Cartagena or Cartagena de Indias is a city and a world heritage site in Bolívar, Colombia. The city was one of the first sanctuaries of freed African slaves in the Americas. It is populated by an ethnic mix representative of Colombia’s own variety.
- I Understand
- II Get in
- III Get around
- IV Sightseeing in Cartagena (Colombia)
- V What to do in Cartagena (Colombia)
- VI Shopping in Cartagena (Colombia)
- VII Where to eat in Cartagena (Colombia)
- VIII Drink
- IX (Colombia)/ Where to stay in Cartagena (Colombia)
- X Stay safe due to the Coronavirus situation in Cartagena (Colombia)
- XI Stay healthy due to COVID-19 in Cartagena (Colombia)
- XII Telecommunications in Cartagena (Colombia)
- XIII Cope
- XIV Go next
Cartagena has almost 1 million inhabitants, and is on the northern coast at the Caribbean Sea. Founded by the Spanish in 1533, it was fortified and functioned as the center of the Inquisition in the region. The impressive buildings from the Spanish time today make up a UNESCO World Heritage List.
Cartagena is the most visited city in the country by tourists. It gets extremely crowded in the December holidays and the holy week, when schools are out and most Colombians take their vacations. The city has basically two main parts where visitors go: the walled colonial city (“ciudad amurallada”), which is truly amazing and has many fancy restaurants, clubs and hotels; and a long strip of hotel towers and condos fronting onto the beach, known as Bocagrande. It is also nice to visit the exclusive neighborhood of Castillogrande, filled with recently built condos, places to jog, and a quiet beach to soak up some sun.
Being in the tropics, the climate of the city is defined by dry and rain seasons. The dry season is from December to April and it also rains a little less in July. Nevertheless, there are still on average more sunny than rainy days per month in the rainy season. Apart from September and October, the monthly amount of rain isn’t much more than 100 mm. Thanks to this, the temperature is also quite constant around the year with daytime highs of +32°C and nighttime lows of +23°C.
- 1 Turismo Cartagena de Indias, Plaza de la Aduana, . M-Sa 09:00-13:00 & 15:00-19:00, Su 09:00-17:00. The main tourist office.
Also, there are small Tourist kiosks on Plaza de San Pedro Claver and on Plaza de los Coches.
Fly to Cartagena (Colombia)
- Rafael Núñez International Airport (is 3 km north-east of the old city). Receives international flights from New York City (JetBlue), Panama City (Copa Airlines), Quito, Fort Lauderdale (Spirit Airlines), Miami (Avianca) and Madrid (Iberia). There are several seasonal flights from many cities in Canada. There are domestic non-stop flights from Medellín, Cali, San Andrés, Bogotá, Montería (ADA airlines), Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, and Cúcuta. The new low-cost airline VivaColombia also serves the city.
At the airport you can find several ATMs and an exchange bureau where you can change cash and traveler’s checks. To get downtown, go to the taxi stand which will give you a receipt with the exact amount you’ll have to pay to the driver, around COP$10-12,000 depending on your destination (2015 rate). To get into town more cheaply, walk about 50 m (150 ft) to the street and hail one of yellow cabs. You should be able to get a cab to take you into town for about COP$6,000. A still more affordable alternative are the “Metrocar” and “Vehitrans” minibuses going from the Calle 70 near the airport (COP$1,800) to the India Catalina monument at the western edge of downtown. On the way back from the downtown to the airport take the “Vehitrans” bus on the corner of the India Catalina monument to the aeroporto (ask the driver to confirm the bus goes to the airport).
The 2 bus terminal is 11 km east of the old city. Frequent white and green air-conditioned metrocar buses go to the old city and cost COP$1,800 (depending on the traffic goes between 45-90 minutes). Taking a cab costs COP$20,000, a late night extra charge of COP$500 applies after 20:00. Another fast and cheap way to reach the center is to take a taxi to the Transcaribe Portal terminal 3 km away from the main terminal. From there, the Transcaribe buses which have their own lanes, reach the centre in 30 minutes. The Transcaribe travel card costs COP$4000 and one trip costs COP$2, 100.
Expreso Brasilia has buses (Jan 2018):
- from Medellín: COP$104,000, 13 hours (6 per day or more)
- from Bogotá: COP$128,000, 18 hours
Unitransco has buses (Jan 2018):
- from Barranquilla: COP$12,000, 2½ hours (4 a day)
- from Santa Marta: COP$28,000, 4 hours (4 a day)
- from Santa Cruz de Mompox: COP$40,000, 6 hours (1 a day)
- from Tolú : COP$23,000, 3 hours (18:30)
- from Montería: COP$40,000, 4½ hours (every 45min)
Rapido Ochoa has lines:
- from Riohacha: COP$30.000, 8 hours (daily)
If you are coming overland from Panama, your first bus will be from Turbo. Turbo to Montería is COP$25,000 (4 hours) and Monteria to Cartagena COP$35,000 (4 hours) for express services.
Expreso Brasilia, Expreso Amerlujo and Unitransco have a daily connection via Barranquilla to the Venezuelan capital Caracas, the two former for COP$200,000 taking 20 hours. If you travel with Unitransco it’s a bit cheaper but it entails and additional transfer of buses at the border.
You may be able to bargain down prices for long-distance tickets, locals do that too.
Cartagena is an important port for charter boats between Colombia and Panama. There are several private boats doing this trip, but expect to have to wait several days to find a boat. Fares vary between US$375 and US$500 depending on the size of the boat and the on-board services. The trip usually takes 4 nights and 5 days and includes a 2- or 3-day stopover in San Blas Islands. At the Panama end, the boats either leave from the Portobelo Area or from Carti Islands Kuna Yala rather than Colón. Reliable information about departure dates and captains can be found at the hotel Casa Viena.
Especially during cooler months in North America, cruise ships regularly pay day-long port calls here. Depending on their size and numbers on any day, available shore excursions can vary from visits to the city proper, to beaches and islands nearby. Very few will venture to cities elsewhere. The 3 harbor for cruise ships is about 3 km southeast of the old town, probably best accessible by taxi or by foot.
Travel to Cartagena (Colombia) by car
The city is connected to the rest of Colombia by good roads. Ruta 90 (Transversal del Caribe) goes along the coast connecting Cartagena to places line Barranquilla and Turbo and has been built out to limited-access highway. You can drive here from Bogota too, but that’s a drive of more than 1000 km.
The old town in particular is best explored walking. Most places in Bocagrande are also within walking distance.
To reach other destinations such as the San Felipe fort, Bocagrande, Castillogrande, airport, etc there are many buses running all over the city. Ask the driver or other people who are waiting which bus goes to your destination. An urban bus ticket cost COP$2,300 sold by the driver. On the downside, buses drive slower, stop at each corner and seldom take the direct way so expect a bus ride from A to B to take several times that of a taxi ride.
- Bike & Art, Media Luna 10 #23, , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bike rental. 1 hour COP$4,000, 3 hours COP$10,000.
Taxis don’t have meters in Cartagena, fares should be negotiated. There are printed fares, but they are more like minimum fares. Even negotiated rates are often higher, especially in high season. There are also night and air condition extra charges each of a few hundred pesos. Confirm your fare before getting in the taxi. Taxi drivers may demand ridiculous rates if not negotiated in advance.
Taxis are generally easy to find, although in the old town you may have to walk a few blocks away from the center, toward the wider road close to wall. From the old town to Boca Grande or vice versa or any transport inside Bocagrande or inside old town expect to pay COP$6,000; from the airport to the old town or vice versa is COP$10,000-12,000.
A chariot is a popular way for tourists to get to know the old town. These can be flagged down in the street or there are usually some waiting at the Plaza Bolívar or close to the Santa Clara hotel. They are reminiscent of public transportation of colonial Cartagena, and essentially complete the atmosphere of the old town.
Cartagena has several harbours for Boats going out to the Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca, including the Muelle Turistico de la Bodeguita, Muelle Todomar. One of the easiest options (which includes a good lunch and roundtrip tickets [you can come back the same day or stay as long as you’d like as long as you keep your ticket stub]) is to go on one of the big ships like the Alcatraz. These come at the best price at COP$25,000, but beware – they take around four hours to actually get to Playa Blanca because they move really slowly and stop at the aquarium at Rosario Islands first (which is rather boring).
Electric scooters can be rented in town and are to be ridden only within the city area. Gas-powered scooters are not available for rent. Many of the bicycle shops will also rent electric scooters.
Sightseeing in Cartagena (Colombia)
Cartagena has several faces; one of a dirty, sprawling Caribbean metropolis, in Bocagrande the one of a massive “hotel ghetto” and finally the old town with its well-polished face of a once affluent colonial city. Cartagena’s main attraction is its historic old town surrounded by the city wall. Main entrance is the Clock Tower Building. The walled city includes the neighbourhoods Centro, San Diego, Getsemaní and the modern part La Matuna. The oldest part of Cartagena is around Plaza Trinidad in Getsemaní. Cartagena’s 500-year-old coralstone forts and great parts of its walled city are admirably intact and represent some of the finest examples of civil and military architecture of the Spanish colonial times.
Almost all churches in the historic center are worth visiting, especially Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, in honor of the priest St. Pedro Claver, who was the first saint of the new world for his work with slaves; La Catedral, near Plaza de Bolívar and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo
The old town is divided into three parts: El Centro with the cathedral and the many palaces in Andalucian style, San Diego, which was the quarters of traders and bourgeoisie lived and Getsemaní which was the home of the lower classes. The old harbor of Getsemaní, which used to separate El Centro and San Diego, has during the last century been transformed into the old town’s new commercial area, La Matuna. Here you can also find the pedestrian area Camellón de los Martires, a good place to start exploring the old town.
- 1 Plaza de los Coches. From Camellon de los Martires you pass through the historical city gate Puerto del Reloj, the gate of the clock, onto the triangular square Plaza de los Coches, the place of the carriages. Once this was one of the largest slave markets in all of Latin America, a major source of wealth to the city, aside of the gold export to Spain. Nowadays a statue of Pedro de Heredia, the founder of the city, stands on this square.
- 2 Plaza de la Aduana. Next to the former, there is another beautiful triangular square, Plaza de la Aduana, surrounded by impressive arcaded buildings.One of these is Casa del Premio real, the house of the Spanish viceroy. This square has a statue as well, of Christopher Columbus.
- 3 Convento & Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Plaza de San Pedro Claver, . M-Sa 08:00-17:00, Su 08:00-16.30. Named after Pedro Claver (1580-1654), a Spanish Jesuit who worked for 40 years for the rights and the wellbeing of the slaves in the city. He was beatified in 1888, and in 1985 named the patron saint of human rights. His relics are visible in a crystal arch under the altar. Moreover, on the second floor you can visit the room where he lived the last times of his life and died. On the second floor there is also an exhibition of Afro-Caribbean art. COP$6,000.
- 4 , Calle San Juan de Dios No 3-62, . 09:00-19:00. In a former Jesuit college right behind the convent. It offers an informative overview of the history of the city and the naval history of the Caribbean. However the exhibits are replicas, not originals. COP$6,000.
- 5 Plaza de Bolívar. Some blocks inwards there’s the Plaza de Bolívar with an equestrian statue of the liberation hero. Before the independence of Colombia this was known as Plaza de Inquisición, and next to it you can find the inquisition palace. where during two centuries the Catholic church held processes against heretics.
- 6 Palacio de la Inquisición (Museo de la Inquisición), Plaza de Bolívar, . M-Sa 09:00-18:00, Su 10:00-16:00. The museum of Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of Inquisition) was where the Spanish Inquisition tortured, judged and convicted people accused of crimes against religion.The tribunal was responsible for all of South America and sentenced almost 700 people, including Jesuits opposing slavery. Many of the accused were badly tortured. Today the museum shows some instruments of torture actually used back then. COP$17,000. A tourist guide, in English, can be purchased for COP$15,000..
- 7 Museo del Oro y Arqueología, Plaza de Bolívar, . Tu-F 10:00-13:00 & 15:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00, Su 11:00-16:00. Also at the same square, this museum shows the religious gold artefacts of the Zenú (or Sinú) people who used to live along the coast. Not as large as the gold museum of Bógota, but still very worth seeing. However, the museum’s archaeological museum is even more interesting, showcasing the native people’s impressive achievements in controlling and canalling Rio Magdalena. Free.
- 8 Catedral de Santa Catalina. Tu-Su 09:30-18:30. A three-naved cathedral which is rather crude on the inside, but has an impressive tower. COP$10,000.
- 9 Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Plaza de Santo Domingo, . Tu-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 12:00-20:00. Not far from the cathedral is the oldest church in Cartagena. Santo Domingo on the eponymous square has been here since 1552. You can rent audio guides, available in many languages. COP$10,000.
- 10 Casa de Rafael Núñez (outside the walls, direction Marbella), . Tu-F 09:00-17:30, Sa 10:00-17:30, Su 10:00-16:00. This wooden building was the home of the 19th-century poet and president Rafael Núñez (1825-1894). He wrote the text to the Colombian national anthem, and also participated writing the constitution which was in force from 1886 to 1991. COP$4,000.
- 11 Monumento a la India Catalina. A landmark dedicated to and named after the city’s founder Pedro de Heredia’s native translator Catalina.
- 12 Castillo de San Felipe. 08:00-18:00. A fortress designed by the Dutch engineer Richard Carr and built in 1657 by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. The largest fort the Spanish ever built in their colonies, this fort was conquered only once by French privateer Baron de Pointis in 1697. It’s filled with an extensive maze of tunnels, which you can explore on a guided tour. Don’t miss the 24-minutes long video that tells the history of the fortress. COP$25,000 (foreigner). Audio guide COP$10,000.
- 13 La Popa. Close to the San Felipe fortress is the 150-m high La Popa hill, which offers great views over Cartagena and the harbour area. The 17th century Santa Cruz monastery is here, which has a beautifully restored courtyard and a fine image of the Virgin of La Candelaria, the patron saint of the city. On the 2nd of February every year, pilgrims celebrate her. Entrance to La Popa is COP$8,000 for adults and a little less for children. Taking a taxi up and down the hill will cost you a shocking COP$50,000. Negotiate this with the driver before going. It is advised that you do not walk up as it can be dangerous.
What to do in Cartagena (Colombia)
Nearby coral reefs, powdery beaches, impressive mangroves, and waterways complement the historic and urban beauty.
- Chiva Bus. afternoons, evenings. Chiva Bus is a must do fun activity in Cartagena. If you’ve visited Cartagena for even a day you’ve undoubtedly seen the open air, colorful buses going through the city loaded with people having fun, drinking and enjoying the loud beat of local music. A good activity for couples, families or groups. There are various pickup locations at mostly tourist hotels (Decameron, Caribe, Hilton, etc.) or just talk your the people to make arrangements. Prices range from COP$18,000-25,000 depending on tour..
You can also take a horse and carriage tour, per Get around.
- Latin Dance Lessons. Latin dances, first of all the Salsa form an integral part of Caribbean culture. The colorful mixture of people in Cartagena and their passionate way of living find one if its most eminent expressions in the vibrant rhythms all around. Crazy Salsa offers you a wide range of Latin dance classes, focusing on Salsa, Meringue and Bachata. There are introductory classes every Friday and Saturday at 17:00 for COP$10,000—for advanced and intensive classes, workshops or other questions visit crazysalasa.net.
- Spanish Classes. Cartagena is an ideal city for some extended Spanish language studies—a beautiful but not too large city center, close by beaches and heaps of activities to do. Colombia is also famous for its pure Spanish phrasebook which is perfect for learners. There are several Spanish language schools in Cartagena. BABEL International Language Institute is located directly in the old city in one of the picturesque streets. They offer all kinds of group and private classes and also combined Spanish and Salsa packages
- Casa Cultural Colombo Alemana de Cartagena, Calle 38 No. 5 – 31, Calle Estanco del Aguardiente, .
- Nueva Lengua, Calle del Pozo No 25-95, . Located in Getsemaní, this language school offers courses from five days and longer.
- Raíces: Spanish & Culture, Getsemaní. Del Pozo Street. N° 28-24 Oficna 102. (Diagonal the Plaza de la Trinidad), , ✉ email@example.com. 09:00-18:00. The main focus of this Spanish school is immersion courses: their philosophy is that it’s more interesting and better for students to learn in a cultural environment that shows the richness of the Spanish language. Flexible schedule, good prices, nice and friendly teachers committed with the learning of their students.
Beaches southwest of Cartagena
The easiest way of going to the beach is heading to the west coast, where there are sand beaches both north of the old town and on the Bocagrande peninsula.
However, there are a couple of beach destinations one or a few hours by boat from Cartagena. Commonly boats leave Cartagena (most near Muelle de la Bodeguita) in the morning and return in the early afternoon. Trips are often available as two-way boat tickets including lunch, but to avoid disappointment don’t do business with the wandering ticket touts but buy tickets from a ticket office or kiosk. There is a port extra charge of COP$10,000 not included in posted ticket prices. Also, for these out-of-city destinations you may want to bring some bug spray.
Playa Blanca is widely regarded as the best beach of Cartagena, but it is not that easy to reach. With its white sand and crystal clear water it is probably one of the best beaches in Colombia. After tour boats leave in the afternoon it is also very peaceful and quiet. It is worth staying on Playa Blanca for at least one night. There are several places where you can rent hammocks, get food and drinks. For example, “Wittenbergs place”.
On the beach you will be approached to buy massages, fruit platters, sea food and jewelry among other things — they can at times be rather persistent touting their products and services. Watch out for the vendors selling oysters: they will give you an oyster as a present (regalo) to taste. They will quickly crack the shells and serve you a number of oysters, after which you are told that they each cost COP$2,000. Avoid this COP$30,000 charge and the subsequent argument on the beach. If you are looking for great seafood and Coco Locos, ask around for Nelson Mandela. Sunbathers are often ushered to rent a “stall” for COP$5,000.
- By boat Take a bus or taxi to “Mercado Bazurto”, the big market of Cartagena about 10 minutes from the Center. From there, every day, except Sundays, small cargo-boats (lancha de carga) leave for Playa Blanca. They don’t have an exact departure time, be there before 09:00 to be sure. You will have to pay about COP$20,000 each way (December 2020) and the trip takes more or less 1 hour to reach the beach. The way back is much easier, most boats (tour boats) will bring you back for around COP$15,000. The last boats from Playa Blanca to Cartagena leave 14:00-15:00. More comfortable and safer is taking a round-trip from the centre at Muelle de las Pegasos. You can bargain down a one-way-trip without lunch to about COP$25,000 plus COP$8,300 port tax. The tour takes you to Rosario Islands first until it reaches Playa Blanca in the late morning. You can leave the tour there to stay overnight.
- Overland by public transport (1½ hours): take a bus to Pasacaballos from calle 30 and carrera 17 (in front of the castle – the bus will have a big Pasacaballos sign in front). The bus will leave you either in Pasacaballos or a bit before, under a highway arch; either way, you can take a taxi or mototaxi to Playa Blanca. The bus is COP$1,900 and the taxi is COP$10,000 per person (the mototaxi should be a bit less). The whole trip takes about 1½ hours.
Bay of Cholon. Farther down from Playa Blanca on Isla Baru in the bay of Cholon is Sportbaru- a place well worth of visit. This tranquil beachfront resort offers water sports, boat tours, eco hikes, gaming and gathering facilities, restaurant and bar; and an exceptional staff that is very accommodating to meet any of your needs. You can take a day tour there from Cartagena, or stay overnight in comfortable cabanas that are all facing the beach.
Islas del Rosario. Several agents arrange boat tours to Islas del Rosario. A set of small islands out of the coast. Usually the tour include lunch, a visit to an aquarium and a few hours at Playa Blanca. Not included in the price is harbor tax and park entrance (COP$12,000 total) and the entrance fee to the aquarium (COP$15,000). If you buy your tour at one of the street vendors, don’t pay in advance, preferably pay part or all at return in Cartagena. At least one of these tours is to a resort “Coco Liso” which is something like a Colombian Butlins (a British holiday camp). You will be promised a beach, pay a high fee, then disembark a boat after an hour and a half to be greeted with a fairly basic hotel, gimmicky pool, and a tiny slice of beach. Buying a piece of “coral” jewellery from one of the many hawkers, engage them in conversation, and they might lead you to their private beach – quite beautiful, and all the more interesting for having its existence totally denied by the tour operators. The tourist offices in the centre of the old town and a good place to compare the many possible trips to the islands.
Local events in Cartagena (Colombia)
Major events take place during the dry season, coinciding with the Northern Hemisphere winter.
- Fiesta Taurina. 2-6 Jan. Bull fighting festival with fights on Plaza de Toros on Av. Pedro de Heredia outside downtown.
- Festival lnternacional de Música. early Jan. Classical music festival with concerts in Teatro Heredia, the convents of Santa Teresa and Santa Clara and public places in the old town.
- Hay Festival. late Jan. Literary festival with public readings by authors.
- Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria. late Jan-early Feb. The patron saint of Cartagena is celebrated during several days, the highlight being a massive procession up to the convent on the hill Cerro La Popa each 2nd of February.
- o’Festival lnternacional del Cine. late Feb-early Mar. Traditional film festival featuring Latin American movies and documentaries.
- Festival de Música del Caribe. late Mar. As the name reveals, a whole lot of reggae, calypso, salsa and merengue performances.
- . 11 Nov. The party of the city, a large street festival in Getsemani.
- Festival de Jazz Bajo la Luna. Dec. Jazz festival with performances all over the city.
Shopping in Cartagena (Colombia)
Most hotels, upscale restaurants take credit cards, but many places, especially taxis only accept Colombian pesos. Some banks may exchange money, but the rates may not be the most convenient. The easiest method for obtaining pesos is to use your debit card at an ATM machine. Another option is to use a Cambio or currency exchange kiosk, however, your exchange rate will be a little higher than by using a debit card. Using a credit card at the ATM machine will require you to use a PIN number, so contact your financial institution before your trip.
- 1 Citibank, Av Venezuela, Edificio Citibank (1st floor). Monday to Friday 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-16:30. There is a large Citibank ATM location on calle Venezuela near Barrio San Diego that has a guard out front. ATMs appear to be available 24/7.
- 2 Banco de Bogotá, Av Venezuela (Centro Comercial Uno # 105-107). Monday to Friday 08:00-11:30 & 14:00-16:00, Sa -16:30, Su.
- Giros y Finanzas (several locations around town). Monday to Friday 08:00-17:00, Sa 08:00-14:00. Western Union-affiliated exchange office.
Handcrafts are fashionable and sophisticated. Emeralds are available for sale all over Cartagena, including polished and uncut loose emeralds and beautiful jewelry. The prices can be reasonable and the variety available is extensive in the old walled city. The stores that sell emeralds and emerald jewelry use various names such as “Taller y Fabrica de Joyas” (workshop and manufactuer of jewelry), “Museo de Artesanias y Esmeraldas” (museum of crafts and emeralds) or simply “Joyeria” (jewelry). Store owners will negotiate and provide a certificate of “authenticity”.
- 3 Bóvedas (next to the city wall, near the Santa Catalina bastion). Various artesanal goods of good quality.
- 4 Q Design, Calle de la Iglesia, 4-16. Design objects.
- 5 Portal de los Dulces (near Puerto del Reloj). Local sweets.
- 6 Ábaco (corner of Calles de la Iglesia & de la Mantilla No 3-86), . M-Sa 09:00-20:30, Su 16:00-20:30. Bookstore and café. Has a good assortment of books in Spanish about Cartagena, and some English books as well.
- 7 Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi, Cl. 34 No. 3-37 Edificio lnurbe. Specializing in maps.
Take some care. Street hawkers are everywhere, ready to lead you to stores that pay them considerable “commissions”; you actually pay them…through higher prices. And many reliable sources report that, without in-depth knowledge of emeralds and ability to recognize 14K and 18K gold, you risk buying fake or “enhanced” stones or gold-plated metalwork at some stores, or paying more for quality items here than you would in reputable stores elsewhere in the Caribbean or at home.
When approached by a street vendor, your best bet is to smile and say “no, thank you”, and they will more likely leave you alone. If you do it in a harsh way, they are likely going to follow you around for longer.
Where to eat in Cartagena (Colombia)
Cartagena features a rich fusion cuisine, combining ingredients and methods of the New and Old worlds, as well as of the original African, Arabian and other legacies of its inhabitants. Eating set menu lunches and dinners in local restaurants called ‘corrientes’ costs around COP$6,000. A typical dish consists of fried fish (if you are by the beach), chicken or meat, served with coconut rice (arroz de coco), fried plantains (patacones) and salad. There are many places that sell COP$2,000 fruit juices. Colombia boasts a very good range of exotic fruits that can be mixed with water or milk.
In the old town, dozens of good restaurants can be found dotted around the streetsm particularly concentrated close to the Plaza Santo Domingo. Beware that many of the city’s restaurants are not open on Sundays.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
- 1 Pan de Bono (corner of Calle del Porvenir and Calle San Agustin). A bakery where you can get a fresh and inexpensive snack in the form of sandwiches. Try the local cassava bread! Budget.
- Café Juan Valdez (corner of Cl. San Agustin and Cl. de la Universidad, also other locations). Coffee chain with a large variety of coffees and different cakes. Free WLAN. Budget.
- Crepes & Waffles (Several locations). Very nice Colombian franchise restaurant which offers very good dishes to excellent prices. dishes around COP$15,000.
- 2 El Corral (One is located on Plaza San Pedro, 4 others further out.). Very nice Colombian franchise hamburger chain. Good quality hamburgers for COP$10,000-15,000 for a combo..
- 3 Gelateria Paradiso. Has unreal ice cream, with a large assortment of different exotic fruit flavors. Fans of coffee ice cream must stop by for a scoop. Corner of Calle del Cuartel and Calle de la Estrella. COP$4,000 for small cup, $6,000 for medium.
- 4 Abaco, Calle de la Mantilla. Cafe & Book Store is a great place to relax and get some peace and quiet. Local books on Cartagena in addition to great coffee. Hot beverage and cake around COP$9000.
- 5 Atahualpa, Carrera 7 (At end of Calle de Tablada at the Plaza de Managua.). Peruvian place with fresh fish. The menu of the day is great value Set dinner soup, main and juice for COP$12,000.
- 6 El Bistro, Calle Ayos 4-46 (2 blocks from Plaza Santo Domingo), . German-owned restaurant with excellent European kitchen, especially the steak is good. Also, they have home-made German bread and you can have German beer here too. Breakfast for around COP$10,000, mains around $25,000.
- 7 La Cevicheria, Calle Stuart 7 (opposite Hotel Santa Clara), . A great selection of hot and cold ceviches. around COP$25,000 a dish.
- 8 La Vitrola, Calle Baloco no. 33-201. Considered the best restaurant in town. Cuban ambiance, good food – high prices. It is on Calle Baloco at the corner front to the historical walls. Mid-range.
- 9 Restaurante Bar El Muelle (El Laguisto Beach Club), Carrere 1 ra. No. 1A – 23. There are many good restaurants in the Bocagrande area on the beach. The food is of decent quality, but the delight is the water coming up to the restaurant. The host speaks English, Spanish, French, some Portuguese and Turkish! Mid-range.
- 10 La Mulata, Calle Quero 9-58, . A choice of a few set lunch options. Different menu every day of the week. Delicious and unpretentious. mains COP$20,000-30,000.
- 11 Otro Mundo (Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria), Calle San Agustin 6-68, . 09:00-00:00. Otro Mundo Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria it is in Centro Historico de Cartagena de Indias, Calle San Agustin 6-68, close Universita de Cartagena (Cartagena University). There you can eat excellent Croatian dishes, pastas, and the best pizza of America. Ambient is rustically tip, very clean with excellent service. The price of dishes and pizza is very good. In the local you can use gratis WiFi internet connection. They do also pizza delivery. Croatian Cevapcici COP$18,000; Pasta frutos del mar $20,000; small pizza from $12,000, medium $25,000, large $35,000..
- 12 El Balcón, Calle Tumbamuertos No. 28-85 2do. piso Esquina. 2nd floor restaurant that overlooks the Plaza San Diego. Small balcony for seating, but great food, both fish and meat. Good set menus and 2-for-1 specials on cocktails every day from 18:00-21:00. About COP$45,000 with drink.
- 13 Restaurante La Casa de Socorro, Cl. Larga No. 8B-112, . Traditional restaurant serving typical Caribbean fare: langoustines, crabs, ceviche, fish, all very tasty and well prepared. Popular among locals, especially for lunch. COP$20,000-40,000.
- 14 Teriyaki, Plaza San Diego No. 8-28. Sushi and Thai restaurant. COP$10,000-30,000.
- 15 Restaurante Zebra, Plaza San Diego No.8-34, . African-Caribbean fusion, pasta. Mid-range.
- 16 Club de Pesca, Avenida Miramar. Fine dining restaurant specializing in the “fruits of the sea”. Great seafood and great atmosphere. Located in Manga with view to the bay and marinas of Cartagena. Mains COP$40,000-60,000.
- 17 Donde Olano (Olano´s), Calle Santo Domingo #33 – 81 (Near Plaza de Santo Domingo), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Great sea food with fusion style, don´t miss the shrimps in passion fruit and coconut rice! Mains COP$30,000-70,000, but does have some more affordable alternatives.
- 18 Quebracho, Calle Baloco 2-69. Argentinian restaurant at its best. Good meat, good ambiance. Dishes around COP$55,000.
- 19 Cafe El Santisimo, Calle del Torno 39 – 76. One of the must-see restaurants of Cartagena. Dishes around COP$50,000.
The most common type of coffee in Colombia is the sweet tinto. This can be bought from street vendors all over Cartagena for COP$500.
Most bars and clubs are found in the old town or at Avenida del Arsenal near the Convention Center. Plaza San Diego is a square with a lot of bars and restaurants, very lively in the weekends.
- 1 La Avenida del Arsenal. La Avenida del Arsenal is located along the bay near the Centro de Convenciones. In its heyday it was the place to be. Now much of the nightlife in Cartagena has moved to the Ciudad Vieja, but this strip of about 10 discotecas is still a raging place to experience on weekends. Entry to most of the discos is COP$10,000-20,000.
- 2 Mister Babilla. One of the most popular watering holes for local Cartageneros is Mister Babilla, located on the Avenida del Arsenal, near the Centro de Convenciones. This place is great on the weekends and is notorious for having people dancing on the tables and the bar late into the night! A great time!
- 3 Cafe del Mar, Baluarte de Santo Domingo. Located atop the western wall providing sunset views and cocktails.
- 4 Salsa Donde Fidel, Plaza de la Aduana (Right by the clock gate). Great place to sit and people watch as the night gets going. Indoor and outdoor seating, according to one visitor the indoor is better. Good prices on drinks (beer COP$2500) and the place to meet Cartageneros and tourists alike.
- 5 Otro Mundo (Bistrò-Bar.Pizzeria), Calle San Agustin 6-68, . 09:00-00:00. Otro Mundo Bistrò-Bar-Pizzeria is in Centro Historico de Cartagena, Calle San Agustin 6-68 and is near Universita de Cartagena. There you can eat excellent croatian dishes, pastas, and the best pizza of America. Ambient is very clean and service is excellent. The price and quality of the dishes and pizza are very good. Every day you can listen good music and taste also good drinks, like beer, coctails, juice and natural juice, all this with very good price and hospitable service.
- 6 Zorba Wiskeria, Plaza Fernandez de Madrid. A great little corner bar that offers bottle service and a decent street scene. Very local. Beers are COP$3000 and a bottle of rum will set you back COP$27,000, which is pretty good. Right next door to a Pizzeria and up the street a few doors from a Lebanese Falafel house. Calle de la Tableda.
(Colombia)/ Where to stay in Cartagena (Colombia)
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
In the Ciudad Amurallada, the most famous hotels are Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa, both old monasteries renovated in the 1990s. Either of them have fabulous facilities – expect prices like Monaco. Otherwise, the newest part of the city, Bocagrande, offers the largest (Colombia)/ number of hotels of all prices. You should always try to stay in the ciudad amurallada, since this is what makes Cartagena unique, rather than its beaches, which are normally too crowded and not really clean. If you cannot afford the five-star hotels, you may try with colonial houses turned into hostels, but they are rather small and sometimes getting a room there may be a matter of luck.
In some other parts of Latin America, like Uruguay, more expensive hotel rooms may be quoted in US dollars even at the hotel’s own web page.
Budget hotels and hostels can be found in Getsemaní around the Calle de la Media Luna. If you’re already in Cartagena just walk along the Calle de la Media Luna and check out the numerous hostals to get an impression of their offering. You’ll notice that the ‘value for money’ differs heavily between the places, even though they’re next to each other: for COP$50,000 you can either stay in a really nice private double room or in a dodgy dorm.
- 1 Casa Viena, Calle San Andrés No 30-53 (Getsemaní), , ✉ email@example.com. Popular backpackers place with several 2 to 4 person rooms some with bathroom and a dormitory with arco. Facilities include internet, personal strongboxes, bookswap and a communal kitchen. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. Dorms from COP$26,000, rooms from COP$35,000.
- 2 Hostal Real, Calle De La Magdalena No. 9-33 (Getsemani), . Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building filled with color, unique artwork, and lovely gardens for reading and relaxing. The owners are very friendly and happy to help you with any questions or advice. Rooms are rather damp and dated. Cockroaches have been sighted but promised to take care of. dorms beds from COP$21,000, rooms from $40,000.
- 3 Hotel Familiar, Calle El Guerrero No. 29-66 (Getsemani), . Run by Jairo Toro, 100 m from Casa Viena and a good second choice. Rooms are bright and clean and prices start from COP$18,000 per person.
- 4 Hotel Villa Colonial, Calle del las Maravillas No.30-60 (Getsemani), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Well kept, clean, friendly and helpful management, rooms with air conditioning and fans, private bathrooms, some rooms without windows. They also have another building on Calle de la Media Luna, which has nicer, more expensive rooms. The staff is very nice and welcoming. Doubles from COP$60,000.
- 5 Hostal La Casona, Calle Tripita y Media – Cra. 0 No. 31-32 (Getsemani), , ✉ email@example.com. With approximately 30 rooms around a nice courtyard, this hostel offers a good deal for backpackers. Cheap and fast internet as well as tours agency service are available. Air-conditioned rooms with cable TV and a private bathroom from COP$65,000.
- 6 Hotel Marlin, Calle de la Media Luna, Calle 35 No. 10–35 (Getsemani), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Popular with backpackers, this centrally located, clean hotel with nice rooms with private bathroom and air-conditioned in all dorms, communal kitchen, free internet, free Breakfast, and tours services. Information for sailboats to the San Blas islands and Panamá is also available. From COP$75,000.
- 7 Hotel La Muralla, Calle de Media Luna (Getsemani). Clean, the owners are nice, can be loud on the weekends, not really a tourist place, but one of the cheapest options! Make sure to get a room on the second floor, the first floor rooms are a little musty. From COP$65,000.
- 8 Amber Hostel, Calle Pacoa N° 10-103 (Getsemani), . A very relaxed hostel in which Maude will welcome you within her family. The kitchen is shared with them, which gives a feeling of living in a Cartagena family house. dorm beds from COP$15,000, rooms from COP$40,000.
- 9 Hotel La Espanola, Media Luna 10 #10-58, . Same price and style of hotel as La Muralla, but the rooms are a little stuffier and darker. From COP$75,000.
- 10 Hostel Mamallena, Calle Media Luna (Viejo Hotel Holiday, Getsemani), , ✉ email@example.com. Hostel Mamallena, Cartagena is the first Colombian hostel opened by the Panamanian Hostel Mamallena. We bring to Cartagena our high levels of service, variety of rooms, orthopedic mattresses, free WiFi, garden courtyard and friendly staff. The majority of our rooms have private bathrooms and can sleep from 1 to 5 people. Dorms are large and airy and have private bathrooms as well. Budget tours to the volcano, Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios are also available. We were the first hostel to start booking boats between Panama and Colombia and we´ve bought that experience to Cartagena. Even if you choose not to stay with us feel free to drop by for whatever you may need. High season: dorm bed COP$50,000, private rooms from COP$75,000 but more if you want AC and/or private bathroom. Low season prices are about a third less..
- 11 Hotel El Viajero, Calle del Porvenir No 35-68, . Pleasant hotel with a beautiful inner yard and a guest kitchen, but quite expensive. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $60,000, with A/C: sgl $50,000, dbl $70,000.
- 12 Hotel Bellavista, Av. Santander No. 46-50, . Friendly and casual hotel in the district of Marbella, some 15 minutes by foot from the old town. The rooms are spread out in several small one-floor buidlings. Rooms have private bathrooms,the more expensive ones have A/C too. Without A/C: sgl COP$40,000, dbl $70,000, with A/C: sgl $60,000, dbl $80,000.
- 13 Hotel Cartagena Premium, Bocagrande Av. San Martín No. 11-113, . Hotel Cartagena Premium offers single room, matrimonial double and twin double with air-conditioning, mini-bar and breakfast. Its facilities and services include swimming pool, jacuzzi, room service and parking. From COP$145,000.
- 14 Casa India Catalina, Calle del Coliseo No 5-67 (Centro), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Spacious rooms, some with balconies onto the street. Decent swimming pool. Simple furnishings. From COP$246,000.
- 15 Casa Mara Hostal, Calle del Espiritu Santo No 29-139 (Getsemani), . rates upon request.
- 16 Vista Heroica, Isla de Tierra Bomba, . Nice hotel on the island of Tierra Bomba (10 min boat from the Hilton Hotel of Cartagena). It’s in the middle of a real local village, not far from the beach, and with a great view of Cartagena. Rooms are very clean, 3 beds (2+1), kitchen, individual jacuzzi, air conditioning. Restaurant from COP$10,000-12,000, decent food. COP$100,000.
- 17 Hotel Bahia, Cra 4a-Calle 4a (Bocagrande), . From COP$176,000.
- 18 Hotel 3 Banderas, Calle Cochera del Hobo #38-66 (San Diego), , ✉ email@example.com. Small colonial hotel. From COP$200,000.
Up-scale hotels can be found in San Diego and El Centro area of the old city.
- 19 Charleston Santa Teresa Cartagena, Centro plaza de Santa Teresa Cra 3ª 31-23, , fax: , . From COP$795,000.
- 20 La Passion Hotel Lounge, Calle del Estanco del tabaco # 38-81 (Centro), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A boutique style hotel combining ancient architecture and modern commodities. Perfect for romantic escapade. 8 rooms. A beautiful terrace with swimming-pool. Free Wi-Fi. From COP$617,000.
- 21 Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real, Avenida San Martin 7 (Boca Grande). Hotel Ibatama and Hotel Ibatama Real are really an option for the people in the non luxurious budget. situated on either sides of Boca Grande, the hotels are nice, clean and you get value for money with the AC rooms. Close to the beach and Bocagrande is safe as always.
- 22 Casa Marta Cartagena, Calle San Antonio # 25-165 (Getsemani), , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: Flexible, check-out: Flexible. Casa Marta is a colonial guesthouse/bed and breakfast situated in the city’s historic district of Getsemani. The house has been carefully renovated to modern standards and has two bedrooms with a maximum capacity of 4 to 5 people each. Each bedroom has air conditioner, fan, fridge, Satellite TV, and a private bathroom. Internet service and breakfast are included free of charge. A nice plunge pool is also available to all guests. From US$125.
- 23 Hotel Casa del Curato, Calle del Curato Cra. 7 Nº 38-89 (San Diego), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel was converted from an 18th-century mansion and opened in Dec 2005. Good breakfasts served by Eufemia. Attractively furnished although regular rooms are small and windowless. Two internet computers for guests. From COP$250,000 (low season), COP$270,000 (high season).
- 24 Hotel Cochera de Hobo, Calle Cochera de Hobo No. 38-55 (San Diego), . In the heart of Cartagena’s old walled city. It has four rooms. The hotel has a restaurant, room service, free wifi for guests, two terraces with beautiful views of the historical city center, and a third terrace with a BBQ. The rooms have air conditioning, minibar, plasma TVs, and satellite TV. From US$90.
- 25 Hilton Cartagena, Avenida Almirante Brion (El Laguito), . From US$129.
- 26 Agua, Calle Ayos, No 4-29 (Centro), . A beautiful boutique hotel with rooms reportedly from COP$500,000 plus tax in low season. rates upon request.
- 27 Hotel Alfiz, Calle Cochera del Gobernador, No 33-28 (between Plaza de la Aduana and the cathedral), , ✉ email@example.com. A romantic hotel in the old city. From COP$550,000.
- 28 Hotel Casa la Fe, Calle segunda de badillo #36-125 (Centro), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This small beautifully restored hotel thst has been recommended in the New York Times travel section. The hotel is English owned and run. Guests enjoy free WiFi and a PC work station. From COP$265,000.
- 29 Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, Cr 8 No 39-29, Calle del Tomo (San Diego), . Nice hotel with decent prices for its category, though a bit generic. From COP$720,000.
- 30 La Merced Hotel, Calle Don Sancho No 36-165 / Cra. 4, . A boutique style hotel. from US$249.
The touristed old town is not more dangerous than a city in the first world, but going off the beaten path to the periphery of the city there is a real risk of getting robbed. Be very careful when walking at night specially around lonely parts of the city. Locals are in general helpful and kind. The street vendors can be very annoying, but a simple “No quiero nada” in Spanish will keep them away.
Getsemani where a lot of the budget hotels are located is safe during the day but it does become very seedy at night, with a lot of aggressive beggars as well as lowlife individuals who make a living by talking to all tourists and selling drugs or asking for tips for minor things, such as walking with you to the store, when you didn’t even ask him to do so. These people are very aggressive and will follow you around, do not support them by giving them money.
As of Oct 2016 aggressive beggars are a major annoyance in Cartagena, they will follow people around relentlessly harassing tourists to give them money. Sometimes when you are shopping in the supermarket, a lady beggar will ask you to buy bread for her, despite having her shopping cart full already. If you leave the tourist areas you might be surrounded by delinquent looking 12-year-olds demanding you give them your coins. They don’t ask, they demand, it’s short of a robbery, more like taxation through intimidation. Do not give to these people ever or you are encouraging them to continue. Do not give in, stay polite and they’ll just go away.
Possession of illegal drugs in Colombia can lead to criminal charges. There is a scam going on where visitors are lured into buying illegal drugs. If you try to buy, “police” (the rest of the con gang) will emerge in a minute, drag you off to the nearest ATM and demand that you withdraw astronomical sums to pay “fines” or even kidnap you.
Those street vendors offer you a very good exchange rate. After you have counted the money you will recognize that a small amount is missing, and after complaining he will put exactly that amount on top again. In the same move they will take some big notes from the bottom. Most people won’t count their money a second time, and first think they made a good deal but in fact got ripped off.
Dodgy tours to Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca
The tours offered to visit Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca can be quite a let down. You’ll be offered a price for a tour which “includes” either snorkeling or entrance to the aquarium and a meal at Playa Blanca for about COP$50,000. Once on the trip you find out that you have to pay extra for the aquarium or the snorkeling – COP$15,000. Make sure the tour guides on the boat are told by the person who sold the tour what is included in order to avoid disagreements.
The best way to book a tour is going inside the marina and avoiding the “sales” people outside. They are getting a cut for the sales and have no responsibility to you. Once inside ask for Elizabeth (‘La negra Liz”). She owns several boats, will give you the best price, and most importantly her word. You can rent your own small boat for COP$700,000 or secure a seat for COP$75,000. Ask them before hand about the itinerary. Her company in particular has its own “resort” in the Rosario Islands. The resort is clean, nice and has good food for a reasonable price. Their beach access is limited and less than spectacular. Her boats will insist on taking you there, but you have a choice.
Playa Blanca is by far the best beach, but it can be overwhelming with the locals trying to sell you their products.
More upscale destinations include the Baru Island and private resorts owned by the big hotels (Santa Clara, Santa Teresa). In most, you are allowed to spend the day at the beach. Every tour boat has their own agenda.
If you plan to take a bus to Santa Marta from bus terminal, it is advised to approach ticket counters and buy tickets directly there. Otherwise be aware: normally there is a bus service with connection in Barranquilla, where you will have to switch a bus and pay a new fare to Santa Marta again, even if you have already paid it in a previous bus and even if you were promised that this was an absolutely direct bus to Santa Marta. If you happen to have this kind of connection in Barranquilla, make sure that you keep your tickets with you (even though they are being collected shortly after departure) and make sure that the guy, who will meet you in a bus and guide to another bus during a connection was clearly notified by a bus driver that you have already paid your fare to Santa Marta.
Stay healthy due to COVID-19 in Cartagena (Colombia)
Colombia has an outbreak of the Zika virus, which is hazardous for pregnant women since it can severely damage the baby in the womb. The Colombian government is advising its residents to avoid pregnancy and various other governments advise women who are or might become pregnant to avoid travel to the area. Here is the travel advisory from the US government Center for Disease Control.
- 2 Hospital Bocagrande (corner of Carrera 6 and Calle 5), .
- 3 , Carrera 2 No. 14-210, Base Naval, . Also has a decompression chamber for diving accidents.
Telecommunications in Cartagena (Colombia)
- 4 Deprisa, Av Venezuela (Centro Edificio Citibank, local B1), . Monday to Friday 08:00-12:30 & 14:00-18:00, Sa 08:00-13:00.
- 5 Adpostal, corner of Calle 34 and Av. Luis Carlos López (in La Matuna, Centro Comercial Galerias). Here you can buy stamps.
Sending postcards to Europe is expensive; a stamp costs COP$6,800.
- 6 Contact Internet Café, Calle de la Media Luna No 10-20, . 08:00-21:00. COP$1000/hr.
- 7 Micronet, Calle de la Estrella No 4-47, . 09:00-21:00. COP$1500/hr.
- 8 DAS, Carrera 20B No 29-18, Pie de la Popa, . M-Sa 08:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00. The immigration authority, where you need to go if you wish to extend your visa.
Consulates in Cartagena (Colombia)
- Greece 9 Greece, Carrera 9, Esq. Edificio Castillo del Mar, , fax: .
- Panama 10 Panama, Carrera 1 No 10-10 (Bocagrande), . M-Sa 08:00-12:00.
- Venezuela 11 Venezuela, Carrera 3 No 8-129 (Edificio Centro Executivo, 14th floor), . Monday to Fridayr 09:00-11:30 & 13:30-16:00.
- 12 Biblioteca Bartolomé Calvo, Cl. de la lnquisición 23. Monday to Friday 08:30-18:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. The city library.
- You can get to Santa Marta for US$32 with Berlinastur. Buses leave every two hours, 12:00 and 14:00 being good moments. The trip lasts about 3½ hours and passes through Barranquilla (US$16 if you stay there; departures every hour, half of the buses stay here and half continue to Santa Marta). In Cartagena, their terminal is at Crespo, on the way to the airport. Many colectivos passing by the India Catalina can let you just at their door for COP$1,500. They also have buses to Cúcuta, Bucaramanga and Bogotá.
- About 45 km northeast of Cartagena on the road to Barranquila is the Volcán del Totumo, a 15 m high mud volcano. You can enter the crater and take a mud bath (entrance COP$2,000), which is enormous fun and highly recommended. The nearby laguna then serves as a natural bath for washing off the mud.
- The easiest way to get there is to take a tour. These cost around COP$30,000 (Dec 2010, COP$50,000 but booked from Hilton) with Rafael Perez tours (next door to the Cartagena Plaza Hotel in Bocagrande) and include the one hour each way journey to the volcano, as well as lunch and a swim at La Boquilla on the return to Cartagena. Another tour company is Los Pinos, which also charges COP$35,000 (or COP$25,000 without lunch) and uses the Manzanillo del Mar fishing village for a swim on the return journey. This tour can be booked from many hotels, such as the Casa Viena, in Calle San Andrés (Getsemaní), 5-664-6242 or Hostel Mamallena in Calle Media Luna 5-664-0948. Although the mud bath and massages are offered free of charge, you will be expected to tip anyone who helped you before your bus leaves. Other services expecting tips include storing your belongings, your shoes, holding onto your camera and taking snaps while you are immersed in the mud, and the women who help you wash off in the laguna. Tips of COP$1,000-5,000 for each person are the norm, depending on the service. Be sure to bring change.
- Going by yourself is quite a hassle, but you may find you have the whole volcano to yourself and can take all the time you want. (Dec 2010, COP$3,000 for every help, massage, guy who takes photos of you, woman who helps who washing afterwards.) Take a bus from the city center to Terminal de transporte (COP$1,700). There, take the hourly bus to Galerazamba and get off at Lomito Arena (COP$6,000). From there it is 45 minute walk or take a motortaxi (COP$2,000). The whole trip takes about 2.5 hours. The last bus back from Lomito Arena leaves around 3PM.
- Botanical gardens Jardin Botanico de Guillermo Piñeres — A pleasant escape from the city rush, 18 km out of Cartagena close to “Turbaco”, a small town 20 km from the center of Cartagena. Take a bus to the bus terminal and get of at “la Bomba de Amparo”, a big gasoline station 25 minutes out of the center. From there, are leaving buses to “Turbaco”- get off (ask the driver)a bit before Turbaco and walk to the right, about 20 minutes straight on. Together with your entry ticket you get leaflet which lists about 250 plants identified in the gardens, including some varieties of coca plants.
- Punta Arena — A fishing village 10 minutes by boat on the island of “Tierrabomba”,in front of “Laguito” (Bocagrande). You reach it by boats (lanchas), leaving from “Muelle de los Pegasos” or with boats in “Laguito” next to the Hilton Hotel. Punta Arena has probably the nicest beaches close to Cartagena. There are restaurants where you can get food and drinks. Enjoy a day, hanging out under palm trees with a fantastic view of the skyline of Cartagena.
- La Boquilla — A fishing village (pueblo de pescadores) close to Cartagena. Take a bus for COP$1,600 (March 2020), from India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela), if you get off of the bus at the end of the ride you can rent a canoe which brings you to a nice beach (Playa de Oro) passing trough lagoons and mangroves – pay for the boat once you are back. Riding a bike is a great way to get there and should take around an hour. Once you get past the end of the airport turn on to the beach and you can ride along the sand to La Boquilla.
- Bocachica – a fishing village on the island of “Tierrabomba” (pueblo de pescadores)
- Bocachica is worth to visit to see its restored fortress (Fuerte de San Fernando). The beach isn’t really special but OK to hang out for some hours. Several open-air restaurant serve food and drinks. Local boats leave during the day every 30-45 minutes from “Muelle de los Pegassos”. The boat ride takes about 15 minutes. Guides will try to sell you expensive “all included” trips to Bocachica but you should pay just the local fare (COP$5,000/one way, July 2020). Once you ask for the price it will get more expensive.
- Los Montes de María — : This is a sub-region in the Colombian Caribbean that is in the south, 2 hours away from Cartagena by car. It’s composed of mountains whose highest point is about 1,000 m above sea level. This region is of great ecological importance, one of the last remaining dry forests still intact in the Colombian Caribbean, with around 280 species of birds and 44 species of mammals, among which the Red Howler and the Cotton Top Tamarin, two endemic species of monkey. This ecosystem (Dry Forest) is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The Montes de María are also famous because of the Gaita music and to have one of the oldest ceramic in the America continent, an interesting region to do hiking, see wildlife and learn from this rich culture of the Colombian Caribbean
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Popayan Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia
Popayán (pronounced: Po – pa – ‘yan) is a colonial-era city in southwestern Colombia. It is the capital of the Cauca department.
The city was founded in 1537 by Sebastian de Belalcazar. Because of its beautiful colonial houses, it is known as the “white city”. Popayan has played a major role in Colombia’s history dating back to the early days of the Spanish conquest and into the 20th century. A number of Colombian presidents were born in Popayan including, most recently, Guillermo Leon Valencia from 1962 to 1966. Other well-known citizens include Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816) and Camilo Torres (1766-1816). Popayán has one of Colombia’s oldest universities: the Universidad del Cauca, founded in 1827. The university is well known throughout the country for its Law School, Medical School, and its Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering programs. Nowadays around 220,000 people live in the city.
Climate & Weather
Popayan’s airport does not have heavy traffic but you can reach the city by air. There are about four daily flights from Bogota to Popayan and vice versa. The airport is open between 6AM and 6PM. There are no flights between Cali and Popayan. The airport in the neighbouring city of Cali (100-minute car ride) serves many domestic and international destinations.
There are numerous bus companies available. One of the most reliable bus operators is Expreso Bolivariano. Avoid Expreso Puerto Tejada and Expreso Palmira. There is significant guerrilla activity in the countryside near Popayan and it can be risky to travel by land during periods of disturbance if you are not a local. There are daily buses from the border town of Ipiales.
- from Cali: COP$12,000, 3 hours with minibus COP$14,000, 2 hours
- from Armenia : COP$40,000, 7 hours (several a day)
- from Medellín: COP$60,000, 11 hours (7PM, 8PM, 1AM)
- from San Agustin: COP$34,000, 5 hours (six a day)
- from Tierradentro: COP$20,000, 4 hours (5AM, 8AM, 10:30AM, 1PM, 3PM)
- from Pasto: COP$25,000, roughly 6 hours, but double check before you go
- from Ipiales: COP$25,000 – 40,000, 7-8 hours (better during the day) – Many buses leave in the early morning.
Popayan is a small city and it is an easy 10-15 minute walk between the bus station and the centre. The historical centre is fairly compact and best explored on foot. Taxis are plentiful and can bring you at the bus terminal for around COP$3,000.
Since Popayan was a seat of power during Spanish colonial times, there are numerous architectural gems in the city. Some of the most impressive are, naturally, churches. Do not miss:
- 1 Iglesia de San Francisco, Calle 4 and Carrera 9. Large baroque church built during the 16th century but then destroyed by and earthquake in 1736. It was rebuilt in 1790. Its tower contains one of the biggest bell of America made from gold and bronze. Inside the church, there are ten decorated altars. free.
- 2 Iglesia La Ermita, Calle 5 and Carrera 2. The church Ermita de Jesús Nazareno is the oldest church of the city dates back to 1546. It has a refined altar and colonial paintings (frescoes) that were discovered after the 1983 earthquake.
- 3 Belen. Small church perched on top of a small hill overlooking Popayan.
- 4 Parque de Caldas. Popayan’s central square, named after one of Popayan’s most famous citizens: Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816). A statue of him is visible in the center of the square. On one side of the square is a city landmark called the Torre del Reloj or the ‘Clock Tower.’ The clock was designed by Caldas himself and was constructed in Croydon, England before being shipped to Colombia. A few doors down from the Torre del Reloj is the city’s Cathedral, which was badly damaged during the major earthquake that almost destroyed the whole city on March 31, 1983. The city took almost 20 years to fully recover from the quake but the vast majority of the buildings in the white colonial centre have now been restored to their former glory.
As for government buildings the Gobernacion and the Universidad del Cauca have excellent colonial premises.
- 5 Puente del Humilladero, Carrera 6 and Calle 2. Another architectural site which is a long walking bridge over a river in Popayan that was constructed in old Roman style.
- 6 El Morro de Tulcán, Calle 7 and Carrera 2. a hill which was an Indian pyramid dating before 1535. On the top of the hill there is a statue dedicated to the Conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar which founded the Spanish establishment of Popayán. The top offers a perfect view of the city and during week-end, a crowd is there to enjoy the sunset. free.
Also you can see other older religious traditions like of the Amo Jesus Nazareno of Puelenje is a Catholic image, that is worshiped in the temple of Puelenje, district of Popayan, Colombia. Patron Saint of this place. It is a polychrome wood sculpture of Jesus Christ of the eighteenth century made in the Quito school. Is Baroque. The image also scrolls the Holy Wednesday. In the processions of Holy Week in Popayán that are inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.This religious festival is celebrated by the natives of Puelenje for 15 days, where there are fireworks, processions, religious ceremonies and cultural events as the Chirimia.
The city is world-renowned for its Easter celebrations, or the Semana Santa. In fact, the celebrations are the second largest in the world (after Seville, Spain) and are a major sight! Every night during Semana Santa, there are processions in the streets and tens of thousands of people line the sidewalks to watch as floats pass by with religious motifs. The floats are carried on the shoulders of human volunteers. It’s a great honour to be selected for the Semana Santa processions but the floats can weigh up to 500 kg and so dislocated shoulders are frequent. It’s a major cultural event that is witnessed by people from all over the country.
- 1 Universidad del Cauca, Calle 5 and Carrera 5. The University of Cauca has 9 faculties in which it provides undergraduate and graduate training in different areas of knowledge like Telecommunications, Civil Engineering, Human Sciences and Arts.
You can buy some handicrafts. They are specially made by guambiano indians
In 2005, Popayan became the first city to be designated a City of Gastronomy as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. For cheap and genuine food, try the market near Plaza Bolivar, north of the Puente del Humilladero. Meals from COP$5,000.
- Carantanta: A kind of chip typical from the Cauca departement made from corn, It can be eaten with a soup.
- Pipian: A sauce made from peanuts. Can be served with tamales or very small “empanadas”, which are potato doughnuts.
- Champús: Drink made from crushed maize, in addition to panela, lulo, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves and leaves of the orange tree.
- Manjar Blanco or Payanés: a typical sweet cream made from milk, sugar and rice.
- Manjarillo: dulce de leche with panela (unrefined whole cane sugar).
- Dulce cortado de leche: another variation of dulce de leche with cloves and cinamon.
- Breva Calada: dessert made of figs cooked with panela served on top of white cheese. Usually made for Christmas.
- Helado de Paila: Ice cream made in a large shallow and heavy copper bowl.
- Envuelto: Corn cake wrapped in a plantain leef. Can be eaten with cheese.
- Rosquilla: the Popayan version of the donut.
- Cuaresnor Pan Tolima, Carrera 6 and Calle 4, . 6AM–9PM. Simple place to try some of the Cauca specialties. The place has also a nice bakery. Lunch COP$7,000.
2 El Muro, Carrera 8a, #4-11. dishes and a drink for $4000.
Real santo domingo (calle 4 # 2-39), . Crepes + Gaseosa (option of chicken or meat or fruits) $3,900
Cakes and more, carrera 2 #2-35, . Amazing cakes.
Popayán is in Cauca, which was considered one of the most dangerous departments in Colombia in 2011. In 2011 several car bombs rocked central Popayán, with the authorities blaming local armed and mafia groups for the actions. stay alert for information regarding drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitaries, as this city and its surroundings sees the presence of countless armed groups.
Aguardiente caucano is a drink based on Anis and it has some degrees of alcohol. It’s the favorite drink in informal parties.
- El Sotareño, Calle 6, 8-05. A small and friendly bar with oldish music and good atmosphere.
Where to stay in Popayan
- 1 Hostel Caracol, Calle 4 #2-21 (4 blocks from the main square and just 300m from La Ermita church), , ✉ email@example.com. Opened in October 2011, this is one of the most laid-back hostels in the city. It’s in a beautiful 16th-century colonial building in the heart of the colonial centre. Offers: Free Wifi, Computers with internet, 24-hour access, kitchen, DVD room, Lockers with power sockets, lots of information on trips. The hostel also offers the best deals on long-stay rates. Dorms: COP$27,000, private room: COP$48,000, doubles: COP$62,000.
- 2 Hostel Trail, Carrera 11 #4-16 (20 meters from Hotel Monasterio), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The backpacker’s choice in Popayan since 2006 and rated considered by the rough guide to be “one of the best hostels in the country…” with private and dorm rooms, the fastest broadband internet in the city, free Wi-Fi, Skype, DVD Collection, lockers with power points, hot water showers, laundry and self-catering kitchen and breakfast service. HostelTrail also runs most of the tours in Popayan including the downhill cycling trip to Coconuco. Wednesday night is curry night. COP$10,000 for a curry and a drink. Dorms: COP$23,000, doubles: COP$62,000, singles: COP$40,000.
- 3 ParkLife Hostel, Calle 5 #6-19 (In the central park besides the Cathedral), , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. This hostel is right in the center of Popayan, in the Prque Caldas. It is in a beautiful colonial building with amazing views to the Popayan main square. In the past few months the area has been reserved only for pedestrians so that tranquility is a guarantee. It’s good karma and low prices have atracted many visitors trying to visit the city or its surroundings. The services include free Wi-Fi, laundry service, big common areas, and free use of the kitchen. The area is very close to several coffee shops, supermarkets and the main commercial street. Dorms COP$25,000, doubles COP$55,000.
- Hotel Pass Home, Calle 5 #10-114 (five streets down the hill from the central park), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This hotel is clean and the owners (Colombian family) are very friendly. If you need a place for a tent, you can pitch here as well for COP$10,000 and you can use the kitchen for free. Free WiFi. Private rooms have cable TV with 106 channels in English, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, etc. You can also purchase a breakfast, lunch, and dinner package with local Popayan cuisine for COP$10,000 per day. Dorms COP$18,000, singles COP$25,000, doubles COP$36,000.
- Residencial Florida, Carrera 6. Very simple rooms with shared toilet/bathroom. Singles from COP$7000.
- Hotel Monasterio (Dann Hotel), Calle 4, between Carreras 10 and 11. This is a city landmark in itself. It used to be a Monastery and it was converted into a very nice hotel. It is behind the Iglesia de San Jose. It is about 4 city blocks from the Parque de Caldas. $$$.
- Hotel Camino Real, Carrera 5 # 5-59 (Half a block away from Parque Caldas), . This is a very good hotel in the city center. The food is unexpectedly sophisticated. The service is cordial, especially important for non-Spanish speaking guests. The decor reflects the Spanish influence, but makes you feel at home. The rooms are comfortable for the business traveler as well as for visiting families. Reasonably priced rooms in the heart of the city. $$.
- Casa Familiar Turistica, Carrera 5 No. 2-07, . This is a smallish family run hostel with an excellent location right inside the historical center. The family seems mostly indifferent, neither helpful or rude. It offers two hot showers, kitchen use (with a fee), laundry service and breakfast for COP$3,000. Price for a dormbed was COP$13,000 but has been rising.
- La Casa de Mima, Calle 3 # 2 -37 (5 blocks away from Parque Caldas), . Once a family home, now attended by owner. Very convenient location in a quiet downtown street. Rooms are large, most with private bathroom. Back garden, small swimming pool. Check-in can be arranged for guest convenience. COP$70,000.
- 4 Coffee Break Hostel, Carrera 1 #3-27. Hostel located in the university neighbor. The center is at a five minutes walk distance as well as other attractions. The staff is very friendly and will help you organize tours. Rooms are comfortable and clean. The common space is nice with hammocks and pizza oven. Large and clean kitchen with everything to cook. COP$25,000 for a dormitory bed, COP$50,000 for a double room..
- There is a lot of budget accommodation in Carrera 6, just across the Puente del Humilladero, north of the Rio Molino.
- Coconuco, one hour from Popayan, this small town offers the Hirviendos hot springs. HostelTrail (see Sleep) also runs the most popular trip in Popayan which is a downhill cycling trip to Aguas Hirviendos. The tour leaves at 10PM from HostelTrail and returns at around 3-4PM in the afternoon.
- Puracé National Natural Park, a national park two hours from Popayan, where it is possible to trek to the top of the Purace volcano or look for Andean wildlife. The bus leaves for the park at 5am from the main station.
- Silvia, about one hour from Popayan, in the land of the Guambiano Indians. There is a spectacular market there on Tuesdays.
- San Agustin, a small town with dozens of pre-Colombian statues, waterfalls and beautiful views can be reached in about 5 hours.
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Bogota Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia
Bogotá’s sheer size and (outdated) violent reputation are intimidating for visitors, but the city opens up to the savvy traveler with incredible riches befitting the capital of Colombia, and one of the biggest cities in Latin America. Historic riches—its well preserved historical quarter has a good claim to be the original capital of Spanish colonial South America, as the capital of the vast New Kingdom of Granada, placed strategically close to mythical El Dorado. Artistic riches—the small historical quarter alone is home to dozens of experimental theaters, and diverse art galleries dot the most popular neighborhoods pressed against the dramatic Eastern Andes peaks. Culinary riches—its several dining districts play host to world-class restaurants representing all the world’s cuisines, traditional and modern, frequented by the local jet set crowd. Rich with nightlife, the party lasts well into the night at sweaty salsa clubs, English pubs, caffeinated indie rock shows, cocktail lounges, steakhouses-cum-dance parties, and amidst drawn-out conversations in coffeeshops and corner cafes in this decidedly intellectual university town known as the Athens of South America. You could see the sights in a few days, or linger for a month to live the cosmopolitan life.
The city of Bogotá is divided into 20 distinct localities, or Districts, and every visit to this city should include touring at least three or four of them, depending on the purpose and extent of one’s travel. The “must-sees” include La Candelaria, Chapinero-Zona T, and the Zona Rosa. A little extra time to explore La Macarena in Santa Fé, Parque 93, and Usaquén’s colonial center would be time well spent.
Despite having a bit of a (snarky) reputation among well-to-do Bogotanos as a slum filled with drug-abusing hipsters, La Candelaria is the city’s beautiful historic district, the seat of the national government, a bohemian hotspot for the arts, has a good claim to be the original capital of South America—all travelers must visit.
|Santa Fé-Los Mártires|
The traditional downtown area, which surrounds La Candelaria, has far less appeal to more cautious tourists due to frequent violent crime, but travelers should make a point to visit the great restaurants in its (safe) northern neighborhood, La Macarena, near the International Center.
El Chapinero is one of the city’s genuinely coolest neighborhoods, and the center of gay nightlife. Zona G is arguably the best spot in the city for fine dining.
Every great South American city has a Zona Rosa—it’s the dedicated nightlife district, heavily policed, and filled with restaurants, pretty leafy streets, and expensive clubs!
Of the city’s nightlife/fine-dining districts, Parque 93 is the most laid back. The focus is on the establishments lining the park, with its festivals and beautiful views towards the mountains.
Favored by wealthy Bogotanos, Usaquén has huge high-end shopping malls, an old colonial center, a huge golf course, and restaurants and clubs off-the-beaten-path (for tourists).
Teusaquillo-Salitre is home to the National University, the imposing fortress of the U.S. Embassy, shopping at the slightly edgy neighborhood of Galerias, big parks that host major festivals, the planned city of Ciudad Salitre and its burgeoning business district, and virtually all of the city’s major sports venues.
A mix of wealthy and middle class neighborhoods, firmly off the beaten path for travelers, despite being just west of the major nightlife districts to the east.
A vast and confusing jumble of poor and middle class neighborhoods and El Dorado International Airport.
The much maligned South. It’s arguably the most dangerous and pretty clearly the poorest part of town, and it’s a rather huge area, with over a quarter of the city’s population. There is in fact plenty to do here, for the most intrepid travelers, in addition to Sumapaz National Park in the extreme, rural south.
With a population of about 8.8 million people, Bogotá sits approximately 8,660 feet (2640 m) above sea level in the Colombian Andes region. Orientation is relatively easy, as the mountains to the east are generally visible from most parts of the city.
To understand the sheer size of the city, consider that Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York City are the only North American cities larger than Bogotá. In fact, in 2008 the World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) from the United Kingdom ranked Bogotá as a world city comparable to San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Dubai, Buenos Aires or Berlin, grouped by their economical, political and cultural developments. What this means for the traveler is a world class urban destination.
Bogotá is a city of contrasts, and as such it offers a unique experience to its visitors. Prepare to find a hectic balance between the new and the old; the peaceful and the frantic. Encounter century-old plazas and churches shadowed by towering skyscrapers. Find peaceful tree lined bicycle routes cut through by wild-traffic avenues. Bogotá is a city with many layers. From internationally recognized universities to regional offices for multinational companies, Bogotá is Colombia’s capital for official business dealings. It is a city that caters to a population that has been exposed to European and North American influences, which ensures that anything from traditional dishes (Ajiaco) to sushi or fast food restaurants can be found. It’s one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities of Latin America.
Bogotá is divided by 4 sections: The South which is mainly the poorer section of the city, its population is most working class residents; The Downtown, is the city’s original Downtown and hosts most of its traditional heritage locations, city and public offices, and financial headquarters. Few people live in the area. The West, which is home to Bogotá’s major sporting venues and outdoor parks, as well as residence areas for main middle class living; and The North which is where most modern development has taken place, and combines many upscale living spaces with affluent shopping centers, boutiques, cafes, nightclubs, and many new business neighborhoods offering headquarters to many multinational corporations and neighborhoods for upper-middle and upper class residents.
During the last decades, due to the city’s exponential growth, some of neighboring towns have been absorbed and are now considered within the metropolitan area of Greater Bogotá, like Chia, Soacha and Mosquera.
Fly to Bogotá
The city is served by El Dorado International Airport (~20 minutes from downtown in a taxi), that receives several flights daily from New York City, Washington D.C., Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Houston, Miami International Airport, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, São Paulo, Madrid–Barajas Airport, Barcelona El Prat Airport, Frankfurt Airport, Mexico City, San José, Lima, Buenos Aires, Panama (disambiguation), Quito, Guayaquil, Oranjestad (Aruba), Willemstad (Curaçao) and Toronto among others. Tourists can also take advantage of the convenient connections and direct flights from Los Angeles, Washington, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Punta Cana, Valencia (Venezuela), La Habana, Montego Bay, London, Frankfurt and Orlando. Many international airlines such as JetBlue, United, Delta, Iberia, Air France, Lufthansa, Air Canada, American Airlines, LAN, Gol, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Spirit, and AeroGal amongst others.
Domestic flights are served by many airlines including Avianca (main Colombian airline), Copa Airlines, LAN, EasyFly, Satena, and VivaColombia (a low-cost airline). Domestic flights of Avianca are served from the Puente Aéreo terminal, next to El Dorado terminal, and features WiFi access to the Internet from almost every location. There are more than 20 daily flights to the 2 airports located in Medellín, over 15 daily flights to Cali and more than 10 to Cartagena. Taxis are regulated, reasonably priced and safe from the airport. El Dorado Airport is undergoing a complete makeover, which will end in 2012 and will make it bigger and more comfortable. El Dorado is also the third busiest airport in Latin America and the largest by cargo movement.
To get out from the airport into the city there are a couple of options:
- Regulated taxis. You first have to search for a stand where you will have to point out your destination and then they will print out a ticket indicating the price you will have pay. Then, pick up a taxi from the line and explain to the driver your destination. At the end of the journey you will have to pay only what is printed out in the ticket. The typical price will range from COP$15,000 to 25,000.
- Bus. Walking only some meters outside the main door entrance, you will find a “paradero” (bus stop) with frequent busetas passing by. Although this is by far the cheapest option (around COP$1,500), it can be daring if you don’t know the city already, since the bus only indicates the main places where it passes by. However, bus drivers are friendly and quite helpful, and you can ask them to indicate you when the bus is passing a certain point of the city. A good option is to ask him to drop you close by a Transmilenio station and then continue your trip from there.
- Transmilenio. Bogotá’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system extends to El Dorado avenue, so you can use the system to get into and out of the airport. You can only use the system if you have small luggage – you might not be allowed into the stations if you are carrying big suitcases. To get out, find the “Alimentador” (feeder) stops in front of the main terminal or the Puente Aéreo (if you travel with Avianca) – it is a green bus with “Transmilenio” on the side. This bus will bring you for free to the main “Portal El Dorado” station. Buy the Tullave card before entering the station, and take the bus you need. People with Transmilenio or blue SITP jackets are ready to help (although most of them do not speak English – bring your Spanish phrasebook).
Buses run in and out of Bogotá’s main station, El Terminal de Transporte de Bogotá. The station is clean and has standard amenities. Located at Calle 22 B, No 69-59, several bus companies have regular routes to destinations around the country. To get there from the airport, you can take a short taxi ride.
Take into consideration that most of the restaurants serving within the terminal can be expensive by Colombian standards, but well served. In case of need, it may be advisable to order a dish for 2 people or just to check places around the station.
The Terminal is divided in several color-coded areas that indicate the destinations to which companies in that area travel to : Yellow = South, Blue = East and West, Red = North and International, Purple = Arrivals.
The terminal’s website has a useful Search Engine . Simply enter your destination as “destino” and it will list the companies serving that destination, schedules, and approximate price.
Some common bus companies in Colombia that are found in this Terminal are :
- Expreso Bolivariano : This company has one of the most extensive networks. Some international destinations as well.
- Coomotor : Mostly destinations in Southern Colombia.
The city of Bogotá is built on a grid system. A rather imperfect one, actually. Chaotic urban sprawl in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly driven by violence in the countryside and the immigration that ensued, made the city develop without any effective long term urban planning (or, in some cases, just plain bad urban planning). This has resulted in a lot of irregular blocks, twisting streets, and diagonals cutting across what is supposed to be a perfect grid. Therefore, the apparently straightforward street address system has historically been more of a guideline as to where things are than a precise way to get to places. An update of the street addresses in much of the city was directed towards solving some glaring inconsistencies in getting around. Most places that tourists visit are easy to find nowadays, but you have been warned.
Carreras (roads) are abbreviated as Cr., Kra., and Cra. and run parallel to the mountains from South to North. Carrera numbers increase from East to West, away from the mountains – so Carrera 7 is near the mountains and Carrera 100 is far from them – except for a very few carreras near the mountains that increase in reverse order and that have names like “Carrera 1 E” (‘E’ standing for East).
Calles (streets) cross the carreras and run from East to West. Calles are abbreviated as Cll. and Cl. For half of the city (the northern half tourists are most likely to visit) calle numbers increase from South to North – so Calle 13 is near the center of the city, whereas Calle 250 is one the last streets before exiting Bogota on the northern side. Calles in the southern half work similarly to ‘East’ carreras near the mountains: the southern calle numbers increase from North to South, mirroring streets in the northern half. These are called things like “Calle 85 S” (‘S’ standing for South).
Aside from calles and carreras, there are ‘diagonales’ and ‘transversales’. As their names suggest, they are not perfectly parallel to calles and carreras. However, the same numbering system applies to them. Diagonales are supposed to be deviations from calles, whereas transversales are supposed to be deviations from carreras. So, for example, Diagonal 107 runs sort of East-West and is somewhere around Calle 106 or 108.
Avenidas, abbreviated as Av. or Ave.., are usually larger, main streets. Geographically speaking, most avenidas somehow fit into one the four categories mentioned above, although some avenidas twist around. They usually have a classification and number as described above, but they also have a distinct name, like “Avenida Suba”, “Avenida Boyacá” and whatnot. So, for example, Avenida Jiménez is a main street and, in the number system, is also called Calle 13.
Each address consists of a street and a series of numbers. For example, Calle 45 No. 24-15 (sometimes written as CL 45 # 24 – 15 or CL 45 24 15), means (1) the location is on Calle 45, (2) of the two insecting carreras nearby, the one with the lower number is Carrera 24 (since in this case we are talking about carreras, it means the nearest carrera to the East of the location; if we were talking about calles, it would be the nearest calle to the South of the location), and (3) the location is roughly 15 meters from the intersection of Calle 45 and Carrera 24. Furthermore, since the last number, 15, is odd, the location is on the southern side of Calle 24 (if the location were on a carrera, it would be on the west side of it). Even numbers at the end have the opposite meaning.
While ubiquitous and affordable, taxis are arguably the most visible representative to the world of Bogotá’s worst side. Travelers used to being cheated by taxi drivers probably aren’t yet acquainted with the paseo millionario, or “Millionaire Ride,” where a taxi driver swings by to pick up well-armed accomplices who then rob you, possibly drug you, and almost certainly take you to multiple ATMs to forcibly withdraw a large sums of money. This rather extreme practice is actually pretty common. Taxis should not be hailed off the street—only called through dispatch. Nice restaurants and any place of lodging will be happy to do this for you, and will express genuine concern if they think you are going to try to hail one. Otherwise, call one yourself at 599-9999, 311-1111 or 411-1111. Sometimes it can take a while to get one, though, so it’s good to have a back up. If public transit isn’t your thing, consider keeping a private car service on hand. They are pretty good deal for the money, when all is considered, and your hotel or business should be able to recommend one.
The cab hailing app Uber is a safe and affordable option in Bogota, though will require you to have Internet access from your phone. Uber rides can take a while to reach you, particularly if you are in the La Candelaria area.
If calling for a taxi, the driver will want to confirm that it is you who called by asking for a “clave” (key), which is always the last two digits of the phone from which you called to request the taxi. Each taxi has a meter which should increment one tick every 1/10 km or 30 seconds and starts at 25 ticks. The rate chart is printed on a card in the taxi. Nearly all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of you in one way or another; be sure the taxi meter is started when you begin your trip. Tipping is never necessary—be sure to count your change and be on the lookout for both counterfeit coins and notes. There are extra charges for the airport, holidays, and nights (after 8PM). Surcharge details are printed on the fare card. Surcharge for ordering a taxi arriving at your house is COP$600, extra charge after 8PM is COP$1,600, even if you are starting your trip before that time. Holidays and Sundays are also extra charged COP$1,600. Lock the doors of the taxi, especially after dark. If you experience a problem in a taxi or with the driver, dial 123 to report a complaint with the police. You should also call the company with which the taxi is registered.
In other hand If you are interested in a more private and professional option, you can hire a Shuttle Service. This kind of services often have wide range of vehicles and can be paid by credit card so you won’t have to worry about carrying cash all the time.
Bogota’s rapid bus service, the Transmilenio is extremely affordable, clean and efficient. It carries commuters to numerous corners of the city in exclusive lanes, bypassing the notorious city traffic. Tickets cost COP$2,000-1,700 (you must buy the card beforehand for COP$3,000). The downside, though, is a result of is own success—it’s terribly crowded during rush hour, and even sometimes during the rest of the day.
The vehicles used in that systems are articulated buses; they are fast and safe, but could be full during the afternoon times. The system also uses different kinds of stations: the simples offers bus services at the right and left sides (north-south;east-west) and the intermediates are usually located in middle points and have complete services, such as elevators, station libraries, bikes parks, restrooms. Alimentadores services (buses that reach zones the articulated buses do not) and the portals, the nine arrival and departure places of the buses, are located near the entrances to the city. Service ends 10PM–11PM, depending on the station. Intercity buses from the metropolitan area also arrive at these stations.
The sheer number of bus numbers is quite intimidating, but has a simple logic to it. (If you don’t have time, use the trip planner, and still probably ask some people at the station where to go.) There are actually only ten routes, demarcated by letters (and names, but don’t worry about that). J and L routes will take you into the historic/political center, with J buses even stopping right at the Gold Museum. B buses will take you up through the North, with Calle 85 being the closest stop to the popular Zona Rosa, B buses take you to Portal del Norte, where you can catch inter-city buses up to Zipaquirá (for the Salt Cathedral). K buses head out towards the airport.
Privately owned buses cruise all the main thorough fares and many side streets, and are the principal form of transport for the working class and student class. Though they do follow specific routes, they do not have bus “stops”; you merely call to them like taxis and they will stop for you where you are standing. Placards in the large front windows list destinations, either neighborhoods or main street names. Upon entering you will be asked for the fare; if you are not traveling alone you may be asked “Para ambos?”, for example, meaning “For both?”, to see if you are paying for just yourself or for your companion. Then you pass through a turnstile to the seating areas. The buses come in three sizes, usually, long (like a school bus), medium and small (called busetas). All have turnstiles. To exit these buses, you go to the back door and either push a button located usually on one of the hand rails or next to the exit, or simply call out “Aqui, por favor!” (Here, please!) or “Pare!” (Stop!). Passengers are often expected to embark and disembark even from the middle of the street.
Sometimes vendors are allowed to enter the buses to sell candy or small gift items (occasionally donating one to the driver for the privilege). Or, you may find entertainers such as singers or guitar players, and even the more creative of the street beggars who will regale you with a long, poetic story of their sad situation before asking for donations. Even in the smallest buses, cramped full of people standing and sitting, it is a common sight. A Grammy-nominated singer named Ilona got her start performing on buses around Bogotá.
You can plan which bus you need to take ahead of time using a combination of Google maps (which shows stops and bus lines) and the SITP website, though that works only for SITP buses.
The cost for riding on a private bus normally costs COP$1450 during the day and COP$1500 during the night.
Colectivos cover practically every major route of the city, and can generally be flagged down at any point on a main road. Watch these small buses for lists of destinations displayed on their windshields, or ask the driver (in Spanish) if he passes the neighborhood or intersection you are going to. Not very comfortable, but they are faster than a common bus and it’s also used as a shuttle for routes that don’t have so much affluence, it can take you almost anywhere.
Travel by bicycle in Bogotá
Bogotá has Latin America’s largest network of bicycle routes, called ‘Ciclorutas.’ On Sunday’s and public holidays, many main and secondary roads are closed to cars for the Ciclovia from 7AM-2PM, a special feature of Bogotá, where people can run, bicycle, inline skate or just watch from the side. There are refreshment stands along the way and most parks host some type of event such as yoga, dancing, stretching, spinning, etc. To get a bicycle you can rent a bike or going for a guided Bike tour on Bogota’s Ciclorutas or participating in the Ciclovia are fun and healthy ways to get to know the city, and to get closer to the people.
Sightseeing in Bogotá
Many landmark events in the history of Colombian and South American independence took place in La Candelaria, the historic mid-sixteenth Century colonial neighborhood that hosts the national government, including the near killing and escape of Simon Bolivar, the execution of revolutionary heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta, known as ‘La Pola,’ and the Grito de Libertad, known as the beginning of the region’s revolution. The district is indeed teeming with history, and there are a lot of interesting museums (arguably the best being the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum) and old churches. Some of its lovely streets are pedestrian-only. The most important places are Catedral Primada and Palacio de Nariño on Plaza de Bolívar, Iglesia del Carmen, Biblioteca Luis A Arango, the Colonial Art Museum, and the colonial architecture of the houses and buildings. Almost all the museums are free. La Candelaria also contains numerous Catholic Churches, many of them centuries-old. The Colombian-American and Colombian-French cultural centers are located in La Candelaria, and a Colombian-Spanish cultural center is under construction.
Outside La Candelaria, the most famous site is up the mountains over Santa Fé at the Sanctuary of Monserrate, which you can see from virtually any place in the city. Take the funicular up, or if you are feeling brave and athletic, hike it. Santa Fé also is home to the National Museum and the Modern Art Museum.
The northern neighborhoods that are so popular for dining and nightlife really don’t have all that much to see, in terms of traditional sightseeing, aside from the small colonial center in Usaquén. The park known as Parque 93 is rather pretty, though.
There are a couple interesting sights in Ciudad Salitre, for those either staying out there or those with plenty of time, having seen the more famous sights downtown, including the Botanical Gardens and the Maloka Science Center.
Tours and excursions in Bogotá
Downtown Day Tour
No visitor to Bogota skips the historic Downtown and La Candelaria neighborhood. In fact most affordable lodging and dining options can be found this side of town making it highly desirable by low-budget travelers and backpackers, given its close location to many of the city’s attractions.
Start your way on Avenida Septima and Calle 14, just arriving Parque Santander. Take the opportunity to visit the world famous Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum for its legendary El Dorado collections. Then continue south one block up to Avenida Jimenez and give your camera a workout at one of Bogota’s most famous and historic intersections, where a couple of ancient churches and 19th century buildings collide. Turn east (towards the mountains) and walk up Avenida Jimenez alongside downtown’s famous Eje Ambiental or Environmental Axis, which is a section of the avenue that has been closed off to vehicles except Transmilenio, to make way for a generous tree-lined pedestrian sidewalk and an enclosed water stream. Many historic and famous buildings are located alongside the Eje Ambiental, home to Bogota’s most famous and traditional companies like El Tiempo and the Bank of the Republic.
A few blocks east just past the Parque de los Periodistas the Eje Ambiental starts bending northwise, so leave the axis and turn south instead via one of the small streets that branch into the neighborhood and make your way up to Calle 13 and Carrera 2, el Chorro de Quevedo, unofficial center of La Candelaria, where it is argued that the City of Bogota was founded back in 1538. Today, bohemian life meets to enjoy arts, culture and music at this spot. On the way make sure to take in the whimsical coloring and architecture of the neighborhood’s streets and colonial houses. Continue on Carrera 2 southward a couple of blocks up until Calle 11, and turn west once again just in front of La Salle University: You’ll be glad you do since you’ve been climbing constantly eastward so enjoy your walk back down. Make sure to notice the eccentric street names found on picturesque signs at every corner.
Make your way down west on Calle 11 and you will pass by the Museo Botero, museum showcasing some of famous Colombian painter Botero’s private art collection and work. Another block down is the Centro Cultural Garcia Marquez, modern cultural center and venue that includes Library, Art Galleries, concert halls and lesson rooms, with year-round events and displays for all tastes and audiences interested in culture and the arts. Continue down west and reach the Plaza de Bolivar, the city’s overwhelming main square surrounded by neoclasic government palaces and the Catedral Primada, largest church in the country. After taking in the many sights, you might want to leave the square southbound for a couple of blocks on Carrera Septima to check out the Presidential Palace and its Presidential Guard. Finally turn around back Carrera Septima northward until you find Transmilenio, just about where you started!
What to do in Bogotá
Outside of Bogota
Consider an excursion to Zipaquirá with its impressive Catedral de Sal. Shared or private guided tours can be booked in hotels/hostels or you can go there by bus or train.
Performances and Festivals
- On some Friday nights, parts of Avenida Septima are closed in the Centro and you can see all sorts of street performers, live music, magic shows, buy crafts and street food. If you don’t mind crowds its worth a visit.
- Check out the Iberoamerican Theater Festival, the biggest theater festival in the world (occurs every two years during Easter Week).
- Catch a football (soccer) game at El Campin Stadium. Easily accessible by Transmillenio and with a capacity of 48,000 spectators, it hosts games for the Colombian international squad as well as for professional league home teams Millionarios and Santa Fe. Avoid the north and south section for these home games which are populated by rival supporter groups; instead get a ticket for the eastern or western wings. International game tickets start from COP$20,000 and home games at COP$16,000.
- Take a cab or Transmilenio to a working-class neighborhood in the southside. Sit down in a ‘panaderia’ (bakery), order a “colombiana” brand soda and some good bread. Sit down and breathe the environment of the regular Colombian. Don’t narrow yourself to the upscale Norte. Since picking out one of these neighborhoods can be dangerous, the best ones to do so: Santa Isabel, 20 de Julio, The Tunal area.
- Go to Parque Simon Bolivar and chill like rolos (Bogota citizens) do, walk around the town’s biggest park or ride the train.
- Ciclovía. Every Sunday and national holiday from 7AM-2PM, major avenues are closed to cars and thousands of people turn out to bike, skate, jog and walk. You can join on foot or by renting a bicycle in the Candelaria neighborhood with Bogotravel tours.
- Sabana de Bogotá. Who would have imagined that there exists a fascinating natural wonder right in the heart of Bogotá? The wetlands of the Sabana (savannah) de Bogotá is where the rivers slow down a bit to rest on the plateau and “clean up” after flowing down from mountains. The water then continues to flow into the valleys to rejoin with the rivers below, including the Bogotá and Magdalena rivers.
Bogotá has numerous educational institutions. Some of the top universities include the National University , Universidad de los Andes , Pontificia Universidad Javeriana , Universidad del Rosario, Universidad Externado ,Universidad Santo Tomas , Universidad de la Sabana and Universidad de la Salle . However, there are many privately and publicly funded universities and schools.
If you want to learn Spanish, universities are a good option since they have all inclusive plans. They not only offer Spanish courses but also Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, Italian, etc. Also, many embassies have institutions that teach languages, such as the Centro Colombo Americano, the British Council, The Italian Institute, Goethe Institut, The French Alliance and the Brazil-Colombia Cultural Institute (IBRACO).
If you are looking for a more personalized education you can look for some of the Spanish schools in Bogota. Some of them are: Relato, Whee Institute (non-profit) and Spanish World Institute Bogotà.
The Spanish spoken in Bogotá is considered among the most neutral and clear in the world. If you know the basics, you’ll probably be fine. Bogotá is full of English academies and bilingual schools, so English is spoken by many people. The most “touristy” areas are full of young students who go to bilingual schools, and generally, they will help you translate. Colombians love to show off the best of their country to reduce the negative image it has among foreigners.
It is illegal to work in Colombia without a proper working visa. Visas can be obtained by employers on your behalf.
There is also a significant market for English and other language teachers.
Shopping in Bogotá
Local products worth bringing home include :
- Inexpensive handicrafts and silver jewelry from vendors. One of the cheapest and picturesque places to buy handicrafts is Pasaje Rivas (Calle 9 no. 9). You can access the narrow hall filled with small stores crossing Plaza de Bolívar, where de Major’s and president’s office is located.
- Coffee-based products
- Leather handbags, shoes, and wallets.
- Uncut and cut emeralds brought in from the world’s best emerald mines
In Usaquen you can find a huge flea market on Sundays.
The nicest malls in town are generally in the North, in Usaquén and the east of Suba: Unicentro, Hacienda Santa Barbara, Santa Ana, Palatino, Cedritos, Santafé and Parque la Colina, Iserra 100, Bulevar Niza.
The chicest area of Bogota, Zona T in the district of Chapinero, is surrounded by the upscale malls of Andino, Atlantis Plaza and El Retiro which holds various upscale boutiques such as Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Loewe and many more.
More Affordable Shopping Malls : Downtown: San Martín, Calima. West and Northwest: Gran Estación, Salitre Plaza, Hayuelos, Metrópolis, Plaza Imperial, Unicentro de Occidente, Titán Plaza. South: Plaza de las Américas, Centro Mayor.
Where to eat in Bogotá
Arepas: Corn flour based pancakes, sometimes made with cheese or slightly salted.
Empanadas: The closest comparison would be pastries. These are popular all over South America, so generally each country/region has their own recipe. The filling usually consists of meat, potato, vegetables and rice wrapped in a corn flour crust.
Tamal: Usually eaten for breakfast. A mixture of meat, chicken, potato, vegetables and yellow corn wrapped in plantain leaves and then boiled. Should be accompanied by a large mug of hot chocolate.
Ajiaco: Traditional thick soup based on three kinds of potatoes, chicken, avocado, dairy cream, herbs, corn, among others, usually eaten for Christmas and other important festivals. Typically from the altiplano region, and considered the city’s official dish.
Pizza and burgers. OK, can we really call these traditional Bogotá meals? One could surmise they’re from here, seeing their omnipresence. The city does both quite well, and you just need to do a 360° turn to find some.
Options are many for casual dining, unsurprisingly for a Latin American city of seven million people. Bogotanos love food from all over, so you’ll find a good mix of Colombian food, as well as cheap food from North America (especially pizza and burgers!) and Asia. Note that the Chinese food is almost always Colombianized, which can be pretty good anyway, but is almost never the real deal. Sushi is likewise easy to find, but usually of below-average quality. The clear exception is (upscale) Wok, which has several locations, and for a North American-price will serve you top-notch sushi and other authentic East and Southeast Asian dishes.
For lunch, definitely try a corrientazo—a small eatery that is only open for lunch, serving people on their lunch break a delicious full meal, with soup, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a meat dish, several starch offerings, and usually additional fruit on the side. You’ll know corrientazos by their well-advertised and extremely limited menu, which often consists of only one available main course! Best options are usually traditional ajiaco, bandeja paisa, or fish. Sometimes the advertisement is just “almuerzo” (lunch) on a cardboard sign. Prices are astoundingly low: around COP$3,500-10,000/meal.
Rotisserie chicken is usually not far away, often called chicken “broaster,” and is just fabulous. They’ll pass you plastic gloves to wear while you eat it to keep your fingers clean.
If constant meat and starch isn’t your thing, the more popular neighborhoods have lots of places just selling fruit and fruit juice/smoothies, often selling ice cream too. The fruit in Colombia is outstanding, and the juice bars are unbelievably cheap.
And there’s always Crepes & Waffles, a ubiquitous Bogotá chain that—with such a focus—can’t help but be great.
There are a few dedicated gourmet zone, the most impressive of which is Zona G (G for Gourmet). It’s a quiet, residential-looking neighborhood jam packed with absolutely incredible, world-class restaurants. Other places to look for high-end dining are (naturally) the Zona Rosa, as well as Parque 93, the La Macarena neighborhood of Santa Fé, and a little further afield in Usaquén.
For dining with a view, there are two restaurants up at Monserrate that are not at all tourist traps—they are excellent, modern, high-end restaurants. Just outside the city on the road to La Calera is Tramonti, another mountaintop restaurant less-known to tourists, but done up like a Swiss mountain chalet and perfect for watching the sunset and the lights come on.
Nightlife in Bogotá is very diverse, and you can almost certainly find whatever experience it is you are looking for. There are English pubs, Latin dance halls, electronic music clubs, quiet storefront bars, wacky themed clubs, salsa clubs, a huge indie-rock scene (if Cali is salsa, Bogotá is rock n’ roll), megaclubs, cocktail lounges, etc.
The cosmopolitan side of Bogotá nightlife is overwhelmingly to be found in Zona Rosa and Bogotá/Parque 93. It’s a little more spread out and sparse, but you’ll find similar places in Chapinero Central, Usaquén, and even Santa Fé and La Candelaria. Chapinero Central and La Candelaria tend to be more bohemian/hipster/artsy/young. Chapinero is also the center of gay nightlife.
Where to stay in Bogotá
If you are going to stay in Bogota, keep in mind the location; Most low-budget visitors choose to stay in La Candelaria, the colonial neighborhood in the center of the city. There are many cheap, nice hostels where you can meet travelers from all around the world. The historic district as well as all the major museums and some nightlife options are within walking distance. The deserted neighborhood streets are unsafe after dark on weeknights, though. Pressure from neighborhood groups to oust the remaining criminals has caused police presence to increase but you must always remain cautious. Check the location very carefully before you choose a place to stay, security is worse in the tiny deserted streets uphill and closer to Egypto neighborhood.
You’ll find several hotels in the upscale northern districts like the Zona Rosa, Parque 93, as well as in Ciudad Salitre on the airport highway. Security won’t be such an issue but prices are much higher. Nevertheless, you won’t have any problem hailing a taxi at 6AM in the morning in the northern districts, because your hotel would be just around the corner from nightclub, or on the way to the airport. On the other hand, you can find low to medium priced hotels and hostels more expensive than La Candelaria’s around downtown or near universities, especially in Chapinero Central.
Note than most hostels carry a strict no drugs due to the negative effects that these activities have on Colombians and their way of life. Cocaine use not only supports the violent conflict that has ravaged this country and this city, but also promotes the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest both through its production and subsequent eradication efforts. Child prostitution is also a current issue for many hostels and hotels who are fighting to prevent this from becoming a way of earning an income for young Colombians.
Bogotá is not as dangerous as it is perceived to be, but still a little crazy. Its once insanely high murder rate, which was the highest in the world, has dropped to a rate comfortably below most major Latin American cities, like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Caracas, and Mexico City. Bombings and kidnappings are a thing of the past, and should not be a concern to visitors at all—this is no war zone.
The principal safety concerns for travelers are muggings and taxi crime. Muggers are usually high on drugs and armed with knives or guns, and you should simply give them what they ask for without a fight—it’s never anything worth dying over. Neighborhoods that are frequented by travelers that have a significant problem with muggings include La Candelaria (after dark on weeknights—daytime walks and F-Sa nights are fine), most parts of Santa Fé, and to a much lesser extent the more southern parts of Chapinero close to Avenida Caracas. Los Mártires is a place to be on guard any time of day.
Taxi crime is a weird problem here (see “Million Dollar Ride” below). While longer-term visitors will find themselves lazily hailing cabs now and then, it is best to call cabs and not hail them off the street. Any cab dispatched will be safe, while hailed cabs are infrequently, but a little too frequently for comfort, dangerous. It may take a bit longer, but your safety is worth an extra wait. Hotels and nicer restaurants will always be happy to call one for you, and often offer to unprompted.
Oh, the Million Dollar Ride (Spanish: Paseo Millonario). It happens frequently enough where in most social situations with Bogotanos, at least someone or someone close to them has had an experience. It occurs when you hail a taxi on the street, the taxi stops, you get in, then someone else gets in with you, and they take you for a ride until you have taken an important sum out of your bank accounts. This is usually accomplished with legitimate threats of violence.
ATM muggings. Pay attention when using cash machines that nobody follows you after you have withdrawn the money. It’s a precaution foreign visitors aren’t always used to taking, but it’s not hard—look around as you step up to the machine to see if anyone’s paying too much attention, then do the same afterwards. If someone is, abort and/or go into a store or eatery and stay put. Try to use ATMs that are inside (the supermarket Éxito always has them), while still paying attention to your surroundings.
Stay healthy due to COVID-19 in Bogotá
Bogotá’s tap water is safe to drink and of high quality. Beware of street foods that may cause an upset stomach. Bogotá has no tropical diseases like malaria because of its altitude. Altitude sickness is, in fact, the largest health problem affecting foreigners—expect to be panting while going uphill or up stairs at first! Generally, a few days without hard physical activity or time spent in a mid-altitude city like Medellín will do the trick. If you have heart disease or a respiratory condition, talk to your doctor. El Dorado Airport provides wheelchairs for travelers with special needs. Private hospitals offer excellent health care.
Embassies & Consulates in Bogotá
- Austria Austria, Carrera 9 No 73-44, Piso 4, Edificio Fiducafé, , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 10AM-noon.
- Belgium Belgium, Calle 26 No 4A-45, Piso 7, .
- Brazil Brazil, Calle 93 No 14-20, .
- Canada Canada, Carrera 7 No 114-33, Piso 14, , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 8AM-12:30PM, 1:30PM-5PM, F 8AM-1:30PM.
- China China, Carrera 16 No 98-30, Santa Fe de Bogota, , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- France France, Carrera 11 No 93-12, , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Germany Germany, Ave El Dorado – Cra. 69 No 25B-44, Piso 7, Edificio World Business Port, .
- Indonesia Indonesia, Calle 70, no. 8 – 19, , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Netherlands Netherlands, Carrera 13 No 93-40, Piso 5, , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spain Spain, Calle 92 No 12-68, , ✉ email@example.com.
- Sweden Sweden, Calle 72 No 5-83, , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Switzerland Switzerland, Cra. 9 No 74-08, Piso 11, , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- United Kingdom United Kingdom, Carrera 9 No 76-49, Piso 8, , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United States United States, Calle 24 Bis No 48-50, , fax: , ✉ ACSBogota@state.gov, email@example.com.
The most important media for Bogotá are:
- El Tiempo is the country’s largest daily with a heavy focus on the capital.
- El Espectador has a liberal point of view and also a heavy focus on Bogotá.
For news and travel information on Bogotá in English:
- Colombia Reports
- The City Paper
- Visit nearby towns like Chía (for Andrés Carne de Res restaurant), La Calera, Cajica, Tabio, Zipaquirá and La Vega. You can find cheap and fast transportation to any of this destinations either from the Terminal de transportes or the Transmilenio North Portal. From most, you can return the same day. But it’s a good idea to get out, Bogotá is a chaotic city surrounded by lots of relaxed and peaceful places.
- Choachí is the best kept secret in town. This small village 50 min. East of Bogotá is reached after climbing up and down a tall mountain, so tall you can see Monserrate at your feet. Local cooking, hot springs and a great Swiss restaurant await for you at your destination.
- Parque Nacional Sumapaz to the south of Bogota to see the Paramo. It is closed due to improvements of guides and infrastructure. (August 2016)
- Parque Nacional Chingaza to the east of the town Calera is a different place to see the Paramo. You’ll need a 4×4 vehicle or go by a tour. Entrance fee is COP$13,500 for Colombians, COP$39,500 for foreigners and includes an obligatory guide. There are trails up to around 4 hours. Better to start early as you have to leave the parque at 3PM. Apart from the vegetation it’s possible to see bears, deers and other animals.
- Laguna del Cacique Guatavita, . Closed every Monday if Monday is a holiday. This spiritual lake is where the legend of El Dorado originated. The Muisca Indian King used to have religious ceremony in the middle of the lake, painted all his body with gold dust, and threw gold things offered in sacrifice into the lake. English/Spanish guided tour is available. The journey will take little more time than to Zipaquirá. Go to Transmilenio’s North Portal and find the intermunicipal route to Sesquilé/Guatavita. Let the driver know that you intend to go to the Lagoon and he’ll drop you off at a point where you have to walk – it’s quite a hike on a steep hill, but people going by car will often pick you up and take you to the entrance if you ask. Foreigners COP$15,000, Colombians COP$10,000.
- Bogotá as a hub to visit other places in Colombia As the national capital is centrally located you can easily visit many distinct destinations as the Amazon Jungle (1½ hr by plane), Spanish colonial cities Cartagena or Popayan (1-hr flight), modern cities like Medellín located in an impressive Andean valley or Cali at the foothills of the Andes.
To get to the airport from the city, you may use Taxi or a public buseta (van). A way to get by public transport is either to go to the Calle 19, which from the Candelaria where most foreigners tend to stay, is only 4-5 blocks away. Catch a bus that says “Aeropuerto”. Or go the Avenida 26 which is the street that goes directly to the airport. Also look for buses that state “Aeropuerto” there. This journey may take around 45 Minutes from the town center depending on the traffic conditions, but is significally cheaper than taking a taxi anywhere in the city (COP$1,300 vs. around COP$25,000). The Transmilenio K10 route will drop you off at Portal El Dorado, and you can board a green Alimentador bus from there to the Airport and the Puente Aéreo.
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Barranquilla Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia
Barranquilla is a city on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
Introduction to Barranquilla
Barranquilla is a cosmopolitan and primarily industrial city, often visited by businessmen of all nationalities. However the main attraction for tourism is its carnival “Carnaval de Barranquilla,” that takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday. In November 2003, UNESCO proclaimed it as one of 28 different “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
Barranquilla is also called by its residents and Colombians in general “Curramba” (from a language game, in synthesis, Curramba is a reference to “party”) and the Golden Gate to Colombia (Puerta de Oro de Colombia), this due to its location on the delta of the Magdalena river, making it the most important commercial sailing port to the Atlantic Ocean for the nation.
Residents are known as “Barranquilleros” and are characterized by their outgoing and friendly attitude and relaxed behavior. This makes the average barranquillero an optimistic and open individual, as well as goal-directed and hard-working.
Visitors arrive to the city traditionally by plane. The airport “Ernesto Cortissoz” is on the far south side of the city. The fare is usually US$8–12 to get to the town center by taxi.
International direct flights are available to Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Panama City. Domestic non-stop flights arrive from Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.
Airport car rental services can be arranged from abroad with two main companies: Hertz and National Car Rental.
Take a bus to Barranquilla
Buses run by the terminal as well and will get you into the city for $0.55 or less, with the drawback of a significantly less comfortable ride experience.
Barranquilla can also be a connection to other cities of the northern coast of the country, provided the traveler doesn’t have a flight connection to anywhere else in Colombia already. Long-distance bus fares (in US dollars) to some cities are:
- Cartagena – $12
- Maicao – $13
- Santa Marta $13
- Medellín $20
- Maracaibo – $26
- Caracas – $44
Since the bus station is quite far away from the town center, and since buses departing from there are generally slow and stop at every village, it might be a good option to travel with bus companies operating direct links to Cartagena, Bogotá or Santa Marta from around the town center. One of these is Berlinastur, departure to Cartagena or Santa Marta every hour, COP$16, terminal at calle 96 with carrera 46. To get there from the tramway system you can take Alimentador A-71 or A-94, and also many “unofficial” colectivos, ask people in the street.
Cochetur runs air conditioned van services for travel among Cartagena, Baranquilla, and Santa Marta. Price per person is around COP$25,000 and trip time to either of the other cities is around 2 hours.
Moving around in Barranquilla depends largely on the traveler’s budget, language barriers and spirit of adventure.
Renting a car is an option for visitors with a more comfortable budget, the daily fare for an economy vehicle being around COP$150,000 a day, and with gasoline prices of about COP$8,000 per gallon (COP$2,100/L). However, driving in Barranquilla can be obviously tricky if you don’t know your way around or the changes in traffic during rush hour. Rent a car services can be dealt with from abroad or upon arrival to the hotel, may that be the case.
Taking a taxi is by far the best option for the newcomer. As of January 2011, the minimum fare was COP$5,000. They may more a bit more expensive at night time, Sundays, on national holidays or during rush hour. Taxis in Barranquilla do not have a meter: The fare is decided by the driver on the basis of distance, travel time and daytime vs nighttime. The most you will ever be charged for an in town trip is COP$16,000.
For those with more spirit for adventure, buses are another option. In this case, talking to the driver may not be necessary, but knowing someone in town is definitely of great help when choosing the right route. Bus fares are around US$0.80 per ride, sometimes a little more if the bus is equipped with air conditioning (not all of them are). Be warned that the buses do not wait until you are seated before they move and when getting off, often start back up before both your feet are on the ground when getting off. They also start and stop abruptly, so hang on.
Mototaxis are an illegal way of transportation that has grown in popularity. These consist of motorcycles charging significantly less money than a regular cab to take you virtually anywhere, but this mean of transportation is riddled with risks for personal safety, as these drivers have the tendency to be reckless.
Sightseeing in Barranquilla
Every year by the end of February or early March (forty days before Ash Wednesday), Barranquilla hosts its famous “Carnaval de Barranquilla” (carnival of Barranquilla), a four-day-long celebration in which the true partying spirit of the city is unleashed. Parades, dances, concerts and many cultural manifestations take place all over town.
Barranquilla also houses the beautiful and famous Teatro Amira de la Rosa, the old Customs building-Edificio de la Aduana, that serves as library as well as a museum; the Museum of Gold; and many other great places to visit. There are also a large number of art deco buildings built from the late 1930s into the 1950s. (See the book Barranquilla-Ciudad Art Deco by Gustavo Garcia.)
Another place to visit is “Bocas de Ceniza”, where the Magdalena River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
- 1 Museo del Caribe, Calle 36 No. 46-66, . 9AM-5PM. A great collection of the history of Barranquilla and the Caribbean. Modern displays featuring immigration, native cultures, ecology, food and else. A special chamber dedicated to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Closed: first Monday of the month (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). COP$10,000.
What to do in Barranquilla
Barranquilla is a large, complex city. Daytime activities are mainly of shopping and eating, but nightlife is active all year round, with bars and nightclubs open from Thursdays to Sundays in most cases. Some of the main party spots in town are Trucupey Latin Disco, AguaHelada, MoMa and Frogg Leggs if you plan to dance.
For a more relaxed environment some options are Luna Negra, Beba Genobeba, Old Times (a 1980s retro bar) and some spots known as “estancos”: These are basically liquor stores with or without tables, where music is played on weekends. Commonly people gather in these places to drink listening to music from the place itself or from their own car audio systems (in Barranquilla sound restrictions are quite lenient).
As well there are magnificent restaurants in the area known as “Washington” such as Naia, Mix where the tourist can experience an elegant, chic night.
Some places are known as “puntos frios” or “mundo de la cerveza” (world of beer), in which you should be able to get beer pretty much any day. There are also small tiendas (convenience stores all over the city).
If you are lucky enough to go during Carnival you will find yourself in a place in which everybody is up to party for entire days with no rest.
Take “Chiva”, an old-style bus full of people, music and dancing! The bus takes you to several nice discos in Bquilla. Typically on Saturday nights. Here is a good one: “La Chiva de Juan”. Calle 34 # 72-197. Tel: 3600264. Cell: 315-7420885.
- Go bowling at: Titos Bolo Club, Carrera 51B No. 94-110. Titos Bolo Club is a classic bowling place where you have to write down your own score. Price is COP$27,000 per hour and lane + shoe rent.
- Drive Gokart at Xtreme Karts – Carrefour Prado, Carrera 56 No. 75-155. 10AM-10:30PM. Here you can drive gokart in the basement of the supermarket Carrefour in Altos Del Prado. It’s a lot of fun to race with your friends. COP$9,000 for 6 minutes.
The language and culture!
Shopping in Barranquilla
There are many shopping centers with national and international brands. The biggest two are Buenavista and Villa Country, both located to the north. A cheaper alternative with plenty of “Sales” is El Único.
If what you want is artisanal souvenirs, the corner of 72 street and 46 avenue is the place to go. There you will find kiosks selling cheaper artisan work and a store by the name of “Artesanías de Colombia”, where more certified, yet more expensive souvenirs can be found. At the down town you will also find these for a lower price but usually of lower quality. You can also find the true and authentic artesanias in nearby towns such as Usiacurí, many of which are worth visiting.
Where to eat in Barranquilla
Both local and international cuisine are available in town. Local delicacies include arroz con coco and sancocho de guandul (a soup made of pigeon peas or “guandules” and meat), bocachico frito (fried fish from the Magdalena river), sancocho, and fritos (fried foods), including arepas and empanadas. If you wish to try local food, good choices are;
- Mag Mondongo
- La mano Costena
- El Tremendo Guandul
- El portal del Marisco (seafood).
- El corral del Marisco (seafood).
Try to go to “Las Flores” in the nearbies “Bocas de Ceniza”. There are many seafood restaurants next to Magdalena River. Very good food and environment.
All the above offer traditional food at very affordable prices.
Some other places to go, for a more international menu are:
- Doña Linda (Arabic food)
- El Arabe Gourmet (Lebanese food)
- Pepe Anca (steak)
- Pepe Anca (try their pepper steak. pricey but worth it)
- La bonga del sinu (steak)
- El Merendero (steak)
- Cafe de la Casa (Colombian gourmet sandwiches, salads, drinks with outdoor lounge area)
- Bora Bora (Thai)
- La vera cucina italiana (Italian)
- Nena Lela (Italian)
- La Caprichosa (Pizza) Very good pizzas. You can order by pieces (very huge pieces) for only US$1.50, and it will be enough to keep your stomach up.
The local beer is Aguila, and is also the cheapest one. However, Club Colombia is a Colombian beer with great flavor and quality, and just a little more expensive.
International beer is available widely, with Heineken being the preferred brand.
The spirit of preference by locals is rum, in a variety of national and international brands. Another popular drink is Aguardiente (an anise-flavoured liqueur derived from sugar cane), and is worth a try. Aguardiente literally means “burning water”, and it honors its name. As well Scotch, which is a little more expensive, hence it is consumed by the elite, the preferred brand is called Old Parr.
Almost any type of liquor is available, whiskey, vodka and tequila some of the most prevalent.
- Embassy Pub, Carrera 50 No. 82-264. Good international food, plus great cocktails, shots, spirits, beers and music, all in all an environment that is reminiscent of the famous pubs in northern Europe.
Where to stay in Barranquilla
- Villa Giron, Carrera 38N #41-31. Clean. Friendly staff. A bit dark and institutional feeling. Restaurant on premises. Doubles (matrimoniales) available starting at US$10, or $8 w/o air-conditioning.
- Hotel Olimpico, Carrera 42 #33-20. Clean. Friendly staff. Free WiFi. This area is not particularly safe at night. Doubles with fan: ~COP$35,000.
- Hotel Colonial Inn, Calle 42 #43-131, . Clean, safe, friendly staff. Pretty courtyard. They have a sister hotel 2 blocks away which is similar. Doubles with fan ~COP$30,000. With air conditioning COP$45,000.
There are many inexpensive hotels in the area between the above hotels. Walk around and ask to see rooms; they’re all quite decent. Generally the ones not listed in the guidebooks are a bit cheaper.
- Howard Johnson Hotel (Former Versalles Inn), Cra. 48 # 70-188 (Half a block from intersection of calle 70 – busy and wide street – and carrera 48), . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. Renovated, nice mid-range hotel. Weekend special: you stay 2 nights and pay for one, breakfast included. Small swimming pool. There is a station for the new bus system 3 blocks away. COP$180,000.
- Hotel Country International, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Carrera 52 # 75-30, Barranquilla. Nice staff, good breakfast.
- 1 Hotel Del Prado, Calle 54 #70-10, .
- Hotel Puerta del Sol.
- 2 Hotel Dann Carlton Barranquilla, Calle 98 #52B-10, .
- 3 Sonesta Hotel Barranquilla, Calle 106 #50-11, .
Stay in touch
Internet access starts at about US$0.60. There are tons of places that serve up access for US$1 or less, but shops are typically tucked up in centros comerciales (malls) without signs out on the street.
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Cali Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia
Cali is a city in southwestern Colombia, capital of the Valle del Cauca department. It has about 2 million inhabitants and it is a significant industrial and commercial center.
Cali is famous for its historical places, entertainment and day and night activities. It is also the world’s capital of salsa dancing. Cali is known in Colombia as the capital of fiestas, street partying, dancing, and salsa as Cali’s salsa clubs are among the most famous in the entire continent. Among many other things you can experience on your vacations, the people from Cali have developed a playful and hedonistic culture in harmony with the natural surroundings and country life.
Cali is a great place for tourism and leisure. The capital of the department of Valle del Cauca has become a mecca for tourism thanks to the beauty of its women, its historical sites, and a multitude of spots for day and night entertainment. Cali is one of the major economic and industrial centers of the country, and the main urban, economic, industrial, and agrarian city of southwest Colombia.
Cali is also known as the Sport Capital of America and host of many major sports events that take place in Colombia. Among the most important sporting events that have taken place in our city we´ve hosted the VI Pan American Games in 1971. We are also proud to have been the host of many World Championships in different sports. Cali hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Cup for the twelfth time in 2013 and, between July 25 and August 4, 2013 hosted the World Games.
Cali’s weather is wonderful. It has warm, sunny days with temperatures between 19°C (66°F) and 34°C (93°F) that average 26°C (79°F). Its altitude is 1,003 meters (3,290 feet) above sea level.
From the Terminal de transportes you have the choice of many different regional, national and domestic destinations.
The trip from the airport to the terminal lasts around 20 minutes and you can do it either by taxi (COP$45,000) or mini-van (COP$4,000). Recommendation: Travel only by certified transport companies, like Expreso Palmira, Bolivariano or Expreso Brasilia. These companies bring you safety and comfort for you and your luggage. You may bargain with other companies, but the trip may be very uncomfortable.
- to/from Bogotá : COP$65,000, 12 hours
- to/from Medellín : COP$50,000, 9 hours
- to/from Popayan : COP$12,000, 3 hours or with minibus COP$14,000, 2 hours
- to/from Pasto : COP$40,000, 9 hours (check for safety)
- to/from Armenia : COP$20,000, 3-3½ hours
- to/from Pereira : COP$29,000, 4 hours
- to/from Manizales : COP$30,000, 5 hours
Fly to Cali
Cali’s International Airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón is 16 km northeast of the city and can be reached by bus or taxi. Many domestic and some international destinations can be reached. There are flights to and from Medellín, Bogotá, Barranquilla, Ibagué, Pereira, Pasto and Cartagena. Foreign cities that can be reached by non-stop flights are Miami, Madrid, Panama City, San Salvador, Quito, Guayaquil and Esmeraldas in Ecuador. The airlines with international flights are: Avianca, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, LATAM and TAME. The low-cost airline VivaColombia also serves the city with flights to Medellín and Bogotá.
Taxis are a fast and affordable way to get around the town. Only use official cars and it is strongly recommended to call for one if possible (you may call the local numbers 444 44 44, 555 55 55, or 660 60 60 and ask for one, your name and destination will be registered in the head office). Make sure the driver starts the meter running. The meters count units, not in the local currency. The minimum fare during daytime is COP$3,700, during nighttime it’s COP$4,600. 14 units equal COP$900. Do not leave your luggage inside the taxi while you are not, it sometimes happens that drivers get off as soon as you are out the taxi and your luggage is still in the trunk. In any case, many of the taxi drivers are nice and gentle people and have some good stories to tell, so hopefully you speak or understand Spanish at a reasonable level. But be sure to pay what they ask because they would call the cops and will not let you get out until you pay the full fare.
- MIO – Masivo Integrado de Occidente: This transport system consists of large blue buses running in exclusive lanes with enclosed stations and offers the best option for local transit. All buses are air-conditioned, clean and safe. A one-way trip costs COP$2,000 paid by smart cards which can be purchased at manned bus stops. The system continues construction of new lanes with the eventual goal of comprehensive coverage of the metropolitan area.
- There are 23 urban transport companies to travel around the town. You may ask someone for a route, the local people are very eager to help. A regular trip costs COP$1,500.
Sightseeing in Cali
- Historic churches, there are many historic Catholic churches that represent different Spanish Colonial architecture of a time gone past. The city is over 450 years old, so architecture is one of the best things to see.
- Museo del Oro del Banco de la República, Calle 7 No. 4-69. A museum containing archaeological exhibits of pottery and gold of pre-Columbian cultures which existed in the region. There is also a small art exhibition. The entrance is free and it’s open Monday till Saturday.
- Museo Arqueologico La Merced, located in the downtown, is a Colonial-type church, with an archaeological museum displaying pre-Hispanic exhibits and religious art from ancient cultures which inhabited the region in pre-Columbian times.
- Cristo Rey, a statue in the top of a hill, similar to Cristo de Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Offers a great city view and climbing the mountain is a good exercise. Do not walk alone, it’s not a really safe place.
- Cerro de las Tres Cruces, a hill embellished with three big crosses from which the whole city is visible makes an excellent morning hike, however, do so only on Sundays as there is generally much military presence these days, due to high number of hikers.
- Iglesia de San Antonio, colonial-type church at the top of a hill. Another great view of the downtown area. Be careful, as this area can be dodgy after dusk.
- Barrio de San Antonio, the Iglesia de San Antonio is located at the heart of this area. This place is popular because of its colonial architecture and it is located on top of a hill meaning that it is cooler up there and you can see the city of Cali from the top. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights many people come to the area to watch performers, story tellers, people selling handy crafts and just chilling out with friends. It is a great place to stay filled with restaurants, hotels and hostels for travellers. Many Europeans and North Americans who teach at the bilingual schools and English institutions in Cali choose to live in this area.
- Estatua de Belalcazar, like its southern neighbor Popayan, Cali was founded by the Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar. There is a statue in Belalcazar’s honor in a nice residential area of Cali, where you can look out over the whole city. It’s much safer than Cristo Rey.
- Statue: El gato del rio is a famous statue of a giant cat that, along with the statue of Belalcazar, the Three Crosses, and Jesus, has become a symbol for the city. It is situated across the Cali River from the barrio of El Peñon.
- Zoologico de Cali, this is an excellent zoo with many animals from around the world. The premises are very well kept and, surprisingly, it is in an up-scale side of town. The animals generally have lots of space for themselves. Do not miss the Bengal tigers, the butterflies and the birds.
- La Ermita, a Gothic-style church located in the downtown area. It was built in 1678 and then renovated in 1930.
- La Tertulia Museum of modern art with international exhibits and a movie theatre that shows many award-winning art house films, among other foreign language works.
- Plaza de Toros The city’s bullfighting arena. Mostly active in December during the “Feria de Cali” festival.
- Culture Cali has many cultural offerings, like the Teatro Municipal Enrique Buenaventura, Centro Cultural Comfandi or the Teatro Jorge Isaacs.
- Nice places: Lake Calima (1½ hour trip from city) nice place to stay for about 30 dollars night also one of the best places for windsurf in South America. The town of Jamundi, about half hour south of the city also has nice weekend homes for rent and some decent mountain hikes for those up for some time in the country.
What to do in Cali
- Soccer matches: In the Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero is the host place of the local teams of the city, Deportivo Cali and America de Cali. Each Sunday one of them plays a Match for the National Championship. Between the months of May–June and November–December they are in playoffs, so the matches are more exciting. It is recommended that tourists sit on the west side section, “Occidental”, of the stadium. Under no circumstances should a tourist sit at the south side of the stadium as this is where the popular barras for both teams are located.
- Mountain biking: Excellent tracks there, get information at BTT de Colombia Bike store (yellow pages ask for Julio).
- Wind or kite surfing: The best place in South America, wind blows virtually 365 days a year find information at or .
- Salsa dancing: Cali is one of the most famous or popular places for salsa in the world. You can find people dancing in the streets and every single night find a club open for salsa dancing. While salsa can be heard pretty much anywhere and at any time of the day, most popular clubs are to be found in the Menga district (north of Cali) and Juanchito (east).
- Motolombia, Ave 6 bis, 26N, #57, , ✉ email@example.com. Motolombia is a motorcycle tour and rental business run by Danish motorcycle world traveler Mike Thomsen. Motolombia offers guided tours on ATV in the mountains surrounding Cali and motorcycle tour all over Colombia.
Shopping in Cali
- Chipichape. Mall: a big indoor/outdoor shopping center built on an abandoned train station and warehouse north of downtown. It provides nearly everything and especially the possibility to have a drink at various outdoor bars, and to see many calenas. Its the best place to meet other foreigners, immigrants and English speaking natives. Also a great place to buy local handicrafts and souvenirs at Tu Tierra Linda store, 2nd floor. The mall has movie theaters, two food courts, a supermarket and a department store. A hotel is now under construction. Chimichape also has free wireless internet in the open air where all the cafe bars are located.
- Unicentro. The largest mall in town located 10 km south of downtown. It has over 200 stores, 30 restaurants and cafes, a multiplex, casino, office space, a supermarket, a department store, and the largest water fountain in town.
- Palmetto Plaza, Avenida Joaquin Borrero Sinisterra at Carrera 48, . Monday to Friday 08:00-22:00; Sa Su 09:00-22:00. Popular with the young crowd with its many outdoor bars and cafes.
- Cosmocentro has a large supermarket and a some stores.
- Jardin Plaza is the newest mall in town with beautiful indoor gardens for a mostly outdoor experience. It has a nice movie theater complex. This mall is just across the street from the high tech hospital Fundacion Valle del Lili.
- Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz: A place to buy inexpensive, sometimes cheap, artesanal figures and other stuff. Beware this park is outdoors and can be unsafe at night.
Where to eat in Cali
- Cholados– a delicious mix of shaved ice and exotic fruit with raspberry and sweet condensed milk sauces and a wafer cookie. Often sold from vendors that have stands that display fruit and shaved ice, and best found in Jamundi, about a 15-min trip from the southern neighborhoods of Cali.
- Pandebono – baked rings of cheese bread which is quite typical of Cali
- Buñuelos – sweet fried doughnut balls
- Sancocho de gallina – a very popular chicken soup, best found in a town called Ginebra, about one hour trip from Cali
- Manjar blanco – a candy made from cooked sugar and milk, similar to dulce de leche (Milk candy)
- Chontaduro or peach palm fruit – a local delicacy that is sold on the street, topped with salt or honey
- Mango viche – green unripened mango, which is sold on the street and eaten with salt and lemon juice
- Guarapo – a deliciously refreshing drink of freshly pressed sugar cane juice (usually the seller has a machine and extracts the juice right in front of you) served with ice and a squirt of lemon juice
- Grosellas – small sour fruits which are sold on the street in bags and are eaten with salt
- Arroz atollado – one of Valle del Cauca’s most delicious dishes, almost like a risotto with chicken, sausages and potatoes
- Empanadas – corn pastries filled with meat or chicken and eaten with hot sauce (aji)
- Champus – very exotic mix of pineapple, “lulo” (see below), corn and a plant called “limoncillo”… just delicious!.
- Jugo de lulo or lulo juice – the most delicious of all local fruit juices
- Aborrajados – fried cheese-filled plantains
- Dulce de Guayaba con queso – a delicious dollop of guava paste on top of a fresh slice of local ‘cuajada’ cheese
- Marranitas is a delicious mix of plantain with “chicharrón” (fried pork skin) — the best ones are in “El champus de Lola” in San Antonio hill.
- Cali Plaza Hotel Restaurant A favorite hang-out for international tourists, free Wi-Fi. Calle 15 Norte No. 6N-37 – Granada Barrio – Zona Rosa – +57 2 668 2611 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- El Solar (Trattoria Faró), calle 15 Norte # 9 N-62, . until 01:00. A fun place with outdoor seating, many options in the menu. Live music on weekends. $$.
- Pacífico, Ave 9 N # 12-18 (Granada), . 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00. Well-made seafood, many recipes from the Colombian Pacific. $$.
- Tizones, Ave 6 BN # 28 N – 57 (Corner across from Carvajal headquarters), . Great meat. Steaks & seafood. $$$.
- Ringlete, Calle 15 A Norte # 9N-31 Granada (in the middle of a narrow street), . Well done and served local food. Many recipes with plantains. $$.
- El Patio Verde, Cra 9 # 4-53 (San Antonio), . M-Sa 05:30-23:00. Plantain is king in this restaurant. Local food. $$.
- Faro El Patio, Calle 19 # 105-52 (Ciudad Jardin-South), . Until 01:00. Large menu, outdoor area. Live tropical bands on Fridays and Saturdays. $$.
- My Thai, Centro Commercial Centenario Local 317, . Until 20:30 for delivery. Sushi, Thai curries (green, red, yellow) with chicken, beef, pork and calamari for COP$11,500, Salmon al vino (big fillet with stirfried veg and rice) COP$16,500 and various other stir fries etc. Delivery nearby COP$3,500. $-$.
- Sr. Wok, Unicentro, Jardin Plaza, Chipechape, Centenario Plaza, . Delivery until 21:00. Ready-to-eat Asian buffet. Choose combo with rice, noodles or chop suey as base and add two choices for COP$15,500 or three choices for COP$18,700. Choices include orange chicken, beef teriyaki, mushroom chicken, kung pao chicken, bourbon chicken etc. Delivery COP$2,000. Decent portions. $.
- Guarapo – the juice of sugar cane which grows in the Cauca river valley.
- Aguardiente – one of the favorite alcoholic beverage in Colombia, with each region has its preferred brand – the local brand is Aguardiente Blanco del Valle and is sweet and licorice-flavored.
- Chicha – slightly-alcoholic beverage made of fermented pineapples.
Cali’s nightlife is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. There are some good clubs and bars to go out.
Visit Avenida Sexta Cali’s Broadway at day & night. Some bars and dance clubs popular with the working class are located there. Many banks branches are settled here. The avenue is crowded pretty much all day long. Be careful at night, could be unsafe.
- Alterno Bar is more like a crossover type of bar, its pretty good and you can meet a lot of people there.
- Blues Brothers Bar, , ✉ email@example.com. A big and popular bar, with live music on Thursdays. Avenida 6A Norte # 21-40 Barrio Santa Mónica.
- El Faro is the place to go if you like classic rock/heavy metal. Located in “El Limonar” A “Jirafa” (Lot of beer) is about USD3.
- Eliptica is an outside bar settled on a hill at the outskirts of Cali. The views are beautiful and this is a good place for an after party. Open till 06:00 or till the police shut it down.
- Fanaticos Sports Bar at Palmetto Plaza Shopping center, where college guys and young professionals meet to watch their favorite sports games. Great beer and good prices, open every day until 03:00.
- Forum is a popular club for electronic music with an energetic atmosphere.
- London Tavern is busy only on a Thursday night when there is a live salsa band playing.
- Martyn’s Bar is a classic rock bar that has been around since the early 1980s.
- Roosters is a rock bar/pub with own micro brewery, imported beer and drinks, live rock music and major sports games on big screen – European run. Ave 6 Bis, 26N, #21. Tu-Su 18:00-02:00.
- Zaperoco is an excellent salsa club just off Avenida Sexta (Av 5N # 16-46, +57 2 661 2040). Salsa, rumba y son. Th-Sa 08:00-16:00.
- Chango is a popular salsa club in the famous Juanchito sector in the other side of the Cauca River. Best salsa party in town.
- Kukaramakara is a great local club with excellent mix of Latin music and good looking locals. Get a bottle and a table and enjoy.
- Praga is a popular club which plays mix of all types of music called crossover. Located in the neighbor town of Yumbo not far from Cali.
- Tin Tin Deo is a very comfortable and almost magic place where people can enjoy the classic salsa music and other Caribbean rhythms.
- La Matraca (Tango bar and dance), Carrera 11 # 22-80 corner (Barrio Obrero), . 20:00-02:00. $$.
Where to stay in Cali
- 1 The Green Samán, Carrera 3 oeste 11-49 (Bellavista), . Breakfast is available and is of a high standard. The hostel offers gourmet dinners (prepared by an exceptional chef), cooking lessons, traditional paella on Sundays, interesting excursions to the surroundings of Cali, bike rental, and an open bar with live music. There’s a quiet garden with many colourful birds and two very friendly dogs, a nice swimming pool, a Turkish bath and a sauna. Other services include Wi-Fi, public computer, hammocks, laundry (for a small fee) and home cinema. Dorm bed: COP$18,000, double room with private bathroom from COP$60,000.
- Casa Agua Canela, Cra 24A N°2A-55 Miraflores, . Beautiful views over Cali from the lovely balcony if you stay on the top floor, a good location in the Miraflores area, and bright, clean, spacious rooms all come standard at Casa Agua Canela, as does friendly staff and good prices. You can cook for yourself using the equipped kitchen or ask them to prepare something tasty. Spacious, peaceful hostel with a relaxing vibe and not too many people around. You could always sleep outside on the communal balcony as there’s a single bed there on the top floor if you stay up there. Big supermarket and cash point a short walk away as well as plenty of pastry shops.
- Kaffee Erde, Avenida 4Norte #4N-79, . Friendly owners who care about their guests run this great hostel close to bars, restaurants, shopping, and more. They have cheap prices but quality rooms, and offer free organic coffee and salsa lessons to their guests. They can arrange trips and tours, and the owners love to chat and share stories with the guests. A very homey, comfortable atmosphere.
- 2 Casa Blanca Hostel, Ave. 6bis, Calle 26N, 57, Santa Monica (One block of the famous La Sexta, 4 blocks from Super mall Chipichape), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 07:00, check-out: 11:00. Run by Danish/Colombian couple (Mike & Diana) Casa Blanca Hostel opened in August 2008 in the safe and convenient location one block of the famous La Sexta avenue. The hostel offers big well equipped self-catering kitchen and dining area. There’s a large living room with 42″ flat screen, cable TV package and lots of DVD’s, reading section and magazines, free WiFi and guest computers, hot water showers, 24 hour reception, laundry service, airport pick-up, mini market, free parking for cars and motorcycles (indoor) and an outdoor patio. Dorms beds range from COP$15,000-20,000. Double bed private from COP$35,000-50,000 and twin bed privates from COP$35,000-55,000 (with possible 3rd bed on sofa bed).
- The Pelican Larry Hostel, Calle 23 Norte #8N-12 Santa Monica Residencial, , ✉ email@example.com. BBQ, WiFi internet, beds 1×2 meters, clean and huge patio with well equipped clean kitchen, double rooms from COP$35,000. Located in what is considered to be a safe area. Two big supermarkets 10 minutes walk away. Decent gym just around the block for COP$10,000 per use. Very nice and accommodating staff. Massive shopping centre 15/20 minutes walk away called Chipichape if you’re into that. Nice American/British rock bar a few blocks away if you want a break from the salsa. If not you’re in walking distance from Tiendas (bar type shop things) playing salsa music or you can take a taxi or decent walk to streets with lots of clubs.
- Iguana Hostel, Avenida 9N No. 22N-46 (Close to Avenida Sexta), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A welcoming hostel opened in 1998 by Swiss owner Urs Diethelm. Can get pretty full at the weekends due to travelers coming for “the Rumba”. Internet, Self-catering kitchen & Cable TV. Dorm beds from COP$16,000 and single occupancy from COP$24,000.
- The Green House, Cra. 4C Oeste #2-34, San Antonio, Cali, , ✉ email@example.com. Check-out: 11:00. Lovely hostel in the bohemian San Antonio neighborhood. The owner will make you feel right at home from the moment you step in. Everything is spotlessly clean and there’s a kitchen for guest use. Excellent breakfast is available for COP$5,000. Also a good spot to stay if you are into adventure sports, since the owner is into BMX, kiteboarding, paragliding and similar sports and can provide you with lots of info on these activities. Dorm COP$18,000, Single COP$30,000, Double COP$40,000 (all with shared bathroom).
- Cali Rent Apartments (Cali Rent Apartments), Calle 21N#9N- 50, Cali, Colombia (Santa Monica), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers apartment for daily, weekly or monthly rent in Granada and Santa Monica near Chipichape mall. These are great alternatives to renting a room in a hotel and are usually cheaper and more private. ~US$65.
- Cali Plaza Hotel (Cali Plaza Hotel and Apartments), Calle 15 Norte No. 6N-37 (Granada Barrio – Zona Rosa), , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 13:00. American-owned hotel with apartments and 24-hour security in the heart of Cali. US$63.
- Casa Santa Monica (Casa Santa Monica), Calle 23N 8N-34 (Santa Monica), , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 15:00. A three-house complex with 23 rooms total near by Granada, Chipichape and 20 minutes away from international airport. US$75 US.
- Cali Flats (Cali Flats), Ave 6 bis, 26N, #57 (Santa Monica), , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 13:00. Fully furnished apartments in nice 10-floor building. Internet access, Cable TV, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, bath with hot water, 24-hour reception, secure parking basement, access to gym, Turkish bath and sauna on 10th floor US$50.
- Hotel Astoria Real, Calle 11 No. 5-16, Plaza de Caicedo, . A historic hotel overlooking Caicedo Square. Most rooms have a balcony. Aging, but affordable and safe. Centrally located. Hot water, cable TV. Single rooms for COP$45,000.
- Cali Charm Bed & Breakfast, Calle 38 Norte # 4N-23. It’s in one of the best parts of Cali, La Flora. Four blocks from Chipichape mall and 5 minutes from Avenida Sexta and Menga Night Life. The Cali Charm House has been remodeled to Western standard and it’s very affordable.
- Hotel Dann Carlton (One block from the Hotel Intercontinental). Excellent too.
- Hotel Plaza, Carrera 6a No. 10-29, Plaza de Caicedo, . A modern hotel centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, carpeted rooms. Single room COP$40,000.
- Apartahotel Colombia, Calle 31 N # 2Bis -48 (1 block away from The Terminal de Transportes), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 15:00. Internet cafe, Wi-Fi, security surveillance cameras, hot water, restaurant, steam room, elevator, cable TV, room service. COP$55,000.
- Cali Apartment, Chipichape Mall Area. Offers two fully furnished bedrooms and complimentary Wifi internet + Cable TV. They also give you a local mobile phone (that you can put credit on) which is very handy. Rates start from US$450/week with discounts for longer stays.
- Hotel Four Points by Sheraton, Calle 18N # 4N-08. Member of the Sheraton Hotels. Five-star.
- Hotel Intercontinental. Excellent place to stay. Five stars. Safe and good location
- Hotel Astoria Real, Calle 11 No. 5-16, Plaza de Caicedo, . A historic hotel overlooking Caicedo Square. Most rooms have a balcony. Aging, but affordable and safe. Centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, Wi-Fi. Single rooms for COP$45,000.
- Hotel Plaza, Carrera 6a No. 10-29, Plaza de Caicedo, . A modern hotel centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, carpeted rooms. Single room COP$40,000.
- NOW (Boutique Hotel), Avenida 9AN No. 10N-74 (Granada), . Fancy and modern. The bar by the roofpool has one of the greatest views of town. $$$.
In 2011 there were murders and car bombs related to the ongoing mafia war between drug cartels in the city. Shopping centers all over the city have been scenes of shoot outs between rivaling mafia factions. It is advised to avoid shopping centers with poor security, although some of the biggest and most well guarded malls in Cali have been scenes of murders too.
Cali is considered more dangerous than most other major cities in Colombia; therefore, keep your eyes open at day and night. Try to take a taxi if you want to come and go at night.
Avoid backstreet in the downtown (El Centro) and Sucre neighborhoods. This area is especially dangerous.
Walking alone at night at Avenida Sexta can be unsafe.
As in most other cities, it is unwise to walk with jewelry or let people around you know you have cash on you. Most places around hotels are safe.
Try not to talk on cellphones while walking through streets; that might lure in robbers. Also do not use iPods or other valuables in public.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued an advisory to travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Cali because of the threat of terrorist attack and criminal activity.
There is a great high tech hospital in town: Fundación Valle del Lili with many bilingual doctors.
- The little hamlet of San Cipriano is a good day trip. Most people visit this place only for the ride to it, but it is also possible to stay overnight. Enjoy a swim in the various river beaches, or enjoy a tube ride down the river.
- Calima Lake, 1.5-hour trip from Cali, is, due to its year round wind, one of the best wind- & kitesurf spots in Southern America. There are at least 3 windsurf schools around the lake. One of them is Pescao Windsurfing , run by windsurfing instructor Luis Fernando. They have excellent wind- and kitesurfing gear for rent (prices: windsurf COP$55,000-70,000 for 2 hours; kitesurf COP$60,000 per hour, COP$120,000 per day) and offer courses too (prices: windsurf COP$100,000 for 2 hours; kitesurf COP$100,000 per hour). Overnight stay at the school costs COP$20,000 per night. To get to Pescao, take a bus from Buga or Cali to Darién, and ask the busdriver to drop you off at the school.
- City of Buga 1 hour drive. Visit “La Basilica”, a major pilgrimage site in Colombia (Ask for Dulces del Valle best place for traditional Dulces). Also, Buga is more tranquil and cleaner than Cali.
- Parque del Cafe . Approx 3 hr trip from Cali (approx 2 hr from Buga, listed above). This is an amusement park, and the Colombian Coffee Museum, complete with the history of Colombian coffee and Juan Valdez. See the theatrical show there that explains the local culture celebrating coffee.
- City of Jamundi half hour drive (ask for Cholados that Jamundi is famous for-a delicious mix of shaved ice and exotic fruit with raspberry and sweet condensed milk sauces and a wafer cookie. Often sold from vendors that have stands that display fruit and shaved ice. There is a traffic circle roundabout near the city entrance with many Cholado stands)
- Popayan is about three hours away, and a nice place to stay for a couple of days.
- Isla Gorgona is a remote island in the Pacific. The whole island is a national park, specially known for scuba diving expeditions because of the great diversity in fauna. There is a fancy eco hotel. Reachable from Cali: Either via Buenaventura (2½ hours to the west by car) or regional flights available from Cali to Guapi. From any of these towns you need to take a boat to the island.
- Watch humpback whales: around 1,200 humpback whales are expected to arrive every June – July in the Pacific ocean waters of Isla Gorgona, Sanquianga and Utria National Parks. With the whales come dozens of tourists every year to watch them mating. The whales spend the summer months feeding in polar waters and head to tropical waters in winter for mating and calving, sometimes traveling up to 17,000 km. They are black, grey and white, can grow up to 18 meters long and weigh up to 40 tons.
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Santa Marta Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia
Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia’s Costa Norte.
Santa Marta an important commercial port and tourism destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much visible. From the beach, the view of the Caribbean Sea is more or less to the west (beautiful sunsets) with a huge rock of an island jutting up out of the water to make a somewhat dramatic effect. Off to the right is the port snug behind another even bigger rock. This is a decent beach if you like beaches that are right in town with lots of people, vendors, and noise. Vendors are rather aggressive if you are on the beach.
Aside from the old center, the main attractions of Santa Marta are its two resort-like suburbs El Rodadero, to the south, and Taganga, to the north. El Rodadero has several high-end hotels and private “clubs” that cater mostly to wealthy Colombians, whereas Taganga used to be a fishing village and is very popular with (mostly foreign) backpackers. Taganga has many scuba-diving agencies.
There is a high season and low season. High season is December through April, with its peak from mid-December to late January (due to school and university vacations).
The 1 Simón Bolívar airport. has non-stop flights from Bogotá and Medellín. It is on the beach, 20 min south of town, but much closer to most of the beach resorts and 10 min from El Rodadero (main beach). If you get in from abroad check if baggage is unloaded in Bogota even if airlines promise they´ll send the baggage directly to Santa Marta.
A taxi to the Centre historico is around COP$25,000 (no prepaid or metered taxis available).
The 2 bus station (Terminal de Transporte). is all the way out of town on the main highway. To get there, you can catch a bus/colectivo with the sign “UCC TRANSPORTE” at carrera 1. The ride will take some 45 minutes and cost about COP$2,000. If carrying a big backpack, you might be rejected by some colectivo drivers, just wait for the big buses. With the taxi the trip takes around half hours and costs COP$15,000. In the bus terminal, you can get free WiFi at the tourist office.
Bus rides are available:
- from Cartagena: COP$20,000, 3½ hours
- from Barranquilla: COP$10,000, 2 hours
- from Medellín: COP$108,000, 15 hours
- from Bucaramanga: COP$60,000, 9 hours (Copetran, Brasilia) (Feb 2016)
- from Bogotá: COP$80,000, 16 hours
- from Riohacha: COP$15,000, 2½ hours
- from Taganga: COP$1,400, 15 min with minibus or taxi for COP$10,000
For more comfortable road travel across northern Colombia, a few companies offer air conditioned van services between Cartagena and Santa Marta, with stops in Barranquilla en route. Cochetur seems to be the most reputable of these. Price is COP$50,000 per person between the main two stops and they will pick you up and drop you off at your desired location in each city. You will likely share the van with 6-8 people including the driver. Tipping did not appear to be expected but a thousand or two goes a long way here.
If you’re heading to the Coffee Region, a cheaper option is to catch a Berlinastur bus to Honda (COP$70, at least 12 hours, departure at 2PM), and right after that another bus to Pereira (COP$30, 6 hours). You’ll need to wait for an hour or so in the middle of the night in Honda, but you can stay at Berlinastur office during that time.
- 1 Museo del Oro, Calle 14 No.2-67 (on plaza Bolivar). Displays a collection of precolumbian pottery, a nice collection of gold and a scale model of Ciudad Perdida. Free entrance.
- Simon Bolivar’s place of death (take a bus for COP$1,400 or taxi for COP$5,000). Beautiful and very interesting gardens, lots of iguanas, study the map before getting any further. The guide will tell you only about the buildings and the history of the “Libertador”. COP$12,000.
- Scuba diving. Nearby coral reefs provide good possibilities for scuba diving. All the scuba diving operators are at Taganga, so you’ll need to go there to shop around (prices are very different from one to another). You can follow the PADI course (3-4 days), or just go for a 1-day dive (no licence required).
- Jet ski. On the beaches, you can usually rent a jet ski in increments of 10 minutes. If you are not comfortable operating one, you can usually ask for a ride around. Life jackets are provided.
- Birdwatching. Birdwatching at the El Dorado bird reserve above Minca ProAves.
- Spanish School, Calle 21 3-88 Centro, ✉ email@example.com. The Neotropical Spanish School at Casa Scania is a small size Spanish School focused on quality giving classes in downtown Santa Marta and Barranquilla, USD8/hour with one student per teacher, USD6 per person in small groups.Course material, hot and cold drinks included. Casa Scania Calle 21 3-88 (between Carrera 3 and 4) Central Santa Marta. For more info see homepage. USD8.
- Adrenaline Addicts, Carrera 21, Calle 20-36, . 9AM-6PM. They offer motorcycle rentals, lessons, and motorcycle tours spanning 1-7 days. Run by a pair of young Americans, new business with nice new bikes. Rentals around US$30/day, Tours under US$100/day, all inclusive, varies by tour. Run from Drop Bear Hostel.
Santa Marta is famous for its beach sellers. Since beaches are open 365 days a year, there are always people wandering up and down the beach selling anything.
The beaches in the northern suburb El Rodadero have aggressive sellers. Take this as an opportunity to haggle – usually aim for COP$2,000-3,000 below the price asked.
If you are planning to go to Tayrona and need to buy snorkeling gear, you’ll be disappointed to see only a couple of very basic Chinese packs, the same in all the shops. If you decide to buy them, the cheapest prices are in a kitchenware shop at Calle 15 with Carrera 3 (COP$15 for the “good” one).
Postcard stamps can be bought at the post office at Calle 22/Carrera 2 (COP$2,900 for Europe). No stamps are sold at the Depris post office (Carrera 3).
Carrera 5th is a big shopping promenade, with stores accompanied by street stalls and vendors. At the corner with Calle 20 there’s a big supermarket (Exito). Some streets are pedestrian-friendly, such as Carrera 3 between Calle 15 and 20.
There are a lot of eating options. They seem to be good at roasting and grilling chicken. They do a good job of grilling beef tough but flavorful. Seafood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive lots of shrimp and seafood cocktail vendors. Most varieties of fruit are available even what is more common to cold climates. At night street vendors sell all types of snacks pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, kabobs, rice in milk with coco, fried stuffed doughy things, etc. Coffee, hot chocolate, and both hot cinnamon and lemon is omni-present.
- Restaurante El Españolete, Calle 13 no 2-45. Excellent Spanish food. Specialized in paellas, tapas and grilled meat. The owner, Toni, is from Valencia, Spain, and he can cook the real paella at a very reasonable price (less than US$15 per person). His wife, Alexa, is Colombian and her smothies are the best (she uses fresh passion fruit, mango, and other varieties of tropical fruits). They are both really nice and provide their customers with helpful tips to visit the best places in Santa Marta. Lunch menu is about $5. The restaurant is housed in a colonial building and it is even haunted by a ghost!
- La Tasca – Tapas Bar, Calle 18 No 2- 72. Run by a Spaniard, this small and cosy restaurant offers an excellent selection of typical spanish tapas at a fair price. It is a real experience for the palate of both locals and tourists.
- Agave Azul – Sabores de Mexico, Calle 14 No 3-74, . Open Tu-F for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only. Happy Hour Margaritas 2-for-1 from 5-7PM everyday.. Very good Mexican food prepared by fabulous New York trained chef Michael McMurdo. With a range from burritos to steaks to seafood this very elegant food will blow your mind but not break the bank. With lunch menu for US$4 and dinner menu from US$8-13.
- Merkabar / Welcome Restaurant, Calle 10 No 2-11. Good combination of local and gringo food. Good breakfasts, cheap filling lunches, and their famous “sopa del mar”, soup overflowing with seafood. Their fruit juices are excellent. Gilberto, one of the brothers that owns and runs Merkabar, speaks English and is friendly and helpful with tourist needs.
- Ben & Josep´s bar & restaurant, Carrera 1 # 18-67. (Dutch owner) On the beach road in front of the Park Hotel. The very best steak (filet mignon) in Santa Marta. Fine dining for a reasonable price.
- Restaurante El Escorial. A good restaurant is in the middle of the block behind the beach on 11th street
- Restaurante y Pescadería Manuel, Carrera 1A # 26-167, . Very nice seafood.
- Restaurante El Santo, Calle 21 – 2a 52, . One of the few places in SM with good tender Argentinan meat and nice wine. Argentinan and Islandic owner. Very nice and welcoming.
- Tim’s Gourmet Coffee Shop, Cra 1A 23-57 (50 m from the entrance of the marina in downtown Santa Marta.), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Opens at 7:15AM everyday. Tim’s Owls Den Pub open until 10PM weekdays. 2AM Friday & Saturday. 2-for-1 cocktails.. You’ll get free Wi-Fi while you’re having a fresh coffee made by beans direct from the organic growers on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Western Canadian/German pastries and European style breakfasts daily until 2PM. Crepes and deli sandwiches all day.
- Excellent seafood soup from a man at the corner of 13th st. and 4th Carr (diagonally opposite the small church.. next to sunglasses vendors. You’ll see huge pots of soup). Very cheap and delicious, but only in mornings. Sells out by noon.
- There is a man who has been sitting on 14th street between 3rd and 4th carrera (behind the beach) selling shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price for 23 years.
- There is another man who has been sitting on 22nd street on 1st carrera (in front of the beach) selling a delicious shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price and he is very reliable and well known in the city.
- 1 Seko Bar, Calle 19 4-11, Santa Marta. Good music, cocktails, excellent prices, slightly insane. Very popular.
- Santo Domingo, Calle 17 No. 3 – 70 near the cathedral.. The best place to party in Santa Marta. The owners are super nice, they will personally attend. The owners are two Spanish. That women more beautiful and rumba, to good music and really nice atmosphere.I always found it a good show. Thanks Elena and Kike.
- Crab’s Bar, Calle 18 No. 3-69 (between Carr 3 & 4). A fun rock n’ roll bar. The Colombian owner (who is a spitting image of Neil Young) used to own a large rock club in Bogotá, but he sold it to settle down here. Every evening he VJs videos of all the great classic rock bands. Friendly staff, great vibe, nice decor.
- Burukuka. A trendy nightclub on the way towards El Rodadero. Burukuka sits on top of a hill overlooking the sea, with a great terrace. It’s a high-end place, so dress appropriately. Also serves food. Vía al Edificio Cascadas del Rodadero, just out of town, to the south.
The drink of choice is, of course, beer. Because Santa Marta can get brutally hot during the summer (upwards of 35°C/95°F), it is a good idea to constantly have a bottle of water with you. During the evenings, when it gets cooler, beer and friends is often an excellent combination. It would be good idea to take a couple of “Stubbie Coolers” (Australian vernacular for an item which keeps the beer in your bottle cooler or longer) as the heat will have you drinking warm beer by the time you are at the end of your drink.
Soft drinks can be found at nearly every restaurant – sometimes you can even pick it up in glass bottles. They are cheap: a drink usually costs no more than COP$2,000.
Ask about Ben´s Bar on the Beach. Barrio Samario, La Puerta, and El Garage.
- Juan Valdez Cafe, Calle 14 (next to the Gold Museum). One of the surprisingly few excellent coffee options in town. Even many good restaurants don’t have a good coffee machine and/or use good coffee beans.
If you are looking for a place to stay, there are somewhat more expensive hotels. 10th street is less expensive. These include:
- La Brisa Loca Backpackers, Calle 14 N3-58 (carrera 3) (between Plaza San Francisco and Parque Bolivar), . Owned by two Californian brothers and built in an 80-year-old, neo-republican mansion and restored to recover its genuine colonial Caribbean feel. The large, high ceiling manor, with its eleven dorms and suites houses up to 60 people and provides beverages for many more. With pool, full size bar, hammock room, nightly meals and free Wi-Fi. Prices starting at COP$20,000 for a dorm with fan.
- Hotel Miramar, Calle 10C No 1c-70, . Classic South American backpacker’s hotel. Rooms are quite basic and sometimes it’s hot, but the staff is great, Wi-Fi very fast and free, defacto tourist information office for surrounding area (Tayrona, Lost City, etc.) Also has a really friendly restaurant, and offers safe boxes for backpacks when going on tours. They also have a location in Taganga at Calle 17 No. 2-36. Dorm COP$350,000; twin room shared bath COP$80,000-90,000; double room shared bath COP$100,000.
- Candela & Chocolate Hostel, Calle 12 No 3-01, , ✉ email@example.com. Fairly new and clean hostel right on the corner with a locked security gate, ring the bell to get someone to help you. Rooms are spacious and well ventilated with lockable chests for your belongings. Free Wi-Fi. Two blocks away from the main plaza. Dorms for COP$18,000, including breakfast.
- Hotel Nueva Granada. Calle 12 No 3- 17, Historic Centre of Santa Marta. Nice and small, with pool and jacuzzi, bar, comfortable and clean double and multiple rooms with air- conditioning or ventilators, unlimited internet access, and free breakfast. The staff is very kind and helpful. from USD33.
- Hotel Betoma, Calle 8 No 1- 58, Rodadero. Cute hotel with all comforts, which has been managed by its owners for more than 40 years and it is famous for its warm and helpful staff. It offers comfortable standard roooms with air- conditioning, and suites with kitchenette and living room from COP$110,000 per night with breakfast. All rooms have a bacony with sea view.
- Casa Familiar (Also on Calle 10, 1 block up from Miramar, on other side of street.). Private, mild mannered and friendly staff. Rooms are small and basic. Single from COP$20,000. Also has dorm rooms for COP$15,000.
- Hotel Palma Blanca (20 Street No 1b-69, next to a calm beach in the cheerful tourist town of Rodadero in Santa Marta.), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM. Private,comfortable, friendly and attentive staff, and a great swimming pool. All rooms have air-conditioning and wireless internet access. single COP$110,000, double or twin COP$130,000, triple COP$180,000, quad COP$230,000.
- Finca Barlovento Guesthouse. At a beach right next to the Tayrona Park.
- Cabanas Los Angeles. These cosy beach cabanas right next to the Tayrona Park are a great place for travelers who are looking for privacy and who don’t want to spend too much on accommodation within the Tayrona National Park.
- El Kool Koala Backpackers (Calle 13 No 3- 139, only 3 blocks from the beach of Taganga in Santa Marta.), . Run by an Australian with 20 years travel experience who speaks fluent Spanish in the best Aussie accent and his energetic local best mate. Really cruisy place, outdoor setup for cooking, chilling, or drinking the night away. Dormitories from COP$18,000.
- Hostal SolyMar, Carrera 2 No 19-06, . This is an immaculately clean hotel, which is a change from a lot of the places in Santa Marta. The immediate area is probably the best in Santa Marta, as opposed to the sketchier Calle 10 barrio. The colonial rooms are recommended, with very tall ceilings and fan for COP$30,000 for a private room (single). The staff is incredibly friendly.
- Hotel Imperial Caribe (also known as the Hotel Villa del Mar), Calle 17 No. 3-96 (between Carr 3 & 4), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Nice rooms, friendly staff. Singles with fan for COP$30,000. Doubles, Triples, A/C more. Free Wi-Fi in lobby.
- Sun City, calle 18-3#28. Less crowded. This place offers comfort at low price. Run by a nice family that really cares. A place to get off the Gringo Trail a bit. privates from USD12-22.
- Aluna Hostel calle 21 Carrera 5-72 , is one of the newest hostels in Santa Marta and is the perfect place for backpackers looking for a comfortable, quiet and safe hostel.
- Cabin Tayrona Park ((Tayrona Park accommodation)), at one of the calmest beaches of the Tayrona National Park. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Private,comfortable, friendly local staff, and within the Park Double and triple rooms with private or shared bathroom from USD35 per night, restaurant service available.
- Hotel Minca (Newly refurbished hotel and restaurant), Minca (Opposite the police station.). The hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders attract around 40 species of birds to the garden. Double COP$125,0000, single COP$80,000.
- Hotel Sierra’s Sound (Your home in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta (Minca hotel and restaurant)), Minca (Next to the river.). Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Air-conditioned rooms from USD25 per person. It offers a calm and totally natural atmosphere and one of the best restaurants of Santa Marta.
- Hotel Boutique Don Pepe, Cl 16 # 1c – 92 Barrio Centro, , ✉ email@example.com. Small hotel with 12 rooms, restaurant, spa and rooftop jacuzzi.
- 1 El Hostal de Jackie, Calle 21 # 3-40 (between Carrera 3 and 4), Centro Historico (Take a public bus (blue colour) from the airport to Calle 22), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Backpacker Hostel with dormitories and private rooms. Kind and helpful staff. Each bed has its own fan (can be noisy at night) in 12-bed dorm. Small but nice swimming pool on the ground floor. Terrace bar with satellite TV and a hammock on the top floor. Wifi and 2 computers with internet. Kitchen available. Close to the beach (5 minutes walking). Laundry service. Checkout 11PM. from COP$21,000 in low season (COP$28,000 in high season).
- 2 Rodadero Apartments (RSMA), Carrera 1A 5 – 93 El Rodadero, , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11:30AM. Apartments for rent day – season, near Tayrona Park and Taganga. 2 rooms with air conditioning, bathroom, LED cable TV, beach view terrace, free WiFi, pool, private parking, airport shuttle, local tours & snorkeling. start from USD65/night.
- Taganga – a backpacker and hippie haven in a one-time peaceful little fishing village just north
- Ciudad Perdida de Teyuna — Santa Marta, is besides Taganga the main jumping off point for the famous trek, and you should be able to arrange a trek on short notice with any of the hostels or tour companies.
- Tayrona National Park — an unspoilt natural paradise of jungle, birds, ocean, and absolutely gorgeous beaches.
- Cabo de la Vela – tours to this small village can be booked in Santa Marta or Riohacha, although departures don’t take place daily. An interesting experience, but only recommended for seasoned travellers, preferable with travel experience in SEE (begging children, heat, long bus drives)
- Cartagena – the Heroic City, Capital of the Bolívar department is Colombia’s tourist city par excellence
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