Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport is the third largest airport in Colombia in terms of passengers. And it’s the Cali airport for all international and domestic flights to the city, with airport code CLO.
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport is also known as Palmaseca International Airport. This airport is not located in Cali but in nearby Palmira. But it is still known as the Cali airport by international travelers and the airlines, as Cali is a much bigger city. This is similar to the Medellín airport (MDE) that is located in Rionegro.
In addition, Alfonso Bonilla Aragón airport operates as an alternate airport to Bogotá’s El Dorado Airport.
We previously provided airport guides for four airports in Colombia. And several Medellin Guru readers asked us to provide a guide to the Cali airport – Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport – since Cali is slowly becoming a more popular tourist location. So, this article is our Cali airport guide.
Note the above photo is inside Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Palmira.
History of the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO)
After a conflict with Peru in 1932, President Enrique Olaya Herrera wanted to build an airport in Cali to support military air operations. A site was found and a small Colombia Air Force base and Air National Guard station opened in September 1933. And this airport was also used for non-military flights.
And in 1947, the Calipuerto airport was opened in Candelaria, which was 18 miles from the city center of Cali. This airport was used by Panagra and Avianca. This airport was passed to the Colombian state in the 1950s and was taken over by Civil Aerunatutics in 1968.
Also, in 1947, VIARCO built another airport in Cali located in Pasoancho, which was open to be used by all airlines except for Avianca. So, Cali ended up with three active airports in the late 1940s.
The history of the current airport serving Cali, dates back to the VI Pan American Games, which were held in Cali. The prestige of such an event forced the national government in Colombia to commit to building a new airport in Cali. Palmaseca International Airport opened in July 1971.
The Palmaseca Airport was later renamed to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in honor of a civic leader who promoted the construction of the new airport.
More About the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO)
The Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in Cali is reportedly the second largest airport in Colombia in terms of infrastructure.
The airport has several restaurants and cafés. In addition, it has a small shopping area with a number of shops. Also, there is hotel in the airport on the third level: GHL Hotels.
Inside the airport terminal are two currency exchange places and several ATM machines. Also, there are three car rental companies at the airport: Avis, Localiza and Vaya Car Rental. In addition, the airport is open 24 hours.
Also, there are duty free shops in the International section of the terminal past security. And there is a small pharmacy on the second floor.
Outside the terminal of Alfonso Bonilla Aragón airport there are four parking lots with spaces for cars and motorcycles.
Flight Options from Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Cali Airport (CLO)
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in Cali currently has flights from nine different airlines with direct flights to and from 23 different destinations and Spirit is adding service to Fort Lauderdale in December 2018:
- Aerolinea de Antioquia (ADA) – Quibdó
- American Airlines– Miami
- Avianca– Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Guayaquil, Lima, Madrid, Medellín, Miami (stops in Medellín), New York-JFK, Pasto, San Andrés, San Salvador, Santa Marta, Turnaco
- Copa Airlines– Panama City
- LATAM– Bogotá, San Andrés
- Satena – Guapi, Quibdó, Puerto Asis, Turnaco
- Spirit Airlines – Fort Lauderdale (daily service starts December 20, 2018)
- TAC – Timbiqui
- TAME – Esmeraldas, Quito
- Wingo– Bogotá, Panama City, San Andrés
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 from Canada, you must pay a reciprocity fee of 191,000 pesos – but exempt from the fee if older than 79 or younger than 14.
When you enter Colombia as a tourist, an immigration official will stamp your passport and normally write that it is good for 90 days. However, this is at the discretion of the official and occasionally may be shorter. And this tourist stamp can be extended pretty easily to a total 180 days.
Exchanging Money at the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Cali Airport (CLO)
Currency exchanges at the Cali airport can be one of the easiest ways for exchanging money. But the fees can be horrible as well as the actual exchange rate they offer won’t be great. So, this isn’t the best option for exchanging money.
There are two currency exchanges at the Cali airport, both are named Cambios Inter 1A. And they are located on the first and second floors of the airport.
Also, at the Cali airport there are several ATM machines. You can find ATM machines from Banco de Bogotá, Banco Popular, BBVA, Corpbanca, Davivienda and Servibanca.
The exchange rate ATM machines provide 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 Cali 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.
Food Options at the Cali Airport
If you are planning to eat at the Cali airport there are several food options.
There are over 20 food and café options in the airport including Air Coffee Bar, Dunkin’ Donuts, Flying Dogs, Juan Veldez Café, La Locura, Qbano, Pateleria Santa Elena, Presto, Kikoriko, Restaurante Carabelle, Restaurante Ricuras, Subway and Ventolini.
Also, the restaurants are located on the second and third floors of the Cali airport.
Cali Airport Tips
Based on my experience flying over 10 times to/from Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, I have four airport tips for foreigners.
- Plan to arrive early for your departing flight. I like to play it safe, so I always plan to be at the Cali airport three hours before international flights and 1.5 hours before domestic flights. Probably you don’t need this much time at the airport to check-in and go through security and immigration for international flights. But you never know when you might have problems getting to the airport.
- There will almost always be taxis at the airport. I have never encountered a problem in finding a taxi at the airport even late at night. And I never have experienced a problem with a taxi.
- Don’t use the money exchanges at the airport. The ATM machines at the airport will offer a better exchange rate. Especially relevant, make sure to inform your bank you will be in Colombia to ensure your ATM card will work.
- 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. In the Cali airport, just ask where the DIAN office is. We provide details about how to get the IVA tax refund here.
Location of Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport
Getting To/From the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO)
Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport is located between Cali and Palmira and it actually in Palmira. Also, the airport is located only about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Cali.
It normally takes at least 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic, to go from Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport to the center of Cali or the reverse direction. And to get to other areas of Cali it takes longer.
In Cali the easiest way to get to/from the airport is using taxis. And there is a taxi stand at the airport. In addition, taxis in my experience tend to run between 50,000 to 60,000 pesos to Cali from the airport depending on the destination.
Also, there are higher cost private driver services available like Colombia4u, which provides a Cali airport transfer service for $55 USD, which is nearly double the taxi fare.
There are rarely lines waiting for taxis at the Cali airport. And taxis are easy to use, as they are metered. So, there is not really a reason for using a higher cost private driver.
Also, buses are available for about 7,000 pesos from the Cali airport in front of the domestic part of the airport to the Cali bus terminal.
Airport Website: https://www.aerocali.com.co/
Address: Via al Aeropuerto Nte., Palmira, Valle del Cauca
Telephone: +57 (2) 280 1515
Airports in Colombia
We have provided guides to five different airports in Colombia:
- El Dorado Airport (BOG) – Bogotá’s International Airport and the largest airport in Colombia.
- José María Córdova (MDE) – Medellín’s International Airport in Rionegro.
- Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) – Medellín’s domestic airport in the city.
- Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) – Cali’s International Airport in Palmira.
- Rafael Núñez Airport (CTG) – Cartagena’s International Airport.
We also 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 multiple times from Medellín to Cali for less than $100 roundtrip.
The Bottom Line: Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in Cali (CLO)
Cali is an emerging tourist destination in Colombia. And most foreigner tourists travel to Cali by air. So, we now have a guide to the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport.
In addition, we compared Medellín vs Cali to see which is the better place to live.
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Editors note: updated on September 12, 2018 to add Spirt’s newly announced daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Cali, which will start on December 20, 2018.