The only way to access the island of Providencia is via the island of San Andres via two options: the ferry or the flight.
After our own trip to both of Colombia's Caribbean islands, we wanted to share the key information and details on the two transport options - alongside tips to prepare for the journey - so that you can save yourself time and uncertainty.
It's worth noting right at the beginning however that, due to limited capacity and high season demand, both the ferries and flights can and do sell out. Therefore, once you know you potential travel dates for Providencia, it's worth booking your transport sooner rather than later.
This is everything you need to know about travelling from San Andres to Providencia (and back again!).
Travel from to San Andres from mainland Colombia
Flights to San Andres Airport (officially known as Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International - ADZ) depart daily from every major Colombian city, with prices typically ranging from 100,000 COP (£23 GBP / $30 USD) - 200,000 COP (£45 - $59) and a flight time under 2 hours. If you're flying from Bogota, add on an extra 20 minutes.
As you have to reach San Andres in order to get to Providencia, your first planning decision is really whether you want to spend more than a single night on the largest and busiest island of the San Andres Archipelago.
To work out whether you should do that or not, read 13 Things To Know Before You Visit San Andres.
Flights from San Andres to Providencia
The quickest way between the two islands is to hop on a tiny plane, with a one-way flight taking only 15-20 minutes. There will usually be at least two daily flights to choose from - but this can increase to four or five per day in high season (December - February). However, availability is limited due to each plane only being able to carry around 20 passengers.
We unfortunately found this out when we decided to add Providencia to our itinerary only a week or so before our visit, and spent hours looking for flights only to discover that all seats were sold out for our limited February window. So, if you have a good idea of your travel dates in advance, it's best to get your flights booked sorted sooner rather than later!
There are two main options for booking your flight to Providencia in advance:
This government owned airline offers 2-4 daily flights from San Andres to Providencia depending on the season, with two standard daily flight times at 07.20 and 15.55.
Ticket prices are usually in the 280,000 - 310,400 COP range (£64 - £71 / $82 - $91) , but last minute bookings the night before may find a ticket for 250,000 CO (£57 / $73).
Flight times and availability are on Satena’s website, where you can also book and pay for tickets. Just note that, in our experience, the website crashes a lot.
If you do have issues booking online with Satena, you can find a travel agent office in Colombia to book them on your behalf.
Although their website looks like it hasn't been updated since 1995, San German tends to offer cheaper flights from San Andres to Providencia than Satena, with singles frequently at $250,000 COP and some returns for under 500,000 COP (£114 / $147) . Regular flight times are 10.00, and 15.30, but they do sometimes have an 08.00 flight in addition.
You can view flights times and availability on San German’s website - click on the 'Compra en linea' symbol if the page doesn't translate for you or you don't speak Spanish.
As their website interface is so dated, we were sceptical about whether it would actually be possible to buy tickets on it - but the website definitely tells us that it's possible! If you do it and it all works fine, please let us know so that we can let other travellers know! If not, then a travel agent on mainland Colombia or in San Andres is one option - or you could go straight to their office by San Andres Airport to book directly.
Read Next | Our Guide to Providencia, Colombia (coming soon!)
Searca + Decameron
In our desperate scurry to find a flight, we also came across Searca. However, whilst it seems that they actually operate several of the flights between San Andres and Providencia (including by the companies above) as well as offering charters, they aren't consumer facing.
Similarly, Decameron came up as an option in our research, but they only seem to offer charter flights as a package for their guests in San Andres and Providencia.
So, for finding and booking flights to Providencia, we recommend focussing only on Satena and San German.
What about luggage allowance on the plane?
As the planes have such limited capacity, passengers are understandably limited in how much they are allowed to bring. Small planes like have to be well balanced out, which is why you really do have to pay attention to this - we've actually been on a couple of flights like this in South America where each individual was put on the scales before boarding and we had to play an ongoing form of musical chairs during the flight to get an even weight balance distribution!
Check-in luggage is limited to 10 kgs. Excess luggage is charged 1,500 COP - 3,000 COP (less than a £1 and $1) per kilo extra, which is cheap. However, on a full flight with lots of luggage, it's best to expect that taking a lot of excess weight won't be allowed.
Therefore, if you have a lot more luggage and weight, we'd recommend just leaving some of it securely with your hostel or guesthouse in San Andres and only taking over what you need to Providencia for the beaches, diving, and the general island idyll.
As we mentioned, we didn't fly to or from San Andres due to everything being sold out, and so quite a bit of the above is based on reader's messaging us on Instagram to share their own experiences after seeing our Stories. If you have an update or anything important to include about the flight and luggage situation, let us know in the comments!
How To Get To San Andres Airport
San Andres Airport is a 10-20 minute taxi ride from most accommodation options in San Andres, and we paid $15,000 COP from our guesthouse. You can also walk to it quite easily from a number of hostels and hotels in San Andres, but only do this during the day. There is also public bus in San Andres which runs the ring-road around the island, but we don't know if it passes the airport.
For Providencia Airport, the best advice is to ask your hostel or guesthouse in advance to get an idea of expected fare to / from the airport - and whether they will arrange a pick-up.
The Boat from San Andres to Providencia
As the flights were all booked up, we went to our plan B - the catamaran!
Owned and operated by Conocemos Navegando, it only has departures at 08.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays during low season.
Due to these limited departures and fixed passenger numbers (approx. 60) - and the boat being a popular option for island residents - it is not unusual for routes to sell out. In high season however, there are usually additional ferry departures during the week.
Travel time to Providencia is 3.5 hours, but it's worth knowing in advance that the ferry is actually not much cheaper than the flights. An adult one-way ticket costs $215,000 COP (£49 / $63 ), with a return ticket priced at $395,000 (£90 / $116).
You can find and book tickets online on the Concemos Navegando website.
Although the ferry leaves San Andres at 08.00, passengers are required to be at Tonino's Marina / Port (Google Maps) and ready to check-in at 06.30 - so it's a really early start. Given the location of our accommodation, and that it was already light by 6 a.m., we just walked the 10-15 minutes to it.
Our main concern with the ferry from San Andres to Providencia was that we had read and heard some truly awful experiences about the crossing from other travellers. This sense of dread was only increased when we were each given a sea-sickness pill at the ferry check-in desk and advised to swallow it promptly - a practice that is actually standard for the crossing!
However, our fears subsided a little when we saw that the boat was pretty modern and the whole operation seemed quite slick - a stark contrast to a number of other boat crossings and journeys we've taken in Latin America (i.e. from Panama to Colombia and from Big Corn Island to Little Corn Island in Nicaragua). Perhaps due to those experiences, or because the weather conditions made for a relatively smooth crossing, or because we slept for most of the three-and-a-half hours, we really didn't have any issues part from a few bumpy bits.
Of course, that isn't to say that there will never ever be bad crossing to Providencia or sea-sick moments if you take the ferry, especially if you're a pussy. It's just to provide a bit of balance and personal perspective as the only accounts we read in advance were that this was going to be an absolutely traumatic experience!
Providencia Ferry Tips
Bring water with you.
Skip breakfast (personal preference, but if we think we might get seasick, we prefer empty stomachs)
As with night buses in Colombia, it seems that having the air con set to ARCTIC is the approach on the San Andres - Providencia ferry. Make sure you bring a hoody and trousers on board - seriously.
Keep all your valuables in your daypack and take that on board with you. Prior to boarding, they did try and take these off of us - due to their size - but a firm ‘no’ seemed to suffice.
Seats are not reserved, so if you need or want an aisle or window seat, try to board towards the beginning.
Wear the seatbelt.
If you do really struggle with seasickness, then take the plane.
What about luggage allowance on the ferry?
The San Andres to Providencia boat lets passengers take on quite a bit more weight than the plane, which is one potential advantage if you plan on staying on Providencia for more than just a few days.
Each passenger is allowed to take on one bag (158 cm maximum height + length + width) with a maximum weight of 18kg, and one small piece of hand luggage. In our experience, the luggage was not weighed. The check-in luggage was collected by men when boarding the boat and put into a covered compartment in the boat, and then unloaded at the other side.
Extra luggage or additional weight is charged extra, but we don't know the prices or process.
Return Travel from Providencia to San Andres
Despite Providencia being guaranteed to make you want to stay a few more days then initially planned, we recommend booking your return transport at the same time as your outward one.
To fly between Providencia to San Andres, Satena have an 08.20 and 16.55 daily flight, whilst San German have departures at 08.40, 10.45 and 16.15. As always, there may be additional flights will be added for high season.
The catamaran leaves Providencia at 14.30 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, with passengers required to be at the port office for 13.30 (Google Maps). The boat trip is only 2.5 hours on the way back.