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colombia & menstruation

January 6, 2024

Surviving the long bus travels in Colombia on your periods

Riding a bus is by far the most popular way to travel throughout Colombia. As there are no passenger trains running in the country, and flights can be quite expensive especially if you travel with a checked-in bag, buses are often the most economical, reliable way to travel. There are many different routes varying in length and size that travellers like to take when visiting the country, and all are accessible by bus. I did the circuit starting from and ending in Bogota; in two months and a half, I travelled to the Coffee region, Jardín, followed by Medellin and Guatapé. I then headed to the coast, and after visiting a few key locations – Cartagena, Minca and Tyrone park – I made my way back to Bogota with a stop-over in the beautiful region of Santander.

Needless to say that with my big backpack and my limited budget, I chose the longer but preferable way to travel; the bus. During the two months spent travelling in this beautiful country, I had my periods, you guessed it, twice. And these two times, lucky me, were happening when I travelled by bus!

Something worth mentioning is that Colombia is mountainous, meaning that a lot of roads will be winding and sometimes quite bumpy. If you suffer from motion sickness, it can be exacerbated when you’re menstruating; thankfully pharmacies offer over-the-counter medications for motion sickness. In bus terminals, you might find a Tienda – corner shop, that offers hygienic products but it is better to assume there won’t be any.

From my experience, public toilets are always quite clean, with paper on demand. There are always bins in the cubicles but sinks are usually outside. Also, public toilets always charge a fee, varying between 1000 and 2000 COP.

(For reference, £1 ≈ 5000 Colombian pesos)

Day bus Bogotá - Salento

8h, Bogota to Armenia, then 1h more to Salento. 75000 COP with Bolivariano

I did have my period for this journey and it was quite a long one. Thankfully this was a comfortable bus with toilets. We did stop at a restaurant after four hours, where I ate a delicious Bandeja Paisa and could use the toilets to clean my cup. There is also another stop with toilets at the Armenia station where you will be changing buses to take the colectivo to Salento.

Overnight Bus Medellin to San Onofre

12h, 195000 COP with Espresso Brasilia

This was the longest bus ride I took, and fortunately I did not have my periods. The coach has toilets, but do not expect water, soap, nor paper. There is one stop in the middle of the night with access to toilets with paper and sink.

It is worth mentioning that the toilets in the Medellin terminal close at 11pm, which was a surprise for me. I arrived too early for my midnight bus and had to wait for the bus to arrive to use the toilets!

Overnight bus from Santa Marta to Bucaramanga

10h, 115000 COP with Copetran

The bus was comfortable although a bit chilly with the AC. It had clean toilets, but we also stopped three times for food and toilets, where I cleaned my cup. At the Bucaramanga terminal where I had to change buses for San Gil, I had to wait until 5:30 – 20min – for the toilets to open.

Day bus from San Gil to Bogotá

9h, 80000 COP with Copetran

It was a comfortable journey, but I recommend doing it by night as it was longer than expected. This was a van so there wasn’t any toilets but we stopped four times and could have access to food and public toilets.

There are so many more routes you can take to explore Colombia’s beautiful land, but I hope this overview will give you an idea of the general travel conditions when opting for the bus and will help you get ready if you are menstruating while travelling. You can also download the Menstruating app and add your own review!

Laura Sieg

Laura is a full time traveller, writing and recording exciting stories around the world - when not climbing or surfing, you will find her holding a mic capturing sounds in natural and cultural spaces.

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