The beautiful port city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia is a wonderful blend of music, history, culture, and arts. In 1984, the entire city with its fortresses, port, and monuments was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many are drawn to the historical walled city from the 16th century. Others flock to take in the beauty of the amazing Cartagena Colombia beaches and pristine waters or simply sip coffee in cafes along the cobbled streets of this vibrant city while enjoying the view. Whatever your reason for taking a trip to Cartagena, one of the major concerns most tourists have before making travel plans is safety.
If you share the same concerns, read through the article as we provide a detailed guide on how safe the city is. We also provide some travel tips to follow to ensure a trouble-free stay while you visit the historical city of Cartagena.
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Safety in Cartagena Colombia
Cartagena is one of the safest destinations in South America. Make sure to follow basic travel safety tips, but overall you’re likely to be perfectly safe during your visit.
You may have heard dozens of stories about Colombia’s troubled past. But, things have changed drastically and for the better, as the Colombian government has made a conscious effort to promote peace and reduce the country’s crime rate.
This is part of the reason why Cartagena, as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia, receives millions of travelers every year. Had the city been unsafe, the number of visitors would be less.
However, the city is not completely crime-free. There are reports of organized crime, robberies, and thefts. Despite that, you can still have an enjoyable trip to Cartagena. To put your concerns to rest and ensure you have all the information you need to stay safe, make sure you stick to the safest neighborhoods in the city
What Are the Safest Neighborhoods in Cartagena, Colombia?
Doing preliminary homework and research is good for determining which areas are the safest and which you must avoid while visiting a certain destination. Having an awareness of the safest areas of Cartagena is most important when choosing where to stay in Cartagena.
Like other cities in the country, Cartagena also has areas with a comparatively higher crime rate that tourists should avoid. We have compiled a list of some areas you must avoid and some areas regarded as the safest neighborhoods in Cartagena.
Places to Avoid
As suggested earlier, a few areas have a higher crime rate than others in the city. The areas confined within the walled city are quite safe, and you can roam around to your heart’s content. However, avoid going out alone at night or in the early morning.
Once you leave the walled city, it is important to exercise a bit more caution at all times if you want to visit these areas. A few of such areas are mentioned below.
- La Maria
- El Paraiso
- El Pozon and Olaya
Please note that you can visit these neighborhoods safely but use a taxi or other public transport to explore the area. It is better to stick to areas with people around.
Safe Neighborhoods in Cartagena
Centro, in Cartagena’s Old Town, is the most prominent area in Cartagena from a tourists’ point of view. The area features the famous Gold Museum and various churches and offers numerous lodging and food options.
In addition to being so beautiful and charming, the area is also quite safe. You will see police heavily patrolling the area. Tourists come flocking to the area, which can get very crowded during the tourist season. You will find plenty of good options for staying and eating out without being overly concerned about safety.
Next on our list is San Diego, located north of the Centro region and home to numerous historic sites and buildings within the walled city.
The area is not as popular among tourists as other areas and is rather more frequented by art students from the art college nearby. However, you may find plenty of good dining options and enjoy an occasional street performer. The atmosphere can be quite relaxing as the area is not bustling with tourists, even during peak season.
Since San Diego is not as popular among tourists, pickpockets and other petty crime doers do not linger much either. Still, it is always important to be aware of your environment.
While the previously recommended areas are predominantly from Old Town, the third safest neighborhood on our list is Bocagrande, in the new city. The area perfectly depicts the modern side of Cartagena and is the preferred place for long-term travelers, expats, families, and digital nomads in Cartagena.
Bocagrande is a fun neighborhood to visit, and it’s on the top of our list of things to do in Cartagena. The landscape of Bocagrande is quite different from the other areas as you will see skyscrapers along the beachside, modern beach resorts, fine dining restaurants, and various international hotels.
However, Bocagrande is also quite expensive compared to the old town regions, as it is home to some of the wealthiest Colombians living in walled communities. The area is heavily secured, with guards and security cameras installed everywhere. In addition to fine dining options and the luxurious beach, you will also find various high-end shopping centers. If you seek a modern and luxurious experience, this is the place to be.
Is Cartagena Colombia Safe for Solo Travelers?
Cartagena is safe for solo travelers and backpackers, and you can have a very enjoyable, trouble-free trip. The city is well-scrutinized by the police, and public transport is easily available.
Moreover, traveling in the tourist season will find plenty of travelers flying solo like you. That feeling of camaraderie may also help you get good company for a trip or activity, which is why the high season may be the best time to visit Colombia if you’re traveling solo.
However, like in any other part of the world, you need to be wary and exercise caution when traveling alone. These are a few tips that might help you along the way.
- It is better to stay in a hostel in one of the safer neighborhoods in Cartagena. Use the communal area of the hostel to interact with other guests and learn your way around so that you can rely on someone if needed.
- Keep your personal possessions tucked in a safe place, especially your passport. Carry a colored copy if possible.
- Do not flaunt expensive items in public and avoid standing out.
- Stick to crowded places like commercial areas and do not go out alone, especially at night.
- Make sure to learn a bit of Spanish to interact with the locals.
- Get travel and touring advice from the management of the hotel or hostel you are staying at.
- Do not leave your food unattended, even in a public place.
- Keep in touch with your friends and family and keep them updated about your whereabouts.
- List all emergency contacts as priority numbers on your cellphone.
Tips to Stay Safe in Cartagena Colombia
Cartagena is a tourist haven, and a trip to the historical city can be exciting and relaxing. With so many attractions on the menu, it is no wonder why the city receives millions of tourists every year. If you are also heading to Cartagena this year, here are a few safety tips.
- Avoid going to the risky areas of the city. We have mentioned in the previous section the safe neighborhoods and the lesser-known areas of Cartagena where tourists may become a victim of crimes. If you want to explore a less safe area, find someone to accompany you. Avoid visiting such areas at night.
- Safe or not, avoid going out alone at night.
- Try to blend in and avoid standing out in the crowd. Do not flash valuables like your wristwatch, smartphone, or camera. Such accessories immediately catch the attention of potential thieves who may be keeping an eye out for easy targets.
- Use an s-biner to keep zippers locked together on your backpack, and luggage locks with flexible chains to keep suitcases locked while you’re out for the day.
- Keep your possessions in a safe place. Only keep a small amount of cash in the wallet in your pocket.
- Carry a colored copy of your passport when you are out and about, and keep the original in a safe spot in your hotel or hostel.
- Be wary of your surrounding, particularly when you are in a crowded place. Such places are a hotspot for pickpockets.
- Learn your way around the neighborhood and find how you can access local emergency services.
- In the event of a robbery, do not resist and give them what they ask for. The thieves might be armed and could inflict harm. File a report with the local police later.
Cartagena Colombia Safety
Yes, Cartagena Colombia is safe. Violent crimes against tourists are practically nonexistent. Security issues have been and continue to be addressed by the authorities to make the city safer for visitors.
As with any travel to foreign destinations, common sense and street smarts should be your default mode. Keep yourself updated about travel advisories. Always be vigilant and remember the safety tips provided in this post, and you will be safe and sound during your Cartagena vacation.
The article was originally posted on Spark Nomad.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.