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Cartagena (Colombia)

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Cartagena [1] is a city in Bolivar, Colombia.

Cartagena's cathedral tower, in the old town

Understand

The city was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas and is currently populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia's own variety.

Cartagena, located on Colombia's northern coast and facing the Caribbean Sea, is the most visited city in the country by tourists. It gets extremely crowded in the December holidays and the holy week, when schools are out and most Colombians take their vacations. The city has basically two main parts where tourists go: the walled colonial city ("ciudad amurallada"), which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande. It is also nice to visit the exclusive neighborhood of Castillogrande, filled with recently built condos, places to jog, and a quiet beach to soak up some sun.

Get in

By plane

Rafael Nuñez International Airport (IATA: CTG) (ICAO: SKCG) [2] receives international flights from Panama City (COPA), Fort Lauderdale (Spirit Airlines) and Miami (Avianca). There are several seasonal flights from many cities in Canada; also from Madrid, Quito and Helsinki.

There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellín, Cali, San Andrés, Bogotá, Montería (ADA airlines [3]), Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta. The new low-cost airline VivaVolombia [4] also serves the city.

Cartagena is 1,000 km north of Bogotá (about an hour by air), or a 2.5 hour flight from Miami.

To take a taxi to your destination, purchase a taxi voucher from the official stand in the baggage area before getting into a cab. The price to get to the old city or anywhere in the "Centro" area Zone 1 including hotels in Getsemani is COP $9,500 (Nov 2012).

By bus

The bus terminal is 11 km east of the old city. Frequent White and Green metrocar buses with air conditioner go to the old city and cost COP$ 1,700. Buses leave every hour for Barranquilla, and from there frequent buses connect to Santa Marta[5]. The asking price for buses to Medellin is $50 USD, but it is normal to barter the price down to $30. All long distance bus tickets are expected to be bartered down.

Connections to other cities can be found on the page [6].

If you are coming overland from Panama your first bus will be from Turbo. Turbo to Monteria is COP$ 25,000, 4 hours, Monteria to Cartagena COP$ 35,000, 4 hours. (These are express services.)

By boat

Cartagena is an important port for charter boats between Colombia and Panama. There are several private boats doing that trip. Fare varies between US$375 and US$500 depending on size of the boat and on-board services. The trip usually takes 4 nights and 5 days and includes a 2 or 3 day stopover in San Blas Islands. At the Panama end, the boats either leave from the Portobelo Area or from Carti Islands Kuna Yala rather than Colón. Reliable information about departure dates and captains can be found at the hotel Casa Viena [7](See Sleep), at Zulys Backpackers Hostel[8], Mamallena Hostel[9] or Luna's Castle Hostel [10] in Panama City, at Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo [11], Hostel Portobelo [12], or the Darien Gapster [13]in panama. In San Blas Islands/ Kuna Yala panama [14] and trip ( 4x4) to carti Panama Expect to have to wait several days to find a boat. Or see boat section here [[15]]

Get around

By foot

The old town in particular is best explored by foot. Most places in Bocagrande which have up-market and all-inclusive hotels are also within walking distance.

By bus

To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe fort, there are many buses running all over the city. Ask the driver or other people who are waiting which bus goes to your destination.

Taxis are generally easy to find, although in the old town you may have to walk a few blocks away from the center, toward the wider road close to wall. From the old town to Boca Grande or vice versa or any transport inside Bocagrande or inside old town expect to pay (COP)$5,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP $9,000 - $10,00. Important: negotiate your fare before getting in the taxi. Unlike major cities, there are no taxi meters inside Cartagena taxis. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance. There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negotiated rates are often higher, especially in high season.

A Chariot is a popular way for tourists to get to know the old town. These can be flagged down in the street or there are usually some waiting at the Plaza Bolivar or close to the Santa Clara hotel. They are reminiscent of public transportation of colonial Cartagena, and essentially complete the atmosphere of the old town.

There are many buses going to various parts of town. You can take one to Mercado Bazurto (market) for around (COP)$1,400 from where you can catch the cargo boats to Playa Blanca in the morning for about (COP)$20,000 (typically (COP)$10,000 goes to the captain and (COP)$10,000 to the "helper" which is almost impossible to avoid) avoiding the (COP)$12,000 park entrance fee typically paid via tourist shuttles. You can also take a taxi for about (COP)$7,000 to the back of the Mercado Bazurto. The boat ride takes about 45-60 min. The boats depart between 09:00-11:00 or so, but there is no set time and the Cartageneros will likely not depart until the boat is full. The boats back depart between 13:00-15:30 or so. Try to locate the captain in order to pay a cheaper rate. Generally, the return trip will cost (COP)$10,000-20,000 depending on whether you can avoid the "helper". Some boats go back directly to the harbour next to the old city.

Cartagena has several harbours for Boats going out to the Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca, including the Muelle Turistico de la Bodeguita, Muelle Todomar. One of the easiest options (which includes a good lunch and roundtrip tickets [you can come back the same day or stay as long as you'd like as long as you keep your ticket stub]) is to go on one of the big ships like the Alcatraz. These come at (COP)$25.000, but beware - they take around four hr to actually get to Playa Blanca because they move really slowly and stop at the aquarium at Rosario Islands first (which is rather boring).

See

Colonial street within the walled city
  • Cartagena's main attraction is its historic old town surrounded by the city wall. Main entrance is the Clock Tower building. The walled city includes the neighbourhoods Centro, San Diego, Getsemaní and the modern part La Matuna. The oldest part of Cartagena is around Plaza Trinidad in Getsemaní.
  • Cartagena's 500-hundred year-old coralstone forts and great parts of its walled city are admirably intact and represent some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.
  • The Castillo de San Felipe is a fortress designed by the Dutch engineer Richard Carr and built in 1657 by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. Open hours are 8am-6pm, entrance fee COP$ 17.000.
  • Close to the San Felipe fortress is the 150m high La Popa hill, which offers great views over Cartagena and the harbour area. The 17th century Santa Cruz monastery is here, which has a beautifully restored courtyard and a fine image of the Virgin of La Candelaria. Entrance to La Popa is COP$8,000 for adults and a little less for children. Note that taking a taxi up and down the hill will cost you a shocking COP$50,000. Negotiate this with the driver before getting in. It is advised that you do not walk up as it can be dangerous.
  • Museums: The Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of Inquisition) is where the Spanish Inquisition tortured, judged and convicted men accused of crimes against religion. It is situated in 'Plaza de Bolivar' in the historic center. A tourist guide, in English, can be purchased for COP$15.000. Note that this actual tribunal of the Inquisition did not condemn many accused to death and the museum focuses more on practices of the Inquisition outside of Cartagena. The Gold Museum is free and worthwhile. It's also air-conditioned which provides a nice break from the heat.
  • Churches: Almost all churches in the historic center are worth visiting, especially Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, in honor of the priest St. Pedro Claver, who was the first saint of the new world for his work with slaves; La Catedral, near Plaza de Bolivar and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.

Do

  • Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic and urban beauty.
  • The best beach with great water for swimming is the Playa Blanca. You can purchase a ticket for an organized tourist day trip or an overnight trip from hotels and hostels. Several motor boats leave from the port every morning and cost around COP $45,000-50,000 for a roundtrip day trip including lunch, not including the COP $12,000 park entrance fee (Feb 2012). You can also get there and back on your own by cargo boats avoiding the park entrance fee (see Get Around section). There is also a direct bus on Sunday morning.

The beaches are far cleaner than those in and around the city. Be aware that there are many vendors trying hassle you on the beach. You will be approached to buy massages, fruit platters, seafood and jewelry among other things. Watch out for vendors selling oysters: they will give you an oyster as a present (regalo) to taste. They will quickly crack the shells and serve you a number of oysters, after which you will be told that they each cost 2,000 pesos. If you are looking for great seafood and Coco Locos, ask around for Nelson Mandela.

You can also rent a hammock or cabin and stay overnight, which is a very budget-conscious and rustic way to spend a few days. Be advised that if you plan on spending the night, vendors at the port will sell you a one-way ticket for COP $30,000 and "assure" you that you pay the captain COP $10,000 when you choose to return. However since most people taking boats to Playa Blanca go for the day, your captain may tell you the boat is "full" and ask for C$15,000 or more. If this is the case, you can always take a nice walk down the beach to where the Alcatraz Ferry departs and pay between C$10-15,000 for your return trip. To get the best rate, try to pay one of the captains and not a middle man. (April 2011)

  • Farther down from Playa Blanca on Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru (Website:[16])- a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach.
  • Several agents arrange boat tours to Islas del Rosario[17]. A set of small islands out of the coast. Usually the tour include lunch, a visit to an aquarium and a few hours at Playa Blanca. Not included in the price is harbor tax and park entrance (C$12.000 total) and the entrance fee to the aquarium (C$15.000). If you buy your tour at one of the street vendors, don't pay in advance, preferably pay part or all at return in Cartagena. At least one of these tours is to a resort "Coco Liso" which is something like a Colombian butlins. You will be promised a beach, pay a high fee, then disembark a boat after an hour and a half to be greeted with a fairly basic hotel, gimicky pool, and about 6 square feet of beach. Buying a piece of "coral" jewellery from one of the many hawkers, engage them in conversation, and they might lead you to their private beach - quite beautiful, and all the more interesting for having its existence totally denied by the tour operators. The tourist offices in the centre of the old town and a good place to compare the many possible trips to the islands.
  • Chiva Bus is a must do fun activity in Cartagena. If you've visited Cartagena for even a day you've undoubtedly seen the open air, colorful buses going through the city loaded with people having fun, drinking and enjoying the loud beat of local music. This can be a good activity for couples, families or groups. There are various pickup locations at mostly tourist hotels (Decameron, Caribe, Hilton etc). (Website:[18]). Prices range from COP $18,000 to $35,000 depending on tour.
  • Latin Dance Lessons - Latin dances, first of all the Salsa form an integral part of Caribbean culture. The colorful mixture of people in Cartagena and their passionate way of living find one if its most eminent expressions in the vibrant rhythms all around. Crazy Salsa offers you a wide range of latin dance classes, focussing on Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. There are introductary classes every firday and saturday at 5pm for just $10.000 (COP) - for advanced and intensive classes, workshops or other questions visit crazysalsa.net (Website:[19]).
  • Spanish Classes - Cartagena is an ideal city for some extended Spanish language studies - a beautiful but not too large city center, close by beaches and heaps of activities to do. Colombia is also reknown for it´s pure Spanish which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanisch language schools in Cartagena. BABEL International Language Institute is located directly in the old city in one of the picturesque streets. They offer all kinds of group and private classes and also combined Spanish and Salsa packages (Website:[20]).

Buy

  • Handcrafts are fashionable and sophisticated.
  • Emeralds are available for sale all over Cartagena, including polished and uncut loose emeralds and beautiful jewelry. The prices are extremely reasonable and the variety available is extensive in the old walled city. The stores that sell emeralds and emerald jewelry use various names such as "Taller y Fabrica de Joyas" (workshop and manufactuer of jewelry), "Museo de Artesanias y Esmeraldas" (museum of crafts and emeralds) or simply "Joyeria" (jewelry). The street vendors will be persistent in trying to take you to one of these as they frequently get a commission for bringing in a tourist from the street. The store owners will negotiate and provide a certicate of authenticty.

Eat

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Cartagena features a rich fusion cuisine, combining ingredients and methods of the New and Old worlds, as well as of the original African, Arabian and other legacies of its inhabitants. Eating set menu lunches and dinners in local restaurants called 'corrientes' costs around COP $6,000 pesos ($3). A typical dish consists of fried fish (if you are by the beach), chicken or meat, served with coconut rice (arroz de coco), fried plantains (patacones) and salad. There are many places that sell $1 fruit juices. Colombia boasts a very good range of exotic fruits that can be mixed with water or milk.


In the old town, dozens of good restaurants can be found dotted around the streets. They are particularly concentrated close to the Plaza Santo Domingo in El Centro.

Note that many restaurants are not open on Sundays - La Cocina de Carmela is not open for dinner at all (late Sept 2011), El Bistro and La Suiza are closed on Sunday.

  • Donde Chandy, San Augustin 6-15. A great 'corriente'. COP $5,500 for salad and main.
  • Pizza and Pasta, Calle Arzobispado. Don't be fooled by the name - try their special menu of the day for dinner at just COP $18,000 for salad, main, and choice of drink.
  • Club de Pesca in Manga. Great seafood and great atmosphere with view to the bay and marinas of Cartagena.
  • Saint Michel, on the northwest corner of the Plaza Santo Domingo. If you fancy a change from the usual seafood or Italian restaurants, this French option serves some very tasty fondues as the main courses in its three-course menus. Very good value at around USD$10, as well as plenty of other dishes and wine at more reasonable prices than at most restaurants in this area.
  • El Bistro, in Calle Ayos 4-46. Excellent European Kitchen, German Bakery, reasonable prices.
  • La Cevicheria, Calle Stuart, opposite Hotel Santa Clara. A great selection of hot and cold ceviches.
  • La Perla, Calle Ayos No 4- 42. Notable Peruvian cuisine with great intimate atmosphere. Dishes $15-30 USD.
  • Pizza Luna in Plaza Santa Domingo. Good, super thin crust pizzas, but expensive. There are other dishes as well such as pastas. Live music.
  • La Vitrola, Calle Baloco. Considered the best restaurant in town. Cuban ambience, good food, high prices.
  • La Cava, Calle Santo Domingo. Dishes around 16 USD.
  • Quebracho, Calle Baloco. Great Argentinian restaurant with good meat and good ambiance. Dishes around 18 USD.
  • Crepes & Waffles, Calle Baloco. Colombian franchise restaurant which offers very good dishes at excellent prices. Dishes around 5 USD.
  • El Corral, one in the old city and another in Bocagrande. Colombian franchise hamburger chain. Good quality hamburgers for $10,000-$15,000 pesos for a combo.
  • La Cocina de Carmela, Calle Santisimo. Colombian gourmet food close to Parque Fernandez de Madrid. Dishes around 12 USD. Hard to find open.
  • Cafe El Santisimo. One of the must see restaurants of Cartagena. Dishes around 16 USD.
  • Atahualpa, at end of Calle de Tablada at the Plaza de Managua. The best dinner 'Menu of the Day'. Peruvian food with fresh fish. Set dinner Soup, Main and Juice is only COP $12,000.
  • Krioyo, Calle de la Mantilla No. 3-49. Casual local cuisine with good crab ceviche and fish fillet dishes. Dishes $8-25 USD.
  • Restaurante Casa Suiza, Calle de la Soledad 5-38 Centro Historico (Near Juan Valdez and the Universidad de Cartagena), 312-678-9309, [21]. 7:30am to 8pm. Great food at a great price. The swiss trained chef offers a daily lunch menu starting at US$4 including a fresh fruit juice, soup, mixed salad, main dish, and coffee. All meals are made from scratch. Even the bread and pasta are made in house. Pastry and pie dishes are also available. $4 and up.
  • Gelateria Paradiso, corner of Calle del Cuartel and Calle de la Estrella. Great ice cream. Fans of coffee ice cream must stop by for a scoop. COP $4,000 for small cup, COP $6,000 for medium.
  • Abaco, Calle de la Mantilla. Cafe and book store - a great place to relax. Local books on Cartagena in addition to great coffee.
  • Tropical Pollo is outside the old city past the Plaza de los Coches in Getsemani near many hostels. Popular among locals - a full chicken with sides can be shared by 2-3 for COP $22,000. Fruit juices with milk are also recommended at COP $3,000.
  • Sol de la India, San Diego: Calle Tumbamuertos 38-43, 6609476, [22]. 11:30AM-10PM. Excellent Vegetarian Indian food in the old town. For lunch they offer an all-inclusive (also drinks) buffet for 15,000 pesos that varies every day. They also offer yoga classes (around US$8) and massages. Super nice and enthusiastic restaurant owners.http://elsoldelaindia.blogspot.com
  • OTRO MUNDO (Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria), Centro, Calle San Agustin 6-68 (Cartagena de Indias), +57 5 6602314. 09.00-24.00. Located in Centro Historico de Cartagena de Indias, Calle San Agustin 6-68, close Universita de Cartagena (Cartagena University). Excellent Croatian dishes, pastas, and pizza. Ambience is rustically hip with excellent service. Croatian Cevapcici 18.000 COP, pasta frutos del mar 20.000 COP, small pizza from 12.000 COP. Free WiFi internet connection. They do also pizza delivery.
  • EL BALKOON, Calle Tumbamuertos No. 28-85 2do. Piso Esquina. 2nd floor restaurant that overlooks the Plaza San Diego. Small balcony for seating, but great food. Good set menus and 2 for 1 specials on cocktails every day from 6-9 pm. (Feb 2012) About 26.000 COP with drink.

Bocagrande:

El Laguisto Beach Club, Carrere 1 ra. No. 1A-23 http://www.laguitobeachclub.com. The most interesting restaurant on the beach. Food is decent quality, but the delight is being directly on the beach.

  • La Mulata, Calle Quero 9 58, 66 46 222. A choice of a few set lunch options. Different menu every day of the week. Delicious and unpretentious.

Drink

  • Mister Babilla, Avenida del Arsenal near the Centro de Convenciones. One of the most popular watering holes for local Cartageneros. This place is great on the weekends and is notorious for having people dancing on the tables and the bar late into the night.
  • La Avenida del Arsenal, along the bay near the Centro de Convenciones. In its heyday it was the place to be. Now much of the nightlife in Cartagena has moved to the Ciudad Vieja, but this strip of about 10 discotecas is still a raging place to experience on the weekends. Entry to most of the discos is COP $10,000 to 20,000.
  • Olano´s, near Plaza de Santo Domingo. Great seafood fusion style, including the shrimps in passion fruit and coconut rice
  • Cafe del Mar, atop the western wall providing sunset views and cocktails, but rather pricey at COP $17,000 for tropical cocktails. A cheaper option to enjoying the sunset is to the right of Cafe del Mar (when facing the ocean) where local vendors sell Colombian beers and refreshments. Aguila, a local beer, or bottled water can be purchased for COP $2,500 each.
  • Donde Fidel, Plaza de la Aduana, right by the clock gate. Great place to sit and people-watch as the night gets going. Good prices on drinks and the place to meet Cartageneros and tourists alike.

Zorba Wiskeria, Calle de la Tableda. Great little corner bar that offers bottle service and a decent street scene. Very local. Beers are COP $3.000 and a bottle of rum COP $27.000. Right next door to a Pizzeria and up the street a few doors from a Lebanese Falafel house. Cafe Havana, Calle de la Media Luna in Getsemani outside of the walled city. Fun place on the weekends with great music and mojitos.

Sleep

Narrow streets downtown

In the ciudad amurallada, the most famous hotels are Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa, both old monasteries renovated in the 90s. Either of them have fabulous facilities - expect prices like Monaco. Otherwise, the newest part of the city, Bocagrande, offers the largest number of hotels of all prices. You should always try to stay in the ciudad amurallada, since this is what makes Cartagena unique, rather than its beaches, which are normally too crowded and not really clean. If you cannot afford the five-star hotels, you may try with colonial houses turned into hostels, but they are rather small and sometimes getting a room there may be a matter of luck.


  • Vista Heroica, Isla de Tierra Bomba, 3126331825. Nice hotel on the island of Tierra Bomba (10 min boat from the Hilton Hotel of Cartagena). It's in the middle of a REAL local village, not far from the beach, and with a great view of Cartagena. Rooms are very clean, 3 beds (2+1), kitchen, individual jaccuzi(!!), Air Co for 100.000 CoP (for the room). Restaurant from 10.000 to 12.000 Cop, decent food.

Budget

Budget hotels and hostels can be found in Getsemaní around the Calle de la Media Luna. If you're already in Cartagena just walk along the Calle de la Media Luna and check out the numerous hostals to get an impression of their offering. You'll notice that the 'value for money' differs heavily between the places, even though they're next to each other: For 50,000 pesos you can either stay in a really nice private double room or in a dodgy dorm.

  • Casa de la Chicheria, 38-34 Calle de la Chicheria (El Centro), from Colombia 3157 632795 or 0356 600560, from all other countries +57 3157-632795, +57 5660-0560 (), [23]. Offers services and facilities equivalent to some of the boutique hotels in the area, but at hostel prices. You can step out the front door and find yourself immersed in the cities culture and diversity. Awesome extras like access to a private catamaran and a house on the Rosario Islands, wake board lessons with a pro, ac in all rooms, pool, bbq area, kitchen, plus all the basics. Dorms COP35,000, en suite COP200,000.
  • Casa Viena, Calle San Andrés No 30-53 (Getsemaní), +57-5-664-6242 (), [24]. Popular backpackers place with several 2 to 4 person rooms some with bathroom and a dormitory with arco . Facilities include internet, personal strongboxes, bookswap and a communal kitchen. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. Dorm: C$17000, room: C$40000.
  • Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33, Getsemani, +5 664 7866, [25]. Opened by the Rincon family over 30 years ago, Hostal Real is housed in a beautifully restored colonial building filled with color, unique artwork, and lovely gardens for reading and relaxing. The owners are very friendly and happy to help you with any questions or advice. Rooms are rather damp and dated. Cockroaches have been sighted but promised to take care of. Prices begin at 17,000 Pesos pp with a 8,000 peso suppliment for a single room..
  • Northstar Backpackers Hostel, Carrera 3 #8-96, Bocagrande, [26]. In Bocagrande, where all the action is, this cheap, cool hostel will give you everything you need to have fun. Awesome service, wifi, laundry service, safe lockers, and a good location near all the buzz of Cartagena city life!


  • Hotel Familiar, Calle El Guerrero No. 29 -66 (Getsemani), 5 664 2464. Run by Jairo Toro, located only 100m from Casa Viena and a good second choice. Rooms are bright and clean and prices start from 18,000 Pesos per person.
  • Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 (Getsemani), (5) 664 4996, (5) 664 5421 (). Well kept, clean, friendly and helpful management, rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms, some rooms without windows. They also have another buidling on Calle de la Media Luna, which has nicer, more expensive rooms. The staff is very nice and welcoming. Doubles from 60,000.
  • Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32 (Getsemani), (5) 639 5644 (). With approximately 30 rooms around a nice courtyard, this hostel offers a good deal for backpackers. Air-conditioned dorms with cable TV and a private bathroom for 20,000 pesos. Cheap and fast internet as well as tours agency service are available. (8/2012 - minimum for 2 persons in a private room was 97,000 pesos!) (9/12 we paid 60,000 for a 2 person private room)
  • Hotel Centenario, Cr. 9 No. 30 - 40 2 Piso Av. del Centenario (Getsemani), (5) 664 8276 (), [27]. New, clean hotel with nice rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms. Located in front of the Centenario Park, a 5 minutes walk from the old town. Services: Kitchen, Free Wifi/Internet. Prices for a double room as of COP 55.000 - negotiable during low season.
  • Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 (Getsemani), 5) 664 3507, (5) 6601497 (), [28]. Popular with backpackers, this centrally located, clean hotel with nice rooms with private bathroom and air-conditioned in all dorms, communal kitchen, free internet, free Breakfast, and tours services. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. The double rooms upstairs are absolutely worth forgetting about, small would be an under statement, dark and extremely hot even with the fan on full blast. If waking up to the screeching of an electric timber bench saw in the mornings i would advise staying here. They run a timber cutting business on the 3rd floor and this is the reason for the noise. Rooms would be ok if the price was 20 000 pesos but its closer to 70,000 pesos. You can get way nicer rooms a few doors down in Hostel casa baluarte. Dorms for 20,000 pesos, singles for 25,000 pesos..
  • Hotel La Muralla, Calle de Media Luna (Getsemani). Clean, the owners are nice, can be loud on the weekends, not really a tourist place, but one of the cheapest options! A room for a single person with bathroom and fan is 15,000 pesos, and with shared bathroom is 10,000 pesos. A double room with shared bathroom is 15,000 pesos. Make sure to get a room on the second floor, the first floor rooms are a little musty.
  • Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 Getsemani, [29]. A very relaxed hostel in which Maude will welcome you within her family. The kitchen is shared with them, which gives a feeling of living in a Cartagena family house. Prices starting at 20COP per night for a dorm with fan, a bit more for a dorm with air conditioned.
  • Hotel La Espanola, Calle 30 media luna No 10-58 piso 2 (Getsmani), 66407406604485. Really cheap, prices start from 15.00 COP (30.000 COP for a room with two beds). TV and ventilator included. Although Cartagenanian hot, very friendly staff and cheap beers. Optional laundry service and breakfast. Good atmosphere and great location.
  • Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani), +57-5-664-0948 (), [30]. Hostel Mamallena, Cartagena is the first Colombian hostel opened by the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena. We bring to Cartagena our high levels of service, variety of rooms, orthopedic matresses, free WiFi, garden courtyard and friendly staff. The majority of our rooms have private bathrooms and can sleep between one and 5 people. Dorms are large and airy and have private bathrooms as well. Budget tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios are also available. We were the first hostel to start booking boats between Panama and Colombia and we´ve bought that experience to Cartagena. Even if you choose not to stay with us feel free to drop by for whatever you may need. .

Mid-range

  • Casa Marta Cartagena, Calle San Antonio # 25-165, Getsemani (Old Town, Historic District), in Colombia +57 310 630 6003, in USA +1 718 916 4213 (), [31]. checkin: Flexible; checkout: Flexible. Casa Marta is a colonial guesthouse / bed and breakfast situated in the city's historic district of Getsemani. The house has been carefully renovated to modern standards and has two bedrooms with a maximum capacity of 4 to 5 people each. Each bedroom has air conditioner, fan, fridge, Satellite TV, and a private bathroom. Internet service and breakfast are included free of charge. A nice plunge pool is also available to all guests. From US$85.
  • Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55 (San Diego, Centro Historico), (57) (5) 664 3384, (57) 3002153828, [32]. In the heart of Cartagena's old walled city. It has four rooms. The hotel has a restaurant, room service, free wifi for guests, two terraces with beautiful views of the historical city center, and a third terrace with a BBQ. The rooms have air conditioning, minibar, plasma TVs, and satellite TV. From US$90.
  • SwissResidial, Calle de la Magdalena No 9-67 (Getsemaní), (57-5) 664 2631, cel. (57) 318 668 9274 (), [33]. Small boutique hotel with charm and modern amenities: private bathroom, air condition, safety box, fridge, free high-speed Internet and Wifi, LCD Cable TV, laundry. Prices begin at 110,000 COP (55 USD), breakfast included.
  • Hotel-Cartagena.com, (), [34]. Listing of selected Hotels in Cartagena - Economic Hotels, Bed & Breakfast and luxurious boutique Hotels. Certified agency which responds within 24 hours.
  • Hotel Cartagena Premium, Bocagrande Av. San Martín No. 11-113, (57-5) 6552355, [35]. Hotel Cartagena Premium offers single room, matrimonial double and twin double with air-conditioning, mini-bar and breakfast. Its facilities and services include swimming pool, jacuzzi, room service and parking.
  • Cartagena de Indias Apartments, Bocagrande, Boquilla, Laguito (Zona Turistica), (57-5) 665 7639, cel. (57) 3162790149 (), [36]. If you want to be close to a quiet beach away from downtown noises but near the historic monuments you can do what most Colombian tourists do, get a vacation rental with all the amenities of a luxurious hotel at lower price. They include air conditioning, Internet, cable tv, a gym and a swimming pool for those hot and sunny days in Cartagena. Prices begin at 150,000 COP (80 USD).
  • Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 (Centro), +57-5-664-4361 (), [37]. Also recently converted, opened in 2006. Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. Rooms from USD 110.
  • Casa Mara, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 (Getsemani), +57-5-664-8724. Rooms from USD 85.
  • Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a (Bocagrande), +57-5-6650316. Rooms from USD 55 to 100.
  • Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 (San Diego), +57-5-664-3648 (), [38]. The hotel was recently converted from an 18th century mansion and opened in Dec 2005. Good breakfasts served by Eufemia. Attractively furnished although regular rooms are small and windowless. Two internet computers for guests. Rooms from USD 70.
  • Hotel-Hostal Santo Domingo, Calle Santo Domingo, No 33-46 (Centro), +57-5-6642268 (). Great location close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. A/C extra. Also caters for groups of up to 25. Rooms priced from COP$47,700 (USD 20) for one person to COP$97,700 (USD 40) for six people.
  • Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 (San Diego), +57-5-660-0160 (), [39]. Small colonial hotel, different rooms and suites from USD 50 to USD 100.


  • Hotel Cocoliso Island Resort, Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands), +57-5-6659339, [40]. Cute suites right next to the Sea on the Rosario Islands, perfect for relax..


  • Soldeindias, Bocagrande, Morros, Centro (Zona Turistica), (57) 3012532324 (), [41]. Luxury Apartments in Newer Buildings in the Tourist Zone. Prices begin at 230,000 COP (127 USD).

Splurge

Up-scale hotels can be found in San Diego and El Centro area of the old city.

  • Charleston Santa Teresa Cartagena,Centro plaza de Santa Teresa Cra 3ª 31 - 23 - Colombia | Tel: (57) (5) 6649494 / 6649547 | Fax: (57) (5) 6649448 / 6649447
  • La Passion Hotel Lounge, Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81, Centro Historico (Centro), 57-5-6648605 (), [42]. A boutique style hotel combining ancient architecture and modern commodities. Perfect for romantic escapade. 8 rooms. A beautiful terrace with swimming-pool. Free Wi-Fi. Spanish, English, French and
  • Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real, Avenida San Martin, Boca Grande. Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real are really an option for the people in the non luxurious budget. situated on either sides of Boca Grande, the hotels are nice, clean and you get value for money with the AC rooms. Close to the beach and Bocagrande is safe as always.
  • Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion, El Laguito (Centro), 57-5-6650660, [43].
  • Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29 (Centro), 664-9479, [44]. A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season.
  • Hotel Alfiz, Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 (between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral), +57-5-660 0006 (), [45]. A romantic hotel in the old city.
  • Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 (Centro), +57-5-664-0306 (), [46]. This small beautifully restored hotel attracts many favourable reports in Trip Advisor and has been recommended in the NYT travel section. The hotel is English owned and run. Prices start at USD 110 per night (book online) and guests enjoy free WiFi and a PC work station.
  • Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, Cr 8 No 39-29, Calle del Tomo (San Diego), +57-5-664-6070, [47]. Nice hotel with decent prices for its category, though a bit generic.
  • La Merced Hotel, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4. A boutique style hotel
  • Cartagena apartments, 9 apartments to choose from in El Laguito and Bocagrande, +57-5-665-5642, [48].
  • Delirio Hotel Boutique, [49]. Delirio is a Socially Responsible, Family run boutique hotel in the historic center of Cartagena. Enjoy luxury while having easy access to all the sites.

Stay safe

Watch out for the "Money-Changing-Magicians"

Those street vendors offer you a very good exchange rate. After you have counted the money you will recognize that a small amount is missing, and after complaining he will put exactly that amount on top again. In the same move they will take some big notes from the bottom. Most people won't count their money a second time, and first think they made a good deal but in fact got ripped off. Be very careful when walking at night specially around lonely parts of the city.

Tips for Currency Exchange and Retrieving Pesos from ATM machines. Most hotels, upscale restaurants take credit cards, but many places, especially taxis only accept Colombian pesos. Some banks may exchange money, but the rates may not be the most convenient. The easiest method for obtaining pesos is to use your debit card at an ATM machine. Another option is to use a Cambio or curreny exchange kiosk, however, your exchange rate will be a little higher than by using a debit card. Using a credit card at the ATM machine will require you to use a PIN number, so contact your financial institution before your trip.

There is a large Citibank ATM location on calle Venezuela near Barrio San Diego that has a guard out front. Seemingly available 24/7.

Taking a walk

When in the Old City do not walk outside the walls after dark, and remember that it is a large city, so just use common sense. The street vendors can be very annoying, but a simple "No quiero nada" in Spanish will keep them away.

Dodgy tours to Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca

The tours offered to visit Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca can be quite a let down. You'll be offered a price for a tour which "includes" either snorkeling or entrance to the aquarium and a meal at Playa Blanca for about 50,000 pesos. Once on the trip you find out that you have to pay extra for the aquarium or the snorkeling - 15,000 pesos. Make sure the tour guides on the boat are told by the person who sold the tour what is included in order to avoid disagreements. The best way to book a tour is going inside the marina and avoiding the "sales" people outside. They are getting a cut for the sales and have no responsibility to you. Once inside ask for Elizabeth (known lovingly as La negra Liz"). She owns several boats, will give you the best price, and most importantly her word. You can rent your own small boat for COP 700.000 or secure a seat for COP 75.000. Ask them before hand about the itinerary. Her company in particular has its own "resort" in the Rosario Islands. The resort is clean, nice and has good food for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, their beach access is limited and less than spectacular. Her boats will insist on taking you there, but you have a choice. Playa blanca is by far the best beach, but it can be overwhelming with the locals trying to sell you their products. More upscale destinations include the Baru Island and private resorts owned by the big hotels (Santa Clara, Santa Teresa). In most, you are allowed to spend the day at the beach. Every tour boat has their own agenda.

Taking a long distance bus

If you plan to take a bus to Santa Marta from bus terminal, it is advised to approach ticket counters and buy tickets directly there. Otherwise be aware: normally there is a bus service with connection in Barranquilla, where you will have to change a bus and pay a new fare to Santa Marta again, even if you have already paid it in a previous bus and even if you were promised that this was an absolutely direct bus to Santa Marta. If you happen to have this kind of connection in Barranquilla, make sure that you keep your tickets with you (even though they are being collected shortly after departure) and make sure that the guy, who will meet you in a bus and guide to another bus during a connection was clearly notified by a bus driver that you have already paid your fare to Santa Marta.

Cope

Consulates

  • Gr-flag.png Greece, Carrera 9, Esq. Edificio Castillo del Mar, Castillo Grande, +575 6551-352 (fax: +575 664-7388).

Get out

You can get to Santa Marta for 32 pesos with Berlinastur [50]. Buses leave every two hours, 12.00 and 14.00 being good moments. The trip lasts about 3,5h and passes through Barranquilla (16 pesos if you stay there; departure every hour, half of the buses stay here and half continue to Santa Marta). In Cartagena, their terminal is at Crespo, on the way to the airport. Many colectivos passing by the India Catalina can let you just at their door for 1500COP. They also have buses to Cúcuta, Bucaramanga and Bogotá.


The Volcán del Totumo
  • About 45 km northeast of Cartagena on the road to Barranquila is the Volcán del Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano. You can enter the crater and take a mud bath (entrance C$2.000), which is enormous fun and highly recommended. The nearby laguna then serves as a natural bath for washing off the mud.
The easiest way to get there is to take a tour. These cost around COP$30,000 (12/2010, COPS $50000 but booked from Hilton) with Rafael Perez tours (next door to the Cartagena Plaza Hotel in Bocagrande) and include the one hour each way journey to the volcano, as well as lunch and a swim at La Boquilla on the return to Cartagena. Another tour company is Los Pinos, which also charges COP$35,000 (or $25,000 without lunch) and uses the Manzanillo del Mar fishing village for a swim on the return journey. This tour can be booked from many hotels, such as the Casa Viena, in Calle San Andrés (Getsemaní), 5-664-6242 or Hostel Mamallena in Calle Media Luna 5-664-0948. Although the mud bath and massages are offered free of charge, you will be expected to tip anyone who helped you before your bus leaves. Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, your shoes, holding onto your camera and taking snaps while you are immersed in the mud, and the women who help you wash off in the laguna. Tips of between COP$1,000 and $5,000 for each person are the norm, depending on the service. Be sure to bring change.
Going by yourself is quite a hassle, but you may find you have the whole volcano to yourself and can take all the time you want. (12/2010, COPS $3000 for every help, massage, guy who takes photos of you, women who helps who washing afterwards.) Take a bus from the city center to Terminal de transporte (COP$1,700). There, take the hourly bus to Galerazamba and get off at Lomito Arena (COP$6,000). From there it is 45 minute walk or take a motortaxi (COP$2,000). The whole trip takes about two-and-half hours. The last bus back from Lomito Arena leaves around 3pm.
  • Botanical gardens Jardin Botanico de Guillermo Piñeres
A pleasant escape from the city rush, 18 km out of Cartagena close to “Turbaco”, a small town 20 km from the center of Cartagena. Take a bus to the bus terminal and get of at “la Bomba de Amparo”, a big gasolin station 25 minuits out of the center.from there, are leaving buses to “Turbaco”- get off (ask the driver)a bit before Turbaco and walk to the right,about 20 minuits straight on. Together with your entry ticket you get leaflet which lists about 250 plants identified in the gardens, including some varieties of coca plants.
  • Islas del Rosario On Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru - a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach. Day tours from Cartagena (C$110.000) include boat transportation, lunch and refreshments, boat trips to near by secluded white sand beaches, and Sportbaru’s amenities to be enjoyed. Tel: (+57)-5-6642992 or Email to sportbaru@laheroica.com. Website: [51] If you get to Playa Blanca, great accomodation, suggestions and ambiance are available from Ed (Edgar). He is available on the north end of the beach, and most locals know him and can show the way.
  • Punta Arena
A fishing village 10 minutes by boat on the island of “Tierrabomba”,in front of “Laguito” (Bocagrande).You reach it by boats (lanchas),leaving from “Muelle de los Pegasos” or with boats in “Laguito” next to the Hilton Hotel. Punta Arena has probably the nicest beaches close to Cartagena. There are restaurants where you can get food and drinks. Enjoy a day, hanging out under palm trees with a fantastic view of the skyline of Cartagena.
  • La Boquilla a fishing village (pueblo de pescadores) close to Cartagena.
Take a bus for COP$ 1100(july 2009), from India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela), if you get off of the bus at the end of the ride you can rent a canoe which brings you to a nice beach (playa de oro) passing trough lagoons and mangroves – pay for the boat once you are back. Riding a bike is a great way to get there and should take around an hour. Once you get past the end of the airport turn on to the beach and you can ride along the sand to La Boquilla.
  • Bocachica - a fishing village on the island of “Tierrabomba” (pueblo de pescadores)
Bocachica is worth to visit to see its restored fortress (fuerte de San Fernando). The beach isn't really special but o.k to hang out for some hours .you find several open air restaurant serving food and drinks.
Local boats leave during the day every 30-45 minutes from "Muelle de los Pegassos". The boat ride takes about 15 minutes. Guides will try to sell you expensive “all included” trips to Bocachica but you should pay just the local fare. (in july 2009 - COP$5,000 pesos – one way) Once you ask for the price it will get more expensive.



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