Arcadia Hostel - Not recommended. We first stayed in Arcadia hostel for 4 days but it was cramped. The dorm room had too many beds in too small a space so we had to walk over everyones bags and the beds were three levels and I was on the top level so I kept hitting my head on the ceiling cause I could not sit up. It was 18,000COP (~10USD) to stay in the 12 bed dorm. They included make your own pancakes but they do not give any syrup or anything to put on the pancakes so the free breakfast is not really worth it. They played the music too loud especially when people wanted to watch a movie. The wifi did not always work. Overall there was not enough space for the amount of people, the kitchen was always crowded. The location was also a bit far if you wanted to go out at night, while its close to bars and restaurants there is a couple blocks where there is nothing and a little too quiet to feel very safe at night. It was also very far from the metro stop.
Grand hostel - recommended so we moved to grand hostel - wonderful place. Really quiet with patio computers, nice kitchen and the owner Lucy really looks after everyone and runs a tight ship. She keeps everything clean and makes sure everyone is behaving and keeping quiet. Its right near the supermarket and the metro station and still close to the restaurants and going out areas. We paid 25,000COP per person to share a room without a bath. Really quiet and chill hostel.
Well we decided to fly to Cartagena after finding flights for 80,000COP on vivacolombia (see cheap flights within Colombia at end of page) where you can pay at the exito in Medelling by the poblado stop. We shared a taxi to the airport for 60,000COP so it was only 20,000 COP for 3 people.
In Cartagena we got a taxi to the street media luna where all the bars and main hostels. It cost us 10,000COP but should really be around 8,0000COP. We stayed at Hotel Marlin in a 4 bed airconditioned dorm for $30,000COP. It was nice because it was quiet on street with lots of party hostels but really close to places to go out as well as within walking distance of the walled city. If I were to stay there I would stay at Mama LLenas next time because I ended up spending most of my time there. Its more like a hostel with lots of people and kitchen and its only $20,000 in the dorm and includes pancake breakfast. But I think especially weekends but sounds like most of the time the popular hostels you need to book in advance.
In this season air conditioning is not needed at night. The nights are cool and a fan is sufficient.
Cartagena is really a pretty city with a nice ocean breeze right now. It is so touristy though. The walled historic area is really nice.
We took the tourist bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta. They leave at various times throughout the day and pick up at the hostel and drive you direct to your hostel in Santa Marta. It was 43,000COP and said it would take 3-4 hours but took us 5 hours. I was told the bus to Santa Marta was 25,000COP and you need to take a 10,000COP Taxi to the bus terminal in Cartegena and another taxi for 5,000 COP in Santa Marta or a bus for 1,400COP to get to the center of town so the tourist vans are much easier and not that much more expensive. If I were to be using Santa Marta as a base for trips I might stay at the Dreamer Hostel which gets good reviews and is close to the terminal.
Hostel La Brisa loca -not recommended- We are staying in the dorm for 22,000COP with fans and it seems OK. It seems pretty well run but its a Saturday night and a bit of a party hostel. We go to Tayrona tomorrow.
Cheap flights in Colombia
Vivacolombia has very cheap flights within Colombia. Check their website as their prices change often. Their prices are often cheaper than taking a bus and can save long bus rides. Be aware that if you have luggage to check that you should purchase online when you purchase your ticket cause its only 20,000COP but if you wait till you get to the counter they will charge you 40,000COP. You need to print the boarding passes yourself or they will also charge you for this. To buy the tickets you likely cannot use your credit card if it has been issued outside of Colombia. You need to click on the pay online option (Via Baloto) With Via Baloto you have till the end of the day to go to pay it at the nearest Via Baloto. You just bring via baloto number with you. There is a Via Baloto in most of the big Exito supermarkets.