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Caribbean coast and islands: Fact file


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When to go

The coast and islands are an all-year destination, with plenty of sun throughout. The rainy season is Aug-Nov when showers can be torrential. Dec-Apr should be pretty rain-free. The beaches can be very busy – and noisy – during holidays and festivals.

Language

Spanish, English.

Getting local currency

Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta using a UK credit or debit card, though you may have to advise your bank first and amounts that can be withdrawn may be lower than in the UK. Be aware that some ATMs are often out of service but there should be a working one nearby.  Banks will offer advances on a credit card, but with a lot of paperwork. Money exchanges (casas de cambio) change US dollars cash (very few accept euros or sterling and the rate will be poor). Don’t change money on the street. Acquire local currency before travelling to Providencia.

Time difference

GMT - 5 hours

Getting there

There are frequent flights from Bogotá to Cartagena, Santa Marta  and Barranquilla (each 1.5hrs). The three main cities on the coast are a couple of hours apart by road.  Santa Marta is the closest city to Tayrona, the beach and national park which is a 4hr drive from Cartagena. Combines with:  Colombia’s most graceful and atmospheric cities, Cartagena; Bogotá, Colombia’s vigorous capital, where the dynamic of this mountain city contrasts with the laid back attitudes of the Caribbean (1.5hrs by air). 

Combines with

Colombia’s most graceful and atmospheric cities, Cartagena; Bogotá, Colombia’s vigorous capital, where the dynamic of this mountain city contrasts with the laid back attitudes of the Caribbean (1.5hrs by air).

Key events

Carnival: Barranquilla, 5 days in Feb/Mar, variable: 28 Feb–4 Mar 2014. A riotous mélange of Afro-Caribbean-Latin exuberance, with vivid-costumed parades, live music, dancing and competitions.

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