When looking at where to stay in Cartagena, we were very budget-concious. Luckily this beautiful city is very backpacker-friendly, and there were plenty of hostel options. Our criteria? A private room with private bath, within walking distance to the main sights.
To kick start our three weeks in South/Central America, I wanted a place where we could relax, ease into the trip, visit beaches, and indulge in some authentic food. The mix of colorful buildings, Spanish architecture, elegant restaurants (but full disclosure, we ate mostly street food), and walkable beaches was the perfect solution. The only real obstacle was our rusty, rusty Spanish—Cartagena was the city where we encountered the least amount of English. So on the downside, it was difficult to communicate…but on the upside, we got a crash course in remembering that long ago vocab, and it helped get us in the right language mindset for the rest of the trip.
Where to Stay in Cartagena, Colombia
The neighbohood: Getsemani
While in Cartagena, we stayed in the Getsemani neighborhood. What was once a dangerous part of town is now a burgeoning hip neighborhood, and though you can see that past evidenced in the gated hostels and padlocks, we felt very safe there, even walking back from the Walled City at night. Getsemani has a ton of cool bars, restaurants, and live music venues, so there’s always something to do. (More on that on our itinerary post, coming later this week)
When booking, we narrowed our choices down between the following Getsemani hostels: Hostel Mamallena, Mama Waldy, and Mystic House.
The accomodation: Mystic House
We chose to stay at Mystic House and really enjoyed our pick. Our private double room was more than spacious, there were no blackout hours on the A/C, and our room was cleaned twice during our four-night stay (twice more than we were expecting, given the price). Located at the very end of Calle de Media Luna (one of the main streets in Getsemani), it put us in easy walking distance of both the Walled City and Bocagrande’s beaches. The downside was that only one of the staff members spoke English, so it was a little more difficult to understand/be understood. Though our place didn’t have a crazy party scene or its own bar, it was super easy to walk to bars or those other hostels—making it was a good compromise between having the party scene available and having a restful, relaxing homebase.
Calle de la Media Luna ·#10C – 36, Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia
The runner-up: Hostel Mamallena
Hostel Mamallena is also located on Calle de Media Luna—about four doors up from Mystic House but slightly closer to the Walled City. It’s a top Lonely Planet choice, popular for its young vibe and party scene. We almost booked it, but the reviews advised against choosing it if you wanted a good night’s sleep. (In fact, a new travel friend later told us that the girls she shared a dorm with at Mamallena wound up leaving the hostel because it was too noisy). I will say they offered a lot more information about day trips and had English-speaking staff members, so if you don’t have much of an itinerary planned and/or don’t speak Spanish, this might be a better choice.
Mama Waldy and Media Luna hostels didn’t have any private rooms available when we booked, but both looked like solid options as well. Media Luna is on Calle de Media Luna, and has its own bar and restaurant where they host a weekly party. Mama Waldy is situated close to the Walled City, and offers free pancake breakfasts.
Looking for some cheap things to do in Cartagena? Check out my list of things to do in Cartagena here!