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6 Tips for Staying Safe in Cartagena

Updated August 31, 2022

Generally, Cartagena is a safe place to travel (with a little know-how!). But like elsewhere in the world, Colombia has seen numerous cases of COVID. 

Check out our update below. 

UPDATE: COVID-19 in Cartagena

Colombia has seen several waves of COVID since 2020, but travel to Colombia is possible (and rewarding!) with a few simple precautions. 

Here's the latest: 

If you are vaccinated, proof of vaccination is required to enter Colombia. 

If you are not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated, you need negative results from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to travel or an antigen test taken no more than 48 hours prior to travel.

The Check-Mig registration form is required and must be completed 24 hours prior to travel. 

Face masks are required in certain municipalities. A local in Colombia can keep you up-to-date.


Read on below for more about staying safe in Cartagena.

#1: Most neighborhoods are wonderful—but there are some you should avoid

Cartagena | Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash

Like any big city, Cartagena has good areas and areas that you should avoid. Locals tell us that the following neighborhoods are safe, beautiful, and offer plenty of accommodation options: 

Old Town (The Walled City)

Old Town in Cartagena is beautiful, historic, and safe. Locals tell us that you'll find many Cartagena highlights here, which makes it a popular spot for visitors. This means that—while the area is generally safe—you should keep an eye out for pickpockets. 


Reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach, locals tell us that Bocagrande is Cartagena’s beachside strip. Although this area can get touristy, Bocagrande has its charms, and it's a safe place to hang out even once the sun goes down. 


Getsemani is Cartagena’s hipster heaven. Known for offering a uniquely Colombian feel, locals say that this neighborhood boasts street art, great coffee shops, and the always-popping tunes of Afro-Caribbean music.

However, Getsemani is a Cartagena neighborhood where getting local advice can really help. Our trip planners say that it doesn't fit *all* travel styles, as the area can get sketchy after dark.


Locals say that, generally, these areas should be avoided by travelers:

La Popa

If you go to La Popa, locals suggest visiting during the day. The area can get really touristy—which means it draws pickpockets and thieves, especially at night. 

Sector La Magdalena

Locals say that this area is much grittier than other parts of Cartagena. They tell us there's not much reason for travelers to go here, anyway. 


Get personalized advice about where to stay in Cartagena. Our local trip planners can give suggestions based on your travel style (are you a solo traveler? Traveling with kids?) and let you know what to expect once you arrive. 

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#2: Stay aware at the beach

Cartagena has some beautiful beaches, including some of the best to visit in Colombia. But you should definitely keep aware while enjoying the sun, sand, and surf. Don't leave valuables unattended, and pay attention to any warnings about rip tides or strong currents. 

Oh—and WEAR SUNSCREEN. Locals say that the sun burns bright in Cartagena. It's lovely to spend a day on the beach or exploring Old Town, but don't let a sunburn ruin the whole trip. 

Local Tip:

Add another level of cool to your Cartagena trip by visiting some of the nearby islands. Island-hopping is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Cartagena

#3: Blend in (dress like a local!)

Cartagena | Jorge Gardner/Unsplash

Optimize safety in Colombia by blending in—that means, don't look like a tourist. Generally, this means leaving your favorite sneakers at home, but you can get insider advice about how to dress. Our trip planners can answer questions about what to pack and how locals dress. (They can also provide a few key phrases to know in Spanish!)

What kind of traveler are you?
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Select your travel preferences below and let a local travel planner with ViaHero take it from there. Your personalized Colombia recommendations, itinerary, and maps are just a few clicks away.

#4: Stay alert—even while enjoying the nightlife

If your Colombia itinerary includes a healthy dose of nightlife—cheers!—be sure you party with safety in mind. It's easy—our locals say to just follow a few common-sense safety tips: 

  • Don't flash valuables or lots of cash (it's better to leave valuables at home and to only carry small amounts of cash)
  • If you're using a taxi, be sure to agree with your driver on the fare in advance
  • In bars or clubs, keep an eye on a drink. Like anywhere else, don't accept drinks from strangers if you didn't watch it being made.
  • Keep in mind that pickpockets love touristy areas—keep your belongings close.

Easy! As we said, it's really about common-sense. But if safety is a concern, you can always get insider safety advice. Our trip planners can explain how they plan safe nights out in Cartagena for themselves and their friends. 

Local Tip:

Uber has changed its rules of operation in Colombia. Now, you basically rent a car that comes with a driver.

#5: Make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccines

You probably have all your necessary vaccines for Colombia. However, the CDC does recommend some travelers get hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines (although this is not required). And don't forget: the CDC recommends the COVID vaccine before all travel.

"How did I ever not travel like this?! Ana’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!"
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

#6: Get personalized advice on how to stay safe

Cartagena | Jorge Gardner/Unsplash

You have lots of questions about traveling to Colombia—and our trip planners have all the answers!

Our trip planners are Colombian locals. That means they're the ultimate expert on staying safe in their hometown, whether it's Cartagena, CaliMedellin, Barranquilla, or Bogota. And not only that—they can suggest great places to eat, drink, explore, and relax. 

Why see Cartagena like a tourist when you could enjoy it like a local? Get started today

Still have questions about travel to Colombia?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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