Is Cartagena Colombia safe? The old city in Cartagena is walled in, and the narrow streets are super charming like here, at night, with well-lit streets and Colonial houses

Is Cartagena Colombia Safe? A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide (2024)

As a full-time traveler, I have explored Central and South America for years, and I have to say I’ve had my fair share of adventures across diverse landscapes and cultures.

Traveling Colombia for over one month really opened my eyes to the country’s incredible beauty, rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality.

A definitive highlight of my stay in Colombia was my time in Cartagena, a destination I did not know too much about before I started researching my trip, and I am so happy I went there!

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Is Colombia Really A Safe Destination For Solo Female Travelers?

Is Cartagena Colombia Safe? Rooftops in Cartagena Colombia at sunset, with a glowing sky.

Truthfully, my loved ones were a bit worried about me traveling solo in Colombia, as the country historically does have a somewhat fringy reputation with drug cartels, gang violence, and whatnot.

As with almost any destination, a place is never simply “safe” or “unsafe”; the key to staying safe is to do your research.

Ask for advice, follow the advice, and not push boundaries or seek out possibly risky situations.

Cartagena is a beautiful city, with so many things to do, a unique blend of colonial charm especially inside the walled old city, as well as its Caribbean flair. I really loved Colombia, and Cartagena, and it is definitely on my list of countries I want to visit again!

If you need to know more about Cartagena, you will find more details and interesting information towards the end of this article. But first, let us dive into today’s question: Is Cartagena Colombia safe for solo female travelers?

Is Cartagena Colombia Safe For Solo Female Travelers?

One of the charming plazas in Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena is generally considered one of the safer cities in Colombia for tourists, including solo female travelers.

The city has made a significant effort to improve security over the past decade, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. However, as with any urban destination, you need to stay vigilant and take normal precautions both day and night.

And, as we know, there are a few extra things to think about as solo female travelers. But let us first take a look at the stats for Cartagena.

Colombia Has A Decreasing Crime Rate

Crime rates in Cartagena have decreased in recent years, especially violent crimes against tourists. Petty theft and pickpocketing are now the most common issues, particularly in crowded areas or tourist hotspots.

So be smart, leave valuables at home, and keep pockets and bags closed. When you are out and about, bad incidents can often be prevented by just staying alert and following basic safety guidelines.

Many solo female travelers report feeling comfortable and secure while exploring Cartagena, especially within the walled Old Town and popular tourist areas. This is also in line with my own experience; I never felt scared or uncomfortable when I visited.

The presence of police and private security in the touristy zones also contributes to a sense of safety, even during evening hours.

If you ask locals for advice (which you should), they will often stress the importance of common-sense precautions but also describe their city as welcoming and safe for all travelers.

Cartagena’s Relative Safety Has Its Reasons

Cartagena historic clock tower gate
Cartagena historic Clock Tower gate

There is a reason Cartagena has prioritized ensuring tourists are safe and feel safe while visiting by increasing police presence, among other things.

  1. Economic importance of tourism: The city heavily relies on its tourism industry, prompting local authorities to prioritize putting resources on visitor safety.
  2. Improved infrastructure: Having well-lit streets and increased security measures in tourist areas have enhanced overall safety.
  3. Community engagement: Local communities actually actively participate in promoting a positive image of their city, as they are dependent on “a good reputation” as a traveler’s destination.

However, as a solo female traveler, you should still always be particularly cautious, especially in less touristy areas and especially after dark.

Choose reputable transportation services and avoid displaying valuable items openly.

While Cartagena has a generally safe environment, maintaining awareness of your surroundings is key to ensuring a positive experience. Better safe than sorry!

10 Safety Tips Cartagena Colombia For Solo Female Travelers

Stunning night views of Cartagena Colombia from a rooftop with a blue lit pool

Traveling solo as a woman in Cartagena will most likely be a fun, empowering, and enriching experience – it certainly was for me.

    But again, while the city is relatively safe, it’s always wise to take precautions to ensure your security and peace of mind. Here are my ten essential safety tips for solo female travelers visiting Cartagena:

    1. Stay in Well-Reviewed, Central Accommodations

    Choose accommodations in safe, central areas like the Old Town or Bocagrande.

    When you research places to stay, you should also read reviews from other solo female travelers and look for places with 24-hour reception so you will have no issues getting in at night, and also you can get assistance whenever you should need it.

    2. Be Cautious with Night-Time Exploration

    While Cartagena’s nightlife is vibrant, you should be extra vigilant after dark if you venture out on your own. I find that a great way to “never walk alone” is to stay in hostels, even though I am not a backpacking teenager any more!

    If you stay at a hostel (you can often get private rooms in hostels, too), there are always communal areas where you can meet people of all ages and all walks of life. Make some friends, and go out in a group at night!

    You should also stick to well-lit, populated areas, and you can also consider joining organized tours or groups at night.

    Find a bar crawl tour or food tour that will take you to the best places while you also stay perfectly safe. This is also super social and fun, and rest assured, you will find lots of other solo travelers in Cartagena who are probably kindred spirits and possibly new friends!

    3. Use Reliable Transportation

    Opt for official taxis or ride-sharing apps rather than hailing cabs on the street. If possible, have your accommodation call a trusted taxi service for you.

    4. Keep Valuables Secure

    Use the safe in your room for important documents and excess cash. When you are out and about, keep any valuables hidden, and consider using a money belt or anti-theft bag.

    And as always, keep pockets and bags closed, and be aware of your surroundings while exploring the city.

    5. Blend In and Dress Modestly

    Try to blend in with locals by dressing modestly, especially outside tourist areas. This can help avoid unwanted attention.

    6. Stay Connected

    Invest in a local SIM card or portable Wi-Fi device to stay connected while in Cartagena, which will also make sure your phone bill is not astronomical.

    Also, you can share your itinerary with trusted friends or family and consider having an agreement to text someone in the evenings when you get home. Consider telling the hotel or hostel staff that you are traveling alone and even when they can expect you back.

    7. Trust Your Instincts

    I say this with some reservation, although, to be clear, you should never engage in a situation where you feel uncomfortable. The reservation is because in order to trust your instincts, you also need a bit of information and experience.

    If you don’t know an area and tend to worry a lot, you might feel unsafe in safe situations. And if you don’t know an area and tend to be very happy-go-lucky, you might feel safe in situations where you should notice a red flag or two.

    This is why my advice is always to do thorough research online, check Facebook groups and Instagram accounts, read travel blogs (by people who have actually been to the destination) and crime statistics, and ask for advice from people you meet while traveling.

    Little by little, you will develop a very solid and trustworthy instinct that you can rely on. That said, if a situation feels uncomfortable, you should always trust that feeling and remove yourself. It’s always better to be cautious than to risk your safety.

    8. Learn Basic Spanish Phrases Before You Go

    Knowing some basic Spanish can be invaluable in communicating with locals and handling potential issues. When I traveled South America for over six months, I actually found Spanish schools in every destination I visited, including in Cartagena.

    That is one of the smartest things I have done, I think. Little by little, I became fluent in Spanish while traveling and having the time of my life. Highly recommend!

    9. Be Wary of New “Friends”

    While meeting new people is a big and important part of an amazing travel experience, you should be cautious about trusting strangers too quickly, especially those who approach you on the street or in bars and clubs at night.

    Although most people are really nice, first impressions can be deceitful – which is back to the “gut” argument again.

    Be friendly and embrace the social side of your journey, but it can be smart to avoid ending up in a one-on-one situation with someone you have just met. People with bad intentions will also work very hard to appear trustworthy and kind.

    10. Lastly: Stay Hydrated and Sun-Safe!

    Cartagena’s tropical climate can be intense, both because of the temperature and the humidity.

    So make sure you stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and avoid too many Mojitos even when you are on a roll and that seems like a good idea – you need your sharp judgment as a solo female traveler!

    Why You Should Visit Cartagena Colombia

    A peek through a window in the thick wall around the old city in Cartagena, where you see fishermen trying their luck during sunset

    My honest opinion is that Cartagena is incredibly charming.

    I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived (despite the heat and humidity), and the old city where I stayed immediately captured my heart a little bit!

    Perched on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena stands out as a particularly charming place. I arrived from Santa Marta to Cartagena, and the two cities could not be more different!

    What is special about Cartagena?

    Cartagena at night, with warm lighting and people in the streets

    Cartagena is a city that effortlessly marries its rich colonial past with a vibrant present, creating an atmosphere unlike any other in South America.

    The heart of the city, the walled Old Town, will take you back in time with its colorful colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and flower-draped balconies.

    This historic center is a living museum where every corner tells a story of ancient conquest, piracy, and romance (there are flowers everywhere!).

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site

    For solo travelers, especially women, this UNESCO World Heritage site offers a perfect blend of safety combined with history, culture, dining, nightlife, and beachside relaxation (and island tours).

    Its incredibly well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant street life, and stunning sunsets (make sure you are at a rooftop bar or on the beach when the sun sets) create an atmosphere that’s both enchanting and inviting for those exploring on their own.

    Amazing Restaurants, Cafes, And Bars

    There are numerous restaurants, and the food is great! Even if you are only remotely into culinary treats, you can find anything from Caribbean cuisine to Indigenous and Spanish flavors that tantalize your taste buds.

    The city’s compact size and walkable layout allow for easy exploration, while its lively plazas and cafes provide ample opportunities to mingle with locals and fellow travelers alike.

    And the Cartagena Nightlife is legendary; some people travel here mainly to dance and party. Cartagena also has a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries showcasing both traditional and contemporary Colombian art.

    Cartagena Beaches And Tropical Islands

    For beach lovers, Cartagena has amazing beaches.

    The really cool thing, though, is the nearby Rosario Islands, which provide a true tropical paradise with crystal-clear waters and pristine white sand beaches.

    I made a boat trip here for a day, which was perfect for me, but you can also stay in some of the islands where they have luxurious hotels, beach bars, and much more laid-back vibes after the day visitors have left to go back to the mainland.

    Cartagena’s warm climate and even warmer people make it an ideal destination for solo travelers.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Solo Female Travel To Cartagena Colombia

    A plaza in Cartagena at night, filled with people out to eat at the restaurants

    Is it safe to walk alone in Cartagena at night?

    While Cartagena is generally safe (and I never felt unsafe, to be honest), as a solo traveling female, you should always exercise caution when walking alone at night.

    Stick to well-lit, populated areas in the Old Town or Bocagrande, and consider using a taxi or Uber after dark, especially for longer distances.

    If you are walking in the old city, though, that is not an option, but as long as the streets are full of people, there is no immediate threat (just don’t get visibly drunk; be careful with the cocktails in the heat!).

    What areas should I avoid as a solo female traveler in Cartagena?


    While most tourist areas are safe, it’s best to avoid less developed neighborhoods like La Candelaria or San Francisco, especially at night.

    Stick to popular areas like the Old Town, Getsemani, and Bocagrande.

    Do I need to speak Spanish to travel safely in Cartagena?


    While knowing basic Spanish is helpful, many people in the tourism and hospitality industry in Cartagena speak some English. However, learning some key phrases can make things easier, improve your experience, and help in potential emergency situations.

    Are the beaches in Cartagena safe for solo female travelers?


    Popular beaches like Bocagrande and Castillogrande are generally safe during daylight hours.

    However, always keep an eye on your belongings (and get one of those small water-proof bags for your phone and valuables), and avoid isolated parts of the sands.

    How should I handle unwanted attention as a solo female traveler in Cartagena?


    Unwanted attention can sometimes occur in Cartagena, but personally, I did not find that there was a lot of catcalling or annoying attention (apart from the expected level of street vendors).

    In fact, I found most people respectful and polite.

    If you do encounter such a situation, a firm “No, gracias” is usually enough to put people off. If the situation persists, move to a populated area or seek help from local authorities or your accommodation staff.

    Wrap-Up Is Cartagena Safe For Solo Female Travelers

    Certainly. Here’s a wrap-up paragraph for the article:

    Cartagena, with its enchanting blend of history, culture, and Caribbean charm, offers a unique and rewarding experience for solo female travelers.

    While no destination is without its challenges, the vibrant coastal city proves to be a relatively safe and welcoming place for those venturing out on their own.

    By staying informed, exercising common sense precautions, and embracing the local culture, solo female travelers can fully immerse themselves in the magic of Cartagena.

    From wandering the cobblestone streets of the Old Town to basking on sun-drenched beaches, this Colombian gem promises unforgettable memories and empowering adventures.

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