Sunday, 11 February 2018

COLOMBIA: Cartagena, Watch Out For Money-Changing Magicians, Taxi Drivers Demand Ridiculous Rates, Avoid Walks After Dark

Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias is a city in Bolivar, Colombia.

The city was the first Spanish colony on the American continent and one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas. It is currently populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia's own variety.

The city of Cartagena, known in the colonial era as Cartagena de Indias, is a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region.

It was strategically located between the Magdalena and Sinu rivers and became the main port for trade between Spain and its overseas empire, establishing its importance by the early 1540s.

During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of African slaves under the asiento system.

It was defensible against pirate attacks in the Caribbean. It is the capital of the Bolivar Department, and had a population 971,592 as of 2016.

It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia and the second largest in the region, after Barranquilla. The urban area of Cartagena is also the fifth-largest urban area in the country.

Economic activities include the maritime and petrochemicals industries, as well as tourism.

The city was founded on June 1, 1533, and named after Cartagena, Spain, which in turn was named after Carthage in Tunisia. Settlement in the region around Cartagena Bay by various indigenous people dates back to 4000 BC.

During the Spanish colonial period Cartagena served a key role in administration and expansion of the Spanish empire.

It was a center of political, ecclesiastical, and economic activity. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The metropolitan area of Cartagena is formed by:

In this area is the Rafael Nunez International Airport, located in the neighborhood of Crespo, ten minutes' drive from downtown or the old part of the city and fifteen minutes away from the modern area.

Zona Norte, the area located immediately north of the airport contains the Hotel Las Americas, the urban development office of Barcelona de Indias, and several educational institutions.

The Downtown area of Cartagena has varied architecture, mainly a colonial style, but republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower, can be seen.

The main entrance to downtown is the Puerta del Reloj or Clock Gate, which exits onto the Plaza de los Coches or Square of the Carriages.

A few steps farther is the Plaza de la Aduana or Customs Square, next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square and the church also named for Saint Peter Claver, where the body of the Jesuit saint or Saint of the African slaves', is kept in a casket, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.

Nearby is the Plaza de Bolivar or Bolivar's Square and the Palace of Inquisition. Plaza de Bolivar formerly known as Plaza de La Inquisicion is essentially a small park with a statue of Simon Bolivar in the center.

This plaza is surrounded by balconied colonial buildings. Shaded outdoor cafes line the street.

The Office of Historical Archives devoted to Cartagena's history is not far away. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar.

Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena, which dates back to the 16th century.

Another religious building of significance is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo in front of Plaza Santo Domingo or Santo Domingo Square.

In the square is the sculpture Mujer Reclinada or Reclining Woman, a gift from the notable Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Nearby is the Tcherassi Hotel, a 250-year-old colonial mansion renovated by designer Silvia Tcherassi.

In the city is the Augustinian Fathers Convent and the University of Cartagena. This university is a center of higher education opened to the public in the late 19th century.

The Claustro de Santa Teresa or Saint Theresa Cloister, which has been remodeled and has become a hotel operated by Charleston Hotels. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.

A 20-minute walk from downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, located in el Pie de la Popa another neighborhood, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies.

The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy. Some of the tunnels are open for viewing today.

San Diego was named after the local San Diego Convent, now known as the Beaux Arts University Building. In front of it is the Convent of the Nuns of the Order of Saint Clare, now the Hotel Santa Clara.

In the surrounding area is Santo Toribio Church, the last church built in the Walled City. Next to it is Fernandez de Madrid Square, honoring Cartagena's hero, Jose Fernandez de Madrid, whose statue can be seen nearby.

Inside the Old City is found Las Bovedas or The Vaults, a construction attached to the walls of the Santa Catalina Fortress. From the top of this construction the Caribbean Sea is visible.

Once a district characterized by crime, Getsemani, just south of the ancient walled fortress, has become Cartagena's hippest neighborhood and one of Latin America's newest hotspots.

With plazas that were once the scene of drug dealing being reclaimed and old buildings being turned into boutique hotels.

The Bocagrande or Big Mouth is an area known for its skyscrapers. The area contains the bulk of the city's tourist facilities, such as hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries.

It is located between Cartagena Bay to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, and includes the two neighborhoods of El Laguito or The Little Lake and Castillogrande or Big Castle.

Bocagrande has long beaches and much commercial activity is found along Avenida San Martin or Saint Martin Avenue.

The beaches of Bocagrande, lying along the northern shore, are made of volcanic sand, which is slightly grayish in color. This makes the water appear muddy, though it is not. There are breakwaters about every 200 yards or 180 m.

On the bay side of the peninsula of Bocagrande is a seawalk. In the center of the bay is a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Naval Base is also located in Bocagrande, looking at the Bay.

The main economic activities in Cartagena are industry, tourism, and commerce. The port of Cartagena is one of the largest of South America.

Other prominent companies include Cementos Argos, Miss Colombia, Kola Román, Indufrial, Amazon Pepper, Vikings SA, Distribuidora Ltda Refrigeration, Central Ingenio Colombia, Perfumery Lemaitre, Cartagena Refinery Cellux Colombiana SA, Flour Three Castles, Polyban International SA, SABMiller, Dow Chemical, Cemex, Dole, and Abocol.

In 1934, Miss Colombia was founded in Cartagena de Indias. Known as Concurso Nacional de Belleza de Colombia or National Beauty Contest of Colombia, it is a national beauty pageant in Colombia.

The winner, Senorita Colombia, is sent to Miss Universe and the first runner-up, Senorita Colombia Internacional or Virreina, to Miss International.

Free zones are areas within the local territory which enjoy special customs and tax rules. They are intended to promote the industrialization of goods and provision of services aimed primarily at foreign markets and also the domestic market.

Central Park Zone SAS: Located in the municipality of Turbaco in conurbation area with the District of Cartagena de Indias, which has 64.8 hectares in the first phase and a second extension underway to complete the 128 acres (52 ha) included in the project.

It has excellent design features and will have the most modern software inventory of Colombia. It has a permamente Zone Phase 1 – Phase 2 and a Logistics and Commercial Zone for SMEs.

They are currently on sale and rent their warehouses, lots, yards and offices for companies in different cluster.

Zona Franca Industrial Goods and Services ZOFRANCA Cartagena SA: located 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) from the city center, at the end of the industrial sector and has Mamonal private dock.

Tourist Zone: located on the island of Baru, within the swamp Portonaito, is the only tourist zone offers lots of water in waterways, marine tourism and urban development, villas and all conveniences of a Caribbean urbanization.

Tourism is a mainstay of the economy. The following are tourist sites within the city:

- Colonial architecture with Andalusian style roots.

- Steps of La Popa mount

- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

- The Walled city of Cartagena

- Cartagena Gold Museum

- Palace of the Inquisition

- Las Bovedas

- Clock Tower
Fortresses in Cartagena de Indias: Of the twenty fortresses comprising the walls in the district of Getsemani, today 16 are still standing, preserved in good condition.

In 1586, was commissioned to the most famous military engineer of the Crown of Spain in that time, the Italian Battista Antonelli, the fortification of the city.

The works of the project finally ended in the 17th century; Cartagena became an impregnable bastion, which successfully resisted the attacks of Baron Pontis to 1697.

In the 18th century, new additions gave the fortified complex its current amplitude by engineer Antonio de Arevalo.

The initial fortification system includes only the urban recint, the bastion port of San Matías at the entrance to the passage of Bocagrande, and the Tower of San Felipe del Boqueron that controlled the Bay of las Animas.

Gradually, all passages were dominated by fortresses: fortress of San Luis, fortress of San Jose and fortress of San Fernando in Bocachica, fortress of San Rafael and fortress of Santa Barbara in Pochachica the passage at southwest.

Fortress of Santa Cruz, fortress of San Juan de Manzanillo and fortress of San Sebasi de Pastellilo around the interior of Bahía, castle of San Felipe de Barajas, in the rock that dominates the city from the east and access to protected the Isthmus del Cerebro.

The fortifications of San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, protected the city during numerous sieges, giving its character and reputation unassailable. These are described as a masterpiece of Spanish military engineering in the Americas.

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 or 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.

As the commercial and touristic hub of the country, the city has many transportation facilities, particularly in the seaport, air, and fluvial areas.

In 2003, the city started building Transcaribe, a mass transit system. In 2015 the system began operating in the city

The city is linked to the northern part of the Caribbean Region through roads 90 and 90A, more commonly called Central Caribbean Road.

This Road passes through Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Riohacha ending in Paraguachon, Venezuela and continues with Venezuelan numeration all the way to Caracas. Taxis in the city perimeter do not have fare meters.

The following roads are in the southeast portion of the city:

Road 25: Going through Turbaco and Arjona, and through the Montes de Maria when a fork divides it continuing to Sincelejo as National 25 and finally ending in Medellin, and to the east to Valledupar as number 80.

Road 25 A: Going also to Sincelejo, but avoiding the mountains, connects with Road 25 in the forementioned city.

The Rafael Núñez International Airport, is the busiest airport in Colombia's Caribbean region and the fourth in passenger traffic in the country.

The code of the airport is CTG, having flights to almost all airports in Colombia including Bogota's El Dorado International Airport.

Excessive operational costs and easier connection travel and better prices had led to the shifting of the Rafael Nunez's international connection passengers away from Bogota to the nearer Tocumen International Airport in Panama and Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba.

Also more companies prefer to serve the Colombian market from Cartagena, due to better geographical and atmospheric conditions.

Rafael Nunez International Airport receives international flights from Panama City (COPA, Wingo), Fort Lauderdale (Spirit Airlines and jetBlue), Miami (Avianca), Atlanta (Delta), New York (Avianca and jetBlue), Lima (Latam).

There are several seasonal flights from many cities in Canada; also from Madrid, Quito and Helsinki. A new non-stop flight to Amsterdam (KLM).

There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellin, Cali, San Andres, Bogota, Pereira, Monteria ADA airlines , Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga and Cucuta. The low-cost airline VivaColombia also serves the city.

Cartagena is 1,000 km north of Bogota about an hour by air, or a 2.5 hour flight from Miami.

To take a taxi to your destination, pick up a taxi voucher from the official stand in the baggage area before getting into a cab which will have the price printed on it depending on where you're headed.

The price to get to the old city or anywhere in the Centro area Zone 1 including hotels in Getsemani should not cost more than COP$ 18,000.

Alternatively Uber has started operating in Cartagena and provides service to and from the airport.

Beware the porters at the airport, who will press you to tip them quickly in the local currency, it's easy for newcomers to mistake the banknotes which say "50" for being the smallest denomination, when they are in fact worth COP$ 50,000 "50 mil" vs.

"10,000" and "20,000" on all the other banknotes, and many porters make a good living on these unintentionally large tips.

There are frequent colectivos along the road fronting the airport, the fare into town is COP 2100 as well as buses to Barranquilla. Keep in mind that they need around one hour, because they go very slow.

The bus terminal is 11 km east of the old city. Frequent White and Green metrocar buses with air conditioner go to the old city and cost COP$ 1,800.

You can catch these buses on Av Santander or near India Catalina monument, look for a bus with a sign Terminal des Transportes. The trip takes around 45-60 minutes.

Taxi to the city center should cost you between 12.000 and 18.000 -depending on your bargaining. Buses the bus station leave every hour for Barranquilla a bus ride of 2 hrs, and from there frequent buses connect to Santa Marta 2 hours further from Barranquilla.

Cartagena is not close to the Andean mountains, the closest city is Medellín with a bus ride of 12 hours. Two main bus companies take you there: Expreso Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa, the latter offers online or smartphone sales.

There is no discount for advance purchases or round-trips. The official price for buses to Medellin is COP 135,000, but some travelers report to barter the price down to COP 120,000.

Sometimes cheaper tickets (COP 90,000) can be found on ticket booking websites - ClickBus, PinBus, AndesTransit and Redbus You are able to pay for the ticket with credit card issued by British bank.

If you are coming by sea from Panama, remember there are no roads or rail connecting Panama and Colombia your first bus will be from Turbo.

Turbo to Monteria is COP$ 25,000, 4 hours, Monteria to Cartagena COP$ 39,000, 6 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$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 Colon.

Reliable information about departure dates and captains can be found at the hotel Casa Viena, at Zulys Backpackers Hostel, Mamallena Hostel or Luna's Castle Hostel in Panama City, at Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo

Hostel Portobelo, or the Darien Gapster 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.

The open ports of the city are:

Port Society of Cartagena. Specializing in container management, this port is first of its class in the country, the third busiest port on the Caribbean Sea, and ranked 99th among ports of the world.

Muelles El Bosque or El Bosque Docks Specialized in grain storage, expanding to the container market. Container Terminal of Cartagena Container management.

Private ports of the city:

- The port of the Cartagena Oil Refinery (REFICAR S.A.)

- SABMiller brewery port.

- Argos cement port.

- Dow Chemical raw materials embarkment port

- BASF Colombia raw materials embarkment port

- Du Pont private embarkment port

- Cemex cement port.

- Dole Packing house

- Colombian Navy Steelworks port.

Since the 17th century the bay has been connected to the Magdalena River by the Dique Canal, built by Governor Pedro Zapata de Mendoza.

After Colombian independence, the canal was abandoned. Increasing centralization left the city without resources to maintain it. The last important maintenance work was done in the 1950s during Laureano Gómez's administration.

Some improvements were made by local authorities in the 1980s. This was discontinued because of legal objections from the central government that decreed that the maintenance of the canal did not fall under the jurisdiction of the local government.

From then on, maintenance of the canal has been delayed, though it is still functional.

Cartagenian political leaders have argued that this state of affairs might change with a return to pre-independence funding and tax system.

Under such systems the canal would be maintained properly and even expanded, benefiting the national economy.

Cartagena is one of the few cities in the world with a submarine emissary inaugurated in 2013. The emissary is the third largest in the world.

The old town in particular is best explored by foot. Most places within Bocagrande where many up-market and all-inclusive hotels are located 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.

There are many buses going to various parts of town.

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)$10,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP $9,000 - $18,000.

Negotiate your fare before getting in the taxi. Unlike major cities, there are no taxi meters inside Cartagena taxis. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance.

There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negotiated rates are often higher, especially in high season.

Uber is available throughout the city, though as the service is still relatively new surge pricing seems to be in effect regularly.

However it seems to be a decent option if you want a clean and reasonably well maintained vehicle, of cannot be bothered to negotiate with taxi drivers.

Some taxis operate as Colectivos, serving more or less fixed routes, for example from the clock tower to Bocagrande and vice versa expect to pay 1600 to 2000 COP.

A special gesture, the pointed index finger, is used by the driver to signal that he is operating as a colectivo, and by passengers that they are looking for one.

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.

They are reminiscent of public transportation of colonial Cartagena, and essentially complete the atmosphere of the old town.

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.

One of the easiest options which includes a good lunch and roundtrip tickets,you can come back the same day or stay as long as you'd like as long as you keep your ticket stub is to go on one of the big ships like the Alcatraz.

These come at (COP)$25.000, but beware - they take around four hr to actually get to Playa Blanca because they move really slowly and stop at the aquarium at Rosario Islands first.

You can take a bus to Mercado Bazurto (market) for around (COP)$1,400 from where you can catch the cargo boats to Playa Blanca in the morning for about (COP)$20,000.

Typically (COP)$10,000 goes to the captain and (COP)$10,000 to the helper which is almost impossible to avoid avoiding the (COP)$12,000 park entrance fee typically paid via tourist shuttles.

You can also take a taxi for about (COP)$7,000 to the back of the Mercado Bazurto. The boat ride takes about 45-60 min.

The boats depart between 09:00-11:00 or so, but there is no set time and the Cartageneros will likely not depart until the boat is full. The boats back depart between 13:00-15:30 or so.

Try to locate the captain in order to pay a cheaper rate. Generally, the return trip will cost (COP)$10,000-20,000 depending on whether you can avoid the helper. Some boats go back directly to the harbour next to the old city.

The first carnivals and western theaters that served in New Granada operated on, what is today, Calle del Coliseo.

This was an activity patronized by the Viceroy Manuel de Guirior and Antonio Caballero y Góngora, who, like their predecessors, spent most of the time of their mandates ruling in Cartagena.

Heredia Theatre: Opened in 1911, inspired by the Teatro Tacon of Havana, was designed by Jose Enrique Jaspe.

After years of abandonment, it was rebuilt in the 1990s and continues to be a cultural center. It is located in Plazuela de La Merced 5.

The main football club in the city is Real Cartagena.

City Museum Palace of the Inquisition, opened in the 1970s.

Sanctuary and Museum of St. Maria Bernarda Butler, foundress of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The port, the fortresses and the group of monuments of Cartagena were selected in 1984 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as significant to the heritage of the world, having the most extensive fortifications in South America.

They are significant, too, for being located in a bay that is part of the Caribbean Sea. A system of zones divides the city into three neighborhoods.

San Sebastian and Santa Catalina with the cathedral and many palaces where the wealthy lived and the main government buildings functioned.

San Diego or Santo Toribio, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Getsemani, the suburban popular quarters.

January: The Cartagena International Music Festival, Cartagena Festival Internacional de Musica Classical music event that has become one of the most important festivals in the country.

It is done in the Walled City for 10 days, which are held classes, conferences and counted with the presence of national and international artists.

- Fiesta Taurina del Caribe or Caribbean Bullfight festival ultimately canceled, for maintenance of the scenario,

- SummerLand Festival, Electronic music festival most important of the country.

- February, Fiestas de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria or Feasts of Our Lady of Candelaria,
Festival del Frito.

- March, International Film Festival of Cartagena or Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena,
Miss Colombia, Feria Nautica.

- April: Festival del Dulce or Festival of the Sweets.

- June–July, Festival de Verano or Summer Festival, Sail Cartagena.

- November, Fiestas del 11 de noviembre or Feasts of November 11 or of the Independence.

- December, Jazz Festival under the Moon or Festival de Jazz bajo la Luna, Cartagena Rock.

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, Getsemani and the modern part La Matuna.

The oldest part of Cartagena is around Plaza Trinidad in Getsemani.

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.

The Castillo de San Felipe is 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.

Open hours are 8am-6pm, entrance fee COP$ 25.000 (COP $ 8000 for ISIC holders). Walking distance from the Old City: 15 min.

Be prepared that facilities haven't kept up with entry fees: there's no interpretetive signs, so unless you take an audio guide, you need your imagination.

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$8,000 for adults and a little less for children.

Note that taking a taxi up and down the hill will cost you a shocking COP$50,000. This price includes the waiting time during the visit.

Negotiate this with the driver before getting in, knowing that the official price for driving you to the hill single way, is COP$12,000. It is advised that you do not walk up as it can be dangerous.

Museums, The Palacio de la Inquisicion or Palace of Inquisition is 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. Note that this actual tribunal of the Inquisition did not condemn many accused to death and the museum focuses more on practices of the Inquisition outside of Cartagena.

The Gold Museum is free and worthwhile. It's also air-conditioned which provides a nice break from the heat.

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.

The best beach with great water for swimming is the Playa Blanca. You can purchase a ticket for an organized tourist day trip or an overnight trip from hotels and hostels.

Several motor boats leave from the port every morning and cost around COP $25,000-50,000 for a roundtrip day trip including lunch, not including the COP $12,000 park entrance fee.

You can also get there and back on your own by cargo boats avoiding the park entrance fee. There is also a direct bus on Sunday morning.

The cheapest way to get to Playa Blanca is to take the bus to Pasacaballos (COP $ 1,700). It leaves across from Monumento India Catalina,Avenida Venezuela y Playa Pedregosa #34.

In Pasacabellos you get off close to where the Ferry leaves, ask ticket vendor on bus. The ferry that will take you across a small river is actually a small wooden boat and it costs COP $1,000.

On the other side you take a Mototaxi directly to Playa Blanca for between COP $ 8,000 - 16,000 Price depends on how well you can bargain.

The whole trip takes about 60 -75 minutes and is really easy, even though you have to switch transportation. It is definetely not worth it to take a overpriced boattrip.

There is a new highway linking Pasacaballos to Isla Baru. You can take a mototaxi directly from Pasacaballos to Playa Blanca for around COP 10000 each way.

A private car is safer and more comfrotable than the mototaxi or motorcycle and costs about COP 27,000 each way The COP 2,000 bus from Pasacaballos to Cartagena has several pick-up spots including the central park.

The beaches are far cleaner than those in and around the city. Be aware that there are many vendors trying hassle you on the beach. You will be approached to buy massages, fruit platters, seafood and jewelry among other things.

Watch out for vendors selling oysters, they will give you an oyster as a present or regalo to taste.

They will quickly crack the shells and serve you a number of oysters, after which you will be told that they each cost 2,000 pesos. If you are looking for great seafood and Coco Locos, ask around for Nelson Mandela.

You can also rent a hammock or cabin and stay overnight, which is a very budget-conscious and rustic way to spend a few days.

Be aware that if you plan on spending the night, vendors at the port will sell you a one-way ticket for COP $30,000 and assure you that you pay the captain COP $10,000 when you choose to return.

However since most people taking boats to Playa Blanca go for the day, your captain may tell you the boat is full and ask for C$15,000 or more.

If this is the case, you can always take a nice walk down the beach to where the Alcatraz Ferry departs and pay between C$10-15,000 for your return trip. To get the best rate, try to pay one of the captains and not a middle man.

Farther down from Playa Blanca 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.

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 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.

This can be a good activity for couples, families or groups. There are various pickup locations at mostly tourist hotels Decameron, Caribe, Hilton etc.

Prices range from COP $18,000 to $35,000 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, focusing on Salsa, Merengue, Rumba and Bachata.

There are introductory classes on various nights of the week for just $10.000 (COP), or private lessons for $70.000 (COP), for advanced and intensive classes, workshops.

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 known for it´s pure Spanish which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanish language schools in Cartagena.

CENTRO CATALINA is located in the San Diego section of the Old City and offers from beginning to advanced courses, including DELE preparation classes, plus activities, volunteer opportunities, dance classes, and more.

BABEL International Language Institute is located directly in the Getsemani district in one of the picturesque streets. They offer all kinds of group and private classes and also combined Spanish and Salsa packages.

About 45 km northeast of Cartagena on the road to Barranquila is the Volcan del Totumo, a 15m high mud volcano.

You can enter the crater and take a mud bath entrance COP 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. There is a morning tour at 8:30am which includes lunch and a stop at the beach and an afternoon tour at 1:30pm without lunch or any other stops.

These cost around COP 25,000-40,000 and can be booked through many hotels, hostels, and tour agencies in town.

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, typically COP 3,000 per person per service.

Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, 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. 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. COPS 3000 for every help, massage, guy who takes photos of you, women who help who washing afterward.

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 Pineres.

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 gasoline station 25 minutes 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 minutes 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.

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 (COP 110,000) include boat transportation, lunch and refreshments, boat trips to near by secluded white sand beaches, and Sportbaru’s amenities to be enjoyed.

If you get to Playa Blanca, great accommodation, 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 or Bocagrande.

You reach it by boats or 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 view of the skyline of Cartagena.

La Boquilla a fishing village pueblo de pescadores close to Cartagena.

Great cultural tours offered by community tour operator EcoTours Boquilla. Take a bus for COP$ 2,100, from India Catalina or Avenida Venezuela, if you get off the bus once you get the beach, at the end of the ride.

You can rent a canoe or piragua which brings you to some nice nearby beaches like Playa de Oro and Punta y Caco passing trough lagoons and mangroves.

Pay for the boat once you are back COP 20,000-30,000 for a canoe for 5-6 pax. You can ask here for el Papa, a local free-lance guide that also works for tourist companies.

Riding a bike is also a great way to get there and should take around an hour. Once you get past the end of the airport turn on to the beach and you can ride along the sand to La Boquilla.

Although this is one of of the most interesting activities around the city, there are not many tour operators offering it. This trip is sometimes called tour to the mangroves manglares.

Bocachica, a fishing village on the island of Tierrabomba or pueblo de pescadores.

Bocachica is worth to visit to see its restored fortress or 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.

Once you ask for the price it will get more expensive.

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 a workshop and manufacturer of jewelry.

Museo de Artesanias y Esmeraldas or museum of crafts and emeralds or simply Joyeria or 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 certificate of authenticity.

Babel School, Calle del Espiritu Santo Cr 10C 29-70 L3 Getsemani. 20 h. Babel is a Spanish school in Cartagena.

It provides spanish classes in small groups, and the student has the chance to combine the experience with salsa lessons directly from the dance school Crazy Salsa. from 300.000 COP.

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 pesos ($3).

A typical dish consists of fried fish if you are by the beach, chicken or meat, served with coconut rice or 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.

Note that many restaurants are not open on Sundays, La Cocina de Carmela is not open for dinner at all, El Bistro is closed on Sunday.

Donde Chandy, San Augustin 6-15. A great corriente. COP $5,500 for salad and main course.

Pizza and Pasta, Calle Arzobispado. Don't be fooled by the name, try their special menu of the day for dinner at just COP $18,000 for salad, main, and choice of drink.

Club de Pesca in Manga. Great seafood and great atmosphere with a view to the bay and marinas of Cartagena.

Saint Michel, on the northwest corner of the Plaza Santo Domingo. 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. Excellent European Kitchen, German Bakery, reasonable prices.

La Cevicheria, Calle Stuart, opposite Hotel Santa Clara. A great selection of hot and cold ceviches.

La Perla, Calle Ayos No 4- 42. Notable Peruvian cuisine with great intimate atmosphere. Dishes $15-30 USD.

Pizza Luna in Plaza Santa Domingo. Good, super thin crust pizzas, but expensive. There are other dishes as well such as pastas. Live music.

La Vitrola, Calle Baloco. Considered the best restaurant in town. Cuban ambience, good food, high prices.

La Cava, Calle Santo Domingo. Dishes around 16 USD.

Quebracho, Calle Baloco. Great Argentinian restaurant with good meat and good ambiance. Dishes around 18 USD.

Crepes & Waffles, Calle Baloco. Colombian franchise restaurant which offers very good dishes at excellent prices. Dishes around 5 USD.

El Corral, one in the old city and another in Bocagrande. Colombian franchise hamburger chain. Good quality hamburgers for $10,000-$15,000 pesos for a combo.

La Cocina de Carmela, Calle Santisimo. Colombian gourmet food close to Parque Fernandez de Madrid. Dishes around 12 USD. Hard to find open.

Cafe El Santisimo. One of the must see restaurants of Cartagena. Dishes around 16 USD.

Atahualpa, at end of Calle de Tablada at the Plaza de Managua. The best dinner Menu of the Day. Peruvian food with fresh fish. Set dinner Soup, Main and Juice is only COP $12,000.

Krioyo, Calle de la Mantilla No. 3-49. Casual local cuisine with good crab ceviche and fish fillet dishes. Dishes $8-25 USD.

Gelateria Paradiso, corner of Calle del Cuartel and Calle de la Estrella. Great ice cream. Fans of coffee ice cream must stop by for a scoop. COP $4,000 for small cup, COP $6,000 for medium.

Abaco, Calle de la Mantilla. Cafe and book store - a great place to relax. Local books on Cartagena in addition to great coffee.

Tropical Pollo is outside the old city past the Plaza de los Coches in Getsemani near many hostels. Popular among locals - a full chicken with sides can be shared by 2-3 for COP $22,000. Fruit juices with milk are also recommended at COP $3,000.

EL BALKOON, Calle Tumbamuertos No. 28-85 2do. Piso Esquina. 2nd floor restaurant that overlooks the Plaza San Diego.

Small balcony for seating, but great food. Good set menus and 2 for 1 specials on cocktails every day from 6-9 pm. About 26.000 COP with drink.


El Laguisto Beach Club, Carrere 1 ra. No. 1A-23. The most interesting restaurant on the beach. Food is decent quality, but the delight is being directly on the beach.

La Mulata, Calle Quero 9 58. A choice of a few set lunch options. Different menu every day of the week. Delicious and unpretentious.

Di Silvio Trattoria, Getsemani, Calle de la Sierpe N0 9A-08, Cartagena. 5-late. Popular pizza restaurant in Getsemani, close to many bars and near the city centre 5-15.

Kokoa Shushi Wok, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias (Calle San Andres, Carrera 10 #30-40 Local 1). Fresh Asian Caribbean food. Business menu starts from U$20 approx and offer a high variety of Sushi combination and delicious Woks dishes.

It's a great place for day and night and on weekend is giving to all their guest a nice party. The restaurant is located in the middle of Getsemani neighbor and is nominated as one of the best places to eat in all town. Dont' miss it.

Shakin' Milkshake and Smoothie Bar, Bocagrande, Cartagena de Indias, Carrera 1 # 11-28, frente a la playa. They offer the most comprehensive and delicious range of milkshakes and smoothies in Colombia.

Mister Babilla, Avenida del Arsenal near the Centro de Convenciones. One of the most popular watering holes for local Cartageneros.

This place is great on the weekends and is notorious for having people dancing on the tables and the bar late into the night.

La Avenida del Arsenal, 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 the weekends.

Entry to most of the discos is COP $10,000 to 20,000.

Olano´s, near Plaza de Santo Domingo. Great seafood fusion style, including the shrimps in passion fruit and coconut rice

Cafe del Mar, atop the western wall providing sunset views and cocktails, but rather pricey at COP $17,000 for tropical cocktails.

A cheaper option to enjoying the sunset is to the right of cafe del mar when facing the ocean where local vendors sell Colombian beers and refreshments. Aguila, a local beer, or bottled water can be purchased for COP $2,500 each.

Donde Fidel, Plaza de la Aduana, right by the clock gate. Great place to sit and people-watch as the night gets going. Good prices on drinks and the place to meet Cartageneros and tourists alike.

Zorba Wiskeria, Calle de la Tableda. Great little corner bar that offers bottle service and a decent street scene.

Very local. Beers are COP $3.000 and a bottle of rum COP $27.000. Right next door to a Pizzeria and up the street a few doors from a Lebanese Falafel house.

Cafe Havana, Calle de la Media Luna in Getsemani outside of the walled city. Fun place on the weekends with great music and mojitos.

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.

Typically, a room for 2 with private bath and no A/C is around COP $45,000-$55,000 and with A/C starting at COP $70,000.

Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35, Getsemani. Popular with backpackers. Clean hotel that also offers private bathrooms and both fan and air-conditioned rooms, communal kitchen, free internet.

Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panama is also available. Dorms start at 20,000 pesos, singles at 35,000 pesos.

Casa Viena, Calle San Andres No 30-53,Getsemani. Popular backpackers, has several 2 to 4 person rooms, some with bathroom. Facilities include internet, personal strongboxes, bookswap and a communal kitchen.

Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panama is also available. Dorm: C$17000, room: C$40000.

Casa de la Chicheria, 38-34 Calle de la Chicheria, El Centro. Offers services and facilities equivalent to some of the boutique hotels in the area, but at hostel prices.

You can step out the front door and find yourself immersed in the cities culture and diversity.

Awesome extras like access to a private catamaran and a house on the Rosario Islands, wake board lessons with a pro, ac in all rooms, pool, bbq area, kitchen, plus all the basics. Dorms COP35,000, en suite COP200,000.

Vista Heroica, Isla de Tierra Bomba. Nice hotel on the island of Tierra Bomba, 10 min 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 jaccuzi, Air Co for 165.000 CoP per person, with breakfast or 215.000 CoP per person, with 3 meals.

Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33, Getsemani. 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.

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.

Free Wifi and computer to use. Free coffee, and good safe deposit boxes. Prices begin at 17,000 Pesos pp with a 8,000 peso suppliment for a single room.

Northstar Backpackers Hostel, Carrera 3 #8-96, Bocagrande. In Bocagrande where many upscale hotels and all-inclusives are located. WiFi, laundry service, lockers.

Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60, Getsemani. Well 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. Doubles from 60,000.

Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media - Cra. 0 No. 31-32,Getsemani. 30 rooms around a courtyard. Air-conditioned dorms with cable TV and a private bathroom start at COP $120,000 per person.

Paid internet and tour agency services are available.

Hotel Centenario, Cr. 9 No. 30 - 40 2 Piso Av. del Centenario Getsemani. New, 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. Includes a kitchen and free WiFi. Prices for a double room start at COP 55.000 - negotiable during low season.

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 around 15,000 pesos, and with shared bathroom around 10,000 pesos. A double room with shared bathroom is around 15,000 pesos.

Make sure to get a room on the second floor as the first floor rooms are a little musty.

Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 Getsemani. 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. Prices starting at COP $20,000 per night for a dorm with fan, a bit more for a dorm with air conditioner.

Hotel La Espanola, Calle 30 Media Luna No 10-58 piso 2, Getsmani. Really cheap, prices start from 15.000 COP 30.000 COP for a room with two beds. TV and ventilator included. Can be hot, but very friendly staff and cheap beers.

Optional laundry service and breakfast. Good atmosphere and great location. From 50.000 COP for a room with two beds.

Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani. Sister hostel to the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena with a good backpacker atmosphere. Dorms and private rooms available.

Courtyard, free WiFi, good service and friendly staff. The majority of the rooms have private bathrooms. Private rooms can be hot and stuffy.

Most rooms are situated around the courtyard and some near loud bars, so it can be hard to get sleep. Book tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios.

Hostel Media Luna, Calle Media Luna Getsemani. Backpacker atmosphere and has a small pool. Big parties on Wednesdays.

Dorms available. Courtyard and free WiFi. Can be loud. Hostel books tours and provides information on bus tickets.

Tree House Hostel, Calle San Antonio No. 25- 99,Getsemani. A nice Hostel in Getsemani, near the Calle Media Luna.

The showers are great. The owner is very friendly and the atmosphere there was great, a good crowd. Dorms start at 25,000 pesos without AC 30,000 with AC.

Apartments in Cartagena's Old City, Calle de la Moneda 7-32, San Diego, Centro Historico. checkin: 3 pm, In the heart of the Walled City.

Renovated studio, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments; 14 total units so you can mix & match depending on the needs of your party.

Wifi, air conditioning, fans, DirecTV, linen including beach towels, hot water, most with balconies, mini or full kitchen.

Casa Marta Cartagena, Calle San Antonio # 25-165, Getsemani Old Town, Historic District, in Colombia. checkin: Flexible; checkout: 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$85.

Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55,San Diego, Centro Historico. 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$130.

Hotel Almirante Cartagena, Bocagrande, Avenida San Martín, Calle 6 Esquina. Hotel Almirante in Cartagena Colombia provides the best quality and warmth in services.

All room accommodations are equipped with air-conditioning, private toilet and bath, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, TV, mini-bar, ecological refrigerators, electronic safe, fire detection system, sprinkler system, electronic door access and fireproof doors.

Hotel Almirante Cartagena also offers business center, banqueting services, currency exchange, hyperbaric chamber, solarium, casino, game room, beach activities, airport transfer, concierge, tour assistance, gym, massage room, sauna, hair salon, shoe shine, gift shop, babysitting, medical assistance, dry cleaning and laundry services.

They also have El Alcatraz Fine Restaurant, Plaza Real, Los Corales Cafeteria, Pizzeria, Sports Bar and Function rooms.

SwissResidial, Calle de la Magdalena No 9-67,Getsemaní. Small boutique hotel with charm and modern amenities: private bathroom, air condition, safety box, fridge, free high-speed Internet and Wifi, LCD Cable TV, laundry.

Listing of selected Hotels in Cartagena - Economic Hotels, Bed & Breakfast and luxurious boutique Hotels. Certified agency which responds within 24 hours.

Hotel Cartagena Premium, Bocagrande Av. San Martín No. 11-113. 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.

Cartagena de Indias Apartments, Bocagrande, Boquilla, Laguito (Zona Turistica). If you want to be close to a quiet beach away from downtown noises but near the historic monuments you can do what most Colombian tourists do.

Get a vacation rental with all the amenities of a luxurious hotel at lower price.

They include air conditioning, Internet, cable tv, a gym and a swimming pool for those hot and sunny days in Cartagena. Prices begin at 150,000 COP (80 USD).

Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 Centro. Also recently converted, opened in 2006. Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. Rooms from USD 110.

Hotel Cartagena Millennium, Bocagrande, Avenida San Martín No. 7-135. All rooms have hairdryer, minibar, workspace, plasma TV, high speed internet WiFi and bathroom with hot water.

Some of its facilities and services are bar, restaurant, meeting room, business center, semi-covered pool, room service, security box, WiFi internet connection and laundry service. Rates starts at COP 295,800.00.

Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real, Avenida San Martin, 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 Mara, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139,Getsemani. Rooms from USD 85.

Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a Bocagrande. Rooms from USD 55 to 100.

Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 San Diego. The 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. Rooms from USD 70.

Hotel-Hostal Santo Domingo, Calle Santo Domingo, No 33-46 Centro. Great location close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. A/C extra. Also caters for groups of up to 25.

Rooms priced from COP$47,700 (USD 20) for one person to COP$97,700 (USD 40) for six people.

Hotel Lee, Calle 25 8B-134. Conveniently located in Getsemani, this hotel also features a rooftop pool and balcony.

Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 , San Diego. Small colonial hotel, different rooms and suites from USD 50 to USD 100.

Hotel Cocoliso Island Resort, Islas del Rosario, Rosario Islands. Cute suites right next to the Sea on the Rosario Islands, perfect for relax.

Soldeindias, Bocagrande, Morros, Centro,Zona Turistica. Luxury Apartments in Newer Buildings in the Tourist Zone. Prices begin at 230,000 COP (127 USD).

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 - Colombia.

La Passion Hotel Lounge, Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81, Centro Historico, Centro. 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.

Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion, El Laguito,Centro.

Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29,Centro. 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. A romantic hotel in the old city.

Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125,Centro. 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. Nice hotel with decent prices for its category, though a bit generic.

La Merced Hotels, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4. A boutique style hotel.

Cartagena apartments, 9 apartments to choose from in El Laguito and Bocagrande.

Delirio Hotel Boutique. Delirio is a Socially Responsible, Family run boutique hotel in the historic center of Cartagena. Enjoy luxury while having easy access to all the sites.

Oasis Collections. A portfolio of 40+ handpicked homes and apartments that include concierge service and full guest support. Recently awarded Top Villa Provider by Condé Nast Traveler.

Hyatt Regency, Carrera 1 #12-118 Near Base Naval, at the beginning of Bocagrande, by the ocean. checkin: 3 PM; checkout: noon. Opened December 2016, spacious rooms 38 square meters, about 340 sf with great views in either direction: ocean or bay. Nice breakfast.

Beer & Laundry Located at Getsemani, Calle 31 # 10-101 Local 2 Hotel Boutique La Artilleria. Comfortable Laundromat, bar and pizzeria. Do it yourself or leave the clothes and come later. Beer, Pizza, Paninis, Hot Dogs.

WIFI Zone, TV cable and Air Conditioning. Spanish, English and Italian spoken. Low prices

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 especially 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.

Some banks may exchange money, but the rates may not be the most convenient. The easiest method for obtaining pesos is to use your debit card at an ATM machine.

Another option is to use a Cambio or currency 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.

There is a large Citibank ATM location on calle Venezuela near Barrio San Diego that has a guard out front. Available 24/7.

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, gracias 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 letdown.

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.

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.

If you plan to take a bus to Santa Marta from the bus terminal, it is advised to approach ticket counters and buy tickets directly there.

Otherwise be aware, normally there is a bus service with connection in Barranquilla, where you will have to change a bus and pay a new fare to Santa Marta again.

Even if you have already paid it in a previous bus and even if you were promised that this was an absolutely direct bus to Santa Marta.

If you happen to have this kind of connection in Barranquilla, make sure that you keep your tickets with you even though they are being collected shortly after departure.

Make sure that the guy, who will meet you in a bus and guide to another bus during a connection was clearly notified by a bus driver that you have already paid your fare to Santa Marta.

You can get to Santa Marta for COP 40,000 with Berlinastur. Buses leave every two hours, 12.00 and 14.00 being good choices.

The trip lasts about 3.5 hrs and passes through Barranquilla COP 16,000 pesos if you stay there; departure every hour, half of the buses stay here and half continue to Santa Marta.

In Cartagena, their terminal is at Crespo, on the way to the airport. Many colectivos passing by the India Catalina can let you just at their door for COP 1,500. They also have buses to Cucuta, Bucaramanga and Bogota.

To get to the bus station from near the old city, take the Metrocar bus, look for the sign at the bus stop.

It takes about 45minutes and costs COP1,700. From the bus station, you can take a local bus to Santa Marta for COP25,000.

Tourism Observer

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