Why go to Cartagena (Colombia)?
This beautiful, colorful old city boasts museums, shaded parks and a welcoming vibe
You likely won't have enough time to explore everything, so choose carefully
Cartagena stands out from most other Spanish-speaking ports, which are quite commercial
Cartagena (Colombia) Cruise Port Facilities?
The visitors' area offers an indoor/outdoor cafe; restrooms; an ATM; a menagerie of wildlife, including flamingoes, peacocks, macaws and monkeys; places to sign up for private shore excursions; an Internet cafe; and a sizeable (and overpriced) gift shop, where you can buy everything from coffee, jewelry and clothing to candy, postcards and postage stamps. Tip: We recommend purchasing your souvenirs elsewhere if you're venturing out into Cartagena. You'll find much more reasonable prices.
Good to Know?
Cartagena is beautiful and clean, and most locals are friendly, but take usual caution. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or flashing large amounts of cash. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid any fruits or vegetables without peels, and stay away from fountain drinks or drinks with ice in them. (Sin hielo, por favor means "no ice, please.")
By Taxi: This is really the only means of transportation for cruise passengers who haven't booked shore tours. From the visitors' area, make your way to the gates, where taxi drivers in blue shirts with "TAXI" imprinted all over them wait to take you where you want to go. On our visit, a driver took four of us on a four-hour tour of Cartagena's highlights for $20 per person.
Cabs aren't metered, but there will be tourism officers near the taxi area to help you negotiate a fair price ahead of time. If your driver is taking you somewhere and bringing you back, you won't have to pay until the conclusion of your return trip to ensure that you won't be ripped off. You can choose to have a driver drop you off and pay a one-way fare, but be aware that it can be difficult to find transportation back to the port. Also be aware of enterprising locals who offer rides to tourists on the backs of their motorbikes. It's unsafe, and it's unregulated.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency in Cartagena is the peso, but U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted everywhere. If you run short, an ATM is located at the port. You'll find currency conversion rates at www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Spanish is widely spoken in Cartagena, but most vendors, store operators and attraction employees will be able to speak enough English to communicate with you. If you catch a taxi in port, it's likely the driver will know a decent amount of English. That said, it's a good idea to download a translation app to your phone or bring an English-Spanish phrasebook with you.