Whether you’re just visiting for vacation or a resident, it’s good to be aware of all the the different methods of transportation in Cartagena, Colombia. In this guide to getting around Cartagena you’ll find a comprehensive and detailed guide to transportation in Cartagena, including how to take the bus in Cartagena, the correct taxi prices in Cartagena, and how to get to and from the Cartagena airport.
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Getting Around Cartagena: Public Transportation in Cartagena
Knowing how to get around is important! That is especially true when you’re coming to a foreign country, and especially if you might not be a native or great speaker of the language (in this case Spanish). It’s also important to know your options for public transportation in Cartagena to help save some money and make sure you’re not being overcharged.
Of course, around the central Walled City, aka El Centro, you can actually walk around most of the main sites and attractions. However, you’ll still want to know about getting around Cartagena for when you do head outside the Walled City.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good option for transportation in Cartagena that will get you to the main sites, consider the Hop-on Hop-off Tour Bus. I know, I know, it’s a bit hokey, but considering it has 14 stops, includes a complementary walking tour of the old town, and has a 48 hour option, you can actually save a bit on going back and forth between the main sites outside the walled city. You can get a ticket online at GetYourGuide or Latin American specialists DayTours4U.
Later in the evening it may also be best to take a taxi. So read on to learn all about the different forms of transportation in Cartagena. This guide does have a focus on visitors and the areas around the central tourist area around the Walled City.
*By the way if you’re planning a trip to Cartagena, do check out our guide to the best areas to stay before making your reservations.
Even if you plan on coming to Cartagena not just as a tourist but to live, this guide to public transportation in Cartagena should still help you get settled and get your bearings while you learn all the ropes.
If you are planning or considering a move to Cartagena soon, ExpatsGroup.co can help you with arranging your visa, opening a business, legal and tax services, and even getting health insurance. The same way you wouldn’t want to navigate Cartagena’s streets without reading this post, don’t try to navigate its difficult bureaucracy alone. Take advantage of their expert service on the ground here in Colombia and arrange an appointment with them today!
Taxis in Cartagena
Taxis are the easiest way of getting around Cartagena, and they are likely to be your most used form of transportation in Cartagena, especially if you’re just visiting.
While Cartagena’s taxis are the most expensive in the country and prices to go longer distances can be expensive, they’re still considerably cheaper than in the United States or other more developed countries.
Therefore, if you’re just in town on vacation and sticking to the areas near the waterfront, taxis are likely to be your best bet for easy and reliable transportation in Cartagena. The one trick is knowing the correct taxi prices in Cartagena, which I will give you a summary of below.
Note that licensed taxis should be yellow and have their license plate number and a “servicio publico” label on them. Taxis can be stopped easily on the street and are for the most part plentiful and easy to flag down except for very late at night or very early in the morning.
Additionally, any hotel, restaurant, bar, or club should be willing to call you a taxi if you ask them to do so. Also you can use the app EasyTaxi to call for a taxi and track it in real time if you know the address you are going to and have a phone and internet service.
The most important thing you should remember when taking taxis in Cartagena is to always ask for the price. There are no meters in taxis here, and while there are many honest taxi drivers, as a whole the taxis in Cartagena have a reputation for overcharging, even natives.
When you stop your taxi, state where you area going and ask how much the fare is. It’s best to always make sure you’ve established an agreed upon price before getting into the taxi and be willing to negotiate or simply shut the door and flag down another.
Is there Uber in Cartagena?
Uber had always existed in a sort of legal gray area in Colombia. It has caused controversy with taxi companies and unions opposing it. At one point it was banned, however, a mid-2020 court decision overturned that ban, and according to this article (in Spanish) it will be returning.
Given the propensity of some taxi drivers to try to overcharge, Uber makes for a good and safe alternative. In addition to knowing the price ahead of time, you also can be sure of safety since you can see the driver’s rating as well as the route itself. If you haven’t used Uber before, you can get a discount on your first few rides if you sign up here.
Another similar service to Uber is InDriver, which allows you to make your own offer of what you’re willing to pay for your fare. You can sign up for InDriver here.
But just what are the correct prices for taxis in Cartagena?
There are official, legal prices for Cartagena taxi fares that are defined every year by legal decree. The fares are based on distance, with different areas of the city being defined as different zones and different prices between each zone.
There has not been a new decree in 2020 so far (this was last updated in August 2020), so the prices are the same as 2019. The minimum taxi price in Cartagena is $7,000 pesos with a $500 peso extra charge at night between 9 pm and 5 am. For a complete listing of the prices, you can consult the official decree (.pdf in Spanish) setting the taxi prices in Cartagena for 2019.
Here is a quick summary of what you should expect to pay for the cost of taxis in Cartagena, focused on the most commonly traveled areas:
- Between the Centro or Getsemaní and Bocagrande, Laguito, or Castillogrande expect to pay 7-10,000 pesos.
- Between the Centro or Getsemaní and El Cabrero, Marbella, Crespo, Manga, or Pie de la Popa expect to pay 7-8,000 pesos.
- Between Bocagrande, Laguito, or Castillo Grande, and El Cabrero, Marbella, Crespo, Manga, or Pie de la Popa expect to pay 10,000 pesos.
- Between the Centro or Getsemaní and Hotel Las Americas or Zona Norte expect to pay 15-20,000 pesos.
- Between the city and Playa Blanca expect to pay 75-100,000 pesos. Note there are cheaper options for transportation to Playa Blanca and if you choose to do a taxi, you are probably better off negotiating for a price for the day that includes a return trip.
Cost of a Taxi from the Cartagena Airport
Note that there is an electronic kiosk just to the right of where you exit customs in Cartagena’s airport. If you enter the neighborhood or address where you’re going, it will print you a ticket showing the correct price.
If you’re arriving on a domestic flight, there is a window to the left when you come out from claiming your bag where they give you the ticket.
There are nearly always taxi drivers hustling outside both exits who besides being parked a block away usually will try to overcharge you as well, so it’s best to just get the ticket. Here’s a summary of the prices for taxis from the airport in Cartagena. Returning to the airport should cost approximately the same.
- To Centro, Getsamaní, Marbella, and El Cabrero expect to pay 11,500 pesos.
- To some hotels in Centro you will have to pay 13,900 pesos.
- To Bocagrande, Laguito, or Castillogrande expect to pay 19,700 pesos.
- To Manga or Pie de la Popa expect to pay 16,300 pesos.
Cost of a Taxi From the Cartagena Bus Terminal
- To Pie de la Popa expect to pay 13,000-15,000 pesos.
- To Manga, Centro, or Getsemaní expect to pay 15-20,000 pesos.
- To Bocagrande, El Cabrero, Marbella, Crespo, or the airport expect to pay 26,000 pesos.
While legally speaking a taxi driver has to give you the correct price and is not supposed to refuse you service, many may not want to take you for less than what they want or very far if they think traffic will be bad. Again, stick to your guns and be willing to flag down another. That being said, if its 3 a.m., you’re in a hurry, or you just don’t feel like arguing, it’s your decision if saving a few extra thousand pesos is really worth the hassle or if they’re worth simply charging to the game.
You can also look to hire a taxi for several hours or the entire day, and some taxi drivers may even offer to give you a city tour. Again be sure to be clear on the price and be willing to negotiate.
Collective Taxis in Cartagena
Collective taxis are basically shared taxis that charge a fixed fee per person and follow a set route. Depending on where you are getting them, they wait until they are full (4 people per taxi) to leave or pick up people along the way.
Collective taxis are easily identified on the road by their quick beeps of the horn and the driver holding up their pointer finger or by the line of stopped taxis, usually with someone shouting their route.
If you are along a route and want to hail a collective taxi, hold up the same pointer finger and wiggle/bend it towards your palm (I’m not really sure what the appropriate description of that action is) as a taxi approaches. If it’s empty, it’s probably a good idea to verify it is in fact a collective taxi.
If you are going somewhere along the route and are alone or with just one other person and not carrying much, they can be a great option to save a few thousand pesos. Note that proper etiquette is to ask where other passengers will exit so the first to exit will sit to the right (unless of course you are first and get to claim the front seat).
Below is a quick summary of some of the collective taxis’ prices and routes:
Crespo to Centro
These start on the main avenue in Crespo (you can get them if your are willing to walk a block out of the airport and don’t have much baggage).
After leaving Crespo, they continue along the waterfront Avenida Santander through Marbella and El Cabrero. You can usually flag down one with an open space in Marbella and El Cabrero too if you are headed to Centro.
They enter Centro by the entrance near San Diego and then some loop around to the front of Exito in San Diego.
These Cartagena collective taxis have a cost of 2,500 pesos per person.
Centro to Crespo
They line up in front of Exito San Diego (to the far right) and follow a similar route to Crespo (note if you are stopping along the waterfront in El Cabrero or Marbella, tell them where as they often follow the back route to avoid the traffic on Avenida Santander).
The cost again is 2,500 pesos per person.
Bocagrande to Centro
They can be hailed along Carrera 3a and arrive in front of the Hotel San Felipe Plaza across from the Parque Centenario.
This collective taxi route has a cost of 2,300 pesos per person.
Centro to Bocagrande
These wait for passengers in front of Exíto San Diego (ask if you’re unsure if they are these or the Crespo ones). They go to Bocagrande, going up the Avenida San Martín (Avenida Segunda). They can also be taken to Castillo Grande.
The cost 2,200 pesos to Bocagrande or 2,500 pesos to Castillo Grande.
There are other private forms of transportation in Cartagena. There is a fleet of white SUVs that usually work directly with hotels, although they sometimes are willing to pick you up on the street. If you happen to hail one, expect to pay about the same price as a normal taxi.
You also may occasionally see people in private cars offer to take you somewhere. Unless you have strong Spanish skills and know the city or at least the route you should take to where you are going, I’d advise against taking them up on their offer. If you do take one, expect to pay about the same price as a taxi.
There are also motorcycle taxis in Cartagena, although they’ve been restricted in some neighborhoods. They can be handy if you are looking for a cheap form of transportation and going somewhere buses do not stop or if you are in a hurray. The reason they are quicker is because they can weave through traffic, so you have to decide if you are comfortable with that or not. I used to take mototaxis all the time but generally avoid them now. Like with regular taxis, be sure to negotiate the price before you hop on.
Transcaribe is a system of public transportation in Cartagena that was opened in 2016. It is meant to function in the vein of a subway with lanes and stations especially for it through Centro and down the main thoroughfares of the city.
It is still working on expanding to serve the entire city, but it is an option for cheap transportation in Cartagena. The buses and stations can get quite full (and you get to see people basically act like cattle getting on and off) at rush hour, but if you aren’t crunched in or can get a seat, the buses are quite comfortable and even have air conditioning.
To access Transcaribe, you must have a card with money loaded on it (like a metrocard). The cards can be bought at the windows at stations and have a cost of 4,000 pesos. A ride costs 2,300 pesos. If you already have a card, you can add money to it at stations or at places such as Giros Colombia.
Transcaribe has some smaller buses called alimentadores (feeders/connectors) that run off the main thoroughfares and are designed to pick up passengers and connect them to the main line, although they also run though the main line but stop at fewer stations.
The feeder buses stop at the large rectangles marked SITM in the street. If you’re on board be sure to press the little red button located near the doors as you approach your stop so the driver knows to stop and open the doors for you to get off.
There is a feeder bus (The T103 Portal-Bocagrande) that runs through Bocagrande and stops at Bodeguita station in front of the docks in Centro and at Chambacú station in front of Mall Plaza.
There is also a feeder bus (the T102 Portal-Crespo) that runs from Crespo along Avenida Santander through Marbella and El Cabrero and goes by the entrance to Centro near the Statue of India Catalina before stopping at the station in front of Mall Plaza. On the return trip it runs through Centro stopping at the Centro station in front of Centro Uno before following the wall along Avenida Santander back through El Cabrero and Marbella to Crespo.
The main buses are made up of a series of express buses that stop at only some stations, the feeders that run through different areas and also only stop at some stations, and the 101 that stops at every station. Unfortunately, for some reason Transcaribe does not appear to just have a simple map of its system easy to find on its website. However, this article from El Universal shows the routes and stops of the main feeders and this table shows the stations where the different routes stop.
Transcaribe was meant to replace Cartagena’s less well organized system of buses, and as it has started to come online, some of the old buses have been phased out, but many are still running, particularly those that serve areas where Transcaribe’s buses still do not go.
These buses (often referred to as busetas) can be identified by their bright colors and the guys called sparrings that hang out the door shouting out the route trying to get passengers. There are no designated stops and they can be hailed down or passengers can call for stops anywhere along their routes.
Each bus has the name of the neighborhood where the route begins and a list of some of the neighborhoods it passes through on the windshield (pay attention to this list because there are some buses that have the same name at the top but follow different routes). If you’re not entirely sure if a bus goes past your destination or when you should get off, ask the sparring and/or the bus driver. Usually they are happy to help you.
Given the fact that Transcaribe is growing, while these are being phased out more and more, I would recommend that most tourists just avoid them now. It prevents any issue with not knowing the routes or getting lost, and the price is the same as Transcaribe anyways.
The one exception I’d make is if you are going to Centro from Bocagrande, you can easily hop one of these buses if they go by and get out along the wall. Otherwise, I’d just stick to one of these other ways of getting around Cartagena.
There are car rental companies by the airport. Unless you are planning to travel outside of Cartagena and prefer driving yourself, I would say it is not worth renting a car. Taxis and plentiful and parking in Cartagena can be difficult, especially in Centro.
Also, people drive very aggressively here you should be sure you are comfortable with that. However, if you feel you need your own car, then a rental could be an option for transportation in Cartagena.
One thing to keep an eye out for if you do rent a car is what’s called pico y placa. There is a rotational prohibition of cars with license plates ending in certain numbers as a method to reduce traffic. These restrictions apply Monday to Friday during rush hour times from 7-9 a.m., 12-2 p.m., and 5-7:30 p.m. The numbers rotate through the week and are changed every few months. Consult the numbers and dates on the transportation authority’s site here.
You can rent a car in Cartagena at the following sites:
- Expedia.com (you can also get hotel and flight packages here)
- SkyScanner.com (great for comparing flights too)
And there you have it, a comprehensive guide on all the means of transportation in Cartagena. I hope it helps you getting around!
Cheers and Happy Exploring!
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Planning your trip to explore Cartagena?
Check out the following posts to help plan:
Insider’s Guide to the Best Areas to Stay in Cartagena
Complete Packing List for Cartagena
Top Things to Do in Cartagena