Bogota vs Cartagena – While Bogota is centered on art, history, and food, Cartagena is better for a warmer colonial city and beach trip.
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Comparing Bogota vs Cartagena
Choosing between Bogota and Cartagena can be looked at as experiences you want to get out of your trip. And the number of days you have. Colombia is huge, so it will also depend on where you’re planning to go next, in case you’re traveling longer. Bogota and Cartagena both have Spanish colonial architecture and Bogota is focused on a lot of urban art and graffiti. There are also a lot of museums. Read here Cartagena itinerary, Cartagena vs Medellin and Santa Marta vs Cartagena
Cartagena is an old town with beautiful colorful and colonial buildings, but since it’s also a port, beaches are not so far and that’s a great way to actually break from the warmth of the city. Bogota on the hand is one of the highest cities in the world, and you should expect the weather to be really cold here, and depending on when you’re visiting, rainy. Let’s look at the similarities and differences below and help you choose between Cartagena and Bogota.
WHERE TO STAY IN CARTAGENA
You can choose from numerous hotels and B&B, especially in the Getsemani area. Accommodation prices can take you around $15-20 USD if you sleep in a dorm. For mid-budget accommodation starts at $40-60 USD and for more than $100 USD you will find luxury accommodation in Cartagena.
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Getting There – Bogota vs Cartagena
Getting to Bogota
By Air: The main airport serving Bogotá is El Dorado International Airport, which is located about 20 kilometers northwest of the city center. There are direct flights to Bogotá from many major cities around the world, as well as flights from other cities in South America.
By Bus: There are regular long-distance bus services from many cities in Colombia and other countries in South America to Bogotá. The main bus terminal in Bogotá is Terminal de Transporte de Pasajeros de Bogotá, located in the north of the city.
By Car: If you are driving to Bogotá, you can reach the city by taking one of the major roads that connect it to other parts of Colombia and South America.
By Train: There are no passenger trains currently operating in Colombia, so the train is not an option for getting to Bogotá.
Getting to Cartagena
By plane: The Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) is located in Cartagena and serves domestic and international flights. You can fly to Cartagena from major cities in Colombia, as well as from some international destinations.
By bus: There are several bus companies that operate routes to Cartagena from major cities in Colombia, such as Bogotá, Medellín, and Santa Marta.
By car: If you have your own transportation, you can drive to Cartagena from major cities in Colombia. The trip from Santa Marta takes about five hours by car.
By boat: If you are coming from nearby islands, such as Isla de Los Piratas or Isla de los Muertos, you can take a boat to Cartagena.
Length of Stay – Bogota vs Cartagena
How Long is Enough to Visit Bogota
The length of your trip to Bogotá will depend on your interests and how much time you have available. Bogotá is a large and vibrant city with a rich history and culture, and there are many things to see and do. Some popular attractions include touring the historic center, visiting the Gold Museum, exploring the numerous parks and green spaces, and trying the local cuisine.
If you want to see the main sights and get a taste of the city, you could plan a trip of about three or four days. This would allow you to spend a day or two touring the city, with time for shopping, dining, and relaxation.
If you have more time and want to experience a wider range of activities, you could stay longer. Colombia is a diverse and fascinating country, and there are many day trips and excursions that you could take from Bogotá. You could also consider traveling to other parts of the country, such as the Caribbean coast or the coffee-growing region.
How Long is Enough to Visit Cartagena
The length of time needed to visit Cartagena depends on your interests and the type of trip you want to have. Here are a few suggestions for how to plan your trip:
If you want to get a taste of Cartagena’s history and culture, two or three days might be enough to visit the main landmarks and landmarks and try some local cuisine.
If you want to spend more time exploring the city and its surroundings, such as the beaches and the Rosario Islands, four or five days might be a good length of stay.
If you want to have a more relaxed trip and spend more time relaxing on the beach or at a resort, you might want to stay for a week or more.
Ultimately, the best length of time for your visit to Cartagena depends on your interests and the type of trip you want to have. It’s a good idea to make a list of the things you want to see and do and then plan your trip accordingly.
Travel Budget – Bogota vs Cartagena
Let’s look at possible expenses, more or less for both Bogota and Cartagena. Please know that these are approximate so make sure you make the necessary calculations and adjustments based on the type of trip you’ll be doing.
Budget for 1 week in Bogota for 1 person
Prices for accommodations in Bogotá can vary widely, depending on the location and amenities of the hotel or hostel. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $100 per night for a basic room, with higher prices for more luxurious accommodations.
The cost of food in Bogotá is relatively affordable, especially if you eat at local restaurants and markets. You can expect to pay around $5 to $10 per meal at a mid-range restaurant, or less if you opt for street food or local markets.
Public transportation in Bogotá is relatively inexpensive, with a single bus or metro ride costing around $0.50. Taxis are also relatively inexpensive, with a short ride within the city center costing around $5 to $10.
The cost of activities in Bogotá will depend on what you are interested in doing. Some attractions, such as museums and galleries, may have an admission fee, while others, such as parks and public squares, are free. You can also find a range of paid tours and excursions that offer a more in-depth experience of the city and its surroundings.
Overall, you can expect to budget around $50 to $100 per day for a week-long trip to Bogotá, including accommodations, food, transportation, and activities. This is just a general estimate, and your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your specific needs and preferences. It’s always a good idea to research your destination and make a budget in advance to ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Budget for 1 week in Cartagena for 1 person
The cost of a week-long trip to Cartagena will depend on a variety of factors, such as your travel style, the type of accommodation you choose, and your spending habits. Here are some estimates for the cost of a one-week trip to Cartagena for one person:
Prices for accommodation in Cartagena range from about $20 per night for a budget hostel to $300 or more per night for a luxury hotel.
The cost of food in Cartagena will depend on where you eat and what you order. Prices at local restaurants and street food stalls are generally lower than at more upscale establishments. You can expect to spend about $10-$20 per day on food, depending on your preferences.
The cost of transportation in Cartagena will depend on your mode of transportation and how much you plan to use it. Taxis are relatively inexpensive, and you can expect to pay about $5-$10 for a one-way trip within the city. Bus tickets cost about $0.50 per ride.
Prices for activities in Cartagena will vary depending on what you want to do. A tour of the city’s historic center might cost about $20-$30, while a trip to the Rosario Islands might cost about $50-$100.
Based on these estimates, you can expect to spend a total of about $800-$1,500 or more for a one-week trip to Cartagena, depending on your travel style and the type of accommodation you choose. It’s a good idea to budget a little extra in case of unexpected expenses.
Things to do in Bogota – Bogota vs Cartagena
1. La Candelaria
Bogota, Colombia’s capital, has one of the oldest and richest histories in Colombia, which is easily seen in architecture. You will love seeing all the buildings in Candelaria and it’s like stepping back in time.
2. Graffiti Tour
Bogota is full of graffiti work and artists, and you’ll see this a lot around the city. You can get a guided solo tour or group tour to see what the top graffiti’s are of some popular and budding artists in Colombia.
3. Street Food Tour
You will love Colombia’s street food scene, and in Bogota City Center, it’s very popular to have the food walking tours. Go around the city and experience local life while tasting some of the best food in the city.
4. Visiting Sanctuary of Monserrate – Bogota vs Cartagena
Monserrate Hill is Bogota’s highest point which has a Cathedral. Sitting at more than 3000 meters, from here you can have an exemplary view of the city. It’s also a nice hike to do, and easily added to some of Bogota’s famous walking tours. Just make sure to prepare for some possible altitude sickness (from light to heavy) as Bogota already stands at 2000 meters and you can get sick without some preparation.
5. Plaza de Bolivar / The Bolivar Square
If you love Bogota, you might just love pre-historic Colombian architecture which is very visible in its main plaza – Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota.
6. Museo Nacional de Colombia
In Bogota, you will see the National Museum of Colombia or Museo Nacional de Colombia. If you love art and history, and loves learning deeper into a country’s culture from it’s old relics, you will love this. This is Colombia’s biggest and oldest Museum.
7. Museo del Oro / Gold Museum – Bogota vs Cartagena
If you’re into museums, you might also want to visit the El Museo del Oro or Museum of Gold which houses 3400 pieces of gold and all of it from prehistory Spanish era – now that’s both precious and historic!
Things to do in Cartagena – Cartagena vs Bogota
1. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a fortress in the city of Cartagena, Colombia. The castle was built in 1536 and is located on the Hill of San Lázaro in a strategic location, dominating approaches to the city by land or sea. It was originally known as the Castillo de San Lázaro. It was built by African slave labor under Spanish supervision during the colonial era. The fortress was involved in several battles between the late 17th to early 19th centuries between European powers.
2. Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandria
The Cathedral of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, officially the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, is located in the historic center of Cartagena. It is the episcopal see of the Archbishop of Cartagena de Indias, one of the oldest episcopal sees in the Americas.
3. Plaza de la Aduana
This is the largest and oldest square in the Old Town and was used as a parade ground. In colonial times all the important governmental and administrative buildings were here. The old Royal Customs House has been restored and is now the City Hall. A statue of Christopher Columbus stands in the center of the square.
4. Las Bovedas (The Vaults) in Cartagena
Souvenir shops are set up within each of the old jail cells and offer a wide variety of “classic” Colombian souvenirs.
Las Bovedas (ie The Vaults) may seem like an odd place for souvenir shops. There is a strong history behind these vaults, as they. have been used as prison cells during colonial times. And now they are places people can buy souevenirs for shopping.
Deemed Cartagena’s hip area, it’s full of colorful street art, and hotels that are cheaper and mid-budget. There are so many small streets here that are full of designs like colorful umbrellas and flaglets and you’ll easily get lost in a sea of Instagrammable areas!
6. Walls of Cartagena – Bogota vs Cartagena
Cartagena is of course most popular for its location as it is one of the most important ports when it comes to trading with the Americas in colonial times. It is also walled due to the wars happening at those times, and the relics are now a big part of what gives this old town its allure and personality.
7. Portal de los Dulces
So much colorful shops around!
8. Plaza de Santa Teresa – Bogota vs Cartagena
With the Cathedral de San Pedro Claver in the background, this plaza is easily one of my favorites. Full of restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, this place has an old town with a lot of modern amenities. It transports you to another place in time, and it’s just lovely to be out here, even with all the Cartagena sun!
9. Plaza de los Coches
It’s honestly hard to differentiate all the plazas around Cartagena. However, if you love walking, you’ll surely see all these places so make sure to not miss them!
10. Casa De Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of the most famous novelists in the world, Gabriel Carcia Marquez died in his home in Colombia. His house is private property, but you can see it from outside, and it’s something you can cross off your list if it’s one of the things you always wanted to experience once in your life!
11. Bahia de Cartagena
A lot of water is surrounding Cartagena, and it just adds to the city’s beauty.
12. Parque Simon Bolivar de Cartagena
This park is created to celebrate the hero, Simon Bolivar, who fought against Spain and is the key to South America’s liberation. He is a prominent name in Latin America’s history, and all the historic area is named under the town, Bolivar, Cartagena.
13. Cartagena Streets and Walls – Cartagena de Indias Colors 444
Frankly, it’s easy to go around Cartagena town and just walk around and enjoy the old town’s historic buildings. They are all colorful, with flowers, and just gives you a feeling of beauty and being transported to another time (I know we’re repeating ourselves, but it’s part of Cartagena’s real beauty)
14. Palenquera in Cartagena
One of the more touristy things to do is take photos with the women in Cartagena, dressed in costumes. Now, this activity gets really touristy, and expect them to charge you some money for taking photos with them.
15. Street Art in Cartagena
All of South America is covered with beautiful graffiti and street art. It’s one of the ways locals have expressed their life experiences and history, and it’s visible in all of South America – like in Colombia and Brazil.
Cartagena is full of beautiful hand-painted walls with graffiti drawn by locals. You can see them around Gethsemani, the backpacker area, but in a lot more places, and a lot of this graffiti have historical significance.
If you love art, you can easily go around Cartagena to see them, or book a walking tour to have a better understanding of what all this art represents.
16. La Boca del Puente and Clock Tower Monument / Munumento Torre del Reloj – Bogota vs Cartagena
One of our favorite areas in Cartagena, and we loved walking here every day! These are housed in Cartagena’s Plaza de Paz.
Beaches to Visit When in Cartagena
Cartagena is a city located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, known for its beautiful beaches and colonial-style architecture. If you are planning a trip to Cartagena and are looking for beaches to visit, here are a few options:
1. Playa Bocagrande
Located on the south side of Cartagena, Playa Bocagrande is a popular tourist destination known for its high-rise hotels and restaurants. You can go swimming, sunbathing, or try water sports such as jet skiing and parasailing.
2. Playa Blanca
Located on a small island just off the coast of Cartagena, Playa Blanca is known for its white sand and crystal-clear water. You can go swimming, sunbathing, or try water sports such as jet skiing and parasailing.
3. Playa del Pozo
Located on the north side of Cartagena, Playa del Pozo is a small, quiet beach with a laid-back atmosphere. You can relax on the sand, go for a swim, or try local seafood at one of the nearby restaurants.
4. Playa Castillogrande
Located on the western side of Cartagena, Playa Castillogrande is a popular beach known for its fine white sand and calm water. You can go swimming, sunbathing, or play beach sports such as volleyball.
5. Playa Manzanillo del Mar
Located on the east side of Cartagena, Playa Manzanillo del Mar is a quiet, secluded beach known for its crystal-clear water and white sand. You can go swimming, sunbathing, or take a walk along the beach.
6. Playa Laguito
Located on the north side of Cartagena, Playa Laguito is a small, quiet beach known for its calm water and fine white sand. You can go swimming, sunbathing, or try local seafood at one of the nearby restaurants.
Popular Day Trips from Cartagena
Rosario Islands / Islas del Rosario
Islas del Rosario or Rosario islands is a 45 minutes ferry ride from the La Bodeguita dock in Cartagena de Indias. Each ticket costs about 30,000 COP and you buy the ticket directly at the pier.
From here, you can get access to other various islands and a fun way to experience another side of Cartagena away from the old walled city (which is a gem by itself).
Isla Baru, Cartagena
Access to Isla Baru can be done by water, crossing the Bay of Cartagena. You can go on the daily boat and yacht tours that leave from Islas del Rosario. If you want to do this another way, you can do so by crossing the Canal del Dique in a planchón or ferry.
Isla Baru is not only popular for its blue waters and white sand beaches, there are also water activities like snorkelling available.
Playa Blanca is one of the popular beaches part of Isla Baru.
Best Time to Visit Bogota
Bogotá is located in the Andean region of South America and has a highland climate with relatively cool temperatures year-round. The best time to visit Bogotá will depend on your personal preferences and the activities you plan to do. Here are some things to consider when deciding when to visit:
Weather in Bogota
Bogotá has two main seasons: dry and wet. The dry season, which runs from December to March, is generally considered the best time to visit, as the weather is sunny and dry, with daytime temperatures averaging around 70°F (21°C). The wet season, which runs from April to November, is characterized by cooler temperatures and frequent rain showers.
Festivals and events in Bogota
Bogotá is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the International Film Festival in March, the Rock al Parque music festival in July, and the International Theater Festival in November. If you are interested in attending one of these events, you may want to plan your trip accordingly.
Crowds in Bogota
Bogotá is a popular destination year-round, but the city can get more crowded during peak tourist season, which runs from December to February. If you prefer to avoid large crowds, you may want to visit during the shoulder season (September to November or March to May) when the city is less crowded and prices may be lower.
Best time to Visit Cartagena
The best time to visit Cartagena depends on your preferences and the type of trip you are planning. Here are a few things to consider:
Weather in Cartagena
Cartagena has a tropical climate, with hot, humid weather year-round. The rainy season runs from May to November, and the dry season runs from December to April. If you prefer dry, sunny weather, you might want to visit during the dry season. However, the rainy season can also be a good time to visit, as the showers are often brief and the prices for accommodation and flights may be lower.
Crowds in Cartagena
Cartagena is a popular tourist destination, and the city can get quite crowded during peak season, which runs from December to April. If you prefer to avoid crowds, you might want to visit during the off-peak season.
Festivals and events in Cartagena
Cartagena is home to many festivals and events throughout the year, such as the Cartagena International Film Festival and the Cartagena Music Festival. To experience one of these events, you’ll need to plan your trip accordingly.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Cartagena depends on your personal preferences and the type of trip you want to have. It’s a good idea to consider the weather, crowds, and events when planning your trip.
Cash and ATMs in Colombia
The official currency of Colombia is called Colombian Peso (COP). And $1 USD=4000 COP. ATMs are available all throughout the country but my advice to you is to use those inside the banks.
And it is also advisable to withdraw as much as you can because fees for transactions tend to be higher for foreign cars. The maximum amount that you can withdraw will be around 600K COP depending on the bank.
Final Thoughts on Cartagena vs Bogota
Between Bogota and Cartagena, we choose Cartagena! Now you can’t go wrong with either, and in fact, we have so much love for the city of Bogota. While Bogota and Cartagena both have historic and colonial buildings, Bogota is a modern urban city, a huge one at that, while Cartagena has a port, it has incredible colonial old towns and architecture, and is very close to beaches and island hops are possible. That said, if you have time for both, go for it!
Hope you loved this guide and it helped you let us know what you ended up choosing!
About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.