Flying- A cab from both the bus terminal and the airport is an easy 20 minute ride to the city center where you’ll be spending your time.
Price- Cab from airport to city center $15 COP ($5 USD)
Bussing- An easy 5 hour bus ride from Santa Marta with a stop in Baranquilla but around 17 hours from Medellin. Check prices because many times flights are the same price as a bus and take much less time. You can also get a collectivo that will pick you up directly from your hostel in Santa Marta and bring you to your hostel in Cartagena.
Price- Bus from Santa Marta $24.5K COP ($8.10 USD) Door to door collectivo between Santa Marta $45 COP ($15 USD) Bus from Medellin ~$90 COP (~ $30 USD) Cab from bus terminal to city center $20 COP ($6.67 USD)
Once here you can easily get around on foot.
El Genoves Hostal – The beds are comfortable, bathrooms and dorms are clean, the free breakfast is fine (cereal, toast and fruit), and an excellent location- but the vibe is extremely quiet. The air con doesn’t go on until 10 pm which is really late compared to other hostels which made it hard to hang out there.
Overall: 7.5/10 Price: $27K COP ($9 USD/night – cheap for Cartagena
Republica Hostel Cartagena – This place has an amazing vibe. They’ve found the perfect balance between social with a party scene. There is a nice pool and a helpful staff. Only downside was the dorms are a bit cramped and even though the beds are pretty private due to being built in the wall, I found it really inconvenient for the top bunk. The wifi was also iffy.
Overall: 8/10 Price: $48K COP ($16 USD/night) – expensive for Cartagena
Media Luna is the big party hostel, but many just go there to party at night and leave at their leisure to their own hostel.
El Viajero Cartagena is part of the El Viajero chain that I’ve stayed in before and enjoyed my experience. Didn’t stay here in Cartagena, though.
Stepping Stone– Eat here for brunch and lunch every day. I literally wanted everything on the menu. It’s reasonably priced, great vibe, amazing food, and it’s for a good cause! They provide work internships to the poorer populations of Cartagena and teach them skills to get and maintain jobs in the future.
Maharaja Indian Restaurant- Awesome Indian food for a decent price. Open everyday from 9:30 am – 10:00 pm and the owner is super friendly.
Giras Les is a vegetarian restaurant open for lunch that has a delicious and cheap menu del dia. For 10K you get soup plus whatever they’re serving up that day and a juice.
Di Silvio Trattoria has great Italian food for a reasonable price. The pizza is thin crust and not exactly authentic, but all around great tasting food.
Maria Bonita Taqueria Cantina has AMAZING Mexican food. It was a little pricey for how much food you get, but it’s really, really good.
Doing: Free walking tour, chocolate museum, hang out in Plaza Trinidad. watch sunset on the wall
The free walking tour is really nice. There is a 10 am and a 4 pm option.
Price- Free + tips
Chocolate museum- If you like chocolate, you definitely need to try this out! There are two, but the smaller one is a better tour. They let you taste candy, chocolate, and liquor! Stop by both- because you can.
Plaza Trinidad- An amazing plaza that always has something going on. There is a place on the corner that sells beer for $2,500 COP and you can sit, drink beer and people watch. There is both street food and many restaurants nearby, including Di Silvio, Maharaja and Maria Bonita Taqueria.
Sunset on the wall- You’ll learn about the wall on the walking tour. Head over around sunset and take it all in. It’s really lovely.
If you happen to be in Cartagena for their independence day (November 11), enjoy the parade and festivities the city offers
Beaches- The beaches nearby aren’t very nice and a bit dirty, I didn’t find it worth it. The islands are supposed to be nice just a trek to get to.
Mud volcano- Didn’t do this. I’ve heard from people who’ve done it that it’s fun, but also a giant tourist trap. I didn’t feel like paying to drive an hour to sit in mud. Check out what this blog has to say about it.
Shopping- There is plenty of shopping to be done, but the prices aren’t necessarily on a backpacker’s budget.
Staying: 2-3 days – it’s hot.
Going: Take the bus to Santa Marta or if you’ve come that way then many people head south to Medellin. You can also take a boat over to Panama!