As a new feature of Finance Colombia, we will periodically review the attractions, be they hotels, restaurants or others, relevant to the business traveler.
Today we review the hotel called Soy Local Insignia, located in the Getsemaní district of Cartagena. Unlike the walled city that dates back to the 1500s and the modern tourist districts of Bocagrande and Laguito, Getsemaní developed widely in the early 20’s.e century. The district is dilapidated, but is currently experiencing a revival and renovations are being undertaken everywhere. There are already impressive luxury boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants, but the area hasn’t lost its hip vibe and remains affordable. It’s important to note that Getsemaní is bordered on one side by the Cartagena Convention Center, making it a convenient option for attending events. Most hotels aren’t more than a few blocks away, making them very accessible on foot, if you can handle the hot, sunny weather.
Soy Local Insignia is a small hotel located in Calle de la Media Luna (30e street) near Calle del Guerrero (Cra 10) in Getsemaní. It is very close, less than 5 minutes walk from the convention center and close to many small restaurants, shops and local markets. There was some confusion about the location of the hotel and our initial directions led us to a street around the corner. When we called the number on the Expedia site that we used to book, it put us in touch with an affiliated hotel in Medellin! The folks in Medellin gave us the correct number, but they should consider correcting it on the appropriate booking sites.
The hotel is in a nice renovated building, and the front desk staff José at night and Kelly during the day were friendly and professional. Our 6 night stay to attend the ANDICOM IT annual convention cost US $ 54.57 per night including tax.
We had good wifi in our room, good enough for video streaming. I measured download speeds of 19 Mbps and upload speeds of 27 Mbps using Ookla. The workspace in the bedroom was very small, but sufficient for my laptop.
There is a nice rooftop seating area with a small pool. Not big enough to swim, but fine for cooling off in hot weather.
We really wanted to like this hotel but ended up with too many issues that added up so much that they couldn’t be ignored. The bed was quite comfortable, although the hotel only offers a basic sheet. Many prefer to have a blanket or other bedspread, and that should at least be an option. Our room did not have hot water. The hotel itself had hot water, other rooms had hot water, but it was broken in our room. Kelly offered to move to the front balcony room which faces a nightclub across the street and she warned us how noisy it would be. This room had hot water, but there would be no silence until after midnight.
The room had a clear glass door which is very strange and a little scary. There is a blind that can be lowered in the bedroom, but when you are out of the room everyone can see into your bedroom, whatever your personal belongings, etc. A transparent glass door on a hotel room is something I have never seen before.
Saturday night we had a power failure. We could hear a lot of parties outside so not sure if the whole neighborhood had a power outage and everyone had generators, or if the power was only cut in the hotel. It was out for about 2 hours. I already mentioned that we did not have hot water in our room, on Sunday we completely lost all the water in our room on two occasions. Once during the day and once again in the evening after returning from dinner.
The hotel staff did a good job of cleaning the room, no problem at all. However, the walls had scuffs and what looked like water damage.
Breakfast, served in the rooftop pool, was a basic assortment of cantaloupe, pineapple, watermelon, and a good, filling omelet; or you can have your eggs (seems to be three) prepared differently and accompanied by bread or tostones / patacones (fried plantains). During the week there were no problems. The gentleman responsible for serving breakfast was friendly. Weird thing is that the hotel has low calorie sweetener, but they keep it somewhere on their back and you have to ask them to go get it. They will give it to you 2 or 3 packs at a time. Sugar, cream powder, etc. are made available. In addition to coffee, they have a self-service orange juice machine and hot water.
During the week I asked for cold water with ice and there was no problem. On the weekends the gentleman was gone and the manager insisted that I had to buy bottled water for an additional charge, although that was not a problem during the week. They have an ice maker that doesn’t use bottled water. They give you free hot water. I just asked for ice and put the free hot water in it until it cooled down.
Worse, on Saturday, the same lady tried to tell my wife, registered at the hotel, that she was not entitled to breakfast! I was in the room working and had to walk to the front desk for them to sort this out! A minor humiliation, but no excuse for this kind of treatment.
Soy Local Insignia has the basic ingredients to be a small hotel ideal for exploring the city or attending conferences at the convention center. Unfortunately, they have to install better systems and better training, take care of the physical installation, and do a little maintenance. The front desk staff are great, bring the rest of the team to their level. Most of the things missing are not major investments, but small touches and improvements.
I would stay there again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
How to get there
Viva offers low cost domestic flights to and from Cartagena from Medellín, Bogotá, San Andrés, Cali and Pereira, Colombia, and international passengers can connect through Viva via Medellín or Bogotá with flights from Mexico City, Cancún, Orlando, Miami and several cities in Peru served by Viva. Other international destinations are to come.
As of November 2021, the taxi service from Cartagena Airport to anywhere in the Getsemaní district is a flat rate of 12,100 pesos, regulated by law. Look for official signage at the airport that will indicate updates. Prices usually change every January. Uber and inDriver are also actively used in Cartagena. Be careful with informal transport and taxi services, although they are generally safe.
The United States Embassy issued an alert earlier in November stating that “there has been an increase in criminal activity throughout Cartagena as Covid-19 restrictions have been reduced, and there have been several occurrences Notable criminals in the Chambacu neighborhood, the area east of Centro Comercial Caribe Plaza and in the south of Cartagena. These neighborhoods and areas lie outside of the main tourist areas of the historic walled city, Getsemaní and Bocagrande, and the alert does not refer to the high-end resort and hotel areas northeast of the city au- beyond the airport.