Cartagena Colombia is an incredibly charming and vibrant city on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Whether you are planning a romantic honeymoon or a trip with kids, you might be wondering is Cartagena safe? This Cartagena travel guide includes plenty of Cartagena Colombia safety tips, where to stay in Cartagena and tips for traveling to Cartagena with kids.
What was once a dark and turbulent city is now one of the safest big cities in Colombia. This city is rich in history and culture, offers nice beaches and delicious food and should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Use this Cartagena travel guide to help plan a trip to South America’s colorful city.
Here we will break down Cartagena Colombia safety tips, where to stay in Cartagena, and the best things to do in Cartagena with kids.
Is Cartagena Safe?
Today, Cartagena is considered very safe for tourists to visit. In fact, it’s one of the safest cities in Colombia and violent crime against tourists is almost nonexistent. If you stick to the main neighborhoods and tourist attractions we talk about in this post you should feel very safe.
We were told the farther away you venture from the Old Town, the more unsafe it gets. However, you really have no reason to venture far to see the best things Cartagena has to offer anyways. To be extra cautious we will be discussing Cartagena Colombia safety tips next.
Cartagena Colombia Safety Tips
Our biggest Cartagena Colombia safety tip is to use common sense. Like anytime you leave your home, traveling or not, there are some basic safety tips you’ll want to keep in mind.
Keep your belongings close and in sight to avoid pickpocketing. This is the most common crime you’ll hear about in the tourist heavy areas of Cartagena. Luckily it is fairly easy to avoid if you simply keep belongings out of your pockets and keep a close hold on your bag or purse.
Stick to the touristy areas, especially at night. It’s recommended to stay within the Old Town, Getsemani, Bocagrande and Laguito neighborhoods.
Another pretty common sensical tip we have is don’t flash your valuables in public. Leave your expensive jewelry and accessories at home and don’t bring your unnecessary electronics out and about. This way the thieves have no reason to target you.
Agree on taxi fairs before you hop in the car. We found taxi drivers will try to over charge tourists. Ask how much your fair will cost before you get in. If you think they are scamming you simply say that is too much and walk away. They will usually come right down in price or you can easily find a different taxi near by.
Always keep an eye on your food and drinks when you are eating out or enjoying the nightlife. Along with that, don’t accept food or drinks from anyone you don’t know.
Where to stay in Cartagena
Deciding where to stay in Cartagena can be a challenge. It really depends if you prefer the colonial charm of old town or the modern high rises and beaches of Bocagrande. Both have its pros and cons. We break it down next to help you make your decision.
Staying in old town has lots of pros. First, you will have almost everything within walking distance including restaurants, bars, clubs and a ton of major attractions. Old town is very safe, even late at night. It is going to be more expensive than Bocagrande, however you can find a wide range of prices for lodging and food so you should be able to find things within your budget.
However, old town can get very crowded, especially during peak season. It is rather up beat and noisy as there are a lot of vendors that roam the streets. Lastly, you won’t be beach front if you stay in old town but luckily it’s only a quick cab ride away.
Is Cartagena kid friendly?
The number one concern we got when we told others we were staying in Cartagena for a month was… is Cartagena safe?? Since we were traveling with our 13 month old (at the time) we understood their concerns. But after a lot of our personal research we felt very comfortable bringing her with us.
We found the main touristy neighborhoods of Cartagena Colombia to be very safe! We wandered freely around Old Town, Getsemani, Bocagrande and Laguito and never felt unsafe. The only place I would stay away from after dark is Getsemani. Therefore I’d recommend families to stay in Old Town, Bocagrande or Laguito.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Laguito and the building had a gate and security at the front desk. It was super spacious and was right on the beach. It even included a cleaner to come in one time a week which is a huge bonus when you are on vacation!
One suggestion I have if you are traveling with small children is to bring a baby carrier. Many of the streets are not very stroller friendly and a baby carrier will be much easier for bringing them exploring.
Things to do in Cartagena with Kids
Free walking tour
When arriving in a new city we always start with a good free walking tour! It’s the perfect way to get introduced to the city and get lots of information for the rest of your trip. The tour guides are typically very knowledgable, friendly and usually pretty funny as well. They are sure to keep you entertained for the duration of your tour.
The walking tour starts in Cartagena’s Old Town and lasts about 3 hours. The guides explain an immense amount about the city’s history, certain landmarks, sculptures and art throughout the city that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Like why some doors have lions and others have lizards.
Plus it’s almost free! The tour guides work for tips only, hence the free walking tour is almost free. Please be generous and tip at the end of your tour.
Walk around Old Town
The Old Town of Cartagena Colombia is an absolute must see on your trip. Spend a day or afternoon wandering around the vibrant streets, admiring the colonial architecture and dreamy flowers. You can seemingly walk around for hours taking left and right turns and finding new gems around every corner.
Old Town is surrounded by Cartagena’s Fort Wall. Inside the wall you can find endless shops filled with handmade goods, souvenirs and Colombian coffee. Stick around for lunch or dinner and you won’t have to go far to find a restaurant to eat in.
Walking around old town is one of the most kid friendly things to do in Cartagena Colombia. Children will have endless entertainment around them and plenty of stores to pop into, especially when the weather is so hot!
Explore the Wall
While exploring Old Town, spend some time up on Cartagena’s Fort Wall itself! There are ramps and stairs all along the wall so it is very easy to get to the top. Once you are at the top, similar to the Dubrovnik’s Old Town, you can walk as long as you’d like before you head back down into Old Town. It’s free to walk on the wall and it’s one of the best things to do in Cartagena, Colombia!
The entire wall is 11km long so it’s quite long to walk the entire thing. The main section I would suggest walking would be the section closest to the Sea for views of Old Town, the Caribbean Sea and New Town in the distance.
View Sunset at Cafe del Mar
Cafe del Mar is a very well known restaurant at the top of Cartagena’s Fort Wall right along the sea. It is a spectacular place to witness the sun set under the horizon behind Bocagrande and the endless sea. Have your camera ready, because you will definitely want to share this experience with your friends and family back home.
We suggest getting there early if you’d like a good spot to see the sunset. Cafe del Mar gets very crowded, especially for sunset, however we promise there is a good reason why!
Visit the Rosario Island
A quick (but very bumpy) 45 minute boat ride from Cartagena’s old town brings you to absolute paradise! The Rosario Islands are home to crystal clear waters, white sand beaches and stunning sunsets. We decided to do a weekend on Isla Grande and it was the best thing we did during our entire month in Cartagena.
The Hotel Coralina will greet you off the boat and welcome you to their resort where you can sip cocktails, swim in the ocean or lay in the sun all day long. The food is fresh and incredibly delicious and the staff is friendly and welcoming!
Surrounding the island is a reef filled with marine life which makes for an amazing snorkeling or diving adventure! One of the best things you can do in Cartagena Colombia is visit one of the nearby islands. You’ll have so much fun enjoying island life for a few days.
Cartagena is known for its incredible seafood! Located right on the Caribbean Sea, you know it’s fresh. We actually witnessed a ton of fisherman bringing their daily catch right to the local restaurants and selling it on the spot.
The seafood reminded me a lot of the food in Spain where they bring the entire fish out on the plate. It’s something us Americans don’t see very often and can be quite shocking the first time you are served your fish that way, but it is so so tasty!!! My mouth is watering just thinking about all the fresh seafood we ate!
My recommendation is to try all the seafood you can while you are there from octopus, clams, mussels, fish and everything else you can get your hands on.
Getsemani is a vibrant and hip neighborhood just outside of Cartagena’s old town. Its streets are lined with trendy bars, clubs and restaurants, making it a very lively place to hangout. Spend half a day walking around and admiring the street art while listening to the live music and watching the street performers.
Explore Castillo de San Felip
Castillo de San Felip is a fortification located on a hill called San Lázaro. It was built in 1657 during the Spanish colonial era and was constantly under attack by the English and French. Its now recognized as a World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of Colombia! It’s definitely a site to see!
Wander around Castillo de San Felip to see wonderful views of the city and Caribbean Sea below. There is an admission fee but if you are looking to learn more about the city’s history the admission fee is definitely worth it. This is a one of a kind site! The kids will enjoy climbing around the castle making this an awesome kid friendly thing to do in Cartagena Colombia.
That concludes our Cartagena Colombia safety tips, where to stay in Cartagena and the best things to do in Cartagena with kids. If you enjoyed this blog please use the below images to Pin It and save it to Pinterest for later!
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