Plan Your Trip To Cartagena

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Ideal duration: 2 days

Best Time: December - March Read More

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"In its on rhythm "

Cartagena Tourism

Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias, capital of Bolivar department is the fifth largest city in Colombia. Located on the Carribean coast, the city is known for its grand colonial mansions, plazas, beautiful beaches and a vibrant lifestyle, making it Colombia's top tourist destination.

Cartagena is reminiscent of the days gone by. One of Colombia's favourite destination, Cartagena once used to be the most important bastion of Spanish overseas empire. The main highlight of Cartagena is an old walled city with colonial walls stretching over 13 kilometres. The old city houses numerous mansions, majestic churches, plazas, museums, all painted in bright pastel shades. The city was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. Being a cultural hub, lots of festivals and events take place throughout the year. Cartagena leaves its visitors bewitched with its colonial charm, a stroll through the cobbled alleys will definitely give you an escape to the medieval past. On the other side of the city, you will see the modern day Bocagrande with a skyline filled with skyscrapers, luxury hotels and restaurants. The fast pace of the outer town leaves its visitors surprised as they get a glimpse into the life of today's carteganos.

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Currency in Cartagena

Only Colombian Pesos are accepted in Cartagena, places like hotels and big restaurants accept card payments as well. It is advised to carry currency in small dominations due to two main reasons- one, locals refrain from breaking big bills and second, counterfeit bills are a problem in Colombia and tourists are often targeted.

Shopping in Cartagena

Delve into the colonial streets of El Centro to satisfy the shopaholic in you. With numerous boutiques, souvenir stores, fashion houses and art shops, the Old Town has lots to offer- Wooden masks, Colombian hats, tribal bag 'Mochilas' and much more. Look out for St Dom, and Silvia Tcherassi at Carrera 3 for premium fashionwear. Colombia is famous for its Emeralds and Lucy Jewellery located at Calle Santo Domingo is reputed for its authenticity. Apart from these big shops, do not miss out on the street vendors, who are sure to leave you in a dilemma with an incredible variety of products at insanely cheap prices.

Nightlife in Cartagena

Cartagena is mostly quiet during the week. Its nightlife might not be as active and lavish as Bogota or Cali, but it will not disappoint you either. If in Old Town or El Centro, head to Donde Fidel and Cafe del Mar for drinks and cocktails. Cafe Havana is a favorite among locals as well as tourists. If you are planning to go clubbing then Tu Candela is your place to be.

History of Cartagena

A backstory filled with sieges, violence and heroics of its inhabitants has shaped Cartagena in becoming Colombia's most prominent tourist destination today. Initially, the area around Cartagena was inhabited by Kalamari, Carex and Yurbaco tribes. In 1533, a Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia established the city of Cartagena de Indias at the site of Carribean Calamari village. Starting with just two thousands inhabitants, the city grew quickly in wealth and proportion as an important port on the Carribean coast. This exponential rise in wealth and prosperity of Cartagena caught the fancy of pirates and privateers. In the sixteenth century, the city faced numerous sieges and was pillaged several times, most notorious of them being Sir Francis Drake who was given a huge ransom for not levelling the city to ground. Aftermath of this event saw Spaniards investing millions into city's fortification and defence. The city flourished as an indispensable site of Spanish empire. Cartagena also played a crucial part in Colombia's independence movement and suffered during 1815-1821 witnessing death and starvation of more than 6000 inhabitants. The city was finally liberated in 1821 and has recovered to prosperity ever since.

Language of Cartagena

Spanish is the main language in Cartagena, and knowing a few Spanish words will definitely make your trip more interesting. Greet people with Bueno dias for Good Morning or Bueno noches for Good Evening. Thank people using "Gracias" and use "Por Favor" when requesting.

Cartagena Customs

Colombians are courteous people, men shake hands whereas women grasp forearms while greeting. Usually, people use Spanish greetings for the time of the day such as "Buenos dias" for good day or "Buenos nochas" for good evening/night. There are no specific dress codes to be followed as such, dress in comfortable clothing which suits you and avoid fancy jewellery. The tipping practice in Colombia is not that strict as compared to other American countries. People generally tip around COP 1000 - 2000 in small restaurants, some of the restaurants have tip included as service charge upto 15 percent of the total order value. Most people generally tip for room service.

Religion of Cartagena

Christianity is the major religion in Cartagena like the rest of Colombia with Roman Catholics comprising ninety percent of the population.

Daily Budget for Cartagena

Cartagena is an expensive city. An average low budget would be COP 40,000 per day which includes local drinks, public transport and little bit of souvenir shopping. A typical mid range budget would be just twice whereas high end luxury budget can go as high as COP 270,000

Exchanging Money in Cartagena

There are specific exchange banks for currency exchange and not all banks do that. You can find money changers on the street, but it is usually not recommended. ATMs known as Cajeros are available almost everywhere and are the best way to get cash with withdrawal rates varying from bank to bank.

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How to Reach Cartagena

How to Reach Overview

Cartagena is served by an international airport, and is well connected to neighbouring cities via road. Being a port town, Cartagena can be reached by a sailboat from Panama.

How to reach Cartagena by flight

Located in northern Cartagena, the city is served by Rafael Nunez International airport. The airport is served by international flights connecting to Panama City, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York and Atlanta. There are several domestic carriers offering non stop flights to Medellin, Cali, Bogota and other Colombian cities as well. If you are travelling on a budget, you can choose VivoColombia, which is Colombia's new low cost airline.

How to reach Cartagena by road

Takin a cab or car is not the most preferred way to get into the city as the journey is time taking and expensive. However, if you are travelling from Medellin, the fastest route is Route 25 to Cartagena which takes 12 hours approximately. Similarly, Bogota to Cartagena takes around 16 hours via route 45.

How to reach Cartagena by train

There is no rail service connecting Cartagena.

How to reach Cartagena by bus

Cartagena's bus terminal is located 11 kilometres east of the old city, with Green and white metrocar buses frequently operating to Old City. Buses connect to the neighbouring city of Barranquilla, taking two hours to reach and further two hours to reach Santa Marta. There are buses to Medellin from two main bus companies - Expreso Braslilia and Rapido Ochoa, buses usually takes 12-15 hours to reach Medellin. If you are short on time, then air transport should be preferred to save time on road.

How to reach Cartagena by waterways

Sailboats connect Panama City to Cartagena, various boat trips are available usually taking 4 -5 days. Tourists should be aware of captains trying to lure them to their boats and should inquire at a tourist office prior to boarding. Before boarding, it is a good idea to inspect the boat and personally meet the captain.

Local transport in Cartagena

Getting around Cartagena is easy and inexpensive. There are Metrocar buses plying to various parts of the city from the bus terminal, locals can help you get on the bus headed to your destination. Taxis are readily available everywhere. However, fare must be negotiated in advance as the taxis here are not metered and rates can go quite high during the peak season, even though there are defined fares. Adding to the colonial charm of the city, you can also choose horse carriages for getting around Old Town. The best way to explore Old City is on foot as everything is fairly within walkable distance.

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Cartagena, Colombia

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FAQs on Cartagena

What is the local food in Cartagena?

Cartagena is undoubtedly Colombia's culinary paradise. Owing to its rich history, the cuisine here is a blend of Spanish, African and local cultures. Known for its seafood and tropical fruits, Cartagena boasts of its incredibly talented chefs who offer you a culinary experience to be cherished forever. One cannot miss Creviche, a local seafood dish made with lemon at Le Cevicheria. Other local dishes which one must try include Sanocho, Arepa con Huevo and Pargo Rojo Frito. Most famous restaurants are located in and around Old Town, La Vitrola and Maris being the prominent ones.
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What are the places near Cartagena?

The top places near to Cartagena are Bogota which is 650 km from Cartagena, Medellin which is located 16320 km from Cartagena, London which is located 8095 km from Cartagena, Dubai which is located 13377 km from Cartagena, Amsterdam which is located 8444 km from Cartagena

What are the things to do in Cartagena?

The top things to do in Cartagena are Walled City, Castillo de San Felipo de Barajas, Playa Blanca, Torre del Reloj, Volcan del Totumo, Rosario Islands. You can see all the places to visit in Cartagena here

What are the top hotels in Cartagena?

There are 1453 in Cartagena which can be booked through Holidify. The most popular hotels in Cartagena are Cartagena Beach Front, Apartamento Morros Epic Cartagena, Apartamento Cartagena Puerto Azul Vista al Mar 501, Luxury Alojamientos Namaste-Morros City, Apartamento de 3 alcobas en Cartagena, Caribe a Vista. You can see all the hotels in Cartagena here

What is the best way to reach Cartagena?

Cartagena is served by an international airport, and is well connected to neighbouring cities via road. Being a port town, Cartagena can be reached by a sailboat from Panama.
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What is the best time to visit Cartagena?

Anytime between December and March is the best time to visit Cartagena and the average temperature during these months is 75°F (24°C). The city has a tropical climatic condition, and even then, tourists keep flooding to this place all year round. Cartagena is known to be the city of the clear blue, polarised skies with a laid back ambience. The city offers a perfect mix of new and old to the travellers. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in Columbia. Cartagena is sunny, warm and humid any time of the year, with an average temperature of 83°F (28°C). October and November are the wettest months in Cartagena when you can expect 9-10 days of rain each month. Spring months of March and April are also an excellent time to travel to Cartagena if you wish to see the beauty of the place, ignoring the warmth in the weather. June to September is the hottest period in Cartagena, and the average temperature during these months is about 31-33°C. However, make sure you avoid travelling during the Holy Week to keep yourself off from the crowd.
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