La Candelaria, Bogotá’s brightly-painted colonial district, is peppered with budget hostels and as a family of four travelling for an extended period, we aimed to keep our costs down.
Though most of the other guests were from the young international backpacker crowd, hostels, with their multi-bed dorms, can make good, cheap family accommodation.
To be clear, hostels are not four-star hotels, or even hotels at all. They are an affordable way of travelling for longer periods and, if approached in the right spirit, can be fun.
The Musicology hostel on Calle 9 (http://www.musicologyhostel.com/) offers dorms from four to ten beds.
The entrance is through double, locked security doors leading to two colourful, hammock-strewn inner courtyards, with the dorms off the courtyards.
We stayed in a four-bedroomed dorm and, at 27,000 Colombian pesos (less than £10) per person per night including breakfast and dinner (price at time of writing), this was excellent value. It included a private bathroom for an extra 2,000 (around 60p) and was the most expensive option at the hostel, but it was worth splashing out to be able to half sleep-walk to the well-pressured shower in the morning and immerse oneself in piping hot water.
Guests are issued with worn but clean bedding on check-in and make their own beds. The lumpy pancake pillows are easily augmented with an inflatable travel pillow, and the cold Bogotá night air combated with a jumper and socks in addition to the bedding supplied.
The beds and chairs are made from re-used timber and have a reassuringly solid feel. The recycling bins are another sign of environmental awareness.
All meals are served in the bar-restaurant on the upper floor. Some were uninspiring but the ajiaco, a potato soup/stew that is a bogotano speciality, and tamales, a rice based mixture wrapped in banana leaves, were excellent.
The reception staff varied from approachable and helpful to paralytic, but most were prepared to assist to the extent they were able; and Diego the barman was particularly friendly and welcoming.
We were the only family staying here and whilst some of our fellow guests were affable, others seemed to view us with consternation. Perhaps these young backpackers had come to exert their independence, escape parents and do ‘young people things’ but here we were: an uncomfortable reminder of their not too distant childhoods; or maybe they were a little shy on what might have been their first solo trip.
A testament to the honesty of our fellow travellers was that our Guide book was still where we left it after a week’s excursion to another part of the country.
With a laundry service, electrical sockets in the rooms, under-bed lockers and Wi-Fi, as well as a couple of internet terminals just off the reception, the hostel is well-equipped to fulfil the needs of its clientele.
Our children enjoyed Musicology’s pet dogs as well as its Wi-Fi and hammocks.
Though we did not partake, the hostel runs trips on the ‘Crazy Turtle Party Bus’ for those seeking revelry, as well as Spanish and salsa classes.
The Musicology hostel is not the height of luxury, but it is well-situated, clean and excellent value for money. I would recommend it to those looking for inexpensive hostel accommodation in Bogotá.