If you didn't have to check into El Viajero Cartagena Hostel, your first impressions would be of a really nice, clean hostel with a layout that looks a little like an American motel. Unfortunately, your first impression will instead be molded by a collection of the surliest employees in South America, seemingly handpicked for their poor customer service. Check-in alone takes so long you will probably have to pay for another night by the time you eventually get your keys.
The location of El Viajero, however, is fantastic. Right in the heart of the Old Town, it's a beautiful part of the city with great restaurants, sights, and nightlife all close by. The bus station is a taxi ride away, but this is the case if you want to stay anywhere worth staying in the city. The same goes for the port if you're heading off on a sailing trip to the San Blas or Panama.
Rooms and Bathrooms
The showers are really fantastic at this hostel. They're cool and refreshing without being shockingly freezing, perfect for the Caribbean climate; they have a large changing space; but most important of all for the forgetful backpacker is the fact they provide liquid shampoo in all the cubicles and soap in the toilets.
The bedrooms are also better than average; all have air conditioning, locks on the doors, and large lockers under the beds, as well as small electronic safes on the walls, and some of the best pillows you will encounter in a hostel. The beds themselves are pretty comfortable, too.
El Viajero has a fantastic huge kitchen with all the amenities you could need next to a decent-sized dining area, which also contains the hostel's two internet computers. Nearby are two fridges full of reasonably priced beers and soft drinks; unfortunately, you do have deal with the receptionists to pay for these. For spirits and cocktails, a small bar is set up out in the courtyard, around which the bedrooms are centered. This courtyard provides a social area at night, which at times can attract a decent crowd from around Cartegena before people head off to the nightclubs and bars. The television room is quite a cool little place with a flat screen TV, sofas, and walls plastered with retro movie posters.
El Viajero may not be the biggest or liveliest hostel in Cartegena, but it is certainly one of the nicest. If you survive check-in and manage to minimalise contact with the gloomy staff, you could have a very pleasant stay here.