Streets on Cartagena
SECURITY IN CARTAGENA
Everybody knows, that unfortunately Colombia has problems with guerrillas and cocaine cartels, but tourists have to know that Colombia has lovely beaches and cities and nice people too. You just come to Cartagena, it's one of the best places in the world. If you come here, you'll be happy, you'll be relaxed because you are in paradise. Here as everywhere in the world there are dangerous places, so it's necesary that you take care. Some precautions you should consider are: - If you take a taxi, don't take it at the street bacause it may be that the driver will try to rob you with El paseo millonario?. This is when you get into a taxi and after a few minutes and other man gets into the taxi and tells you that you have to give him your Debito cards and money, when they have taken your things they leave you in a remote place. But, don't worry, this doesn't to need to happen to you, if you call phone to the taxis company, the driver will arrive to your hotel and he'll take you where you want.
Don`t walk alone in the night in dark streets bacause you could have a bad experience, it would be better if you walk with your partner or a close friend then, the night will be a lot of safer? Don't wear expensive items of clothing or carry expensive cameras or handbags because, this will increase your chance of being robbed. You should leave your expensive items in a safe place in the hotel. Well, worldwide there are dangers, you just have to enjoy your holiday in our beatiful city, taste our delicious foods, refreshing a beer, and for your relax, drink a exquisit cup of coffee.
Everybody needs to make money. The most annoying thing about Cartagena is the vendors at the beach in Boca Grande. They are mostly harmless, but like flies. Women offer to message your legs and arms with some water(sea water) and claim its medicinal value. They are persistent, just ignore them. You ignore all the vendors and they will leave.
Warning: Responsible Tourism
Male, solo-traveler, I was offered at the beach in Bocagrande, in sequence by the same street vendor, cold beer, water sports and young girls in my hotel room. My hotel had a posting advising they would ID all minors getting through the front-door and assess their relationship with the guests. Apparently, and my experience confirms, teen and infant prostitution is a serious issue in Cartagena. Be advised.
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Warning: Pricey Cartagena
As a result of the loss of value of the US Dollar on the international market starting from 2007, Cartagena has become pricey for those tourists coming from countries with economies linked to US$. At time of my visit in May 2008, 1 US$ was worth some 1,750 Colombian Pesos (exchanged at 1,600 in the street in Cartagena) up to about 30% less than in 2006. As a results prices, where calculated in US$, have soared.
As a reference, in a midrange restaurant in the Historical City Center you will need $10-$15 for pasta or pizza and $15-$25 for a main course. An alcoholic drink in a bar or club will cost you some $7-$10. My single-room in a midrange hotel was $75 and all other options I considered were starting at $100. Street food and beer ($1-2) were still cheap.
If you are using a guidebook edited before 2007-8 (I was using Lonely Planet edited in 2006) consider the exchange rate impact when considering prices listed (plus add inflation). In my case, in May 2008, prices I paid in Cartagena were consistently 30%-40% higher than the ones shown on my LP.
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The poor Cartagena
Behind the glamour and beauty of modern Bocagrande and the old part of the city, there is a huge part of the city where you will find no glamour. Conveniently hidden, it's a place where people are poor and where you would most likely be far less hospitably greeted. That part of the city is probably also relatively safe, but that those facts are something that should be kept in mind.
Danger: Wandering the Streets, Use Common Sense
Safety was one of my concerns before traveling to Cartagena but as a matter of fact I did not feel any more unsafe than in other big cities worldwide. The Historical City Center (Centro) is crowded with locals, tourists, street vendors and, among others, few beggars but there is a lot of police as well and, generally speaking, one feels reasonably safe. After sunset streets of the Centro empty and one needs to be more careful but with the guard on and using common sense one should manage to avoid troubles.
Outside Centro other areas of interest to tourists are the neighbor of Getsemaní, right outside the walled city, where few budget hotels are located, and the residential area of Bocagrande, with few hangout places and the beach. I was advised by my hotel concierge not to walk around Getsemaní at night and I didn't do it. Bocagrande is considered pretty safe and in any case there is no reason to wander around, just take a taxi to/from your destination. Taxi are generally considered safe, I took a few and didn't have bad experiences nor perception of being close to one.
All in all, no reason to be over-concerned about safety so long as you keep your guard on and use common sense. Forget about kidnapping by drug-cartel and guerrilla; they do not operate here and anyway tourists are not a target for their purposes.
- Arts and Culture
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Everybody needs to make money. The most annoying thing about Cartagena is the vendors at the beach in Boca Grande. They are mostly harmless, but like flies. The message women offer to message your legs and arms with some water(sea water) and claim its medicinal value. All a crock. They are persistent, just ignore them. You ignore all the vendors and they will leave.
shop facing the catedral with adpostal drop box
don't trust the shop with the adpostal drop box facing the cathedral behind the plaza de bolivar in old town, cartagena. they sell stamps but try to rip you off and claim that it costs $4USD to mail a single postcard. they also have a drop box for adpostal, who they claim do weekly pick-up's. i had promised to send postcards home so i bought stamps elsewhere, and came back to deliver the postcards a couple days later. all nine postcards never made it to its destination.
Colombians are not's USAs fans
In my experience, almost every contact with the colombian people began with the question: "Estas gringo?" (Are you american?). In most cases, the right anwser would be "no". Apparently, colombian people in general can't stand americans, so for them, a piece of advice is to conceal the origin a bit... It gets you to communicate with the people way more easily. Although they are really hospitable, very warm and friendly, I doubt american people would get the same treatment...
Very safe city
Just take usual precautions and try to be patient to the million of street vendors surrounding. "In-wall" (inside the old quarter) is a very safe city, you can walk late at night with no trouble. Taxis are also very safe, with stablished and well known fares from and to any part of the city so you can't be ripped off by the driver.
All of the warnings listed on my Colombia page also apply in Cartagena.
However, this town is one of the safest in the country and even walking around the old city at night by yourself (remember though that I'm a guy, I'm 6'2 and weigh over 200lbs!) is perfectly safe.
Malaria in Colombia
If you're only in Cartagena, you don't need to worry about Malaria. From the CDC website: "Areas of Colombia with Malaria: All rural areas at altitudes 1,800 m (5,906 ft). None in Bogotá and Cartagena."
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Touts and more
An outing to the Castle of San Fernando is a must when visiting Cartagena in order to understand the extent to which the Spaniards went in trying to keep off others and their envious encroaches from their most prized possession in the Caribbean. At the same time it involves some hurdles that will provide you with insights of Colombian society in general and Cartagena folks in particular. The mundane way of reaching Boca Chica, where the castle is situated, is to use a water taxi service from the Muelle Turistico near the main entrance to the old city. On the way to the pier though chances are you will be accosted by more than one "facilitators" in a rush to help you in doing something that is as easy as doing your shoe laces. These con men and women would flash some worn plasticized maps of an imaginary route leading to and from the castle posing as tour operators/guides. Of course, it is all about the money - with lunch this much, without it - that much. At the muelle itself you will notice that there are regular booths where a passage can be bought but these are not necessarily the taxi booths. No matter what, nobody helps you in exposing the con men and they continue their concerted attack; one, two, than a third one join in the onslaught. Suddenly at the question "Are you the captain of the boat" his confidence dissipates and one by one they realize that this is not going to be their day and retire. This is good opportunity for a fourth person to jump in from beyond the fence (on the side of the boats) and steer you to the taxi booth and "help” you purchase the ticket - exactly half price of what the conmen had insisted on. Then you are followed by the "good" guy all the way to the water taxi and on board where it becomes clear that he wants to be your guide. Gracias a Dios, he is less aggressive and leaves as quickly as he has appeared. After a bumpy, cramped and invigorating ride you are met at the other end by another tout ready to help. He even announces that he and his fellow citizens in the village neighbouring the castle are employed in fishing and tourism industry. Two repetitions of the expression " thank you but no thank you - no need of guide" were definitely not enough and the "guide" continued to "guide" until I bought a ticket and hid away in the bowels of the fortress. On the way out he was still around this time paired by another unofficial employee of the trade and insisting on sharing the wealth - presumed or real is unclear, until the boat in the opposite direction appeared on the horizon. Once on board the "professional" suddenly turned his tune from business to begging by asking for some money for a drink! The conclusion is to never ever give any money to people who are not behind a desk, who issue real tickets and have a rather indifferent look on their faces. Urgency is fishy.
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Cartagena, a safe place to stay.
Everybody knows, colombians as well as tourists, that unfortunately Colombia has problems with guerrillas and cocaine cartels, but tourists have to know that Colombia has lovely beaches and cities and nice people too.
You just come to Cartagena, it's one of the best places in the world. If you come here, you'll be happy, you'll be relaxed because you are in paradise. Here as everywhere in the world there are dangerous places, so it's necesary that you take care.
Some precautions you should consider are:
- If you take a taxi, don't take it at the street bacause it may be that the driver will tray to rob you with ýýEl paseo millonarioýý. This is when you get into a taxi and after a few minutes and other man gets into the taxi and tells you tha you have to give him your devito cards and money, when they have taken your things they leave you in a remote place. But, donýt worry, this doesnýt to need live you, if you call phone to the taxisý company, the driver will get arrive to your hotel and heýll take you where you want.
- Donýt walk alone in the night in dark strees bacause you could have a bad experience, it would be better if you walk with your partner or a close friend then, the nigth will be a lot of safer.
- Donýt wear expensive items of clothing or carry pricey cameras or handbags because, this will increase your chance of being robbed. You should leave yours expensive item s in a safe place in the hotel.
Well, world wide there are dangerous, you just have to enjoy your holiday in our beatiful city, taste our delicious foods, refreshing a beer, and for your relax, drink a exquisit cup of coffee.
Warning: Sending Postcards Hard and Expensive
It came to my mind as I saw another posting in this forum on the same subject! It is not easy and it is expensive to send postcards (if you or your dears still like the old-fashioned postcards) from Cartagena. After purchasing my postcard I wandered for long time in the Historical City Center looking for a post office and eventually I was directed to an office of Avianca (yes Avianca, the Colombia airline) in Calle Arzibisbado, close to Parque Bolívar, where I managed to send my postcard to Europe, I guess by express courier, for the offensive price of 11,000 Pesos or some 7 US$ (and by the way, as I write this note, the postcard in three weeks has not been delivered yet).
My Lonely Planet shows there is a post office, inconveniently located outside the Walled City, in the neighbour of "La Matuna" between Getsemaní and San Diego, close to the Monument to the India Catalina. You may want to give a try and check out if you have better luck.
- Arts and Culture
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Don't Take Photos with "Pet" Animals!
Many animals are improperly cared for and illegally owned to make money for the owner. I learned this after this occasion unfortunately. If I had known, I would have never had this photo taken (what's more, paid for it!).
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