Bucaramanga is a medium sized city, home of nearly 1 million people (all of the metropolitan area). It's a major commercial hub in the northeastern Colombia, playing a significant role in trade between Colombia and Venezuela. It's not a huge destination spot just like Cartagena or Santa Marta, nonetheless It is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, and ancient towns with a lot of history, which overall makes the visit to Bucaramanga worthwhile.
As always in Colombia, foreigners are NOT advised to travel by car alone. You can go out with your family, your friends or with a guide with no problem. They will take you to their farms, nearby towns and resorts without problems.
Palonegro Airport (BGA) is located about 45 minutes from town near Lebrija. Domestic flights include Bogotá, Medellín, Cúcuta and Yopal, and it recently started its first international flights to Panama City, with renovations underway to further expand its flights.
The city offers a clean, modern and nice bus station (La Terminal de Transportes de Bucaramanga) from where you can take busses to almost any destination around Colombia; you can even take buses from here that will take you to Venezuela, Perú and Ecuador. There are frequent 10 hour buses from Bogota for prices starting from COP 40 000.
There are many public and private transportation companies that offer bus services and cover almost all of the metropolitan area (Bucaramanga, Girón, Floridablanca and Piedecuesta). It's a cheap and a rather safe way (ticket costs around US$ 0.45). However, it will cost more depending on the bus, the route, and the day traveling around Bucaramanga. They offer nice and clean vehicles that you will make you feel comfortable. If loud music is not your preference then this transportation option could be a problem for you. Most of the drivers enjoy their loud music, but this doesn't happen in most cases.
As stated above, foreigners should not take buses if they are traveling alone. Especially to some 'hot' (dangerous because of the conflict) places like Villavicencio and Barrancabermeja, which are advised to use air services instead. The road that links Bogotá with Bucaramanga is safe, and you can freely travel on this road or take buses with no concern. This road also offers some excellent spots worth checking out, like the Chicamocha Canyon, the towns of San Gil, Socorro, velez, and Barichara, among others.
This is by far the best way to travel around if you don't mind spending a bit more for transportation. The cabs here are very clean, safe and they will take you to anywhere you want.
Most of the people in Bucaramanga speak spanish only, and you will probably have a hard time trying to get addresses and other information from people on streets, but if you go to big hangout places like malls, parks or supermarkets, english speaker people will certainly be found around.
There are plenty of things to sight seeing in Bucaramanga, starting from the east side via Cúcuta you can find nice and large balconies and enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The center of Bucaramanga, like any downtown in the world, gets really crowded on weekends and peak hours, however you can enjoy lots of bargains and sales in the shops, nice quality of clothes and shoes of course.
In the south of Bucaramanga you can find different resorts or clubs where you can play golf, futbol, swim, or just chill out with your friends.
Generally the most popular zone in Bucaramanga is Cabecera, this is the most modern area in the city with lots of malls and entertainment like cinemas, restaurants and shops.
To buy shoes, there is not a better place than Bucaramanga, due to the many shoe factories the prices are inexpensive. Good leather and excellent manufacturing.
Pineapples are an excellent buy. The best pineapples in the world, with only competition from the Hawaiian pineapples.
Traditional Santanderean dishes include:
Don't forget to try all the fresh fruits you can find at either the traditional markets, or at the supermarkets. Pineapple from Lebrija (Located 35-40 minutes from Bucaramanga) is famous for it's size, and sweetness. Oranges, tangerines, and limes are traditional crops, and can be found all year round (like most of the other fruits). Mango, Papaya, Watermelon, Maracuyá (passion fruit), Guava, Curuba, Pitahaya... the list is very extensive.
Some of the popular places in Bucaramanga:
Chicamocha Hotel Dan Carlton
The new aerial cable is among the longest in the world. You can board in the neighboring towns of Mesa de los Santos or Panachi across the Chicamocha national park, it covers a fantastic view of a deep canyon .
Girón is a small and pretty colonial style town just about 10 km outside Bucaramanga.