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What should we do in Cartagena?

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We will be visiting Cartagena on March 20, 2015 for the first time. My wife and I will have our 17 year old son and 15 year old niece with us. What should we do in Cartagena?

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I suggest looking through the available tour literature and write down the things that interest you, then when you get to Cartagena, go outside the terminal building and present your list to one of the many tour peddlers. Ask if you can do all the things on the list in the alloted time you have, and ask what the cost will be per person.

 

You may have to eliminate some of the items, but you will get a good tour for a good price.

 

The popular things there are the monastery, old town, emerald district and the fort. One place that makes emerald jewelry has recently added an emerald museum that is very nice, well done, and interesting. It is one of the stops on some of the ships tours. If you want to see some of the Cartagena history, google Blas De Lezo (half a man)--They have a statue of him at the old fort.

 

There is a kiosk on the dock that will give you a very good map of the old walled city, and you can walk through there very safely. Don't try to walk to the old city--it is too far and through a not so nice area.

 

Allow some time to enjoy the birds and animals at the terminal before or after you make a tour.

 

If you have your tour driver leave you at the old walled city (so you can walk and spend some time), there are many taxis that will take you back to the port "BARCA" for a few dollars. Take a picture of the ship with you in case the driver doesn't speak English. Show him the picture and say barca and he will know where you want to go.

 

We have made some very nice tours there for between 15 and 25 dollars per person.

Edited by swedish weave

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We will be visiting Cartagena on March 20, 2015 for the first time. My wife and I will have our 17 year old son and 15 year old niece with us. What should we do in Cartagena?

 

I'm not sure how long you're in port, we left at 1pm, so if taking a private tour be mindful of your time. Just an FYI :)

 

We did the Segway in the walled city, just enough history for me. There is much to do, so make a list of what you would like to see.

Edited by Tyskie

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We just got back from Cartagena, Columbia...

 

Another fine day for an excursion on our own as 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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We will be visiting Cartagena on March 20, 2015 for the first time. My wife and I will have our 17 year old son and 15 year old niece with us. What should we do in Cartagena?

 

We just returned from a Panama Canal Cruise on the Legend of the Seas. Our first stop was in Cartagena, and we had a most wonderful private tour with Dora deZubiria from Cartagena Tours. I had read glowing recommendations on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor...and she met all of our expectations, and then some. We did a city tour that hit all the high points....great for first time visitors. It was a 4 1/2 hour tour in a comfortable air conditioned van. All entrance fees were included in the tour price. There were 4 in our party, but I gathered together some fellow cruisers from the CC board for our cruise, so there were 14 of us all together, which brought the price down to $60 pp, paid at the conclusion of the tour. Dora was personable, funny, knowledgeable, and professional. We had excellent communication prior to our trip. I would recommend her most highly.

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As mentioned before, taxis are officially $20 one way to the walled city inside the port area. If you go outside--not so easy to find your way out these days--you can get a ride for $10 per taxi. There will be plenty of taxis waiting when you want to go back to the ship. We had an interesting experience trying to avoid the unofficial dispatcher there. We found our own cab, then he came running up and wanted money from the driver. When the driver only offered a small amount, he tried to get us to leave the cab. We declined to do so and tipped our driver well when we got back to the port.

 

It's not really that far to the city so $20 seems a bit excessive.

Edited by mcmarya

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Hello Suze 3119. Do you have a Email address or any other info for getting in touch with Dora de Zubiria. My wife and I and another couple will be going to Cartagena in No of this year. Thanks,:cool:

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Has anyone toured with Marelvy Pena-Hall?

 

Marelvy has the the number one rated sightseeing tour in Cartagena on Trip Advisor.

Edited by WiseChoices

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November we took a tour with Claudia's Tours and had a great time. There are some pictures in the Legend link in my signature. I think the sights we saw would be entertaining for teens.

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We want to see La Popa, the fortress of San Felipe, the Old Walled City, the Plaza Santo Domingo and the emerald museum, if we can fit it all in.

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We just returned from our cruise, and used Marelvy in Cartagena. She was great! She deserves her high rating on TripAdvisor. Took time to really explain the history and details at each stop, and her discussion while we were driving was fantastic. If she is available, grab her!!

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We just returned from our cruise, and used Marelvy in Cartagena. She was great! She deserves her high rating on TripAdvisor. Took time to really explain the history and details at each stop, and her discussion while we were driving was fantastic. If she is available, grab her!!

 

Thank you Ben and Susan! We have booked with one of Marelvy Pena-Hall's associates for Cartagena.

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Personally I would catch a cab to the old city and wander around In my own time. Fraction of the cost and time to look at what interests you. Not far from ship to old cartegena and well worth just wandering around. Cabs are plentiful at the wharf. For me organised tours skewed towards churches rather than galleries and museums. Cartagena quite a safe feeling cruise stop. Cheers

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We just did a great Street Food Tour in Cartagena last week. $30 per person for a 2 hour tour that took us out of the old city and into the residential areas. We tasted 10-12 different food from a variety of vendors and got a feel for the "real" Cartagena. It's offered through Kristy, an Australian ex-pat who has settled here. http://www.cartagenaconnections.com/street-food-tour.html Just make sure to bring plenty of water - it gets very hot!

 

Oh - and someone on our cruise was mugged walking back to the port alone. Take a cab back and forth instead of trying to walk it.

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We just did a great Street Food Tour in Cartagena last week. $30 per person for a 2 hour tour that took us out of the old city and into the residential areas. We tasted 10-12 different food from a variety of vendors and got a feel for the "real" Cartagena. It's offered through Kristy, an Australian ex-pat who has settled here. http://www.cartagenaconnections.com/street-food-tour.html Just make sure to bring plenty of water - it gets very hot!

 

Oh - and someone on our cruise was mugged walking back to the port alone. Take a cab back and forth instead of trying to walk it.

 

Thank you for information about the Great Street Food Tour and the warning about walking alone while in Cartagena.

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We got back from Cartagena a few weeks ago and we went with Marelvy Pena-Hall's associate Ester. Ester was amazing and we enjoyed our time in Cartagena. Marelvy Pena-Hall'sexcursion is well-worth it!

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