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How to Get Around Cartagena as a Digital Nomad


Bright red Beetle car in Cartagena, Colombia

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

 




\\ Walking


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).





\\ Bicycle


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.


COST

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.







\\ Motorcycle


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.


COST

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





\\ Bus


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.




Public bus in downtown Cartagena, Colombia

EXPLORE MORE | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUS TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA





\\ Taxi


While the buses are quite popular with the locals, another common way to get around Cartagena is by either taxi (the yellow cars) or mototaxis.


A couple of things to know about taxis in Cartagena are that when you are looking to hail a taxi only go for the yellow ones with the license plate number on the front, back, and sides for these are actually licensed or authorized taxis. They will also have a tag that says "public service." A second thing to know is that you should always agree on a price before getting in, for the taxis do not have meters and it is much easier to be scammed or ripped off if you don’t agree on a fair price beforehand.


Besides the yellow taxi cars, there is also the option to take a mototaxi. Now, this is definitely not for everyone. The idea of getting on the back of a random person’s motorcycle and riding through the busy city can be a bit off-putting. I know that when we took it from La Popa we were both a bit nervous (I know I was especially nervous as a female).


But if you are up for the adventure and have no problems riding a motorcycle, then this could be a great option to get around the city quickly. Again just make sure to agree on a price beforehand as it can get awkward once you arrive at your destination and they are charging you waaay too much.



JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA ON WHAT WE PAID

For a ride up to the top of La Popa, back down and then over to the El Cabrero area (just outside of the Old City) we paid 50000 COP (~$13 USD // €11.50 Euros) total. We aren’t sure if that is a totally fair price or if we got ripped off, but after doing a bit of research it looked like a ride up to the top of La Popa and then back down does usually cost between 30000 and 50000 COP.



Taxi Prices


Below is a rough estimate on what you should pay to take a taxi (car) around Cartagena.


Old City/Getsemani → Bocagrande, Laguito, Castillo Grande (7000-10000 COP // ~ $2.13 USD // €1.90 Euros)


Old City/Getsemani → El Cabrero, Marbella, Crespo, Manga, La Popa (7000-8000 COP // $1.88 USD // €1.65 Euros)


Bocagrande, El Laguito, Castillo Grande → El Cabrero, Marbella, Crespo, Manga, La Popa (10000-12000 COP // $2.76 USD // €2.44 Euros)


Old City/Getsemani → North Zone (Boquillas area) (15000-25000 COP // $5 USD // €4.43 Euros)


Cartagena → Playa Banca and the Baru area (75000-100000 COP // $21.34 USD // €18.90 Euros); but you should negotiate the price to have the driver/taxi stay for the day as it can be tough to find one to get back to Cartagena out there.




Taxi station in Cartagena, Colombia



Taxi To & From the Cartagena Airport


One of the easiest ways to get to and from the airport in Cartagena is to take a taxi. Luckily, they have made it really easy to know what to pay depending on where you are heading by installing a kiosk machine that prints out a receipt and set price depending on your final destination.



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