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Is Cartagena Safe? Here's What to Know

Updated August 2, 2021

Is Cartagena safe for travel? Generally — yes! Locals tell us that Cartegana's beauty and Caribbean flare make it an excellent destination. As long as travelers are aware of a few safety precautions, they should be fine. 

Looking for more insider info on safety in Colombia? Work with a local for on-the-ground access as you plan your trip. Learn more

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Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

Colombia and the coronavirus

When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, Colombia took quick, decisive actions. Colombia closed its borders in March and wouldn't open up again until September 2020. The country also instituted one of the longest national quarantines in the world

So, can travelers even go to Colombia right now? Yes! Here's the latest: 

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans can enter Colombia.

Travelers can find limited flights to Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Cali. As of June 2021, international travelers no longer need to present a negative PCR test to enter the country. 

    Once in Colombia, travelers will be asked to follow local rules around wearing masks, social distance, curfews, and capacities.

    All this can feel overwhelming and hard to track down — that's why we recommend talking to a Colombian local who can let you know how things are from the ground. 

    Which Cartagena neighborhoods are safe to visit?

    Women walk with fruit on their heads in Cartagena | Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash

    Utilize local advice as you decide where to visit in Colombia. Our Colombian locals in Cartagena tell us that these are some cool (and safe) neighborhoods to check out:

    • Old Town (aka the Walled City): Locals tell us that Old Town is among the top Cartagena points of interest. The area is also where you’ll see police the most—not because of frequent crime, but because they want to provide a safe environment. Our locals note that since Old Town is a significant tourist attraction, keep an eye out for pickpockets.
    • Bocagrande and Manga: Our Colombian locals say it's easy to stay safe in Cartagena when you’re in these beachside neighborhoods, which are famous for their palm-lined promenades and Miami vibes. Feel free to hang out after sundown and check out the nightlife. 
    • Getsemani: Known for its hipster vibes, outdoor cafes, and an abundance of street musicians, Getsemani is one of the safer areas of Cartagena—but locals tell us it can get a little sketchy after dark. 
    • San Diego: This neighborhood is full of students and hipsters, which gives San Diego a laidback and chill character which locals love. They say that San Diego is best visited during the day; at night it becomes a hotspot for pickpockets and drug dealers. There are still plenty of other Cartagena highlights to visit after dusk. 
    • Centro and Pie de Popa: Both of these neighborhoods attract tourists, surfers, paragliders, and bikers from all over the world. Locals say that both are also best visited during the day because of increased petty theft after dark.
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    Which neighborhoods should be avoided?

    Like any big city, Cartagena has some places you should generally avoid. Locals tell us that the further you get from Old Town, the closer you get to unsafe neighborhoods. They also tell us that you aren't missing out by leaving the following places off your Cartagena itinerary—there are plenty of safer, awesome places to get off the beaten path in Colombia. 

    • Sector La Magdalena
    • La Maria
    • El Paraiso 
    • Olaya and El Pozon

    Benefit from local knowledge when it comes to safety in Colombia—work with a Colombian local to plan your trip. They can give suggestions on places to stay (and avoid) based on your travel style.

    Should visitors to Cartagena worry about violent crime?

    The short answer is no. In fact, violent crime against tourists is nearly nonexistent in Colombia, making it easier and safer than ever to explore Cartagena and beyond.

    Is Colombia dangerous? The State Department does give the country a Level 2 travel advisory but does not include Cartagena among its Level 3 or Level 4 travel advisories for Colombian regions.

    Keep in mind that places like France have a Level 2 travel advisory too—most of Colombia is quite safe, but it's a good idea to get an update from the people who actually live there

    What are common scams in Colombia?

    Most crimes in Cartagena are crimes of opportunity, which include petty theft or scams. Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings—like you would in any city or unfamiliar place—and odds are that you’ll be just fine. Locals say these are some common scams:

    • Fake police officers ask to check your money for counterfeit bills. Avoid the scam by walking away, asking to see their badge, directing them to a nearby police officer, or calling Colombia’s tourist police at (1) 3374413. 
    • Pickpockets and thieves are common in tourist-heavy areas. Be sure to keep your belongings close and in sight. 
    • Taxi drivers sometimes scam passengers with rigged meters. Agree with your taxi driver on a fare in advance.
    • At bars, keep an eye on your drink, and don't accept food or drinks from strangers
    • Don’t flash valuables openly, and wear minimal jewelry or accessories. Use discretion when texting or making calls.

    Take advantage of local insights when it comes to safety—ask one of our Colombian locals how they navigate their hometown safely. 

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    Do visitors to Colombia need special vaccinations?

    Good news! You probably already have all your necessary vaccines.

    In addition, the CDC recommends getting hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines before traveling to Colombia, although they are not required. If you're visiting smaller or more rural areas of Colombia, stay on the safe side and talk with your doctor about receiving these shots.

    As for that vaccination? So far, there's no word on whether or not Colombia will require travelers to show proof that they've received the coronavirus vaccine. 

    Check out our article on Colombia travel FAQs for more like this. 

    Do people use Uber in Cartagena? Is it safe?

    In January of 2020, Uber officially left Colombia. The company returned less than a month later, but with a new set of rules. Basically, you can now rent a car that comes with a driver.

    Although taxi fare in Colombia is regulated by the government, scams can happen. By using regulated apps like EasyTaxi and Tappsi, you can minimize your risk of being scammed. It's also cheap and easy to book airport transportation on websites like GetYourGuide.

    We know that figuring out transportation in a new city can be tricky—so use local advice! Our locals can provide detailed transit instructions. 

    Is it safe to drink the tap water in Cartagena?

    The tap water in most of Colombia’s major cities, including Cartagena, is perfectly safe to drink. If you are still concerned about the water, however, bottled and purified water is cheap and accessible everywhere. With that in mind, foods washed with tap water, such as fruits and vegetables, are all fine to consume—even from street vendors.

    Anything else important to know about Cartagena?

    A beach in Cartagena | Louis Vidal/Unsplash

    Cartagena’s proximity to the equator is a recipe for sunburn, and you don't want to deal with that—talk about a trip ruiner. Whether you’re exploring Cartagena’s beautiful islands or simply lounging at one of the city’s best restaurants, it’s safest to lather up several times a day, as Cartagena’s sun is powerful. (Just make sure you check on the TSA’s requirements for travel liquids before you go.) 

    Emergency numbers everyone should know

    In the off chance that you run into any trouble while galavanting through Cartagena, here are some numbers to call for assistance.

    • National Emergency Number: 123
    • Tourist Police: (1) 3374413
    • Information: 113
    • U.S. Embassy in Colombia: (+57) (1) 275-2000
    Still have questions about travel to Colombia?
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