Sleeping

In Colombia there are a number of quite exceptional hotels that are well worth seeking out. They are usually in colonial towns and not necessarily very expensive. There is a small network of youth hostels, of varying quality and used extensively by Colombian groups, but international members are welcome.

There are many names in Colombia for hotels including
posada, pensión, residencia, hostal, hostería, hospedaje, hospedería, mesón
and
hotelito
. Ignore them all and simply look at the price range for what to expect.
Motels
are almost always pay-by-the hour 'love hotels' for use by illicit lovers and prostitutes and their clients. Most of the time, especially with the more expensive drive-in ones on the outskirts of town, the names will provide an obvious enough clue (eg 'Passion Motel'), but this is not always the case. Some
residencias
also double up as
acostaderos
, or love hotels. It's best to avoid these.

The more expensive hotels add on 16% IVA (value-added tax) to bills. Strictly speaking foreigners should be exempt from this but there seems to be some confusion about the application of this law. Raise the matter with your hotel and you may well get a discount. Some hotels add a small insurance charge.

From 15 December to 30 April, and 15 June to 31 August, some hotels in main holiday centres may increase prices by 20-30%. In some hotels outside the main cities you can only stay (very cheaply) at
en pensión
rates, but no allowance is made for missing a meal.

The Colombian hotel federation,
COTELCO
, www.cotelco.org
, has lists of authorized prices for all member hotels, which can be consulted at tourist offices. In theory, new laws require all hotels to be registered, but to date this is incomplete particularly with regard to cheaper hotels. Most hotels in Colombia charge US$1 to US$6 for extra beds for children, up to a maximum (usually) of four beds per room. Prices are normally displayed at reception, but in quiet periods it is always worth negotiating and ask to see the room before committing.

When booking a hotel from an airport or bus station, try to speak to the hotel yourself; most will understand at least simple English and possibly French, German or Italian. If you use an official tourist agent, you will probably pay a little more as a booking fee. If you accept help from anyone else, you could be putting yourself at risk.

In cheaper hotels, beware of electric shower heaters, which can be dangerous through faulty wiring. Hotels are sometimes checked by the police for drugs. Make sure they do not remove any of your belongings. You do not need to show them any money. Cooperate but be firm about your rights.

Toilets may suffer from inadequate water supplies. In all cases, however, do not flush paper down the pan but use the receptacle provided. Carry toilet paper with you as cheaper establishments as well as restaurants, bars, etc may not provide it.

Camping

Local tourist authorities have lists of official campsites, but they are seldom signposted on main roads, so can be hard to find. Permission to camp with tent, campervan or car may be granted by landowners in less populated areas. Many
haciendas
have armed guards protecting their property, which can add to your safety. Do not camp on private land without permission. Those in campervans can camp by the roadside, but it is not particularly safe and can be difficult to find a secluded spot. If you have a vehicle, it is possible to camp at truck drivers' restaurants or sometimes at police or army posts. Check very carefully before deciding to camp: you may be exposing yourself to significant danger.

Youth hostels

La Federación Colombiana de Albergues Juveniles
, www.fcaj.org.co
, is affiliated to the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) and has 11 hostels around the country centred on Bogotá, where there are 105 beds in Candelaria, in the old centre of the city at Carrera 7, No 6-10. The other hostels are in Armenia, Barichara, Cartagena, Medellín, Paipa, Providencia, San Agustín, Santa Marta, Taganga and Villavicencio. Hostels are often full at holiday periods, December to January and June to mid-July; it's best to telephone in advance during these times. Otherwise, it's usually possible to arrive without a reservation. Membership can be taken out in Colombia: Hostelling International Cards are recognized and qualify for discounts. See also the
Colombian Hostel Association
, www.colombianhostels.com
, which has hostels in Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Cali, Manizales, Medellín, San Gil, Salento, San Agustín, Taganga and Ville de Leiva.
 Hostel Trail Latin America
, www.hosteltrail.com
, is an online network of hostels and tour companies in South America providing information on locally run businesses for backpackers and independent travellers.

Homestays

In many places, it is possible to stay with a local family; check with the local tourist office to see what is available. This is a good option for those interested in learning Spanish informally in a family environment. However, if you take formal classes, you should have a student visa .

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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