In Cali, you have a number of options for getting around the city. Here are some of the most reliable methods. (Of course, there’s also hitchhiking and piratas, but we don’t recommend those.)
Although the Mio is the official transportation system in Cali (blue buses, green buses and the Miocable — the cable cars that head up the mountains into Siloe), it went from public to private ownership a few years ago. Nonetheless, it is still one of the safest and easiest ways to get around the city.
In order to ride the Mio, you need a card (tarjeta) which you can buy at any of the bigger stations for $3500COP. Each ride will cost you $2100 so add that to the initial $3000 if you actually plan on going somewhere that day.
After having purchased a Mio card, you can load it at Mio stations by paying at a booth with a Mio employee, or using one of their machines.
The Mio is generally quite comfortable but it can become packed during rush hour. If you’re waiting on a platform for a bus, it’s not uncommon for people to rush the doors as they open. If you want to get on the bus (or if you’re already on the bus and trying to get off), follow their lead.
Estimated arrival times are available at bigger stations but they aren’t always reliable. You can also use the app Moovit for Mio tracking information.
On the main routes, you don’t have to press a button to be let off — the bus will stop at each station unless it’s an Express bus (those are marked with an “E” before the route number).
You may see performers or individuals selling snacks or other items on the bus. Performers will usually accept any amount you offer, while those selling items will name a price. It’s common for them to actually put their goods (a candy, a book) on you and walk away — this does not mean it’s a gift. They will return to either collect payment or reclaim the item.
Unfortunately the Mio is not a 24 hour service, and most routes stop running around 22:00 or 23:00. For more information on the Mio, including a downloadable route map, visit their website at http://www.mio.com.co/
Besides the Mio buses, you’ll also see smaller, multicoloured buses on Cali streets. These are called Recreativos and their existence predates the Mio system.
The cost to ride a Recreativo is $2100COP and you have to pay with cash (efectivo) — they can give you change on the bus if you don’t have the exact amount. Although they seem quite informal with no signs on the road to signal their stops, they usually have small buttons on the bus to signal that you want to get off. If you end up on one that doesn’t have these buttons, simply yell out “por aqui” and the driver will stop when he can.
And because there are no formal stops for Recreativos, you either have to keep an eye out for a group of people who look like they could be waiting for a bus, or just flag one down when you see one. The bus route will be written on the front windshield, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm that the bus is going where you need it to go.
Taxis in Cali are yellow and they are usually small model cars with no real trunk, or boot. Taxis are plentiful and the fare is reasonable (for example, a trip from the centre to Jardin Plaza in the south will cost just under $20,000COP). It’s easy to catch one on the street, although many caleños will advise you to call for a taxi that is seguro, especially after dark.
The minimum fare for a taxi ride is $4,700COP regardless of how much the meter actually says. On Sundays, holidays (festivos) and other days after 20:00, there is a surcharge of 1,100COP.
Uber is illegal but still exists in Cali. In hopes of avoiding trouble with the law or legit taxistas, Uber drivers will often ask passengers to sit in the front seat. Many people, caleños and foreigners, use Uber regularly because prices are even cheaper than the already inexpensive taxis and it’s considered to be a relatively safe service. However, we have noticed that many Uber drivers don’t seem to know the city very well, and some women have reported uncomfortable situations with drivers.