Planning a solo trip to Barranquilla, Colombia? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Colombia’s fourth most populous city, with about 2.3 million inhabitants.
- Capital of the Atlántico Department of Northern Colombia, it is one of the country’s most important industrial and port cities.
- Nicknames: Golden Gate of the Republic, City of Open Arms, Lighthouse of America
- Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
- Spoken languages: Spanish
- Best time to visit: During Carnaval, which takes place in late February or early March (depending on the year).
- Arriving via airport: Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport serves Barranquilla at the south end of the city. Buses that can take you downtown cst 1.500 COP, taxis 15.000 – 30.000.
WHERE TO STAY
- There are a handful of backpacker’s hostels sprinkled throughout, with the cheapest accommodations in the not-so-safe centro.
- For hotels: the upscale district El Prado has great mid-range and luxury options.
- As in most Colombian cities, buses are widespread and charge 1.500 COP.
- The minimum taxi rate is 6,000 COP (16,000 max). They are unmetered, so decide on a fair price before getting in.
- Uber is technically illegal in Colombia – although it remains popular with locals and tourists alike. Worth checking in-app to see what the rates to your destination would be.
- Mototaxis (motorcycle taxis) are cheap, fast, and illegal.
- Drinking age is 18 (enforced, so bring ID). Last call varies. Some bars close at 1 AM, others at 3 AM. Times fluctuate with days of the week and the time of year. Clubs typically close at 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays during Carnival (the party takes place on the streets anyway).
- Most of the famous and best bars in Barranquilla are in Alta del Prado and El Centro.
- There’s not much else to do but party during non-Carnival months, so don’t come to Barranquilla if you’re looking for a calm vacation!
- Great bars in town (many have a dance floor): Lobo Feroz, Zamba Salsa Sport Bar, Phuket bar, Patio Barranquilla, Bourbon St. Bar Restaurante Barranquilla, Patio Barranquilla, Extasis Restaurante Bar.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Artesanias de Colombia and the market on 46th avenue and 72nd street both sell traditional handicrafts unique to the Colombian Caribbean.
- Plaza San Nicolas facing the church of the same name deserves a quick look around. The church is most alluring at night when its lit up in different colors.
- The Museum of the Caribbean is the number one attraction in Barranquilla, and has a chamber dedicated to Gabriel Garcia Marquez – a must-visit for literature fans.
- The Teatro Amira de Rosa is an impressive modern building which hosts numerous music festivals throughout the year.
- Take a walk around the pleasant streets of El Prado for stunning sights, such as the lengthy Plaza de Paz and the modernist Catedral Metropolitana María Reina.
- Take a train 45 minutes out of town to the confluence of the Magdalena River and Caribbean Sea to take a walk around this surreal scene – the Bocas de Cenizas (or the ‘Mouths of Ashes,’ as it’s called in Colombia).
- Outside of Carnival, Barranquilla shrinks in the shadow of Cartagena’s charm and Santa Marta’s beaches, so if you’re in the city off-season, consider the other destinations as day trips.
- Great restaurants that locals love: Porthos Steakhouse and Pub 53 ($$), Cucayo ($$ – Caribbean), Narcobollo Barranquilla ($$ – local cuisine), Deliasia (Indian).
- Sweet tooth? Check out Panaderia La Baguette for delicious fresh baked food and snacks.
- Where to find good cheap eats: fresh fruit juices, set lunches, street food and shots of coffee sold in the parks are all fixtures of El Centro during the day.
- Dangerous areas: El Centro at night, and anywhere crowded during Carnival – pickpockets make out well that time of year. Regardless of the time of year, stick to well-lit areas and don’t wear flashy stuff! (Ask a local what “no des papaya” means).
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days