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Getting There

By Plane -- Cartagena's Rafael Núñez Airport (airport code CTG; tel. 5/666-6610) is about 3km (about 2 miles) from the historic Old Town and is serviced by national carriers Avianca and Aero República as well as by international carriers Copa, Mexicana, and American Airlines. You pay a minimum COL$8,000 airport tariff for a taxi, though if you don't have too much luggage, you can ask to be dropped off at Avenida 4 and Calle 70 for half the price. You can also take a local bus to the city, but your best bet is to go by taxi.

By Bus -- Buses arrive to the Terminal de Buses, on the eastern end of the city. From there, you're best off taking a taxi to your hotel. Remember that unless you're coming from somewhere else on the Atlantic coast, a bus trip to Cartagena is exceptionally long (13 hr. from Medellín and 20 hr. from Bogotá), so I recommend that you splurge on a plane ticket.

Getting Around

You'll probably be spending most of your time in the small historic Old Town, where most tourist sites are located, or at the city's beaches. The modern part of the city has a Miami-style resort feel and consists of Bocagrande, El Laguito, and Castillo Grande. This is where you'll find modern high-rises, all inclusive resorts, many of the city's top-notch hotels, and some of Cartagena's better beaches. The outer walled city consists of the Getsemaní neighborhood, a poorer, less glamorous version of the inner walled city. However, foreigners are quickly buying and restoring properties in Getsemaní as prices in the Old City skyrocket. The exclusive neighborhood of Manga, about a 5-minute taxi ride from the Old Town, is home to Cartagena's yacht club.

By Foot -- This is the best way to explore the picturesque inner walled Old Town. You can stop and take in Cartagena's imposing churches, people-watch in its many plazas, and enjoy a bit of shopping.

By Taxi -- Because Cartagena is so touristy, it's generally safe to hail taxis off the street. However, there is often a difference between what you should pay and what you will pay. Taxi drivers here are used to tourists and won't hesitate to rip you off, albeit usually by COL$1,000 to COL$2,000. As a general guide, a taxi from the airport to the Old Town should cost about COL$8,000, while a taxi to Bocagrande, Castillogrande, and El Laguito should cost COL$4,000. Before getting in your taxi, it's a good idea to ask how much the ride will cost to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end.

Visitor Information

In contrast with the rest of Colombia, you can actually get decent tourist information here. The city's best tourist office is located in La Plaza de La Aduana, Casa del Marqués del Premio Real (puntodeinformacion@turismocartagenadeindias.com; Mon-Sat 7am-7pm, Sun 9am-5pm), east of the Torre de Reloj. Here you can get a brochure (in both Spanish and imperfect English) with a map and descriptions of Cartagena's major sights. The office can also provide information about tours and excursions, and offers several interactive computers with information about Cartagena and Las Islas del Rosario. You'll also find small tourism offices at Plaza San Pedro Claver, Plaza de los Coches, and Centro de Convenciones de Cartagena, open Monday through Saturday 9am to 1pm and 4 to 8pm, and Sunday 9am to 5pm. Rafael Núñez International Airport also has tourism information. Additionally, hotels, whether luxury or budget, are also an excellent source of information.

Fast Facts

Call the police at tel. 112. The national emergency number, tel. 123, also works in Cartagena. For a medical emergency, head to Hospital Bocagrande, Calle 5 and Carrera 6 (tel. 5/665-5270), or Clínica A.M.I.S.A Centro Médico, Carrera 30 no. 30-29. If you need to exchange money, head to one of several national banks to the right of La Torre del Reloj, immediately before you enter the Old Town (the side opposite the convention center). ATMs are abundant throughout Cartagena, however, so exchanging money shouldn't be difficult. Most midrange to high-end hotels should also be able to change your dollars.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.