Bus from Cartagena to Caracas
The bus terminal in Cartagena is quite a distance from the city centre. I went there twice and on each occasion the taxi took around 30 mins. This is when the roads weren't especially busy so I suspect it could take longer. The cab from Getsemani was 15 000 pesos.
The info I ascertained is that there are 2 bus companies who make the journey. There are 3 buses per day. I went with expresobrasilia.com and bought my ticket in advance from the bus terminal. Expresos Amerlujo is the name of the other bus company who do this journey. I was under the impression at one point that 3 bus companies did this journey but I think one of the bus companies may now be on a code share or something with espressobrasilia.
The ticket was for a specific seat on the bus rather than sit on any seat on the bus. The cost of the ticket one way was 220 000 Colombian pesos.
The info I was given is that there was 3 buses per day - 2 with expresobrasilia (08.30 and 20.30 departures) and with the other company (07.30). When I bought my ticket I was told to be there 30 mins in advance. There's a luggage search by the Colombian army or some other uniformed gunned up official type before you are allowed to board the bus.
The duration of the bus journey varies. I've read online that buses can breakdown and can require maintenance. That wasn't an issue for me. What did take a long time was the border crossing - 3 hours and 20 mins. This delay was largely on the Venezuelan side. 1stly there was only 1 Venezuelan passport control official. Secondly there was a very thorough luggage search by the Venezuelan army.
I took the 20.30 bus from Cartagena and this took 24 hours to reach the bus terminal in Caracas. The bus arrived into Caracas at Oriente terminal. At Oriente after crossing over via the stairs from the platform and down into the actual bus terminal, there is an information desk. My Spanish is still at the beginners stage so I asked the gentleman in Spanish if he spoke English. He said that he did a little. I asked what the situation was re getting a cab safely as I had read about cab drivers being involved in kidnapping of tourists. He said there would be no issue with 1 of the cabs that came into the terminal. He pointed me to the side where there was a guy kind of managing the cab queue. I told him where I would like to go and he got a cabbie over for me. I asked the driver for a quote and replied that the fare I was offered was too high (my guide said never accept the 1st offer). I was made a lower offer which I accepted before being whisked off to my hotel without issue.
Taxis from Cartagena airport
I arrived on a viva colombia domestic flight. In baggage reclaim there is a taxi kiosk. Give the name / address of the hotel and you will be given a printed slip with the cost. It was 9500 pesos to Gestemani.
Flying to Cartagena with Viva Colombia
I was trawling the web for a flight to Cartagena from Bogota. The comparison sites I was checking such as Opodo and expedia didn't report back any flights from viva colombia. When I went to the Viva Colombia website, they were offering easily the best deals.
It was quite an interesting flight. My Spanish is abysmal but going by the response of the passengers, when he spoke he was obviously throwing in a little wittisism or two.
Smooth flight no issues, baggage OK etc.
The only downside was with the website in that while there is an english language version, when it comes to payment it moves to a 3rd party transaction processing site. This seemed to be Spanish only but I managed to bumble my way through.
From Cartagena to Mompox
There are several possibilities to get from Cartagena to Mompox. Uniransco has a direct bus leaving Cartagerna at 7am. The bus takes the ferry from Magangué. The whole journey takes about 8 hours. A faster way is to take a bus to Magangué. There are several departures per day and the journey takes 4 hours. In Magangué you have to walk two blocks to the riverfront and buy a ticket for a chalupa (motorised canoe) to Bodega (20 minutes). Once in Bodega, hop in a collectivo (shared taxi or minivan) to Mompox (45 minutes).
Taking into account that if you travel by bus you'd need to take a taxi to the bus terminal, just a little more expensive but in turn the most comfortable and convenient way to reach Mompox is by a direct taxi. When I called to Casa Amarilla about the accommodation the owner gave me a telephone number of the guy named Toto who offers a door to door taxi service to Mompox every day. I made a contact and he told he would pick me up at 3:30 in the morning. He drove around the city to collect a few more people and then we left. It was a very pleasant journey which took about 5 hours and costed 60.000 COP (January 2010). The driver delivered me to La Cuarta where I was staying.
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From Cartagena to Santa Marta
There are a few companies offering shuttle service between Cartagena – Barranquilla – Santa Marta in air conditioned vans seating 8-12 people. The cost was somewhere around COP 50.000 (January 2009) though the price might went up since then. Still, by the time you pay for a taxi in Cartagena, the bus ticket and another taxi in Santa Marta, you likely will be saving almost nothing.
Mar Sol runs an hourly door to door van service from 6am until 4pm. What you do is call them, give your name, telephone number and tell where you are. I wanted to leave early in the morning with the first van. To be certain I had a place, I called them a day earlier. The van came to my hotel at the appointed time (5am). A couple was already in the car and we went around Cartagena picking up a few more passengers. We stopped at their office near the airport and then at 6am left on the coastal highway to Barranquilla. There was another van which continued the journey to Santa Marta. They dropped me off at bus terminal in Santa Marta where I was going to meet my Rola (this is how people from Bogotá are called) friend Donna. We continued together to La Guajira and Parque Tayrona.
- Road Trip
Flight from San Andrés to Cartagena
Flights between San Andrés and Cartagena are operated by two airlines, Avianca and AeroRepublica. Most of the flights with Avianca have connection in Bogotá (or even Medellin) and there is one direct flight with Copa (operated by AeroRepublica).
I took a direct flight with Avianca with the departure from San Andrés at 1:20pm and arrival to Cartagena at 2:50pm. I booked my flight three months in advance and one way ticket was US$ 157,60.
On arrival to Cartagena I took a taxi to the old town where hotel Porvenir was located. For safety reasons it's better to take an authorized taxi. You have to join a line of people waiting for a taxi. When it's your turn you tell the destination and they give you a paper with the destination and the price. It was COP 8.600 (January 2010). I showed it to the taxi driver and he delivered me to the hotel.
- Luxury Travel
The supply of yellow taxis in Cartagena is abundant and cheap so if needed they are the preferred choice. This said, one does not need them within the boundaries of the old town so what is left are the so called Boca Grande development and Convento de la Popa /Castillo San Felipe direction. The first makes sense but the Convento is a bit awkward and the taxi drivers know it so tough negotiations are a prerequisite for not being gauged on the way. Airport rides are regulated and cost no more than 5USD.
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Avianca offers pleasant surprises
Travel in the inundated countryside of Colombia must be rating between a challenge and ordeal but flying makes it a piece of cake. Moreover, there is the rare opportunity to see the Magdalena River, the Colombian version of Nile and marvel at her power and scale. What makes attractive flying even more are the prices of Avianca flights. In what seems to be a high season (Christmas), the one-way ticket Cartagena - Bogota sold for the equivalent of 60USD. The price includes new-looking airbuses and impeccable service.
- Budget Travel
- Casino and Gambling
getting to Cartagena has never been easier
Getting to Cartagena has never been easier. It has become such a destination that you can directly to it from some North American cities like Miami, close to where we used to call home. It's only a 2.5 hour flight from there and though affordable, often more expensive than flying to Bogota which is an hour further away. Most flights go via Bogota and a stop in the country's capital can be highly recommended if you have time.
We did not fly into Cartagena as we were on a two-month trip around Colombia and our main thing to do was a trek in El Cocuy National Park most easily reached by a long bus ride from Bogota. We made our way to Cartagena from the country's capital piecemeal but came most directly from Mompos just to the interior of the country's Caribbean coast and the area it is most closely associated with despite its distance from the sea. An 8 hour Brasila bus trip got us to Cartagena for the price of 40000 COP ($20) and involved a small ferry crossing.
Leaving town was a bit more convoluted since we not at the terminal for a convenient direct bus to our destination of Santa Marta. So, we had to jump on a bus to Baranquilla which took about two hours and cost 10000 COP ($5) each on Unitransco. This was a nice bus and fairly quick trip at just over 2 hours. That's when the fairy tale ended. Once in Baraquilla we were ushered onto a dilapidated old bus that should have never been “sold” as being air-conditioned. It was only 10000 COP ($5) for the two-hour trip but we gladly would have paid more for a nicer (and cooler!) bus. This all figured in prominently in our decision to not return to Cartagena for a flight south but to just fly from Santa Marta.
Of course, the only way to get around Cartagena is to walk. Otherwise, you're bound to miss out on a lot of the things you came to see in the first place.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
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VERY FRIENDLY GUIDES, VERY GOOD AND FAIR PRICED
ARRANGING TRANSPORT, TRANSFERS AND EXCURSIONS IN AND AROUND CARTAGENA
Day tour to Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca
The day before going I booked my tour to Islas del Rosario, and paid, at the hotel where I was staying. The tour was 45 000 pesos (August 2008). That included boat transport and lunch, but not admission the aquarium.
Tour boats are leaving from Muelle Turístico. If you haven’t booked a tour in advance you can just show up in the morning as there are many boats leaving. Some are big boats taking up to 150 passengers, while others are smaller speedboats. And there are lots of tourists!
When you arrive at the muelle you must pay a port tax and entrance fee to the national park. This was 10 000 pesos in August 2008. We had been told what time to be at the port and were of course there in time, but we didn’t leave until much later, which was a bit annoying.
As I went with a smaller boat and they were going fast, the ride was very bumpy. And we speeded past the two Spanish Fortresses Batería de San Joe and Fuerte de San Fernando. We left some people at Playa Blanca and then went on to the islands. When we arrived at Isla de San Martín de Pajarales where the aquarium is I realised snorkelling was an option instead of visiting the aquarium. Well, I had already done some snorkelling and diving during my holiday so I went to the aquarium as I had intended to in the first place, but I think almost everyone else in the boat went snorkelling. Admission the aquarium was another 15 000 pesos. Then the boat tour went back to Playa Blanca where we had lunch (fish coconut rice and platanos) and spent the rest of the afternoon, before going back to Cartagena.
- National/State Park
Due to my limited time I chose to fly in from Bogota. Avianca has a number of flights into Bogota as well as a nonstop flight to Miami. Spirit Airlines flys to FL from here and Aero Republica and Copa serve Panama City. The flight takes just over an hour while the bus takes 19-20 hours. The airport, while modern does not have jetways which helps preserve the island like feel of the city.
- Historical Travel
From Tolú to Cartagena
There are two different bus terminals in Tolú, one for the smaller more local buses, and one for the bigger buses going to Medellín and Cartagena. They are both near the plaza. I had asked the day before going to Cartagena for the timetable and Expreso Brasilia had a bus every hour. I came to the terminal and bought a ticket. When I had paid the woman told me I had missed a bus with only five minutes and the next bus would probably be late too. The bus arrived more than half an hour after the timetable. But after the bus finally arrived it took less then three hours to Cartagena. The ticket was 20 000 pesos (August 2008).
In Cartagena I took one of the city buses going to Monument a la India Catalina. They are leaving from outside the terminal, take about 40 minutes to the city centre and the ticket cost 1100 pesos.
- Budget Travel
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From Cartagena to Santa Marta
In Cartagena I took the bus to the terminal (1100 pesos in August 2008). The bus was not a direct bus as it took 55 minutes from Old Town to the terminal. You can take the bus from Avenida Santander outside the walls or from Monumento Indias Catalina.
At the terminal the company Costeña had a bus for 16 000 pesos leaving 9.45. It was almost an hour left so I asked for other companies and found Berlinare which had a bus at 9.00 for 20 000 pesos. Super cold air was blowing from the air condition in the back and there were only seats in the back left. I don’t like air condition and asked if I could sit at the seat next to the driver where it was not cold. And that was okay.
The sign at the front of the bus said Directo Baranquilla. Baranquilla is halfway between Cartagena and Santa Marta and when we came to the terminal there the sign was changed for Directo Santa Marta. After 20 minutes at the terminal we continued to Santa Marta, which we reached at 13.25.
From the terminal in Santa Marta I took a minibus to the centre of town. I was a bit confused first, before I understood that the buses going in that direction are no longer going along the Playa but are driving along Carrera 5. The minibus was 1000 pesos.
- Budget Travel
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Internal flights in Colombia are very expensive and the three major airlines (aerorepublica, satena and avianca) don't seem to care about competition and lowering their prices.
If you have a specific destination in mind, it's maybe worth to buy your international trip to there, instead of flying to Bogota and then buying a separate ticket. In our case, the flight Rome-Bogota-Cartagena with Iberia/Aerorepublica) costed exactly the same price as the flight Rome-Bogota.
Don't worry about having fixed dates... it's normally possible to change the return date for the internal segment. Local travel agents, and the local offices of the airline, will tell you that it's a connection special fare and you can't change the return date of the Colombian portion, but it's a lie. because such tickets are sold by another airline (in our case, Iberia), they can't make you pay the extra charge for changing the day - hence they will not help you.
The easiest way to change dates is to call the airline international reservations office and ask them... this way you shouldn't have any problems.
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