Come to Cartagena, live it on your own way you’ll have the chance to discover a place where reality beyond magic
Get top from our South American experts. They’ve shared their advice on accommodation, what to pack, background reading, what to eat – and what not to. Read on to find health and safety information, plus honest advice from our traveller reviews.
- There are many ways to get to Cartagena de Indias. Today, it is no longer necessary to stop in Bogotá to get to the city. If you come from abroad, you can take a cruise or a plane. directly to the Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena. If you are in the interior of the country, you can take a flight with or LAN, or by bus from cities such as Barranquilla, Santa Marta or Bucaramanga, journeys that will take less than 10 hours.
- Cartagena, home to over a million people, has several distinct faces that visitors are likely to encounter. There’s the historic Old Town, modern skyscrapers in Boca Grande, working-class barrios, universities and a large port where cruise ships dock. In short, the historic hub occupies just a small slice of this large South American city.
- Safety is often one of the biggest concerns for people when planning a trip to Cartagena. They have a common saying in Colombia “no dar papaya” this translates as “don’t give papaya.” What it really means is though don’t give anyone the chance to steal your stuff!
- Bus –The main method of public transportation in Cartagena is the Metrocar bus. A one-way trip costs 3,000 COP. However, most everything you’ll want to see and do in Cartagena is within walking distance. Many locals will tell you to avoid the bus altogether as it passes through some shady parts of town.
- Food – If you’re on a budget, you can eat for under $55,000 COP a day. Whether it’s an arepa for $5,000 COP, an empanada for $2,500 COP, or fish with beans and rice for lunch for as little as $10,000 – $16,670 COP, there are plenty of cheap options for eating out in Cartagena if look for them.
- Cartagena doesn’t have a lot of nice beaches, which is why island-hopping around the Islas del Rosario is so popular. The Islas del Rosario are a collection of 27 islands just off the coast. If you want to visit the larger Islands, you can either go by road (there is a bridge) or on the public boat. If you want to snorkel the reefs and see some of the smaller islands, you will need to take a private boat. You can book tours online, or if you can get a small group together, it’s worth walking down to the port early and negotiating a private tour with a local.
- It’s always hot and humid in Cartagena, with humidity usually around 80%. Throughout the year the average the temperature range is between 77°F and 87°F. Nights can be uncomfortable if your hotel does not have air-con. The weather is a bit better from January to March, when afternoon sea breezes provide daily relief. Cartagena averages 40 inches of rain each year with October the rainiest month.
- Be sure to try the natural fruit juices and meat skewers from the street stalls located just outside the walls.
- The main tourist attractions are within easy walking distance. You can visit the historic center and the Getsemaní neighborhood on foot, which is where all the tourist attractions are concentrated and to move to more remote areas such as Bocagrande or Playa Blanca use public transport (Red double-decker buses, Trolley buses, chivas (typical bus) or private tours.
- It is worth buying some Colombian coffee that is considered one of the best in the world.
- What is sold the most are souvenirs, handicrafts, jewelry (mainly emeralds) and handmade bags.
- The famous brand stores are located in the center of the walled city and Av. San Martín, known as Highway 2 in Bocagrande.
- The lodging options in Cartagena are very varied and suitable for all budgets. If you are looking for comfort without caring too much about money, the best areas to stay will be inside the walled city and the beach area where you will find 4 and 5-star hotels such as the Hilton and All Inclusive Resorts. If instead you travel on a savings plan, you may want to find accommodation in the Getsemaní area where you can find a wide variety of hostels, hostels and modest hotels.
- DO NOT USE MONEY CHANGERS ON THE STREETS! Such operations are illegal and you will likely be cheated. If you really need US Dollars, the Western Union at the basement floor of the Caribe Plaza mall, but at a hefty fee. A good alternative would be Casa de cambio ‘Jackie’ located in the old city (Centro) calle de Colegio. Jackie used to be in charge of the bar at Club Nautico. A casa de cambio that you can trust and obtain a good ‘rate’.
- Wear face masks, they are mandatory.
- Taxis in Cartagena do not have meters, so be sure to confirm the price in advance, and try to bargain a little.
- In terms of travel, it means you should save drinks in the shade, hanging out in your accommodation, museum or market visits, and escapes to coffee shops with air-con to the peak afternoon sun as it’s just not enjoyable to be wandering around then. Dress appropriately for the temperatures, wear a hat, and lather yourself in suncream too. It also means that, unless you’re on an incredibly tight budget, you should make a point of staying in a dorm or private room which has air-con.
- Getting around is easy, especially by taxi, since there aren’t any great distances between the different tourist areas. However, we recommend that you verify taxi prices prior to any trip in order to avoid any unexpected inconveniences or costs.
Tours & Tickets in Cartagena Colombia
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