Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Cartagena, Colombia

Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Cartagena, Colombia

things to do in cartagena colombia

If this is the first blog post you’ve read about traveling to Cartagena, then welcome. And brace yourself. If not, then I’m here to confirm all those rumors that you don’t want to believe are true. My boyfriend and I stayed in Cartagena for 3 nights in May this year. Here’s what you need to know before traveling to Cartagena, Colombia.

Yes, it is important to do a bit of research before embarking on vaca in a new country. It is especially important for traveling to Cartagena. Here’s why.

View from Sophia Hotel rooftop in Cartagena Colombia
  1. It’s hot. Like uncomfortably hot. Make sure you pack appropriately and book a hotel with AC. Or better yet, plan your trip when the climate is milder.
  2. The haggling struggle is real. You may or may not have read that street vendors in Cartagena can be VERY aggressive. Well, it’s true. They will shove hats and trinkets in your face in the hopes that you will buy one. It can be so bad, that it often ruins a moment. Like taking a photo. You stop to take a photo, and BAM, there’s a street vendor in your face blocking your view. I mention this not to deter you from enjoying yourself but as informed caution.
  3. You can walk everywhere. (In Old Town) Yes, this is a good thing! That means that it doesn’t really matter where you book your hotel in Old Town, since everything is within walking distance. The downside of this is that the streets can feel cramped and very noisy. The town is really very small in size. So ask for a room at the back of the hotel.
  4. It’s touristy. And if you are into that, then cool. If not, then you may not enjoy a Cartagena experience as much as another Caribbean town.
  5. The food is delicious. In my opinion, this is a product of the previous mention in #4. Cartagena has fantastic food and restaurants because that’s what tourist culture thrives on! Take advantage of it and enjoy some of the best seafood you’ll ever have.
  6. It’s expensive. (When compared to other Colombian cities!) You shouldn’t really be that surprised to hear that Cartagena is one of the most expensive cities in Colombia. In Bogota, we would pay about $45 for dinner for two, but in Cartagena, we easily spent double that on a nice dinner.
  7. You probably don’t want to venture out of Old Town… except to visit the beach, islands, or Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. It’s not that you CAN’T venture out of Old Town into the newer part of town. Just that you probably don’t want to. It’s on the raw side and not safe for tourists. However, traveling to the Castillo or beach destinations is very common.
  8. The history is alive and well. There’s no denying that Old Town is a gorgeous colonial town with colorful historic architecture, cobblestone streets, and old-time culture. (They even have horse-drawn carriages! But, ahem, touristy ones.)
Things to do in Cartagena- Cafe Del Mar

All that said, if you’re looking for an explorative cultural vacation, this is probably not it. If you’re looking for a slow-paced tropical wine and dine experience then this may be a good bet.

If you’ve made it this far and you are still keen on that Cartagena experience, here are some of my favorite spots!

Isla Bela Rosario Islands Cartagena Colombia
  • Rosario Islands– I recommend doing a day or overnight trip to the Rosario Islands in lieu of Playa Blanca or the nearby beaches. Do take a speed boat and get there as fast as you can, the sea can be treacherous.
  • Cafe Del Mar– This seaside bar is a must! Come here for a sunset drink and stay all night for the tropical nightlife.
  • Sophia Hotel Rooftop– Even if you don’t stay at this boutique hotel, wander inside and head up to the rooftop to marvel at the views. Absolutely stunning! And you may even find there’s a DJ playing jams.
  • El Boliche Restaurant– If you are looking for a high end seafood dinner then El Boliche is a fantastic choice.
  • Paradiso Gelateria– An adorable gelato shop that will remind you of your Grandma’s house.
Inside Paradiso Gelateria Cartagena Old Town

Questions? Ask away! Happy to help make your upcoming trip planning a little easier.

What you need to know before traveling to Cartagena Colombia

Want more? Now check out 9 MUST DO Things On Your Trip to Bogota, Colombia.

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