If you’re a serial entrepreneur like me, you probably don’t have an office space.. instead you work from your laptop wherever you happen to be. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’re always on the hunt for a place where you can sit comfortably and quietly for hours on end with plenty of electrical outlets and free, fast internet. Tell me I’m wrong! It’s a reality of the new order, and as hundreds flock to be their own bosses, or begin teleworking for foreign companies, the need for shared work-space has become apparent.
I often like to joke that Juan Valdez is my office, but in recent years, it seems that more and more people have had the same idea and now, every location is packed with people – I’ve had to hit the road and find a better spot. Well folks.. I have. There aren’t any baristas, but it’s quiet, and there’s pretty good internet, plenty of electrical outlets and super comfortable seating in air-conditioned comfort.
Biblioteca Piloto Caribe in La Aduana (the old customs building) is a beautiful library with stunning architecture and some of the original fittings from its days as the main customs point for cargo going in and out of the country at Barlovento on the Magdalena. Free to the public, the library is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm. When you first enter the building, you’ll encounter a security desk where you’ll be asked to leave your bag – unfortunately in this country guilt is assumed so they’re worried you might steal some books. Take your laptop and charger and anything else you need and pass over your bag.. they’ll give you a tag with a number to reclaim it when you leave.
Next, to the right, you’ll see Galeria de la Aduana, a quaint art gallery showcasing regional artists with monthly exhibits. Take a few moments to appreciate the talent and then head upstairs. As you arrive upstairs, you can either turn right and right again to access the reading area – rows of comfortable seating with the latest editions of newspapers and popular magazines, or you can turn right around and you’ll see a bank of six touch-screen computers you can use free of charge.
To get access to them, you’ll need to turn left from the stairs and go all the way down the hallway to the last door on the left – there you’ll see a reception desk – ask them to use the computers. They’ll give you one hour of access. If you want, there are around thirty older model computers next to the desk you can also use free of charge.
Alternatively, from the top of the stairs you can turn right and then left to access the personal work area (my new office). Here you’ll find around twenty sets of work stations each complete with a comfortable chair, a light, and a set of electrical outlets. You can sit here all day long if you want. The internet is fast and free, and relatively good – it sometimes drops (I wouldn’t recommend it for conference calls), but it’s great for general use.
Piloto Caribe is of course a library, so there are tons of books that you can peruse and read, and if you need, take out. To do so, ask at the staff desk in the reading area – you’ll need to fill out some forms to get a library card. On the other hand, this isn’t your typical library from Canada or the US; they don’t have tons of funding and it shows.. the books are all rather old and there isn’t a paperback fiction area. They do however have a small kids section worthy of a perusal.
If you’re feeling thirsty or peckish, head back downstairs; there are some snack machines and a coffee dispenser that makes pretty good cappuccino for around $1500 pesos. You aren’t allowed to bring food or drinks upstairs, so they have some tables next to the machines where you can relax. Unfortunately, there aren’t any restaurants in the area so if you want something more substantial you’ll have to head offsite – perhaps take a quick walk up to Museo Caribe for lunch at their delicious bistro. I usually just bring sandwiches and fruit.
Biblioteca Piloto Caribe is located in the old customs building on Via 40 just up a bit from the Intendencia Fluvial. If you take Uber or a taxi, simply ask them to take you to ‘La Aduana’ on via 40. Alternatively, you can do as I do and take one of the blue or yellow Puerto Colombia buses (Expreso Caribe) which will both drop you and pick you up right in front of the building. The buses cost just 1500 pesos and there’s one every 5 minutes or so – you can catch them anywhere along Cra 54.
See you there!