“ Address: Calle 13 # 9-54, Villa de Leyva, Colombia „
...aka "Why you shouldn't annoy a review writer"
The day we returned to Bogota following a stay at this hotel, Big Sis updated her FB status to say that "Kim is very impressed with Zoë's Spanish arguing skills" which is all very well and good, but I'd have preferred not to have needed to argue at this hotel. But I'm skipping ahead. We should start at the beginning.
Though Villa de Leyva has many hotels, very few appear on booking websites, which is my preferred method of reservation. Since we were travelling during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, I knew better than to leave it to chance, so booked this hotel when I found it on MiniHostels. It was the only one available (and I booked more than 6 weeks in advance) and one of only 3 listed on the site, but it sounded ok. I received an email confirmation saying a 10% deposit had been taken, and I was due to pay the remaining, in local currency, on arrival. When looking for a link to send Big Sis, I came across a few less positive reviews saying things like they didn't deduct the 10% and charged you the full amount, but it was about a month later than I received an odd email. It was from the hotel, to MiniHostels, but copying me in, saying a reservation could not be accepted. Notice how I didn't say MY reservation - they had sent me someone else's details for a stay a few days after ours. The cause of the issue was the price as they were saying they would not honour the tariff agreed on the website. Since my stay was also in 'high season' and I had also been quoted the lower price, I thought it wise to email both back and check my reservation was in order.
I received no response from the hotel, but MiniHostels replied to say it had been a mistake, my booking was in order, and the confirmed price left to pay was $79,000 (my original was $81,000 because of currency differences: I booked using the price quoted in £ while the second email worked on a $US exchange rate). So I was somewhat relieved, and made sure to print out this email.
The confirmation didn't have a check in time on, so we headed over about 3pm since we were already in town and it had started to rain. On entering someone came out of the office to see us. Everything from this point on was done in Spanish. I explained that I had a reservation and gave my name. The man looked blank, and said no. I pulled out the print outs and we all went into the office where he said the booking had not been passed to them by MiniHostels. He then logged onto the website...and lo and behold, there was my name. Next, he said he would not give us a room for that price, as it was high season. I said no, I hadn't booked any date, I had a specific booking for this date and therefore the price was correct in my mind. I stated that Expedia, Hotels.com and the locally popular HotelesDespegar site quote the price for the day in question. That is the way things have worked for the 11+ years I've been making my own hotel bookings, and I did not accept his argument.
This went on for some time. He said he would give us a room for $120,000 (which, after deposit etc is only £10 more, but that's the same as what I earn in an hour of a relatively well paid job here). Big Sis suggested we return to Bogota. I said we should ring MiniHostels. He said yes, did I have their number? I said no I didn't, but he surely should as La Roca has a contract with them. He denied this, saying someone had come and taken photos 6 years ago, but they'd had no contact since.
I said I had no cash to pay the extra (lie #1) and I knew they didn't accept cards. He suggested I go to the ATM to withdraw some so I told him I only had a credit card on me and couldn't withdraw cash (lie #2) which he accepted. Had he not done so, I might have told him I only had a British bank card on me that would work as a debit card but not a cash card - he didn't seem to be that well informed on the concept of international banking so I'm sure he would have thought that true.
Since I'm writing this you've probably guessed that we did get a room (and for the original price) but it was frustrating and slightly exhausting to have to spend so much time arguing in Spanish. I don't know whether they really don't speak English or just pretend not to as a ploy to rip off foreign tourists. Either way, it's unprofessional. I think the thing that most irritated me was when we finally got to our room, we saw TONS of empty rooms...which were still empty in the morning. He should have been glad to have our $80,000 as it's not like he could have got more from anyone else.
When he started to relent, he asked if we wanted 1 bed or 2. I said either, as I didn't want to give him any further excuse to charge us. I also said we could skip breakfast guessing it might not be up to much anyway. I offered to pay then and there, but he said the morning would do. I can't say we weren't tempted for a split second to leave without paying. After all, it would be our word against his, we could have said he didn't give us a room, and with no card facilities it's not like he could have charged the card used to pay the deposit in my absence... Of course we did pay, but the fact we even considered not doing shows how annoyed we were with his attitude.
We had to register with this hotel as is standard for Colombia, but he didn't want copies of our ID. Cue some made up passport numbers and a, whoops, accidentally mis-transcribed mobile phone number. I gave a Bogota address which seemed to make him friendlier...as if somehow I was more deserving of a cheap room since I was living a local lifestyle. We were taken up to our room and then asked to come down and register - I'm not sure whether he was just dozy or distracted by my stellar (not) ability to argue in a multitude of languages, or whether he was showing us the room first to check we were ok with it.
The hotel has 2 floors set around 2 open courtyards. All the rooms face onto the corridor, so with the blinds open you could see people walking past etc, but it wasn't noisy at night (probably because there were so few other guests!). We had a second floor twin room. It looked simple and rustic when we arrived, but had a lot more character than the chains here. The two beds had matching, colourful tartan bedspreads which hid what was beneath. I have a friend who won't stay in a hotel that doesn't give you white towels. He would probably have had a heart attack had he seen the sheets in our room as they were patterned and faded, like being in someone's spare room. The beds only had one pillow each - a noticeable difference from the 8 between us we'd had in the previous hotel. The beds were quite hard too and had blankets not quilts, but we slept fine that night.
The rest of the room was quite basic. We had a TV on a cupboard that had both shelves and a low rail with a few hangers to put your clothes on, and we had a single chair. The TV had some but not all of the usual channels, and for English speaking guests it was missing the keys ones of the WB and Sony which show undubbed shows. Every other hotel or hostel I've been to has always had these.
The ensuite had a large shower cubicle but it took ages for the hot water to appear - so long that Big Sis gave up and decided not to bother. We were provided with a few bars of soap, and one small, thin, towel each. The room was clean enough but the bathroom was a bit murky. It had numerous bugs in it, and there was a sort of dust that had clearly fallen down from the ceiling, leaving a black mess over the sink.
The only other thing to mention about the room was that it had a traditional key (not a card) on a massive wooden key ring. We left it at reception whenever we went out, and I think they were expecting you to do this. It was a bid fiddly opening the door with this key - I failed on several attempts and had to give way to the prowess of Big Sis.
The hotel has an excellent location, with the entrance right on the main Plaza Mayor, so we popped in and out quite a bit. There are numerous restaurants, shops and internet cafes directly on the doorstep, and none of the attractions are far away. This was part of the reason I liked the look of this place, and the one area it didn't disappoint on.
The hotel has few facilities to speak of. There is a small library of books and magazines (I read Esquire...I was desperate) and the courtyards have a bench or two and beautiful flowers, if it would only stop raining long enough to enjoy them.
The breakfast room is at the back and looks a little like a private sitting room. Served from 8am to 10am the meal consists of eggs, bread, juice and a hot drink. Not a lot, but perfectly adequate for this kind of place, and even though we only wanted half the things on offer, we went down to have some bread and juice to keep us going.
I assume there is no curfew here but we had no key for the front door either. When we wanted to pay at about 9am, one of the cleaners had to find our friend from the day before (after asking first if we wanted a receipt - most definitely!) We paid the $80,000 and left it with me saying I would be in touch with MiniHostels. Since the issue was the website only allowing them to have one room price, and them wanting to charge more during high season, I suggested they change their price to be the higher one permanently, and just charge people less on arrival if they showed up outside that time. No one would ever object to a discounted rate, surely? The bloke said that no one would ever come and stay if that were the case. I didn't like to point out that if he continued to treat people like that, sooner or later someone might write and publish a review that could put off more than a few potential guests...
* Private en suite rooms
* A small breakfast is included
* No extra taxes to pay
* The management's attitude
* Credit cards not accepted
* All rooms have interior corridor windows
Advertised prices are $45,000 per person off peak, and $120,000 per person peak season. Or about £15 - £20 pppn which is reasonable...if they tell you in advance what the price will be.
Both websites are out of date on the breakfast (which is currently included) and one is also incorrect on the location.
At the time of writing (April 2011), the exchange rate is £1 = $3000 pesos