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Travel Guide South America Colombia Cartagena



Cartagena 4

Cartagena 4

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Cartagena, it's historical centre being a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a popular destination in Colombia. It was founded by the Spanish conquerors and used for years as one of the main ports to ship goods and people between Europe and South America and the Caribbean. Cartagena has a great nightlife with several good discotheques like Babar, Joy Slava, Mr. Babilla and a myriad of hot spots to dance the night away.



Sights and Activities

Cartagena has several faces; one of a dirty, sprawling Caribbean metropolis, in Bocagrande the one of a massive "hotel ghetto" and finally the old town with its well-polished face of a once affluent colonial 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 five 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.

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 Bolívar and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo

The old town is divided into three parts: El Centro with the cathedral and the many palaces in Andalucian style, San Diego, which was the quarters of traders and bourgeoisie lived and Getsemaní which was the home of the lower classes. The old harbor of Getsemaní, formerly separating El Centro and San Diego has during the last century transformed into the old town's new commercial area, La Matuna. Here you can also find the pedestrian area Camellón de los Martires, a good place to start exploring the old town.



Events and Festivals

  • Hay Festival - This annual literary festival is held in late January every year. During the event, Latin American authors and poets come to Cartagena to do readings and talks. This international event attracts large audiences each year, and it takes place at a number of venues around the city. Also available for viewing during this festival, are exhibits on art and science.
  • Independence of Cartagena (11 Nov 2013) - On November 11th of every year, the city of Cartagena remembers the day in when it became the first province to declare independence from the Spanish Crown in 1811. This event is widely celebrated all over the city's capitol, with "November feasts" including parades, dancing, decorations, and fireworks. Cartagena's independence from the Spanish Crown is celebrated as being especially meaningful because of the influence it had on the eventual liberation of the whole country of Columbia.
  • Concurso Nacional de Belleza (13 Nov 2013 - 16 Nov 2013) - During the "November Feasts" of the independence day celebrations, a very popular National Beautify Pageant is held in Cartagena. Beautiful women of the area compete to be crowed, by dazzling the judges and the audience in their ability to wear beautiful gowns and impressive swimsuits. The pageant is also known for it's social causes and ability to raise a great deal of money for needy children, elderly, and disaster victims.
  • Cartagena Film Festival - The Cartagena Film Festival is the longest running film festival in Latin America. This festival draws an international audience, but focuses primarily on promoting Colombian television programs, Latin American films, and videos.
  • Cartagena La Habana Son Cultural Festival - This cultural festival annually throughout the month of September in Cartagena. The event celebrates the strong connection that has always existed between the cities of Havana (in Cuba) and Cartagena (in Colombia). Visitors attending the event can expect to see a variety of culturally-inspired events, including dance and music performances, workshops for performers to fine-tune their craft, art exhibitions, and parades.




Cartagena has a tropical climate with hot and humid conditions year round. Temperatures vary slightly between the different months and seaons, but rainfall is another matter. The average annual amount of precipitation is just over 1,000 mm but October alone counts for about a quarter of that alone and most rain in general falls from June to November. From December to April is the dry period with hardly any rain in February and March. Temperatures, as mentioned, vary extremely little, with just 0.7 °C between the highest and lowest average maximum temperatures which are around 31-32 °C. Lows are between 23 °C and 25 °C, with the highest lows in the wettest months, so it gets rather sticky during those times. December to April is by far the best time for a visit if you want to avoid the most sticky conditions therefore.

Avg Max30.5 °C30.6 °C30.8 °C31.1 °C31.3 °C31.6 °C31.6 °C31.5 °C31.3 °C30.9 °C30.9 °C30.7 °C
Avg Min23.6 °C24 °C24.5 °C25.2 °C25.6 °C25.7 °C25.3 °C25.4 °C25.4 °C25.1 °C25.1 °C24.2 °C
Rainfall4 mm1 mm2 mm24 mm115 mm100 mm108 mm127 mm135 mm235 mm131 mm35 mm
Rain Days0013101310131416113



Getting There

By Plane

Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) is located near Cartagena and offers both domestic and international flights. International destinations include Cancun, Milan, Aruba, Curacao, Maracaibo, Panama City, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Caracas, Lima and Fort Lauderdale. Domestic services go to Bogota, Medellin, San Andrés Island, Barranquilla, Pereira, Cali and Bucaramanga.

By Car

The city is connected to the rest of Colombia by good roads. Ruta 90 (Transversal del Caribe) goes along the coast connecting Cartagena to places line Barranquilla and Turbo and has been built out to limited-access highway. You can drive here from Bogota too, but that's a drive of more than 1000 kilometres.

By Bus

The bus terminal is 11 kilometres east of the old city. Frequent White and Green metrocar buses with air conditioner go to the old city and cost COP$ 1,700. Buses leave every hour for Barranquilla, and from there frequent buses connect to Santa Marta. The asking price for buses to Medellin is $50 USD, but it is normal to barter the price down to $30. All long distance bus tickets are expected to be bartered down. If you are coming overland from Panama your first bus will be from Turbo. Turbo to Monteria is COP$ 25,000, 4 hours, Monteria to Cartagena COP$ 35,000, 4 hours.

By Boat

Cartagena is an important port for charter boats between Colombia and Panama. There are several private boats doing that trip. Fare varies between US$375 and US$500 depending on size of the boat and on-board services. The trip usually takes 4 nights and 5 days and includes a 2 or 3 day stopover in San Blas Islands. At the Panama end, the boats either leave from the Portobelo Area or from Carti Islands Kuna Yala rather than Colón. Reliable information about departure dates and captains can be found at the hotel Casa Viena, at Zulys Backpackers Hostel[8], Mamallena Hostel or Luna's Castle Hostel in Panama City, at Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo, Hostel Portobelo [12], or the Darien Gapster in Panama.



Getting Around

By Car

You can take taxis but try avoided driving yourself. Taxis don't have meters in Cartagena, fares should be negotiated. There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negotiated rates are often higher, especially in high season. There are also night and air condition surcharges each of a few hundred pesos. Confirm your fare before getting in the taxi. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance.

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$6,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP$10,000-12,000.

By Public Transport

Buses are a good way for longer distances in the city. To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe fort, Bocagrande, Castillogrande, airport, etc there are many buses running all over the city. Ask the driver or other people who are waiting which bus goes to your destination. An urban bus ticket cost COP$2000, sold by the driver. On the downside, buses drive slower, stop at each corner and seldom take the direct way so expect a bus ride from A to B to take several times that of a taxi ride.

By Foot

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

By Bike

  • Bike & Art, Media Luna 10 #23, ☎ +57 311 4185883, e-mail: Bike rental. 1 hour COP$4,000, 3 hours COP$10,000.




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. 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 COP$2,000 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 streetsm particularly concentrated close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. Beware that many of the city's restaurants are not open on Sundays.




The most common type of coffee in Colombia is the sweet tinto. This can be bought from street vendors all over Cartagena for COP$500.




In the Ciudad Amurallada, the most famous hotels are Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa, both old monasteries renovated in the 2990s. 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 COP$50,000 you can either stay in a really nice private double room or in a dodgy dorm.

Casa Viena, Calle San Andrés No 30-53 (Getsemaní), ☎ +57-5-664-6242, e-mail: Popular backpackers place with several 2 to 4 person rooms some with bathroom and a dormitory with arco. Facilities include internet, personal strongboxes, bookswap and a communal kitchen. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. Dorms from COP$26,000, rooms from COP$35,000.

  • Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 664 7866. 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. dorms beds from COP$21,000, rooms from $40,000.
  • Hotel Familiar, Calle El Guerrero No. 29-66 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 664 2464. Run by Jairo Toro, 100 meres from Casa Viena and a good second choice. Rooms are bright and clean and prices start from COP$18,000 per person.
  • Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 664 4996, +57 5 664 5421, e-mail: Well kept, clean, friendly and helpful management, rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms, some rooms without windows. They also have another building on Calle de la Media Luna, which has nicer, more expensive rooms. The staff is very nice and welcoming. Doubles from COP$60,000.
  • Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 639 5644, e-mail: With approximately 30 rooms around a nice courtyard, this hostel offers a good deal for backpackers. Cheap and fast internet as well as tours agency service are available. Air-conditioned rooms with cable TV and a private bathroom from COP$65,000.
  • Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 664 3507, +57 5 6601497, e-mail: Popular with backpackers, this centrally located, clean hotel with nice rooms with private bathroom and air-conditioned in all dorms, communal kitchen, free internet, free Breakfast, and tours services. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. From COP$75,000.
  • 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! Make sure to get a room on the second floor, the first floor rooms are a little musty. From COP$65,000.
  • Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 608634. 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. dorm beds from COP$15,000, rooms from $40,000.
  • Hotel La Espanola, Media Luna 10 #10-58, ☎ +57 5 6604485. Same price and style of hotel as La Muralla, but the rooms are a little stuffier and darker. From COP$75,000.
  • Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani), ☎ +57 5 664-0948, e-mail: Hostel Mamallena, Cartagena is the first Colombian hostel opened by the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena. We bring to Cartagena our high levels of service, variety of rooms, orthopedic mattresses, free WiFi, garden courtyard and friendly staff. The majority of our rooms have private bathrooms and can sleep from 1 to 5 people. Dorms are large and airy and have private bathrooms as well. Budget tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios are also available. We were the first hostel to start booking boats between Panama and Colombia and we´ve bought that experience to Cartagena. Even if you choose not to stay with us feel free to drop by for whatever you may need. High season: dorm bed COP$50,000, private rooms from $75,000 but more if you want AC and/or private bathroom. Low season prices are about a third less.
  • Hotel El Viajero, Calle del Porvenir No 35-68, ☎ +57 5 664 3289. Pleasant hotel with a beautiful inner yard and a guest kitchen, but quite expensive. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $60,000, with A/C: sgl $50,000, dbl $70,000.
  • Hotel Bellavista, Av. Santander No. 46-50, ☎ +57 5 6646411. Friendly and casual hotel in the district of Marbella, some 15 minutes by foot from the old town. The rooms are spread out in several small one-floor buidlings. Rooms have private bathrooms,the more expensive ones have A/C too. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $70,000, with A/C: sgl $60,000, dbl $80,000.
  • 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. From COP$145,000.
  • Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 (Centro), ☎ +57-5-664-4361, e-mail: Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. From COP$246,000.
  • Casa Mara Hostal, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 (Getsemani), ☎ +57-5-664-8724. rates upon request.
  • Vista Heroica, Isla de Tierra Bomba, ☎ +57 3126331825. Nice hotel on the island of Tierra Bomba (10 minutes by 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 jacuzzi, air conditioning. Restaurant from COP$10,000-12,000, decent food. COP$100,000.
  • Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a (Bocagrande), ☎ +57-5-6650316. From COP$176,000.
  • Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 (San Diego), ☎ +57-5-660-0160, e-mail: Small colonial hotel. From COP$200,000.

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, ☎ +57 5 6649494, +57 5 6649547, fax: +57 5 6649448, +57 5 6649447. From COP$795,000.
  • La Passion Hotel Lounge, Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81 (Centro), ☎ +57 5 6648605, e-mail: 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. From COP$617,000.
  • Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real, Avenida San Martin 7 (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.
  • Casa Marta Cartagena, Calle San Antonio # 25-165 (Getsemani), ☎ +57 310 630 6003, e-mail: Check-in: Flexible, check-out: 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$125.
  • Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 (San Diego), ☎ +57-5-664-3648, e-mail: The hotel was 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. From COP$250,000 (low season), COP$270,000 (high season).
  • Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55 (San Diego), ☎ +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$90.
  • Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion (El Laguito), ☎ +57 5 6650660. From US$129.
  • Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29 (Centro), ☎ +57 5 664-9479. A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms reportedly from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season. rates upon request.
  • Hotel Alfiz, Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 (between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral), ☎ +57-5-660 0006, e-mail: A romantic hotel in the old city. From COP$550,000.
  • Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 (Centro), ☎ +57-5-664-0306, e-mail: This small beautifully restored hotel attracts many favourable reports in Trip Advisor and has been recommended in the New York Times travel section. The hotel is English owned and run. Guests enjoy free WiFi and a PC work station. From COP$265,000.
  • 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. From COP$720,000.
  • La Merced Hotel, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4, ☎ +57 5 6647727. A boutique style hotel. from US$249.

View our map of accommodation in Cartagena




Keep Connected


Internet cafes are easy to find in any city or town. Expect rates to run about $1,250-2,500 (around $US 0.50-1.00) per hour, depending on how much competition there is (i.e., cheap in Bogotá, expensive in the middle of nowhere). Quality of connections varies enormous and tends to better in populated places and tourist areas. Wifi is getting more and more popular in some hotels, restaurants and bars, but don't count on it and be careful regarding your privacy.


See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Colombia is: 57. To make an international call from Colombia, the code is: 005.

Using your own phone and SIM card is expensive so if you are planning to do quite a few calls, buy a phone or just a SIM card. It's simple enough to get a SIM card and even an unlocked phone at the international airport in Bogotá, although there is, of course, a price hike. They're not hard to find in any city either, just ask your hotel or hostel staff where to go. Topping up is also easy, and can be done pretty much on any street corner. The carriers you'll most likely see are Claro, Tigo, and Movistar. Claro is the most expensive (by a little bit), but has the widest coverage in the country, if you expect to get off the beaten path.


4-72 is the unusual name of Colombia's postal service. They have post offices throughout the country, which are open usually from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday mornings as well. That doesn't apply to all offices though, only the larger ones in the big cities. But for example along the Caribbean coast, offices tend to close between noon and 2:00pm. But even at the ones that are officially open all day long, it might be difficult to get anything done during those hours. For domestic services, sending letters and postcards is mostly reliable but takes days, for international services don't hold your breath. Eventually, a postcard or letter might arrive in the country of destination but it's almost not worth it. For parcels, you are better off using companies like FedEx, TNT, DHL or UPS.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 10.414252
  • Longitude: -75.526329

Accommodation in Cartagena

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