Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – Harbour needs nerves of steel

The day seems to be endless. At 8 a.m. we head to our colombian angent Luis Ernesto La Rota from Enlace Caríbe (,, Luis speaks English), at 8:30 p.m. we get Arminius out of the port. Then we have to get our luggage from the hotel, go to Luis to pay and receive all the papers and to the next hotel that offers camping on its parking lot. They are so friendly there to prepare some food for us right before midnight. In the meanwhile we are shoved by Luis, his wife, or one of his three co-working sons from one office to the other, again and again to the customs, showing the passport, getting a visitor’s permit, and waiting, waiting, waiting. The customs officer is decisive, he decides when he wants to inspect the vehicle (it’s just about license plate and VIN number), but it could happen that he’s not there anyway. Parallel Luis’ family members complete other formalities for which we don’t have to be present.

Our agent Evelyn in Panama has warned us: The port and customs formalities in Cartagena are feasible alone, but not in one day. She was so right. Luis was recommended by her and by other travellers, and we would like to forward this recommendation. Despite his not little fees he saves time, nerves, and money as well, because every night in a hotel costs. Instead of paying a taxi all the time he drives us around in a company car. Luis flat rate is 170 $. Jo and Ray, a Dutch couple from Germany, has its camper on the same ship and join us. Thus we save a lot of money since Luis only takes 10 $ more for the second party and we can share the fee. Additional we have to pay the final Bill of Lading and harbour fees, each around 100 $.

Necessary papers are the passport, the temporary and then the final Bill of Lading. In the end we receive the important customs paper for the vehicle. For the harbour (only vehicle owner) it is highly recommended to wear long pants and closed shoes, otherwise access could be denied. Further a proof of a health insurance is mandatory – it might be checked or not. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t have got Arminius on a Friday so late. But Monday is a local holiday and so the customs tries to finish as much as they can.

Hotel Bellavista in the Marbella district at the Caribbean shore offers besides simple rooms (double 70,000 COP with van, 80,000 with AC, breakfast 8.000) camping in its walled parking lot. There is no view to the sea, but a shady parking option close to the city. The 30,000 Peso without respectively 40,000 with electrical hook-up seem to be excessive, since we are tightly surrounded by other parking cars and the whole thing has not too much to do with camping. It is the location that has to be paid. The beach is right in front. Water for the tank is available, the shower (cold water only) and especially the loo are in questionable condition, but staff is friendly. Advance notice is highly recommended due to limited space ( GPS: N 10°26’05.8’’ W 75°32’18.1’’.

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