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“A real pearl in the heart of the Caribbean”
Review of Cartagena

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Berlin
Level Contributor
1 review
1 helpful vote
“A real pearl in the heart of the Caribbean”
Reviewed March 26, 2010

Cartagena, on the Caribbean cost of Colombia, about 2 1/2h by plane from Miami and less than 1h from Panama is one of the most beautiful colonial cities of this planet. One of the main ports during the time of the Spanish Empire Cartagena has a divine old town with an old city wall, an enormous castle, picturesque streets, stunning cathedrals and buzzling squares. The city is made up of different islands with water all around and in just 45min you get to the nearby coral reefs and Rosary islands. The colorful mixture of people, fruits dances and rhythms is enchanting and is very likely to bewitch you as well. Having the tranquil and gorgeous city of Cartagena as your base where you can learn Spanish, Salsa, dive, windsurf, kite-surf or just hang out at the beaches there are plenty of attractions just day-trips away: The National Park of Tayrona close to Santa Marta, the desert of La Guajira, Rafting and Abseiling in San Gil close to Bucaramanga, Medellin, the Coffee Zone or a bit further Cali, one of the capitals of Salsa worldwide.
Cartagena offers several backpacker hostels with a lot of charm and well-maintained and there are all kind of hotels - until the most luxury ones you might be able to imagine. The spectrum of restaurants is amazing and there are quite a lot of night clubs.
Cartagena is an absolutely safe city with all services you might want to look for. Just be prepared that Cartagena is not one of the cheapest cities you might come along on your travels.

Helpful?
1 Thank latinheart
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Geneva, Switzerland
Level Contributor
52 reviews
68 helpful votes
“A romantic, historic, beautiful and safe city in Colombia”
Reviewed January 3, 2010

As a Colombian-born traveler I have to say that Cartagena has always caught my fancy. It is after all the most well known international destination in Colombia and has for years been home to foreign tourists (even during the worst violence the country saw in the early '90s.) Colombians, however, can hardly afford it.

A tourist at a fancy hotel may spend more money in one day than five poor Cartageneans will earn in one month.

Putting all social considerations aside, and thinking only from my own hedonistic point of view, Cartagena is wonderful! Its history, its buildings, its food, its night life and... it is safe for tourists to walk around town. That alone - in Colombia - is worth its weight in gold.

I returned to Colombia for a month and a half (work and pleasure) and found myself based in Cartagena. It was safe for me to take taxis at night, walk to my hotel with my laptop and walk around town.

I made friends with a "beach watchman" and he used to hunt the best fish and coconut rice for only $4 US. (Not bad in a city where lunch may cost up to $40 US.) And used to keep my beach bag safe, including my BB and pesos. The beach is not the nicest, but it is ok, although learn to say: No gracias, to all the vendors.

Keep your instincts intact and you will know when to stay clear of certain areas. Do not put any valuables in your backpack or they will be gone (pickpocketers can be found there as they can be found everywhere else in the world.) And do mind certain areas where it is best not to show off your camera which could feed a whole family for three months.

Safe travels,

Helpful?
3 Thank berenjenas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
39 reviews
26 helpful votes
“Contrasts in Cartagena”
Reviewed December 30, 2009

I recently spent 6 days in Cartagena during my first trip to the beautiful nation of Colombia. My impression is that, with some serious change, Cartagena could become one of the great tourist attractions in the world for Americans.

On the positive side are the wonderful beaches, both in the Bocagrande section and on the north side past the airport (quieter), the magnificent walled city and the wonderful array of restaurants and fine hotels.

On the seriously negative side are the traffic (insane) and the ubiquitous "vendadores" who relentlessly annoy you on the beaches selling everything from sunglasses to a massage.

One warning. Think twice before signing up for the boat excursion to the Isla Rosario. This is a very popular attraction. The "muelle" or dock from which the boats depart has recently had a change in management. The government is now running the thing and it is totally disorganized and a bit intimidating. I spent two hours in standing in the very hot sun waiting to be called on by some turkey with a clipboard to board the launch I had pre-paid for. It was mass confusion. Once on the boat, you have the option of getting off at the island of Baru or continuing on to Rosario. I got off at Baru, which turned out well. If you stay on you wind up visiting an aquarium for the morning. I wound up with a couple of nice hours on a quiet beach in Baru. When the boat returns with the people from the aquarium at lunchtime, the quiet beach turns into Coney Island until departure around 3.

Helpful?
3 Thank mclean04
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
chicago
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 helpful votes
“Terrific guide and wonderful new friend”
Reviewed December 29, 2009

We were a bit concerned about visiting Cartegena and shopping for emeralds. However, we were put in touch with Mr. Big (Douglas Batista) who quickly put us at ease. We had a wonderful day, and were able to buy some great stones at quite a bargain. He even took us to visit his home and family. His English is faultless and he is very knowledgeable about his country, as well as world affairs. His email address is misterbig61@hotmail.com

Helpful?
Thank barbChicago
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Level Contributor
8 reviews
2 helpful votes
“Pests in Cartagena”
Reviewed December 8, 2009

Recently took a lovely cruise, with some unusual destinations. One being Cartagena, Columbia, and we were there the last week of November 2009. It was extremely hot and humid, and we wanted to take an excursion to Baru Island for a beach and swim. There are no private beaches in Cartagena, therefore local vendors are all about. They were utterly annoying! We had to get into the water to get them to leave us alone! Many of our fellow cruisers all agreed it is not a place we want to come back to. The guides were also pleading their case and pleaded for tips! We paid $70 per person and honestly, not worth it, at all! If you still want to go...beware!!

Helpful?
Thank VTMum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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