guide to arriving in cartagena colombia

Arriving in Cartagena Colombia – All You Need to Know

If you’re flying into Cartagena airport (CTG), from either outside Colombia or arriving in Cartagena from within the country, here’s our guide to making your airport transit easy and stress-free.  The airport, Rafael Nunes, or CTG is in the Crespo area of Cartagena.

Cartagena Airport is relatively small and positioned well – less than 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from old town Cartagena.  It takes about 20 minutes to go from CTG to Cartagena city center.  It’s easy to get from Cartagena Airport to the city, but you will likely need cash and details of how to get a taxi to Cartagena from Rafael Nunes Airport.


What to do before you arrive in Colombia

If this is your first stop in Colombia, then there are a few key things that you’ll need to do before you get on a plane – things like look at like innoculations, proof of onward travel and some specifics of travel insurance (read our guide to Travel Insurance here)– do not, for instance, bring food or meat stuff into Colombia.

We’ve put together everything you need to know before you arrive in Colombia – and you can read that here. Or you can get it emailed to you.

Where to Stay in Cartagena

There are a host of places to stay in Cartagena – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Cartagena, mid-range places to stay in Cartagena, and budget accommodation in Cartagena

Hotel Casa San Agustin, CartegenaThe Hotel Case San Agustin is located in the historical center of Cartagena, close to the city’s main attractions and dining options.  This luxury Cartagena hotel is also only 8 minutes away from the beach. The hotel’s rooms include an LCD TV, a private spacious bathroom, a seating area, and some rooms, have balconies that have the best views of Cartagena. This top Cartagena hotel also offers continental breakfast and free WiFi. They also have a library, games room, a garden, as well as massage services, and bicycle rentals. Hotel Casa San Agustin is the best place to stay when visiting Cartagena. See room availability and rate here.

Hotel Casa Cartagena, CartagenaThe Hotel Casa Cartagena is ideally located in the San Diego district of Cartagena, very close to the historical center. The Hotel Casa Cartagena’s rooms include a private bathroom with a shower or bath, air-conditioning, a balcony (in some rooms), a flat-screen TV, and free WiFi in all areas of the hotel. Hotel Casa Cartagena also offers an American breakfast, a coffee bar, and a snack bar. There’s also daily housekeeping, laundry, and ironing services available. Hotel Casa Cartagena is an ideal place to stay if you want to easily explore Cartagena. Check reviews and room availability here.

The Clock Hostel and Suites, CartagenaThe Clock Hostel and Suites is located in central Cartagena. The hotel’s units come with air-conditioning, a cable flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge, a coffee machine, a private shower, and a desk. Suites here also have a shared kitchen and there is free WiFi available in all areas of the property. The Clock Hostel and Suites also has a terrace to enjoy breakfasts and drinks on. There are also indoor play areas for children and board games. You can read more about the Clock Hostel and Suites at Cartagena here.

Deplaning when Arriving at Cartagena Airport

There are no jet bridges in Cartagena and the humidity will hit you straight away as you get off the plane and walk across the tarmac.  Welcome to the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

It’s a short walk to immigration, but first, make sure you’ve completed a customs form for Colombia.

Colombian Customs Declaration Form

You’ll need to complete a customs form prior to your arrival in Cartagena.  You’ll likely be given this on the plane.  The Colombia customs declaration form may be in English, or not.  If it’s not in English and you do not speak Spanish your airline crew will assist.  You’ll need to complete one Colombia customs form per family.  Assume an average of US$50 per person, per day of expenditure including your accommodation for the field.  Cartagena airport customs is completed in the immigration hall.

colombian customs form

Immigration at Cartagena Airport Colombia

Cartagena airport arrivals isn’t that big, there’s one line for Colombians and one for the rest of the world.  Approach the immigration desk as a family unit.  It is a requirement when entering Colombia for many nationalities to have proof of onward travel, although we were not asked for it.  You are more likely to be asked for this prior to boarding your plane TO Colombia.  (More on this and other requirements to know before travelling to Colombia here)

Duty Free Cartagena Airport

After you’ve been stamped into Colombia (find out here how long you get in the country), then you’ll have a chance to buy duty-free in Cartagena airport duty free .  Beer and alcohol is cheaper here than in Colombia’s surrounding countries.

Baggage Reclaim and Customs Forms at Cartagena Airport

After immigration and Cartagena duty-free, you’ll collect your bags and hand over your customs form.  Your bags may be x-rayed at this time as you enter Colombia.

Finding Cash and ATMs at Cartagena Airport.

You’ll likely want to take a taxi (there are no easy buses to the city centre), and the first thing you’ll need is cash. The ATM in Cartagena airport is in the departures area.  There is a row of ATMs (cajero automaticos) at Cartagena Airport.

Want the best ATM card for low fees and no-fee ATM withdrawals? Check out Wise here. Or read our post on what a multi-currency account can do for you here.

To find the Cartagena Airport ATMS exit arrivals and turn immediately LEFT. You’ll be outside for 10 meters or so and then go into departures.  At the far end of the departure hall from where you entered, on the left-hand side near the entrance to the boarding gates are the ATMs of Cartagena airport.

ATMS at Cartagena airport

You’ll find these bank ATMs at Cartagena Airport

  • BBVA ATM at Cartagena Airport: Best ATM at Cartagena airport for NO fees – 300,000 COP limit per transaction, multiple transactions allowed
  • Servibanca ATM
  • Itau ATM
  • Banco de Bogota ATM
  • Banco Caja Social ATM
  • BanColombia

You’ll want to read our complete guide to Colombian ATMs, where we cover everything you need to know about cash and Colombia.  After you’ve retrieved your Colombian currency (the peso, or COP), then head to one of the stores you walked past and buy a bottle of water so you can get some smaller change for your taxi.

How to Go from Cartagena Airport to City

Most people are looking to go from Cartagena Airport to Old Town Cartagena, so we will cover going from Cartagena airport to the city center and other popular routes like – Cartagena to Getsemani.  The most common form of transportation from Cartagena airport is a taxi or transfer.

There is no Cartagena airport bus.

Cartagena Airport Transfers

If you want to take a Cartagena Airport transfer then we recommend this Cartagena transfer service:

Cartagena Airport Taxis

There are no meters in taxis in Cartagena, but taking a taxi from Cartagena airport is easy.  There are also rarely lines for taxis and there will usually be more taxis than people.

To get the price of your taxi there is an automatic price generator RIGHT OUTSIDE ARRIVALS.  This replaces the man with the taxi sign giving you a piece of paper.  Taxi fares are fixed at Cartagena airport.

Taxis at cartagena airport

Simply type in the Cartagena hotel or hostel (in either Spanish or English) and you’ll be delivered a receipt with a price for your taxi.

We always write down the address of our hotel so there are no pronunciation issues and reconfirm the price with the driver BEFORE either putting a bag or us in the taxi.  And we always book our first night’s accommodation in a country ahead of time.

If you’re reading this on public WiFi and plan to book a trip, a walking tour, or accommodation, then check out my guide to the best VPNs for Colombia and why (and how you should protect your personal login details).

Taxis Fares from Cartagena Airport

As I said, Cartagena taxis do not have meters, but you have a specified price to pay to get to your hotel or hostel, based on the receipt.  If, however, you don’t have the correct change, consider that your taxi driver is unlikely to have change either.  It may not cost you 50,000 COP INSTEAD OF 11,000, but it’s unlikely to be dead on the nose of the price. (So don’t forget to buy that bottle of water).


Estimated taxi cost from Cartagena Airport

  • Taxi from Cartagena Airport to El Centro Hotels = 13,400 pesos
  • Taxi from Cartagena airport to walled city of Cartagena = 12,000 pesos
  • Taxi from Cartagena Airport to El Cabrero Area = 11,000 pesos
  • Taxi from Cartagena Airport to Bocagrande taxi fare = 19,000 pesos
  • Taxi from Cartagena Airport to Getsemani = 14,000 pesos

How Far is Cartagena Airport from the City

It’s just 6 kilometers from the old town of Cartagena to the airport. It is possible to walk from Cartagena airport to the old town or Getsemani, but remember it’s likely around 32 degrees and 80+% humidity.

Travel Tips for Exploring Colombia

Final Words On Arriving in Cartagena, Colombia

So that’s all.  Arriving at Cartagena Airport is a simple experience.  There are taxis available, and ATMs where you can use a foreign card and while English is unlikely to be spoken here at the airport it’s simple to find your way to the old town with a minimum of effort. Enjoy your time in Cartagena and don’t forget to send us an email or ask us questions in the comments if we can help further.

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