Is it safe to travel to Cartagena Colombia? Cartagena, a beautiful port and one of the major cities on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has been a popular tourist destination for many years.
Known for its stunning beaches, rich colonial architecture, and exuberant culture, it’s no surprise that more and more visitors from the United States and North America are considering Cartagena for their next vacation, and with good reason. If you’ve been to Latin America, Cartagena is also a viable option as it is pretty much next door and it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with South America!
Can journeying to Cartagena, Colombia be done securely? This question is on the minds of many potential visitors as they consider exploring this beautiful coastal city. As with any destination, understanding the safety concerns and taking necessary precautions can greatly enhance your experience.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the safety of Cartagena in comparison to other cities and provide tips for traveling to Cartagena while avoiding common scams and petty crime.
Is It Safe to Travel to Cartagena Colombia? – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
We’ll begin by examining Cartagena’s safety concerns in comparison to other major cities worldwide and discussing recent incidents involving social justice activists. Next, we’ll provide tips for avoiding common scams such as ATM fraud and credit card theft.
Additionally, we will highlight the safest neighborhoods in Cartagena for tourists to stay in and offer general safety advice for travelers navigating the city. Furthermore, we will discuss police presence and emergency services availability within Cartagena to ensure you are well-prepared during your visit.
Finally, beyond answering “is it safe to travel to Cartagena Colombia,” we’ll also explore other parts of Colombia that have been deemed secure for tourists so that you can make informed decisions about your itinerary.
Table of Contents
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Note: Check out my comprehensive post on all the best things to do in Cartagena.
What is the current safety situation in Cartagena?
Are there any travel advisories for Cartagena?
Currently, there are no travel advisories in place for Cartagena specifically, so technically, Cartagena is a safe destination in South America. However, visitors planning to travel to Cartagena and the rest of Colombia should be aware of the travel advice issued by the U.S. Department of State, which includes recommendations for the various Colombian states. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to check with your country’s embassy or consulate for any travel warnings for Cartagena and Colombia in general.
Certain areas are more prone to safety issues arising out of Colombia’s political unrest or illegal drug cartels, including Cartagena at times, which could trigger a travel warning. While these factors have been present in Cartagena in the past, other areas of Colombia are now more affected by them than Cartagena itself in recent years. As such, Cartagena is one of the safest places to visit in Colombia as of this writing, so it’s fair to answer the question, “Is Cartagena safe to visit in 2023?” with a solid “Yes.”
Cartagena’s Safety Concerns and History
While Cartagena is generally considered safe to visit for tourists, its history of crime and income inequality may contribute to some safety concerns. The port city has experienced an increase in violence directed towards social justice activists recently but remains relatively safe for travelers who exercise common sense. In this section, we will discuss the crime levels in major cities worldwide compared to Cartagena, as well as recent incidents involving social justice activists.
Crime Levels in Major Cities Worldwide Compared to Cartagena
In contrast to other large cities globally, Cartagena’s safety is quite impressive. According to Numbeo’s Crime Index 2023 Mid-Year rankings, which measures the overall level of crime in a given city or country, Colombia ranks 49th out of 133 countries surveyed. While there are areas within Colombia that have higher violent crime rates than others (such as Cali), many Colombian cities like Medellin and Bogota have seen significant improvements over time due to increased police presence and various urban renewal projects.
How Safe is Cartagena Compared with Other Familiar Destinations?
In fact, according to Numbeo’s data on individual cities worldwide (ranked by their Crime Index score), Cartagena sits at number 206 out of more than 500 global destinations – making it more of a safe place to visit than popular tourist spots such as New Orleans (number 47) or Rio de Janeiro (number 18).
Getsemani Facade – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Recent Incidents Involving Social Justice Activists
Despite its generally low Crime Index score, Cartagena has experienced an increase in aggression towards those who are involved in social justice activism. According to Human Rights Watch, there have been at least 53 documented cases of attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia during the first five months of 2023 alone – with many more likely going unreported.
In response to this concerning trend, the Colombian government has taken action by deploying increased police presence and offering security training for activists. Therefore, travelers should be mindful of the ongoing human rights violations in Colombia and exercise caution when engaging with local communities or participating in political activities while visiting Cartagena.
To stay safe in Cartagena while exploring its rich history and vibrant culture, tourists should follow general safety tips like staying within well-traveled areas, avoiding large gatherings or protests that may turn violent, and being cautious when interacting with strangers who approach them on the street. By taking these precautions into account, visitors can enjoy all that this beautiful Caribbean coastal city has to offer without compromising their personal safety and avoiding crime in Cartagena.
Despite a general decline in crime rates, travelers to Cartagena should remain vigilant and familiarize themselves with common scams that may occur. However, it is important to remain aware of common scams that may occur while visiting this vibrant city; let’s explore how to stay safe from these potential risks.
Cartagena is generally safe for tourists but has a history of crime and income inequality that may contribute to safety concerns. While the city ranks well in terms of safety compared to other major cities worldwide, recent incidents involving violence towards social justice activists highlight the importance of exercising caution when engaging with local communities or participating in political events. Visitors should follow general safety tips such as staying within well-traveled areas and avoiding large gatherings or protests that may turn violent.
Avoiding Common Scams in Cartagena
As with any popular tourist destination, there are a few common scams that visitors to Cartagena should be aware of during their time in Cartagena. By staying vigilant and taking precautions when handling money transactions, you can avoid falling victim to petty theft, ATM skimming, and credit card fraud.
Tips for Using ATMs Safely
- Choose well-lit ATMs: When withdrawing cash from an ATM in Cartagena or anywhere else in Colombia, reduce your risk by opting for machines located inside banks or shopping centers where security is generally higher.
- Cover your PIN: Always shield the keypad while entering your PIN number to prevent onlookers from stealing it.
- Avoid using unfamiliar ATMs: Stick to reputable bank ATMs rather than standalone machines that may have been tampered with by criminals looking to skim your information.
- Beware of “helpful” strangers: Be cautious if someone approaches you offering assistance at an ATM; they could be trying to distract you while their accomplice steals your cash or card information. Politely decline their help and maintain control over the transaction yourself.
My favorite coffee man in Cartagena – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Recognizing Signs of Credit Card Fraud
In addition to being cautious around ATMs, it’s essential for travelers visiting Cartagena (or any other city) to keep a close eye on their credit cards during transactions. Here are some tips on how not only recognize signs but also protect against potential fraud :
- Opting for contactless payment methods such as mobile wallets or tap-to-pay cards can help to mitigate the risk of having your card details stolen.
- Keep track of all receipts and compare them to your credit card statement regularly. This will help you identify any unauthorized charges quickly so that you can report them to your bank immediately.
- When paying at restaurants or bars, ask for the portable payment terminal (if available) instead of handing over your card. This way, you maintain control over where it goes and minimize opportunities for fraudsters to copy its details.
By following these simple safety tips when using ATMs and handling credit card transactions in Cartagena, travelers can significantly decrease their chances of falling victim to scams. Remember always trust your instincts and be cautious around strangers offering assistance while conducting financial activities . With little extra vigilance , anyone enjoy an amazing trip this beautiful Colombian city without worrying about potential pitfalls associated with money matters .
What Should Tourists Be Aware of When Dealing with Street Vendors in Cartagena?
Street vendors are a common sight in Cartagena, but tourists should be cautious when dealing with them. Some may try to sell you counterfeit goods or charge you too much for their products. To avoid this, always ask for the price before making a purchase and be hesitant to buy anything from a street vendor who seems overly pushy or aggressive.
That said, street vendors selling hot food, fresh fruit, coffee and cold drinks are common in Colombia as well. We routinely purchased our breakfast from Cartagena’s street vendors who would begin calling out their wares early in the morning. A street food breakfast of delicious Colombian coffee and fresh pineapple or papaya was a wonderful and inexpensive way to start the day.
My Favorite Street Vendor – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
By taking the necessary precautions and staying alert, travelers can avoid pitfalls and common scams in Cartagena. With this knowledge, visitors will be able to confidently explore some of the safest areas and neighborhoods in Cartagena for their accommodations.
Travelers to Cartagena, Colombia should be aware of common scams such as petty theft, ATM skimming and credit card fraud. To avoid falling victim to these scams, it is important to use ATMs located inside banks or shopping centers, shield the keypad while entering your PIN number and keep track of all receipts when using credit cards. Additionally, travelers should ask for portable payment terminals at restaurants or bars instead of handing over their cards.
Safest Areas and Neighborhoods in Cartagena
When visiting the vibrant city of Cartagena, it’s essential to choose a safe neighborhood for your accommodations. Some areas within the city offer better security than others, ensuring you can enjoy your trip without worrying about potential dangers. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the safest neighborhoods in Cartagena that cater to tourists while providing modern amenities.
Advantages of Staying in Bocagrande
Bocagrande, an upscale area located on the Caribbean coast, is known for its gated communities where wealthy Colombians reside. The area is renowned for its swanky accommodations, delectable eateries, and malls which draw people from all over. The advantages of staying in Bocagrande include:
- Enhanced security and a decreased crime rate compared to other parts of Cartagena make Bocagrande an ideal destination for both locals and visitors.
- Proximity to popular tourist attractions such as Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and Playa Blanca beach.
- Ease of access to public transportation options like buses or taxis for exploring other parts of Cartagena.
- An array of dining options featuring local Colombian cuisine as well as international dishes.
El Laguito – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Other Recommended Neighborhoods for Tourist Accommodations
Besides Bocagrande, there are several other neighborhoods worth considering when looking for safe places to stay during your visit:
- El Laguito: This residential area near Bocagrande offers beautiful views over El Laguito Lagoon along with a variety of hotels and vacation rentals. With its calm atmosphere, El Laguito is an excellent choice for those seeking relaxation away from the bustling city center.
- Getsemani: Located just outside the historic walled city, Getsemani has transformed into a trendy neighborhood filled with colorful street art, boutique hotels, and lively bars. Although it’s considered safe during daylight hours, it’s essential to exercise caution at night due to occasional pickpocketing incidents. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to experience a more local side of Cartagena because it has more of an authentic neighborhood feel, and inexpensive small independent hotels and guesthouses can really help you stretch your travel dollar.
- San Diego: This charming district within Cartagena’s Old Town offers visitors a glimpse into Colombia’s colonial past through its well-preserved architecture and narrow cobblestone streets. San Diego features several boutique hotels and guesthouses that provide secure accommodations in close proximity to popular attractions like Plaza de San Diego and Las Bovedas shopping arcade.
Are There Areas of Cartagena to Avoid?
While generally, Cartagena is safe, tourists should still be aware of certain areas that may be less safe than others. Some areas to be cautious of include San Francisco, Nelson Mandela, and Olaya Herrera. These areas are known to have higher crime rates and should be avoided, especially at night.
In conclusion, when planning your trip to Cartagena, it’s important to consider staying in one of the safer neighborhoods such as Bocagrande, El Laguito, Getsemani, or San Diego. By taking necessary safety precautions and staying in secure accommodations, you can enjoy all that this beautiful Colombian city has to offer without worrying about potential dangers.
Cartagena, Colombia is a safe and beautiful city with many neighborhoods that are ideal for tourists. To ensure the safest experience while visiting Cartagena, travelers should take heed of general safety tips such as dressing modestly and staying within tourist areas.
When visiting Cartagena, it’s important to stay in a safe neighborhood. Bocagrande is an upscale area with increased security measures and proximity to popular tourist attractions. Other recommended neighborhoods include El Laguito, Getsemani, and San Diego for their secure accommodations and unique experiences.
General Safety Tips for Traveling
Ensuring personal safety while exploring this Colombian gem involves being smart about one’s surroundings. Making friends with fellow travelers, reading accommodation reviews carefully before booking online, joining organized bar crawls or group tours can minimize risk during your visit. Here are some general safety tips to follow when visiting Cartagena and other parts of South America.
Dressing Modestly and Wearing Bags Across Your Body
To avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself as a tourist, it’s essential to dress modestly in Cartagena. Avoid flashy jewelry and expensive accessories that might make you an easy target for pickpockets. Additionally, wearing bags across your body instead of on one shoulder can help deter thieves from snatching them away.
Staying Within Tourist Areas Instead of Venturing into Potentially Dangerous Areas
Avoid exploring slums or dangerous areas, and instead stick to well-known tourist spots with a strong police presence. Stick to well-known tourist areas like the historic district La Candelaria or the Caribbean coast where there is a stronger police presence and better infrastructure catering specifically towards visitors’ needs.
Old Town Street Traffic – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Tips for Staying Safe While Exploring Cartagena:
- Avoid walking alone at night; opt for taxis or rideshare services like Uber instead. By using reputable taxi drivers or Uber services you may avoid a potential overcharge or security situation.
- If possible, travel with a companion or join organized group activities such as guided tours through reputable companies.
- Keep important documents (passport, credit cards) securely stored in hotel safes when not needed during daily excursions around the city. While it’s best to avoid carrying valuable items on the street, if you must bring valuables along, consider a travel safe that fits in your backpack or day bag for items like credit cards, etc. Keep your belongings organized so that you can easily see if something has been disturbed or gone missing.
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas like markets or public transportation hubs where pickpocketing is more common. Use common sense when you’re out and about; keep an eye out for anything that looks out of place. Solo female travelers should be hyper-aware while in crowds, or out at night; don’t let yourself be an easy target to those looking to take advantage of tourists.
- Consider the security measures in place at your accommodations and don’t hesitate to change lodging if you find security inadequate, particularly at hostels, where a private room may be available and preferable, even at extra cost.
- Prior to travel, purchase travel insurance for your trip to Cartagena and be aware of how to obtain emergency services and medical care. When I had a medical emergency in Santa Marta, the inability to obtain the level of care I needed required a transfer to Barranquilla, three hours away. If you have a chronic condition, check out clinics and hospitals ahead of time, as it’s better to be safe than sorry!
By following these general safety tips for traveling to Cartagena and staying informed about local conditions, you can enjoy a memorable trip by addressing common safety concerns without compromising your well-being. Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution when visiting unfamiliar places to ensure a safe journey. For additional information on staying safe while traveling through South America, check out this comprehensive guide from the U.S. Department of State.
Street Food in Cartagena – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, travelers should take appropriate safety measures when visiting Cartagena. Additionally, understanding the police presence and emergency services available can help travelers stay safe during their visit.
To ensure personal safety in Cartagena, travelers should dress modestly, wear bags across their bodies and stay within tourist areas. It’s also important to avoid walking alone at night, keep important documents securely stored and remain alert of surroundings. By following these general safety tips and using common sense while exploring new places, visitors can enjoy a memorable trip without compromising their well-being.
Police Presence and Emergency Services Availability
Understanding the availability of police presence and emergency services can provide peace of mind while traveling through unfamiliar territory like Colombia’s coastal gem, Cartagena. Learn how local law enforcement works together with other authorities to ensure public safety throughout the region.
Emergency Phone Numbers and Services for Tourists
In case of a crisis, it is essential to be aware of the contact numbers to reach out for aid. In Colombia, you can dial 123 for general emergencies or +57 1 3826999, a dedicated hotline specifically designed for tourists in need of help. These numbers will connect you with various emergency services such as medical assistance, fire department, or police support.
Besides these essential contacts, consider saving the contact information of your country’s embassy or consulate in Colombia before embarking on your trip. This way, if any issues arise during your stay in Cartagena that require diplomatic intervention (e.g., lost passport), you’ll have quick access to their assistance.
Cooperation Between Local Police, Military, and Private Security Forces
To maintain a safe environment within tourist areas like Cartagena, local police work closely with military forces and private security companies. The Colombian National Police (Policia Nacional de Colombia) are responsible for maintaining order within cities across the country; they often patrol popular destinations wearing distinctive green uniforms so that visitors can easily identify them when needed.
- Tourist Police: The city also has its own specialized branch called “Tourist Police” (Policia de Turismo). Their primary responsibility is to keep the city safe for tourism by protecting and assisting visitors, ensuring their safety while exploring Cartagena. These officers are typically bilingual (Spanish and English) and can be found in popular touristy areas such as within the walled city or in the Getsemani neighborhood.
Additionally, Colombia’s military forces play a significant role in maintaining security throughout the country. The Colombian Ministry of Defense oversees various branches that work together to combat threats like drug trafficking or guerrilla activity.
In many neighborhoods within and around Cartagena, private security companies also contribute to overall safety by providing guards for residential buildings, hotels, and businesses. An extra layer of security is employed to provide a more secure atmosphere for both residents and travelers.
Street in Getsemani – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Staying Informed About Local Safety Conditions
To ensure you have an enjoyable visit without compromising your well-being during your stay in Cartagena, it is essential to remain informed about local safety conditions. Regularly check reputable sources like the U.S Department of State travel advisories, which provide up-to-date information on potential risks associated with traveling in Colombia.
By staying aware of police presence and emergency services availability while visiting this vibrant Caribbean coast destination, you’ll be better prepared to handle any unexpected situations that may arise during your trip – allowing you to focus on enjoying all that beautiful Cartagena has to offer.
The police presence and emergency services in Cartagena are reliable, so travelers can feel safe when exploring the city. Moving on from safety concerns, there is much more to Colombia than just Cartagena; Medellín and the Coffee Triangle region offer a wealth of opportunities for tourists seeking adventure.
Travelers to Cartagena, Colombia can have peace of mind knowing that local law enforcement works together with other authorities to ensure public safety. Emergency phone numbers and services are available for tourists in need of assistance, and private security companies contribute to overall safety in many neighborhoods within the city. It is important for visitors to stay informed about local safety conditions by regularly checking reputable sources like the U.S Department of State travel advisories.
Safe Parts of Colombia Beyond Cartagena
While Cartagena is a popular destination, other parts of Colombia also offer safe travel experiences. By following general safety guidelines and staying informed about regional conditions, you can explore the country’s diverse attractions without compromising your well-being.
Medellin as an Example of Urban Transformation
Medellin, once known for its high crime rates and drug cartels, has undergone significant urban transformation in recent years. The city now boasts modern infrastructure, beautiful parks, and vibrant cultural scenes that make it an attractive destination for tourists seeking to experience Colombian cities beyond Cartagena. To stay safe while visiting Medellin:
- Avoid venturing into neighborhoods with higher crime rates like La Candelaria or Comuna 13 at night.
- Stick to tourist-friendly areas such as El Poblado or Laureles where police presence is more prominent.
- Exercise caution when using public transportation by keeping personal belongings secure and avoiding late-night rides on empty buses or trains.
The Coffee Triangle Region for Nature Lovers
If you’re looking to escape the bustling city life and immerse yourself in nature during your trip to Colombia, consider exploring the picturesque Coffee Triangle region. This area comprises three departments – Quindio, Risaralda, and Caldas – offering lush landscapes dotted with coffee plantations along with charming towns like Salento and Filandia. To ensure a safe visit to the Coffee Triangle:
- Book accommodations in reputable hotels or guesthouses, preferably with positive reviews from fellow travelers.
- When hiking through national parks like Cocora Valley, stick to well-trodden paths and avoid venturing off-trail without an experienced guide.
- If you plan on participating in adventure activities such as zip-lining or white-water rafting, choose operators with strong safety records and proper certifications.
In addition to Medellin and the Coffee Triangle region, Colombia offers many other destinations that are considered safe for tourists. Cities like Bogota and Cali have their share of safety concerns but can be enjoyed by following similar precautions as those mentioned above. Smaller towns along the Caribbean coast, such as Santa Marta or Palomino, also provide safer alternatives for those seeking beachside relaxation away from Cartagena’s busy tourist areas.
No matter where your Colombian adventures take you beyond Cartagena, it’s essential to always practice common sense safety measures while exploring this beautiful country. By staying informed about local conditions, choosing accommodations wisely, sticking to tourist areas when possible, and avoiding La Candelaria – your trip is sure to be a memorable one filled with lasting memories and experiences.
Beyond Cartagena, there are other safe parts of Colombia to explore by following general safety guidelines and staying informed about regional conditions. Medellin has undergone significant urban transformation in recent years, while the Coffee Triangle region offers lush landscapes dotted with coffee plantations for nature lovers to enjoy.
FAQs in Relation to Is it Safe to Travel to Cartagena Colombia
Is Cartagena Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, Cartagena is generally considered safe for tourists in 2023. However, like any major city, it has its share of crime and safety concerns. By staying vigilant and following general safety tips such as avoiding sketchy areas at night and securing your belongings, you can enjoy a secure trip to this beautiful coastal city.
Street Art in Getsemani – Photo by Betsy Wuebker
Is Cartagena Safe for Female Travelers?
Cartagena is relatively safe for female travelers when taking necessary precautions. Dress modestly, avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar areas, and stay within well-traveled tourist zones. Additionally, consider joining group tours or traveling with companions to increase overall safety during your visit.
Is Cartagena Safer Than Medellin?
In recent years, both cities have improved their security significantly; however, comparing the two directly isn’t entirely fair due to differences in size and population density. While each city has its own set of challenges regarding crime rates and specific neighborhoods to avoid, OSAC reports indicate that both are generally safe destinations for tourists who exercise caution.
Is It Safe for an American to Travel to Colombia Right Now?
As of late 2022 into early 2023, it’s considered reasonably safe for Americans visiting Colombia if they follow standard travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State. Be aware of regional variations in safety and always stay informed about current events to make well-informed decisions during your trip.
Conclusion: Keep to the Safest Places and Follow Safety Tips During Your Visit in Cartagena
So, after all this discussion, is it safe to travel to Cartagena Colombia? In conclusion, Cartagena’s safety concerns are rooted in its history of criminal activity, but with proper precautions and awareness, travelers can enjoy a safe visit.
It is important to avoid common scams such as using ATMs safely and negotiating prices with taxi drivers. Additionally, staying within tourist areas and reducing visibility as a foreigner can also increase safety.
While there are some neighborhoods that offer relative safety compared to others in Cartagena, such as Bocagrande, it’s important to note that other parts of Colombia have good safety records worth exploring. Overall, by being aware of your surroundings and taking necessary precautions, you can have an enjoyable trip to Cartagena.
If you’re planning on traveling to Cartagena soon, be sure to check our full destination guide to Cartagena where we provide helpful travel tips for all types of travelers!
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Tuesday 23rd of May 2023
This was so interesting. I went to Cartagena when I was in my early 20's and didn't really think about safety etc. But my hubby and I have young kids so safety of places is one of the first things I google now. We don't have any plans to go back there in the next couple of years, but I have pinned this so I can use it in the future. Thank you
Monday 22nd of May 2023
There's so much history in this city - I'd love to visit someday! Your article makes me want to go even more!
Thursday 18th of May 2023
Great information here - I never would have thought of some of these tips, so thank you!
Tuesday 16th of May 2023
Very helpful and insightful article. Learnt a lot about Cartagena to plan for a trip there. Thank you so much.
Tuesday 16th of May 2023
So much great information about Cartagena, Colombia! Love the ATM tips and places to avoid. Thank you for all these travel tips!