El Dorado International Airport is the largest airport in Colombia and it’s the Bogotá airport for all international and domestic flights to the city, with airport code BOG.

El Dorado Airport (the full name is El Dorado Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento International Airport) is the largest airport in Colombia in terms of number of passengers and cargo shipped. Also, it is the largest in terms of international flights and domestic flights.

Furthermore, in both 2016 and 2017, El Dorado Airport was named the best airport in Latin America by World Airport Awards.

Several readers of the Medellin Guru site asked us to provide a guide to the Bogotá airport – El Dorado. So,this article is our Bogotá airport guide.

Since Bogotá’s airport has more international flights than any other airport in Colombia, many foreigners who travel to Colombia arrive first in Bogotá but may also be traveling to other cities like Medellín or Cartagena.

Note the above photo of El Dorado airport is by EEIM.

Inside El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by John Edison Camacho Cardona

Inside El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by John Edison Camacho Cardona

History of the El Dorado Bogotá Airport (BOG)

Construction of the El Dorado passenger terminal in Bogotá reportedly stared in 1955. It entered service in 1959, replacing an interim terminal at the new airport.

In 1973, El Dorado served nearly 3 million passengers and it became necessary to add a second runway to accommodate growth.

In 2010, construction of a new international terminal started at El Dorado to handle passenger growth. And in October 2012, this new international terminal opened at El Dorado and is known as Terminal T1.

The T1 terminal at El Dorado now handles all international flights and all domestic flights except for some Avianca domestic flights used to use the Puente Aéreo Terminal, which is now known as T2.

But this changed on April 28, 2018, when all Avianca flights (international and domestic) started using only the T1 terminal in Bogotá. And Satena and EasyFly use the Puente Aéreo Terminal – T2.

Shuttle buses from planes to the terminal at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by EEIM

Shuttle buses from planes to the terminal at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by EEIM

Note there aren’t sufficient gates for all the flights to El Dorado. So, some flights park and you go on shuttle buses to the terminal.

There have been ongoing expansions the T1 main El Dorado terminal to increase capacity to 40 million passengers per year. Longer term, Bogotá reportedly plans to add a secondary airport in the suburb of Facatativa west of Bogotá, which is conceived to be El Dorado II.

Inside Puente Aéreo Terminal T2 in Bogotá, photo by EEIM

Inside Puente Aéreo Terminal T2 in Bogotá, photo by EEIM

Puente Aéreo Terminal – T2

In 1981, Avianca built the separate Puente Aéreo Terminal at the airport to serve high volume flights from Bogotá to Cali, Medellín, Miami and New York.

And Avianca gradually moved all of its domestic flight to the Puente Aéreo Terminal and eventually shifted the Miami and New York flights to the main T1 terminal.

Avianca domestic flights to Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Medellín, Pereira, San Andres and Valledupar use the T1 main terminal. And Avianca flights to other domestic destinations in Colombia were using the T2 terminal, formally known as Puente Aéreo.

But starting on April 29, 2018, all Avianca flights use the T1 terminal, which makes connections between Avianca international and domestic flights easier, as you no longer need to change terminals. And starting on April 29, only Satena and EasyFly use the Puente Aéreo Terminal – T2.

Note here is a satellite bus service that runs from 5 am to 11 pm between the two airport terminals.

International departures on the second floor at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Felipe Restrepo Acosta

International departures on the second floor at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Felipe Restrepo Acosta

At the El Dorado Bogotá Airport

The El Dorado Bogotá airport main T1 terminal has restaurants, cafes and bars. In addition, it has a local shopping area with a number of shops and a bookstore.

Inside the airport are currency exchange places and several ATM machines. And past the security on the way to international gates there are duty free shops.

The airport terminal has three levels. The lowest level is for arrivals. The second level is where the check-in area is located and security, immigration and the gates. And the third level has some restaurants and bars.

Baggage claim at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Reg Natarajan

Baggage claim at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Reg Natarajan

There are four car rental companies located on the arrivals level including Avis, Budget, Flash Rent a Car, Hertz. In addition, the airport is open 24 hours.

Outside the main terminal of El Dorado airport there are three parking lots with spaces for over 1,000 cars as well as 300 motorcycles. And the terminal parking rate is currently 48,000 pesos per day for cars and 33,500 pesos per day for motorcycles.

Avianca plane at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Reg Natarajan

Avianca plane at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Reg Natarajan

Flight Options from El Dorado Bogotá Airport

El Dorado currently has flights from 23 different airlines with direct flights to and from over 50 different international destinations:

  1. Aerolineas Argentinas – Buenos Aires
  2. Aeroméxico – Mexico City
  3. Air Canada Rouge – Toronto
  4. Air Europa – Madrid
  5. Air France – Paris
  6. American Airlines – Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
  7. Avianca – Aruba, Barcelona, Boston, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Curaçao, Cusco, Florencia, Fortaleza, Fort Lauderdale, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Havana, La Paz, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, New York JFK, Orlando, Panama City, Punta Cana, Rio de Janeiro, San Jose (Costa Rica), San Juan (Puerto Rico), San Salvador, Quito, Recife, Salvador de Bahia, Santiago, São Paulo and Washington-Dulles. And Avianca is adding flights to Munich on November 16, 1018 and Chicago on November 17, 2018.
  8. Avior Airlines – Caracas and Valencia
  9. Copa Airlines – Panama City
  10. Cubana de Aviación – Havana
  11. Delta Air Lines – Atlanta
  12. Iberia – Madrid
  13. Interjet – Cancun and Mexico City
  14. JetBlue – Fort Lauderdale and Orlando
  15. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Amsterdam (with stop in Cartagena)
  16. LATAM Airlines – Aruba, Cancun, Miami, Santiago and São Paulo
  17. Lufthansa – Frankfurt
  18. Spirit Airlines – Fort Lauderdale, Orlando
  19. TAME – Guayaquil and Quito
  20. Turkish Airlines – Istanbul (with stop in Panama City)
  21. United Airlines – Houston and Newark
  22. VivaAir – Lima, Miami and Panama City
  23. Wingo – Aruba, Cancun, Caracas, Havana, Mexico City, Panama City, Punta Cana and Quito

The most popular international flight locations at the Bogotá airport in 2016 were Panama City with 862,265 passengers, Lima with 833,758 passengers, Miami with 716,168 passengers, Mexico City with 689,330 passengers and Madrid with 643,550 passengers.

In addition, there are non-stop flights available from the Bogotá airport to and from over 20 domestic locations in Colombia.

In 2016, El Dorado airport reportedly served a total of 35,768,992 passenger movements, which makes it the third busiest airport in Latin America.

Colombia tourist visa stamps in a passport

Colombia tourist visa stamps in a passport

Entering Colombia as a Tourist

We previously provided information about Colombia tourist visas and how to extend a tourist visa. Everyone calls 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. But 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.

Note that immigration in Bogotá can sometimes be busy when multiple international flights arrive at similar times. Consequently I have spent more than 40 minutes between immigration and customs several times in Bogotá due to long lines.

Exchanging Money at the Bogotá Airport

Currency exchanges at the Bogotá 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.

At the Bogotá airport there are ATM machines located upstairs (departures) where the airline check-in desks are located and downstairs (arrivals). You can find ATM machines from Banco de Bogotá, Bancolombia, BBVA, Citibank, 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 Bogotá and other cities in Colombia like Medellín, 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 Bogotá Airport

If you are planning to eat at the Bogotá airport there are many food options outside of security. Once you go through security to either the international or domestic gates there aren’t that many food options.

Many of the food options at El Dorado airport are in two areas up an elevator or stairs from the second-floor departure check-in area. In these areas, there are several food options like Bogotá Beer Company, Crepes & Waffles, Dunkin’ Donuts, Frisby, Kokoriko, McDonald’s, Papa John’s, Subway, Wingstop and many more.

Also, there is a small food court upstairs past security for international gates. You can see all the food options on El Dorado’s website.

Bogotá Airport Tips

Based on my experience flying over 50 times to/from Bogotá El Dorado Airport, I have several airport tips for foreigners.

  1. Plan to arrive early for your departing flight. I like to play it safe, so I always plan to be at the airport 3 hours before international flights and 2 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 with the traffic in Bogotá.
  2. There will almost always be taxis at the airport. I have never encountered a problem in finding a taxi at the airport even after midnight. And I never have experienced a problem with a taxi. But there are sometimes lines to catch a taxi at the airport.
  3. 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.
  4. During rush hour the trip to/from the airport could take well over an hour. So, plan accordingly.
  5. The cheapest way to get to/from the airport is by using Transmilenio. With a fare of only 2,200 pesos, Transmilenio buses are the cheapest option. However, the Transmilenio articulated bus system in Bogotá can be very crowded.
  6. 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 Bogotá airport, the DIAN office is located in the international terminal, just ask where it is. We provide details about how to get the IVA tax refund here.
  7. It is possible to store baggage at the Bogotá airport. There is a Gurada Equipaje office on the first floor of Terminal T1. It costs 15,000 pesos per bag for 12 hours.

Location of El Dorado airport in Bogotá

Getting To/From the Bogotá Airport

El Dorado international airport is located in Fontibón, which is located about 9 miles (14 km) from the Bogotá city center. It normally takes between 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic, to go from El Dorado airport to downtown Bogotá or the reverse direction.  And to get to other areas of Bogotá it can take even longer.

Line to catch taxis at El Dorado Bogotá Aiport, photo by Mr Tobi

Line to catch taxis at El Dorado Bogotá Aiport, photo by Mr Tobi

Especially relevant, there are several ways to get to your destination in Bogotá from the Bogotá Airport:

  1. Yellow taxi – these typically cost anywhere from about 20,000 to 40,000+ pesos depending on your destination in Bogotá. And the taxis in Bogotá are metered.
  2. Transmilenio bus – take the free airport bus to Portal El Dorado and the Transmilenio costs only 2,200 pesos per trip.
  3. Uber – UberX, UberBlack, UberVan – UberX fares are similar to taxi fares but can be higher during peak hours. UberVan is for bigger parties and will more expensive. UberBlack is also more expensive.
  4. Private driver – typically starts at about $28.

These options have a wide range in price from 2,200 to over 76,000 pesos ($0.81 to over $28).

Airport Website: https://eldorado.aero/en/ (in English)

Address: Calle 26 #103-9, Fontibón, Bogotá

Telephone: +57 (1) 266 2000

Airports in Colombia 

We have provided guides to five different airports in Colombia:

  1. El Dorado Airport (BOG) – Bogotá’s International Airport and the largest airport in Colombia.
  2. José María Córdova (MDE) – Medellín’s International Airport in Rionegro.
  3. Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) – Medellín’s domestic airport in the city.
  4. Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport (CLO) – Cali’s International Airport in Palmira.
  5. 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 Bogotá for less than $100 roundtrip.

Avianca 767-200 at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Carlos Colina

Avianca 767-200 at El Dorado Bogotá Airport, photo by Carlos Colina

The Bottom Line: El Dorado Bogotá Airport (BOG)

Bogotá’s El Dorado Airport is the largest and best airport in Colombia with non-stop flights to more international and domestic locations than any other city in Colombia.

All the direct flight options from El Dorado airport is one of the benefits of living in Bogotá we looked at when comparing living in Medellín vs Bogotá. And if visiting Bogotá, we provided a list of 15 top things to do in Bogotá.

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Editors note: updated on April 28, 2018 to indicate that starting on April 29, 2018, all Avianca flights will use only the T1 terminal in Bogotá. There will no longer be a need to connect between the T1 and T2 terminals for Avianca connections in Bogotá. Also added that Satena and Easyfly will use the T2 terminal in Bogotá.

Editors note: updated on June 9, 2018 to add Avianca flights to Chicago and Munich that start in November and added Lufthansa and TAME airlines.