#1 travel to cartagena's bus station
Cartagena's bus station is about 8 miles from the old town, and you have two options.
The easiest is to take a taxi. This should cost around $15,000-20,000 pesos and take 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Before getting in the taxi, we recommend confirming how much the ride will cost to avoid an expensive surprise at the end. Note that many taxis do not have meters.
It is possible (and cheaper) to take a bus from by the India Catalina monument or Avenida Santander (look for a green and white bus with a "Terminal des Transportes" sign). The trip takes around an hour and tickets cost only $1,800 per person.
#2 avoid the touts and go straight to the ticket booths
Most bus stations in Colombia have guys who will come direct to you to try and make sure you go on their bus, even if it isn't the cheapest or the next departure. So we always recommend that you go straight to the ticket booth for companies running the route.
For Santa Marta, there are a number of companies running the route with regular departures throughout the day so there's no need to buy a ticket in advance (unless you're unlucky and arrive on the peak Colombian holiday season when everyone is leaving the city and heading to the beach!) Berlinas and Brasilia are two recommended bus companies. Total journey time is 4-5 hours (note that Flamingo buses takes longer than the others due to a higher number of stops along the way).
Expect to pay $25,000 - $30,000 per person and remember that, in Colombia, it's always worth trying to get a slight discount on the first price mentioned on any bus. There will be more expensive 'minivan' options available, which take only 6 or 8 passengers.
#3 travel from santa marta terminal to santa marta
Like Cartagena, the bus terminal in Santa Marta is outside of the city centre, so you'll need to take a minibus ($1,500 per person) or a cab ($5,000 - they will try to get more!). They will both be outside the station.
#4 how to get from santa marta to tayrona
If you plan on heading to Tayrona or Taganga then note that these buses do not leave from the main bus terminal in Santa Marta. Tayrona departures can be found where Calle 11 meets Carrera 11 ($5,000), whilst Taganga departures leave where Calle 17 meets Carrera 5 ($3,000).
For information on onward travel to Minca, check out our Minca guide.