Are you thinking of one of the best Cartagena travel guides? Well, am sure you are on the right track. You need to understand that when it comes to getaway destinations in South America, Colombia offers an array of endless choices, and guess what… Cartagena is one of them!
This bustling South America city is the darling of America’s coastline.
You will see reasons to fall in love with this city, after days of vacationing here!
Cartagena’s culture is vibrant, with music playing everywhere.
You’d find brightly painted walls and bougainvillea pouring out over balconies and people having a good time, with so much to drink, which is enough to paint that perfect postcard picture.
Cartagena is a haven for travelers, and it is for a good reason.
The Cartagena city is walkable, with beautiful beaches here and there, and tons of culinary adventures, that are waiting to be discovered.
Now, add this with the friendly demeanor of the locals, then you’d realize that there has never been a better time to see Cartagena, than now.
Now, here’s why we compiled this Cartagena Travel Guide, to help you plan your travel itinerary well.
Are you looking to travel to Cartagena for the first time?
Here’s what you should know…
What to Know Before a Trip to Cartagena
1: Think Safety
You should be armed with safety tips for that Cartagena travel trip.
Indeed, the need for safety cannot be overemphasized.
You should keep in mind that Cartagena is a widely visited place, with so many tourists trooping in and out of the city.
So, yes, you need to take safety precautions always whenever you are traveling to such tourist locations, or internationally for that matter.
Such safety tips you should observe include not going out alone at night and not showing off your valuables, while in the city.
It is equally important to check the local news before departure and during your vacations for any latest updates on safety precautions.
2: Bring Cash and Credit Cards
I’m talking about money!
Bring lots of it, while embarking on that trip.
This is because you’ll need cash on hand for some of the restaurants and bars in the city.
Also, credit cards are accepted at most locations in Cartagena.
3: Getting Around Cartagena
Part of the fun of vacations is the ease with which you get around, whenever you want to tour your travel destination.
For Cartagena, we advise you to only book transport with companies that you can trust.
More often than not, it’s best to have your hotel call a taxi or using taxi companies at the airport.
Good thing is, Uber is functional in Cartagena and is great for getting around the local places in the city.
Flights are the best options for getting around major cities in Colombia.
Also, Cartagena has an international airport with direct flights to major cities in the United States.
4: Get A Travel Insurance
We often advise travelers to get travel insurance for all international trips.
And it’s for a good reason.
Life happens, and when it does, travel insurance is always your fall-back option.
So, endeavor to always have one for every international travel.
Read more: Travel Insurance
5: How Much Time You Need
The amount of time that you’d need to tour Cartagena is entirely up to you.
It also depends on what your plans are in this old colonial city.
You could choose to spend an entire week here if you’re looking to visit more nearby places.
6: Pack Smart
For a nice time at Cartagena, you’d need to pack smart.
When it comes to weather conditions in Colombia, the temperature in Cartagena is average all year round.
There won’t be snowfalls in Cartagena but expect windy and precipitated days during certain months.
The hottest months of the year in Cartagena are between June to September.
And the coolest months in Cartagena falls between January to March, this will also mean you should expect more visitors, and possibly crowds thronging the island at those times of the year.
Also, check the weather networks before departing on your trip.
What Are the Best Lodgings to Stay In Cartagena?
For every international travel, there are 3 best places to stay, and not so good places to stay as well.
So, for Cartagena, here are recommended Lodgings you should stay in while in this old city.
1. Casa Pombo
Casa Pombo is one of the best places to stay in Cartagena, it is like an oasis tucked behind grand doors.
You’d find beautiful buildings all around the city, with stunning designs and airy space.
The rooftop view in Casa Pombo, especially on hot days, is to kill for.
2. Hotel Las Islas Barú
Check out the Hotel Las Islas Barú, positioned close to Rosario Islands, the place offers the right location for some time out on a small, private beach.
The rooms are airy and cozy, fair enough for the high price, and it’s worth the seclusion.
3. Casa San Agustin
Casa San Austin, is everyone’s favorite place to stay, while on a Cartagena trip.
This beautifully designed hotel is in a central location, making it ideal for a proper discovery of Cartagena.
What are Best Restaurants to Eat In Cartagena?
There is no surprise that Cartagena offers the best cuisines, anywhere in South America.
Here, you’d find great local meals, with tons of restaurants specialized in other cuisines.
Check out… these top restaurants!
1. El Kilo
As far as delicious means can go, this place, El Kilo offers the best favorite American dishes.
Check our their ceviche, it is incredible, and their wonderful cocktails too!
2. El Barón
Looking for the best cocktails in the city?
Pay these wonderful guys at El Barón a visit!
And for a quite bite? They also serve amazing food as well.
3. Zaitún Cartagena
The meals at Zaitún will leave you craving for more.
Their cocktails are incredible too!
Looking for something exquisitely delicious? You’d find it here!
Also, check out their Epoca Espresso Bar for breakfast and coffee.
One dinner will convince you.
They also offer lighter bites that are Spanish tapas-style.
Getsemani is another good place to eat, in Cartagena.
They serve classic dishes like whole fish and plantains.
And at night, it gets really lively on their second floor and patio.
How Many Days Do I Need In Cartegena?
For an unforgettable travel experience to Cartagena, you’d need at least five days to explore one big city and the nearby areas.
The longer the days, the more opportunities to explore different parts of the city.
So, nine to ten days is enough to tour two or three pockets of the city.
For those days you could see the walled city of Cartagena, visit the capital city of Colombia, Bogotá, see the Amazon and engage in a few fun-filled activities like scuba diving or mountain biking.
Things to Do in Cartagena in 9 to 10 Days
Watch ￼donkeys carry milk to town at the Valle del Cocora.
This is the most exciting to-do activity during a visit to Cartagena.
You can also choose to stay in one part of the city to gain a more in-depth feel of the area, or you could jump on a flight and explore other areas.
When choosing where to tour on a vacation of nine to ten days in Cartagena, get familiar with all the popular towns and areas in the city.
Then build your itinerary around those areas that interest you.
Keep in mind that a city tour is more of an exploration of museums and historic places, which means you relax and have a good time with all the salsa dancing classes or chocolate tasting.
Traveling to different areas of the city over nine to ten days will surely expand your understanding of the history and culture behind the grandeur of this old city.
Now, that’s that for, how many days do I need in Cartagena?
Is Cartegana Worth Visiting?
If you’re probably, confused about why you should or should not visit Cartagena, here’s help!
We have compiled 10 reasons why Cartagena is worth visiting.
10 Reasons Why Cartagena Is Worth Visiting
This Colombian city is a haven for photographers and artists.
Indeed, it is one of the most traveled to cities in South America.
Tourists flock to this colonial city dubbed “Jewel of the Indies” for that unique Caribbean climate, wonderfully designed historic Walled City, and uniquely combined cultures and beaches.
So, yes, it is what that trip!
1. Cartagena Serves Incredible Dishes
Cartagena prides some of the best restaurants and high-end eateries in all of Colombia.
Whether it’s high-end eateries serving the finest seafood or local market stalls serving delicious stews from bubbling pots on a makeshift fire, there’s always something for everyone.
And not to forget the range of fresh fruit juices readily available at almost every turn, around the city.
Now, that’s why Cartagena is truly a favorite destination for gastronome travelers.
2. Cartagena’s Unique Culture
Ever seen those iconic Afro-Colombian women in brightly dressed, selling fruit in plazas around the city?
Now those are the internationally recognized symbol of this city!
Cartagena is a place to experience art, literature, architecture, and the unique culture of the Americas.
3. All for the Art
Whether you’re a huge Instagram fan looking to take as many instagrammable photos as is possible, or you’re just a photographer, Cartagena is the city for you.
This city breathes postcard photo ideas, with beautiful pastel-colored buildings, bougainvillea plants cascading old wooden balconies, with old metal door knockers shaped like sea monsters and lions.
Truly, Cartagena is one of the most photogenic cities in the world and a perfect place to visit for some unforgettable travel time.
4. The City’s Beautiful Beaches
Located on the Colombian Caribbean coast and surrounded stretches of stunning beaches and islands.
The greatest allure being the Walled City.
Cartagena prides beautiful beaches Bocagrande, Playa Blanca, Isla Grande, Tierra Bomba, or the Rosario Islands.
5. The City’s Romance
Just as the setting of Gabriel G. Marquez’s great romantic novel Love in the “Time of Cholera,” Cartagena is the perfect metropolis for weddings, honeymoons, and romantic escapes.
It has tons of romantic boutique hotels, elegant bars, and intimate restaurants.
You’d find high-end jewelry shops throughout the city, with tons of photoshoots every day.
And sitting on the city walls at sunset, while sipping cocktails at Cafe del Mar, is no better way to experience this romantic city.
6. Amazing History
Cartagena has an amazing and often unbelievable history.
It used to be the largest slave port in the Americas, constantly invaded and besieged by pirates, home to most of the finest architecture landscapes in the United States.
San Felipe Castle is one of those must-see places for history lovers.
And it is the best example of a Spanish fort in Colombia, and the old city walls are still stunning.
Cartagena breathes history from every street corner, and a walk through the Walled City feels heavenly!
7. The Old City Breathes Art Everywhere
Another reason a trip to this city is worth it is its excellent street art and the murals in Getsemani.
Find out Cartagena’s artistic prowess at the Museum of Modern Art.
Art connoisseurs will love the wide range of gallery alternatives to be had here.
Check out artistically carved wonderful statues and sculptures in this city, and Fernando Botero’s famous Gertrudis statue, and surely you’d be impressed.
You’d find artists selling paintings and drawings of Cartagena at most plazas around the city.
Truly, Cartagena radiates artistic sensibilities!
8. Old and New: You’d Get It All
Cartagena offers a captivating juxtaposition of the old and the new.
From the ancient Walled City to the towering blocks and chains of Bocagrande hotels, a constant reminder that the city, although famous for its history and old glories, is also a modern place.
There aren’t so many places where it is possible to explore high-end casinos and upscale wine bars in a day, simply as touring 500-year antique Spanish castles and monasteries.
The difference between the city’s old and new in can seem quite incongruous at first, but it is part of the city’s unique charm.
9. For All The Music and Dancing
Cartagena’s amazing mix of different cultures makes it home to some of the most important and exciting music in all of Colombia.
One of such places to find the musical thrills of Cartagena is the Palenque village, home of champeta and bambuco, and salsa clubs.
Tour companies are willing to show visitors around champeta for a feel of its culture, and even teaching them the dance steps.
Either way, do your dancing shoes and head over to the Bazurto Social Club, Donde Fidel Salsa Bar, or Cafe Havana, for a time of your time.
You will also find amazing sights of street dancers at various squares of the Old City and myriad live music venues.
For music and dance, you’ll get it all in Cartagena!
10. Explore the Walled City
This is the highlight of all the fascinating sights you’ll ever see in Cartagena.
A trip to Cartagena comes with a lot of exploring options on endless streets and discovering gems.
For shopping options?
Cartagena offers incredible design shops so that you’d wish you had brought a bigger suitcase.
It prides an array of shopping lines such as the Mercedes Salazar, Silvia Tcherassi, Loto del Sur, Chiqui House Boutique, St. Dom, and Colombia Artesenal.
Also, check out Castillo de San, Felipe de Barajas, etc.
Visit Mercado de Bazurto, for a tiny, peek at the city’s local life, and the market is one to walk through.
Is it Safe to Walk in Cartagena at Night?
If you’re asking, is it safe to walk in Cartagena at night? It’s probably because you’ve safety concerns you’d want to consider before heading to Cartagena, for that trip.
So, here are safety tips for staying safe in Cartagena.
Safety Tips for Staying In Cartagena
Cartagena, Colombia is a safe place to travel. Although, like everywhere else in the world, Colombia has recorded cases of the coronavirus.
Here’s the update for coronavirus in Colombia:
As of August 3rd, the Colombian authorities extended its quarantine period till August 30th.
And the United States has plans to maintain its ban on international air travel until August 31st.
Safety tips for staying safe in Cartagena.
1: Be Ware of Some Neighborhoods
As is the case in any big city, Cartagena has safe areas and areas you should stay clear of, as well.
• La Popa
La Popa is one of the tourist attraction sites in Cartagena, which means it is also a haven for thieves and pickpockets.
Visiting it at night, it’s a bad idea!
• Sector La Magdalena
Another unsafe area to avoid at night while in Cartagena is Sector La Magdalena.
Locals say it is much grittier than other areas in Cartagena.
It’s quite unsafe to visit, especially as there isn’t much to see or do there.
However, there are safe areas to visit in Cartagena.
1: The Walled City (Old Town)
The Old Town in Cartagena is beautiful, ancient, and safe too.
The city holds most of Cartagena’s highlights, which makes it a hotspot for visitors.
However, while the area is considered safe, you should also keep an eye out for pickpockets.
Bocagrande is reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach, one of Cartagena’s beachside strip.
Generally, the area is considered safe and can get touristy.
It has its charms, a safe place to hang out at sunset.
Getsemani is dubbed Cartagena’s hipster heaven, and it’s for a good reason.
This stunning town in Cartagena is known for its unique Colombian feel, it boasts of street art, great coffee shops, non-stop popping tunes of Afro-Caribbean music.
2: Be Alert at the beaches
Cartagena prides some of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia.
But, while enjoying the sun, sand, and surfing, do so with alertness.
Do not leave your valuables unattended, and heed warnings about rip tides or strong currents.
3: Wear A Lot of Sunscreens
The locals say that the sun in Cartagena burns bright and fierce!
While spending a day on the beach or exploring the Old Town, don’t let a sunburn ruin your trip.
4: Dress like the locals
One of the ways to ensure safety during a vacation is to blend in, this means, you shouldn’t look like a tourist.
Dressing up too good, might spot you out as a tourist, and a possible target for thieves and pickpockets.
So, dress smart, but keep it simple!
5: Don’t Get Carries Away
If your Cartagena trip includes some healthy dose of nightlife, then cheers!
However, party with your safety in mind.
Don’t show off your valuables or lots of cash.
Be sure to reach an agreement with a taxi, before hopping in!
While boozing, keep an eye on your drink.
Also, do not accept drinks from strangers!
Bear in mind that pickpockets and thieves are drawn to touristy areas, so keep your belongings close.
There, you go!