Cartagena is one of the most popular cities to visit in Colombia, and it’s easy to see why with its beautiful beaches and islands, thriving nightlife, and beautiful architecture. It’s a safe place to visit as long as you stay within the tourist areas and don’t wander into the slums. Colombia is not without its troubles and violence, but it doesn’t reach the major cities in any noticeable way, and that includes Cartagena.
You’re more likely to experience petty crime and make sure that no one tampers with your drinks as you make your way around the city. The key to enjoying your time in Cartagena is to stay in areas where security is visible and large numbers of people are milling about.
How to stay safe in Cartagena
You can’t avoid standing out in Cartagena, especially if the only language you speak is English. However, you can reduce your visibility as a tourist and lower your risk of being victimized with the following tips that are specific to staying safe in Cartagena.
Don’t wear anything that looks expensive. That includes jewelry, watches, clothing, and shoes.
Keep your wallet in your pocket or purse and keep small bills handy. If you need to take out your wallet or get money from an ATM, do it in a public area.
Don’t Hail Taxis
Cartagena’s taxi businesses have a lousy reputation. The drivers are known to overcharge passengers, rob them, and even kidnap them. Uber is a better option for safety.
Don’t Accept Free Food or Drinks from Strangers
Gangs are known to drug visitors through various methods. One method is to have a woman approach male tourists and offer them a drink that’s been laced with scopolamine and other knockout drugs.
The safest places to stay in Cartagena
Certain areas of Cartagena are considered safe to stay in during your visit. These areas are also home to most of the popular attractions, which include the Gold Museum and the Palace of the Inquisition. The safest districts and neighborhoods include:
- Old City AKA Centro
- San Diego
- Santo Domingo
- El Laguito
- Islas del Rosario
Old City, Getsemani, San Diego, and Santo Domingo are all part of the original city. These neighborhoods feature historical architecture and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the local way of life.
If you want modern lodgings and a bit city feel, Bocagrande and El Laguito are known as the Miami Beach of Cartagena due to its cluster of modern skyscrapers.
Islas del Rosario is made up of 28 islands and is located about 62 miles off the coast of Cartagena. Lodgings are available on the islands, enabling you to have a vacation on the beach without the pressure and noise of an urban lifestyle.
Make sure to stay away from poorer parts of the city
Some of the neighborhoods are home to people who live in extreme poverty and where bad actors are most likely to prey upon an unsuspecting visitors. However, impoverished neighborhoods are a long distance away from the safer areas of Cartagena, but you should always be aware of your surroundings, no matter what you happen to be doing at the time.
Is it safe to visit Cartagena?
It’s relatively safe to visit Cartagena, Columbia, even though the U.S. Department of State lists the country as a high-risk destination and has it under a “Do Not Travel” advisory. The city of Cartagena is not a violent city, and tourists are not considered as targets for criminal activity. In this instance, the U.S. Department of State issued the warning to impress upon travelers the need to be safe in a region that’s known for sudden outbursts of violence.
You’ll find that Cartagena welcomes tourists who want to experience a city that features an old soul and a young heart.