Palonegro International Airport is the eighth largest airport in Colombia in terms of passengers. And it’s the Bucaramanga airport for all flights to the city, with airport code BGA.
We previously provided airport guides for several different airports in Colombia. And several Medellin Guru readers asked us to also provide a guide to the Bucaramanga airport – Palonegro International Airport – as they are planning to visit Bucaramanga and/or nearby San Gil.
Bucaramanga is one of three cities in Colombia with an “Eternal Spring” climate: Medellín, Pereira and Bucaramanga. And nearby San Gil is popular and is known as “Colombia’s adventure capital”.
Some foreigners have already discovered Bucaramanga, which has a similar climate to Medellín but it has a lower cost of living, less traffic and less pollution. And some foreigner tourists have also discovered San Gil. But Bucaramanga and San Gil are still off the beaten path for most foreign tourists visiting Colombia.
However, several readers of this website plan to travel to Bucaramanga to check it out. And some readers want to visit nearby San Gil. So, we are providing this guide to the Bucaramanga airport.
Note the above photo from the air of the Bucaramanga Airport is by Pablo Andrés Ortega Chávez.
History of Palonegro International Airport (BGA)
Gómez Niño Airport was the first airport in Bucaramanga, which built in 1938 by Scadta. This airport was located in the city limits of Bucaramanga and was one of the few airports in Colombia that operated two runways built in an X-configuration.
However, with the growth of air traffic to Bucaramanga, it was eventually determined that this airport was too small and couldn’t be expanded. So, the city needed a new airport.
Construction of a new airport started in 1969 in an area known as Palonegro, which was the place of a famous battle of Colombia’s Thousand Days War in the early 20th century.
The land where the airport was built consisted of a series of seven hills of considerable height and six canyons with depths exceeding 197 feet (60 meters). So, to build the airport at least 14 million cubic meters of earth had to be moved.
Palonegro International Airport opened in August 1974. And it’s located about 11 miles (18 km) from Bucaramanga on a road that passes through the historic town of Giron.
More About Palonegro International Airport (BGA)
The passenger terminal at Palonegro International Airport is easy to navigate, as it’s a relatively small airport. And Wi-Fi is available in the terminal but may not always work in my experience.
The Bucaramanga airport currently has less than 10 places with food on the second floor: Café OMA (with more than 1 location), Café Mesa de Los Santos, Dogger, Pan Pa Ya, Presto and Resaurante Express.
So, without a very big selection, it’s better to eat something before going to the airport. Also, there are a few stores located on the second floor.
In addition, there are is one car rental agency, Alkilautos, on the first floor that is open from 5:15 am to 8 pm. And parking is available in front of the terminal for 42,000 pesos per day for cars.
Flight Options from Palonegro International Airport (BGA)
Palonegro International Airport serving Bucaramanga currently has regular flights from seven different airlines with direct flights to and from 12 different destinations. And Spirit is adding a flight from Fort Lauderdale in April 2020.
- Avianca – Bogotá, Medellín
- Ases – Málaga
- Copa Airlines – Panama City
- Easyfly – Arauca, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Medellín, Pereria, Yopal
- LATAM – Bogotá
- Satena – Saravena
- Spirit – Fort Lauderdale (starts on April 22, 2020)
- VivaAir – Bogotá, Santa Marta
Entering Colombia as a Tourist
We previously provided information about Colombia tourist visas and how to extend a tourist visa. And everyone seems to call this a “tourist visa” but it isn’t really a formal visa. It is just a stamp in your passport by immigration in Colombia.
There are over 90 countries, whose citizens can enter Colombia without a visa and receive a “tourist visa” stamp. The countries include Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States plus over 80 more countries.
If you are a tourist from Canada, you used to have to pay a reciprocity fee of 201,000 pesos – but were exempt from the fee if older than 79 or younger than 14. However this reciprocity fee was eliminated on May 1, 2019.
Exchanging Money at Palonegro International Airport (BGA)
There is an Aerocambios currency exchange for exchanging money at the Palonegro airport. But the fees at a currency exchange can be high as well as the actual exchange rate they offer won’t be great. So, this isn’t the best option for exchanging money.
Inside the Bucaramanga airport terminal there is at least three ATM machines on the second floor from Bancolombia, BBVA and Servibanca.
The exchange rate ATM machines provide in Colombia will usually be very close to the actual exchange rate that can be seen on XE. And the rate will be better than the rate found at the currency exchanges at the airport.
There are also other ways for exchanging money, receiving and transferring money in Bucaramanga and other cities in Colombia like Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena, which we previously covered.
These include exchange centers in the city (Casas de Cambio), the Zeepod mobile app, money transfer services and money transfers at banks.
Bucaramanga Airport Tips
Based on my experience flying three times to/from Palonegro International Airport in Bucaramanga, I have three airport tips for foreigners.
- Plan to arrive early for your departing flight. I like to play it safe, so I would plan to be at the Bucaramanga airport at least 1.5 hours before domestic flights. Likely you don’t need this much time at the airport to check-in and go through security at the airport. But you never know when you might run into problems. And for international flights, most airlines require you to be at the airport three hours before flights.
- There will usually be taxis at the airport. I have never encountered a problem in finding a taxi at the Bucaramanga airport. And I never have experienced a problem with a taxi.
- Foreign tourists can get a refund of Colombia’s value-added tax (VAT) known as the IVA tax that is 19% at the DIAN office at the airport. Just ask where the DIAN office in the airport. We provide details about how to get the IVA tax refund here.
How to Get to Bucaramanga From the Airport
Palonegro International Airport is located about 25 to 35 minutes from Bucaramanga. And in Bucaramanga, the easiest way to get to/from the Bucaramanga airport is by using taxis, which are normally easy to find at the airport.
The minimum taxi fare in Bucaramanga is 5,500 pesos. And the taxi fare from the airport to Bucaramanga or the reverse direction is currently fixed at 34,500 pesos. Also, there is a 600-peso addition to the fare for taxis in Bucaramanga at night.
If you are traveling in San Gil, you will want to go from the airport to the bus terminal in Bucaramanga where you can catch a bus to San Gil.
Airport Website: https://bga.aerooriente.com.co/
Address: Km 24 Vía Lebrija, Santander, Colombia
Telephone: +57 (7) 691 0140
Hours: 5:30 am to 11:30 pm
Airports in Colombia
We have provided guides to the 10 largest airports in Colombia. The following list of these 10 largest airports in Colombia is in order by passenger traffic:
- El Dorado Airport (BOG) – Bogotá’s International Airport and the largest airport in Colombia.
- José María Córdova (MDE) – Medellín’s International Airport in Rionegro.
- Rafael Núñez Airport (CTG) – Cartagena’s International Airport.
- Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) – Cali’s International Airport in Palmira.
- Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport (BAQ) – Barranquilla’s International Airport.
- Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport (ADZ) – San Andrés’ International Airport.
- Simón Bolívar International Airport (SMR) – Santa Marta’s International Airport.
- Matecaña International Airport (PEI) – Pereira’s International Airport.
- Palonegro Internationa Airport (BGA) – Bucaramanga’s International Airport.
- Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) – Medellín’s domestic airport in the city.
In addition, we looked at how to find cheap international flights to Medellín and Colombia.
Also, we looked at how to find cheap domestic flights in Colombia. And I have flown three times from Medellín to Bucaramanga for less than $100 roundtrip.
The Bottom Line: Palonegro International Airport in Bucaramanga (BGA)
Bucaramanga and San Gil are emerging tourist destinations in Colombia. Also, Bucaramanga is a viable alternative to Medellín for foreigners looking for an “eternal spring” climate in Colombia but in a smaller city with a lower cost of living and less traffic and pollution than Medellín.
Foreign tourists who travel to Bucaramanga and nearby San Gil normally travel by air. So, several Medellin Guru readers asked for a guide to the Bucaramanga Airport, which we now have with this article.
In addition, we previously compared Medellín vs Pereira vs Bucaramanga to see which is the better place to live.
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Editors note: updated on May 4, 2019 to add that the reciprocity fee for Canadians entering Colombia has been eliminated on May 1, 2019.
Editors note: updated on January 9, 2020 to add a new Spirit flight to Bucaramanga from Fort Lauderdale that starts in April 2020 and updated the current taxi fares in Bucaramanga.