Cartagena known as Cartagena de Indias  is a city in Bolivar, Colombia.
The city was the first Spanish colony on the American continent and one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas. It 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.
Cartagena's cathedral tower, in the old town
Rafael Nuñez International Airport (IATA: CTG) (ICAO: SKCG)  receives international flights from Panama City (COPA, Wingo), Fort Lauderdale (Spirit Airlines and jetBlue), Miami (American Airlines and Avianca), Atlanta (Delta), New York (Avianca and jetBlue), Lima (Latam). There are several seasonal flights from many cities in Canada; also from Madrid, Quito and Helsinki. A new non-stop flight to Amsterdam (KLM) starts and the end of March 2017.
There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellín, Cali, San Andrés, Bogotá, Pereira, Montería (ADA airlines ), Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.
The low-cost airline VivaColombia  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, pick up a taxi voucher from the official stand in the baggage area before getting into a cab which will have the price printed on it depending on where you're headed. The price to get to the old city or anywhere in the "Centro" area Zone 1 including hotels in Getsemani should not cost more than COP$ 25,000 (Apr 2021). Alternatively Uber has started operating in Cartagena as of January 2016 and provides service to and from the airport.
Beware the porters at the airport, who will press you to tip them quickly in the local currency; it's easy for newcomers to mistake the banknotes which say "50" for being the smallest denomination, when they are in fact worth COP$ 50,000 ("50 mil" vs. "10,000" and "20,000" on all the other banknotes), and many porters make a good living on these unintentionally large tips.
There are frequent colectivos along the road fronting the airport (the fare into town is COP 2100 (11/2017) as well as buses to Barranquilla. Keep in mind that they need around one hour, because they go very slow!
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$ 2300. The line number is X104. You need to buy TransportCaribe chip card (3000 cop) in Supergiros office in the bus terminal, and then charge it with respective amount. The trip takes around 45-60 minutes. A regular bus trip from Santa Marta to Cartagena through Barranquilla takes 5h and costs 25000cop (bus company La Costeña). Bus service from the bus terminal to the main hotel area in Boca Grande can be through the city center or direct. For the latter, get out of the terminal, cross the street and take one of the two buses that indicate Boca Grande on their front (2000cop, 1.5h).
Taxi (or Uber) to the city center should cost you between 12.000 and 18.000 - depending on your bargaining.
Cartagena is not close to the Andean mountains, the closest city is Medellín with a bus ride of 12 hours. Two main bus companies take you there: Expreso Brasilia  and Rapido Ochoa , the latter offers online or smartphone sales. There is no discount for advance purchases or round-trips. The official price for buses to Medellin is COP 135,000, but some travelers report to barter the price down to COP 120,000. Sometimes cheaper tickets (COP 90,000) can be found on ticket booking websites - ClickBus, PinBus, AndesTransit  and Redbus  (I was able to pay for the ticket with credit card issued by British bank).
Connections to other cities can be found on this page .
If you are coming by sea from Panama (remember there are no roads or rail connecting Panamá and Colombia) your first bus will be from Turbo. Turbo to Monteria is COP$ 25,000, 4 hours, Monteria to Cartagena COP$ 39,000, 6 hours. (These are express services.)
By cruise ship
The cruise terminal in the port is about two miles from the old city. From the United States, most cruises to Cartegena originate in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
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 (See Sleep), at Zulys Backpackers Hostel, Mamallena Hostel or Luna's Castle Hostel  in Panama City, at Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo , Hostel Portobelo , or the Darien Gapster in panama. In San Blas Islands/ Kuna Yala panama  and trip ( 4x4) to carti Panama Expect to have to wait several days to find a boat. Or see boat section here []
The old town in particular is best explored by foot. Most places within Bocagrande (where many up-market and all-inclusive hotels are located) are also within walking distance.
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.
There are many buses going to various parts of town.
There is a metrobus service, for which you need so called TransCaribe chip card (3000 cop) and a single ride cost 2300 cop. Useful for. Getting to bus terminal (line X104).
By taxi etc.
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 10,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP $9,000 - $18,000. 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.
Uber is available throughout the city, though it is not technically legal and there are not many. If you call an Uber, they will ask you to sit in the front seat so it is less obvious you are in an Uber.
Some taxis operate as Colectivos, serving more or less fixed routes, for example from the clock tower to Bocagrande and vice versa (expect to pay 1600 to 2000 COP). A special gesture, the pointed index finger, is used by the driver to signal that he is operating as a colectivo, and by passengers that they are looking for one.
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.
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).
You can take a bus 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)$10,000-20,000 depending on whether you can avoid the "helper". Some boats go back directly to the harbour next to the old city.
See further down for caveats when taking boats.
Colonial street within the walled city
- Cartagena's main attraction is its historic old town surrounded by the city wall. Main entrance is the Clock Tower building. The walled city includes the neighbourhoods Centro, San Diego, Getsemaní and the modern part La Matuna. The oldest part of Cartagena is around Plaza Trinidad in Getsemaní.
- Cartagena's 500-hundred year-old coralstone forts and great parts of its walled city are admirably intact and represent some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.
- The Castillo de San Felipe is a fortress designed by the Dutch engineer Richard Carr and built in 1657 by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. Open hours are 8am-6pm, entrance fee COP$ 25.000 (feb 2017) (COP $ 8000 for ISIC holders). Walking distance from the Old City: 15 min. Be prepared that facilities haven't kept up with entry fees: there's no interpretetive signs, so unless you take an (audio) guide, you need your imagination. Notice how the fort is divided into wings/tiers. The fort was constructed in two phases the original fort became the uppermost teir tier of the expanded super fort. The outermost wings are somewhat vulnerable to being scaled by infantry but can easily be cut off from the upper levels of the fort. Some merlons on the higher levels point out across the exposed platforms of the lower batteries. In the event that an outer wing was lost to the enemy this would've allowed the defenders to hold the advance on the lower terrace with grapeshot directed from the upper terraces. Note how none of the merlons point toward Getsemmani - a canon here at the fort would be able to bombard Getsemmani and, especially effectively, the bridges along the way. Try to Invision why this fort was so important and worthy of such immense investment; see how if the fort was lost Getsemmani and then the whole city would've fallen. As you explore the underground passages imagine trying to move from cover to cover against enemy fire. Notice how some of the tunnels are unidirectional so that it would've been much easier to fight your way from the inner areas to the outer. Notice all of the gun slits in the walls that face north and east.
- 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. This price includes the waiting time during the visit. Negotiate this with the driver before getting in, knowing that the oficial price for driving you to the hill (single way) is COP$12,000. 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.
- Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic and urban beauty. Note if you do go to City beaches such as Boca grande or the beach near the hospital, watch out for people pretending to rent shaded areas or tents. They will pretend to rent you a tent and escape with your money. The real renters of the beach are marked in blue uniforms and look official.
- 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 $25,000-50,000 (Jan 2014) for a roundtrip day trip including lunch, not including the COP $12,000 park entrance fee (Jan 2014). 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 cheapest way to get to Playa Blanca is to take the bus to "Pasacaballos" (COP $ 1,700). It leaves across from Monumento India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela y Playa Pedregosa #34). In Pasacabellos you get off close to where the Ferry leaves (ask ticket vendor on bus). The "ferry" that will take you across a small river is actually a small wooden boat and it costs COP $1,000. On the other side you take a Mototaxi directly to Playa Blanca for between COP $ 8,000 - 16,000 (Price depends on how well you can bargain. (Jan 2014). The whole trip takes about 60 -75 minutes and is really easy, even though you have to switch transportation. It is definitely not worth it to take an overpriced boattrip. As of March 31 2014, there is a new highway linking Pasacaballos to Isla Baru. You can take a mototaxi directly from Pasacaballos to Playa Blanca for around COP 30000-60000 each way (Feb 2019). A private car is safer and more comfortable than the mototaxi (motorcycle) and costs about COP 27,000 each way (Oct 2014). The COP 2,000 bus from Pasacaballos to Cartagena has several pick-up spots including the central park. There is also a group bus at 8.30AM and 12PM from Hostel Mamallena for 50,000 COP return (Feb 2019). Bus takes 1 hour and returns at either 12PM or 8.30PM. Advisable to go at 8.30AM and return at 3PM because at night the beach is dark and it is a bit sketchy, as it is an extremely poor area (Feb 2019).
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. SCAM ALERT: The vendors will invite you to sit at their umbrella covered daybeds and offer you a drink and lunch without telling you the price and then they will bring a bill for 500,000 COP ($150 USD) at the end. This happened to us (Feb 2019) and is extremely common scam there. After 1 hour of negotiation, we ended up paying them 150,000 COP ($40 USD) to leave us alone.
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:)- 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. 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, gimmicky pool, and about 6 square feet of beach. Buying a piece of "coral" jewelry 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.
- Paraglide high in the sky with Fly Cartagena. You will fly with an expert pilot on a motorized paraglide high above mangroves and local neighborhoods. The flight takes off from a pretty beach 10 minutes from the tourist center, and the company offers pick ups from your accommodations. For the adventurous, the pilot can also do thrilling maneuvers in the sky. Website:. Flights start from 130,000 COP for a 10 minute flight.
- 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:). Prices range from COP $18,000 to $35,000 depending on tour. Be aware that the live music on board may be extremely loud, particularly when combined with the singing of the other passengers. If in doubt, take along a pair of earplugs or use tissue in your ears to lower the volume to a comfortable level.
- 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, focusing on Salsa, Merengue, Rumba and Bachata. There are introductory classes on various nights of the week for just $10.000 (COP), or private lessons for $70.000 (COP) - for advanced and intensive classes, workshops or other questions visit crazysalsa.net (Website:).
- Salsa Classes Cartagena, ☎ Whatsapp: +57 305 354 9993, . Community of independent instructors in Cartagena. Instructors participate in national and international competitions so it works for beginners and very advanced dancers. You can take private lessons at home or in a studio close to you (Centro, Getsemaní, Castillogrande, Bocagrande, San Diego, Manga etc.). It's a very affordable option (from 50mil per hour). edit
- 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 known for it´s pure Spanish which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanish language schools in Cartagena.
Letra Caribe Language School, ☎ Whatsapp: +57 315 390 4364, . is very central and a good option if you're looking for private classes both short-term or longer term. edit
- 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 COP 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. There is a morning tour at 8:30am which includes lunch and a stop at the beach and an afternoon tour at 1:30pm without lunch or any other stops. These cost around COP 25,000-40,000 (Nov 2012) and can be booked through many hotels, hostels, and tour agencies in town. 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 (typically COP 3,000 per person per service). Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, 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. 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 help who washing afterward.) 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 gasoline station 25 minutes 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 minutes 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 (COP 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 [email protected] Website:  If you get to Playa Blanca, great accommodation, 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.
- 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.
Great cultural tours offered by community tour operator EcoTours Boquilla http://www.ecotoursboquilla.com
Take a bus for COP$ 2,100 (May 2017), from India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela), if you get off the bus once you get the beach, at the end of the ride, you can rent a canoe ("piragua") which brings you to some nice nearby beaches (Playa de Oro and Punta y Caco) passing trough lagoons and mangroves – pay for the boat once you are back (COP 20,000-30,000 for a canoe for 5-6 pax, as july 2013). You can ask here for "el Papa", a local free-lance guide that also works for tourist companies. Riding a bike is also 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. Although this is one of of the most interesting activities around the city, there are not many tour operators offering it. This trip is sometimes called "tour to the mangroves (manglares)".
- 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.
- Domino Volunteers, . We believe that positive change comes from the connection and collaboration among people who want to make an impact in a larger community while personally growing and using their talents. Facilitating and supporting that connection and collaboration between local foundations and visiting volunteers is what we do in Cartagena. edit
- This is an isolated group of small mountains in the Colombian Caribbean that is in the south, 2 hours away from Cartagena by car. The highest point is about 1,000 meters above sea level.
- This region is an area of great ecological importance because it is one of the last remaining dry forests still intact in the Colombian Caribbean. It has around 280 species of birds and 44 species of mammals among which is the Red Howler and the Cotton Top Tamarin (Endemic) monkeys. The fauna and flora of this ecosystem (Dry Forest) is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world.
- The Montes de María also is a benchmark of archeological and cultural traditions of the Colombian Caribbean famous because of the Gaita music and to have one of the oldest ceramic in the America continent.
- This is perfect region to do hiking to see wildlife life and learn of this rich culture. You can reach this area by your own or taking a personalized, private, guided hiking and cultural trip by Taroa adventures, a tour company specialized in the Colombian Caribbean
- 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 manufacturer 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 certificate of authenticity.
- Babel School (5), Calle del Espíritu Santo Cr 10C 29-70 L3 (Getsemaní), ☎ +57 5 6605577, . 20 h. Babel is a Spanish school in Cartagena. It provides spanish classes in small groups, and the student has the chance to combine the experience with salsa lessons directly from the dance school Crazy Salsa. from 300.000 COP. (,50 min) edit
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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 is 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 a 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.
- 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.
- 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. edit
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. edit
- Di Silvio Trattoria, Getsemani, Calle de la Sierpe N0 9A-08, Cartagena, ☎ +57 5 6602205, . 5-late. Popular pizza restaurant in Getsemani, close to many bars and near the city centre 5-15. edit
- Kokoa Shushi Wok, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias (Calle San Andres, Carrera 10 #30-40 Local 1), ☎ 6431509. Fresh Asian - Caribbean food. Business menu starts from U$20 approx and offer a high variety of Sushi combination and delicious Woks dishes. It's a great place for day and night and on weekend is giving to all their guest a nice party. The restaurant is located in the middle of Getsemani neighbor and is nominated as one of the best places to eat in all town. Dont' miss it! edit
- Shakin' Milkshake and Smoothie Bar, Bocagrande, Cartagena de Indias (Carrera 1 # 11-28, frente a la playa), . They offer the most comprehensive and delicious range of milkshakes and smoothies in Colombia. edit
- 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.
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.
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. Typically, a room for 2 with private bath and no A/C is around COP $45,000-$55,000 and with A/C starting at COP $70,000.
- Hostel la Antigua Capsula, Calle Larga Calle 25 Numero 10 B 13 | Barrio Getsemani, Cartagena 130001, ☎ +57 5652 254, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. A new hostel opened 2018 with freshly enthusiastic owners - a man from the USA and his Colombian family. Their basic rate is $35000 for a capsule style dorm bed. They offer a premium package including towel, jacuzzi and breakfast for $45000. They provide laundry services for a fee. The breakfast is substantial. [email protected] COP$35000. edit
- Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 (Getsemani), ☎ 5) 664 3507, (5) 6601497 ([email protected]), . Popular with backpackers. Clean hotel that also offers private bathrooms and both fan and air-conditioned rooms, communal kitchen, free internet. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. Dorms start at 20,000 pesos, singles at 35,000 pesos.. edit
- Casa Viena, Calle San Andrés No 30-53 (Getsemaní), ☎ +57-5-664-6242 ([email protected]), . Popular backpackers, has several 2 to 4 person rooms, some with bathroom. 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. edit
- 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 ([email protected]), . 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. edit
- 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 165.000 CoP (per person, with breakfast) or 215.000 CoP (per person, with 3 meals). Prices from late march, 2015. edit
- Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33, Getsemani, ☎ +5 664 7866, . 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. Free Wifi and computer to use. Free coffee, and good safe deposit boxes. Prices begin at 17,000 Pesos pp with a 8,000 peso suppliment for a single room.(As of Dec 2012 a single room with bathroom and fan costs 30,000 cop). edit
- Northstar Backpackers Hostel, Carrera 3 #8-96, Bocagrande, . In Bocagrande where many upscale hotels and all-inclusives are located. WiFi, laundry service, lockers. edit
- Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 (Getsemani), ☎ (5) 664 4996, (5) 664 5421 ([email protected]). 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. edit
- Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32 (Getsemani), ☎ (5) 639 5644 ([email protected]). 30 rooms around a courtyard. Air-conditioned dorms with cable TV and a private bathroom start at COP $120,000 per person. Paid internet and tour agency services are available. edit
- Hotel Centenario, Cr. 9 No. 30 - 40 2 Piso Av. del Centenario (Getsemani), ☎ (5) 664 8276 ([email protected]), . 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. Includes a kitchen and free WiFi. Prices for a double room start at COP 55.000 - negotiable during low season. edit
- 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 around 15,000 pesos, and with shared bathroom around 10,000 pesos. A double room with shared bathroom is around 15,000 pesos. Make sure to get a room on the second floor as the first floor rooms are a little musty. edit
- Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 Getsemani, . 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 COP $20,000 per night for a dorm with fan, a bit more for a dorm with air conditioner. edit
- Hotel La Espanola, Calle 30 Media Luna No 10-58 piso 2 (Getsmani), ☎ 66407406604485. Really cheap, prices start from 15.000 COP (30.000 COP for a room with two beds). TV and ventilator included. Can be hot, but very friendly staff and cheap beers. Optional laundry service and breakfast. Good atmosphere and great location. From 50.000 COP for a room with two beds (2016). edit
- Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani), ☎ +57-5-664-0948 ([email protected]), . Sister hostel to the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena with a good backpacker atmosphere. Dorms and private rooms available. Courtyard, free WiFi, good service and friendly staff. The majority of the rooms have private bathrooms. Private rooms can be hot and stuffy. Most rooms are situated around the courtyard and some near loud bars, so it can be hard to get sleep. Book tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios. edit
- Hostel Media Luna, Calle Media Luna (Getsemani). Backpacker atmosphere and has a small pool. Big parties on Wednesdays. Dorms available. Courtyard and free WiFi. Can be loud. Hostel books tours and provides information on bus tickets. edit
- Tree House Hostel, Calle San Antonio No. 25- 99 (Getsemani), ☎ (57) 3188335398, . A nice Hostel in Getsemani, near the Calle Media Luna. The showers are great. The owner is very friendly and the atmosphere there was great, a good crowd. Dorms start at 25,000 pesos without AC 30,000 with AC (2016). edit
- Stamp Hostel Cartagena, Manzanillo de Mar, ☎ (57) 3188335398 ([email protected]), . A breathtaking hostel located in Manzanillo del Mar approximately 30 minutes from the old city of Cartagena de Indias. This beautiful hostel offers swimming pool, jacuzzi and amazing views to the beach. Dorms start at 68,000 pesos (2018). edit
- 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 ([email protected]), . 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. edit
- Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55 (San Diego, Centro Historico), ☎ (57) (5) 664 3384, (57) 3002153828, . 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$130. edit
- Hotel Almirante Cartagena, Bocagrande, Avenida San Martín, Calle 6 Esquina, ☎ (57+5) 665 8811 ([email protected]), . Hotel Almirante in Cartagena Colombia provides the best quality and warmth in services. All room accommodations are equipped with air-conditioning, private toilet and bath, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, TV, mini-bar, ecological refrigerators, electronic safe, fire detection system, sprinkler system, electronic door access and fireproof doors. Hotel Almirante Cartagena also offers business center, banqueting services, currency exchange, hyperbaric chamber, solarium, casino, game room, beach activities, airport transfer, concierge, tour assistance, gym, massage room, sauna, hair salon, shoe shine, gift shop, babysitting, medical assistance, dry cleaning and laundry services. They also have El Alcatráz Fine Restaurant, Plaza Real, Los Corales Cafeteria, Pizzeria, Sports Bar and Function rooms. edit
- SwissResidial, Calle de la Magdalena No 9-67 (Getsemaní), ☎ (57-5) 664 2631, cel. (57) 318 668 9274 ([email protected]), . 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. edit
- Hotel-Cartagena.com, ([email protected]), . Listing of selected Hotels in Cartagena - Economic Hotels, Bed & Breakfast and luxurious boutique Hotels. Certified agency which responds within 24 hours. edit
- Hotel Cartagena Premium, Bocagrande Av. San Martín No. 11-113, ☎ (57-5) 6552355, . 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. edit
- Cartagena de Indias Apartments, Bocagrande, Boquilla, Laguito (Zona Turistica), ☎ (57-5) 665 7639, cel. (57) 3162790149 ([email protected]), . 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). edit
- Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 (Centro), ☎ +57-5-664-4361 ([email protected]), . Also recently converted, opened in 2006. Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. Rooms from USD 110. edit
- Hotel Cartagena Millennium, Bocagrande, Avenida San Martín No. 7-135, ☎ (+57 5) 665 9054, . All rooms have hairdryer, minibar, workspace, plasma TV, high speed internet WiFi and bathroom with hot water. Some of its facilities and services are bar, restaurant, meeting room, business center, semi-covered pool, room service, security box, WiFi internet connection and laundry service. Rates starts at COP 295,800.00. edit
- 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. edit
- Casa Mara, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 (Getsemani), ☎ +57-5-664-8724. Rooms from USD 85. edit
- Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a (Bocagrande), ☎ +57-5-6650316. Rooms from USD 55 to 100. edit
- Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 (San Diego), ☎ +57-5-664-3648 ([email protected]), . 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. edit
- Hotel-Hostal Santo Domingo, Calle Santo Domingo, No 33-46 (Centro), ☎ +57-5-6642268 ([email protected]). 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. edit
- Hotel Lee, Calle 25 8B-134, ☎ +57-5-664-0708. Conveniently located in Getsemani, this hotel also features a rooftop pool and balcony. edit
- Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 (San Diego), ☎ +57-5-660-0160 ([email protected]), . Small colonial hotel, different rooms and suites from USD 50 to USD 100. edit
- Hotel Cocoliso Island Resort, Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands), ☎ +57-5-6659339, . Cute suites right next to the Sea on the Rosario Islands, perfect for relax.. edit
- Soldeindias, Bocagrande, Morros, Centro (Zona Turistica), ☎ (57) 3012532324 ([email protected]), . Luxury Apartments in Newer Buildings in the Tourist Zone. Prices begin at 230,000 COP (127 USD). edit
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 ([email protected]), . 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 edit
- Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion, El Laguito (Centro), ☎ 57-5-6650660, . edit
- Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29 (Centro), ☎ 664-9479, . A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season. edit
- Hotel Alfiz, Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 (between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral), ☎ +57-5-660 0006 ([email protected]), . A romantic hotel in the old city. edit
- Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 (Centro), ☎ +57-5-664-0306 ([email protected]), . 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. edit
- Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, Cr 8 No 39-29, Calle del Tomo (San Diego), ☎ +57-5-664-6070, . Nice hotel with decent prices for its category, though a bit generic. edit
- La Merced Hotels, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4. A boutique style hotel edit
- Cartagena apartments, 9 apartments to choose from in El Laguito and Bocagrande, ☎ +57-5-665-5642, . edit
- Delirio Hotel Boutique, . 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. edit
- Oasis Collections, ☎ +1.631.731.1677 ([email protected]), . A portfolio of 40+ handpicked homes and apartments that include concierge service and full guest support. Recently awarded Top Villa Provider by Condé Nast Traveler. edit
- Hyatt Regency, Carrera 1 #12-118 (Near Base Naval, at the beginning of Bocagrande, by the ocean), ☎ +57 5 6941234, . checkin: 3 PM; checkout: noon. Opened December 2016, spacious rooms (38 square meters, about 340 sf) with great views in either direction: ocean or bay. Nice breakfast $$$. edit
- Hello Cartagena - Luxury Hotels, Apartments and Houses, Bocagrande Cra 3 No. 5-104 Local 1, ☎ +57.301.768.7312 ([email protected]), . Luxury properties at the amazing city of Cartagena de Indias. Hello Cartagena is the best concierge to get to know the magic of the city. edit
- Beer & Laundry Located at Getsemani, Calle 31 # 10-101 Local 2 Hotel Boutique La Artilleria. Comfortable Laundromat, bar and pizzeria. Do it yourself or leave the clothes and come later. Beer, Pizza, Paninis, Hot Dogs. WIFI Zone, TV cable and Air Conditioning. Spanish, English and Italian spoken. Low prices
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 especially 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 currency 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, gracias" 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 letdown. 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 the 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.
- Greece, Carrera 9, Esq. Edificio Castillo del Mar, Castillo Grande, ☎ +575 6551-352 (fax: +575 664-7388). edit
- You can get to Santa Marta for COP 40,000 with Berlinastur . Buses leave every two hours, 12.00 and 14.00 being good choices. The trip lasts about 3.5 hrs and passes through Barranquilla (COP 16,000 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 COP 1,500. They also have buses to Cúcuta, Bucaramanga and Bogotá.
- To get to the bus station from near the old city, take the "Metrocar" bus - look for the sign at the bus stop. It takes about 45minutes and costs COP1,700. From the bus station, you can take a local bus to Santa Marta for COP25,000.
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