Cartagena Colombia is a magical city rich in culture. It is the oldest port in the Americas, established by the Spaniards in 1533. This beautifully preserved city sits on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia. The city is spread out across two main areas Bocagrande the modern city and the Walled City.
Centuries before Cartagena became a tourist destination it boasted a dark past of being the largest slave trade port in the Americas. It is estimated that Spain shipped over 1.1 million Africans to the port city. Although slavery was abolished in 1851, evidence of the hardship can still be seen in the Palenque de San Basilio, the first free town in the Americas.
Know before you go…
Language: The most commonly spoken language is Spanish. In the tourist areas however the you can easily find someone that speaks English.
Note, Colombians speak fast and concatenate words that make it challenging to understand.
Money: The currency is Pecos with an exchange rate at the time of our visit 3100 to 1. A way to calculate it is to drop the last (3) digits and divide the number by (3). (Example $120,000 pesos is about $40 USD)
Note, only one of the local banks exchanges dollars to pesos, Banco Colombia.
Most of the local stores, cafes & bars DO NOT accept credit cards. There are currency exchange stores at the airport and within the walled city but the rates are a rip off, use the ATMs instead.
Outlets: Colombia uses 110 volts, 60hz. A converter is not needed for your devices.
Transportation: Walking is the best way to get around Cartagena but if you need a ride hop in a taxi. Traveling anywhere around the walled city will set you back around $2. Note, taxis DO NOT take credit cards only pesos & ubers are illegal.
Top 5 Colombian Street Food
Fresh Fruits & Juices (limonada de coco was our favorite)
The best Colombian food is their street food. Although the food is very good it’s not life altering like Peruvian food. Disclaimer, as we mentioned before, once you’ve had authentic Peruvian food it ruins your taste for anything else.
Top 5 Must See Places
Walled City of Cartagena
El Barrio Getsemani
Free town of Palenque de San Basilio
Top 5 Scams from Street Hustlers
Street Vendors (selling hats, shirts, & jewelry)
Note, the worst part of Cartagena are the street hustlers. They swarm around you like mosquitoes and will suck the life out of you trying to get your money.
DO NOT make eye contact;put your hand up, wave them off and say “No me gusto”