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Getting there & away




The bus terminal is on the eastern outskirts of the city, far away from the center. Large green-and-white Metrocar buses shuttle between the city and the terminal every 10 minutes (US$0.50, 40 minutes). In the center, you can catch them on Av Daniel Lemaitre. Catch one with the red letters on the board, which goes by a more direct route and is faster. Avoid slower local buses.

Half-a-dozen buses go daily to Bogotá (US$43, 20 hours) and another half a dozen to Medellín (US$40, 13 hours). Buses to Barranquilla run every 15 minutes or so (US$4, two hours), and some continue on to Santa Marta; if not, just change in Barranquilla. Unitransco has one bus to Mompós at 7am (US$15, eight hours).

Three bus companies - Expreso Brasilia (663 2119), Expresos Amerlujo (653 2536) and Unitransco/Bus Ven (663 2065) - operate buses to Caracas, Venezuela (US$68, 20 hours) via Maracaibo (US$37, 10 hours). Unitransco is a bit cheaper than the other two, but you have to change buses on the border in Paraguachón. Each company has one departure daily. All buses go via Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Maicao. While the service is fast and comfortable, it's not that cheap. You'll save quite a bit if you do the trip to Caracas in stages by local transport, with a change in Maicao and Maracaibo.

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There is no ferry service between Cartagena and Colón in Panama, and there are very few cargo boats. More boats operate between Colón and Barranquilla, some of which will take passengers, motorcycles and even cars, but these services are irregular and infrequent.

A far more pleasant way of getting to Panama is by sailboat. There are various boats, mostly foreign yachts, that take travelers from Cartagena to Colón via San Blas Archipelago (Panama) and vice versa, but this is not a regular service. The trip takes four to six days and normally includes a couple of days at San Blas for snorkeling and spear fishing. It costs US$220 to US$270, plus about US$30 for food. It can also be organized as a return trip from Cartagena, in which case the boat doesn't go as far as Colón, but only to San Blas (about US$250, 10 days).

Check the advertising boards at Casa Viena and Hotel Holiday in Cartagena for contact details. Boats include the Golden Eagle (311 419 0428) and the Melody (315 756 2818; freshaircharters@yahoo.com); both have semiregular departures.

Beware of any con men attempting to lure you into 'amazing' Caribbean boat trips. The most reliable boats trips will be organized via Casa Viena.

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The airport is in Crespo, 3km northeast of the old city, and is serviced by frequent local buses. Also, there are colectivos to Crespo, which depart from Monumento a la India Catalina. By taxi, there's a surcharge of US$1.50 on airport trips. It's US$3 from the center to the airport, but it'll be only US$1.50 if you ask the driver to leave you on the corner of Av 4 and Calle 70, just 100m before the airport. The terminal has two ATMs and the Casa de Cambio América (in domestic arrivals), which changes cash and traveler's checks.

All major Colombian carriers operate flights to and from Cartagena. There are flights to Bogotá (US$90 to US$120 one way), Cali (US$120 to US$150), Cúcuta (US$90 to US$130), Medellín (US$80 to US$125), San Andrés (US$270 to US$300 return) and other major cities.

Avianca (664 5650; Edificio Caja Agraria) flies to Miami via Bogotá. Copa (664 1018; Calle Gastelbondo No 2-107) has daily flights to Panama City for US$280. AeroRepública (664 9079; Centro, Av Venezuala, Centro Comercial invercredito) has flights to Bogota (US$100 one way), Cali (US$143 one way), Medellín (US$107 one way) and San Andrés (US$272 return).

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