We had initially planned on doing Cartagena on our own. We did not have a ship excursion booked up until the night before. We talked to a few people who said that they felt a lot safer on a ship excursion. After looking at the cost of a taxi and the ship excursion we decided the $20 difference was well worth being on a ship excursion for the peace of mind. I have to say I am so glad we were on an excursion. Cartagena is a busy city with people everywhere.
On our way out of the port area into town the bus we were in was hit by a taxi cab. There was not much damage but I was so reassured that we were on a boat excursion and not in the taxi cab. Cartagena is a city filled with scooters, donkey carts, and so many cars. This is not a city I would want to drive in. Just sitting in the bus watching the cars go by was an adventure.
Our tour included a guided walk through the old city and then time on our own for shopping and wandering. This was the perfect tour for us. Our tour guide led us through an hour long tour of the city. We were able to see the main sites and get comfortable in the area.
As soon as we stepped off the bus we were “greeted” by peddlers and people selling a bit of everything. I bought John a super cool hat from the first person we talked with. One thing to note is that you have the opportunity to barter in Cartagena with the street vendors. The vendor initially offered me $25 for John’s hat. I was able to barter him down to $10. We were both happy with the price and I really like john’s hat.
Bartering can be a bit overwhelming the first time you do it. The street vendors in Cartagena were really fun to barter with. I did not feel a lot of pressure from them. I ended up laughing with them and having a great time. If you do not want to purchase something you can say No thank you and they are happy to move on to the next person. If you show interest in a product they are going to show you everything they have in hopes of you buying something.
The old city in Cartagena is beautiful! It is filled with gorgeous old buildings, open squares and colorful people watching. You see a little bit of everything while walking through town. I did not feel uncomfortable walking through town but I was glad there were guides from the tour company available. It was reassuring to have someone to ask questions to and know that they were familiar with the area.
There were city police officers on almost every corner of the Old City. There were police cars driving through town and a large police presence. We were told prior to leaving the boat that we needed to be careful of pick pockets and offers of illegal drugs. The country has done a lot to make the city as safe as possible for tourists. Even with the police presence I felt better being on a ship excursion. The Old City is a maze of tiny streets and alleyways. I am pretty sure I would have been lost within a couple of blocks trying to find our way out.
I am so glad we did not let the warnings about the city deter us from visiting. We had an unbelievable time visiting Cartagena. The city is absolutely amazing. You are transported back in time and really get to see a city unlike anything we have in Spokane.
Here are a few more of our favorite photos from Cartagena