How to get a free Yellow Fever vaccination in Cartagena in 2020

Want to get a free Yellow Fever vaccination in Cartagena? I sure did. Yellow Fever vaccination prices have skyrocketed to $300 USD in the states, thanks to an overall shortage of the vaccine. $300 USD can get you a lot of empanadas in South America, and I was looking to pinch my pennies where I could.

While Colombia is known for cocaine, salsa, and stunningly bright buildings, it also has high quality and low cost healthcare, even beating out Canada in international rankings.

Here’s how to get your Yellow Fever vaccine for free in Cartagena in 2020 and save them dollars.

Is it safe to wait until you arrive?

Waiting until you arrive in a country for a vaccination always carries some level of risk, while some areas won’t even let you enter without showing you are vaccinated against certain diseases.

However, at the time of writing, no area of Colombia required a Yellow Fever vaccination to enter, unless you had visited certain countries recently. Instead, for all of Colombia it is simply recommended to be vaccinated.

Important Note: the Yellow Fever vaccine takes 10 days to be absorbed by your body and become effective. That means 10 days of potential risk.

If you’re heading anywhere near the Amazon in your first month of South America, definitely consider getting the Yellow Fever vaccine in your home country. This didn’t apply to myself, so I felt safe waiting until I arrived.

Where to get the Yellow Fever vaccine for free in Cartagena

Thanks to the excellent direction provided by Wade at Vagabond Journey, I found myself wandering through the streets of hip Getsemani to the local health clinic, run by DADIS, the Department of Health.

The door to the vaccination clinic.

Address 📍:
Cra. 10b #25-10, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar

The Google Map address will take you to the general building, but the vaccination clinic is actually around the corner on Carrera 10. It’s a simple brown door, recessed from the street, up a few steps, and has a few posters all over it.

Enter the door, and you’ll see a typical health clinic with a reception desk to the left hand side.

The receptionists didn’t speak English while I was there, so just say ‘fiebre amarillo’ (yellow fever) and they will understand. You will need to hand over your passport, they will make a note, and then give you a slip with a number. Take a seat in the waiting area and wait for your number to be called (it’s a good idea to know the Spanish numbers for this!)

The waiting room is just like every other clinic waiting room – but less comfy.

A warning: wait times can be long. While Wade at Vagabond Journey only took around an hour for his experience, I ended up waiting for three hours before being called in. I think it was a busy day, but hey, to save $300 USD? That means I made $100 USD an hour (that’s a lot more than I make now!)

What should you expect?

As you walk into the examination room you’ll be asked for your passport. The nurse will spend some time filling out the details on her computer, in a handwritten logbook, and in your yellow vaccination book.

The nurses don’t speak English, but don’t worry – my Spanish was not up to scratch and I muddled on by. They have a typed piece of paper to show you asking if you are allergic to chicken eggs, or if you have various diseases, and then they’ll ask you to write down your age and accommodation address.

The vaccination room.

Then, bang, in the needle goes (thankfully it doesn’t hurt too much). There’s no candy, and for me there wasn’t even a band-aid, despite my white long-sleeved shirt. But, you get what you pay for. The nurse will finally give you a stream of instructions in Spanish while gesturing at her mouth – frightening. Turns out, you just shouldn’t drink alcohol for 48-hours after the vaccination.

After that, grab your passport, your yellow vaccination book, and get outta there (really, be quick because the next guest will be in before you’ve had time to button up your shirt).

Is it really free?

Yes. You won’t be asked for any money, nor a donation. Taking payments at the clinic simply doesn’t exist.

What happens afterwards?

Other than a sore arm, the vaccination gives most people some side-effects. Later that day my body felt achey, and two days later I developed a bit of a cold – nothing that a bit of ibuprofen can’t fix, and certainly better than being struck down with Yellow Fever itself.

Address 📍:
Cra. 10b #25-10, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar

Vaccination Clinic Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 7:30am – 3:00pm
Saturday: 7:30am – 10:00am

Did you get the Yellow Fever vaccine in Cartagena? Has anything changed? Or do you have questions about the vaccination process? Leave it in the comments below!

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