Are things mostly open?
Yes. Unfortunately we had a lot of casualties during the long, long months that Cartagena was completely shut down and businesses that rely on tourism were still having to pay rent and wages. It's honestly so heartbreaking to walk around and see "for rent" signs where previously our friends had thriving businesses. Or maybe worse, a chain take their place. (sad face) But the places that survived, are all doing their best to re-activate whilst still complying with all the measures that are now required. Expect to find lots of restaurants, some great bars, some fantastic cafes, lots of islands and beach clubs, hair and beauty salons, some massage businesses and spas, museums, and even live music venues (hoorah!)
What measures/restrictions have been put in place?
Oh wow, a lot. And it also depends on the venue. Here's some of them:
- Mask wearing in public, upon entering any closed space such as shops, restaurants, cafes etc
Once you are seated at your table and ready to eat/drink.. the mask can be removed. You'll need to put it on to go to the bathroom or to generally move around the space.
- Anti-bacterial gel EVERYWHERE. Before you enter any venue, on the tables, in the streets.
- Taking your temperature all the time. From the airport to wherever you're staying, before entering shopping malls, bars or restaurants. Like 20 times a day. Whoever was smart enough to be an early importer of those temperature readers is laughing all the way to the bank.
- Bars and restaurants will likely require you to complete an online registration form upon entering. you'll include your name and ID and whether you are experiencing any covid-like symptoms.
- Early closure. Bars and restaurants aren't permitted to stay open past midnight. Sigh. If this is just too early for you, and you're creative, you may be able to find work-arounds such as lock-ins at small venues, private boat or islands parties, private parties at home etc
It might also be a sign to start drinking earlier before the cinderalla rule comes into effect. Hello day drinking! (May we suggest the Townhouse weekend bottomless brunch for example?)
- Curfews. In an attempt to curb the rising numbers of infections in the outer-neighbourhoods of Cartagena, an after-dark curfew has been put in place preventing restaurants, bars and gatherings past 8pm. This neighbourhoods are not in the main tourist zone of Cartagena (ie centro, bocagrande, getsemani, marbella, crespo etc etc) and will likely not have any impact on you arriving as a tourist. But if you are in doubt, feel free to send us a message.
- Seated. So in order to be permitted to be in a restaurant or bar or cafe etc, you have to be seated. This means that any dancing has to be chair dancing. We know. This hurts us too. On the plus side, if having to dance in public makes you break out in sweat, now you have a perfect excuse.
- Reduced capacity. Normally by at least 50%. Restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, transport, tour buses, boats, islands etc etc have had to restrict the usual number of guests they can receive. It's making it super hard for many businesses to be able to operate in anything close to a profitable/sustainable way. So feel free to eat and drink twice as much to compensate!
Do you have to quarantine upon arrival?
If you don't have symptoms and haven't tested positive you don't have to quarantine. If you do have to quarantine, we can probably help you find a good place to do it so send us an email.
Can you do tours?
OMG please do a Cartagena Connections tour! We have had like no income all year! Plus we are really good! Everyone says so* We would recommend our food/culture tour (which we are renaming "shortcut to local" tour), the mercado bazurto tour, our history tour, a photo tour, or our getsemani tour, plus our private tours which can be customised depending on what you are most interested in. We have great English (and can also do Spanish and French and German), we are either born and bred here (or in Kristy's case have lived here since 2012) and we create the type of tours that are perfect for people who don't really like tours. More like you are hanging out with a local friend. The other good thing about our tours is that we try and involve the whole community. So your tourism dollar gets spread wider and can do more good.
Ok. Sorry. Got worked up. You can also do mangrove tours, bike tours to tierra bomba, tours of the fortress, the red bus tours that are everywhere, cocktail tours, chiva bus tours etc etc check out options under the DAY menu tab above.
Are clubs open?
ok already kind of answered this, but to elaborate a bit.. because the capacity has been reduced by so much and because they have to close so early, a lot of clubs
(like previously mega-popular La Movida) have felt it is not viable to open. We will be putting together a list of some of the best options that are still open ASAP. And if we haven't, please harass us until we do.
Can you go to the beach?
Yes. Kind of. Not all of Cartagena's local beaches are open. Not all of the beach clubs in the islands are open. But there's lots that are. Any beach you visit requires pre-registration.
There's 5 local public beaches that are open which you can reserve via this government website: https://reservadeplayas.cartagena.gov.co/
In practice, as a tourist, you can probably get a spot as a walk-up.
The beach has been divided into roped off sections and to be honest it all feels much better organised than it did before. Here's a photo we took last Sunday.
Can you see live music?
Yes! If you are of the opinion that Cartagena wouldn't be Cartagena without music, fear not. Venues such as Cuba 1940s, Calle Adentro, Tertulia plus a whole bunch of restaurants and also street performers are ensuring that you can get your live music fix. RIP Bazurto Social Club (audible sobs).
Is it safe?
Whether you want to leave your house during a pandemic is a decision you have to make on your own. Security-wise, the touristic zone of Cartagena remains a very safe destination, and you may also take into consideration the fact that the bio-security/anti-covid measures here are probably stricter than where you're coming from in making your decision.
What's the general atmosphere? Is it worth travelling there now?
The overall vibe is colourful, vibrant, fun, positive, optimistic (with masks and antibac gel). If you've been to Cartagena before and bemoaned the fact that it was feeling too touristy - well that's not such a problem any more. The vast majority of the tourists now are from other parts of Colombia. You will find everyone, from your hotel, your guides, your restaurants, your barmen etc very very happy to welcome you. To be honest it's kind of awesome. If we weren't broke. haha (cries).
If you're debating a trip to Colombia and Cartagena (and you're not super worried about leaving your house and getting on a plane) then I think yes, it's worth it. It's summer, there's lots of open-air activities, and it's still Cartagena.. which even during a pandemic, is mega charming and enchanting and fun.
Hope that helps!
*almost (not, for example a particular recurrent troll who gives us no-star reviews that barely make sense from multiple fake accounts. sigh)