Backpackers Guide to Cartagena – Colombia

Tips for Backpacking South America

Cartagena is a city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. At its core is the walled city, with 16th-century plazas, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings. I absolutely adored Cartagena and spent my days walking around the streets admiring and photographing the colourful buildings. This blog is a quick guide to Cartagena – Colombia.

Cartagena Architecture

Things to do in Cartagena

Explore the Walled City: You could spend a full day or even two walking around the Walled Cuty and still have something new and amazing to look at. The Walled City is the most beautiful part of Cartagena. I highly recommend staying in or near to the Walled City so you can easily explore it during the day and night.

Take a Horse and Carriage ride through the Walled City: We paid 20.000 ($10) for 3 people, for that price why not enjoy a horse and carriage ride. They will try and charge you more, just keep negotiating and you will get the price down.

Horse and carriage ride through the walled city cartagena

Playa Blanca Beach: Paradise await you at Playa Blanca Beach, an hour from Cartagena. Your hostel can arrange return transport for 60.000 ($30) or you can take a public bus for 1.700 ($0.85) then catch a taxi for 10.000 ($5). Ask your hostel where the bus stop is and let the driver know where you are going, he will warn you when to get off. I felt completely safe on the bus, but would arrange transport through the hostel if I were alone. At Playa Blanca, you pay $5-10 per night for a hammock on the beach, or a little more for tent and $40 for a hut for 2 people. We stayed at Hugos Place and couldn’t say a bad word.

Accomodation in playa blanca beach colombia

Fruit salad playa blanca beach colombia

Totum Volcano (Mud Volcano): The weirdest thing I had ever experienced, but definitely not one I regret. For 50.000 Colombia Pesos ($25), take a morning tour to the Volcano, including lunch and an hour at the beach. I recommend the morning tour as the mud volcano will be less crowded.

Cathedals, Churches and Museum: If this interests you, Google cathedrals, churches and museum. You will find lots in Cartagena, they just don’t interest me so I cant give a genuine opinion because I didn’t visit.

San Felipe de Barajas Castle: I had this recommended to me and it looked cool from the outside, but I didn’t have time to go in and explore. If you have time go check it out and let me know your thoughts.


Any month is good to travel to Cartagena as temperatures don’t vary much, but avoid October as it has the highest rainfall.

Recommended length of stay

I recommend staying in Cartagena for a minimum of 4 nights.

Getting to and around

If coming Internationally, you will fly into Cartagena Airport. From Cartagena Airport, you can get to the Walled City/Old City for 10.000 Colombian Pesos ($5).

A popular way to get to Cartagena from Central America/Panama is sailing through the San Blas Islands. This costs between $375 and $550 and goes for 4 nights and 5 days, all inclusive. This is the same cost as flying from Panama to Colombia so if you are coming from central I recommend this option. The San Blas Islands are amazing, clearly!

Once in Cartagena, I recommend walking. There are so many magnificent sights, building and attractions, walking will allow you to see more and to save money at the same time.

If you do need a taxi, they are cheap, but make sure you agree on a price before you get in. 

Where to stay

If you are looking for a party hostel stay at Media Luna: A swimming pool and hammocks in the garden make it the perfect place to hang out. Located in the center of the old city, Luna Media is a backpacker’s favorite.

Mama Waldys: Would you prefer a quieter hostel? Try Mama Waldy’s, just around the corner from Media Luna in the old city. Mama Waldys is one of the only hostels with free breakfast. They also do free lemonade between 1 and 2, so refreshing on a hot day. I really enjoyed this hostel.

Search for cheap accommodation options here.

See more photos from Colombia here

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