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Hello - thought I would post my question here... we're going to be docking at Cartagena for a day and wondered if any of you have been there and what the currency situation is.
Do they take US dollars or should we have some of their currency before arriving?
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It depends on what you're buying. If it is something expensive, or something that lots of American tourists buy, then you can probably have American dollars accepted. When I was in Cartagena, I was purchasing specialized maps at a bookstore. No American currency, so I simply used my credit card. Likewise, if you want to pay for bus fare you'll also need local money.
We were there last week and used dollars in a couple restaurants and a small purchase store. However each store had its own exchange rate. My dh asked as was interested in hearing different rates from each place.
We bought ring which we put on my Cap One card. They use the "official" rate for the day when they convert to dollars. I say, use your credit card for expensive puchases for sure.
We have family in Colombia and spend part of the year there
In Cartagena, you'll have no problem spending U.S. dollars. However, the prices are jacked up accordingly.
It wouldn't be a bad idea to use an ATM machine and get some pesos when you arrive.
200,000 pesos is just over $100 and will go a long way in Colombia.
At the port, the Juan Valdez coffee store is okay because their prices are the same all over Colombia.
DO NOT shop in the "Duty Free" store they make you go through in the port to walk back to the ship. It is a complete rip-off. They charge $20 US for a bag of coffee that costs 8,000 pesos (about $4 US) in any of the large supermarkets.
At the back-end of Old Town, there is an "Éxito" hypermarket. You can get coffee and other simple souvenirs there.
Please let me know if you have any specific questions.
My wife and I felt perfectly safe in Cartagena. We did the On Your Own ship's tour that started with a short guided walk through the old city. Then we were on our own for about 2 hours. The streets of the old city are full of tourists and locals, and at no time did we feel unsafe or uneasy. Cartagena is a very beautiful and historic old city. Wandering the narrows streets and walking along the old walls were great.
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While we did have a guide with us, I'd be fine going on my own, especially if I spoke a little Spanish. I never felt unsafe, getting lost would be my biggest concern as some of the streets can be winding. Vendors can be a little aggressive but a polite no usually worked.
To respond to the original question...
Each circumstance is different but personally, I wouldn't bother with getting Colombian pesos. It's enough of an exotic currency that if you got some at a local forex before you go, that you'll take a bit of a bath on the difference they sell it to you and the actual rate. And then if you don't spend it all, you're stuck with essentially unusable pesos or taking another hit converting back to local currency.
Again it's going to depend on how long you'll be in town, where you'll be, and how much you'll want to buy. If you're just doing a day in port and you'll be seeing the main touristy sites, dollars are accepted nearly everywhere. Even if you pay in pesos, you'll likely still end up with "tourist" pricing in tourist areas.
We visited in December 2011 and exchanged for a bit of pesos before we left. We were pretty liberal with our spending (though didn't buy anything "big"), couldn't use up all our pesos, and ended up buying ridiculous stuff like hot sauce, etc.
Originally Posted by LindaBabe
Did you feel safe going 'walkabout' on your own?
The two of us didn't stray way far off the touristed areas but we felt safe. We walked northeast to the San Diego district of the old town where cruise pax were way few & far between and outside the gates to the Getsemaní district and never felt unsafe. YMMV of course.
Wished we have more time in town to explore more areas.
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