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Is Cartegena Safe? Or a machine gun city?

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THANK YOU. That is very helpful information. I also appreciate the photos.

 

So how far is the clock tower from the port?

Taxi price?

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So how far is the clock tower from the port?

Taxi price?

 

A rough guess would be a couple of miles and we paid ten dollars for four of us in a taxi after some haggling.

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We decided to book with Claudia for her tour. Sounds like a great time!

 

Had a good time with Claudia last March. Good historical knowlege of the city. Kept us moving. Emerald "museum" was a little long, but hey, a free beer and wi-fi.

 

There's a photo above of the little shopping area at the port, when you get off the boat there are shuttle busses lined up to take you there, or you can walk if not too hot (there is also a duty free shop there with your favorite libation ;)). Also have wi-fi available if you need it.

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As usual we ignored most of the advice and walked from the port to the old city. It was an interesting walk, but we didn't feel unsafe.

 

In retrospect, I wouldn't recommend it. TAKE A TAXI or a tour. Walking is hot and tiring and the area near the port is pretty dirty, with uneven pavements. We did see some interesting sights by walking in the back streets and just off the main streets, there seems to be a fair bit of wealth - lots of Christmas trees and lights and sizeable properties with electric gates.

 

With hard bargaining, a cab should cost around $10 each way, or $20 if you take one as directed from inside the port gates.

 

I believe a ship's tour was about $39, which would be pretty good value for a couple.

 

Once the old city is reached, it is pretty much the same as any tourist destination and seemed very safe.

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That was our plan but hired cab (thanks Jose) for the day for 4 of us. We toured, drank, ate, went to church - 60 bucks, tipped him 30. Great day. Some wanted $100 and we kept walking.....

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That was our plan but hired cab (thanks Jose) for the day for 4 of us. We toured, drank, ate, went to church - 60 bucks, tipped him 30. Great day. Some wanted $100 and we kept walking.....

 

50% tip, no wonder cruise pax are seen as easy prey.:(

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50% tip, no wonder cruise pax are seen as easy prey.:(

 

For the hours spent, I figured the hourly rate instead of percentage. He was worth $6 an hour for taking care of four of us. The guys could not teach him to teach our wives to "just say no" to their shopping though :).

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We booked a walking tour of the Old City and then had free time. "Free time" is always an indicator that downtown is safe. Vendors were obnoxious on the plaza where we were to meet again, but the side streets were peaceful. (2012)

 

On our second visit (2013), we shopped in the store at the port - very nice handbags! - and spent time in the wooded area behind it. They have lots of birds there. This is a relaxing place.... especially when you have seen the city already and are at the end of a very long cruise from Buenos Aires around South America and have done lots of other excursions. It's also a good place for people with walking issues.

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My wife and I were in Cartagena last April and felt perfectly safe. We did a shore excursion from the ship that started with a guided walk through the Old City, followed by an hour and a half on your own. We wandered through the narrow streets all by ourselves, and never felt uncomfortable. Here are some photos I took that day:

Cartagena, Columbia

 

Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing them!!! :)

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Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing them!!! :)
You're welcome. Glad you liked them. Cartagena was one of the highlights of our Panama Canal cruise. A very historic city, beautifully preserved. We felt very safe there. Edited by Jasperdo

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Cartagena was a beautiful and historic city--one of the highlights of our PC cruise last year. Don't miss it; we never felt unsafe.

 

We arranged our private tour of Cartagena through Mr Miles (Mister Emerald). It was just the two of us with a private guide and a driver in an air-conditioned minivan. It only cost a bit more than the ship's tour for two but we went at our own pace and saw the things we were really interested in. At several stops we were just leaving as all the big buses were rolling up

 

Our guide, Carlos, was very knowledgeable about the city's history and culture and his love for Cartagena was lovely to see. He took us into places in the old city that the large groups don't go. The best part was that, because we were just a couple walking around with a local, we didn't get swamped by the crowd of vendors that surround the people getting off the tour buses.

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We just got back from Cartagena, Columbia. We only saw one machine gun the entire day.

We wanted to spend a few hours exploring Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, an UNESCO World Heritage site, and the largest fortification structure in the Southern Caribbean which kept foreign ships and pirates at bay for centuries.

 

Upon exiting the ship, you'll walk through a bird park (more later) to locate a taxi. This is where the mass confusion begins and advanced planning would be good. They will try to stuff you into the first available taxi. What to know: 1. you can hire a taxi for a 1-way ride. You'll recognize the official taxi drivers by their blue uniforms. The taxis are not metered, so you must agree on a price before entering the vehicle. The asking price for a 1-way ride to the old city from the pier is $20 per taxi (not per person). 2. You can hire a day guide. These taxi drivers wear a white uniform. Again, the guided taxis are not metered, so you must agree on a price before entering the vehicle. The asking price is about $20/hour (per taxi, not per person). 3. Ask for a guide that speaks good English. Test them. You'll find most speak just enough to get you into their cab. DO NOT get in until you have settled on a price and are happy with their english proficiency. 4. Most of the taxi's have no air conditioning. If it's important to you, ask for a new car with cold a/c. Otherwise you'll get a late model car that blows hot air through the vent (like we got). They will accept US dollars.

 

We negotiated with the dispatcher for a guide for 4 hours for $60. We wanted to go to explore San Felipe Fortress for an hour, visit the walled city, and explore San Pedro Claver Church. We had no interest in shopping. We reiterated this with our driver after we asked him if he spoke English. "Yes, Welcome to Cartagena. Please get in the taxi."

 

Me: "We'd like to go to San Felipe Fortress to explore it for an hour or so".

Driver: "See up there? (Points to La Popa Monestary up on a hill, which is actually a cool place to visit). That's the monestary. I take you there."

Me: "No. Take us to San Felipe Fortress."

(We arrive at the Fortress.)

Driver: "Ok, get out, take pictures. 15 minutes."

Me: "No. You park and we're going in. We'll be gone about an hour".

(Frankly at this point, I didn't care if he did leave as I hadn't paid him yet).

 

Admission was US$10 per person. Ask the cashier for a map (even though it's only written in Spanish) as it will help orient you. This is a pretty cool fort. Lots of walking. It has very steep ramps and inclines. Some stairs. Expect to sweat profusely. The heat is oppressive. I recommend going first thing in the morning. They open at 8:00 am. Wear sunscreen, a hat, good walking shoes, and bring water. Also take a flashlight so you can more easily explore the dark tunnels to the left, and center, of the fort. The tunnels to the left are not too steep and have numerous off-shoots. The tunnels in the center have a very steep incline and go down deep.

 

A local in period uniform plays trumpet with unwaivering allegence to whomever he sees. "You from Canada?" He plays "O Canada". "You from USA?" He plays "God Bless America" or, in homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, plays "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". He plays for tips. Since my wife tipped him $2, we also took his picture with her.

 

A souvenier shop with light beverages will greet you at the top of the fort. Cold water is resonably priced at US$2 a bottle. Souverniers are also reasonably priced. We explored for about an hour and returned to the taxi.

 

Me: "Lets go to the old city".

Driver: "Do you want to shop".

Me: "No".

Driver: "I'll stop here (open marketplace)"

Me: "Okay..."

(We walked the marketplace and got back into the taxi).

 

We went into the old walled city where the driver parked his car and lead us on a tour. Our first stop was the Gold Museum, which was inexplicably closed for the day. Then on to Plaza de Santo Domingo, Plaza de los Coches, and finally Plaza San Pesdro Claver where we had an opporuntity to explore the 400 year old church named after Saint Peter Claver, a Jesuit Priest, who dedicated his life to helping African slaves passing through Cartagena. This church has an old forest growing in its courtyard providing cool shade. It also has a religious relic --- the visible robed skeletal remains of Saint Peter Claver interned behind glass at the bottom of the alter. Admission was US$5.

 

Following our tour the driver asked if we wanted to go to an Emerald Museum in the new city. We agreed. The air conditioned Emerald Museum features a free escourted tour. We learned about Emeralds, mining techniques, saw stones being cut and polished, and were eventually led into the main showroom where we could buy Emeralds. There was no hard sell. We looked at a few pretty stones and left to find our taxi and head back to the ship.

 

Upon arrival at the pier, we gave the driver $60 and a tip. He looked unhappy.

 

Me: "Is there a problem?"

Driver: "This is only for 3 hours."

Me: "This is the $60 we agreed with the dispatcher to pay for 4 hours, plus tip."

Driver (shaking his head): "Okay..."

 

Hint: Given rates we were charged for admission, you'll do better if you have Colombian Pesos. At this writing, the conversion rate was about 2000 pesos to 1 USD.

 

When we returned we visited the bird park, known as the "Parrot Experience", located at the duty-free shop at the entrance of the pier. It features uncaged rabbits, monkeys, tucans, flamingos, peacocks, lots of colorful parrots, and a few other birds. They were loose, tame, and unafraid of humans. It was easy to take close-up pictures. We spent about 45 minutes looking at the critters, and it was free.

 

Picture... http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/cartagena.jpg

 

More "Secrets of the Caribbean": http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/caribbean-secrets.html

First-hand information on excursions we've taken in 24 Caribbean ports. With photos!

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