Finding the Apartment
When looking for places to stay in Cartagena, we knew we wanted to have a kitchen, air conditioning and privacy. It was hard to find a combination of everything that we were looking for at our price point of $50 or less per night. I turned to Airbnb after my initial hostel search didn’t turn up anything. It was there that I found a quiet apartment right in the middle of the old city.
In hindsight, there were likely hostels that fit the bill, I was just not good at finding them yet. One of the hostels that we visited whenever we had questions was the Media Luna Hostel. It looked really fun – there was an upstairs bar, pool, travel agency and an attached restaurant. Hindsight is 20/20 but I think we would have enjoyed Cartagena more if we had stayed there.
We arrived to Cartagena on a sailboat from Panama. We were not sure if we were able to check in at 11am when we arrived but had our fingers crossed as we were dying to take a shower and enjoy some air conditioning.
As instructed through Airbnb, we went into the antique shop below the apartment where the owner’s brother works. Although his English wasn’t that good and our Spanish isn’t great, we were able to communicate enough for him to understand that we were checking into the apartment. We were thrilled that the room was ready when we arrived as we really didn’t want to venture out into the heat without taking a proper shower.
We were lead up to the third floor where the apartment was located. It was there that we saw the crazy door to our apartment. In order to get in or out of the apartment, we had to lock a gate with a padlock. All I was thinking was I sincerely hope that there is not a fire because it would be so easy to die without being able to get out.
The bathroom had a really great shower. The shower head was electric, but all of the wires were contained so it looked much less dangerous than other showers that we had before. The best part of the shower was that there were 4 temperature settings – no heat, low, medium and high heat. For the first time on our trip, I had to turn down the heat to make the shower a comfortable temperature.
After one of the best showers of my life, washing 5 days of living at sea off my body, I dried off with the provided plush towel. It felt incredible. One of the little things that I really liked was that the apartment had toiletries. It is crazy that with all of the places we had stayed to this point, we had merely gotten bars of soap.
The rest of the bathroom was as expected – a sink and a toilet. The only odd thing was that the air conditioning condensation drip line dripped into the shower. The building was quite old so I am assuming that was the easiest way to retrofit the necessary plumbing.
The kitchen was really great, especially after the terrible communal kitchen that we had in Panama City. Not only did we have everything that we needed to cook, everything was relatively new and very clean.
We went to Exito, a superstore similar to Walmart and picked up all of the essentials that we would need to cook. After a few meals, we reflected and realized that while it was nice to be able to cook, we have to simplify our meals when we are on the road. It doesn’t make sense to spend too much money buying ingredients or investing a lot of time cooking meals when we could be seeing the world. Our go-to meal was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Not only is it easy to make, it’s quick and there are only a few inexpensive ingredients needed to make it.
It worked out great for us to have a kitchen as Colombia is not well known for their food. Think about it, when have you ever seen a Colombian restaurant outside of a huge city? While the Colombians are very nice people, I personally find their food very bland and don’t like how they fry everything.
The bed looked like a king size bed but it was actually 2 twin beds next to each other. It was a little strange to have a hard part of the bed between Andy and myself, but it was sufficient. We slept like babies, a combination of the comfy bedding, cool temperatures and catching up on all the sleep we didn’t get on the boat.
The best part of the bedroom was the air conditioner. It worked like a champ and we were ecstatic about it. It is HOT in Cartagena, a type of heat that I have never experienced before and air conditioning is essential.
The apartment had a family room with a couch, dining room table and desk. Even though there was not a TV, so the couch faced the wall, we were happy to have it. It’s funny the things that you miss when you are living on the road. Lying or sitting on a bed all the time is not comfortable but there are rarely couches where we stay.
The desk was nice to have, especially since we were on the computer quite a bit during the intensely hot days. The only bad part was that the internet was a little spotty. The router was located at the end of the hallway and with the concrete construction of the building, the signal had a hard time reaching the apartment. It worked most of the time when we were by the desk which was not ideal but we were just happy to have the internet.
The 3rd floor balcony was the best feature of our apartment in my opinion. From the balcony there were views of both the historic street and the ocean. Because of the orientation, there was constantly a nice ocean breeze which felt great in the Cartagena heat.
We would often bring chairs out on the balcony to enjoy a drink in the evening or use the computer closer to the router where the internet was faster.
The apartment is in a the perfect location – just steps away from the downtown area on a quiet street. We were within walking distance of all of the major sites of the city. Being within the historic city walls, where there is a large police presence, we always felt very safe.
If I were to go again, I would stay in the Getsemani neighborhood. It was next to the historic downtown area, filled with hostels, cheap eats and lots of action. I think that the historic downtown area is for older tourists while Getsemani is for younger people.
Neither Andy nor I loved Cartagena – there was just something about it that didn’t do it for us. That being said, our apartment was great and where we spent quite a bit of time. I would highly recommend staying there if you are interested in a reasonably priced, centrally located, fully furnished apartment.