We took a door-to-door shuttle service from our hostel Dreamers in Santa Marta directly to our booked hostel in Cartagena for 42,000 pesos each. The shuttle itself was very comfortable and extremely safe as the side door could only be opened remotely by the driver.
We arrived at the Marlin Hostel where we had pre-booked but were extremely disappointed with what we found. They had no air-con rooms available for us and the only rooms they could offer us were either a 4 bed dorm with a strong smell of mould and no windows or a bunk bed room, which we took but later turned out to be an oven despite the fans and was so small we barely had space for our backpacks. As it was late we stayed for the night but spent the evening searching for an alternative. We found the Casona Hostel, with thankfully air conditioned rooms, located just around the corner and liked it so much we moved across the next day and stayed for nearly a week!
Cartagena itself is a bustling city filled with pretty little roads and buildings in the historic centre and narrow streets with beautiful old colonial buildings that have definitely seen better days, but are still impressive in their standing and make you wonder how stunning the city must have been.
During our time in Cartagena we explored the historic centre with the clock tower entrance, the port area, the beautiful old walls that almost completely surround the city, the Getsemani borough and the old fortress situated across the river. We got very lucky with the fortress as we happened to visit it on the afternoon of Cartagena’s Independence Day and entry was free!
Overall the city felt pretty safe and there is plenty of choice for accommodation, eating and supermarkets. In fact if you stay in Getsemani you will find everything you need on your doorstep and you are still only a 5 minute walk from the historic centre and a 15 minute walk from the beach.
The only downside with the city is the heat, especially in July and August, after about 10.30am you have to get back into an air conditioned room just to stop melting. The heat in the city is stifling and even going out for a meal in the evening can leave you in need for a shower afterwards!