Cartagena, Colombia | Five Minute Guide

Cartagena, Colombia | Five Minute Guide

If you want to go to Cartagena, Colombia, please spend a few minutes getting some vital information to get around this beautiful city.

Colombia Capital

The capital of Colombia is Bogota. It is located in the northwest part of South America. Cartagena is in northern Colombia.


Cartagena Size

This beautiful city has a lot beaches and the size of the city is approximately 220 square miles or about 352 square kilometers.

Cartagena Population

The total of Cartagena population is a little bit more than 1 million people. According to Macrotrends,  1,079,000 people live in this metro area in 2022.

Colombia Language

The official language of the Colombia is Spanish.

Colombia Currency

The official currency of Colombia is The Colombian peso (P). People and shops in Cartagena accepts United States dollars, credit card and travelers checks.

Colombia Tourist Information

If you need information about tourist in Colombia, just call 665-1843

Colombia History

The Chibchas (CHEEB chaz) Indians originally inhabited Colombia. They lived in the mountains of Colombia long before the Americas were discovered. The Chibchas were an advanced civilization and are now referred to as “Pre Columbian.” They were excellent goldsmiths and skilled in weaving and pottery. Unfortunately, this was their downfall, since the explorers plundered the Chibchas for their emeralds and gold.

Connection between Spain and Colombia

In 1533 Don Pedro de Heredia found Cartagena. Throughout the 16th century, Spain governed the city through a system of Viceroys. The Spanish conquistadors discovered that the interior of Colombia was rich in gold and emeralds. They shipped these precious items  to Spain. To defend against pirate attacks, King Felipe II ordered a protective wall to be built around the City. In addition, he  instructed to make the streets of the city intentionally narrow and crooked for better protection during assault.

Spain’s Effort to Fortify Cartagena

Despite the king’s effort, Cartagena was victim to five sieges during the 16th century, the most famous led by Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Drake made it into the Cartagena harbor, but accepted a 10 million peso ransom for not burning the city. After Drake’s siege, Spain redoubled its efforts to fortify Cartagena, and the king ordered to build the massive stone wall around the Old City. They completed the wall in 1686, and it cost Spain 59 million ounces of gold. The investment paid off in 1741. When England attacked with a force of 24,000 men and 186 ships, Cartagena successfully defended itself. The imposing fleet and powerful British army, led by Admiral Vernon and accompanied by the half brother of George Washington Lawrence Washington, could not break the defense.

Fortress in Cartagena

Besides the wall, the king constructed many forts to defend the city. The two that guarded the bay were San Fernando and San Jose. A massive chain stretched between these two forts to keep pirate vessels from easily entering Cartagena’s harbor. Towering over all of these forts was the powerful fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, 135 feet above sea level. They built it in 1657 but the French captured and destroyed the fortress in 1697. The fortress was rebuilt between 1762 and 1769 and remains an impressive structure in Cartagena. In 1876 Rafael Nuñez, a citizen with political powers convinced the government of the historic and economic importance of Cartagena. He also raised funds for the first of many restorations that have occurred in the city ever since. 

In 1895, migration from the Middle East helped revive Cartagena economically. Newcomers were a catalyst for the development of commerce and industry. Today, Cartagena’s economy is largely centered around platinum and timber from the headwaters of the Atrato and San Juan Rivers, coffee from the Sierra Nevada and oil products piped from Barrancabermeja, 335 miles up the Magdalena River.

Cartagena Transportation

If you visit Cartagena by cruise ship, you can find taxis easily at the pier. The main means of transportation in Cartagena are taxis. However, it is advisable that you confirm the fare with the driver before departing. The fares vary according to quality of vehicle, duration of trip, distance of a trip and number of passengers. One way fare to Pierino Gallo and the beaches is approximately $ 20 per cab.

Cartagena Shopping

The Pierino Gallo shopping mall is the main shopping complex in Cartagena port. Do not miss to buy a world-renowned souvenir, a dazzling Colombian emerald. They are set in assortment of styles and are available in rings, bracelets, necklaces and pendants. Besides, you must also remember that you must get the world best coffee to take home. Therefore, make sure you purchase it here. Cartagena also offers you crafts and leather goods.


Banks are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Some of them are open on Saturday mornings.

Post Office

The post office is located one block away from the Pierino Gallo Plaza. It is open from Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Public Phone

Cartagena Public Phones are located throughout the ship terminal.

Cartagena Emergency Number

In case of an emergency, dial 911.


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