Colombia is a country that gets a bad rap, some for valid reasons. But as a resident in Baltimore City, I know about town’s with bad raps. I also know that, like in any place, there are good spots and bad spots. Baltimore is not all like The Wire and Colombia is not full of drugs and violence.
In this second part of my recap I’ll discuss nightlife and tips to help you prepare and make it a great trip.
I didn’t get to do nightlife like I planned (the day time activities wore me out most nights)
- For a sunset view with drinks check out Café del Mar.
- Go to the Café Havana for salsa
- Alquimico Bar: received a lot of good reviews and recommendations. If you are into trendy with a NYC or LA flair apparently this is the place to check out.
- EIVISSA CARTAGENA: I was really sad I didn’t get to this place. A girl loves a good rooftop bar.
Now some noteworthy mentions for your trip.
Cartagena is probably the safest place in the country. I didn’t witness crime or feel unsafe. Being that I live in Baltimore City my spidey senses (RIP Stan Lee) are always on high alert. I felt fine here as long as I didn’t do anything crazy (like wander down dark alleys at night). Side note, we went during their independence festivities so things were a bit more rowdy than usual, especially in my neighborhood. Watch out for kids throwing firecrackers in your direction. Some might use that as a diversion to get you off your street smarts game and grab your wallet or phone. This didn’t happen to me but I heard tales.
Also, because of the festivities, many people were trying to make a buck and made their own makeshift tolls. They cut off the road with rope and stood in front of oncoming cars, not moving until they were paid.
To us Baltimore people, I got a kick out of seeing that “squeegee” people are a thing here too. Only they aren’t kids and teens trying to clean your car windows but grown men, which was more uncomfortable to see but a sign of the economic issues here.
Be prepared for the heat. With a humidity level of 80-100 percent you an break a sweat just looking out of the window. Most days I wore two outfits because the heat is thick and will lay on you so you’ll need to shower again. Pick a hairstyle that is humidity resistant (like braids).
Things are very cheap there. Once you wrap your mind around the conversion rates you will be surprised by how inexpensive things are. My cab ride to the airport was less than ten USDs and most cab rides within the city were less than four USDs. Food was also crazy cheap. There are tons of nice hostels in the area, especially gentsimani where I stayed, however, our “luxury” hotel was very affordable too.
A word on race. Cartagena is a Caribbean city and most of the people are caramel colored to the color of ebony. It was nice to see so much brown. The disappointing part? Still seeing the colorism. Few very dark-skinned people worked inside even in retail. If they did work indoors they were mostly the cleaning people. Further, some establishments weren’t as friendly to us (and in some cases flat out ignored us) but the attitude shifted when lighter or white tourists came in. This was a rare experience but one to note.
Learn Spanish. My Spanish is pretty dusty. I tried to dust it off before arrival but clearly not enough. Most people we encountered did not speak English or spoke very little.
There are tons of cabs although Uber is accessible here too. The only frustrating thing? Many cab drivers didn’t seem to know where things were. Even when we showed them our hotel address or the address of a restaurant.
Out the Box: Gifts for the Traveler in your life, Part Two
In ear translator – there are many different kinds, some that serve as apps to your iphone
Luggage scale- always a good option for those with tendencies to overpack
SteriPen- if you are in an area where drinking water is a concern, using this can come in handy.
Packing cubes- another good tool to help with making the most out of your space while packing. Learn more here.