How I Ended Up in Cartagena, Colombia for Cheap

Written by: Farrin S.

I randomly ended up in Cartagena, Colombia and if you haven’t ready my blog on how to find cheap flights, shame on you!  Here’s another instance when I chased the FARE and not the destination.

I have a pretty ridiculous bucket list and I have focused on visiting every continent before August 2016. With that said, I still needed to visit, South America, Australia, and Antarctica in a year’s time. Most people immediately start to add up figures and run the numbers on these locations and somehow come to the erroneous conclusion that I must be rich. FALSE. Well actually I’m rich but not in regards to money. My experiences have made me rich but I am NOT rolling in money in the least bit.   Just like anything you want badly enough, you make happen. I’ll be blogging more about this topic at a later time but I budget for what I want to do, I am flexible with my travel, and I’m reasonable.  That’s how I landed flights and dope penthouse in Cartagena in just under $500.

How Sway? Well although I had my sights set on traveling to Brazil this fall… A friend of mine called me and said “Hey Farrin flights for Barranquilla,Colombia are XXX. I’m going (on this date) you down?” I happened to be in the car at the time on a conference call, but knowing the sensitivity of flight deals and recognizing that these tickets were probably limited, I assured him I’d purchase as soon as I was able to pull over to stop my vehicle. Had I researched Colombia? No. Did I know where we’d stay? Absolutely not. Was I concerned about the bad stigma Colombia has? Not really, all things are relative. Everywhere has dangerous neighborhoods! Take calculated risk, and be smart. Do I speak Spanish? Does intermediate Spanglish count? Did I even know the city that we were flying into? Barran—what?

Needless to say  being flexible was the number one reason why this trip was able to be such a success. I knew that between the point at which I purchased and the time I traveled, I may or may not find a place, I may be a little more familiar with the city, and may pick up some Spanish (ok I lied).  But hey, I’m getting better at this travel life and a lot more open and flexible. So I got stable, booked my ticket, and called my sister and asked her if she wanted to roll since it was close to her big birthday.  Her response when I asked did she want to go to Colombia: “Is that a real question?! Email me the details and I’ll buy now” was her response.

Our trip quickly grew to 20 Young professionals traveling to Colombia on a complete whim. But we all got our tickets for $250 RT with no extra baggage fees (s/o to Copa Airlines).
It was time to research where I actually was flying into.  Barranquilla is a great city and is most well-known for hosting Carnival in February (second largest to the one that’s in Rio, who knew?!).  But outside of Carnival it was highly recommended to travel to Santa Marta or Cartagena since they both were close by. We decided on Cartagena.

I began the housing search since most of us prefer to stay in homes vs. hotels (stay tuned on my blog about the differences) and it was surprisingly difficult to find a home to house all of us. I’ve literally booked AirBnBs or other vacation home websites alike all over the world and never ran into such fraudulent activity than I did in Cartagena. There were hundreds of the same houses on multiple sites, with different listing agents, for different pricing. If you ever encounter this RUN! Someone is trying to scam you out of your money somehow.  Always, always, check the reviews! If there are none do your due diligence with researching the home. You don’t want to find yourself in a sticky situation when it’s time for you to check-in.

After much discussion we finally decided to break up into smaller groups for housing. I quickly was able to secure a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath penthouse within the walled city of Cartagena with the ability to sleep 6 (and way more if you count the outside hammocks). And it was an amazing find!  I had tons of correspondence with the listing agent making our transition as smooth as possible since we had such a late arrival. Although the language barriers were MAD real, we found our house, checked in, and were simply blown away by how gorgeous and authentically Colombian our house was. We had two extremely nice, helpful, and friendly housekeepers that assisted us (by way of google translate) with all of our needs.
All in all, we got the house and flight for under $500 USD per person, and honestly we could have stayed somewhere not as nice for less. I know people that spend more than that on a trip to MIA, Vegas , or even NYC.  Cheap travel is totally possible and sensible. So what was on the agenda to do while in Cartagena? There were three things that I had on my list as MUST:
Diving at a ship wreck in the Colombia Caribbean, see all of the Caribbean Islands and Beaches that are raved about, and explore the old City and Visit the San Felipe de Barajas Castle.
I was on the fence about staying in Old city because there is so much in Cartagena, but I’m glad I decided to stay there. It was beautiful! Everything was so colorful, so vibrant, the architecture was interesting, but it definitely had a lot of culture to offer.
Our activities on day on changed to the follow: Exchange our cash, find a GSM Sim card for our phones, find cool bars and breakfast spots in the walled city, go see the castle, and getting Lost in Old City Cartagena.

Even though none of us spoke any Spanish we were able to accomplish all of these activities and literally walked all of the old city.  That night we got tickets for a party bus that took us around to some local bars, gave us unlimited rum, and played Colombian music.  It was NOT your conventional party bus, it was more like a large covered wagon. Nonetheless we had an amazing time! It was highly recommended to Visit some of the Islands close by so we spent all of Saturday Island hopping. We were able to rent a beautiful yacht (with a skipper of course) to take us around to some good snorkeling and local gems. We had and amazing time, we were able to enjoy delicious lobster on the beach for an extremely reasonable cost.
Cartagena, Colombia has probably been my most random trip to date. I had such a great time and would love to go back to the country to explore more!