Skip to main content

Cartagena, Colombia, a gem on the Caribbean coast, is often a dream destination for solo travelers seeking vibrant culture, rich history, and picturesque streets.

However, the safety of solo travelers, particularly solo female travelers, is a matter of importance. As with any major city, understanding the nuances of local safety, culture, and customs is key to a fulfilling trip.

That’s where a crucial question lingers in the minds of many: Is Cartagena Colombia safe to travel solo? This guide aims to address your concerns and equip you with all the necessary information to make your solo journey to this enchanting city both memorable and secure.

We’ll delve deep into the aspects that make Cartagena a worthwhile solo travel destination. We’ll also cover safety tips, highlight the must-visit spots, provide practical advice for navigating the city, and offer insights tailored for solo female travelers.

Introduction to Cartagena, Colombia

visit cartegena colombia country - Jay Wanders

Nestled along the sun-drenched Caribbean coast, Cartagena Colombia beckons solo travelers with its unique blend of historical grandeur and modern vibrancy.

Known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and welcoming atmosphere, Cartagena offers a tapestry of experiences, making it a great destination for those exploring South America.

This city, a harmonious blend of the old and new, invites travelers to immerse themselves in its charming streets, where every corner tells a story.

Discovering the Historic Walled City

visit cartagena colombia itinerary - Jay Wanders

The historic walled city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to the city’s resilience and architectural splendor.

Walking through the narrow streets, you’ll find yourself surrounded by colonial buildings, vibrant plazas, and the echoes of history. For solo travelers, it’s a chance to step back in time and experience the city’s rich past.

Here, solo female travelers can feel an empowering sense of freedom and safety, thanks to the police presence and Cartagena’s reputation as a safe destination. The walls, once a defense mechanism, now stand as an open book narrating tales of piracy, colonialism, and liberation.

Exploring the Charming Old Town

cartagena safe country - Jay Wanders

Venturing into the old town, you’re greeted with a lively atmosphere that defines the soul of Cartagena.

It’s a place where the fusion of African, Spanish, and indigenous cultures creates a unique cultural milieu. From the music that fills the air to the tantalizing aromas of street food, every sense is engaged.

In addition to being a concentration of historical buildings, the old town is also a vibrant city center where contemporary art, chic boutiques, and live music venues coexist with ancient structures.

Whether you’re a solo traveler or on a solo travel adventure, the old town’s energetic pulse and warm community spirit make it a must-visit.

Relaxing at Playa Blanca

A short journey from the city center lies Playa Blanca, a serene escape from the urban hustle.

Known for its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters, this beach is a slice of paradise where solo travelers can unwind and connect with nature.

The laid-back vibe, coupled with the opportunity to indulge in fresh seafood at the local beach bars, makes Playa Blanca a perfect day trip.

cartagena safe country - Jay Wanders (2)

While here, safety remains paramount; mindful of petty crime, travelers can relax in this picturesque setting, reassured by the ongoing efforts to keep Cartagena safe and welcoming for all.

As you can see, Cartagena reveals its multiple facets – from the historical depth of the walled city to the vivacious energy of the old town and the tranquil beauty of Playa Blanca.

For those on a Colombia trip, especially solo travelers, Cartagena offers an experience that is both enriching and secure, enveloped in the warmth of Colombian hospitality.

However, to put your mind at ease, we will now go into more detail about the safety of the city.

Check out our guide:
Iceland Solo Travel: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Arctic Circle

Safety for Solo Travelers

Embarking on a journey as a solo traveler, particularly in a vibrant destination like Cartagena, Colombia, brings with it questions of safety.

This section delves into the reality of safety in Cartagena, offering practical advice and insights to ensure a secure and enjoyable visit.

Is Cartagena a Safe Destination for Solo Travelers?

Cartagena, widely regarded as a safe destination, is a welcoming city for solo travelers, including solo female travellers.

While no city is free from crime, Cartagena has made significant strides in ensuring the safety of its visitors.

Solo travelers often report feeling secure while exploring the city, thanks to visible police presence and a community that is generally welcoming and helpful.

In addition to its growing level of security, Cartagena’s blend of rich history, cultural diversity, and Caribbean charm makes it a popular stop on any South America or Latin America tour.

Petty Crime and Street Vendors

Cartagena to la boquilla walking distance - Jay Wanders

Like any major tourist destination, Cartagena has its share of petty crime. Visitors should be mindful of their belongings, especially in crowded areas or while enjoying the city’s vibrant nightlife.

Street vendors are common, particularly in tourist hotspots like the walled city and old town. While most vendors are simply trying to make a living, it’s advisable to be cautious and aware of your surroundings, especially if you are a solo female traveler.

Using common sense, such as not flashing expensive items and being wary of overly persistent vendors, goes a long way in preventing any unpleasant experiences.

Police Presence and Common Sense

drink unattended tap water in Cargagena - Jay Wanders

The police presence in Cartagena is noticeable, especially in tourist-heavy areas like the old city and Playa Blanca.

This presence is part of the city’s effort to ensure it remains a safe destination for all visitors. However, relying solely on police presence isn’t enough.

Solo travelers should stay informed about the areas they plan to visit. Simple precautions, such as avoiding unlit or less populated streets at night and staying within well-known tourist areas, can significantly enhance one’s safety.

Staying Safe in Cartagena’s Old City

traveled solo to la boquilla half a day - Jay Wanders

The old city of Cartagena is a labyrinth of narrow streets, vibrant colors, and colonial architecture. While it’s a must-visit area, staying safe here, as in any historic center of a major city, requires mindfulness.

Solo travelers should plan their routes, perhaps using tools like Google Maps, to stay within the safer, well-traveled paths.

Beware of distractions that might make you an easy target for pickpockets. Always keep an eye on your belongings, and consider using a money belt for added security.

Additionally, respecting local customs and engaging respectfully with the locals can enhance your experience and safety in this charming part of the city.

Unique Experiences and Activities for Solo Traveler in Cartagena

Visiting Cartagena, Colombia, promises a rich tapestry of experiences, each offering a unique insight into the city’s vibrant culture and natural beauty.

Must-Visit Places for Solo Travelers

In Cartagena, solo travelers find a world that caters to their curiosity and sense of adventure:


This neighborhood, once a hub for revolutionaries, is now the heart of Cartagena’s urban culture. Wander through its colorful streets, where street art tells the story of the city’s past and present.

Rosario Islands

A short boat trip from Cartagena, these islands offer a tranquil escape with crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkeling, showing a serene side of the Caribbean coast.

Mercado de Bazurto

Experience local life in this bustling market. It’s a sensory overload with vendors selling everything from exotic fruits to fresh seafood – a must for solo travelers seeking authentic experiences.

Palenque Village

Visit the first free African settlement in the Americas, just outside Cartagena. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about Afro-Colombian culture and heritage.

super fun and best food for tourists in Cartagena and other cities - Jay Wanders

A Day Soaking in the Mud Volcano

Embarking on a day trip to the El Totumo Mud Volcano from Cartagena is a unique, not-to-be-missed experience for any solo traveler. This small volcano, filled with naturally warm and buoyant mud, offers a one-of-a-kind spa-like experience.

As you climb the rustic ladder into the volcano, you’ll be greeted by a pool of dense, therapeutic mud. It’s an opportunity to float effortlessly, enjoying a natural massage amidst the laughter and camaraderie of fellow visitors.

trip to cartagena extra cost - Jay Wanders

The mud, rich in minerals, is believed to have skin-rejuvenating properties, leaving you refreshed and revitalized. Post mud-bath, head to the nearby lake where local women assist you in gently washing off the mud, completing this traditional Colombian experience.

It’s a chance to engage with locals and understand their way of life, making the mud volcano a perfect blend of relaxation and cultural immersion.

Off the Beaten Path: Exploring Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park

For the adventurous solo traveler, a trip to Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park is an invitation to experience the unspoiled beauty and rich history of Colombia beyond Cartagena.

Visiting Santa Marta

Cartagena safe city for tourists - Jay Wanders

Nestled on the northern coast of Colombia, Santa Marta is a captivating destination that offers a blend of history, natural beauty, and lively nightlife.

From exploring historical landmarks to soaking in the serene atmosphere of nearby villages, there’s something for every type of traveler to discover in this charming coastal city.

These are some of the things you can see and experience in Santa Marta:

  • Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino: Visit the estate where Simón Bolívar spent his last days. This historical landmark is not just a window into Colombia’s past but also a serene spot with beautiful gardens.
  • Taganga Village: Just a short drive from Santa Marta, Taganga offers a quaint fishing village experience. Here, you can indulge in scuba diving or simply enjoy the laid-back beach atmosphere.
  • Nightlife in Santa Marta: The city’s vibrant nightlife is perfect for solo travelers looking to mingle with locals and other travelers. Enjoy the local bars and cafes, offering a more relaxed scene compared to Cartagena.

Discovering Tayrona National Park

Cartagena big city for tourists - Jay Wanders

Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Tayrona National Park, a pristine paradise along Colombia’s Caribbean coast that beckons solo travelers to embark on a unique journey of exploration and adventure.

If you have time to visit this park, don’t miss the opportunity to stop at the following destinations:

  • Cabo San Juan del Guia: A postcard-perfect beach with crystal-clear waters. You can camp here overnight, making it an ideal spot for solo travelers to connect with nature and fellow adventurers.
  • Pueblito: Hike to this ancient indigenous village within the park. The trail itself is a journey through dense tropical forests, offering a true off-the-beaten-path experience.

The park is also a biodiversity hotspot. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, exotic birds, and the elusive jaguar. It’s a fantastic opportunity for solo travelers to witness Colombia’s wildlife in its natural habitat.

Immersing in Cartagena’s Street Art Scene

tourists speak spanish in mexico city - Jay Wanders

Cartagena’s street art scene is a vibrant expression of the city’s spirit, offering solo travelers a unique lens through which to view the city.

Street Art Tours

Embark on a guided tour that unveils the tales behind the murals in neighborhoods like Getsemaní, delving into social, political, and cultural themes that offer profound insights into the community.

Alternatively, employ an interactive street art map for a self-guided exploration, offering a captivating avenue to uncover hidden treasures and gain a personal understanding of the local art scene.

Art Workshops and Cultural Experiences

You can engage in workshops with local artists where you can learn techniques like graffiti or traditional Colombian art forms. It’s a hands-on way to understand the artistic soul of Cartagena.

Also, you can visit local art galleries exhibiting contemporary Colombian artists. These spaces often host solo exhibitions, artist talks, and interactive sessions, providing an intimate look at the city’s artistic community.

Or if you are into photography, the city has plenty to be captured by your camera. Photography walks are a perfect activity for solo travelers to document their journey creatively.

Live Music and Nightlife in Cartagena, Colombia

switzerland expensive to travel solo - Jay Wanders

Cartagena’s nightlife is a vibrant tapestry of rhythms and melodies, ideal for solo travelers seeking to experience the city’s pulsating cultural heart.

When the sun sets, the city transforms into a lively hub of music and dance, especially in the Getsemaní district. Here, the streets come alive with the sounds of salsa, champeta, and vallenato.

You can immerse yourself in the local music scene by visiting one of the many bars and clubs that feature live bands. It’s more than just entertainment; it’s a way to connect with the soul of Cartagena.

The city’s rooftop bars provide a more subdued setting, perfect for enjoying a cocktail while soaking in panoramic views of the old city and the Caribbean Sea.

The welcoming and inclusive atmosphere makes it easy for solo travelers to meet locals and fellow explorers, ensuring a night of fun and genuine connections.

Unmissable Day Trips from Cartagena

Colombia nice country - Jay Wanders

Beyond the colorful streets of Cartagena, the surrounding region beckons with its own set of wonders, perfect for day excursions.

A trip to the Barú Peninsula, easily accessible from the city, unveils a paradise of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

Playa Blanca, in particular, is a haven for those seeking a tranquil escape from the city’s bustle. For a different kind of serenity, the Rosario Islands, an archipelago located off the coast of Cartagena, are a sanctuary for marine life.

A visit to the traditional fishing village of La Boquilla provides a cultural counterpoint to the city’s colonial history. Here, you can learn about the local Afro-Caribbean culture, take part in fishing activities, or explore the mangrove forests.

Check out our guide:
Glamping In Menorca

Practical Tips for a Safe Solo Trip

Traveling solo in Cartagena, Colombia, is an enriching experience, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

Here are some practical tips to ensure your journey is not only memorable but also safe and hassle-free.

Language and Communication: Speaking Spanish

Colombia Cartagena safe - Jay Wanders

Spanish is the native language of Cartagena, Colombia. Here are some tips to help you be prepared regarding the language.

  1. Basic Spanish: Knowing basic Spanish phrases can significantly enhance your travel experience. Phrases like “¿Cuánto cuesta?” (How much does it cost?) and “¿Dónde está…?” (Where is…?) are immensely helpful.
  2. Language Apps: Utilize language apps like Duolingo or Google Translate. They can be lifesavers when navigating menus, signs, or conversations with locals.
  3. Body Language and Gestures: In situations where language barriers exist, body language and gestures can be effective. However, be culturally sensitive as some gestures may have different meanings in Colombia.
  4. Local Interaction: Don’t hesitate to interact with locals. Colombians are known for their friendliness and are usually eager to help. Even if you’re not fluent in Spanish, most will appreciate your effort to communicate.

Money Matters: Budgeting and Extra Costs

reconsider travel to colombia - Jay Wanders

Money is a fundamental factor when traveling alone in Latin America or anywhere in the world. Keeping in mind the following points will save you headaches during your trip.

  1. Currency Exchange: Be mindful of the exchange rates and try to get some local currency (Colombian Pesos) as soon as you arrive. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  2. Budgeting: Plan your daily budget considering accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. Cartagena can be a bit more expensive than other Colombian cities, especially in tourist areas.
  3. Cash vs. Card: While credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments, having cash is crucial for smaller vendors or in remote areas. Always keep some change for tips and street food.
  4. Avoid Extra Costs: Be wary of tourist traps that may lead to unnecessary spending. Compare prices before purchasing souvenirs or booking tours.

Navigating Cartagena: Transportation and Google Maps

la boquilla city - Jay Wanders

Before visiting Cartagena, it is convenient that you know how to move around the city as well as the means of transportation that are available there.

  1. Public Transport vs. Taxis: While public transportation is an affordable option, taxis are safer, especially at night. Agree on the fare before starting your journey to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Using Google Maps: Google Maps is a reliable tool for navigating Cartagena. Download offline maps to ensure you have access even without internet.
  3. Walking Around: Cartagena’s old city is best explored on foot. However, be mindful of your surroundings, especially in less crowded areas or during the night.
  4. Bike Rentals: Consider renting a bike for a day. It’s an eco-friendly way to explore and covers more ground than walking.
  5. Day Trips: For day trips to places like Playa Blanca or the Rosario Islands, research and choose reputable transportation services. Shared boat trips or guided tours can be a safer and more enjoyable option for solo travelers.

Accommodation Options for Solo Travelers

Finding the right place to stay is crucial for a fulfilling travel experience, especially for solo travelers in Cartagena.

This historic city offers a range of accommodation options catering to different tastes and budgets, ensuring a comfortable and secure stay.

The Convenience of Selina Cartagena

Colombia safe location - Jay Wanders

Selina Cartagena stands out as a prime choice for solo travelers who desire a perfect mix of comfort, community, and cultural immersion. It’s a dynamic environment where travelers from all walks of life come together, forming a unique community.

Whether you’re looking for affordable dormitory rooms or the most private and luxurious suites, Selina’s variety of lodging options caters to the diverse needs and preferences of travelers.

Location is one of Selina Cartagena’s strong suits. Its strategic positioning, within a walking distance to major attractions like the historic walled city and old town, puts guests in an enviable spot.

For a solo traveler, especially one keen on exploring the city’s historical and cultural landmarks, Selina offers an unmatched base to experience the best of Cartagena.

Hotels & Other Recommended Stays in Cartagena

Colombia best hostels - Jay Wanders

Cartagena, a popular destination for international travelers, boasts a variety of hotels ranging from boutique to luxury. Here are some recommended stays that promise a memorable experience for solo travelers:

  1. Boutique Hotels: For those seeking a blend of luxury and local charm, boutique hotels in the old city offer a unique stay. These hotels are often housed in restored colonial buildings, featuring exquisite decor, personalized service, and intimate atmospheres.
  2. Budget-Friendly Hostels: Budget-conscious solo travelers can opt for hostels that offer both dormitory-style and private rooms. These hostels are not only affordable but also great places to connect with fellow travelers from around the world.
  3. Luxury Resorts: If you’re looking to indulge, Cartagena’s luxury resorts along the Caribbean coast provide the ultimate in comfort and elegance. With facilities like private beaches, world-class spas, and gourmet restaurants, these resorts are a haven for relaxation.
  4. Airbnb and Rentals: For a more local experience, renting an Airbnb in neighborhoods like Getsemaní or Manga can be a great choice. These rentals offer a glimpse into everyday life in Cartagena and often come with the added benefit of local hosts who can share insider tips.
  5. Eco-Lodges and Retreats: Around Cartagena, several eco-lodges and wellness retreats offer a serene escape from the city’s hustle. Perfect for those seeking tranquility and a connection with nature, these places often offer activities like yoga, meditation, and nature walks.

Enjoying Cartagena’s Culinary Scene

Cartagena’s culinary landscape is an alluring aspect of the city, offering solo travelers a rich tapestry of tastes and traditions.

The gastronomic experience here is a vivid journey through diverse flavors and cooking styles, reflecting the city’s cultural fusion.

Savoring Street Food

Cartagena best hotels - Jay Wanders

Exploring the street food in Cartagena is to dive into a world of unique tastes and aromas.

As you wander through the old city and the lively streets of Getsemaní, the variety of street foods available provides an authentic taste of the local culture.

Exploring the street food in Cartagena is to dive into a world of unique tastes and aromas. As you wander through the old city and the lively streets of Getsemaní, the variety of street foods available provides an authentic taste of the local culture.

  • Arepas de Huevo: A staple in Cartagena’s street food scene, these cornmeal cakes filled with egg and sometimes meat offer a delicious glimpse into traditional Colombian cuisine.
  • Patacones: These fried plantain patties, often served with a variety of toppings, are a popular choice for a flavorful snack that resonates with the city’s tropical essence.
  • Fruit Vendors: The streets are alive with vendors selling fresh, tropical fruits – a testament to Cartagena’s rich natural bounty. These fruits are not only a healthy snack but also a vibrant portrayal of the city’s local produce.

The street food in Cartagena allows solo travelers to experience the city’s culinary diversity in a casual, authentic setting, where each dish tells a story of heritage and flavor.

Best Local Dishes You Must Try

Cartagena best hostels - Jay Wanders

Cartagena’s traditional cuisine is a reflection of its history and cultural mix. Here are some local dishes that solo travelers should experience to truly understand the city’s culinary heart.

  • Ceviche: A classic in Cartagena, this dish features fresh fish marinated in lime juice, seasoned with aromatic herbs. It epitomizes the fresh seafood readily available along the Caribbean coast.
  • Coconut Rice: A beloved accompaniment in many meals, this rice cooked in coconut milk adds a subtly sweet and creamy texture that complements the coastal dishes.
  • Sancocho: This hearty and nourishing stew, made with meat, tubers, and vegetables, is a staple in Cartagena. It’s a dish that embodies the warmth and richness of Colombian comfort food.

In Cartagena, each meal is an opportunity for solo travelers to engage with the city’s culinary heritage.

From the bustling street food stalls to the traditional local dishes, Cartagena’s food scene is an integral part of the travel experience, offering flavors that are as memorable as they are delicious.

Solo Traveler’s Safety Toolkit

Traveling solo in Cartagena, Colombia, or any other destination requires a proactive approach to safety.

This toolkit is designed to guide solo travelers, including solo female travelers, on how to stay safe and secure during their adventures.

The Importance of Travel Insurance

cartagena women traveling solo - Jay Wanders

Investing in travel insurance is a crucial step for any solo traveler. It can cover potential costs of lost luggage or flight cancellations, but also it can protect you for unforeseen medical emergencies, accidents, or even legal issues that might arise.

With the right insurance, you can explore Cartagena with peace of mind, knowing you’re protected against potential financial burdens caused by unexpected events. It’s advisable to choose a policy that covers:

  • Medical emergencies and hospitalization
  • Trip cancellations or interruptions
  • Lost, stolen, or damaged luggage
  • Personal liability in case of legal issues

If you don’t know which one to choose, here is a list of Forbes’ picks for the best travel insurance providers.

Using a Money Belt and Keeping Valuables Secure

cartagena woman traveling solo - Jay Wanders

A money belt is an essential item for a solo traveler. It’s a discreet way to carry your important documents, cash, and cards, minimizing the risk of theft or loss.

Here are some tips for using a money belt effectively:

  • Wear it under your clothing to keep it hidden from view.
  • Store only the essentials, like your passport, a backup credit card, and some emergency cash.
  • Regularly transfer excess cash to a secure place like a hotel safe.
  • Check periodically to ensure it’s fastened securely and hasn’t shifted into view.

Apart from a money belt, be mindful of how you handle your valuables. Avoid flashing expensive gadgets or jewelry in public.

When out exploring, carry only what you need and leave the rest locked up in your accommodation.

Staying Cautious: Reconsidering Solo Travel Plans

cartagena woman travelling solo - Jay Wanders

While Cartagena is generally safe for tourists, staying cautious and vigilant is key to a safe trip. Here are some scenarios where you might need to reconsider your travel plans:

  • Political instability: If there are reports of political unrest or protests, it’s wise to postpone your visit.
  • Natural disasters: Be aware of any weather warnings or natural disaster alerts for the region.
  • Health alerts: Stay informed about any health advisories, such as outbreaks or pandemics, which might affect your travel plans.

Keep an eye on travel advisories from reliable sources and be ready to adjust your plans accordingly.

Tips for Solo Female Travelers

cartagena women travelling solo - Jay Wanders

While Cartagena is considered generally safe, it’s important for a solo female traveller to take certain precautions to ensure a pleasant and secure trip:

  1. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings: Especially in crowded areas or when exploring the city’s nightlife, it’s crucial to be vigilant. Keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious of petty crime.
  2. Choose Accommodations Wisely: Stay in well-reviewed hostels or hotels, like Selina Cartagena, that are known to be safe and solo traveler-friendly.
  3. Connect with Other Travelers: Meeting other solo travelers can enhance your experience and offer opportunities for shared exploration.
  4. Trust Your Instincts: If a situation or a place makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and leave. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  5. Learn Basic Spanish: Knowing a few key phrases in Spanish can be immensely helpful, especially if you need to ask for directions or help.
  6. Use Technology: Apps like Google Maps can help you navigate the city efficiently and stay on safer, well-trodden paths.
  7. Dress Appropriately: Respect the local culture by dressing modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or traditional neighborhoods.
  8. Travel Insurance: Always travel with insurance that covers medical emergencies and theft, ensuring a safe trip.
  9. Beach Safety: When visiting beaches like Playa Blanca, keep your belongings secure and avoid leaving them unattended.
  10. Enjoy Local Experiences: Don’t miss out on the city’s famous street food, live music, and cultural experiences that make Cartagena a great destination.

By following these tips, solo female travellers can have an enriching and memorable journey in Cartagena, embracing all the beauty, culture, and adventure this vibrant city has to offer.

Check out our guide:
Cheap Places To Travel Solo Female

Is Cartagena Colombia Safe to Travel Solo? Question Answered and Parting Thoughts

cartagena colombia is safe to travel solo - Jay Wanders

As our journey through Cartagena, Colombia, draws to a close, the central question we embarked with – “Is Cartagena Colombia safe to travel solo?” – finds its answer.

This enchanting city, with its vibrant culture and rich history, offers a welcoming and secure experience for solo travelers, including solo female travelers.

However, as in any major city, awareness and caution are key. Keeping belongings secure, staying within well-lit and populated areas, and respecting local customs are essential practices for ensuring a safe trip.

Whether it’s your first solo trip or one of many, Cartagena promises a journey that is as safe as it is mesmerizing, leaving travelers with stories to tell and a desire to return.

Don’t think twice and visit Cartagena!

Thinking of traveling solo to other countries? Visit now our best guides:

Leave a Reply