Cartagena is a beautiful colorful city. While visiting I leaned some things that I wanted to share. So here are some things to know before you visit Cartagena, Colombia from my personal experience.
Learn Spanish. If Spanish is not your first language then I highly encourage you to learn or brush up on it because you will certainly need it. Many people in Cartagena don’t speak any English or very little. Many will use Google Translate on their computer to try to communicate which is what a couple of gentleman did with me. I got by pretty well although I am not fluent.
Don’t Drive. I personally wouldn’t recommend renting a car. They drive a little crazy in Cartagena. That is saying a lot since I am from New York, but this is an entire different level. People will drive in the middle instead of a lane just to pass and swerve all over. Don’t let the street get backed up because those on motor bikes will either weave between the close-knit cars or jump on the sidewalk to get by!
Take a Taxi. Since I don’t recommend driving, take a taxi. The taxis are yellow and have no meters. Don’t even bother asking them how much from one location to another. Especially if you don’t speak much Spanish or they realize you are not from there. They will hustle you hard. Your best bet is to ask a local how much it will cost to go from one place to another and not your driver.
A few examples: the airport to the Bocagrande area should be no more than $15,000 pesos. The first driver hustled us and said it was $40,000, we learned from that quick! Bocagrande to the Walled City is no more than $8,000 pesos. Also don’t be nervous if the car shuts off. The cars are old, you may even have to physically roll the window down for air.
Beaches. The beach isn’t too pretty. You best bet is to go out to Playa Blanca or Isla Del Rosario. I am not a big beach person so I didn’t really care, but if you want some good beach time then those are the best suggestions.
No Converter or Adapter Needed. If you are coming from the United States you don’t need this to charge your electronics. Cartagena has the same outlets. If you are coming from Europe or another country you will need this.
Currency. Make sure you call your bank before leaving the country. Some banks don’t recognize Colombia as a place to put your card on notice for being in another country. If you use it and they put a freeze on it there isn’t much you can do, but try to call otherwise. So make sure they cover this. If not make sure you take out enough money before going.
Clearly changing your money into pesos is better, but in a worst case scenario they will happily take your U.S Dollar when paying for things. I also found that the exchange rate in the States was better than the rate in Cartagena, by about $1,000 pesos.
Wear Comfortable Shoes. For the most part, Cartagena is a city that you will walk around quite a bit. The sidewalks are tiny and you will find yourself drifting into the street to walk only to jump back up when a car comes. Some of the streets and sidewalks are messed up too so be careful while walking.
Wear Breathable Clothes. Cartagena is pretty hot and humid! One day I noticed it was 97 degrees with a 100% humidity. Make sure you are wearing breathable and comfortable clothes because you will sweat.
Go Out in the Late Morning/Early Afternoon. For some reason the early morning is hot. Really hot. As it gets later into the morning and early afternoon it begins to cool off. I thought it was just me, but I overheard several other people say they felt the same while I was there. So if you want to avoid disgusting heat, wait till around 10am-11am before going out.
Hopefully these tips will help you when visiting Cartagena!
Have you ever been to Cartagena? Do you have any tips?