Given my experience at Hotel Boutique Alma, and the condition of the property I visited last week, I am baffled by the high ratings other TripAdvisor reviewers have gifted this pleasant, though flawed, hotel. In my opinion, this is not the third best hotel in Bogota--not by a longshot.
The Alma is the former Hotel BH LaSalle, which is a fact that is largely omitted in other reviews of this property. I mention it because the evidence of its former affiliation (BH is a small Colombian hotel group) is unavoidable at this hotel. The shower curtain, the towels, the hallway floor map on the back of the room’s door, even some of the hallway art work, is emblazoned with the old logo. In other places in the hotel, the newer Alma logo has just been plastered over the glass plates engraved with the BH identification, and not all that well, at that. Hotels, of course, reflag and rebrand all the time, so there is nothing inherently wrong with a particular property having a different identification in its history. What is telling, however, is that the rebranding was done on the cheap, rather slapdash, and notably half-heartedly. And that summarizes the hotel as aptly as its re-identification efforts. . .
The building (which coincidentally, shares the same intersection as The Plaza in New York--58th and 5th) appears to be an old large house in a quiet-ish residential neighborhood called Chapinero Alto, near University LaSalle, and just two blocks off Carrera 7, a major avenue. Chapinero, a student/gay/bar/commercial area, is just down the hill from the hotel, while considerably tonier neighborhoods, like Zona G, start about 10 blocks to the north. The TransMilenio, Bogota’s very handy bus-rapid transit system, is about a 15 minute walk.
I booked a Junior Suite Elegant, and was taken to room 203. Junior Suite Elegant is the Pineapple of room types--as it was neither a junior suite, nor particularly elegant. It was a moderate sized standard guest room with a queen bed and a couch that was as unattractive as it was uncomfortable. The lighting was poor, which was an asset in obscuring that the carpet was not vacuumed anytime recently. (Carpet was a challenge throughout the hotel--the rugs in the hallway are stained, and the room carpet never seemed vacuumed, either room, over three nights’ stay. As well, even the installation was poor. . .seams showing, ill fitting, and not very clean).
The bed has a great fluffy duvet on it, as some reviews note. However this lovely, white duvet sits atop a brick of a mattress, that is merely swaddled in a sheet. . .not even a mattress pad to protect the guest from the slab that awaits. While I am a fan of hotel energy conservation efforts, the insert-the-key-to-get-AC-and-lights device never excited me much. In this instance, this particular device is an exciting triumph of poor engineering, as the shuts down every outlet. As a result, even the clock radio has its electricity turned off when you leave the room and take your key. The clock flashed 12:00 throughout my stay.
The bathroom is a modern black slate and mirror affair, with a shower only unit centered on a rainshower head. Water pressure is good. Amenities are lackluster, but worse, the little bottles are capped with corks, and it appears that the bottles are refilled by management than replaced between guests--a practice of dubious hygiene.
My time in this particular room was to be short. As I was retiring for the night the first evening, the entire blackout shade assembly came crashing off the wall. Since it was late, only the auditor was at the front desk. I slept in the room, no blackout drapes, and moved the next morning. There was some street noise. . .bring earplugs.
Breakfast is a made to order, full-on, meal. . .eggs, toast, fruit, coffee, juice. The enthusiasm with which it was served was notably varied. . .one morning, the server could serve me enough food, the next, a different server nearly couldn’t be bothered. Food was tasty and served hot. In nicer weather, there is an outside patio.
I was moved from 203 to 302 to remedy my unvacuumed, now broken room. This near-palindromic solution took me to what the hotel called the Royal Suite. . .still not a suite (note to hotels: a junior suite has a full seating area, a suite has a full seating area in another room--a mere couch or 7 additional square feet of floor area doesn’t constitute a suite of any kind.), but with a king bed, that same awful couch in a different color, and a slightly larger bathroom. Also, since this room was on the top floor, the beams and rafters made for a nice ceiling. Neither the stairway carpet nor the third floor room carpet appeared to have encountered a vacuum for days. And if this hotel has an elevator, I never saw it. (Was fine with the walk up, but am not sure such a set up would work for a wheelchair user).
When selecting a hotel, I opted for the most affordable, most highly rated hotel from the Trip Advisor list. It is interesting that I also stayed at Hotel Casa Deco, rated #4 here, during this visit. Casa Deco (and that review follows) isn’t perfect, but the staff is amazing, and there are enough nice touches that I fully understand the high marks with which TripAdvisor contributors have honored that small La Candelaria hotel. Hotel Boutique Alma’s staff was pleasant and helpful enough, but there was nothing approaching the next level of service I’d imagine a hotel with this high a review should possess. And the physical and housekeeping issues here are a real flaw. If you are expecting third highest rated hotel in Bogota, you will be gravely disappointed. If you, instead, expect a pleasant three star hotel--this mid-$100s a night property can be a nice, well located stay.