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NaNoWriMo — members — last activity Oct 14, National Novel Writing Month. The month where you write 50, words in thirty days. Here are our top 10 things to do in Cartagena:. There is a lot of history in Cartagena, so the best way to explore the city is through a free walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide. A must-do when in Cartagena — the Free Walking Tour. Photo by Sasha Savinov. Just about every travel agent in the city runs trips to places like Playa Blanca and the Rosario Islands.
Just be aware that there are several reports of disappointing, overpriced tours, so be sure to book with someone reputable. Once upon a time, the Spanish used Cartagena as a major port to send gold and other pillaged treasures back across the pond. Unfortunately for them, pirates were ready to rob them of their booty.
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In order to thwart their pirating efforts, the Castillo de San Felipe was built. This ancient fortress is a short walk or cab ride away from the Old City and it provides excellent views. Some may look at this as a tourist trap, but you can look at it as a fun half-day trip out of the city. This floating eco-hostel is located in the San Bernardo Islands , which are part of a national park and are thus protected by the Colombian government.
Sleep in a hammock overlooking the ocean, spend your days snorkeling or SUP-ing, and then enjoy group dinners and dance parties at night. See for yourself in this short video I put together:. Cartagena is home to several excellent Spanish schools that are ready to help you drop that awful gringo accent and speak like a local.
Located right on the city wall, Cafe del Mar is the place to be for sunset drinks. They mix up some tasty cocktails and usually have live music at night to go along with the fantastic views of the sea. Broke Backpackers may instead purchase a cheeky street beer from locals who bring coolers on the wall every night. It should come as no surprise that the cuisine here is all about some fresh seafood. Dig into a big plate of coconut rice with shrimp and octopus in a local joint or order up a full grilled fish on the beach.
Peru may be famous as the land of ceviche, but they do a damn good job with it here. These colourful open-air buses have bumping music and an open bar, and they take party animals on a little nightlife tour of the city. Go ahead and flag one down and enjoy a wild night out on the town. The Caribbean influence is strong here, and that means lots of dancing. Three days is just enough time to get a feel for Cartagena and see most of the highlights. Allow me to take a moment to remind everyone that the guides live off of your trips.
Once the walking tour winds down, you can take your pick from the countless restaurants in the Old City. I recommend finding a local joint and ordering the menu del dia. Colombia makes some of the best coffee in the world and there are tons of cafes to choose from. Try to find a place with a terrace or outdoor seating and linger for a while. When that scorching hot sun finally starts to go down, you can head over to the city wall to Cafe del Mar. This place is famous for their cocktails and views, although they come at a slightly high price tag.
Broke Backpacker Tip — grab a cold beer from one of the vendors on the wall and enjoy the experience for much less. For the first night in Cartagena, you should definitely hop on the Chiva bus. These open-air party buses take you out for a night on the town, all while boozing and dancing on the bus. What you do next is entirely up to you. Cartagena is bumping every night of the week, so the world is your oyster if you want to go out and keep the party going.
The easiest option is to head to the local beaches in the Bocagrande part of town. The most popular day trip out of Cartagena is one that brings you to Playa Blanca. Most trips include a bit of snorkeling and lunch as well. I highly recommend researching for a highly rated company, as there are quite a few horror stories of shitty, disappointing trips. Another solid beach worth the day trip is offered by the luxury hotel Sport Baru.
If you really want to get out of the city for a quick tropical getaway, even if just for one day, this is the way to go. Many hostels in Cartagena have a pool or bar where you can enjoy a bit of pre-gaming with your fellow backpackers. One of the coolest bars in the city has got to be the KGB Bar. Head there for cheap beers and check out all their Soviet-era decorations. On our visit, we were treated to a Colombian guy spitting rhymes that could rival Slim Shady. People love dancing everywhere in this city — in the public squares, at salsa bars and nightclubs, etc.
One of the most popular places to go out dancing is Cafe Havana. Personally, I much more enjoyed the vibe at Bazurto Social Club. One of the most famous landmarks in the city is the Castillo de San Felipe. Try to head up there before it gets too hot so you can walk around the old fortress and take in the views. Consider joining a tour or paying for the audio guide if you want to actually learn something about the place, as the signs are very lacking.
Try to haggle with a taxi driver to take you up and wait for you instead.
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Many of you will probably end up booking a hostel in the Getsemani neighborhood. In the evenings, a mixture of locals and backpackers gather in the plaza outside the church here. A laidback night out in Getsemani is the perfect icing on the cake after a busy 3 days in Cartagena. Staying in the Getsemani neighborhood as opposed to the Old City will surround you with way more locals than tourists. If you really want to escape the crowds in the city, the best thing to do is hop on a boat and go to the nearby islands or the aforementioned floating hostel.
Cartagena is a very walkable city, depending on where you are.
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Here are a few of the best walks in Cartagena to help you see the city on your own two feet:. We stayed in an Airbnb for a few nights in this neighborhood, and one night decided to go for a stroll to buy cigs and beers. In our minute walk, we were offered coke by a shady dude and then minutes later stopped and questioned by the police, who shook me down and checked my pockets.
Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Just use the code: Check out this post to read our full review! The rainy season lasts from August to November, so if you prioritize sitting on the beach you might want to avoid these months. When we visited Cartagena in early September there were only a few showers that passed through quickly.
The airport is about 6 km away from the Old City, or a minute cab ride. There are direct flights to Cartagena from several cities in Colombia, as well as many other cities in Latin America. Lauderdale , and even Toronto or Montreal in the high season.
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From Europe, only Amsterdam offers direct flights. For domestic travel, you can also reach the city by long-distance bus. To head to the beach in Bocagrande, you can catch a local bus if you can figure it out or a cab. Uber is also available if you have a working phone. To further explore the islands and beaches, join a tour for convenience or head to the harbour and put together your own excursion. There are definitely some dodgy areas, as there are in any big city. Many visitors have complained about getting stuck on crappy tours to Playa Blanca and the Rosario Islands.
Do your research beforehand or ask around your hostel to book a reputable and legit tour operator. You may not be surprised to hear that certain drugs are readily available here. Better to make friends with locals and be discreet. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket. Even if you are only going on a short trip to Cartagena, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your backpacking adventure but please do get insurance — take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
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Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. As I mentioned earlier in the guide, you can save a bit of money by staying in Getsemani instead of in the Old City.
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There are so many excellent restaurants, cafes, and bars in Cartagena.