So after booking the trip to Medellin, Colombia, I kept hearing people talk about another city that wasn’t too far called Cartagena. Cartagena is a city to the north of Medellin with lots of history. The Walled City and the large fortress that protected the old city are still very prominent. When I found a flight on VivaColombia for only $49 roundtrip, I knew it would have to be added to my itinerary.
Prior to going, I’d received a lot of tips and everyone I talked to recommended we contact Alex Rocha if we wanted to truly get an authentic tour experience. We ended up doing two tours and a Chivas party bus with Alex. (Find him on Facebook)
Here are some tips based on my experience…
Transportation from the airport
- Go to the taxi window and they will tell you how much it costs to get to your destination, should be around 11 COP (if you’re near the Fort, Walled City or Getsemani)
- Word of advice: If you take a taxi, take a photo of the receipt in the event the driver tries to throw it away and say you owe him/her money, like mine did. Nice try sir.
- Or you can always just take an Uber (if there’s no traffic). Ubers are plentiful there, plus you can enter your destination and not worry with trying to explain where you need to go if your Spanish isn’t the best.
Check out the Walled City
- It’s incredibly hot and humid so make sure you’re well hydrated.
- Dip into stores and restaurants when you can to cool off.
Visit Playa Blanca Beach
- Pay a little more to take a 10 minute boat ride to a less crowded beach, for the 3 of us it was 60k pesos and included the rental fee for covered lounge chairs.
- Bring pesos. None of the vendors or restaurants we visited took cards.
- Unless you plan to buy something don’t touch it! Vendors will come up to you with everything (sea shells, jewelry, even oysters). Even if they say it’s a “promotion” meaning a gift, don’t touch or take it because they will expect money.
- Bargain, bargain, bargain.
- Common sense but if they say they don’t have change say you changed your mind, they might take your money and not come back.
- Massages, massages, massages…Women will come and start rubbing your feet and back and say “this is just promotion”. If you do give in, negotiate the price beforehand, it shouldn’t be more than 20k pesos. Not interested, just say no gracias and they’ll keep it moving.
Eat at Carmen
- Email in advance for reservations
- 5 course tasting menu (about $50, with wine pairings $65)
- Outstanding service and the food was everything!
Walk around the Fort
- I believe the entrance fee was 25k pesos.
- You can see all of the city from the top.
- They offer guided tours for an extra fee if you’re interested in learning more about the various rooms and the history of the fort.
- San Lazaro Art Lifestyle Hotel, right by the fort and an 8 minute walk from Getsemani, the party area. Highly recommend it!
Rooftop party at Eivissa
- Paid 20k pesos cover
- Mix of reggaeton and a little US pop
- Drinks were expensive for Colombia, 25k pesos or about $8, pretty sure that was the Gringo price.
Party Bus (Chivas Bus)
- Coordinated by Alex Rocha, we paid $20 USD pp, but online it looks like it’s $16.
- Definitely a unique experience. The four of us were the only English speakers on board but we were all there to have fun. Each row on the bus received a bottle of rum, a small bottle of Coca-Cola, cups, and ice to share. When you run out they just send more of everything back. This gave open bar an all new meaning.
- One of the Chivas bus companies… http://www.cartagenaconnections.com/chiva-tours.html
Headed to Cartagena anytime soon? If you’ve already been, what did I miss out on, I need tips for next time.