Most foreigners choose to stay in the historic Old Town. Midrange and expensive lodging options are found in the inner walled city, while the backpacker crowd heads to Getsemaní, the slightly dilapidated but much cheaper outer walled city. If you're looking for all-inclusive resorts, head to Capilla del Mar, Carrera 1 no. 8-12, Bocagrande (tel. 5/665-1140; www.capilladelmar.com); Americas Global Resort, Anillo Vial Sector Cielo Mar (tel. 5/656-7222; www.hotellasamericas.com.co); or the Decameron, Carrera 1 no. 10-80 Bocagrande (tel. 5/665-4400; www.decameron.com).
Cartagena is jam-packed in December and January, with tourism slowly tapering off by April. July and August are busy again because of summer break. Throughout the year, various events, notably the Miss Colombia Pageant in November, fill the city. During these times, it's wise to book your hotel ahead of time. The city can also be pretty busy during mid-October, when students have a week off. You should note most Cartagena budget hotels don't usually have hot water. With the heat and humidity, though, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
I recommend you avoid Cartagena from mid-October through the end of November; the city often floods then, making it difficult to sightsee or head to the beach.
Inexpensive -- In addition to the Hotel El Viajero, several decent budget choices are in the Getsemaní neighborhood, the poorer, less glamorous part of Cartagena's Old Town. Even though this neighborhood isn't particularly picturesque and can get a bit seedy at night, it is popular with backpackers, and foreigners rarely encounter problems here. In addition, hotels in this area are only a 5-minute walk from the inner walled city. Don't expect hot water, however. One good option in Getsemaní is the lovely Hostal Baluarte, at Calle de la Media Luna no. 10-81 (tel. 5/664-2208). The 24 rooms are small and plain, but each is clean and well kept, and comes with a TV. A double with air-conditioning costs COL$60,000, while rooms with only a fan go for COL$35,000. You might also consider the excellent Hostal La Casona de Getsemaní, at Calle Tripita y Media Carrera 10 no. 31-32 (tel. 5/664-1301). All rooms come with en suite bathroom and cable TV, and some come with air-conditioning. Expect to pay COL$39,000 for a double without air-conditioning, COL$53,000 with air-conditioning. I prefer the hotels in this area because, compared to hotels in the inner walled and modern sections of town, you get more amenities for your money.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.