Thursday, 19 February 2015

Where we stayed - Colombia

Bogotá: We'd advise booking ahead for hostels in Bogotá. We booked through hostelworld 4 days in advance and really struggled to find vacancies in those places we'd been recommended or which had the best online reviews.

We ended up in the Explora Hostel in the Candelaria area of the city, where we didn't have the best of stays. When we arrived they'd lost our booking and the woman on reception really struggled to know what to do to resolve the problem.  Our room (when they finally found one for us) didn't have any windows and was a little musty. And it was really really noisy. The walls are very thin and the layout of the hostel just doesn't work to allow for some people to sleep while others socialise in the common areas. So perhaps avoid if you value your sleep.

Breakfast is extra, which while annoying seems to be quite common in Colombia. On the plus side, the wifi worked well!

We paid around £20 ($30) for a private room without a bathroom

Salento: We stayed just outside of the pretty pueblo of Salento in the coffee area at the Yambolombia Natural Hostel. It was a 20 minute walk into town in one direction and 20 minutes to the coffee plantations in the other direction. The views from the hostel of the valleys surrounding Salento were incredible, so for location alone this place definitely gets a big thumbs up! 

Enjoying breakfast overlooking the valley
The accommodation itself is quite small, meaning you get to know pretty much everyone who is staying there. There are 3 private rooms and a 6 bed dorm room as well room to camp if you have a tent. The rooms were pleasant enough, although don't really have proper curtains, meaning early awakenings and a lack of privacy in the private rooms. The shared bathroom was a bit weird. There are two cubicles with shower curtains, but no lock on the door and nowhere to really hang your clothes or get changed once you're done.

The Yambolombia Hostel
While we were there the owner was away and the place was being run by volunteers who seemed a bit put upon. In addition, we had been led to believe from the website that there was breakfast and that they sold evening veggie friendly meals. As the owner wasn't there none of this was happening, which was a bit disappointing, so its worth checking ahead exactly what is on offer. It's also important to be aware that there's no wifi at the hostel.

On the whole, we really enjoyed our stay and would go back. We paid £15 for the double room with private bathroom and then moved to one of the doubles with shared bathroom, where we paid £11 for the room.

Cartagena: We visited Cartagena twice during our stay in Colombia - both times we stayed in the Getsemeni area of town, just a short walk outside the walled city. When pirates were frequenting the Caribbean, this area served as the red light district. It's now (still?) a lively area of town, full of bars and hostels - worth a visit even if you're not staying in the area. 

On our first time round, we hadn't booked ahead and did find that hostels were relatively full. We found rooms at the Casa Viena, which felt a little bit old and in need of updating. However, the staff were friendly, the rooms clean, it 'did the job', is in a great location and was quite cheap - we paid £20 a night for a spacious triple with air con and a private bathroom.

Our second time round, we booked at Mamallena, as we'd also booked our boat trip out of Colombia and to Panama through that hostel. It was a much livelier hostel than Casa Viena. The rooms were arranged around a pleasant courtyard, which could get quite busy at night, but not too rowdy. Breakfast was included and consists of pancakes - yum! The much smaller double room was more expensive than at Casa Viena at £25 a night.

Taganga: The Divanga bed and breakfast is a little oasis in the rough and ready fishing town of Taganga. After a welcome from the staff, you can relax in the hammocks around the pool or on the small rooftop bar, which also has a good selection of evening meals. The rooms had been recently painted when we were there and although a little on the small side, very modern looking and well kept. There were problems from time to time with water pressure in the showers (i.e. no water was coming out at all), but it was sorted out pretty quickly. There are different price levels, depending on whether you want breakfast or not and if you want aircon or not. We paid around £12 a bed in a four bedroom dorm with bathroom and air con (needed!).

Tayrona: Our hammock for the two nights we stayed in Cabo de San Juan in Tayrona national park served us perfectly! To make sure you can get a hammock at Cabo de San Juan, you do need to arrive at the beach before 2pm when reception starts checking people in. A queue starts to form just after 1.30pm.

Santa Marta: Our private en-suite in La Brisa Loca was a beautiful room, with wooden panels on the walls that made it feel quite grand. 

Relaxing by the pool

This is a really nice hostel, with good air con in the rooms, a pool to cool down in outside of the rooms (both very necessary!) and lovely rooftop area as well as lively bar. The wifi worked well and the hostel was in a great location in Santa Marta. Our grand double room with private bathroom set us back £30.

San Gil - The staff at the El Dorado make this place cosy and friendly and they offer good advice on what to do in the area. There's nothing fancy about the hostel, but we felt very welcome and at home. 

The slight downside are the bedrooms, which are a little small and dark (they don't have windows), but we spent most of our time there in the common areas. The location is perfect - its a very short walk to the main square in San Gil. Like most places in Colombia, breakfast wasn't included, but a fruit salad in the local market is tasty and very cheap. We paid around £14 a night for our double room.

Medellin - We decided to find an apartment in Medellin as we were staying for a couple of weeks

Outside our apartment

We found a lovely one bed apartment through Air BnB in the Pobaldo area of town. It was nice to have our own place for a bit. It felt a bit of a luxury to have a fridge/freezer all to ourselves, as well as our lounge and dining table. We paid around £38 a night for the apartment.

Our lounge
Explora Hostel: Calle 12c 3 -19, Barrio La CandelariaYambolombia Natural Hostel: Km 2, Palestina, Salento
Casa Viena: Calle San Andres 30-53Cartagena
Mamallena: Calle Media Luna 10-47, Cartagena
Divanga Bed and BreakfastCalle 12 4-07 Taganga
La Brisa Loca: Calle 14 3-58, Santa Marta
El Dorado: Calle 12 8-55, San Gil

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