Matecaña International Airport is the eighth largest airport in Colombia in terms of passengers. And it’s the Pereira airport for all international and domestic flights to the city, with airport code PEI.
We have provided airport guides for several of the other airports in Colombia. And several Medellin Guru readers asked us to also provide a guide to the Pereira airport – Matecaña International Airport – as they are planning to travel to the Coffee Triangle of Colombia.
In 2018, the Pereira airport has experienced the fastest passenger growth out of all the airports in Colombia. Also, the Pereira airport handles about 75 percent of airline passengers in the Coffee Region of Colombia.
The Pereira airport also serves as an alternate airport for several other cities including Armenia, Cali, Carago and Manizales.
Pereira is part of the Coffee Triangle or Coffee Region in Colombia, which is an area of Colombia that is becoming a more popular tourist location.
Note the above photo of Matecaña International Airport is by Baiji.
History of Matecaña International Airport (PEI)
The Matecaña International Airport was originally built between 1944 and 1947. The city of Pereira owns and manages the terminal building, while the operations are in charge of Aerocivil.
The passenger terminal is a four-level building built in the early 1970s. And a new cargo terminal was built in 1978 to replace the original cargo terminal. Also, the control tower at the airport is relatively new and is reportedly Colombia’s second most advanced, behind the airport tower at the Bogotá airport.
Currently the airport is being renovated with a new passenger terminal being built. In December 2016, CSS Construction Company won a contract to build a new terminal building and demolish the current terminal at the Pereira airport. Construction has started and reportedly is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
More About Matecaña International Airport (PEI)
The passenger terminal at Matecaña International Airport in Pereira is relatively old but easy to navigate. And Wi-Fi is available in the terminal but may not always work in my experience.
The airport has several fast food places and cafés. In addition, it has a small shopping area with a few shops. Also, there is a duty-free shop in the International section of the terminal past security. And Avianca has a VIP lounge on the second level near gate two.
Inside the airport terminal is a currency exchange and at least two ATM machines. Also, there are two car rental companies at the airport: Hertz and Rent A Car Autoplaza.
Flight Options from Matecaña International Airport (PEI)
Matecaña International Airport in Pereira currently has flights from seven different airlines with direct flights to and from five different destinations. American Airlines was the seventh airline at the airport by adding service to/from Miami in December 2018:
- Aerolinea de Antioquia (ADA) – Medellín and Quibdó
- American Airlines – Miami
- Avianca – Bogotá, Miami (stops in Cartagena)
- Copa Airlines – Panama City
- Easyfly – Bogotá, Medellín, Quibdó
- LATAM – Bogotá
- VivaAir – Bogotá, Cartagena
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.
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 Matecaña International Airport (PEI)
The Jailbana currency exchange at the Pereira airport can be one of the easiest ways for exchanging money. But the fees 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.
Also, at the Pereria airport there are at least two ATM machines from Banco de Bogotá 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 Pereira 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 Pereira Airport
If you are planning to eat at the Pereira airport there are only about 12 food and café options in the airport. These include Café al Paso Padova, Café OMA, Coffee Shop, Club Sandwich, Dunkin’ Donuts, El Pasajero, Frisby, Frutitdo, Presto and Volare.
Pereira Airport Tips
Based on my experience flying over five times to/from Matecaña International Airport in Pereira, I have four 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 Pereira airport three hours before international flights and one hour before domestic flights. Likely you don’t need this much time at the airport to check-in and go through security plus immigration for international flights. But you never know when you might run into problems.
- 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 Pereira airport, just ask where the DIAN office is. We provide details about how to get the IVA tax refund here.
How to Get to Pereira From the Airport – Matecaña International Airport (PEI)
Matecaña International Airport is located in Pereira only about 5-10 minutes from the city center.
In Pereira, the easiest way to get to/from the airport is by using taxis, which are normally easy to find at the airport and they are metered. Also, there is rarely a line waiting for taxis at the relatively small Pereira airport. In addition, there is a 4,400 peso surcharge for taxis to/from the Pereira airport.
Also, as an alternative to taxis, Uber is available in Pereira. And there is bus service available from the terminal with two routes in the city.
Finally, you can also catch the Pereira Megabús service from the terminal.
Airport Website: http://aeromate.gov.co/
Address: Km 4 Vía Cerritos, Pereira
Telephone: +57 (6) 314 0828
Hours: Monday to Sunday: 5:00 am to midnight.
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 Pereira for less than $100 roundtrip.
The Bottom Line: Matecaña International Airport in Pereira (PEI)
Pereira and the Coffee Region in Colombia is a growing tourist destination in Colombia. And the Pereira airport has experienced the fastest passenger growth in 2018 out of all the airports in Colombia.
In addition, most foreigner tourists who travel to Pereira and the Coffee Region in Colombia travel by air. So, we now have a guide to the Matecaña International Airport in Pereira.
If you are flying to the Coffee Region in Colombia, I recommend the Pereira airport over the airports in Manizales and Armenia. The airports in Manizales and Armenia are much smaller with fewer flight options. Also, the Manizales airport frequently closes due to weather.
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 March 26, 2019 to add that Avianca is suspending service to Cartagena from Pereria on May 1, 2019.
Editors note: updated on May 4, 2019 to add that the reciprocity fee for Canadians entering Colombia has been eliminated on May 1, 2019.