Baseline Comparison btw Cartagena and Jamaica

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Vancouver, BC
931 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Hi all,
Hoping to get some feedback to get a baseline comparison between Cartagena and Jamaica. We've dealt with street vendors in a number of different countries and the only place that kind of left us with a poor impression was Jamaica where they started out friendly but turned on us pretty badly & gave us major attitude once we decided we didn't want to buy anything.

I pulled up a couple of threads in this forum that referenced Jamaican vendor experiences compared to Cartagena and the feedback seems a bit mixed. However, feedback does seem to indicate that the vendors in Cartagena, while aggressive (in a somewhat swarming fashion) will politely take no gracias for an answer; which we can handle.
Hoping to get some updated feedback and comments to get an idea what to expect.

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NW Ohio
8,350 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
We were in Jamaica twice; once in Montego Bay and once in Ocho Rios. After those two experiences, we've decided not to return. Although I think Jamaica is a beautiful island, with much to offer, the vendors there just wear me out. They are relentless and continually in your face. I have no problem saying, "no" and being polite about it, but those people will not take no for an answer. I, like you, had read some reviews that made me think that Cartagena would be like that, and I was dreading having to deal with that. But, I really wanted to see the sights there, so figured it would be worth it once. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were a lot of vendors, but they were polite and were not aggressive to the point of being frightening. They did not try to block your path if you said, "no, thank you" and kept moving. They did not want to negotiate a lot, but I found that if I said we had to get back on the bus, they would come down to the price we'd offered in order not to lose the sale.
Hope this helps.
Arlington, Virginia
2,630 Posts
Joined Sep 2010
In Cartegena, we generally were not approached by vendors because we were accompanied by a private guide. However, the couple of times that I went off on my own to look at something, a polite, "No, gracias" to the vendors was sufficient. They were not aggressive at all.

And we didn't have too much problem with vendors in Ocho Rios either. We bypassed the vendors at DRF and the few vendors we passed on our way back to the cruise ship from the nearby shopping area did not pursue us either. We simply said, "No thanks" and kept walking. They had plenty of other tourists to harrass.
Vancouver, BC
931 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Appreciate you two sharing your experiences. Looking forward to Cartagena even more now.
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88,423 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Cartagena will not have the intenseness of vendors that one has in Jamaica. In Jamaica they are over the top and in your face. Like any vendors some will approach you but they don't have that attitude that you see in Jamaica.

Vancouver, BC
931 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Follow-up to this thread.
Vendors in Cartagena for us was not a problem at all. We were rarely approached and if we were, one simple "No gracias" did the trick. No hard feelings or attitude. However, we didn't openly show interest in stuff and we only spied some items from the corners of our eyes while wearing sunglasses.
Another couple we chatted with said they were pestered a bit but it sounded like they showed some interest in some of the goods.

Biggest pain in the rear were the taxi callers (ie guys not wearing the shirts with "taxi" all over them) both near the port and by the old clock tower. They were pretty persistent and even put their hand on me (though not my wife) to get me to stop and deal with them even though I was just trying to walk through and didn't need a taxi at the time.
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NW Ohio
8,350 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Thanks, Milhouse, for your followup. Good to know you were not pestered by the vendors, but how awful to have had a taxi driver actually accost you. My husband would not have been so friendly after that encounter.
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
498 Posts
Joined Aug 2005
We were recently in Cartagena on a group tour - fortress and old city. The advice we were given was to not respond at all to the vendors. Totally ignore them. The reason is that if you say "no, gracias," they will take that as establishing a relationship with them and will follow you. I noticed that the same vendors showed up everywhere we went in the old city. How they got there ahead of us, I don't know, but they did. Ignoring them worked - they never even approached my DW or me. Others in the group were approached, some even had the vendors put things in their hands to look at (at that point, they were doomed).

I should add that last time in Jamaica, at the "craft village" at the top of Dunn's River Falls, we did our "New York" routine of walking along without acknowledging the vendors or looking at anything they had. If you even glace at something, they will notice it and start following you, making offers. Years ago, before the "craft village" existed, the vendors would descend upon you in the upper parking lot like mosquitos. We were on a bus with a group from a resort. One of the vendors reached though the open window and plucked the sunglass of the face of a tourist. He wouldn't give them back until the tourist bought something from him.

By the way, if you bought coffee from one of the street vendors in Cartagena, take a careful look at it. We bought from a street vendor last time, upon recommendation of the tour guide, and later found it contained roasted twigs along with the coffee. This time, we went to a store (Coffee - and..., across from Mr. Emeralds) in the shopping mall at the last stop on the tour. I trust it more. Haven't opened it yet, though.

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NW Ohio
8,350 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
Art, we were on a bus at Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, and the tour guide allowed a "vendor" on the bus to hawk his wares and he was quite aggressive on that small minibus. That was the point at which I decided it was our last trip to Jamaica. When the tour guides don't offer a buffer b/t you and the vendors, you're doomed. Now, in Cartagena, my "no, gracias" did, as you say, somewhat establish a "relationship with certain vendors, but in no way did any of them become aggressive or even assertive with us. They did follow us for a few feet holding their wares out, but if I didn't respond a second time, they gave up and went on to others. When my friend saw a rosary she wanted and we were trying to negotiate a price, the vendor did try to hold firm at one price, but when I said we needed to get back on the bus, that's when he came down to the price she wanted to pay. It was all very nice, calm and polite.
Summerville, SC
6,880 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Cartagena is in my top five all-time favorite ports we have been to and I must concur with those who stated a polite, but firm "no, gracias" did the trick. I cannot wait to return some day as I found the history and architecture fascinating! And the people were for the most part warm and welcoming.

We have not been to and will not book a cruise with Jamaica on the itinerary as I refuse to give that country a nickle of my money.
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Joined Apr 2008
We had a very well known private guide in Cartagena and a member of our group spoke Spanish as well, so we had no issues at all. When we did want to haggle, the guide handled in in spanish, which I think really helped..

In Jamaica, they were MUCH pushier, plus we had the whole minivan driver stop and vendor get one.

It didn't put me off Jamaica totally, but it was definately my least favorite aspect of the country.
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