EVERYTHING THE TRAVELER NEEDS TO KNOW TO GET AROUND THE COLORFUL CARIBBEAN
CITY OF CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA.
So you are thinking of spending some time in Cartagena (or Cartagena de Indias if we are being specific)? Great! This Caribbean coastal city is an awesome place to base yourself if you are looking to combine both work and adventure - especially of the water variety.
But you might be wondering how to actually get around the colorful city. Well, luckily because of how close knit the city is, you can usually get around and see a lot of the top sites easily by using either the public bus, renting a motorcycle, or (more often than not) simply by using your own two feet.
THE TOP WAYS TO GET AROUND CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
This is by far the easiest way to get around the city, especially if you are planning to only stay in the areas near the Old City (Getsemani, Manga, Boca Grande). Plus, the city feels very safe (even as a solo female - I walked around in the early morning alone numerous times and never felt nervous or in danger).
If you want to explore the city and be able to do it at your own pace definitely plan on walking. Plus, then you also get some exercise - which is great after eating all of the fried street food (got to love those arepas).
Some of the best places to walk to and around are: the Old City (Walled City), the Getsemani neighborhood (great cafes and restaurants, plus awesome street art), the beaches in Boca Grande, the quiet El Cabrero area and Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the giant fort just outside of the Old City.
The only place we would maybe suggest not walking to, so either taking the bus (see below) or a taxi, is to the Bazurto Market (it is kind of far away), and La Popa, mainly because the last two kilometers are dangerous (or so we were told).
Cartagena is one of the first South American cities we have been to that really has a strong road biking culture. From our apartment along the beach, we saw dozens of bicyclists every morning, usually in a team/pack with cars following them on the busier roads.
But even if you are not a major road cyclist, renting a bicycle for your time in the city is still not a bad idea. Because of the strong bike culture, most cars definitely give bicyclists the right of way - even on the major highways. And because the main points of the city are so close together it is easy to bike between them.
If you are looking to rent a bicycle, either for a day or for the whole time you are in Cartagena, we suggest first checking out the Old City (where there are numerous bike rental shops) or asking around at hostels and hotels. Check out this article for some specific rental shops.
Most bicycles cost between 5000 and 20000 COP per hour ($1.50 to $7.00 USD // €1.33 to 6.20 Euros) to rent. Though we would guess that if you are looking to rent longer than one day, you can likely find a more discounted rate.
If we had it our way we would probably have a motorcycle or moped with us every place we went. The freedom that comes with having your own set of wheels is pretty unbeatable and unquantifiable. And a motorcycle just increases that freedom tenfold, for there is nothing as liberating as riding a motorcycle in nature as the fresh air blows in your face.
In Cartagena, one of the most common ways locals get around is by motorbike, either on their own personal moto, or on a mototaxi (see below). Because of this, it is way less scary riding a motorcycle around the city since most people are doing it and cars, buses and big trucks know to look out for you.
If you are planning to spend a decent amount of time in Cartagena, we definitely recommend looking into renting a motorcycle - especially if you are hoping to explore the beaches around the city (Baru most notably).
The only challenge is finding a place to actually rent a motorcycle (we found this to be much harder than we would have thought). One good spot is Adrenaline Addicts, which rents motorcycles of all types, especially more adventure-focused models (they also offer discounts for longer rental periods). The only problem? They are located in Santa Marta, which sits ~4 hours away (but there are buses…).
Inside Cartagena, a great spot to check out is Bike and Dive Hostel, where they rent motorcycles for 24 hours (or more) as well as do scuba diving trips and tours to nearby spots like Baru and the Rosario Islands. Learn more about renting a motorcycle in Cartagena here.
Renting a motorcycle from Bike and Dive Hostel will cost between $30 - $50 USD (€26.50 - €44.30 Euros) for 24 hours.
They also offer to have a tour guide accompany you - in case you don't really know where to go - for $26 USD (€23 Euros) a day.
EXPLORE MORE | HOW TO RENT A MOTORCYCLE IN CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
If you are looking to head to destinations farther away from the Old City then we recommend looking into using the local bus system. Now there are a couple of things to know about taking the bus. For instance, the easiest buses to take are the big orange and white ones that say TransCaribe on the side. These are part of the new bus fleet that the city has slowly been trying to implement.
The other buses you see (all differently colored and differently named) are the local buses, also known as minibuses. These fleets often don’t actually have a set route, instead, they head through specific neighborhoods and areas - often notated by the name on the bus or by the yelling sparrer (person at the door) and passengers must then request a stop along the way.
Because as a traveler it might be harder to figure out what neighborhood is which, it becomes much harder to use the minibuses compared to the TransCaribe line.
The TransCaribe Buses
COST: 2600 COP ($0.70 USD // €0.62 Euros) per person/per way. So if two people head to the main bus terminal from the Old City and then back to the Old City it will be ~ 10400 COP ($2.70 USD // €2.40 Euros) total for the round-trip.
💬 INSIDER TIP: you also will likely need to purchase a little plastic card to use to enter the actual bus stations. It costs 4000 COP ($1.20 // €1 Euro) for one card, but it is good for the whole time (you re-up it) and can be used for multiple people.
📌MAIN DESTINATIONS: the Cartagena bus terminal (where you get all the buses heading out of the city), La Popa, Bazurto Market, and Bocagrande. The best station to get on the bus from the Old City is the Centro Station, which is located close to the Exito Manuno and the Centro Comercial Mall. Find the exact location here.