Sherika Portuondo

CARTEGENA, COLOMBIA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.

If you have read my recent Cartegena post you would have gotten all the details on where to eat, stay and play. For this post, I am going to dive in on  things you need  to know before planning your trip. Given the history and stigma surrounding the country, I will start out with safety as I think that will be one of the first question  on most peoples mind. 

SAFETY
Let me just say first and foremost that Cartegena was relatively  safe; we did not have any bad encounter or experiences while we were there. The Country is growing tourist hub which has become vital to its economy, hence the government cares alot about its reputation regarding safety.  But as with travelling anywhere else in the world you still have to pay keen attention to your surroundings. I also encourage you to do research regarding safety on any where in the world you are planning to travel to. 

DOCUMENTS
Most first world Countries  do not need a Visa to travel across the global, all they need is their passport and a plane ticket. However, the great news is Jamaican citizens also do not need a visa to travel to Colombia, all you need is your passport and your plane ticket as well. To get to Colombia you can travel through the United States if you have a US Visa. For my Jamaican peeps who do not have a US Visa, you can transit through Panama which is also a Visa- free country for Jamaicans.

COMMUNICATION
Spanish is the official Language for Colombia, so it would suit you well to learn a few basic words. Most restaurants and hotels usually have at least one person that speaks English, but for the most part the locals barely if at all speak English. But not to fear, this is where google translate will be your best friend; even though I knew a few words, google translate was a life saver. Make sure to download the offline translator for the road. 
AFFORDABILITY
Colombia is very affordable and you can easily survive on 400 USD for 7 Days and that all depends on the activities you have planned out for your trip. Most Stores and Restaurants take credit cards and you can use USD but I would recommend changing out some cash for the local currency which is Colombian pesos to use for tip and when buying things from the locals. Make sure to bargain with locals when buying stuff you will find that they usually start high then come right down after negotiating a bit. The only thing I found to be a little pricey are the clothing stores especially the one that do hand made stuff along with the fact that inside the walled city is a high tourist area. So make sure to pack all the clothes you need for your trip. Also, not sure if this applies to all the hotels in the walled city.  But the nicely laid out snacks and stacked mini bar is not inclusive it will be added to your bill if you so choose to indulge.
WEATHER
As it pertains to the weather it is very similar to Caribbean weather expect hotter and more humid in my opinion. I think we might have gone at the starting of the  rainy season because it rained a few of the days. So be sure to check the weather conditions throughout the year and plan around it. Hope this was insightful in helping you plan your trip and happy travels. If you have any questions you can leave comment below. 









WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO EAT AND STAY IN CARTEGENA, COLOMBIA

With narrow streets, massive doors, monumental architectures  and rich culture; this colonial style walled city in Cartegena emits a  European vibe mixed in with some Caribbean flavor that is bound to have you falling in love with it.
This was my first time travelling to a South American Country and  I could not contain my excitement. Jetting off to somewhere new just does that for me. I had been planning this trip from last year and it had finally come to fruition. After doing all my research, I  planned out our 7 days itinerary; we however end up adding spontaneous new things and changed it up a bit. With that said, here are a few tips on where to stay, what to eat and things to do on your visit to this gem of a place.
WHERE TO STAY
Are you a luxury traveler, a budget traveler or do like a bit of both? Knowing this will play a role in  helping you decide on where to stay. If luxury and all inclusive hotels are your thing, then check out Bocagrande one of the more modern parts of Cartagena. You will find lots of high rised buildings and all-inclusive hotels here. 
For budget travelers I  would recommend staying in Getsemani the colorful community  just outside the walled city. You can find cheap accommodations here and its more laid back and less touristy. 
However, if you are like me and love boutique hotels with a touch of luxury, then  stay inside the walled city, this is where you'll find loads of boutique and luxury hotels.  The idea of hotel hoping has grown on me and like our previous trip to the Bahamas, we opt to stay at two different hotels. It kind of gives me the feeling of having two vacations in one if that makes any sense. 
Overall, I highly recommend staying inside the walled city especially if its your first time.  This is where you will find a lot of restaurants, amazing architecture and entertainment  and you can walk to basically everywhere. Which will help save you money on transportation.
 WHERE TO EAT
Tantalize your taste buds with all the amazing dishes that Cartegena has to offer, from fancy restaurants to cute Gelato shops, street food and chill eatery it's easily a foodies paradise.  A few of these places were from recommendations based on my research and others we just randomly discovered. I must say that I was pleased with the service in Cartegena;  whenever we went to a store or restaurant everyone was quite attentive and courteous. These people know how work for there tips.
BOHEMIA
This is a charming little restaurant with stunning decor and they have live music to entertain you while you dine. I however, enjoy the ambiance more so than the food. We made reservations, but the place wasn't very busy when we went and we could have gotten through without having to make one.
ALMA
I am just going to throw it out there and say that Alma was my favorite place to have dinner while we were in Cartegena. This place truly lived up to the hype; the food was so good that we went there twice. They also had an amazing ambiance. They are located on the San Augustin Hotel, so feel free to book your stay here it's a win win! 
The restaurant is very popular so just make sure to make a reservation ahead of time because we didn't and we had to wait to be seated, however once seated our orders came pretty quickly.
CUZCO
This was one of the restaurant's  that  we discovered while heading back to our hotel from Bohemia. We decided that we were going to check it out the next night and we loved it. This place also had a great ambiance with pool side dinning and live music; the food here was great. I can't remember the name but my server recommended a cocktail which I really enjoyed.
SAN VALENTIN
This place we discovered on one of our many strolls through the city. We were just walking by and noticed how busy it was and  a lot of locals were dinning there. We decided to check it out and just as we suspected the food was delicious. We had fried fish with coconut rice and pressed fried plantain. This seem to be a staple dish in Colombia as almost every where served it.  For my Jamaican  people " it was kind of  like how you can always get "rice and peas and fried chicken with raw vegetable" almost everywhere you go. 
CREPES AND WAFFLES
Yet another discovery while strolling around the Old City. This joint is crepes and waffles heaven, from savory to sweet  with desserts so creatively cool and pretty you don't know whether to eat it or stare at it.

You must try Pizza in Plaza Santo Domingo Square. I found they had some delicious Pizza's with the freshest toppings.  They had both inside or outside dinning options, whichever you fancy.

If you are a fan of Gelatos then try out one of the Gelato shops around town; they have a variety of  yummy flavors and you just might get confused on which to choose. My  favorite spot was Gelateria Tramonti. 
WHAT TO DO

ROAM AROUND THE WALLED CITY
Inside the walled city is lively and bustling with tourist, locals and people trying to sell you something on every turn. They can be very pushy but if you are not interested all you have to do is tell them "No Gracias" and they will be on there way. I would recommend supporting the locals though, whether it be buying a souvenir  or purchasing fresh fruit from a vendor, its a part of their hustle and we all have to eat right? 
Observing  the beautiful colonial architecture of the town and the people was a part of our daily routine.  I have never met a street inside the wall city that I didn't love, they were all colorful and beautifully  laden with flowers. The streets are very narrow and it was quiet amusing how some of them are able to facilitate a two way traffic. Another fun thing to do is take a picture with the fruit selling ladies or more correctly termed Palenqueras women who are usually draped  in beautiful colored dresses. They are a big part of the culture in Cartegena and you can learn about their history and so much more by doing a walking tour or visiting a museum.
VENTURE OUTSIDE THE WALLED CITY
Take a day to explore the beautiful neighborhood of Getsemani, about 10 mins or less walk outside the walled city. This town has some amazing street Art every where you turn and the houses are colorful with charming designs. This area is whole mood by itself. It's way less touristy and a lot of budget travelers opt to say here because of the affordable accommodations. 
 GET A PANORAMIC CITY VIEW
Most of the Hotels inside the wall boast a Roof Top view which is owed to the city's colonial design. However the Movich Hotel is where it is at when it comes on to getting the  best view of the city. Sip on a Cocktail and have lunch while taking in the amazing Bocagrande skyline and a panoramic view of the city.  

ENJOY THE NIGHT LIFE
This city would literally transform at night time and presented a new whole new vibe. Everything came alive in a different way than it does in the day time. There are two Bar/ Restaurants located atop the wall; the famous Cafe Del Mar where you can watch the Sunset and the  El Baluarte San Francisco where I liked to sit and just observe the bustling night activities.  Be sure to get a view of  the Cathedral at night time when it becomes beautiful Lit.  
PLAN AN EXCURSION DAY
Aviario Bird Sanctuary
If you love nature and birds this place will definitely excite you. Unfortunately when we went it rained all day, so we were not able to do much. It was however beautiful and I imagine it would be even more spectacular on a sunnier day.
Playa Blanca 
Now, I am from an Island so it is going to be hard to impress me with beaches and in my opinion Playa Blanca was mediocre. As I said before it rained most of the day and I like my beaches hot and sunny. We actually only took the trip because it was close to the bird sanctuary. But by all means  necessary go for it; you just might go on a sunny day and get a different experience. Also there are plenty of other beach excursion available to choose from you can check here for more. If you are interest you can checkout some of the video highlights from our trip on my IG Stories here
 Until next time happy adventures. 









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