Right in the old quarter of Cartagena there are several shops for cigars. But there are big differences. Don’t buy from the guys who sell this stuff on the streets. Our taxi-driver showed us this shop that has its own small factory where you can see how your cigars are produced.
While walking the streets of historical centre of Cartagena, somehow away from the usual tourist route, I came across a great little place that sells books and music, Forum Discos y Libros. It is situated in a lovely colonial house on two floors facing the sea. The house is painted red and has typical wooden balconies in white. The bookshop has a delightful atmosphere, with several brick arches, white walls and tiled floors.
Although a smaller shop, Forum Discos y Libros manages to have a wide selection of books (mostly in Spanish), magazines, music CDs and DVDs. I was especially amazed by the great collection of Colombian and World music. The staff was friendly and helpful. I showed the list of Colombian music that I wanted to buy and a young lady from the shop let me listen the CDs before I decided to buy them. And besides, she also introduced some new music to me.
On the second floor is a small café where you can enjoy your coffee or juice while reading a book or a magazine from the bookshop.
What to buy: I bought a book in Spanish Doce cuentos peregrinos by Gabriel García Márquez which was 19.000 COP and several CDs with Colombian music, mostly from Cartagena and Atlantic coast (vallenato, cumbia, champeta, gaita and porro).
What to pay: CDs are about half cheaper than in Europe
In the old walled city is a street called "calle de la moneda" - this is the centre for any economic shopping of leather handbags or shoes - one shop close to the other. They also have a lot of very cheap clothes but not really up-to-date designs ! Underwear is very cheap !
No necessary to ask for price reduction because they are so cheap and always offer the correct price - no tourist price rising !!!
Of course the quality may not be the same than in your country, but the designs and the prices are top !
Who cares about throwing away some shoes after 1 year of using if they cost 10-15 USD ??? And leather handbags for 15-25 USD !
What to buy: Shoes and handbags or clothes
What to pay: 10-25 USD for shoes or handbags !
I needed a new small backpack for day trips since my old one was already in a very bad condition. I noticed Totto shops before (you actually find them in all bigger towns around Colombia) and really liked things they were selling. Walking the streets of historical centre of Cartagena, just a few blocks from my hotel, I came across rather big one with a great selection, so I knew I came to the right place. I found what I was looking for, and more.
Colombian company Totto make and sell bags, sport clothes and accessories. It started as an idea in 1988 and since then worked hard to create a brand that everybody wants to use. As for the quality and unique funky design, their products are highly appreciated by customers.
What to buy: You'll find a great selection of hand bags for different use, travel bags, outdoor accessories, wallets and sport clothes. I came for a day backpack but ended up buying also a small shoulder bag.
What to pay: I paid 119.000 COP for a nice red&black day backpack and 43.900 COP for a funky shoulder bag for the city. It's not cheap for Colombian standards but worth the price for the quality and its unique design.
On the avenida San Martin in Bocagrande you will find 200m before getting to the Hotel Caribe little commercial centers called "San Andresito" - everyone around will indicate you where to locate them .. they are very popular !
They are black-importing their stuff from Panama or San Andres (therfore the name) without taxes and therefore they are so cheap - there is nothing ilegal buying there ..
What to buy: Every type of brand sweets and alcohol and cheap electronics or accessoires like watches and sunglasses as well as local souvenir can be bought there for nearly 20-30% off !!!
What to pay: 20-30% off !!!
Along the city you may find many place to go grocery shopping or buy the essential stuff you need ( toothpaste ....).
Carulla is the best chain of supermarkets and its not expensive.
Dont go buyin fruuit on the street unless youknow how to... you never know where they've been.
What to buy: Groceries, hygene products and etc...
What to pay: Depends.
Not very expensive.
The city is full of annoying peddlers. It is understandable that people try to make a living, but their attitude that you are a walking ATM can get annoying.
What to buy: You can buy "Louis Vitton" watches for under US$50 here, and Montblanc even cheaper :-0. If you feel like you need to buy a t-shirt though, you can find them a lot cheaper in the stores in Boca Grande.
What to pay: Haggle
The ’stone’ in question here is, of course, the emerald, which Cartagena is famous for. 98 percent of the world's emeralds are mined in Colombia.
There were many jewellery stores around the centre that sold emeralds. There was even one store called ‘Romance In The Stone’. A pun to the fun and funny treasure-hunting movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Clever.
A small shop near Hotel Caribe, a bit pricey, but still cheaper than the US (or so the american girls say), you'll find some great stuff there! I bought some things for the beach over there and, although it was quite expensive, I never regretted it!
What to buy: Try a nice selection of shorts for the beach, specifically crafted for surfing. Great stuff!
What to pay: A lot more than you would expect from Cartagena :) The prices in Cartagena are generally higher than in the rest of Colombia and this store is one of the examples of that.
This jewelry store contains a small museum, and is also an emerald workshop, where they showed us the process of turning raw emeralds into jewelry.
They have beautiful jewelry, but if you aren't in shopping mode (I wasn't) you can tour the workshop and museum.
What to buy: Emeralds
What to pay: It's not cheap!