The last time I was in Trujillo, I left my comfortable room in the Hotel Colonial and set out to find a decent hostel — something respectable, safe and affordable, something I could write about and recommend to shoestring backpackers.
The Colonial is a good option less than two blocks from the Plaza de Armas. And, with single rooms from S/.50 to S/.60 (US$18 to $22) and doubles for S/.90 ($33), it’s reasonably priced and a lot cheaper than most hotels in the historic center.
But I know what it’s like to travel on an incredibly tight budget, when an extra S/.20 a day on accommodation makes a huge difference. So off I went to scour the streets of Trujillo for hostels with dorms or shared rooms with beds in the S/.20 to S/.35 range.
Now I’m not a fussy traveler when it comes to accommodation, but after an exasperating hour or so in search of something decent, it soon became apparent that Trujillo has some of the worst backpacker accommodation in Peru — at least in the historic center…
Stoned Receptionists and Preening Pimps
I began my depressing hostel search in the area near Hotel Colonial. I turned off Jr. Independencia and strolled down Jr. Junín, where I came across Hostal El Encanto and, directly opposite, Hostal Ensueño. “Promising,” I thought, “both these places are mentioned in the seventh edition of Lonely Planet Peru.”
Oh Lonely Planet, what hast thou done?
Hostal Ensueño has a certain psychedelic-brothel charm, I guess, but by the time you’ve negotiated the confusing mirrored stairway, you’ll probably be ready for a lie down. Once you’ve entered your acid-trip room, you’ll be ready to puke. Think of it like this: if Austin Powers were a serial killer, this is where he’d take his victims. The cheapest rooms are S/.50, which really doesn’t help.
Hostal El Encanto isn’t quite as psychedelic as Ensueño, but the brothel vibe is very much alive. And there are mirrors, lots of mirrors. I walked in and asked a dour man in the reception area if I could look at a room. “Sure,” he said. He declined to offer any further help or advice so I took the initiative and walked up stairs alone. I encountered what looked like a young pimp combing grease through his hair while staring intently at the stairwell mirror. He grunted as I passed. I had a quick peek inside a room. It was nothing special — sufficient for a pay-per-hour knocking shop — so I decided to leave before I got stabbed or raped or both.
Moving swiftly on, I took a right up Jr. San Martín where I encountered Hostal Mattías. I edged up a narrow stairway to the tiny, dark reception area, where I offered a doubtful “hola?” to the vacant space. Something rustled. Something moved. From a lightless cubbyhole in the wall behind the reception desk emerged what appeared to be a teenage crack addict who hadn’t seen daylight for at least 72 hours. I looked at him with a blank expression. He blinked in the half light and said nothing. I opened my mouth to ask if I could see a room, but then lost all hope and interest. I turned, walked back down the narrow stairway and exited to the comparative normality of the colonial street outside.
With my hostel hunt going from bad to worse, I walked back down Junín in search of more budget options. I passed plenty of expensive colonial-style hotels, of which Trujillo has more than enough. I reached Avenida España, the main circular thoroughfare that follows the path of the old city walls and marks the end of the historic center, so I turned down Grau, a street that bulges with confectionary stores containing blocks of King Kong candy.
It was here on Jr. Grau that I spotted Hostal Mapi, a drab looking place with a few sad flags hanging above the door. I decided to have a quick look inside, where an old and very grey man greeted me at the top of the stairs. He was friendly enough, but seemed surprised and unnerved by my presence. He showed me a room; it was like walking into the lung of an 80-year-old chain smoker. The stale stench was noxious and the tiny attached bathroom was splattered with shit. I said a quick farewell and left the building rapidly, holding my breath as I went.
In dire need of a beer, I went to the nearby Los Luise’s for a Pilsen Trujillo. Thumbing through the various business cards I’d collected, I realized that the same company owned all four of the hostels I’d visited.
I had inadvertently spent the last hour or so inspecting a monopoly on mediocrity run by EMJ & Corporación.
I’d normally feel bad about singling this company out for such criticism, but a) I had no idea they owned the four locations and b) they really have managed to create some quite horrific hostels, both in terms of style and service.
It’s Not All Bad, Is It?
Defeated, I abandoned my Trujillo hostel quest in favor of a night of comparative luxury in La Hacienda Hotel and Spa. But I kept my eyes open for shoestring options and managed to find two backpacker-style hostels in the historic center that were adequate if not spectacular.
The first, El Mochilero, is an oddball establishment located at Independencia 887. This place has some weird rooms that the owners refer to as cabañas, or cabins, including a bamboo hut on stilts right in the middle of the small courtyard area. But it’s a friendly enough place with some tempting prices: dorm room beds and basic (very small) single rooms for S/.20 per person.
The second place is Hostal El Virrey (Grau 727), a potentially decent option if you can haggle over the price. If I remember correctly, I was told at least S/.40 for a single and about S/.70 for a double, which is way too much for what’s on offer. Knock at least S/.10 soles of those prices and it’s worth considering, especially if you like smaller, more intimate, family-run hostels.
Can You Recommend a Good Hostel in Trujillo?
If you can recommend a good hostel in Trujillo, something with beds starting at around S/.20 to S/.35, do me a favor and leave the details in the comments section below. I’m particularly interested in hostels in the historic center, but any recommendations are more than welcome. Thanks.
All photos © Tony Dunnell