Lonely Planet calls Cartagena the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast…well that was before these two queens sashayed their way into Colombia's most touristic city!
The fifth-largest city in Colombia, Cartagena's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We adored the city's mix of old and new architectural design. A sprawling maze of cobblestone alleys, colourful colonial-style buildings, and vines of shrubs climbing down the sides of ancient walls could be found on one side. Towering silver skyscrapers and industrial catwalks can be seen on the other.
“Rich in history, Cartagena still harbours the shadows of multiple pirate attacks from its days of being a port city.”
Rich in appearance, and rich in history, Cartagena still harbours the shadows of multiple pirate attacks from its days of being a port city. Having shipped out boatloads of gold to places like Spain, the city made itself vulnerable to all sorts of invasion. Luckily, it was well equipped to withstand such a thing, and the protective forts can still be seen today.
Yet, it's going to take more than a fort to keep us away – for when we touched down in the city, we were prepared to take over by any means necessary.
We found the gay scene to be rather small, but definitely worth checking out. There were lots of great spots to eat and drink with incredibly romantic sunset views. Hotel staff were more than accommodating and made our stay super comfy.
With fantastic sites and incredible nightlife, we've put down all our discoveries into this travel guide to gay Cartagena!
Explore Colombia on a gay tour
Out Adventures' brand new Colombia tour is hotter than Maluma! Beginning in Bogotá, the carefree escape will have you shaking your arepa at the largest LGBTQ club in the Americas, hiking humid jungles in Tayrona National Park and soaking up the country's sand, sun and sea in coastal Cartagena. The optional gay salsa class, food tour and snorkeling excursion make this adventure muy caliente!
Is Cartagena safe for gay travellers?
As a country, Colombia is remarkably gay-friendly. Homosexuality has been legal since 1981, gay marriage passed in 2016 and a very comprehensive set of anti-discrimination laws introduced in 2011. Plus, with increased visibility and more tolerant attitudes within the bigger cities, it has had a knock-on effect for tourism, attracting more LGBTQ travellers.
Cartagena, in particular, is a popular coastal destination with a small, but thriving LGBTQ community. In early August, the city has its official Pride Festival, which takes place alongside the more Circuit-style annual Rumours Festival (see more in the Events section below).
During our time in Cartagena, we felt very welcomed as a gay couple and never encountered any nastiness at all at the places we stayed at. We found hotel staff were used to welcoming LGBTQ travellers. The only anguish we had to suffer through was the long wait between meals when Seby threw one of his hangry fits!
However, we would advise you to be vigilant in public: the coastal region of Colombia is generally regarded as the least gay-friendly. Whilst Cartagena itself is gay-friendly due to it being so touristy and international, if you do venture beyond to rural areas around the coast, then be aware of local attitudes and if need be minimise public displays of affection.
Arriving in Cartagena soon?
Traffic between Cartagena's airport and the downtown area can be pretty crazy, taking up to an hour to navigate. There aren't great public transport options and it's also entirely possible to be scammed if you don't choose a trustworthy taxi. We prefer to book a private transfer from the airport to our accommodation so we know we won't have to deal with any hassle on arrival and can just relax with a reputable driver taking care of us.
The gay area of Cartagena
The gay scene of Cartagena is spread out across the whole city. As such it is difficult to define a “gay area”. The main gay bar/club (Le Petit) is located just within the historic walled Old Town (also called “Centro”).
Our personal favourite area to hangout is in the hip and Bohemian Plaza Trinidad in the “Getsemani” area, which is just next door to Centro. Here it's full of street art, cafes, outdoor events, people dancing/drinking in the streets and a general chilled, relaxed vibe…oh and look out for the infamous SHAKIRO performing proudly in the streets:
Gay hotels in Cartagena
Cartagena is very touristy, so most hotels will be used to hosting LGBTQ travellers. The places we recommend below, are gay friendly hotels that we tried and welcomed us as a gay couple. If you decide to book a hotel which is not listed here, we recommend emailing or calling in advance just to be sure that they're OK to host you as a gay couple and that you will get the double bed you initially booked. Here are the hotels that we tried and loved in the beautiful Cartagena:
Why we love it
- Small and exclusive
- Located right in the heart of the Old Town
- Gay friendly and hospitable staff
- Rooftop pool, Jacuzzi and sun loungers
Hotel Quadrifolio is one of our favourite gay friendly hotels to stay in Cartagena. It is very popular with gay honeymooners and is rated as one of the best hotels in Cartagena by Tripadvisor, for good reason.
Located right in the heart of the Old Town in the Centro neighbourhood, this luxurious boutique hotel is housed in a beautiful historic Spanish colonial residence. It's also very exclusive with just 8 suites, so we recommend booking well in advance to avoid disappointment.
The building from the outside is quite unassuming, but once inside you quickly realise why it's so highly regarded: it's so chic and stylishly decorated. The service is flawless, the staff are very professional, speak fluent English and are used to deal with LGBTQ travellers.
Our favourite thing about Hotel Quadrifolio is their gorgeous rooftop which has sun loungers as well as a hot tub. They also have a pool on the ground level and as there are only 8 rooms here, you almost always have the pool and hot tub all to yourself. We honestly felt like celebrities, tucked away in a secret hideaway during our time here. Always feeling pampered, yet given total privacy when we needed it!
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Allure Chocolat by Karisma
Why we love it
- Outdoor infinity pool with great views
- Free delicious breakfast
- Located in the hip Getsemani neighbourhood
- Daily free chocolates!
Allure Chocolat is a part of the chain hotel group called Karisma. It's located in the vibrant Getsemani neighbourhood, overlooking the ocean. And yes, you do get chocolates on your pillows and delivered to your room daily!
The staff are lovely and very gay-friendly. They go out of their way to make recommendations or help you organise activities, tours and excursions.
Although a large hotel, it still has an element of charm, particularly in the reception area and the restaurant. We loved the daily breakfast of cereal, fresh fruit and Colombian coffee. There's also a small on-site fitness centre, a restaurant and wine-bar.
The main highlight is the rooftop infinity pool and bar, overlooking the ocean. This is a reason alone to stay at Allure Chocolat, it was our favourite rooftop hangout area from all the places we stayed at, although it can get a bit busy at weekends.
Must do in Cartagena: visit the Rosario Islands
Taking a catamaran from Cartagena out to the gorgeous Rosario Islands is one activity you do not want to miss out on! Spend the day swimming, snorkelling and spotting wildlife among these beautiful islands.
Les Lezards Guesthouse
Why we love it
- Beautiful intimate guesthouse
- Incredible breakfast included
- Gorgeous rooftop terrace and Jacuzzi
Les Lezards is a cute gay frienldy bed and breakfast in the Getsemani neighbourhood of Cartagena. It's the former family home of local guy Marcus, who converted it into an intimate guesthouse with 6 rooms.
Marcus and his staff run it and offer a very personable service. They will pick you up from the airport, show you around the neighbourhood and make you feel like you're at home.
The daily breakfast is spectacular, with fresh tropical fruits, scrambled eggs, arepas, toast with jam, peanut butter or Nutella and delicious fruit shakes. We never wanted to leave, but our waistlines thanked us for it! We also enjoyed making friends with the resident cat and two turtles that wander around.
Les Lezards has a rooftop terrace area to chill in as well as a beautiful Jacuzzi area, hidden within a mini jungle of plants. We highly recommend booking the Up in the Sky room, which also has its own private plunge pool. Once we got our spot secured, we could barely bring ourselves to leave. The bubbles felt like we were receiving a deep and luxurious massage, and it really helped relieve us of all the stress. Being fabulous 24/7 is darn exhausting.
Go on a romantic sunset cruise
One of the most romantic things we experienced while in Cartagena was our sunset cruise in the Bay of Cartagena. It's an interesting way to see the city and, of course, enjoy a stunning sunset with some wine!
Hotel Casa Lola
Why we love it
- Swimming pool and spa
- Gay owned and very friendly staff
- Also pet-friendly!
- Yummy breakfast included
Hotel Casa Lola is a lovely four-star establishment set in two historical 17th and 19th-century colonial buildings in the heart of Getsemani.
You'll be walking distance from the best gay bars and restaurants, as well as being able to relax inside the hotel as much as you wish.
What's more, it's a gay owned and managed hotel that's very welcoming to all guests, pets included!
We love the mix of antiques and modern decor throughout the hotel, as well as the very comfortable beds in the spacious rooms. There's a couple of small but gorgeous rooftop pools offering the perfect spot to relax and look out over stunning views. With palm tree plants, and a wooden decked out patio, the rustic charm of the place really made us feel at ease.
There's also an in-house spa which offers wellness services like massages, facials and hairstyling. Every morning a yummy breakfast is served in the delightful interior courtyard and you can enjoy sunset drinks on the rooftop bar – which of course, we took full advantage of!
Learn to cook Colombian food in Cartagena
We love learning how to cook local dishes when we travel so we can show off our skills back home! In Cartagena, you can take a cooking class in a local chef's home and then enjoy your delicious creation afterwards.
Life is Good Cartagena Hostel
Why we love it
- Excellent budget accommodation
- Rooftop Jacuzzi and sunbeds
- Onsite bar and restaurant
- Cosy bunks or lovely private rooms
For gay travellers on a budget, check out the Life is Good Cartagena Hostel.
This is one fancy-schmancy hostel, so it's perfect if you want to have a lovely experience with lots of amenities, but not pay an arm and a leg for things you don't need.
Even the dorm rooms are gorgeous, with very comfy bunks that feature curtains for privacy. Or you can stay in a beautiful private room with a big double bed.
Our favourite part of this gay friendly hostel (as with most places) is the rooftop Jacuzzi! There are also plenty of seats, sun-beds and a barbecue up on the roof, so it's a great spot to socialise or just relax. There's a cosy bar and restaurant on-site as well, although you can also cook for yourself in the shared kitchen.
For a small cost, you can get lots of extras at Life is Good, such as a shuttle service from the airport, continental breakfast or bike hire for exploring the city. The staff are welcoming and used to dealing with LGBTQ travellers. It felt like they would go the extra mile to make your stay more comfortable and help you book things to do in the area.
Gay bars in Cartagena
The gay scene changes quite frequently in Cartagema, but there are a handful of gay and gay-friendly bars to check out, mainly based in the Old Town area and in Getsemani:
- Le Petit: a fun small gay bar in Cartagena with very sexy waiters. It's a restaurant during the day and then transforms into a gay venue in the evening, blasting out classics by Shakira, Maluma and more. If you're brave enough, you have to try their gigantic pitchers of beer mixed with rum. Le Petit is open every day from 11 pm until late and is located at Calle del Candilejo 32-34 in the Centro neighbourhood of Old Town.
- Solar Bar & Food: Solar is a gay-friendly bar located in the hip Getsemani neighbourhood, overlooking the vibrant Plaza de la Trinidad, so it's perfect for people watching! They serve delicious food and cocktails with regular live music. Located at Calle de la Sierpe 9A-32, Solar is open daily until around 1.30 am.
- Alquimico: Alquimico (which means alchemist) is a gay-friendly bar that really does perform some kind of alchemy with their incredible cocktail menu of ‘remedies'. They also serve food and there's both a cool upstairs terrace to sit or the art-deco style cocktail bar on the ground floor. Alquimico is located in the heart of the Old Town at Calle del Colegio, # 34-24 and is open every day from 6 pm until around 3 am.
Experience Cartagena's nightlife
Make sure you explore the nightlife of Cartagena during your visit. We loved sampling cocktails at the best bars and even got to make one ourselves!
Gay clubs in Cartagena
Be warned: just like the gay scene of Buenos Aires, the Colombians also like to party late. Going to a club before midnight, you'll likely be solo for most of the time! These are the main gay clubs in Cartagena right now to check out:
- Roma Club: the hottest new gay disco in Cartagena, associated with Le Petit Bar. Inside there are actually two clubs, playing a mix of awesome Latin pop hits. We left this place dripping in sweat, having just mastered our Salsa moves. Our style was no match for the locals, yet we had a ball! Cover charge is 15,000 pesos ($5), which gets you into both clubs. Roma Club is located at Avenida Santander on the 2nd floor of Mega Tiendas. It is open every day until the early hours of the next day, but we recommend going on either a Friday or Saturday night.
- The City Club: Another relatively new gay club, the City Club offers up the best LGBTQ rumba in Cartagena! They also have two separate dance areas, one is called the Elektro Zone and the other the CrossOver Zone. They're only open on Friday and Saturday nights, from 9 pm to 4 am. The City Club is located at Carrera 8 b # 24-20.
Gay events in Cartagena
Apart from Pride, Cartagena doesn't have a whole lot of gay events. It's definitely worth timing your visit for the August Pride and Rumours Festival period though, or for one of the other great gay-friendly events we've listed here.
- Cartagena Pride (August): the official gay Pride of Cartagena takes place every August, making this an exciting time to visit. As well as the parade, Cartagena Pride is a 6-day event featuring a variety of cultural, sport, touristic, food and entertainment activities. There'll be speakers, parties, film screenings and even football tournaments to enjoy, so don't miss out!
- Rumours Festival (August): Rumours is a Circuit-style gay festival that takes place during the Cartagena pride season in August. For 5 full days, visitors and locals alike flock to the many parties to get their groove on, with more than 29 DJs from around the world. The festival is huge, attracting more than 2,000 visitors to the city, so definitely not to be missed if you enjoy dancing with thousands of sexy topless guys.
- Carnaval in Barranquilla (February/March): about two hours from Cartagena is the town of Barranquilla, which holds the second-largest carnival event in the world! Barranquilla is also the home of Shakira and Sofia Vergara just sayin'…! The four-day event features a plethora of parades, great music and fantastic costumes, as well as one day dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
- Festival del Dulce (April): Cartagena is home to one of the sweetest festivals ever: el Festival del Dulce or ‘candy festival'! In Colombia, it is traditional to make and share sweet treats at Eastertime, so in the week leading up to Easter Sunday, you will be able to find lots of sweet treats available throughout the city. This festival is a celebration of local traditions and culture, so you can feel good knowing you are supporting the locals, while you stuff your face at the same time!
Gay beaches in Cartagena
Whilst Cartagena doesn't have an official gay beach, there are quite a few nice beaches in and around the city. The beaches right by the Old Town of Cartagena are not the nicest in the area. You need to head further out to find idyllic beaches. The closest beach to the city is in the Bocagrande area, however for the best beaches, we recommend heading out to the islands.
- Hollywood Beach: No movie stars here! Looks like we'll need to be the shining stars. Playa Hollywood in Bocagrande is the closest thing to a beach in Cartagena, which has proven popular with both LGBTQ locals and tourists. Hollywood Beach is located in front of the Hotel Caribe in El Laguito. The busiest time to visit is on the weekends.
- Playa Blanca: Located on the Isla Baru about an hour out of Cartagena is the gorgeous white sandy beach of Playa Blanca. This spot is a must-visit for a day of beach fun! It's particularly busy on weekends when the locals come here in high numbers. If you want some quiet time here, then we suggest coming on weekdays.
Discover Playa Blanca on a tour
Experience this paradise-like beach on a full-day trip from Cartagena. You will swim in crystal-clear water and chill on the white sandy beach. As part of this tour, you will also enjoy some delicious Colombian specialities at lunch.
Our favourite things to do in Cartagena
The main highlight of Cartagena is the ancient UNESCO listed Old Town. Although it is very touristy, it still retains a great deal of old-world Colonial charm rich with history dating back to the 1500s. Cartagena is also a great base for exploring the nearby Rosario Islands. Here are some of our favourite activities for gay travellers to do in Cartagena based on our personal experience during our time there:
An amazing way to explore Cartagena is from the sea, with a sunset cruise through the Bay of Cartagena de Indias. We found it incredibly romantic to watch the sun setting over the ocean with a glass of cava, and it was also interesting to see different parts of the city from the water. The sunset cruise we went on gave us lovely views of the Manga and Bocagrande neighbourhoods, as well as going all the way out to Tierrabomba Island. This breathtaking evening cruise is definitely a must-do for gay couples visiting Cartagena!
Discover the Old Town of Cartagena
The walled Old Town area of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful area to explore. We really enjoyed wandering among the gorgeous colonial buildings and discovering the best attractions, like the Palace of the Inquisition. The Palacio de la Inquisición is one of the finest buildings in Cartagena but was historically the place where inquisitions took place during the colonial era. Today it's a museum with quite graphic exhibitions, such as the instruments of torture used during the inquisitions. Even though it's quite a harrowing experience, we definitely think it's a must-see when exploring Cartagena's Old Town.
Sample Colombian coffee at Cafe del Mural
Cafe del Mural is a cafe that deserves it's own entry because it's quite possibly the best coffee we've ever tasted! Tucked into a little side street in the Getsemani neighbourhood they serve incredible coffee varieties (obviously), as well as delicious baked treats such as banana bread or brownies and a mouthwatering Colombian take on an affogato with homemade ice-cream! They even do coffee roasting workshops for the hardcore coffee buffs out there who want to learn the traditional Colombian method of roasting. However, they're only open from 3-8pm so make sure you plan your visit in advance to avoid disappointment (this happened to us twice!).
Learn about Cartagena's history
As well as the historic walled Old Town area, Cartagena has a lot of other historic spots that are definitely worth visiting. For example, the Castillo de San Felipe is a 16th-century fortress built on a hill overlooking Cartagena that still stands proud today. Not only is it really interesting to visit the castle, but the views over the city and bay are also jaw-droppingly stunning! The Convento de la Popa is a monastery on top of another hill that also features gorgeous views over Cartagena. If you don't want to try and organise transport you can easily join a tour to visit these locations and learn about their history.
Explore pristine Playa Blanca
The most popular beach near Cartagena is Playa Blanca, which is actually located a fair way out of the city on the Isla Baru. You can reach this ‘island' and its stunning beach by bus, car or by boat. It's possible to get there yourself but we found the most relaxing way was by booking a full day trip to the beach. We loved frolicking in the turquoise waters, sunbathing and just relaxing. There are local salespeople who walk along the beach selling yummy treats as well as lots of nice cafes and restaurants if you want a more fancy meal.
Snorkel in the mangroves
It's not all about the beaches on Isla Baru, gay travellers can also go snorkelling and explore the local mangrove eco-system here! We love going snorkelling whenever we travel somewhere near the ocean so we jumped at the chance to snorkel in the mangroves on Isla Baru. We saw lots of beautiful fish and coral while snorkelling, then during our boat ride we also spotted many different species of birds and even some iguanas. If you like your beach time with a dash of wildlife and exciting underwater adventures, definitely make sure you go snorkelling when in Cartagena.
Cartagena Cocktail Tour
We are certainly not averse to having a cocktail or two (or three or four!) on a night out. Joining a cocktail tour of Cartagena is a fun way to both explore the historic area of the city and get to sample some delicious cocktails at the best bars. Having a local guide means you'll find the best secret spots and you won't have to worry about getting lost in a haze if you've had one too many of those boozy bad boys. Our favourite parts were the rooftop gem that gave us a very romantic sunset view over Cartagena, and the opportunity to make our own yummy cocktail. Shaken, not stirred!
Learn to cook Colombian food
Another one of our favourite activities to do in a new place is to learn how to make the local delicacies. Cartagena was no exception, we love traditional Colombian food so we joined a cooking class with a local chef so we could recreate our favourite foods from Cartagena. We enjoyed learning how to make traditional dishes like arepas and bandeja paisa…but, in particular, loved getting to eat them while overlooking the beach of La Baquilla even more! Joining a cooking class at chef Jose's home is also a wonderful way to support local businesses while getting an insider's glimpse into the homes of people who live in Cartagena.
Visit the Rosario Islands
Cartagena is also surrounded by the small Rosario coral islands, where you can find secluded beaches, do water sports and go snorkelling. Our favourites were Agua Azul beach on Baru island and lunch at the super cool Blue Apple on Tierra Bomba island, which offers a shuttle service for guests. You can also join a full-day sailing excursion to explore the San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park in comfort with a full bar and delicious lunch! Read more about our boat tour of the Cartagena islands when we came to celebrate Seby's birthday.
Experience the real Cartagena
Most visitors to Cartagena will be spending their time in the touristy parts of the city, the historic walled area or hip neighbourhoods of Getsemani and Boca Grande. But if you'd like to discover the authentic local side of the city, then you need to head to the areas of La Esperanza and Chino. One of the most exciting spots here is the Mercado de Bazurto, a huge labyrinth of market stalls selling everything from vegetables, meat and fish to clothing and art. The easiest way to get to the Bazurto Market is with a tour since it's a bit far out of the main city. Make sure you also have lunch at the market cafeteria and get to know the locals.
Gay-friendly restaurants in Cartagena
Cartagena's tourism boom has attracted many world-class chefs to local hotels and restaurants. Its location means LGBTQ travellers will be able to sample some of the best, freshest seafood, as well as other delicious dishes. These are some of our favourite restaurants in Cartagena, which we tried and loved.
Restaurante Interno is one of the most unique restaurant experiences we've ever had. We were particularly touched and inspired by its wonderful mission: the restaurant is housed within the local women's prison with its inmates cooking and serving the food to the guests! This programme means that female inmates are learning valuable skills so that they can more easily reintegrate back into society after completing their sentences. What a terrific initiative! The restaurant is small, with beautiful colourful murals on the walls and the food is quite delicious Colombian-style fusion. Interno is a very popular restaurant, so make sure to book your table ahead of time.
We will always remember Carmen Restaurant as one of the highlights of our time in Cartagena as this is where Stefan proposed! The restaurant also knew it was for Seby's birthday so they made a special little dessert, which makes the photo for remembering this night even more unique! Carmen is a gorgeous, romantic restaurant in an elegant old colonial house. The food is contemporary cuisine with Colombian flavours and is just delicious. Mouthwatering dishes like crab, lobster and pork belly are on the menu but make sure you leave room for one of their sumptuous desserts as well.
Cafe del Mar
Cafe del Mar is strategically located on top of the ancient walls in the Old Town, facing the ocean and making it one of the best places in Cartagena for a sunset cocktail. Every evening we were rewarded with absolutely stunning sunsets while we dined on delicious seafood and drank our incredible cocktails. They regularly have live music to listen to while dining. Since you're on the ramparts of the old walls, there are even some original cannons to add to your photos, back from the days when Cartagena needed to be protected from pirates.
If you're looking for some excellent vegetarian or vegan food in the walled part of Cartagena, make sure you stop by HabiVegan This hostel and yoga studio offers up vegan breakfasts, lunches, dinners, fast foods and natural juices for low prices. They also have gluten-free meals available. You can get a delicious set menu of soup, main and juice for just $4! It's also sometimes referred to as Mar y Hojas Cocina Vegana, so don't get confused. Try and get a table on the pretty balcony so you can look out over the city while you eat.
Di Silvio Trattoria
If you're craving pizza, head to Di Silvio Trattoria! Seriously, this little spot around the corner from Plaza de la Trinidad does the best pizzas we tried in all of Colombia. They are delicious mouthwatering flat-bread beauties, made to perfection! Also, this is the perfect spot to nurse that coco loco hangover, especially when you're craving carbs! The atmosphere is relaxed, although it can get quite busy due to how popular it is: we found it on Tripadvisor and went here because of the many excellent reviews, which we totally agree with.
Cebiches & Ceviches
Ok, we don't want to be known for exaggerating and saying everything is the best, but once again we found the best place in Cartagena, this time for ceviche! Cebiches & Ceviches is a little gem right by the main gate entrance of the walled Old Town. They have a menu with the biggest variety of different delicious ceviches we've ever seen. It's quite daunting at first. Best advice is to ask the waiter and just go for it. It's all good! And don't forget to grab a few cocktails – they're pretty damn good!
La Cocina de Pepina
La Cocina de Pepina is a little restaurant tucked away in the Getsemani neighbourhood. They do traditional, family-style Colombian food which is absolutely delicious. The restaurant space is small and cosy, they don't accept bookings so you can only walk in and hope for the best. It's worth it if you can get a table, as their dishes such as ceviche, sopa caribe and gallina are very tasty. There are also a few vegetarian options. The waiters are very friendly and attentive while the prices are also very low, especially considering how good the food is!
Before you go
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Cartagena. Read on to find out everything LGBTQ travellers should know before they go.
How to get there: If you're flying to Cartagena you will arrive at Rafael Nuñez International Airport. To get from the airport to your hotel you can catch a taxi or Uber, although the local porters can be quite aggressive and try to scam you. We usually like to book a private transfer from the airport to our accommodation so we can relax and get ready for exploring.
Visa requirements: If you're travelling to Cartagena from the EU, US or Australia then you won't need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist, and can stay for up to 90 days. If you're travelling from a different country, or just want to make absolutely sure, check your visa requirements.
Getting around: The main area of Cartagena is quite small, so you can easily see all the best sights by walking. If you want to explore further afield then your best bet is to hail a taxi, collectivo (like a bigger taxi which holds more people), bus or an Uber. Here is a more detailed guide to public transport in Cartagena you can also check out.
Power Plugs: Colombia uses Type A and B power plugs which are the same as those used in China, Japan, North and Central America. If you're travelling to Cartagena from a different country than the ones listed above then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: Accidents happen when you're travelling, and the last thing you want is to be stranded after a cancelled flight or sick and unable to see a doctor. We always travel with a travel insurance so that we're protected in case something unforeseen happens. We love WorldNomads because they offer very extensive cover for travel and it's easy to make a claim online when needed.
Safety and Security: While you might be covered with your travel insurance, unfortunately, things can happen when travelling where you need immediate assistance. One of the ways we stay safe while travelling is by using the CloseCircle ‘virtual bodyguard' app, a service you can access easily on your phone which provides everything from advice to evacuation. Read more about why we love it in our full post on ways to stay safe while travelling.
Vaccinations: If you're travelling to Cartagena then you should make sure you are up to date with all routine vaccines (especially measles). The CDC also recommends travellers to Colombia get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. You should always check the most recent information on the CDC website though.
Currency: The currency used in Cartagena and the rest of Colombia is the Colombian peso, which is abbreviated to COP. The regular dollar symbol is used with Colombian pesos, or sometimes COL$ to distinguish it from other currencies. $1 USD converts to around COL$3,100, £1 to roughly COL$4,000 and €1 to around COL$3,600.
Tipping culture: Tipping is not generally expected in places in Colombia but travellers often tip a few thousand pesos (50 cents to a dollar in USD) to hotel housekeeping, especially in more touristy areas like Cartagena. In restaurants and spas, a 10% optional service charge is usually added to your bill which you can choose to pay or not.
Internet access: Most of the hotels, hostels, restaurants and cafes in Cartagena offer free WiFi. There are also some internet cafes if you are looking to get online. If you don't want to rely on finding reliable WiFi while out and about, or just know that you will be using a lot of bandwidth, then it might be wise to buy a local SIM card online before you go.
Online privacy: The Colombian government does not place any restrictions on internet usage, so you won't need to worry about keeping your online activities a secret. If you just personally prefer to use a virtual private network then we recommend ExpressVPN. Their VPN service is a very reliable and affordable way to keep your information private.
Accommodation: If you want more accommodation options for Cartagena then make sure you check out Booking.com. We love using their online system because they have all the best hotels for great prices, which often includes free cancellation. Their customer service is very good as well, and it's so easy to book online.
Sightseeing and adventure: When searching for fun activities to do in Cartagena we like to use GetYourGuide. They always have lots of exciting options, the booking process is really simple and their 24/7 online support is excellent.
When to visit: The best time to visit Cartagena is during the region's dry season, between December – April, when the heat is high but the humidity is low. If you really want to avoid the tourists in the busy summer season you can travel at other times, but be aware that it will probably rain a lot more and be very humid. Cartagena is one place where it's kind of best to visit during the popular period.
Gay map of Cartagena
We've put together this gay map of Cartagena showing where all the gay friendly places we've mentioned in this guide. We hope you find it helpful when planning your own gay trip to Cartagena.
For more inspiration:
- plan your trip around the country with Indiana Jo's best places to visit in Colombia
- check out our gay city guide to Bogota
- as well as our gay travel guide to Medellin
- read about the awesome colourful flower festival of Medellin
- learn more from our interesting and fun facts about Colombia
- find out the best and most famous foods of Colombia
- read what it's like growing up gay in Colombia
- check out our romantic guide for Bogota
- as well as our romantic things to do in Cartagena