yellow and brown concrete cathedral
cars parked in front of green and white concrete building during daytime
multicolored houses

Is Cartagena Safe?

Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, though petty crime like pickpocketing is common in crowded areas. Violent crime rates are moderate, but tourists should avoid isolated areas at night. Scams targeting foreigners occur, so remain vigilant. The risk of civil unrest is low, but tensions can escalate during protests. Tap water is unsafe to drink, so stick to bottled water.

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Safety & Security

Cartagena, a vibrant coastal city in Colombia, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. However, travelers should exercise caution and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

  • Petty Crime: While Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur, especially in crowded areas like the Old Town and beaches. Remain vigilant and keep valuables secure.

  • Violent Crime: Violent crimes, including armed robberies and muggings, are relatively uncommon in tourist areas but can happen. Avoid isolated areas, especially at night, and exercise caution when withdrawing cash from ATMs.

  • Scams: Be wary of common scams, such as taxi overcharging, fake tour guides, and street vendors selling counterfeit goods. Only use licensed taxis or ride-sharing services, and be cautious when approached by strangers offering unsolicited services.

  • Civil Unrest: While rare, protests and civil unrest can occur in Cartagena. Monitor local news and avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place.

  • Terrorism: The risk of terrorism in Cartagena is low, but travelers should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities in case of any incidents.

  • Disputes: Disputes and confrontations can escalate quickly. Avoid engaging in arguments or confrontations, and seek assistance from local authorities if necessary.

By taking reasonable precautions and being aware of potential risks, travelers can enjoy the rich cultural experiences and stunning natural beauty that Cartagena has to offer while minimizing safety concerns.

Health & Medical

Cartagena offers a generally safe environment for travelers, but it's essential to take precautions regarding health risks. Mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever, Zika virus, and malaria are present, so using insect repellent and covering up is advisable. Tap water is not potable, so stick to bottled or purified water.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines for most travelers.
  • Foodborne Illnesses: Exercise caution with street food and unpasteurized dairy products to avoid traveler's diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
  • Sun Exposure: The tropical climate means intense sun exposure, so use sunscreen, wear a hat, and stay hydrated.
  • Medical Facilities: Private hospitals and clinics in Cartagena offer good medical care, but facilities may be limited outside major cities. Comprehensive travel insurance is recommended.
  • Air Pollution: Air quality in Cartagena can be poor due to vehicle emissions and industrial activities, potentially exacerbating respiratory conditions.

Natural Disasters

Cartagena, located on Colombia's Caribbean coast, is generally not at high risk for natural disasters. However, travelers should be aware of the following potential hazards:

  • Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: The Caribbean hurricane season runs from June to November, with the peak months being August to October. While direct hits are rare, Cartagena can experience heavy rainfall, flooding, and high winds from these storms.

  • Earthquakes: Colombia lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it susceptible to earthquakes. Cartagena has experienced minor tremors in the past, but the risk of a major quake is relatively low compared to other regions.

  • Flooding: Heavy rainfall during the rainy season (May to November) can lead to localized flooding in low-lying areas of the city. Travelers should exercise caution and avoid areas prone to flooding.

  • Landslides: In the event of heavy rains or earthquakes, there is a potential risk of landslides in the surrounding hills and coastal areas. Travelers should follow local advisories and avoid unstable slopes.

  • Tsunamis: While rare, tsunamis are a potential risk for coastal cities like Cartagena. Travelers should familiarize themselves with evacuation routes and follow instructions from local authorities in the event of a tsunami warning.

It's advisable for travelers to monitor weather forecasts, heed any warnings or advisories issued by local authorities, and have a contingency plan in case of emergencies. Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance is also recommended.


Transportation in Cartagena is generally safe and reliable for travelers. The city has a decent public transportation system, including buses and taxis. However, it's important to exercise caution when using these services.

  • Buses: The city's bus system, Transcaribe, is a modern and affordable way to get around. However, buses can get crowded, so be vigilant against petty theft.
  • Taxis: Taxis are widely available, but it's advisable to use reputable taxi services or have your hotel call one for you. Avoid hailing taxis on the street to minimize risks.
  • Walking and Cycling: The walled city and other tourist areas are relatively safe for walking and cycling during the day. However, exercise caution at night and avoid isolated areas.
  • Rental Cars: Renting a car can be convenient, but driving in Cartagena can be challenging due to heavy traffic and aggressive driving habits. Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and consider hiring a local driver.
  • Road Safety: Roads in Cartagena can be poorly maintained, and traffic rules are often disregarded. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets.

It's generally recommended to stick to official transportation services, avoid traveling alone at night, and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Cartagena.

Cultural Norms

Cartagena, a vibrant coastal city in Colombia, offers a rich cultural tapestry for travelers to immerse themselves in. From its colonial architecture to its lively festivals, respecting local customs and traditions is essential for a rewarding experience.

  • Dress Code: While casual attire is generally acceptable, it's advisable to dress modestly when visiting religious sites or attending cultural events. Covering shoulders and knees is recommended.

  • Festivals and Events: Cartagena hosts numerous colorful festivals throughout the year, such as the Hay Festival Cartagena (literary festival) and the Feast of Our Lady of La Candelaria (religious celebration). Respectful participation and observance of local traditions are encouraged.

  • Indigenous Communities: If visiting indigenous communities, it's crucial to seek permission before taking photographs and to respect their customs and way of life. Engaging with locals in a respectful manner can lead to enriching cultural exchanges.

  • Language and Communication: While Spanish is the primary language, learning a few basic phrases can go a long way in showing respect and facilitating communication. Patience and an open-minded attitude are essential when navigating language barriers.

  • Local Cuisine: Cartagena's culinary scene is a delightful fusion of African, indigenous, and Spanish influences. Embracing local dishes and dining etiquette is a great way to immerse yourself in the city's cultural heritage.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Cartagena are generally reliable, though response times can vary depending on the location and situation. The city has a dedicated tourist police force (Policia de Turismo) that patrols popular areas and can assist visitors. However, their resources may be limited.

  • Medical Facilities: Cartagena has several private clinics and hospitals that cater to foreigners and offer quality medical care. However, these facilities can be expensive for those without travel insurance.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulances are available but may take time to arrive, especially in high-traffic areas. Private ambulance services are an option for faster response times.

  • Fire Department: The fire department is reasonably well-equipped and trained, but resources can be stretched during emergencies.

  • Tourist Assistance: The city has a tourist assistance hotline and information centers where visitors can seek help or report incidents. However, language barriers may be an issue for non-Spanish speakers.

It's advisable for travelers to research emergency contacts and services before their trip and to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and evacuations.

Frequently Asked Questions

A colorful illustration with three people and the letters "FAQ" representing a Frequently Asked Questions section

Is Cartagena safe for tourists?

Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised. Petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching occur, so keep valuables secure. Avoid deserted areas, especially at night. Use official taxis and stay in well-lit areas. Exercise common sense precautions.

Is Cartagena safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Cartagena. Avoid walking alone at night, and be wary of unwanted attention or harassment. Dress conservatively and don't accept drinks from strangers. Use licensed taxis or ride-sharing services for transportation.

Is Cartagena safe for families?

Cartagena is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities for children. However, be cautious with food and water to avoid illness. Supervise children closely in crowded areas and on beaches. Avoid deserted areas, especially at night.

Is Cartagena LGBTQ+ friendly?

While same-sex relationships are legal in Colombia, public displays of affection may draw unwanted attention. Cartagena has a small but vibrant LGBTQ+ community, with a few LGBTQ+-friendly establishments. Exercise discretion in public spaces.

Do you need a visa to go to Cartagena?

Citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union, do not require a visa for tourist stays up to 90 days in Colombia. However, a valid passport is mandatory. Check with your embassy or consulate for specific visa requirements based on your nationality and purpose of travel.

Can you drink tap water in Cartagena?

It's not recommended to drink tap water in Cartagena. Stick to bottled or purified water, even for brushing teeth. Avoid ice cubes in drinks, as they may be made from contaminated water. Boiled or bottled water is also advisable for food preparation.

What is the currency in Cartagena?

The official currency in Cartagena is the Colombian Peso (COP). While some establishments may accept US dollars, it's advisable to carry Colombian Pesos for transactions. Credit cards are widely accepted in major establishments.

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