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What to Do in Cartagena, Colombia: The Most Beautiful City in South America

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Welcome to one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia, and in all of South America! This historical city is located right off the Caribbean coast, giving you city and beach vibes all in one! See why this city should be added to your bucket list, and read everything you need to know about visiting Cartagena, Colombia.

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Where is Cartagena?

Cartagena is located on the north coast of Colombia, along the Caribbean Sea. It is two and a half hours south of Barranquilla, and 4 hours down the coast from Santa Marta.

where is Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is located along the north coast of Colombia.

How to Get to Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is one of the most popular cities in Colombia. It has an international airport, which is located 6 km outside the city center. 

Domestic cities that fly to Cartagena include Bogota, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cucuta, Medellin, Neiva, Pasto, Pereira, and San Andres.

International cities that fly direct to Cartagena include Amsterdam, Balboa, Fort Lauderdale, Lima, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, New York, Panama City, Santo Domingo, and Teterboro.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can out from "your city" to "Colombia". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport in the area to fly. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for going directly to Cartagena.

Search for a flight to Cartagena or nearby:

Going from Cartagena Airport to the City Center

Cartagena airport has a bus that runs to the center, which is T120. You could also book a shuttle in advance by clicking the link below:

Buses to Cartagena

If you don't want to fly there are also buses that go to Cartagena from other cities in Colombia. Click below to see the different routes that you can book.

Entry Requirements for Colombia

The next step for getting to Colombia is making sure you have the right documentation to enter. Here is everything you need to know for entering Colombia in regards to Covid requirements, as well as visa requirements.

Visa Requirements for Colombia

There are many countries that can enter Colombia visa-free for a period of up to 90 days. You can click here to see if you need a visa or not. If you do want to stay more than 90 days, you can apply to stay an additional 90 at the ministry of foreign affairs in Colombia.

Covid Entry Requirements for Colombia

Covid requirements have been constantly changing, especially since the last time that we visited Colombia.

Currently the majority of requirements have been lifted. Masks are no longer obligatory, and you don't need a negative Covid test to enter the country. The only requirement is that you must fill out the health questionnaire, which you can access on the official website.


Local Adjustments

Whenever traveling somewhere new, there are things that you may forget about. Certain things may be different than where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to have in mind while traveling to Cartagena, Colombia.


The official language in Colombia is Spanish. Colombians are a bit easier to understand than the surrounding countries, but at times they can speak a bit fast. There are plenty of people who do speak some English, but it is definitely better to try to speak a bit of Spanish to get by.


The currency used in Colombia is the Colombia peso. Currently (September 2022) the exchange rate 4,400.3 pesos for every $1 USD. Many shops, restaurants, and hotels accept credit card. However, if you'd like to purchase street food or small souvenirs, it's always good to carry some cash on you.


Colombia uses the same plug types as the United States, which are types A & B. The standard voltage in Colombia is 110 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.

Water Potability

The tap water in Cartagena is perfectly safe to drink from the tap, so there is no need to buy bottled water. We suggest bringing a reusable water to refill whenever you can.

Tipping Culture

The tipping culture in Colombia is a standard 10%. Sometimes people tip more if the service is great, even up to 20%. However, this is only if you feel the server has truly gone above and beyond.

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What to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

Wondering what to do in Cartagena, Colombia? Well there are so many ways to enjoy this beautiful city! Here are some of our favorites.

Things to Do in Cartagena #1: Visit the Centro Historico

The Historic Center of Cartagena is so stunning! Walk along the streets and admire the colorful buildings, old buildings, and flowers everywhere.

This is a great place to soak in the true beauty of Cartagena, as well as for some great restaurants and shopping. Grab a seat outdoors for lunch and you can watch the awesome street performers while sitting in the sunshine, and having some of the best seafood.

Centro Historico, what to do in  Cartagena

Things to Do in Cartagena #2: Explore Getsemani

Getsemani is where you want to go if you're an art lover. Each corner you turn you will find brightly colored buildings, colorful flags (like the ones pictured above) and beautiful murals. This is definitely what to do in Cartagena if you're wanting to enjoy the colors around town.

Getsemani flag street, what to do in Cartagena, Colombia
Hostel Getsemani, what to do in Cartagena, Colombia
Getsemani, what to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Getsemani is one of the most colorful neighborhoods of Cartagena.

Things to Do in Cartagena #3: Take a Trip to Playa Blanca

Cartagena itself isn't known for its beaches, but there are plenty of gorgeous beaches nearby to check out! Playa Blanca is just 45 minutes away from the city, and easy to get to.

playa blanca isla baru, what to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Playa Blanca is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cartagena.

Enjoy the gorgeous turquoise waters, fresh seafood, and more. This is great for a day trip or even for an entire night! For more info, check out our Playa Blanca travel guide.

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Things to Do in Cartagena #4: Have a Fun Night on the Chiva Party Bus

This can definitely be a hit or miss activity. For us it started off pretty quiet (as we are in times of COVID) but ended up being pretty fun the further along we got into it.

Chiva Party Bus, what to do in Cartagena

The Chiva Party Bus is one of the main activities to do at night in Cartagena.

Bring your drinks and ride around the city with fun music and people dancing. Not only is it a fun ride, but they make a few stops at touristic points, and finish in a night club. The price was 45,000 per person, and you can book with any of the tour agencies in town.

Things to Do in Cartagena #5: Walk Down Calle de La Sierpe

This has got to be the prettiest street in all of Cartagena. Pass through here and you will see tons of flags of countries around the world. For a truly magical experience stop by here at night when the flags have lights lit up to highlight the flags.

Calle de la Sierpe, what to do in  Cartagena

Things to Do in Cartagena #6: Watch the Sunset at Cafe del Mar

This is the most famous spot in Cartagena to enjoy the sunset. Perched high above the sea, this is the spot to be when the sun is going down. They only open in the afternoon, so make sure that you book at least a day in advance to secure a table here!

Things to Do in Cartagena #7: Dance at Cafe Havana

This place is one of the top things to check out if you're wondering what to do in Cartagena! This Cuban inspired bar is the most popular in town. Learn how to dance salsa, and immerse yourself in the beautiful culture that engulfs this club. On weekends you can experience live music, and this place is the life of the party!

Cafe Havana, what to do in Cartagena

Things to Do in Cartagena #8: Visit Castillo San Felipe

Step back in history and roam around the old fort of Cartagena. The outside is pretty beautiful, and with so much interesting information and facts inside. We suggest going here early before it gets too hot out. Bring a hat (or buy one from the million vendors outside), and plenty of water!

Castillo San Felipe, what to do in Cartagena

Things to Do in Cartagena #9: Take in the Views from Convent of Santa Cruz de La Popa

Want to get the best views of the city? Head to Convent of Santa Cruz de La Popa. It is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, so unfortunately it isn't possible to catch the sunrise or sunset really. However, we do suggest going there in the afternoon, as the temperatures are a little lower, and the lighting is a lot better.

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Things to Do in Cartagena #10: Take a Trip to the Rosario Islands

If you're looking for what to do in Cartagena outside the city, than make sure to put Rosario Islands on your list.

There are a total of 28, one more beautiful than the next. If you'd like to visit these islands there are plenty of options by boat. Just head to the pier early in the morning and explore all the options that there are. There are also plenty of options from Playa Blanca, which is located on Baru Island.

islas rosarios. things to do in Colombia
isla Tierra Bomba, what to do in Cartagena. Colombia

One of the islands that we went to was Isla Tierra Bomba. We visited by sharing a boat that was heading back towards Cartagena from Playa Blanca. Here we found a nice fort that we explored, as well as a beautiful sunset from a nearby small beach. We wouldn't suggest staying here overnight, but it was definitely a nice stop for a couple of hours.

Just an hour away from Cartagena, this is a great day trip from the city. The Totumo Volcano was without a doubt one of the most unique experience that we've had, as you can climb up to the top and have a mud bath!

Let the mud harden for your own spa experience, and wash off in the warm waters of the bay sight next to this small volcano.

Volcano el Totumo. what to do in Cartagena
Totumo Volcano, what to do in Cartagena
Volcano El Totumo, what to do in Cartagena

El Totumo Volcano is one of the most unique experiences in Colombia.

Want to know everything about this experience? Take a look at our full article of our experience there!

How to Get Around Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is a pretty easy city to get to. With direct international flights, and regular domestic flights from all over Colombia, you can find tickets that are cheap and hassle free. We found that tickets to Barranquilla from Bogota were slightly cheaper, so we flew into Barranquilla and took an hour bus ride into Cartagena from there.

Inside the City

When it comes to getting around inside Cartagena, you really only need your own two feet for most of it! However, If you are going somewhere a little further like La Popa, or want to get someone quick, there are plenty of taxis, as well as Uber. The cheapest way is actually taking a taxi, but you need to make sure that they use their meter. Most drivers will try to get you to agree on a price beforehand so that they don't have to use their meter. While in fact, it is because they want to make more money.

The Surrounding Areas

If you want to head to surrounding areas of the city, such as Isla Baru, the most affordable option is to go by public bus. However, the best option in our opinion if you are trying to visit outside areas is by rental car. This not only alleviates the stress of a schedule, but will let you reach all the way to areas such as Volcan Totumo, without having to take a bus and then a taxi.

Make sure that when renting a car you do so well in advance, as when we went all of the cars were rented out even a week before we arrived. Car rentals are from the airport, and average around $40/day.

Where to Stay in Cartagena, Colombia

Now that we've covered what to do in Cartagena, let's take a look into the best areas to stay in the city.

When we went to Cartagena we stayed in Getsemani. We found that this was the perfect area! It is a bit quieter than the historic center, but not too far from the fun!

The neighborhood is colorful and vibrant, and also has much more affordable prices than the historic center. It is also walking distance from all of the main attractions, making it the perfect location to stay while in Cartagena, Colombia.

Getsemani Cartagena

Local Food & Drinks in Cartagena, Colombia

Out of everywhere that we traveled in Colombia, we absolutely loved the food in Cartagena the most! For us, the cuisine seemed much lighter and healthier, which is perfect for that hot Caribbean weather. Here are a few of our personal recommendations.


Being next to the coast, it is no secret that one of the best things to get here is seafood. Head to the historic center (ciudad amurallada) and you'll find that there are plenty of great options to choose from. One of the most famous restaurants is Ceviceria, where they specialize in ceviche. Make sure to make a reservation as it's extremely hard to get a table by just showing up!

If you head to the beach you will find plenty of restaurants serving fresh fish dishes, accompanied with all the works. Rice, salad, and plantains are very common to come with your dish, as they are the staple sides for most meals in Colombia. If you get a chance, add the coconut rice!

Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee

Colombian Coffee

Coffee is a staple of Colombia, and definitely something you should take advantage of.

Another must in Colombia is the coffee. However, when it's 90 degrees outside, hot coffee definitely doesn't seem like the most appealing thing in the world. Grab a frappe, which is pretty much like a Frappuccino, and it will be the best way to get you going through the day.

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Peru Fusion Sushi

This was one of our favorite restaurants in Cartagena. The place was clean and trendy, and the menu was incredible. Our dishes were delicious and had a great presentation. Do you really need another reason to check this place out?

Crepes and Waffles

This chain was one of our favorites in Colombia! They have one right in the center of Cartagena, as well as in the airport. The menu hosts around 40 different crepe and waffle creations, and they have both sweet and savory! As Colombia is a place where there aren’t many vegetarian options, we found that this is perfect for those trying to stay away from meat (don’t worry they also have plenty of meat options).

Our personal favorites were the Caprice and the Palmitos. These crepes were delicious, healthy, and just a few dollars a crepe! The storefront is also very deceiving because it looks like a small cafe, but actually has a huge restaurant with tons of seating and a lively atmosphere once you go down the stairs.

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Is Cartagena Safe?

Overall we let pretty safe in Cartagena. Being a popular city in South America though, it's very important to pay attention to your surroundings. Certain areas in the city can be prone to petty crime like pickpocketing or theft. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings, and stay in groups if you're going out at night. If you're solo traveling then it's better to travel to hostels, and sign up for group excursions.

Other Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Cartagena, Colombia

We've got you pretty much covered for what to do in Cartagena, but here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • The weather here is Caribbean, so it is hot year round. Make sure you pack a swimsuit and plenty of sunscreen.
  • Anywhere you go you will need to bargain- whether it is a taxi, souvenirs, or even restaurants! Sometimes they have menus just for tourists, so make sure you are getting the same menu as the locals are.
  • People can be overly aggressive when trying to sell to you, and it happens almost everywhere you'll go. Just politely say "no gracias" if you are not interested.
  • Overall we felt pretty safe in Cartagena. However, always be careful with who you interact with, and protect your belongings.

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Cartagena was hands down one of our favorite spots in Colombia! We suggest spending a full week (or even two) to discover all that this city and the surrounding islands have to offer.

Traveling through other parts of Colombia? We have plenty of other Colombia guides for your travels!

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