The answer is simple: take a fluffy blanket with you and wear socks. And I’m not talking about one of those ankle socks that are nicely hidden in your sneakers. I’m talking about the knitted socks your aunt gave you last Christmas.
Let me tell you, the night buses in Colombia are extremely cold. And this comes from someone who survived Canadian winter with just nighties and IKEA quilt, and a girl who thinks that snow is as important as air. While you can escape winter cold with some hot chocolate and a fireplace, how can you escape the air conditioner of a bus that’s moving some hundred kilometers per hour in the dead of the night in South America? You just can’t.
In my 3,5 month stay in Colombia, I had my fair share of night bus trips. I was quite happy to live in Bucaramanga where other cities were accessible by bus, a fact that was very much appreciated by us foreign students with limited budget. The duration of the trips varied from 6 hours to 14 hours. The types of the bus also varied, from chartered buses (complete with vallenato music playlist) to intercity buses from different companies. My favorite was Copetran because the schedules were flexible, the prices were affordable (so much so that we took the VIP seats all the time and we got the access to the VIP terminal lounge), and the ticket agent lady was very nice and helpful (brownie points because she was so patient with our broken spanish).
Back to the cold. To this day I still don’t understand why the AC in the buses in Colombia had to be set so low (I heard the buses in other South American countries had normal temp). Even blankets were sold at most terminals. I remember during our trip to Cartagena, which took about 14 hours, the AC went as low as 14 degree Celcius. How did I know this? Because the passenger cabin didn’t only have a clean toilet, comfortable seats with near-excellent entertainment system and fancy interior light, it also had a little temperature display on the wall that would keep you up-to-date with the current AC situation.
Aside from the cold though, it’s worth noting that most cities in Colombia are situated in valleys or behind a range of mountains, which means getting in and out requires at least 1-2 hours of driving on curvy roads. My worst experience was on the way back from Pamplona to Bucaramanga, which took only 5 hours thanks to our brave driver. Definitely not for the faint of stomach. So I would suggest you eat a few hours before the trip, or take 1 or half pill of Mareol pastilla to get you to sleep (this one didn’t work on me though).
Anyway, these night bus rides are definitely one of the many highlights of my trip in Colombia, especially because most of the buses were surprisingly nice and and the seats were super comfortable, even comfier than KLM and Air France (geez). And they leave and arrive quite on-time too. More adventurous than taking the plane, no?