Hi guys! As promised last week, this post will be dedicated to sharing some tips that will come in handy when planning your trip to Cartagena.
The best advice I can give you (and it applies to most- if not all- things on this post) is to plan ahead!
Cartagena is a popular tourist destination and the influx of people from all over the country and the world is insane. Make sure to book your hotel at least two months in advance. I stayed at the Hilton Cartagena, located in the Bocagrande neighborhood. While my experience there was great, I recommend you stay within the Walled City for the experience and convenience. You will be walking distance from the must-visit places.
Cartagena is known for its ancient colonial houses and monasteries that have been refurbished into modern boutique hotels. One of the most renowned is the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara (which is where I had New Year’s day brunch). There are other options that will also be worthwhile, so make sure you do your research, especially if you’re going to travel during high season (basically every month except for April and October).
If the boutique hotels are out of your budget, there are plenty of hostels in Centro Histórico and Getsemaní.
While in Cartagena, try all the variety of fruits. Don’t let the colors, shapes, or textures throw you off. You will not want to pass on delicious, juicy, flavorful granadillas, mangos, zapotes, pitayas, papayas, or anything else that Palenqueras offer you. Palenqueras are local women that dress in colorful dresses and carry huge bowls of fresh fruit on their heads.
You can also enjoy these fruits in juice form. At least once, make sure you ditch the local beer and have a fresh fruit juice instead! Some of my favorite are mora, corozo, maracuya, lulo, mandarina, and limonada de hierbabuena (mint lemonade).
But enough about fruit. While you want to leave some room for spontaneity during your trip, don’t attempt to just walk into a restaurant at dinner time and expect immediate service. Some of the restaurants within the Centro Historico actually turn people away when they reach their max capacity. You may find yourself going back to your hotel and ordering room service or end up at San Valentin (awful restaurant with slow service and terrible food. Do not go here! I repeat, stay away from this restaurant!)
Research the restaurants you would like to visit and make reservations at least one month in advance. This definitely applies to restaurants within boutique hotels like El Claustro, inside the Santa Clara hotel.
- Wear light, comfortable clothing and a hat. Cartagena gets very hot!
- Get a sense of the taxi rates by talking to your hotel concierge so you don’t get overcharged.
- Whether you are looking for souvenirs or want to indulge in some mango biche (sour mango served with salt, pepper, and lime juice) , don’t assume you have to walk into a shop to find these. Street vendors are on every corner of the city, so interact with them, negotiate for best rates and learn more about the culture.
- Buy books by local authors as another way to learn about the city and culture
- Kick back and relax! You may not get the fastest service in Cartagena, but you’re on vacation, so what’s the rush?
Were these tips helpful? Have any other questions? Join the club and leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading!