The city was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas and is currently populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia's own variety.
Cartagena, located on Colombia's northern coast and facing the Caribbean Sea, is the most visited city in the country by tourists. It gets extremely crowded in the December holidays and the holy week, when schools are out and most Colombians take their vacations. The city has basically two main parts where tourists go: the walled colonial city ("ciudad amurallada"), which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande. It is also nice to visit the exclusive neighborhood of Castillogrande, filled with recently built condos, places to jog, and a quiet beach to soak up some sun.
Rafael Nuñez International Airport (IATA: CTG) (ICAO: SKCG) receives international flights from Panama City (Aero Republica, COPA and Aires), Lima (LAN Peru), Fort Lauderdale (Spirit Airlines), Caracas (Aerorepública) and Miami (Avianca) and domestic non-stop flights from Medellín, Cali, San Andrés and Bogotá. Cartagena is 1000 km north of Bogotá (about an hour by air), or a 2.5 hour flight from Miami and five to five and a half hours from New York City.
To get to the old city, negotiate with the cab driver before getting into cab. The price should be around 8000 pesos or so. As of November 2009, rate from airport to El Laguito is $15,800 pesos prepaid outside arrivals hall. This is definitely overpriced and is gouging the newly arrived tourist. To get into town even more cheaply, walk about 150 feet to the street and hail one of yellow cabs. You should be able to get a cab to take you into town for about 5000 - 7000 pesos but offer the driver 5000 pesos to start...Leo Berndt
The bus terminal is 6 km east of the old city. Frequent White and Green metrocar buses with air conditioner go to the old city and cost COP$ 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. (These are express services.)
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$400 depending on size of the boat and on-board services. The trip usually takes 4 nights and 5 days and includes a 2 days 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 (See Sleep), at Zulys Backpackers Hostel, Mamallena Hostel or Luna's Castle Hostel  in Panama City, or at Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo in Panama  in San Blas Islands/ Kuna Yala panama  and trip ( 4x4) to carti Panama Expect to have to wait several days to find a boat. Or see boat section here []
The old town in particular is best explored Walking. Most places in Bocagrande are also within walking distance.
To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe fort, there are many buses running all over the city. Ask the driver or other people who are waiting which bus goes to your destination.
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 $4,500; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP$8,000 or $9,000 at night, with air conditioning. Important: negotiate your fare before getting in the taxi. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance. There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negociated rates are often higher, especially in high season.
A Chariot is a popular way for tourists to get to know the old town. These can be flagged down in the street or there are usually some waiting at the Plaza Bolivar or close to the Santa Clara hotel.
Cartagena has several harbours for Boats going out to the Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca, including the Muelle Turistico de la Bodeguita, Muelle Todomar.
- Cartagena's 500-hundred year-old coralstone forts and great parts of its walled city are admirably intact and represent some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.
- While you are in Cartagena, don't miss the Castillo de San Felipe, a fortress designed by the Dutch engineer Richard Carr and built in 1657 by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. Opening hours 8am-6pm, entrance fee COP$ 15,000.
- Close to the San Felipe fortress is the 150m high La Popa hill, which offers great views over Cartagena and the harbour area. The 17th century Santa Cruz monastery is here, which has a beautifully restored courtyard and a fine image of the Virgin of La Candelaria. Entrance to La Popa is COP$7,000 for adults and a little less for children.
- 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.
- Museums: Cartagena is a city full of history, which can be visited at the Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of Inquisition), where the Spanish Inquisition tortured, judged and convicted men accused of crimes against religion. It is situated in 'Plaza de Bolivar', in the historic center. A tourist guide, in English, can be purchased for COP$15.000.
- Churches: 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 Bolivar and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
- Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic and urban beauty.
- If you are interested in beaching it, Playa Blanca is the place to be. You can take either a ferry from the port near the Centro de Convenciones or go by car (via the bridge to the island of Baru). There is also a direct bus going on Sunday morning. The beaches are far cleaner than those in and around the city. There are a lot of vendors trying hassle you for oysters or massages. You can rent a hammock and stay the night as well, which is a very budget-conscious way to spend a few days.
- Farther down from Playa Blanca on Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru (Website:)- a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach.
- Several agents arrange boat tours to Islas del Rosario. A set of small islands out of the coast. Usually the tour include lunch, a visit to an aquarium and a few hours at Playa Blanca. Not included in the price is harbor tax and park entrance (C$10.000 total) and the entrance fee to the aquarium (C$15.000). If you buy your tour at one of the street vendors, don't pay in advance, preferably pay part or all at return in Cartagena. At least one of these tours is to a resort "Coco Liso" which is something like a Colombian butlins. You will be promised a beach, pay a high fee, then disembark a boat after an hour and a half to be greeted with a fairly basic hotel, gimicky pool, and about 6 square feet of beach. Buying a piece of "coral" jewellery from one of the many hawkers, engage them in conversation, and they might lead you to their private beach - quite beautiful, and all the more interesting for having its existence totally denied by the tour operators. The tourist offices in the centre of the old town and a good place to compare the many possible trips to the islands.
- Chiva Bus is a must do fun activity in Cartagena. If you've visited Cartagena for even a day you've undoubtedly seen the open air, colorful buses going through the city loaded with people having fun, drinking and enjoying the loud beat of local music. A good activity for couples, families or groups. There are various pickup locations at mostly tourist hotels (Decameron, Caribe, Hilton etc) or just talk your the people to make arrangements. (Website:). Prices range from $18.000 to $25.000 (COP) depending on tour.
- Latin Dance Lessons - Latin dances, first of all the Salsa form an integral part of Caribbean culture. The colorful mixture of people in Cartagena and their passionate way of living find one if its most eminent expressions in the vibrant rhythms all around. Crazy Salsa offers you a wide range of latin dance classes, focussing on Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. There are introductary classes every firday and saturday at 5pm for just $10.000 (COP) - for advanced and intensive classes, workshops or other questions visit crazysalsa.net (Website:).
- Spanish Classes - Cartagena is an ideal city for some extended Spanish language studies - a beautiful but not too large city center, close by beaches and heaps of activities to do. Colombia is also reknown for it´s pure Spanish which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanisch language schools in Cartagena. BABEL International Language Institute is located directly in the old city in one of the picturesque streets. They offer all kinds of group and private classes and also combined Spanish and Salsa packages (Website:).
Playa Blanca is widely regarded as the best beach of Cartagena, but is not that easy to reach. With its white sand and crystal clear water it is probably one of the best beaches in Colombia. After tour-boats leave in the afternoon it is also very peaceful and quiet. It is worth staying on Playa Blanca for at least one night. There are several places where you can rent hammocks, get food and drinks. For example “Wittenbergs place”. On the beach you will be approached to buy massages, fruit platters, sea food and jewelry among other things. Look out for the vendors selling oysters: they will give you an oyster as a present (regalo) to taste. They will quickly crack the shells and serve you a number of oysters, after which you are told that they each cost 2,000 pesos. Avoid this 30,000 peso charge and the subsequent argument on the beach. If you are looking for great seafood and Coco Locos, ask around for Nelson Mandela.
By boat Take a bus or taxi to “Mercado Bazurto”, the big market of Cartagena about 10 minutes from the Center. From there, every day, except Sundays, small cargo-boats (lancha de carga) leave for Playa Blanca. They don´t have an exact departure time, be there before 9AM to be sure. You will have to pay about 20.000 pesos each way(diciembre 2008) and the trip takes more or less 1 hour to reach the beach.The way back is much easier, most boats (tourboats) will bring you back for arround 15.000 pesos. Keep in mind that the last boats from Playa Blanca to Cartagena leave around 2-3PM! More comfortable and safer is taking a roundtrip from the center at Muelle de las Pegasos. You can bargain down a one-way-trip without lunch to about 25.000 Pesos plus 8.300 port tax. The tour takes you to Rosario Islands first until it reaches Playa Blanca in the late morning. You can leave the tour there to stay overnight.
Overland by public transport (2-3 tough hours): 1. Bus to Pasacaballos – 2. ferry or canoe to cross “Canal del Dique” – 3.on the other side you take any kind of transport to Santa Ana (bus,jeep,mototaxi) 4.from Santana further on to Playa Blanca there are buses,jeeps or mototaxis - if you like it cheap try to reach Santana until 9 a.m ,later on the only bus is gone and you have to take a mototaxi for 12.000 pesos which you actualy can take already once your crossed the "Canal del Dique", Its about 2 hours walking distance from Santana to Playa Planca. Fare all together around 3.500 pesos or 12.000 pesos if you take a moto taxi once you crossed te "canal del Dique"
- Ocean Front Baru on Baru Island, on Cholon Bay 321 502 4625 US$200-600 depending on amount of people and season Offers two cabins (for eleven people max) to stay. Private deck where you can park your boat, cook and small boat to go to white sand beaches or snorkeling included.
- Handcrafts are fashionable and sophisticated.
- Emeralds are available for sale all over Cartagena, including polished and uncut loose emeralds and beautiful jewelry. The prices are extremely reasonable and the variety available is extensive in the old walled city. The stores that sell emeralds and emerald jewelry use various names such as "Taller y Fabrica de Joyas" (workshop and manufactuer of jewelry), "Museo de Artesanias y Esmeraldas" (museum of crafts and emeralds) or simply "Joyeria" (jewelry). The street vendors will be persistent in trying to take you to one of these as they frequently get a commission for bringing in a tourist from the street. The store owners will negotiate and provide a certicate of authenticty.
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 costs around COP$4,000 pesos ($2). 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 $1 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 streets. They are particularly concentrated close to the Plaza Santo Domingo in El Centro, such as:
- Club de Pesca - great seafood and great atmosphere. Located in Manga with view to the bay and marinas of Cartagena.
- Saint Michel, on the northwest corner of the Plaza. If you fancy a change from the usual seafood or Italian restaurants, this French option serves some very tasty fondues as the main courses in its three-course menus, very good value at around USD$10, as well as plenty of other dishes and wine at more reasonable prices than at most restaurants in this area.
- El Bistro, in Calle Ayos 4-46, 2 blocks from Plaza Santo Domingo. Excellent European Kitchen, German Bakery, reasonabel prices.
There are also several around the smaller but more intimate San Diego Plaza next to the Santa Clara hotel and include:
- La Cevicheria, Calle Stuart, opposite Hotel Santa Clara, Tel: 6642760. A great selection of hot and cold ceviches, around USD$8 a dish.
- Pazza Luna - Good, super thin crust pizzas, as well as some other dishes such as pastas. Located on Plaza San Diego.
- La Vitrola - Considered the best restaurant in town. Cuban ambience, good food - high prices. It is located Calle Baloco on the corner front to the historical walls.
- La Cava - Very good restaurant in the calle Santo Domingo. Dishes around 16 USD.
- Quebracho - Argentinian restaurant at its best. Goood meat, good ambiance. Dishes around 18 USD. It is located Calle Baloco.
- Crepes & Waffles - Very nice Colombian franchise restaurant which offers very good dishes to excellent prices (dishes around 5 USD). It is located Calle Baloco.
- El Corral - very nice colombian franchise hamburger chain. Good quality hamburgers for $10,000-$15,000 pesos for a combo. One is located in Boca grande; there are probably more.
- La cocina de Carmela - Colombian gourmet food in the Calle Santisimo close to Parque Fernandez de Madrid. Dishes around 12 USD.
- Cafe El Santisimo - One of the must see restaurants of Cartagena. Dishes around 16 USD.
- Restaurante Casa Suiza Calle de la Soledad 5-38 Centro Historico Near Juan Valdez and the Universidad de Cartagena 312-678-9309 http://mincacolombia.com/restaurantecasasuiza/ 7:30am to 8pm $4 and up Great food at a great price. The swiss trained chef offers a daily lunch menu starting at US$4 including a fresh fruit juice, soup, mixed salad, main dish, and coffee. All meals are made from scratch. Even the bread and pasta are made in house. Pastry and pie dishes are also available. Check out the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu on their website.
- Sol de la India San Diego: Calle del Quero 9-54 318 360 7190 11:30AM-10PM Excellent Vegetarian Indian food in the old town. For lunch they offer an all-inclusive (also drinks) buffet for 15,000 pesos that varies every day. They also offer yoga classes (around US$8) and massages. Supernice and enthusiastic restaurant owners.
- Sol de la India Calle Quero 9-54 in the old city 664 1330 cell phone: 318 3607 190 Vegetarian and Indian food. Restaurant has a lovely balcony overlooking the quiet street.
- One of the most popular watering holes for local Cartageneros is Mister Babilla, located on the Avenida del Arsenal, near the Centro de Convenciones. This place is great on the weekends and is notorious for having people dancing on the tables and the bar late into the night! A great time!
- La Avenida del Arsenal is located along the bay near the Centro de Convenciones. In its heyday it was the place to be. Now much of the nightlife in Cartagena has moved to the Ciudad Vieja, but this strip of about 10 discotecas is still a raging place to experience on weekends. Entry to most of the discos is 10,000 to 20,000 Colombian pesos.
- Olano´s Near Plaza de Santo Domingo Great sea food with fusion style, don´t miss the shrimps in passion fruit and coconut rice!
In the ciudad amurallada, the most famous hotels are Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa, both old monasteries renovated in the 90s. 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 50,000 pesos 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 http://www.casaviena.com/ Dorm: C$15000, room: C$16000 email@example.com 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.
- Hostal Real Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33, Getsemani +5 664 7866 http://www.hosteltrail.com/hostalreal/ Prices begin at 17,000 Pesos pp with a 8,000 peso suppliment for a single room.Opened by the Rincon family over 30 years ago, Hostal Real is housed in a beautifully restored colonial building filled with color, unique artwork, and lovely gardens for reading and relaxing. Cheap prices and amazing accommodation in the historic district. The owners are very friendly and happy to help you with any questions or advice.
- Northstar Backpackers Hostel Carrera 3 #8-96, Bocagrande http://www.cartagenahostels.com In Bocagrande, where all the action is, this cheap, cool hostel will give you everything you need to have fun. Awesome service, wifi, laundry service, safe lockers, and a good location near all the buzz of Cartagena city life!
- Hotel Familiar Calle El Guerrero No. 29 -66 Getsemani 5 664 2464 Run by Jairo Toro, located only 100m from Casa Viena and a good second choice. Rooms are bright and clean and prices start from 18,000 Pesos per person.
- Hotel Villa Colonial Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 Getsemani (5) 664 4996, (5) 664 5421 firstname.lastname@example.org Doubles from 60,000Well kept, clean, friendly and helpful management, rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms, some rooms without windows. They also have another buidling on Calle de la Media Luna, which has nicer, more expensive rooms. The staff is very nice and welcoming.
- Hostal La Casona Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32 Getsemani (5) 639 5644 email@example.com With approximately 30 rooms around a nice courtyard, this hostel offers a good deal for backpackers. Air-conditioned dorms with cable TV and a private bathroom for 15,000 pesos. Cheap and fast internet as well as tours agency service are available.
- Hotel Centenario Cr. 9 No. 30 - 40 2 Piso Av. del Centenario Getsemani (5) 664 8276 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.hotelelviajero.com/centenario.htm Prices for a double room as of COP 55.000 - negotiable during low seasonNew, clean hotel with nice rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms. Located in front of the Centenario Park, a 5 minutes walk from the old town. Services: Kitchen, Free Wifi/Internet.
- Hotel Marlin Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 Getsemani 5) 664 3507, (5) 6601497 http://www.hotelmarlincartagena.com/ Dorms for 15,000 pesos, singles for 25,000 pesos. email@example.com 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.
- 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! A room for a single person with bathroom and fan is 15,000 pesos, and with shared bathroom is 10,000 pesos. A double room with shared bathroom is 15,000 pesos. Make sure to get a room on the second floor, the first floor rooms are a little musty.
- Hotel La Espanola Same price and style of hotel as La Muralla, but the rooms are a little stuffier and darker.
- SwissResidial Calle de la Magdalena No 9-67 Getsemaní (57-5) 664 2631, cel. (57) 318 668 9274 http://www.swisspective.com Prices begin at 110,000 COP (55 USD), breakfast included firstname.lastname@example.orgSmall boutique hotel with charm and modern amenities: private bathroom, air condition, safety box, fridge, free high-speed Internet and Wifi, LCD Cable TV, laundry.
- Hotel-Cartagena.com email@example.com http://www.hotel-cartagena.com Listing of selected Hotels in Cartagena - Economic Hotels, Bed & Breakfast and luxurious boutique Hotels. Certified agency which responds within 24 hours.
- Casa India Catalina Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 Centro +57-5-664-4361 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.hotelcasaindiacatalina.com Rooms from USD 110Also recently converted, opened in 2006. Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings.
- Casa Mara Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 Getsemani +57-5-664-8724 Rooms from USD 85
- Hotel Bahia Cra 4a-Calle 4a Bocagrande +57-5-6650316 Rooms from USD 55 to 100
- Hotel Casa del Curato Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 San Diego +57-5-664-3648 email@example.com http://www.casacurato.com/ Rooms from USD 70The hotel was recently 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.
- Hotel-Hostal Santo Domingo Calle Santo Domingo, No 33-46 Centro +57-5-6642268 firstname.lastname@example.org Rooms priced from COP$47,700 (USD 20) for one person to COP$97,700 (USD 40) for six peopleGreat location close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. A/C extra. Also caters for groups of up to 25.
- Hotel 3 Banderas Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 San Diego +57-5-660-0160 email@example.com http://www.hotel3banderas.com/ Small colonial hotel, different rooms and suites from USD 50 to USD 100.
Up-scale hotels can be found in San Diego and El Centro area of the old city.
- La Passion Hotel Lounge Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81, Centro Historico Centro 57-5-6648605 http://www.lapassionhotel.com firstname.lastname@example.org 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. Spanish, English, French and
- Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real Avenida San Martin, Boca GrandeHotel 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.
- Hilton Cartagena Avenida Almirante Brion, El Laguito Centro 57-5-6650660 http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/CTGHIHH-Hilton-Cartagena-Hotel/index.do
- Agua Calle Ayos, No 4-29 Centro 664-9479 http://www.hotelagua.com.co A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season.
- Hotel Alfiz Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral +57-5-660 0006 email@example.com http://www.alfizhotel.com/ A romantic hotel in the old city.
- Hotel Casa la Fe Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 Centro +57-5-664-0306 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.casalafe.com This small beautifully restored hotel attracts many favourable reports in Trip Advisor and has been recommended in the NYT travel section. The hotel is English owned and run. Prices start at USD 110 per night (book online) and guests enjoy free WiFi and a PC work station.
- Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara Cr 8 No 39-29, Calle del Tomo San Diego +57-5-664-6070 http://www.sofitel.com/es/hotel-1871-sofitel-cartagena-santa-clara/index.shtml Nice hotel with decent prices for it's category, though a bit generic.
- La Merced Hotel Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4 A boutique style hotel
Watch out for the "Money-Changing-Magicians"
Those street vendors offer you a very good exchange rate. After you have counted the money you will recognize that a small amount is missing, and after complaining he will put exactly that amount on top again. In the same move they will take some big notes from the bottom. Most people won't count their money a second time, and first think they made a good deal but in fact got ripped off. Be very careful when walking at night specially around lonely parts of the city.
Tips for Currency Exchange and Retrieving Pesos from ATM machines. Most hotels, upscale restaurants take credit cards, but many places, especially taxis only accept Colombian pesos. The banks do not exchange currency. The easiest method for obtaining pesos is to use your debit card at an ATM machine. Another option is to use a Cambio or curreny exchange kiosk, however, your exchange rate will be a little higher than by using a debit card. Using a credit card at the ATM machine will require you to use a PIN number, so contact your financial institution before your trip.
Taking a walk
When in the Old City do not walk outside the walls after dark, and remember that it is a large city, so just use common sense. The street vendors can be very annoying, but a simple "No quiero nada" in Spanish will keep them away.
Dodgy tours to Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca
The tours offered to visit Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca can be quite a let down. You'll be offered a price for a tour which "includes" either snorkeling or entrance to the aquarium and a meal at Playa Blanca for about 50,000 pesos. Once on the trip you find out that you have to pay extra for the aquarium or the snorkeling - 15,000 pesos. Make sure the tour guides on the boat are told by the person who sold the tour what is included in order to avoid disagreements. The best way to book a tour is going inside the marina and avoiding the "sales" people outside. They are getting a cut for the sales and have no responsibility to you. Once inside ask for Elizabeth (known lovingly as La negra Liz"). She owns several boats, will give you the best price, and most importantly her word. You can rent your own small boat for COP 700.000 or secure a seat for COP 75.000. Ask them before hand about the itinerary. Her company in particular has its own "resort" in the Rosario Islands. The resort is clean, nice and has good food for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, their beach access is limited and less than spectacular. Her boats will insist on taking you there, but you have a choice. Playa blanca is by far the best beach, but it can be overwhelming with the locals trying to sell you their products. More upscale destinations include the Baru Island and private resorts owned by the big hotels (Santa Clara, Santa Teresa). In most, you are allowed to spend the day at the beach. Every tour boat has their own agenda.
- About 16 km north of Cartagena is the Volcán del Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano. You can enter the crater and take a mud bath (entrance C$2.000), which is enormous fun and highly recommended. The nearby laguna then serves as a natural bath for washing off the mud.
- The easiest way to get there is to take a tour. These cost around COP$30,000 with Rafael Perez tours (next door to the Cartagena Plaza Hotel in Bocagrande) and include the one hour each way journey to the volcano, as well as lunch and a swim at La Boquilla on the return to Cartagena. Another tour company is Los Pinos, which also charges COP$35,000 (or $25,000 without lunch) and uses the Manzanillo del Mar fishing village for a swim on the return journey. This tour can be booked from many hotels, such as the Casa Viena, in Calle San Andrés (Getsemaní), 5-664-6242. Although the mud bath and massages are offered free of charge, you will be expected to tip anyone who helped you before your bus leaves. Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, your shoes, holding onto your camera and taking snaps while you are immersed in the mud, and the women who help you wash off in the laguna. Tips of between COP$1,000 and $5,000 for each person are the norm, depending on the service. Be sure to bring change.
- Going by yourself is quite a hassle, but you may find you have the whole volcano to yourself and can take all the time you want. Take a bus from the city center to Terminal de transporte (COP$1,700). There, take the hourly bus to Galerazamba and get off at Lomito Arena (COP$6,000). From there it is 45 minute walk or take a motortaxi (COP$2,000). The whole trip takes about two-and-half hours. The last bus back from Lomito Arena leaves around 3pm.
- Botanical gardens Jardin Botanico de Guillermo Piñeres
- A pleasant escape from the city rush, 18 km out of Cartagena close to “Turbaco”, a small town 20 km from the center of Cartagena. Take a bus to the bus terminal and get of at “la Bomba de Amparo”, a big gasolin station 25 minuits out of the center.from there, are leaving buses to “Turbaco”- get off (ask the driver)a bit before Turbaco and walk to the right,about 20 minuits straight on. Together with your entry ticket you get leaflet which lists about 250 plants identified in the gardens, including some varieties of coca plants.
- Islas del Rosario On Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru - a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach. Day tours from Cartagena (C$110.000) include boat transportation, lunch and refreshments, boat trips to near by secluded white sand beaches, and Sportbaru’s amenities to be enjoyed. Tel: (+57)-5-6642992 or Email to email@example.com. Website:  If you get to Playa Blanca, great accomodation, suggestions and ambiance are available from Ed (Edgar). He is available on the north end of the beach, and most locals know him and can show the way.
- Punta Arena
- A fishing village 10 minutes by boat on the island of “Tierrabomba”,in front of “Laguito” (Bocagrande).You reach it by boats (lanchas),leaving from “Muelle de los Pegasos” or with boats in “Laguito” next to the Hilton Hotel. Punta Arena has probably the nicest beaches close to Cartagena. There are restaurants where you can get food and drinks. Enjoy a day, hanging out under palm trees with a fantastic few on the skyline of Cartagena.
- La Boquilla a fishing village (pueblo de pescadores) close to Cartagena.
- Take a bus for COP$ 1100(july 2009), from India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela), if you get off of the bus at the end of the ride you can rent a canoe which brings you to a nice beach (playa de oro) passing trough lagoons and mangroves – pay for the boat once you are back.
- Bocachica - a fishing village on the island of “Tierrabomba” (pueblo de pescadores)
- Bocachica is worth to visit to see its restored fortress (fuerte de San Fernando). The beach isn't really special but o.k to hang out for some hours .you find several open air restaurant serving food and drinks.
- Local boats leave during the day every 30-45 minutes from "Muelle de los Pegassos". The boat ride takes about 15 minutes. Guides will try to sell you expensive “all included” trips to Bocachica but you should pay just the local fare. (in july 2009 - COP$5,000 pesos – one way) Once you ask for the price it will get more expensive.
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