General Tips for Cartagena
General Tips for Cartagena Reviews
General Tips Aug 14, 2011
Cartagena was my best vacation in years. When I started to travel back in 1998, I never branched out to countries outside of Europe. I guess I was scared to break out of my comfort zone but OH MY, am I glad I finally went to Coloooombia! Beautiful people, lovely women, lovely town. It was a whole wonderful dimension of the universe that had been out there this whole time. I have been talking about Cartagena to everyone since I got back. I probably bore the Hell out of my friends and strangers because I just won’t let up on telling them about my great experience and that they really need to come see for themselves! Check it out folks. You will not regret it. Here are some notes below in case you want the low-down on things like Taxi’s, Cultural Etiquette, etc..
Taxi: From the airport to most of the main lodging locations (Boca Grande, Downtown, Getsemani) a cab ride should be 10,000 pesos. When you’re leaving the airport to go to your Hotel, politely ask the Taxi driver how much it’s going to be before entering the cab. They can probably tell if you are a tourist so you might need to be on your toes to make sure that you don’t get overcharged. There are no meters in the cabs. Once you get in town most taxi rides are just 6,000 pesos for short trips within Cartagena (Boca Grande to Downtown, Getsmani to Manga, etc..) . It got to the point where I stopped asking how much the cab fare would be for nearby locations. When they would drop me off, I would just hand over 6,000 and they would just say ‘Gracias’ and I would be on my way.
Cartagena Etiquette: I spent the summer in Barcelona, Spain many years ago and fucking A do these Catalans swear a lot! This is pretty much the opposite in Cartagena. I noticed quickly that this is a very polite culture. I heard very little foul language so that may be something to keep in mind if you’re trying to fit in. I would NOT just walk up to someone and ask them for directions or how much something costs without starting with one or two pleasantries (“Buenos Dias Senor”) . And when you leave, as well, be polite (‘Hasta Luego’ or ‘Que le vaya bien’). This is not just toward elders but everyone… Try to speak to strangers like the Taxi driver, the maid, police, etc. in the Usted form (not the Tu form).
Police: For the 10 days that I was in Cartagena and Barranquilla, my interactions with the police were all positive. They were always very nice and even helpful. Also, there are a LOT of them, especially for soccer events, and such, where crowd-control is needed. I imagine that if you keep your nose clean, you will have no problem with them. But be prepared for them to ask you for your ID. They will randomly pull cars over and ask for IDs. My guess is that they are checking for arrest warrants so you might want to travel with at least your driver’s license if you don’t want to carry your passport around everywhere.
Getsemani: Although Downtown Cartagena is an amazingly beautiful town, I’m very glad that I stayed in Getsemani. I got a lot of mixed feedback regarding the safety of this neighborhood. Some people say it’s dangerous at night (robberies) and some say that there is nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, I never staggered around the neighborhood wasted drunk, with a souvenir sombrero and a Cannon camera around my neck, at 4am in the morning to try to find out who’s right. Otherwise, I never had any problems during the day. Now if you want to feel totally safe, especially for you ladies travelling alone, stay in the Downtown Centro or Boca Grande. But the culture immersion I obtained by staying in Getsemani was priceless. I remember my first night wondering when the people/kids outside were going to go to sleep. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Almost all through the night, there will be people outside your door talking. Then came the city street cleaners around 3am and then the early risers that get up for work around 5:30am. My 2nd night there, the talking became like white noise to me and I slept like a baby. But remember, if you open your door at 2am, don’t be alarmed. The porch doorsteps in Getsemani are considered ‘community property’ and you may find a couple kids there talking very late at night.
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