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Is Cartagena Safe To Visit? Travel Advisory 2024

You can feel safe in Cartagena as long as you exercise common sense. Tourist destinations such as the Walled City, Getsemaní, and Bocagrande are teeming with police officers.

According to a Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism report, 3,700,000 people visited Cartagena last year, and visitors reported a generally safe stay.

Steer clear of drug dealers and prostitutes, be cautious of pickpockets, and you shouldn’t have many problems with safety. 

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LATEST NEWS from CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

February 15 – The weather has forced the closure of the beaches in Cartagena.

The Cartagena Mayor’s Office has forbidden bathers from entering any of the city’s beaches due to the current maritime weather conditions.

The Mayor’s Office requested that visitors and Cartagena residents follow this interim order until the authorities determine that the situation has improved.

The government also states that “winds with speeds of 12 to 24 knots (22 and 44 km/h) and a significant wave height between 1.0 and 1.7 meters” are occurring and recommends that the Maritime Association and the population pay attention to the reports and avoid activities on the beaches and in the sea.

Official Travel Advisories

U.S. Travel Advisory

The U.S. State Department advises against traveling to Colombia (in general) because of the country’s high crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping.

They advise not to travel to:

  • “Arauca, Cauca (excluding Popayán), and Norte de Santander departments due to crime and terrorism.
  • The Colombia-Venezuela border region due to crime, kidnapping, and risk of detention when crossing into Venezuela from Colombia.”  

As of right now, Cartagena is not the subject of any travel advisories, so technically, Cartagena is a safe destination in Colombia. 

Canada Travel Advisory

Even in the safer areas of Colombian cities, there are muggings and assaults. These situations have the potential to become violent. In Colombia, firearms and other weapons are frequently used. Robberies with weapons on display are common and can happen in restaurants, retail centers, buses, taxis, and on the streets. When victims don’t cooperate, criminals won’t think twice about using weapons on them.

All throughout the nation, petty crimes like pickpocketing, purse and cell phone snatching, are frequent. Thieves frequently drive by and steal motorcycles. They can be found in both affluent and impoverished regions of the nation. 

Areas to avoid

The US government has issued special warnings for south Cartagena, Chambacu, and the east area of Centro Commercial Caribe Plaza. 

El Paraiso, La Maria, and Sector La Magdalena are other neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Despite being popular tourist destinations, the area encompassing Zapatos Viejos, Castillo de San Felipe, and India Catalina, are bordered by unsafe neighborhoods. Certain individuals may prey on unwary or thoughtless tourists. It is preferable to visit these locations during the day rather than at night.

While violent crime is rare in tourist destinations like the Walled City of La Candelaria and the beaches, pickpocketing is still prevalent.

Common Scams in Cartagena

Unfortunately, Cartagena, Colombia, has gained a reputation as a city plagued by scams. Here are some tips to help you steer clear of them:

  • Be cautious with dating apps: In Colombia, especially in major cities, use only reputable mobile apps and arrange to meet potential dates in public places. Scammers have been known to create fake profiles to target foreign individuals, robbing and drugging them when they are alone.
  • Watch out for counterfeit goods: Suspiciously low prices for supposedly genuine items may indicate they are fake. Seek advice from your hotel on where to find legitimate goods.
  • Negotiate carefully with street vendors: Avoid revealing the amount of money you have until you agree on a price. Showing a large bill may discourage vendors from bargaining with you.
  • Guard against currency manipulation by taxi drivers: Always agree on the fare before entering a taxi and confirm if the driver can provide change for large bills. Stay vigilant during the payment exchange to prevent being short-changed or deceived.
  • Beware of extended routes taken by taxis: Stay alert and use GPS to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of by taxi drivers who may take longer routes to increase fares. Consider using Cabify or Uber to track your ride.
  • Protect against card cloning: Credit and debit card scams are prevalent in Colombia. Use ATMs located inside banks or shopping centers during daylight hours, and inspect the ATM for signs of tampering. Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN, and avoid leaving your card unattended during transactions in restaurants.
  • Exercise caution with encounters involving strangers: Be cautious of individuals selling magazines or so as they may use distractions to steal your belongings. Similarly, be wary of street vendors and avoid becoming distracted while they engage with you, as this could be a tactic to pickpocket you.
  • Avoid overcharging: Foreigners are often targeted for overcharging due to assumptions about their wealth. Pay the agreed-upon price promptly to avoid being exploited, particularly when using taxis, purchasing items from informal vendors in tourist areas, or dining in faraway regions.

Safety Tips for Cartagena

  • Conceal valuable possessions: Ensure that expensive items such as jewelry and cameras are not visibly displayed while navigating the city.
  • Remain within populated areas: While Cartagena is generally safe during daylight hours, it’s advisable to stay within bustling areas and avoid deserted or poorly illuminated streets, particularly after dark.
  • Exercise caution at night: Despite Cartagena’s vibrant nightlife being a major draw, it’s important to practice vigilance once night falls. Stay in groups, utilize reputable transportation services, and refrain from accepting drinks from unfamiliar individuals.
  • Keep emergency contact details accessible: Carry local emergency phone numbers as well as the address and contact information of your accommodation at all times.
  • Select reputable accommodations in secure neighborhoods: Opt for accommodations with positive reviews in areas like the walled city, Getsemani, or Bocagrande, where amenities are conveniently accessible on foot.
  • Monitor personal belongings: Given the potential for pickpocketing and theft in Cartagena, maintain vigilance and avoid leaving belongings unattended. Consider using a money belt or concealed pouch to safeguard essential items such as passports, credit cards, and cash.

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