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.
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.
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 had been planning to add a secondary airport in the suburb of Facatativa west of Bogotá, which was conceived to be El Dorado II.
However, the government decided in November 2018 to expand the existing El Dorado airport instead of building a new airport. El Dorado reportedly can be expanded so it can handle 70 million passengers per year.
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.
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.
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.
Flight Options from El Dorado Bogotá Airport
El Dorado has flights from 24 different airlines with direct flights to and from over 50 different international destinations:
- Aerolineas Argentinas – Buenos Aires
- Aeroméxico – Mexico City
- Air Canada Rouge – Toronto, Montreal (starts June 2, 2020)
- Air Europa – Madrid
- Air France – Paris
- American Airlines – Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
- Avianca – Aruba, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Curaçao, Cusco, Florencia, Fortaleza, Fort Lauderdale, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Havana, La Paz, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, Munich, 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.
- Avior Airlines – Caracas and Valencia
- Copa Airlines – Panama City
- Cubana de Aviación – Havana
- Delta Air Lines – Atlanta, New York JFK (starts December 21, 2019)
- Iberia – Madrid
- Interjet – Cancun and Mexico City
- JetBlue – Fort Lauderdale and Orlando
- JetSmart – Santiago
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Amsterdam (with stop in Cartagena)
- LATAM Airlines – Aruba, Cancun, Miami, Santiago and São Paulo
- Lufthansa – Frankfurt
- Spirit Airlines – Fort Lauderdale, Orlando
- TAME – Guayaquil and Quito
- Turkish Airlines – Istanbul (with stop in Panama City)
- United Airlines – Houston and Newark
- VivaAir – Barranquilla, Lima, Miami and Panama City
- Wingo – Aruba, Cancun, Caracas, Curaçao, Havana, Mexico City, Panama City, Punta Cana, Quito and San Jose (Costa Rica)
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.
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 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.
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.
U.S. Pre-Clearance Coming to the Bogotá Airport in 2020
In August 2019, in one of his last policy statements before relinquishing his post as U.S Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker confirmed that in 2020, all travelers heading to the U.S will be able to do U.S immigration inside Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance operations is the strategic stationing of CBP law enforcement personnel overseas to inspect travelers prior to boarding U.S.-bound flights.
Through pre-clearance, CBP Officers conduct the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air travelers typically performed upon arrival in the U.S. before departure from foreign airports.
Currently pre-clearance is available in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada.
The pre-clearance permits all visitors, as well as U.S residents, to arrive in the U.S. as domestic travelers, having cleared immigration and U.S customs in Bogotá.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- During rush hour the trip to/from the airport could take well over an hour. So, plan accordingly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How to Get to Bogotá from the Airport (and to 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.
Especially relevant, there are more than one way to get to Bogotá from the airport and the reverse direction:
- 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. There is usually a line of yellow taxis at the airport but there may be a line waiting for one.
- Transmilenio bus to/from El Dorado Airport – there is a free airport bus to/from Portal El Dorado near the airport and the Transmilenio costs only 2,200 pesos per trip. So, you can take the Transmilenio to/from the airport.
- Private driver – there are several private drivers services in Bogotá offering airport transfer service that typically starts at about $20 USD.
These options have a wide range in price from 2,200 to over 76,000 pesos ($0.81 to over $30).
Here are some of the private driver services offering transport to/from the Bogotá airport:
- ColombianBuddy – 55,000 pesos from the airport for less than four people
- BogotaPass – $20 USD for two people
- ImpulseTravel – $23.56 USD
- Colombia4u – $32 USD
- Ziptransfers – $23 EUR
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 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.
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.
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.
Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.
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.
Editors note: updated on October 12, 2018 to add private driver options at the Bogotá airport based on a reader request.
Editors note: updated on November 30, 2018 to add that Bogotá now plans to expand the El Dorado airport and has scrapped plans to build a second airport known as El Dorado II.
Editors note: updated on March 25, 2019 to add that Avianca is suspending service to Boston and Chicago from Bogotá on May 1, 2019.
Editors note: updated on May 4, 2019 to add a new Wingo flight from Bogotá to Curaçao, which is offered on Thursdays and Saturdays. Also, added that the reciprocity fee for Canadians entering Colombia has been eliminated on May 1, 2019.
Editors note: updated on June 20, 2019 to add a new VivaAir flight from Bogotá to Barranquilla.
Editors note: updated on July 31, 2019 to add a new Delta flight from New York JFK to Bogotá that starts on December 21, 2019.
Editors note: updated on September 4, 2019 to add Wingo’s new flight to San Jose, Costa Rica and add information that U.S. pre-clearance is coming to the Bogotá airport in 2020, which will permit all visitors, as well as U.S residents, to arrive in the U.S. as domestic travelers, having cleared immigration and U.S customs in Bogotá.
Editors note: updated on September 18, 2019 to add Air Canada’s new flight from Bogotá to Montreal that starts on June 2, 2020.
Editors note: updated on October 18, 2019 to add JetSmart’s new flight from Bogotá to Santiago that starts on December 20, 2019.