View our tips and advice about Cartagena
Enjoy the heat. Don't let it beat you!
1 - In the famous words of Kurt Vonnegut "Wear Sunscreen" - There's nothing worse than leaving your tan on the hotel sheets
2 - Drink lots of water or fruit juice. Colombia has an amazing selection of fruits from mango to passion fruit or lulo. Try the local nectar - the limonada de coco - a lemonade made with the sugary Piña Colada coconut mix that is a fantastic pick-you-up when the heat gets too much.
3 - Stick to the shade. While trees are in short supply there is always a way to get from A to B in the shade. Follow the locals on their rat runs through the city. Learn the routes. Experts even take in shopping centres on the way for a bit of free air conditioning
4 - Get yourself a hat! The Panama hat made in Ecuador is a classic and you will find them throughout the city for between $25,000 and $300,000 but Colombia is the land of a thousand hats. Find the one that goes with your personality. The Sombrero Volteado, weaved by artisans in Cordoba is the symbol of the country. Our favourite's are from the Guajira
5 - If you need to look smart, gentlemen wear light clothing and if you have problems with perspiration wear a white vest. Wise old men who have dealt with this heat for fifty years do it so take a leaf out of their book
6 - If it all gets too much duck into a cash-point machine to get a blast of arctic air conditioning
7 - Try and avoid the midday sunshine. There's a reason the locals take a two-hour lunch between midday and 2 pm
Avoid getting ripped off
1 - Always carry a few low denomination notes and loose change in your pocket for taxis and small purchases
2 - Don't carry your passport around. A photocopy should suffice unless you are going to change money in a bank when you will be asked for ID
3 - Don't change money on the street. They may offer a great rate but they are rip-off merchants who will either short-change you through doubling up the notes or leave you holding forged notes
4 - The faster someone walks up to you the more likely it is they want to rip you off!
5 - If someone calls you 'amigo' that doesn't mean they are always your friend
6 - Ask the price before receiving anything
7 - "Gracias" is the polite way to say "No"
Tips for beach bums!
1 - To escape hawkers it pays to rent chairs in the shade of the trees behind the rows of tents on the beach
2 - A 'free trial' massage is very rarely free
3 - Never leave your things unwatched - even flip flops will vanish
4 - If you are going to the islands take a hammock for the after meal nap
Getting around town
1 - The highest concentration of taxis in the old town is in front of the Clock Tower
2 - Buses move clockwise around the old town from Bocagrande taking the route along the Malecon, the road that passes in front of the walled city by the beach
3 - Some 'colectivo' taxis shuttle along specific routes stopping to pick up and drop off passengers on the way. These charge the same fare as a bus $1,200 (US$0.65)
4 - Bicycles can be hired to get around the city. Most hotels offer this service
5 - Zig-zagging through the old town may feel more confusing but it is quicker and offers more shade than walking around the fortifications
1 - Most cafés and bars have WI-FI these days but if you don't have a computer there are also internet cafés clustered in San Diego close to the University and in Getsemaní close to the hostels.
2 - If you don't want to build up an astronomical roaming bill then nearly every hundred metres you will find someone selling 'minutes'. Colombia has 41 million mobile telephones (almost one for each member of the population) but Colombians using pay-as-you-go phones very rarely have credit so they use these enterprising types armed with up to 10 phones each to make calls to different networks. Calls cost as little as $100 pesos (5 cents) a minute
3 - Mail. The public mail service in Colombia isn't highly trusted. Mail specialist 24/7 has outlets in Calle Arsenal, Getsemani and things do arrive, eventually, but people who need something to arrive on time rely more on courier services provided by the likes of Servientrega and Deprisa, the courier service of Colombian airline, Avianca
4 - With strong networks throughout the country, couriers like Servientrega also transfer money immediately to people in other cities if you need to send or receive money safely to someone else
1 - Colombia runs on 110 volts electricity and uses the same
sockets as those used in USA