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Cartagena: Fact file


When to go

The city is 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 city can be very busy – and noisy – during holidays and festivals.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in the old and new quarters of the city using a UK credit or debit card, though you may have to advise your bank first and amounts that can be withdrawn may be lower than in the UK.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.

Time difference

GMT - 5 hours  

Getting there

There are frequent flights from Bogotá to Cartagena (1.5hrs).

Combines with

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); exquisite coastal Tayrona National Park, which hosts wild, undeveloped, remote-feeling Caribbean beaches and rocky bays mantled with densely packed rainforest vegetation (5hrs by road via Santa Marta); Mompox, tiny colonial town preserved in aspic, literally and figuratively becoming a backwater when the Rio Magdalena changed its course 150 yrs ago (6 hrs by road and launch)

Key events

Hay Festival: Jan, annually. An offshoot of the famous literary festival in Hay-on- Wye, it attracts Latin American and international writers and intellectuals of international renown.
Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, late Jan-early Feb, annually. Horse riders from nearby towns and villages descend on Cartagena and trot through the streets from Bocagrande to the centre and up to the Convento de la Popa, bearing candles.
Caribbean Music Festival, Mar; most years. Bands from all over the Caribbean perform reggae, salsa, and other local musical genres.
International Film Festival, Mar, annually. Every possible venue opens to screen films from all over the continent and the festival is attended by many Latin stars.
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