If you’re looking to spend time as a digital nomad in a city with both classic, historic charm and beautiful beaches, look no further than Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena digital nomads enjoy this gorgeous city and find it to be a great place to spend some time working remotely.
Plus, with a new Colombia digital nomad visa coming soon, it will be an even better option for those working remotely or independently in the very near future.
Keep reading for our ultimate Cartagena digital nomad guide written by a long-term Cartagena resident. Here we’re sharing tips for the best digital nomad Cartagena experience, including where to live, what to do, Cartagena coworking, and how to save some pesos while you’re here.
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Digital Nomad Cartagena
The Best of Cartagena
Plenty of Things to Do
Cartagena is Colombia’s most popular tourist destination for a good reason. Its colonial city has historic charm, there are some great beaches near Cartagena, and there are vibrant cultural, food, and nightlife scenes. You will truly never get bored here.
Check out our breakdown below of things to do in Cartagena to get an even better idea of what to expect in this lovely city.
Fantastic Travel Potential
It’s also fairly close to a variety of other destinations on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. This makes it a good choice for spending some time living in Cartagena as a digital nomad, especially if you’re looking for warm weather year-round when it gets colder elsewhere.
Nearby Travel: Ciudad Perdida Trek
One of South America’s most famous treks, the Ciudad Perdida Trek, starts from nearby Santa Marta. Here’s how to explore Colombia’s Lost City:
The Worst of Cartagena
Cartagena is Relatively Expensive
Cartagena is probably Colombia’s most expensive city, although it remains relatively cheap compared to similar cities in many other countries. Check out the cost of living in Cartagena budget below for a full budget breakdown.
A Lot of Tourism
During peak travel seasons, Cartagena can get very crowded. Vendors on the street and beach will likely never truly see you as a local and can get frustrating after a while.
However, this is the same in any other major destination city, and if you are willing to deal with crowds for parts of the year and practice your best “No, gracias” for vendors, it’s really a pleasure to live in such a charming place.
Colombia Visa Requirements
Most people, including those from the USA and the UK, do not need to have a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist. Tourist visas have an initial 90 day period and can be renewed once, for a total of up to 180 days.
If you’re looking into Cartagena as a digital nomad for an extended period, you’ll need to look into more permanent residency options.
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa
In late 2021 Colombia announced a new digital nomad visa, but details have not been fully released yet other than it will allow independent contractors to live in Colombia full time.
It remains to be seen how the requirements and application process look once the law is adopted, but this Colombia digital nomad visa is a positive development for those looking to live in Cartagena as a digital nomad.
It may be worth noting that those who spend more than 183 days in a year in Colombia are considered residents for taxation purposes. Residents have to declare their income (including international income) in what’s called the declaración de renta if they make above a certain threshold (for 2020 it was approximately $12,500 USD).
It’s also likely that having health insurance will be a requirement for the digital nomad visa as contributing a percentage of income toward insurance is a requirement for all employed Colombians, whether through their employer or independently.
For those coming on tourists visas, good travel insurance is a must! We recommend World Nomads travel insurance for all digital nomads – they have flexible and affordable policies with easy add-ons for adventures like scuba diving or adventure sports.
Cost of Living in Cartagena Colombia
The cost of living in Cartagena can vary quite a bit, depending on where you live and your lifestyle. The average Colombian working-class family lives on $500 USD or less a month. However, digital nomads in Cartagena will want a larger budget and have more expenses.
Digital nomads can expect to budget between $1000-2000 USD a month to live in Cartagena.
Most planning on living in Cartagena as a digital nomad will probably find a budget in the $1,500-2,000 USD range better. This is a sweet spot that will let you live a nice lifestyle and also save some money for travel.
For those that are willing to live with roommates, rarely eat out, and only enjoy the occasional nightlife, you can probably get by on $1,000 USD a month.
Rent in Cartagena
Rent can vary widely not just based on the area, but how new or old the building is and the amenities in the apartment. The best areas to live in Cartagena are generally the best places to stay in Cartagena as a visitor as well. Living inside the Walled City or neighboring Getsemaní is a charm but can be on the more expensive end, as can living in the more upscale beachfront neighborhood of Bocagrande.
More budget-friendly areas are El Cabrero and Marbella (also beachfront), Manga, and Crespo.
There are also some safe and nice residential neighborhoods outside of the central area, but most digital nomads in Cartagena are likely to want to live in these areas with easy access to the main attractions in Cartagena.
A basically furnished small apartment in an area like El Cabrero is likely to cost in the $1.5-2 million Colombian peso range (approximately $400-600 USD).
Larger, nicer apartments in newer buildings in the Walled City or Bocagrande can run upwards of $3 million pesos a month (approximately $800 USD).
For those coming on tourist visas or stays of less than 6 months, the best option is likely AirBnB, perhaps negotiating a longer stay with the owner or reaching out to Expat groups on Facebook to look for anyone who is looking for a roommate.
For those able to stay 6 months or longer, the online classifieds of the local newspaper El Universal or simply going around and asking in buildings are the best options for finding apartments. In this case, it’s best to get a hotel or AirBnB for a short time upon arrival and scout out places while you get your bearings. Be very cautious of sending rent or deposit money in advance from abroad – this may be a scam.
Basic foodstuffs like meats, fruits, and vegetables are pretty cheap. As a tourist town, restaurants and bars have widely varying prices, but you should expect to spend $20-35,000 pesos ($5-10 USD) for a meal at most nice, moderately-priced places with there also being cheaper options and more high-end options.
Don’t head out on your adventure without making sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you! Good travel insurance will cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or cancelled flights, and much more. Check out the policies available from World Nomads, the most flexible and affordable travel insurance we’ve found, or compare plans on Aardy.
Cartagena For Traveling Families
Cartagena can have a bit of a party atmosphere, especially in areas like Getsemani and other areas filled with hostels and backpackers, but if you’re a digital nomad with family, Cartagena still might be a place for you!
There are plenty of activities for families here, including great beaches, nearby parks, and much more.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, a great resource for you will be Mango Tree – this incredible, family-oriented travel platform was created by traveling mamas looking to help families travel better. Use their find a hotel feature, or just check out their blog for great travel recommendations for Cartagena, the Caribbean, and beyond.
There are unfortunately not many places for coworking in Cartagena. The best Cartagena coworking spot is at the Selina Cartagena.
Selina is a popular group of coliving, coworking, and hostel spaces with spots all across Latin America. Selina Cartagena offers longer-term stays and coliving options that include access to the space. Other options for where to work as a digital nomad include in the many coffee shops around town serving up Colombia’s world-famous coffee.
Things to Do in Cartagena
See Historic Cartagena
As a tourist destination, there are lots of great things to do in Cartagena. The city is most well known for its historic Walled City and beaches. Walking around the charming streets of the old city is a treat, and the similar colonial architecture of neighboring Getsemaní along with its street art is also a joy to wander, not to mention it has some great little restaurants and cafes.
A visit to the Castillo San Felipe Fort is also a must, and the Naval Museum is a bit lesser-known but has the best exhibits on the city’s history. You can also see some examples of indigenous gold work at the Gold Museum, which is free to enter, and learn more about the city’s history at the Inquisition Palace museum, which also has some Inquisition torture devices on display.
Visit Cartagena’s Beaches
While the beaches in Bocagrande are popular, the very best beaches in Cartagena are located out of town in the Rosario Islands and Barú.
Taking a boat rental out to the islands is one of the best ways to spend a day in Cartagena. You can head to the party spot Cholón or choose to go to more relaxed places like Playa Agua Azul or snorkel at the reefs off the islands.
The famous Playa Blanca in Barú is also very pretty, although it has become a bit overcrowded. If you are willing to head down to the end of the beach though you can still enjoy a relaxing day on a beautiful beach. Just across the bay, the island of Tierra Bomba also has a handful of nice beaches where you can spend the day.
The Best Views in Cartagena
Overlooking the Caribbean, Cartagena has some great sunsets. The two best places to see it are at the rooftop bar at Hotel Movich or at Café del Mar, which is atop a section of the wall. If you’re looking to save some money, head to “Cafe del Lado,” an area on the wall next to Café del Mar.
Cartagena has a vibrant nightlife as well. The best clubs can be found on the Calle de la Media Luna and Calle del Arsenal just a short walk from the Walled City. For those looking to pick up the local culture, try to learn how to dance to champeta music, a blend of African rhythms and Colombian culture that originated in Cartagena’s barrios. Of course, you can also get your salsa on at plenty of places in town.
Excursions from Cartagena
For a lesser-known thing to do in Cartagena, head out to the town of Turbaco on a Sunday and try the best chicharrón in Colombia. History buffs will love the excellently preserved forts at the entrance to the bay at Bocachica.
Money-Saving Tips for Cartagena
There are a number of ways to save money in Cartagena. Of course, the obvious tips like using the bus and cooking and eating at home apply.
Another great way to save money on transportation is to use collective taxis or colectivos that run on set routes with a full car. These are a fairly easy and quick way to get around, and the fares are a fraction of what taking a taxi alone costs.
Many restaurants serve “menu ejecutivos” or “corrientes” for lunch. These are usually fairly cheap (in the $7-15,000 peso price range depending on the place) and have meat, rice, salad, and sometimes beans or potatoes and usually also include soup and juice.
For cooking at home, it’s worth comparing prices for things like vegetables and eggs at different supermarkets and even at little corner store “tiendas,” as they can sometimes be cheaper there.
For the more adventurous, you can get cheap fresh seafood and produce at the Bazurto Market, although it can be a bit dodgy.
Another way to save money is to consider which estrato or social strata you live in. Colombia has a system where areas are classified from 1-6 based on average income level. The higher stratas pay more for utilities like gas, electricity, and water to subsidize the lower ones.
You can find some rare places classified as estrato 4 (where you pay exactly what you use) in the touristy areas, but even the difference between 5 and 6 can be quite significant if you live with multiple people or use the A/C a lot.
A place that is higher up with windows and gets a good breeze is also worth considering as A/C can quickly run up electricity bills.
Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network) subscription. Using a VPN while connecting to the internet will keep your personal information safe from hackers while using shared wifi connections.
We’ve used NordVPN for years, and couldn’t recommend it more – its a must for safety online, at home or abroad.
What to Pack for Cartagena
Electronics can be found fairly easily in Cartagena, but due to import duties are usually significantly more expensive than in the US or UK. Therefore, it’s a good idea to bring any gear from a good laptop to a phone to backup batteries with you if you can, while also knowing in a pinch you can get them in the country.
The same goes for any special snacks, candy, or comfort food from home, as imported goods like this are becoming more common but usually carry a premium.
What to Wear in Cartagena
Cartagena has warm weather year-round, so you will want to bring clothes that are comfortable in the heat. Colombians definitely dress to impress when out on the town, so have a couple of nice outfits for going out as well. Of course, you will want your beach gear as well.
It is worth keeping in mind that areas in the interior of Colombia can be a good bit cooler, so if you plan to travel around the country, it is also worth packing a good jacket and clothes for cold weather.