure you have adequate coverage.
Differences between driving in Colombia and the US


While driving in Colombia may have similarities to driving in the US, there are also some significant differences to be aware of. Here are a few:

  1. Road conditions: Road conditions in Colombia can vary, especially in rural areas. Some roads may be poorly maintained, and you may encounter potholes or uneven surfaces. It is important to drive cautiously and be prepared for unexpected obstacles.
  2. Driving style: The driving style in Colombia may be different from what you are used to in the US. Drivers in Colombia can be more aggressive, and traffic can be chaotic in busy cities. Be patient and alert while driving, and follow the flow of traffic.
  3. Road signage: While many road signs in Colombia are similar to those in the US, some may have different shapes or colors. Familiarize yourself with commonly used signs to avoid confusion while driving.
  4. Toll roads: Colombia has an extensive network of toll roads. Keep some cash or a credit card handy to pay the toll fees. Make sure to follow the signs and take the correct lane for your payment method.
Essential documents and requirements for driving in Colombia


Before driving in Colombia, make sure you have the following documents and meet the necessary requirements:

  1. Valid US driver's license: Your US driver's license is valid for driving in Colombia. Carry it with you at all times while driving.
  2. Passport: As a foreign visitor, you need to have your passport with you in Colombia. Keep a copy of your passport in case of loss or theft.
  3. International driving license (IDL): While not mandatory, an IDL can be useful as it provides a translation of your US license. It is recommended to obtain an IDL before traveling to Colombia. You can obtain a valid IDL's international driver's license quickly and easily through the website www.international-license.com and do the whole process online. You will only need your driver's license and a passport size photo. 
  4. Proof of insurance: If you are renting a car, make sure you have proof of insurance coverage. If you are driving your own vehicle, check with your insurance provider to ensure you have adequate coverage for driving in Colombia.
  5. Vehicle registration and rental agreement: If you are driving your own vehicle or renting a car, carry the vehicle registration documents and the rental agreement, if applicable.

 Driving in Colombia with a US License: A Guide to Navigating the Roads in South America

Tips for navigating the roads in Colombia


Driving in a foreign country can be challenging, but with these tips, you can navigate the roads in Colombia with confidence:

  1. Plan your routes: Before setting off, plan your routes using GPS or maps. Familiarize yourself with the major cities, highways, and attractions along the way. This will help you stay on track and avoid getting lost.
  2. Drive during daylight: Whenever possible, try to drive during daylight hours. It is easier to navigate and safer than driving at night, especially in rural areas with limited lighting.
  3. Be cautious in cities: Traffic in Colombian cities can be congested and chaotic. Be prepared for heavy traffic, aggressive drivers, and motorcycles weaving through lanes. Stay alert and patient while driving in urban areas.
  4. Avoid rush hours: If you can, try to avoid driving during peak hours in major cities. Rush hour traffic can be intense, and it may take significantly longer to reach your destination. Plan your travel accordingly to minimize delays.
  5. Use caution on mountain roads: Colombia's mountainous regions offer stunning landscapes but can also present challenging driving conditions. Be cautious when driving on steep and winding mountain roads, and watch out for landslides or falling rocks, especially during the rainy season.


Rental Car Options and Considerations


Traveling by car is a convenient and flexible way to explore Colombia, and there are several rental car options available to visitors with a US driver's license. Before you make a reservation, it's essential to consider a few factors to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.


Public Transportation Alternatives in Colombia


While driving can offer convenience and flexibility, it's not the only transportation option available in Colombia. The country has a well-developed public transportation system that can be a cost-effective and efficient way to get around.

Here are some alternatives to consider during your trip:

  1. Buses: Inter-city buses are a popular and cost-effective way to travel within Colombia. Several bus companies operate routes connecting major cities and towns, offering a range of services from basic to more luxurious options. Companies like Bolivariano, Expreso Brasilia, and Copetran are well-known for their extensive networks and comfortable buses.

  2. Domestic Flights: For longer distances or when time is a concern, domestic flights are available between major cities and regional hubs. Colombia has several domestic airlines, including Avianca, Viva Air, LATAM Colombia, and EasyFly, offering regular flights to destinations across the country.

  3. Taxis: Cab service is available in all cities in Colombia and although most of them are very safe, it is better to use Apps (such as Uber, Cabify, In-Driver) to avoid paying extra costs in the services.

  4. Trains: While Colombia's train network is not as extensive as in some other countries, there are efforts to revive and expand the railway system. The tourist train between Bogotá and Zipaquirá, known as the "Tren Turístico de la Sabana," is a popular option for travelers visiting the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá.

  5. Boats and Ferries: In regions with navigable rivers or along the Caribbean coast, boats and ferries provide transportation options for both passengers and cargo. For example, boats connect towns along the Amazon River, while ferries operate between mainland Colombia and islands like San Andrés and Providencia.

  6. Ride-Sharing Services: Ride-sharing services like Uber, Didi, and Beat operate in major cities like Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla, offering convenient transportation within urban areas.

  7. Cycling: In cities like Bogotá and Medellín, cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a means of transportation. Bike-sharing programs and dedicated bike lanes make it feasible to explore urban areas on two wheels.

  8. Walking: In smaller towns and neighborhoods, walking is often the most practical way to get around. Many Colombian cities have pedestrian-friendly areas with attractions, shops, and restaurants within walking distance.

So we hope you enjoy your trip in Colombia. Remember that although an international driver's license is not necessary, it is recommended to be able to communicate better with the local authorities and avoid inconveniences. You can apply for your International Driver's License here. Safe Travels! 🇨🇴