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Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

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Moncton, Canada
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Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

This is written for guests of the above but I think it contains some good info for all tourists to Cartagena.

In no particular order:

1. In Colombia the hotel is know as the Estelar Grand Playa Manzanillo by Occidental Hotels and Resorts. In North America it's called the Occidental Grand Cartagena. I'm not sure why the two names but make sure your cab driver (if you use one) knows it's the Estelar that you want to go to.

2. There are a lot of Spanish speaking guests. There are a few staff that speak/understand French and English. But only a few. Having said that, would it kill you to buy a 6 dollar Spanish phrase book? The staff (and people in Cartagena) love it when you make an effort to communicate in Spanish. I have only a few phrases/words in my Spanish repertoire. Combined with my phrase book and some funny hand motions, my wife and I manage to get by just fine. The reason I mention this is I have seen elsewhere, complaints about lack of English/French speaking staff. Consider this.... In the summer, Price Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables specifically) receives planeloads of Japanese tourists. Do you imagine that hotel and restaurant staff on the island speak Japanese? They don't. The tours have their own translators. Something to keep in mind when you visit a foreign country.

3. There is a money exchange in the Arrivals hall at the airport. Unlike Canada though, you cannot buy pesos with your debit card or Visa. You must have dollars (Canadian are fine) in hand to exchange. However, if you mosey up to the Departure side (1 Minute walk) and enter the first door you will see 4 bank machines across the hall. They give you the option to use English. When you leave of course, after checking your bags, mosey down to the Arrivals Hall and change your pesos back to US/Canadian dollars. We were going to spend our pesos on duty free in the departure lounge but it was closed and there are no stores in there after security. Good thing I decided to change back to Dollars before going in.

4. If you smoke, bear this in mind, a couple checking out ahead of me charged two packs to their room and it cost 25 US dollars LOL.

5. After spending a week in a beautiful city with hot weather, don't end it by complaining about the check in process at the airport! You aren't in Toronto or Montreal. They have printed out the boarding passes ahead of time and have to look through the basket to find yours. Then all luggage is recorded with the owners name. Not that big of a deal. Why ruin a great week? Enjoy the tiny time you have left.

6. When you are in the departure lounge, after security, there may well be another flight there waiting to board as well. If the flight is to a US destination (not sure about Central/South America) and they are called before you, you will see full body pat downs of all passengers as well as a physical search of the carry on luggage. Don't get all upset at the perceived delay to you. There is none. You are not subject to that process (on CanJet flights). We were called shortly after and walked right out to the plane.

7. The departure tax is covered by your Package.

Hopefully there is some useful info in here. I will post a review of the hotel in the next day or two.

London, Canada
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for Cartagena
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1. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

Just to clarify a few things. Yes, there is a duty free store after security in the departure lounge.

Also, you are very fortunate that no one of your plane had to undergo the patdown or physical search of you and/or your lugguage. It is random and everyone, no matter what airline they are flying with, is subject to that possibility.

The Cartagena airport has gotten a bit better in terms of time to check in, but it is still one of the slowest airports I've seen for getting through the process.

As far as departure tax, sometimes it is covered by your package, other times it is not. If you are flying with the same tour operator as kevenv, it should be, but check just to make sure you have the necessary funds if you need them. I've found that the tax is not always the same amount either; don't know why, but it seems to vary.

Moncton, Canada
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2. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

I went through the search and pat down when I flew Cartagena to Miami a few years ago on Avianca. Alas the duty free was closed yesterday afternoon.

Edited: 13 December 2011, 17:00
Oslo
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3. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

Comming from Norway 15.dsember to Cartagena - thank you for good advice

Moncton, Canada
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4. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

bjsabina:

There was nothing random in the selection during boarding, everyone on the US bound flight was subject to the "enhanced" screening. Same thing on my flight to Miami. Everyone was patted and searched. They also had the additional screening that I think you may be referring to prior to the boarding calls: that is, a few of the checked bags are delivered to the police inside the departure lounge, they find the owners and search them thoroughly with the owners. Then return bags to whence they came.

Edited: 13 December 2011, 18:39
London, Canada
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5. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

Whenever I have gone through, the searches of luggage has ranged from everyone having their luggage search, to a random search, to a police officer asking you questions and then directing you either to airport security or to a police officer to search your luggage. When we went through security, ranged from random search of hand luggage to everyone having their luggage searched. The last time I came through, the "person" search varied randomly from the scan, to a pat down, to some having to go upstairs for a more thorough patdown.

One time they even wanted to poke holes in the coffee bags I was bringing home. I said no and made them smell the coffee through the vent and that satisfied them.

Hanover, Canada
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6. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

Great advice kevenv and Bonnie. Good to know where to get my Colombian pesos...... Was going to try to change in Ontario before we left but this save searching it out at home....... airport sounds a little scary though.....

Moncton, Canada
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7. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

Don't worry about the airport Dawn. Just remember you aren't in Toronto. Don't end your awesome vacation on a sour note!

The first time I visited Cartagena, I went to my bank in Canada to order some pesos. The girl went off, only to return and tell me that there was no such thing as Colombian Pesos! I laughed at her and asked if anyone had bothered to tell the Colombians lol. The bank machines really are the easiest way. I took out 400000 pesos last week and it turned out to be a $214 withdrawl.

Enjoy your vacation.

8. Re: Nolitours/Transat Cartagena Advice

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