Cartagena – The Most Touristy Place in Colombia
Cartagena is a well-visited Colombian city, unfortunately with that comes a lot of people who want to take advantage of tourists. They think will be liberal with their money and will prey on easy targets. My Polish friend spent some time in Colombia last year and he didn’t enjoy Cartagena too much. It was because of the overwhelming number of street hustlers. You can’t go 1 minute on the streets without some guy trying to sell you something you definitely don’t want.
This story starts when I was just walking through a street popular with tourists nearby. I was walking to a place called Plaza de Trinidad. A man with a box of bracelets that probably no-one wants to buy approached me. I said to him in Spanish “I can’t help you.” He then proceeded to follow me and spoke to me in good English saying “you want problem.” I asked him in Spanish what he wanted and he said in English “give me 150 for protection.” For context 150K Colombian pesos is equal to about £30.
I refused to pay him and tried to outpace him, however he persisted to follow me. I then made an escape into a restaurant to get something to eat. I explained to the people working at the restaurant which was a family-owned place and they were very sympathetic to my situation. They very kindly gave me free soup and called the police straight away.
The Good Thing was I wasn’t in Danger
One of the people at the restaurant could speak English and asked me about what had happened. She offered to give me her taser, I did not feel comfortable carrying it around. I normally feel alright I had the knowledge of Muay Thai to protect myself. One of the owners at the restaurant told me not to worry and showed me he had a baseball bat. Within 5 minutes after calling the police, the police arrived and I explained the situation. I had to describe what the criminal looked like and the police were very understanding in this situation.
After finishing my dinner, I gave the staff at the restaurant a decent tip. One of the guys there knew the someone working at the hostel I was staying at. I explained the situation to him over the phone. To make sure I was safe, one of the guys at the restaurant also walked with me back to the hostel to make sure I would not be confronted again. It felt much more peaceful in the evening and I made it back safely.
The guy working at the hostel then explained that this is a common scam conducting by the street hustlers in Cartagena. What happens is that they will plant you with drugs if you don’t pay them for “protection.” Then they’ll tell the police that you are in possession of drugs.
A Slap in the Face to the People of Colombia
What I have to say is that this nasty man does not reflect Colombia. The people in the restaurant who helped me out reflects the excellence of the Colombian people. These types of scams are not just limited to Colombia. Similar things exist in other parts of the world such as in the most popular tourist sites in China and Italy.
I would like to thank the people at Restaurante Sabor Mulato for ensuring my safety and dealing with the situation with such professionalism. If you’re ever in Cartagena I do recommend coming here as it is an authentic Colombian dining experience.
What do I have to say about the scammer himself? What a deplorable life he must live if he lives off of dishonesty. You may make the odd 30 quid every now and then. The people of Colombia despise you and it’s a slap in the face to the majority of them. Through my time in Colombia, I met a lot them who are decent and hardworking people.
Furthermore, being able to speak English at such a level is a skill which not many Colombians possess. I think he should find a way of making money honestly with such a proficiency in English.
I admit, this post may make Colombia look bad, however I enjoyed my time here, here are some other posts about my time there: