Getting around in Cartagena

Just like in most major metropolitan areas, Cartagena has many forms of public transportation.  Some are typical; others are rather ingenious.  Today we look at a few ways to getting around.

In the Historic Center of Cartagena, walking is by far the best way to move around.  We found that we could walk from one side of the center to the other in less than half an hour, if we had to get somewhere in a hurry.  But take your time as you walk — there’s so much to see, from historic architecture to balconies full of beautiful flowers.  And if you get really tired, you can flag down one of the many taxis on the street.

Taxis were our favorite method of transportation.  We were staying in Bocagrande, a couple miles out of the Historico Centro area.  We usually spent about 6,000 pesos for a taxi ride into town, which at the time was about $2.50 USD.  Taxis are plentiful and easy to flag.


Yes, I think we can find a taxi

Another type of taxi is a black version of these cars.  These vehicles run more-or-less fixed courses and feature ride sharing.  People flag the vehicle and get in with whoever else is in the car.  Each person pays a share of the fee, which is slightly less that a taxi.  We saw a well dressed young couple, obviously on a date, hop into such a vehicle.

Of course, buses run on the main routes throughout the city.  Here is a typical city bus:


A bus in Bocagrande.  Most of them are crowded during peak hours.

Cartagena had recently started a new bus system.  On the main highway outside of the Historic Center and heading to the primary residential areas, the city had modified the highway and added two lanes in the center dedicated solely to large articulated buses.  These are on a fixed route.  By confiscating some of the traffic lanes, this concept adds to traffic congestion.

cartagena bus

The new articulated bus system

The bus routes are limited to main highways.  We found that there are many areas of Cartagena, especially the poorer areas, where buses do not run and taxis avoid.  But here the residents get creative.  They have vehicles called “colectivos” which are old Toyota Land Cruisers or Land Rovers.  Often driven without a rear door, the drivers stop as people flag them down and drive the passengers into the residential areas.


Several colectivos on a side street


Typical colectivo operation, with no rear door


More of the little trucks, with passengers boarding.

The collectivos have informal routes.  But they are essential for public transportation even if they are not regulated.

Of  course, there’s transportation designed for the tourist industry.  One of the most interesting is the “Chiva”, basically a party bus.


A Chiva in the daylight

Frequently the vehicles are old school buses, some of which were imported from the United States, that have been modified.  Some of the vehicles used during the day are ones like shown above, carrying passengers on tours, often while playing loud Latin American music.  The ones at night are even more interesting.  They feature bright neon lights, loud music, and even bars to serve drinks to the happy passengers.  Supposedly on a tour route, these buses feature the party more than the historic perspective of the area.

Of course, one form of transportation in the historic city center is the horse drawn carriage.


Carriages getting ready at sunset

When a cruise ship is in port, the carriages are plentiful through the day.  But when there are no cruise tourists around (which is most of the week) the carriages come out at dusk.  We enjoyed a tour through the Historic Center one night that was about 45 minutes long and covered most of the walled-in area.

Next up, some famous Cartagena places.

Categories: background, blog, bus, Cartagena, Colombia, people, photos, taxi, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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