A lot has changed at the International House since I stayed there in 2010.
Owner Joel Goleburn recently invited me back to take stock of the improvements, and share the new International House with readers.
For those unfamiliar with the history of this four-story building in the middle-to-upper middle class neighborhood of Belen Malibu, Joel completely renovated it over a period of several years, and began offering rooms for rent in 2009.
Today, he still rents the rooms, but there’s a lesser emphasis on long-term rentals, thereby opening up the rooms to those looking for short or medium-term stays.
To increase capacity and allow for this mix, some of the rooms have been converted into dorms with more than one bed.
I asked Joel about this change in direction, and he said a big part of it was to infuse more life and vitality into the space by ensuring a regular flow of new guests.
In addition, he’s trying to create some cool synergies by offering a limited number of beds free to couchsurfers (because he likes the energy they bring), as well as a work exchange program for artists and musicians.
He welcomes artists, musicians and yoga teachers to apply for free accommodation in exchange for three to four hours of work per day. Room and board are available for longer hours.
One example of this exchange can be seen in the stairwells, which now feature a variety of hand-painted murals depicting tango scenes and the streets of Cuba.
Another is the current offer for in-house Spanish and hand drum lessons for 10,000 pesos ($5) per hour.
The roof of the International House was always my favorite part about the building, even back when I lived there and it was little more than a small table and a few plastic chairs. The 360-degree views of the city up there are wonderful.
Over the years, it has evolved to include a retractable roof, and more recently, sliding glass windows. As you can tell from the photo above, they were specifically designed to preserve the view.
The obvious benefit of weatherproofing the rooftop is that events are no longer governed by the weather. If you’re planning to BBQ, it can happen rain or shine.
Speaking of food, the roof now features a full kitchen, including fridge, stove, grill, juicer and plates, cups and utensils for serving.
The main table and coffee tables are repurposed doors and shutters crafted in Santa Elena. The furniture gives the space a unique feel. If I had a home of my own, I’d be having similar pieces made for it.
In addition to the views, the rooftop features a large flat screen TV, perfect for watching movies, or even better, sporting events like the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
Weekly community dinners/potlucks are a regular occurrence, and are open to friends of residents, as well as those living there.
These social gatherings routinely draw dozens of people together, and offer an easy, low-pressure way for new arrivals to mix and mingle.
The building consists of three apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. Each apartment has three to five rooms, two full bathrooms and two shower-only rooms with sinks.
There’s plenty of communal space, and I like the open kitchen design. You’ll enjoy modern appliances too!
In order to increase fridge capacity, there are now two refrigerators per floor instead of one.
And smokers will appreciate that every apartment includes a balcony.
The fourth floor apartment where Joel lived before moving to a separate apartment a block away is a little bit different.
It features one large dorm room, and another separate room that belongs to Leidy, the Resident Manager.
I asked Joel about the building’s safety record since 2010, since I remembered it was important to him that the building and guests be secure.
He said that due to careful screening of incoming guests and background checks of employees, they’ve had zero thefts since opening in 2009.
There’s closed circuit monitoring, a building alarm system and even a silent alarm that can be activated by any guest, resulting in police and security guards on motorcycles arriving within minutes, if needed.
When it comes to internet access, Joel isn’t messing around. He’s recently installed one of the most advanced routers available, Netgear’s R7000.
This router has the most advanced WiFi protocols available and its wireless connection can be faster than a standard wire connection.
The current connection is 20 MB over coaxial, but any day now, the internet will be upgraded to 30 MB over a dedicated fiber optic line that has already been installed (the yellow cable in the photo above).
Joel is just waiting for the new commercial modem to be installed. When the fiber optic line is connected, International House Medellin will be the only hostel in Colombia with a dedicated fiber optic line.
Another highlight of living at the International House is the convenience of having a restaurant, La Esquina de Basco, on the first floor serving breakfast and lunch daily (7:30AM to 4PM).
The menu features typical Colombian dishes. A lunch special may include grilled chicken, pork or steak with sides of rice, beans, soup, salad and fresh juice for as little as 7,500 – 9,000 pesos ($4 – $4.75).
They’ll also make a dinner plate for you if you request one by 2PM.
At the end of my visit, I sat down for a chicken lunch, and was impressed with the quality and quantity of food for the money.
The restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as four flat screen TV’s, perfect for keeping up with the local soccer.
One of the things I appreciate about the restaurant, aside from the good value and food, is that it attracts a regular crowd of Colombians, both on lunch break from their offices in the surrounding streets, as well as those getting exercise across in the park across the street.
Unidad Deportiva de Belen Andres Escobar
Speaking of parks, the Andres Escobar park is open to the public, with entrance number two directly across the street from the building. Since 2010, they’ve added a roof over the basketball courts, and made other improvements.
Additional facilities include:
- Soccer fields
- Running track
- Tennis courts
- 16-lane professional bowling alley
- BMX course
- Beach volleyball court
- Free aerobics, aquarobics and yoga classes
- Swimming pools, which are available for use for a small fee (no more than a few thousand pesos)
The Location and Metro Access
Located in barrio Belen Malibu, on the western side of Pueblito Paisa, the International House occupies a fairly central position in the valley.
Access to the city’s public transport system has gotten easier with the opening of the Fatima Metroplus bus stop a five-minute walk from the building. From there, it’s two stops to reach the Industriales metro station.
Purchasing an integrated ticket for the bus also allows you to hop on the train with the same ticket.
The following room rates are accurate as of May 2014.
- Monthly: 600,000 to 700,000 pesos ($314 – 366)
- Weekly: 200,000 pesos ($105)
- Daily: 40,000 pesos ($21)
- Monthly: 750,000 – 800,000 pesos ($392 – $419)
- Weekly: 280,000 pesos ($147)
- Daily: 50,000 pesos ($26)
- Daily: $15,000 – 22,000 pesos ($8 – $12)
A $100 (or equivalent) non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee a room until you arrive. This is returned after the move-out inspection.
There is a three night minimum. Rates include all utilities (cable, internet, power, water, local phone), and access to the washer/dryer (dryer is for rainy days only). For an additional 5,000 pesos ($2.60) per day, you can have a private half-bath.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the Comments section below, or contact Joel at the International House directly.
This post was brought to you by the International House.