Sometimes, I have the feeling that the world is split into 2 kinds of people.
Let me explain why. When you’re telling to your friends and or/family that you are going to visit Colombia, you may have this reaction:
– Oh my god, you are crazy. Don’t you know that Pablo is still alive and he gonna wait for you in your hostel with a gun! A huge bag of drugs (Australian’s dream)!
– Oh cool, you HAVE TO visit Cartagena de Indias.
And do you know what? Both answers are wrong. Yes, Colombia is safe and nope, you don’t have to visit Cartagena if you have other plans in mind.
But, I’m not saying that you have to avoid it neither.
Ok, now you’re thinking: What’s the f**k are you telling us, Tom. Should I go or not? (new Clash’s album).
My answer is:
Yes, if it’s on your way because you want to visit the Caribbean Coast.
However, you don’t need to spend too much time there. Let me explain below how you can visit perfectly Cartegena de Indias in less than 48 hours so you have plenty of time for the rest of Colombia.
Author’s note: I put a lot of energy and research in this step by step guide to visit Cartagena de Indias. Hope you will find it helpful.
It’s my first article of this kind.
Tell me if you have some ideas to improve it. Use it as much as you want and don’t hesitate to share it to help the others travellers.
If you don’t have the time to read everything, use the Table of Contents of this article to find what you need.
The 10 reasons why you shouldn’t spend too much time to visit Cartagena de Indias
- It’s very very very touristic
- Locals are not so friendly
- You have to dress well if you want to go out in a club (shirt and pant)
- You gonna have 341 times the occasion to buy a hat
- It’s expensive
- Except for the old city centre, you don’t have a lot of things to do
- It’s so hot!
- You have no nice beach
- You feel less the good vibe of Colombia
- You never know if this cute Colombian girl is speaking to you for your wallet or your personality.
The Backpacking guide of Cartagena: Table of Contents
- How to get cheaply to Cartagena de Indias
- Where to sleep when you visit Cartagena de Indias
- What activities to do on a budget when you visit Cartagena de Indias
- Where to eat when you visit Cartagena des Indias
- Where to go out in Cartagena des Indias
- When to visit Cartagena des Indias
- How safe is Cartagena, Colombia for tourists?
- My ideal itinerary if you visit Cartagena de Indias
- Bogota or Cartagena? Medellin or Cartagena? Help!
- Where to go after Cartagena de Indias?
How to get cheaply to Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena is a big city so it’s really easy to get there. You have the choice between a boat, a flight or a bus.
Or a flying horse.
My recommendation is to arrive a Saturday so you can enjoy the nightlife when you will visit Cartagena de Indias.
You can arrive in Cartagena from a lot of differents cities.
- The bus terminal is outside of the city. You will pay around 20 000 COP for a taxi. If you are tall, blond and your unique spanish word is Cerveza, fight and don’t pay 45 000 COP.
- It’s always really cold in the bus. Take socks and a jumper minimum.
- When you take a night bus, find a bus who arrive in the morning and not at 4am ;). Even if the Check-In is at 2pm, the hostel let you rest in the commun area.
Bogota – Cartagena de Indias
You should take a night bus because it gonna be a little long. You have 5 different buses companies: Transvelez, Expreso Brasilia, Transportes Rapido Ochoa, Berlinas and Copetran.
Price: 85 000 to 100 000 COP
Time: Around 22 hours
Schedule: You can check the website of each bus company. Departure is from 7 am to 11 pm. It seems good to leave around 1 pm so you can arrive for the check-in of your hostel in Cartagena.
Medellin – Cartagena de Indias
- Around 110 000 COP for Rapido Ochoa
- Around 140 000 COP for Expreso Brasilia.
Time: Around 14 hours
Schedule: You can check the website of each bus company. Departure is from 5h30 am to 10h30 pm. It seems good to leave around 6 pm to arrive early in Cartagena.
Necocli – Cartagena de Indias
If you’re coming from Capurgana (A great small town at the border with the Darien Gap), you need to take a bus in Necocli. Nowadays, they have a direct bus to go to Cartagena. The company is Rapido Ochoa.
Price: Around 80 000 COP
Time: Around 9-10 hours
Schedule: It’s easy. People are waiting for you once you arrive by boat from Capurgana.
Santa Marta – Cartagena de Indias
So here, there is a trick. As you know, the bus terminal of Cartagena is far away so you have to pay around 20 000 COP for a taxi. Therefore, it’s the same price if you take a private shuttle. They will take you at your hostel and drop you where you want in Cartagena. And it will be faster.
- Around 22 000 COP for a bus
- Around 48 000 COP for a private shuttle
- Around 6 hours with a bus
- Around 4 hours with a shuttle
- Every hour if you’re taking a bus
- Depends on the hostel
Did you hear about San Blas? They are amazing islands between Panama and Colombia on the Atlantic coast.
San Blas belongs to Panama but it’s independent (They did a revolution in 1925). Small deserted island, white sands and palm tree. It’s possible to book a sailboat from Panama City to arrive in Cartagena.
The most famous company is Bluesailing.
Tip: At the end, you have 2 days open sea. So if you have seasickness, think to buy some pills before. An interesting alternative can be to book with San Blas Adventures but you will arrive in Sapzurro. Check this article if you want to know how is Sapzurro.
Price: Around 600$ (with entrance fee and the jeep)
Time: 5 days
@Photograph: Andre Golfin Valverde
Casa En El Agua – Cartagena de Indias
Maybe you decided to spend few days on Isla Mucura and Casa En El Agua.
In this case, you will arrive directly to the port with a speed boat and you can walk to your hostel. You should definitively visit the Archipelago of San Bernardo
Price: 100 000 COP
Time: 2h30 – 3h00 hours
Do you know you have a really cheap airline company in Colombia? It’s Viva Colombia and you need to look for your flight directly on their website. It’s really fast and correct.
If you wish a little more comfort, Avianca is really good.
- 70 000 COP (I did the simulation with only 1 week in advance for Bogota- Cartagena)
- 44 000 COP for an extra luggage in Cabine (I have a computer and a ukulele). You are allowed one luggage of 6 kg without paying any extra fee.
- 39 000 COP for your big bag (20 kg max).
- 12 000 COP Taxi from the airport in Cartagena to the old city centre
Time: 1 hour
- When you book on their website, they add you automaticly a lot of option. Think to cancel them
- Don’t forget to pay for your extra luggage directly on their website when you book your ticket
- You have to print yourself your ticket before the departure
You arrive at the Bus Terminal. It’s Saturday, in the middle of the afternoon. It was a really cold experience. Indeed, Colombians are in LOVE with the Air-con, especially the bus driver.
Thus, you are very surprised by the heat when they open the doors of the bus. Yes, when you visit Cartagena de Indias, it’s really HOT.
You’re looking for a taxi to go to Getsemani. It’s 20 000 COP.
The bus terminal is outside of the city. As the taxi drives through this immense maze, you observe the daily life by the window. People are everywhere in the street, selling fruits or observing the chaotic circulation of the cars. Honking to prevent they will turn left, right or drive backwards.
You realise that Cartagena is not only made of big yellow war walls and fancy restaurants.
After 30 min, you arrive at Getsemani.
The district is only 10 min far away from the old city centre and it’s the place to be.
Every night, people organise small shows on the place in front of the Trinity’s Church. Tourists and locals are seating all around, drinking beers or eating their street food from the small truck food nearby.
The good vibe is easily palpable and lets a smile on your face.
You’re dropped at the hostel. It’s time to discover your accommodation.
Where to sleep when you visit Cartagena de Indias
First, you have to choose between the Old city centre and Getsemani. Boca Grande is not an option as it’s really expensive, ugly and far from the nice places in the city.
The good news it that Getsemani and the Old city centre are not far so the choice of where you have to sleep is not so important. It’s more in relation to your budget.
- Are you travelling on a shoestring budget? Getsemani
- Do you want to do a party night? Getsemani
- You prefer to enjoy a chill time with your love? Old city centre
- The safest place of Cartagena? Old city centre
Famous party hostel in the Old city centre, with breakfast but no kitchen. Aircon from 6 pm to 11 am, the staff is really friendly and the rooms are clean.
Price: Around 50 000 COP for a dorm.
Direction: Calle 7 infantes
ONE DAY HOSTEL
The internet is not working so well but the air con is always on! Chill atmosphere and nice staff.
You have a kitchen and the breakfast in included
Price: Around 30 000 COP for a dorm.
Direction: Getsemaní Calle 26 No. 10B-67, Calle de las Chancletas
El Arsenal Hostel Boutique
Nice hostel in Getsemani with a cool staff, a small swimming pool, kitchen and a bar to meet the others travellers.
You have the internet, aircon and breakfast included.
Price: Around 45 000 COP for a dorm.
Direction: Calle del Arsenal # 10 -13, Centro Historico, Getsemani
Mystic House Hostal
Located in the backpacker street in Getsemani, you have breakfast, aircon and the internet included. The street will be noisy but in the same, it’s safer to come back during the night.
Good Kitchen and nice staff.
Price: Around 37 000 COP for a dorm.
Direction: Calle de la Media Luna ·#10C – 36, Getsemani
The famous Mamallena has a hostel in Cartagena de Indias and it’s really good!
Aircon 24h, they have a bar but you are allowed to bring your own alcohol. They also have the internet and a kitchen. It’s a party hostel with very nice common areas.
Price: Around 40 000 COP for a dorm.
Direction: 10-47 Calle Media Luna, Getsemani
Did you notice a different price? Did you stay in other great hostels? Tell me! I want to know 🙂
It’s time now to visit Cartagena!
@Picture from the Instagram account Nomadbiba
What activities to do on a budget when you visit Cartagena de Indias
Do you want to have a quick glimpse of what to do around when you visit Cartagena de Indias? Watch the video below! HD and English subtitles.
You go out of your hostel and you decide to first visit the old city centre. It’s only 10 min far away from your hostel. You remarque an old boat in the port. It’s a boat museum, the Galeon Bucanero.
Personally, I’ve never been. Anyway, you’re excited to walk on the war walls so you don’t care about a pirate boat.
It’s a little complicated to cross the street because the red light for the walkers is: Red or Red. So you decide to run through the traffic. Congratulation, I hope you have survived.
And here we are, the yellowish wall of the old city centre are in front of you. You pass the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower Gate) and the sellers are already on you.
Sombrero! Bracelet! Chapeau! Hat! Coco juice!
Yes, they speak all the languages. The funny fact? Even if you have a hat, they will try to sell you another one.
With your new hat on your head, you can now discover the old town.
Colourful walls, nice places with arts from the artist Botero, long green plants falling from the different balconies, beautiful palenqueras with their fruit basket.
Yes it’s true, the first impression when you visit Cartagena de Indias is:
You check your watch, it’s 4 pm.
It’s time for your free walking tour!
During 2 hours you can walk through all the old city, with all the interesting stories about the creation of Cartegena. It’s a really nice experience and it’s free. Don’t forget to let a tip at the end 😉
- You should always think to check on internet if there is a free walking tour. Very common for the big cities in South of America, it’s a great way to discover the city and to know more about the history.
- Sometimes you have to pre-book on their website.
It’s 6 Pm, the tour is over.
You go to Cafe Del Mar.
The temperature is really pleasant now. Instead of sitting at Cafe del Mar, you buy your beer from the small seller at the corner and watch the sunset from the top of the war wall. It’s astonishing.
A little hungry? Let’s go, it’s the perfect timing to go to Getsemani.
Are you ready for the party tonight? Good.
As I said before, the Trinity place is perfect for the beginning of the evening. People are sitting on the stairs, watching the shows going in front of them.
You can eat the street food or you can decide to go to a famous cocktail and tapas bar: Demente! It’s a little expensive but it’s so good ! 🙂
Then, the night is only yours.
You walk in the street of Getsemani, drink some beers and discover the street art in La Calle de la Sierpe. After all the tapas you ate, it’s time to do exercise and move your body on the dance floor.
Start with the Cafe Havana to dance Salsa. Are you shy? No problem, you can also observe the local moving graciously with the music. Salsa is a beautiful dance and the locals will be very happy to teach you.
And if you still have some energy, you can decide to go the Bazurto Social Club, dance on Champeta and listen to Systema Solar or Bomba Estereo.
Bip Bip Bip – Snooze button – Bip Bip Bip
It’s the next morning and you realised that you maybe drunk too much aguardiente.
Whatever, today you’re going to Isla Baru.
The hangover will disappear when your head will be under the water, in the middle of the Caribbean Coast. You decide to sleep 1 night there so you can really enjoy this beautiful white sand beach.
Let your big bag at your hostel, you don’t need all your stuff.
- Aguardiente is the local alcohol. You have to try when you visit Cartagena
- Take just your day bag for Isla Baru. You can let your big bag and valuable things in a locker in your hostel
- Isla Baru can be very touristic, specialy during the weekend.
Choose the transportation mode of your choice (Explanations below in this article)
You arrive at Playa Blanca (The beach of Isla Baru) and you look for an accommodation for the night. It’s pretty basic but in the same time, you are in the middle of nowhere.
Someone come to you for the Bioluminescent Phytoplankton. The tour is after the sunset, you bargain to have the tour for 20 000 COP per person.
You have to go with his little speed boat. Don’t be afraid, everything’s gonna be alright. He drives behind a sandbank to a very quiet place where the sea is like a lake. And suddenly, he tells you:
– Ok, now you have to jump.
– You have to jump if you want to observe the Bioluminescent Phytoplankton
And it’s true! The action of moving in the water makes the Phytoplankton to glow. It’s really nice, you decide to take off your clothes and swim naked. Don’t loose your swimming short 😉
The next morning, you go out of your cabin and watch the sunrise. There is nobody, this amazing blue sea is only for you.
You decide to celebrate that with a lobster for lunch before going back to Cartagena in the afternoon.
Shower and chill time at your hostel, it’s time to select your new destination.
Visit of the Old City Centre – Free walking tour
The Old City Centre is behind the war wall. It’s the most famous thing to do when you visit Cartagena de Indias.
It’s very touristic and a little expensive.
In my opinion, it’s nice to do it with a free walking tour to know more about the history of the place.
Price: Free – Tips
Time: 2 hours
Watch the sunset from the war wall
As I explained before, you can go to Cafe Del Mar to watch the sunset. You can decide to drink a beer from the sellers on the street or take a seat at the bar.
Watch a dance show in Plaza de Bolivar
Museo Historistico de Cartagena de Indias
A Nice building where you have an exhibition explaining the Inquisition in South of America back in time. It’s not worth it if you don’t speak Spanish.
Price: 19 000 COP
Time: 1 – 2 Hour
Walk in the street of Getsemani
Getsemani is the fashion district near the Old City Centre. It’s totally safe and you will have more the feeling to be in Colombia. Look for the graffitis on the walls! Especially in La Calle de la Sierpe.
Time: 1 hour
Touch La Gorda de Botero
Botero is a Colombian artist famous for his sculptures. He likes to give generous rounded and sensual forms to his status. The legend says that you need to touch the butt of the status if you want to come back to Cartagena. Find her in the city!
Volcan de Lodo – El Totumo – Mud Volcano
You can book a half day trip to have your body covered with mud. A private shuttle brings you there and locals are waiting for you to give you a massage as you are sinking in the mud for 20 minutes. Then you go to a lagoon and they bath you. It can be very busy.
I didn’t go as it looks a little like a “factory” but they have a good rank on TripAdvisor
- 50 000 COP
- 2000 COP for the pictures
Time: All afternoon
More video of Cartagena? You can also check the cool video of Goats on the road.
Isla Baru – Playa Blanca
The beach in Cartagena is s***t. Fortunately, they have a very nice beach not so far. You can decide to go there for a day trip or sleep 1 night.
Most of the tourists are going on a day trip. It means there is nobody in the morning! Imagine, you can have the place for you only.
The only hic is that most of the agencies (boat and shuttle) don’t sell a one way. So you have 2 solutions:
- you’re going to Isla Baru by your own way
- You can book with Mamallena hostel
Cartagena – Isla Baru by boat
Generally, you can book it from your hostel or if you go directly to the dock.
- 100 000 COP for the speed boat- Round trip – You can try to bargain
- 15 000 COP – Tax for using the dock…
Time: around 1h00 – one way
Backpacker profile: Runners Backpacker
Cartagena – Isla Baru by bus
Book with Mamallena hostel so you can come back the day you want.
Price: 50 000 COP
Time: around 1h00 – one way
Backpacker profile: Runners Backpacker
Cartagena – Isla Baru by yourself
So it’s a little complicated but it’s an easy way to save money if you are travelling on a budget.
Take the bus at Monumento India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela y Playa Pedregosa #34, before the bridge to go to Pasacaballos then a moto taxi (10 000 COP) or Private car (27 000 COP).
- Bus: 2200 COP
- Moto taxi: 10 000 COP
Time: around 2h00 – one way
Backpacker profile: Flip Flop Backpacker
It’s possible to pay 20 000 a shuttle on the way back if they are not full. You have to be at the parking 3 pm and ask the driver if there is some space for you.
Activities in Isla Baru
Isla Baru is famous for its beach, Playa Blanca. White sand and blue water, it can be very busy during the weekend. Spend your time chilling on the beach, reading and watching the sunset.
It’s also the occasion to go observe the bioluminescent phytoplankton at night. Look for locals with a speed boat to go after the sunset. It’s a cool experience
Price: 20 000 COP
Time: 2 hours
Backpacker profile: City Backpacker
Eat a lobster
Isla Baru is not the cheapest place where you can eat a lobster. However, it’s perfect with the landscape. You have your feet half buried in the sand, a small white plastic table and the sounds of the wave. Not so bad, right?
Price: Around 40 000 COP for a normal size
Rosario’s Islands: Day trip
Don’t go! People are telling you that you gonna snorkel and see a beautiful reef. Unfortunately, it’s a dead reef. And, you have to pay more to do the snorkelling.
You can see some nice fishes because they feed them. The only problem is you have to stay in a group, surrounded by 50 people.Otherwise, you just stay on the boat. The price they give you in Isla Baru is only the price for the transport!
- 30 000 COP for the transport
- 30 000 COP for the snorkelling
Time: 3 hours but only 45 min of snorkelling
Backpacker profile: City Backpacker
Sleeping in Isla Baru
I think the price are more or less the same. We went to Hugo’s place. A Basic small cabin with a view of the sea. You will hardly have access to fresh water to take a shower in Isla Baru. I heard that La Espana was cool too.
- 20 000 Hammock
- 100 000 – 120 000 for a cabin. 3 people max
- Tel: 310 716 1021
- Facebook – It’s a group facebook… Don’t forget to check and like Tomplanmytrip at the same time!
It’s also possible to camp for free on the beach. But you need to find a place where there is no hostel. Or you can ask if it’s possible.
From Isla Baru or from Cartagena, you can take a speed boat to go to Rosario. You will sleep in Isla Grande.
I’ve never slept on Rosario’s islands so I can’t give my opinion. Have you been? Help me to write about this trip!
Where to eat when you visit Cartagena de Indias
When you visit Cartagena de Indias, you will remark they have a lot of restaurants. And they are good!
You can have a look on Tripadvisor to have an idea how what you want/like. The thing you have to know is:
- The restaurants in the old city are more expensive and luxury
- If you are on a budget, Getsemani is a great option.
- If you want to save money, you should ask for “Menu del Dia” (Meno of the day)
Around the Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad (Getsemani)
You have a lot of nice restaurants on the way to Trinidad’s place. And there is street food at night time.
- Menu del Dia: Around 12000 COP
- Street food: Around 10 000 COP
Directly on the Plaza de la Trinidad, it’s a great tapas bar. Cool staff with great music and really good food.
It’s a good start for a crazy Saturday night.
Price: Around 15 000 to 20 000 COP for a plate of Tapas.
Direction: On the place Santisima Trinidad
La Cocina de Pepina (Getsemani)
Do you want to try the local food of Cartagena de Indias like the Posta Negra de cartagenera?
You should go to La Cocina de Pepina :).
It’s a small mum and pop restaurant, really tasty but you will maybe wait to have a table!
Here, you will eat like at home, a big and tasty plate.However, It’s a little more expensive than the average restaurant in Getsemani.
Price: Around 35 000 for the main dish
Direction: Callejon Vargas Entre Arsenal y Calle Larga Getsemani, Calle 25#9a-06 Local 2 Casa Amarilla, Cartagena Colombia
Be careful, this place is just astounding. It’s personally one of the best ceviches I ate during my trip.
Nice service and fresh fish, it’s possible that you wait because if its success. You have to stand in line as you were in school. So give the hand to your lover and wait patiently, you will be amazed ;).
They open at 12h30 so your best chance to avoid the line is to arrive at 12h00 and take a table outside!
Price: Around 35 000 COP for a ceviche 1 person
Direction: La Cevichería, Cl. 39 #7 14, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
I would like a ceviche but I don’t want to pay a lot
Hey, no worries. It’also possible to eat a cheap ceviche.
Instead of passing through the clock tower gate, go on the right. Behind, you have a lot of Ceviche stands.
Choose the one you want, they have the same price. They use this special sauce from the coast, a mix of Mayonaise and Ketchup… It’s special but it’s worth a try.
Price: Around 12 000 COP
I would like to drink a good coffee
As you maybe know, Colombia has great coffee beans. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to drink a good coffee (Except Cafetera region).
In the old city centre, you have the chain Cafe Valdez. It’s a good place to start your day.
Direction: Old City centre, cl 36.
Mum, where is my Ice cream
Did someone speak about Ice cream?
Do you know there is a place with all the colours and flavours? Where the only sounds you will hear are: “Amazing, Yummy, Ooooh, Aaaaah“.
Go to La Paletteria and try their ice creams!
Price: Around 5500 COP
Direction: La paletteria, 381-3899 Carrera 10, Cartagena, Colombia
What? Do you want to eat more? Check the article of Moon
Where to go out in Cartagena de Indias
Looking for a party? You can find some really cool and fun spot to dance when you visit Cartagena de Indias.
However, I prefer Medellin or Bogota to express my feeling with my body on crazy sounds.
Around the Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad (Getsemani)
Yes, it’s a perfect place to have dinner and also to start a nice evening.
People are doing shows as breakdance, concert, practising salsa…
Buy a beer in the shop for only 2000 COP, sit on the rock stairs of the church and socialise with the others!
Price: 2000 COP – Beer in the shop at the corner.
They have a great playlist, a lot of good liquors, an open space and cocktails. If you are on a budget, it’s a little expensive….
Price: Around 18 000 COP a cocktail (I Believe…)
The Havana Club
It’s a Salsa Club where you dance and listen to live music.
You have to pay an entrance fee but it’s a great place to practice your salsa skill!
The band starts to play around 11h00 pm and it can be really packed at this time. So it’s better to arrive a little earlier.
Good cocktail but expensive.
Price: 20 000 COP the entrance with a drink
Direction: Calle Media Luna and Calle del Guerrero | Getsemaní, Cartagena, Colombia
Hours: 8 pm to 4 am (Except Sunday – 2 am) – Thursday to Sunday
Bazurto Social Club
Be ready to continue to dance on latina music in the Bazurto Social Club.
Nice waiter and a good cocktail. You can learn to dance Champeta and the live music will start around 11 pm.
Can be a little crowded but the ambience is unique. It’s one of the best clubs in the city.
Don’t go there if you don’t like latin music.
Price: None (Normally)
Direction: Bazurto Social Club, Cra. 9 #3042, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Schedule: 7 pm to 3h30 am – Wednesday to Saturday.
When to visit Cartagena de Indias
You have a raining season from April to September in Colombia.
The best weather will be from December to February if you visit Cartagena de Indias.
However, it’s also the high seasons (Everyone is on holidays) with Semana Santa (Easter week). If you are travelling on the coast, you HAVE to book in advance during the Easter holidays.
You have more chance to have heavy rain in May, September and October.
Fortunately, you have another small dry season in July and August. It’s for me the best time to visit Cartagena de Indias.
Best time to visit Cartagena de Indias: July and August
More information about when you should leave? Have a look on the great website of www.a-contresens.net
How safe is Cartagena, Colombia for tourists?
Yes, Cartagena de Indias is safe for the tourists. Actually, I think the old city centre is one of the safest place of Colombia (For a big city). You can walk at any time of the night inside the old town.
You maybe need to be a little more careful after 2 am in Getsemani. If the parties are still going on, you will have a lot of people in the street so it’s not a problem.
The Street Media Luna is also very touristic (even at night). However, it’s a little dodgy on the left side (with the old city on your back), so stay in the street.
Don’t walk at 2 am in the poor neighbourhood. Also, the way to go to the Castillo El Felipe de Barajas is dangerous. Take a taxi.
At anytime follow the simple rules below:
- Don’t play the flashy tourist.
- Don’t give papaya. It’s a Colombian expression. It means that don’t give them the opportunity to rob you. In the big city, use your camera when the place is touristic and always have a look around first.
- In the public transport, be careful with your pocket and bags.
- Never put your day bag below your seat in a bus
- Don’t walk alone at night in a deserted street
- Give attention to the advice of the locals
- Smile and say “Hola”
- If you go out, take only the money you need for the night and a photocopy of your passport
- Follow your instinct (Yes I know, this one it’s hard at the beginning). You will see, you’re improving every day
- If a local put pressure on you and ask you to act fast, say “No”. It’s usually a lie
- If a local don’t look at you in the eyes when he speaks to you, think about it twice
Do you have some others advice or recommendations? Please share your experience!!! 🙂
My ideal itinerary if you visit Cartagena de Indias
I have also included an expedition to Isla Baru in the itinerary below. You have less than 48 Hours in Cartagena and 24 Hours on Isla Baru.
Tip: It’s better to arrive a saturday in the afternoon. So you can enjoy the night life the first night then go the sunday to Isla Baru and sleep there. You will normaly avoid the flow of tourist.
- 12h00 pm – Arrival Bus Terminal Cartagena de Indias
- 01h00 pm – Arrival to the hostel
- 04h00 pm – Free walking tour of the old town
- 06h00 pm – Sunset near the Cafe Del Mar (Check the hours for the sunset)
- 08h00 pm – Tapas en in the restaurant Demente and enjoy the square de la Santissima Trinidad
- 10h30 pm – Cafe Havana club or Bazurto Social Club or both
- 10h00 am – Cafe a Juan Valdez
- 12h00 am – Lunch at La Cevicheria (Open at 12h30 but could be very busy)
- 02h30 pm – Bus to Pasacaballos then a moto taxi to Isla Baru – Playa Blanca
- 04h30 pm – Arrival In Playa Blanca –
- 06h30 pm – Swim with the Bioluminescent Phytoplankton
- 09h00 pm – Hammock night
- Chill on Playa Blanca
- 03h00 pm – Shuttle to go back to Cartagena
- 04h00 pm – Arrival at Cartagena
- 05h30 pm – Ice cream at La Paletteria
- 06h00 pm – Show at Plaza de Bolivar
- 07h00 pm – Restaurant La Cocina de Pepina
Departure at 10h30 am the next day in the morning
Total Hours in Cartagena de Indias: 45 hours
Total Hours in Isla Baru: 24 hours
Bogota or Cartagena? Medellin or Cartagena? Help!
It’s a tough question and unfortunately, I can’t answer for you. All depends on what you are looking for.
In Bogota, you will find a lot of museums, electronic party and cold night. It will be better to visit with a person from there.
Medellin is a great city to live. People are warm, Poblado’s district has nice coffees. A lot of different parties and nice villages in the departments. Great weather.
In Cartagena, you have a really nice city centre. The San Bernardo’s islands and Isla Baru are amazing. It’s a good start for the Caribbean Coast. Even if it’s the most touristic place and a lot of parties during the weekend. Really hot weather.
Where to go after Cartagena de Indias?
Now that your visit to Cartagena is done, where can you go next?
Would you like to live on an island for few days? With almost no tourist?
You can reach Isla Mucura and Casa En El Agua by speed boat from Cartagena. Read our guide about the Archipelago of San Bernardo! You have all the explanations you need.
Did you plan to go down south to Bogota?
Why don’t you stop half way in San Gil?
It’s THE Extreme City Sport with paragliding, canyoning and kayaking. There is also a very cute colonial town nearby: Barichara.
Also, don’t forget to check the waterfalls and rivers around if you have time 😉
Would you like to travel more East on the Caribbean Coast? Discover the Tayrona Park, live in the Serra Nevada in Minca or directly on the beach in Palomino?
It’s a great plan.
All these places are around Santa Marta.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of Santa Marta so you can sometimes try to catch up the connexion directly to avoid to sleep in this city.
If you are alone, the price for the private shuttle will be the same than taxi + bus.
Capurgana – Sapzurro
Do you have the next trip with San Blas Adventures to go to Panama City? Or would like to sleep in the Darien Gap?
You can check our two Step by Step guides (just click on the links above)!
Be ready for your next adventures!
Conclusion on Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias is the biggest city of Colombia on the Caribbean Coast. You can arrive by flight, bus or boat for an affordable price.
2 districts are really famous: The old city centre and Getsemani. Pick up the district where you want to sleep and go to the discovery of the city: big war wall, paving stone, colourful wall and plants living on the balconies. Find the secret squares and nice restaurants. After the sunset, enjoy the nightlife in Getsemani.
Also, it’s the perfect place to organise an expedition to Isla Baru with your day bag. Sleep in a hostel on the beach and enjoy the moment.
Because it became really touristic, it’s a less authentic part of Colombia. It’s a place your add on your itinerary for a few days because you are already travelling on the coast.
Time in Cartagena de Indias: 48 hours
Time in Isla Baru: 24 hours
Budget a day: 130 000 COP (in relation with the itinerary)
Weather: Really hot
Security: Safe in Getsemani, Boca grande and the old city center
Time to go: December to February – July to August
Backpacker Profile: Party and lover of Old city
After an exhausting Saturday night and a relaxing day on the beach, now it’s time to change the environment.
Let’s go in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada. Come with us in a place where the bread is delicious. Where you can almost feel the vibe of hippies dancing naked around you.
Take your smile and your good mood and come with us to Minca!
Do you want to read more about Cartagena de Indias? I have selected for you some really cool articles and information:
- More information about Cartagena? Check Colombia.travel
- More pictures about Cartagena and Isla Baru? Check see Colombia.travel
- Di Michelle has also decided to spend a weekend in Cartagena
- More information of Cartagena with Colombia.travel
- Bonus: Interested by your chance to hooking up in Cartagena? Check this funny post
- Another opinion of Cartagena. Goatsontheroad fell in love with it.
- Do you prefer a french article? Have a look on les globeblogeurs
Also, if you have some others cool places/ideas/activities in Cartagena de Indias or if you have noticed a different price, please let me know (Comments, email, Facebook) !!!
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Travel different, start now!