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  • Writer's pictureDiana Meneses

Exploring Cartagena, Colombia: A Journey From Canada

Updated: May 9


Cartagena, Cartagena's Walled City during the day, people passing by, person in scooter, bright yellow architecture


If you've been dreaming of escaping to a colourful land with sandy shores and mouthwatering food, look no further than Cartagena, Colombia! This captivating destination embodies the perfect getaway you've been yearning for. The coastal city nestled along Colombia's Caribbean shores, will captivate you by its colourful architecture, warm hospitality, rich history, and plethora of activities that promise unforgettable adventures.


Join me as I share my personal experiences, having visited Cartagena twice—once as a carefree teenager and later as a mom, accompanied by my daughter and husband. Trust me when I say that both trips were nothing short of extraordinary, as they revolved around the joyous celebration of weddings, a testament to the dreamlike allure of Cartagena.


This blog post will share my experiences, recommendations, and essential tips for a remarkable journey from Canada to Cartagena. So buckle up, here we go:


Table of Contents


Getting to Cartagena from Canada


canadian passport, hand grabbing

Entry Requirements

Ensure you have a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining. Canadian citizens can enter Colombia as tourists for up to 90 days without a visa. However, it's always advisable to check the latest entry requirements and travel advisories before your trip.


Flights

Several major airlines offer direct flights from Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal to Cartagena's Rafael Núñez International Airport. Unfortunately, YVR (Vancouver International Airport) does not have a direct flight, so if you are like me and you are travelling from YVR you would need to catch a connecting flight. I flew direct to Mexico City and then from there flew to Bogota and then Cartagena. Having family in Mexico, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to make a detour and seize the chance to visit my loved ones while en route to Cartagena.


Transportation from the Airport

After arriving at Rafael Núñez International Airport, you can take a taxi to your accommodation. Taxis are readily available, and it's recommended to use authorized taxi services or arrange a transfer through your hotel to ensure safety and fair pricing.


Best time to Visit Cartagena

The months of December to March offer better weather, with lower humidity and minimal rainfall. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. Shoulder seasons such as April to June and September to November can provide a good balance of favourable weather, fewer tourists, and reasonable rates. We went during the month of September and although the weather was manageable it still felt very hot and humid. So be prepared for that! We brought portable fans for our stroller to keep my toddler cool as well as taking sun-smart precautions such as always leaving our hotel with water, wearing a hat and sunblock, etc...


Eating in Cartagena

Colombian food is very yummy!! So you probably won't have any trouble finding delicious places to eat, however, if you still would like a list, here are three of our favourites:

  • La Cevicheria: Indulge in fresh ceviche, a traditional dish featuring marinated seafood, at this iconic Cartagena eatery.

  • La Mulata: Sample the flavours of the Caribbean at La Mulata, known for its mouthwatering seafood dishes and vibrant atmosphere.

  • Cafe del Mar: Enjoy breathtaking sunset views while sipping cocktails and savouring delicious appetizers at this popular rooftop bar.

Where to Stay in Cartagena

When visiting Cartagena you have plenty of options where to stay. From hotels and Airbnb to hostels and guesthouses. There is something for everyone, it just boils down to your budget and preferences.

  • La Ciudad Amurallada: My top recommendation by far!! The historic heart of Cartagena is referred to as the "Walled City". Here you can choose from a variety of boutique hotels and beautiful guesthouses that offer a unique blend of colonial architecture and modern comforts. We stayed in one of these guesthouses and it was perfect for our large group! We loved staying in La Ciudad Amurallada since it is walkable and safe and there's a plethora of things to discover and do.

  • Bocagrande: This upscale neighbourhood is known for its high-rise hotels and luxury resorts, offering stunning ocean views and convenient access to the beach.

  • Getsemani: For a bohemian and artistic vibe, consider staying in the Getsemani neighbourhood. Here, you'll find budget-friendly accommodations, hostels, and guesthouses, as well as lively nightlife and a vibrant street art scene.

  • Beachfront Airbnb: If you prefer a more secluded and relaxed atmosphere, opt for an Airbnb or vacation rental outside the city center near the beach. This allows you to enjoy the coastal beauty and unwind in a tranquil setting, often at a more affordable price. Our second time in Cartagena we opted for staying half of our trip at a beachfront Airbnb and the other half of our trip inside La Ciudad Amurallada.

Getting around Cartagena



  • Walking: One of the best ways to explore Cartagena is on foot. The walled city, La Ciudad Amurallada, is relatively compact and easily navigable by walking. The streets in this area are cobblestone so make sure to wear comfortable shoes, I will never forget trying to walk back to our accommodation in my nice (but very uncomfortable) pair of heels!

  • Uber: Uber is also available in Cartagena making it an easy and convenient way to get around as well. Given the fact that we relied on wifi for our internet connection, my family opted to use more taxis, however, we did use Uber from time to time.

  • Taxis: Taxis are a convenient and affordable mode of transportation within Cartagena. Look for official taxis with a yellow colour and check that they have a visible license plate number. It's advisable to negotiate and agree on the fare before getting in, or ask the driver to use the meter. Important: Some taxis in Cartagena will take credit cards but not all! So make sure you ask your driver if they can accommodate your preferred way of payment.

  • Bicycles: Exploring Cartagena by bicycle is a fun and eco-friendly option. Many rental shops offer bicycles for hourly or daily rates, allowing you to cycle around the city and along the beachfront. Take in the scenic views and enjoy the refreshing breeze as you pedal through the streets.

  • Local Buses: Cartagena has a local bus system that can be used to travel between different neighbourhoods and areas. The buses are known as "busetas" and have designated routes. While they can be crowded, they provide an authentic local experience. It's recommended to ask for guidance from locals or your hotel regarding the bus routes and stops.

  • Private Transfers and Tours: If you prefer a more organized and hassle-free experience, you can arrange private transfers or join guided tours. This can be particularly convenient for day trips to nearby attractions or when visiting places outside the city center. Many tour operators offer options for city tours, boat excursions, and visits to the surrounding islands.

What to do in Cartagena

Sunset view from Ciudad Amurallada in Cartagena Colombia, ocean on horizon, few parked cars and grassy area


The highlight of both my trips to Cartagena was walking around La Ciudad Amurallada (the walled city), and stumbling into different stores and yummy coffee shops. At night, we would grab dinner and then go out to a bar to try some of their typical drinks and listen to local bands. However, if you want ideas on more specific activities here are some that may sound appealing:

Essential Tips

  • Safety: While Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, it's important to take standard precautions such as avoiding isolated areas at night, keeping your belongings secure, and staying aware of your surroundings. If using Taxis, make sure they are official and have their license plate number and "servicio publico" label.

  • Currency: The official currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). It's recommended to exchange some currency before your trip. Currency exchange houses will be available in Cartagena but exchange rates can vary significantly so be aware of this. If you need to withdraw cash from ATMs do so in ones located in reputable areas. Major credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.

  • Packing: Pack lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for the tropical climate. Don't forget essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, comfortable walking shoes, and a swimsuit for beach excursions.

  • Language and Culture: Although a lot of locals in the service industry speak English, learning a few basic Spanish phrases will greatly enhance your experience. As with every country, the locals appreciate visitors who make an effort to communicate in their language.


Conclusion


Cartagena, Colombia people, colorful attire, tropical country

Although the journey from Canada to Cartagena, Colombia, can be long it will promise an

incredible experience. Cartagena, filled with such a vibrant culture, rich history and stunning beauty is the perfect tropical getaway! Whether you choose to explore the historic streets of La Ciudad Amurallada, relax on the beach, or indulge in delicious local cuisine, Cartagena will not disappoint. By considering the best time to visit, exploring the city's hidden gems, and following essential travel tips, you'll embark on an adventure that will leave you with cherished memories for years to come.



So, pack your bags, embrace the magic of Cartagena, and get ready for an extraordinary journey.



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