We recently got back from our trip to Colombia, where we spent time in Cartagena and the little known San Bernardo Islands. Our trip was fantastic and much of the smooth sailing was due to the help of This is Cartagena, a local travel/tour operator. As a travel advisor myself, I know first hand how much goes into planning a great trip, especially for a family, and This is Cartagena was such a find. Their offices are located right in the walled city. I sat down with project manager, Carlijn Grinwis, to talk about the business and what they can do for you when visiting Cartagena and Colombia.
When was This is Cartagena started? In 2011
Why was the company started? This is Cartagena was started to give Cartagena a digital guide that lives up to the expectations of international travelers. We’re the ultimate boutique city guide, showcasing only the very best places and experiences in the city. If we can’t recommend someone already doing an incredible job making your travel dreams come true, we have our own team of hooked-up insiders and concierges that will help you fast-track to living life like a local.
Can you explain what the company can do for people visiting the city? Everything! Booking colonial houses, renting private boats and yachts, booking tours, organizing proposals, bachelor parties, NYE events, restaurant reservations, tailor made itineraries, reserving VIP tables in the best bars in town.
Do you have special relationships with any vendors around the city? We try to select the best of the best vendors of the city as quality is very important to us. Our guides are like friends to us, sometimes they just come to the office on a Friday afternoon to have a drink with us. We invite them if there’s space on a boat so they can enjoy the islands with us.
How do you work with families and what makes your stand out? We have fun itineries for both children and families. We have created the Treasure Hunt Tour for example. We also offer day trips to the islands which are suitable for families.
Are most of the employees from Colombia? 50/50 of international talent and local knowledge. The founders are from the UK, our writer as well, I’m Dutch and there’s a girl from Argentina. The rest of the employees are Colombian.
Why did you come to Colombia and how did you come to work for This is Cartagena? I was working in Amsterdam for about 3 years for a private equity fund and wanted to live abroad again (after having lived in Indonesia, Ghana, Cambodia and Ireland) and my 2 Colombian friends from University really recommended Colombia. I came her with a job for a micro finance organization. Very interesting, but because of funding problems I had to look for a different job. I found This is Cartagena online, had an interview and that’s how it all came about.
What is your favorite tour that you offer? I really like our new day trip Your Day in Paradise. You’ll be going to a beautiful place we manage at Baru, a stunning place on the beach with swimming pool. We go with our private speedboat, visit 2 other islands in the morning and have lunch and relaxing time at Baru. A great way to see various islands for a good price (USD 89 pp)! I’m also a big fan of the Real Cartagena Tour as it shows the real face of Cartagena, not just the beautiful and rich colonial city centre. If you go to the local market and some local neighborhoods, you’ll see with your own eyes that there’re still many poor areas. If you stay within the city centre, you won’t see this so that’s why I really like this tour.
I can’t even tell you ow much this company saved us time and headaches. When we went to the islands, Carlijn personally came to our hotel, helped us get a taxi and took us to the docks, where we had to pay National Park fees to get on our boat. No one at the dock spoke English and we would have been absolutely lost without her! You can find This is Cartagena here, or you can call me and I can work with them to help plan a great Colombian vacation for you.
More on Colombia and how much we loved it coming soon.