Cartagena was a treat. We got to spend 2 days in this port of call, where they were celebrating their Independence Day. The Old City was upside-down with lots of people on the streets, celebrating and having a good time.
The taxi drivers were an experience. We got off the cruise ship and arrived at the parking lot where all the taxi drivers were parked. They were practically going berserk at the sight of tourists. A couple of taxi drivers started arguing over who would take us, and at what price. One of them wanted us to get out of the first car to go over to another car. We speak Spanish, so we could understand everything they were saying and it wasn’t a very nice first impression.
The taxi drivers are scammers! They’ll overcharge you if they can get away with it. The first taxi driver we asked, told us that it would cost US$ 80 for him to take us from the harbor to the Old City – a 10-minute drive!
We knew the price wasn’t correct and they quickly went down to US$ 40, then US$ 20 and finally ending on the price of US$ 10 (US$ 5 per person). That was pretty much what we paid for our next taxi rides between the harbor and the old town.
During the short ride, the taxi driver tried so hard to sell us a sightseeing tour. He must have asked us 10 times if we wanted to go on a city tour or any other kind of tour…we kept saying no, gracias and eventually he got the point.
Most of the taxi drivers that we drove with, drove like maniacs. So buckle up!
In the city, we stayed away from the center of the festivities – too many people in one place isn’t our idea of a good time.
Instead, we wanted to explore the old part of the city. So, we walked around the narrow and quaint streets that made up the city center. In a way, it reminded me a little bit of the Colonial City in Santo Domingo – but this place was just much better. The buildings were so colorful and with amazing doors. Most buildings had balconies with lots of flowers and vibrant colors.
The city had a very festive and busy vibe and we saw lots of young “backpackers” staying at hostels. I don’t know if it was because of the Independence Day events, but the streets were filled with vendors and women in colorful costumes offering to pose for photos. The street vendors were very aggressive and pushy and we could hardly walk 2 steps without being approached by a vendor, wanting to sell us hats, selfie-sticks, jewelry, fans, etc., etc. They didn’t take no for an answer right away (not like in Costa Maya, Mexico), so after a few hours it got really annoying and tiring walking around…plus, it was extremely hot & sunny.
Of course, we had to try a local restaurant and ended up having lunch at one called Zaitún, which was excellent. In the evening, we had dinner at another restaurant called Vera and it was apparently a place for the well-to-do, so when it filled up with people around 10-10:30 pm, we knew we were under dressed. But at that time it didn’t matter because we were leaving anyway and heading back to the cruise ship.