Addresses in Colombia

Anytime you are in a foreign place, finding address or knowing how to use the information in an address to help you find a specific store, home, or attraction can be a bit daunting and confusing at times. In Colombia, addresses can be very helpful and very easy to follow and find, if you know how to use the information contained in them.

That being said, let’s talk a little bit about how addresses work exactly in Colombia. In most English-speaking countries, you would use streets, avenues, boulevards, drives, and even lanes to locate addresses. In Colombia, you have two main words that are used—“calle” (street) and “carrera” (literally meaning “race,” but more similar to what we would call, in English, an avenue). Calles and carreras generally run perpendicular to each other. Calles go up in number the further north you go in a city and go down the further south you go in a city. Carreras go up in number the further west you go and down in number the further east you go in a city. That may make it appear extremely easy to find and follow addresses in Colombia, but don’t be fooled.

Street Corner in Bogota showing the number of the "Calle" and "Carrera"

Street Corner in Bogota showing the number of the “Calle” and “Carrera”

For example, in Barranquilla, you would think that between Carrera 46 and Carrera 42 there would be four city blocks, right? Wrong. If you check it out on Google Maps, you can clearly see that there are fifteen city blocks between the two carreras at some points in the city. That is due to the fact that as new neighbourhoods emerge and new streets are needed, the city simply designates names like Carrera 42A, 42A1, 42A2, 42A3, and 42A4, creating more carreras and deceiving those unaccustomed to this method. So, before you decide to walk between two places simply because the addresses appear close together, check it out on Google Maps or ask a local to make sure there aren’t any hidden streets between your starting point and destination.

House or Building number in Colombia

House or Building number in Colombia. In this case it could be either Carrera 20 No. 11-78 or Calle 20 No. 11-78. In the first case, it means the house is located in the Carrera 20 with Calle 11, while in the second case the house is located in the Calle 20 with Carrera 11.

While Google Maps can give you pretty accurate walking and driving directions to places in Colombia, I would not rely on Google Maps for giving you information about public transport. For that, rely on locals. What you can rely on Google Maps for now, though is street view. Most Colombian cities are now able to be viewed with street view on Google Maps, meaning you can even check out addresses by virtually walking to them on your smart phone, computer or tablet before you physically begin your walk. This will give you a better idea of where you will be walking and the true distance between two points is.

One more thing to know about addresses in Colombia, especially for mailing purposes, is that until recently there were no zip codes/post codes assigned in the country. A couple of years ago the national postal service in Colombia, 472, launched a post code campaign, zoned the country, and tried to promote the use of these codes among Colombians. And, while you can find the official post codes for every city and town in Colombia via the 472 website, you will be hard pressed to find a Colombian who knows what a post code is, much less one who can tell you what their own post code would be. This may sound confusing, especially if you are trying to mail something to someone in Colombia, but have no fear—the Colombian postal service has functioned for many decades with no reliance on post codes.

Here’s to better understanding of addresses in Colombia!

Happy Travels,

The Uncover Colombia Team.

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