TLDR? Medellin has an international airport on the outskirts and a local airport with only domestic flights!
Medellín has two operational airports, one for domestic and charter flights and another for domestic and international flights.
If you’re touring Colombia and want to make your way through the City of Eternal Spring, you may wonder which airport is more convenient.
The best way to decide is by reading the differences between the two available and comparing them! In this article, I’ll talk about José María Cordova and Olaya Herrera airports.
The Jose Maria Cordova International Airport is in Rionegro, an eastern Antioquia town 18.64 miles (30km) from Medellín. It takes about 30 minutes to get there through the airport tunnel or eastern tunnel.
There are different ways and routes to get to this air terminal. You’ll find public means of transport to the airport that work from early morning to night.
However, the transportation fee can be a bit high. Although a bus to this airport can be affordable, a taxi or private transportation can cost more than USD 20.
Some hotels offer transportation from the airport to your accommodation in the city or vice versa.
One of the most useful bus routes you can take at the airport is the Comercial Hotelera, which takes you through popular neighborhoods such as Laureles, El Poblado, El Estadio, and other tourist places in the city.
It’s not complicated to locate the national airport of Medellin. You can take the South Terminal as a reference point, which sits right next to the Olaya Herrera.
In both cases, I highly recommend you use Google Maps. Apart from the route, it’ll also share other important information about restaurants and hotels and what you’ll find along the way.
If you’re looking to save money on your trip, you can find shared taxi services where you pay the fare between the taxi passengers. That is true for both airports.
The Jose Maria Cordova is an international airport that operates 24/7.
Although the shops usually close at night, the airport remains open, and there’s time flexibility to travel.
The Olaya Herrera airport operates only between 4:30 am and 6 pm. Shops and restaurants open from 6 am.
In that sense, if you prefer to travel late at night, it’s preferable to do it from the international airport.
For domestic flights, it’s recommendable to arrive two hours in advance, and for international flights, three hours in advance.
Airlines and Destinations
The international airport of Rionegro has a larger offer, since more airlines operate with regular-sized aircraft, and it’s an air terminal that receives flights from different cities worldwide.
Medellin’s local airport, although it only operates in the national territory with smaller aircraft, can reach small airports in different Colombian towns or cities where regular commercial planes can’t arrive. They also offer charter flights or cargo services.
Put in your flight search engine origin and destination, as well as the date, and find different offers of flights, schedules, airlines, aircrafts, and airports!
Pay attention: sometimes we find cheap tickets in airports on the outskirts of a city, but we don’t consider the transfer rate.
The sum of these expenses can be even more expensive than a ticket that’ll leave you directly in the city.
Domestic flights are cheaper than international ones. However, on both, you can find good prices and discounts if you’re a skilled bargain hunter. There’s even an old rumor about the best ticket prices appearing late at night or early morning.
So consider paying attention to these details and choose your best option!
Nearby Lodgings and VIP Lounges
Unless you’re staying in eastern Antioquia, going to the farthest airport can be somewhat risky due to the distance to the city.
In that case, if your flight changes or is canceled, you have three options: returning to Medellin and incurring double transportation costs, entering a VIP room, or looking for a place to spend the night in one of the hotels near the airport.
If a similar situation occurs at the local airport, it would still be early to arrange a place to spend the night or even catch a flight from the international terminal.
At Jose Maria Cordova, you can find a wide variety of hotels and hostels in the airport roundabout, so you only have to take a few steps to get lodging that fits your needs.
You can also enter a VIP room to wait for your boarding time in comfort.
Jose Maria Cordova VIP Lounges
At the international airport, you find VIP Lounges for longer waiting stays: two are available for domestic flights and two for international or transit passengers.
Although they require a membership to access them, you can also make a reservation in advance to enjoy the lounge amenities.
Avianca VIP Lounge: Open from 3:45 am to 9:30 pm. To have access, you must have a membership or be a business or first-class passenger in Avianca or Star Alliance.
It’s available only for domestic flights. Its amenities include beds, Wi-Fi, snacks, drinks, and meeting offices.
Harmony Lounge: For international flights. Open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Some amenities you’ll find there are beds, showers, snacks, workstations, Wi-Fi, TV, and fax. To have access, you must have one of the Priority Pass, LoungeKey, or Diners Club memberships.
The Lounge Medellin by Global Lounge Network: Open from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. Only for domestic flights. It has the same amenities as Harmony Lounge, and you must have the same memberships to have access.
The Lounge Medellin International: For international flights. Available 24/7. It also has the same services as Harmony Lounge, plus a playroom for children.
Olaya Herrera VIP Lounge
Only The Regional Lounge is available at the national airport. To enjoy their services, you must be a Priority Pass member. It offers beds, workstations, and places to grab a bite. It also has a stable connection to Wi-Fi and buffet service.
The Commercial Offer
By far, the international airport offers more variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants of all kinds to tourists and travelers.
The advantage of being a bigger airport is that you can find more rental car agencies, money exchange services, duty-free, and even some popular coffee shops like Juan Valdez to enjoy a Colombian coffee before heading to your destination.
The Olaya Herrera offers a lesser variety of shops, travel agencies, restaurants, and ATMs. There are no money exchange services available; however, you can change some cash when leaving the airport in El Poblado or on nearby streets.
Both airports have a free Wi-Fi network. However, both can be a little weak, so I recommend looking for a restaurant or coffee shop Wi-Fi.
People with reduced mobility will find adequate ramps and elevators to facilitate transit in each terminal. It’s important to inform the airline about the person’s needs in case they require any service or attention.
There are also parking lots with private security that charge fees or hours or days. You can even pay a monthly fee to leave your vehicle in case of a long trip.
Both airports have commercial offers of all kinds, especially food. Although Jose Maria Cordova being bigger can have more stores of more types.
In the two air terminals of Medellin, you can rent a car.
Just have a valid driver’s license, and before you get on the road, check that the vehicle has all its legal documents up to date.
In neither of the two airports are there lockers to store luggage. However, the Olaya Herrera has the advantage of being located next to the South Terminal, where you’ll find a locker room.
Airports in Medellin: Different but Good Options!
One of the most notable differences between the two Medellin airports is that one is international, and the other operates only with domestic flights.
However, traveling within Colombia, you can search, compare, and choose which airport is more tactical when buying a flight to or from Medellin.