Long gone are the days of Escobar for which Medellin has been most historically famous. Most of the beautiful Medellin inhabitants you meet will not have even been born by the time the infamous Pablo Escobar departed. Most Paisa’s, as they are known, are taken by surprise that the name Escobar is still famous and internationally known after 3 decades. Yet what is of surprise is Pablo Escobar is an incredibly common name in Medellin. Think of it as the ‘John Smith’ of the UK. Don’t be surprised if you meet an authentic Pablo Escobar in person.
The Paisa’s of Medellin are renowned for being the most beautiful of Colombia. The model-like looks and charms are world-renowned. Thou beware as the good looks of the Paisa come arguably with an attitude to match. Both Colombians and foreigners often highlight the machismo culture, particularly among men in the region. Trust and violence in relationships not just in Medellin, but Colombia as a whole is somewhat rife compared to western standards. However, this gives an added appreciation to the thoughtful foreigner who arrives with different perspectives.
Medellin is Colombia’s second city and like many second cities has its own magic. It is very much similar to Barcelona, Spain of old without the beach. A similar-sized population of 5 million and a landscape encircled by small hilly mountains gives a strikingly comparable landscape. Today Medellin is a vast metropolis of glistening lights, encompassing the central regions with hilled residential areas surrounding. Commercially growing rapidly, month by month you can see this city grow and transform.
As a booming commercial hub, as expected Medellin has everything and more than a big city can offer. With a vast array of different districts to keep the taste buds going for ex-pats and digital nomads alike. From plush new-build skyscrapers, tree-lined avenues accompanied by regular co-work spaces and Starbucks to more prestigious neighborhoods of old. There are even hipster student styled areas to match. Medellin is bohemia at its finest. To many Medellin and Colombia would seem maybe an underdeveloped region, yet forget not in the 50’s Colombia and Medellin was a booming hub of South America. At that time Caracas and Buenos Aires regularly occupied the top 5 spots in global economic standings. Medellin is Colombia’s second city and with strong connections to Europe and Spain boomed and much of the architecture and culture of Europe was transferred and imported to this powerhouse of old. Today in areas such as Prado you can still see some of Spain’s finest colonial architecture on display. Today Prado is one of Medellin’s less fanciful but no less interesting neighborhoods.
Medellin, in general, is Digital Nomad’ing at its finest. Cheap, beautiful people, activity-filled days, and a good life. A thriving digital nomad community makes Medellin remote work perfect and seamless. Digital nomads in Medellin find a plethora of coffee shops, co-working spaces, ex-pat, and nomad Facebook groups, relatively fast internet, and a thriving nomad community. The ex-pat/nomad community is currently the largest in Latin America. Six-month visas make Medellin a prime and growing spot for remote workers, ex-pats, tech nomads, and the nomadic community alike. All in all Medellin surely is one of the best digital nomad cities.
Cost of living in Medellin
Living in Medellin is easy and one of the cheapest digital nomad/ex-pat locations for a high standard of life, thus, making Medellin one of the World’s best ex-pat and digital nomad cities.
Medellin, Colombia’s cost of living is something to awe. Luxury penthouse apartments, fine dining, and the good life. Whatever takes the fancy can be achieved easily on the fraction of a budget to almost all other destinations. If you have Pounds, Euros or Dollars as a rough calculation you are going to be 4-5 times richer here depending on current currency exchanges.
Money & Withdrawing Money In Medellin
Many cash machines have quite small daily limits. In addition, they sometimes have quite large charges too. The below are best for both being fee-free and the daily allowance.
- Copatria 900000*3 per day (zero fee) Approx $825 total
- Davivienda 400000*1 per day (zero fees) Approx $125 total
- BBVA 300000*3 per day (zero fees) Approx $300 total
Where to Live – Expat Main Districts
- Poblado – The go-to the district for foreigners, higher prices, good restaurants, many bars, frowned on by the locals. A US/European district transplanted in Colombia. Poblado stretches up and around from the metro and radiates from the infamous party district of Parque Lleras.
- Provenza – Above Poblado, and where some of the most exclusive and best accommodation to be found is. Though be aware the hill is steep. Live here and no need for a gym membership. Good air quality. Somewhat lush and green. Close to Poblada but away from the hustle and bustle.
- Laureles/Estadio/Floresta – A more authentic and value for money area. More bohemia then party. Great restaurants and cafes and more of a hippy laid back vibe.
- Envigado – A quaint neighboring town. More authentic Colombia and stripped of the macho vibe in other areas. Cheap and good options.
- Belen – Belen is big yet there is a strategic part of it between Poblado, Conquistadores and Laureles which makes an ideal base for those who like to be able to get everywhere on foot. Not many cafes, restaurants, or commerce as such but you will be within 10-15 minutes of something you like. Cheaper rents and quiet too.
Medellin Accommodation Groups
Finding Accommodation in Medellin for most will be done via Airbnb which is generally the safest and easiest option. If noise is an issue for sleeping make sure to get an internal bedroom. A good standard 1 bedroom apartment can be found for about $400 per month outside Poblado. Poblado is a bit more expensive and you may need around $500 per month or more. For those staying longer considerable savings can be made on already-cheap rents by taking out a 3-month contract. These are generally for locals. To get a deal like this you can check:
Climate & Pollution in Medellin
As the Antioquia/Colombian saying goes, ‘Cabañuelas’ the first 12 days of year predicts the weather for the full year. In Medellin, this may be correct as the weather really does remain pretty much constant all year round, between 24-28 degrees daytime temperatures and pleasant at night. Aircon and heating are not needed. Pollution though is a particular problem in this region, the government claims this is because of the ecological issues of a valley holding pollution in. But additionally, without doubt, the thick black smog that pours out of the local buses and trucks must also be making a severe impact. Medellin is known as the city of the eternal spring so for most the climate is perfect.
Safety in Medellin
Today Medellin is a fairly tranquil city; common misconceptions about its safety though should not be entirely ignored. Tranquility can lead to confusion and overconfidence. Muggings are fairly common. But in general, most crime and mishaps are around the usual party and alcohol-fueled areas that plague most places on the planet. It is important to remember with Medellin’s boom there are still those who get left behind. Medellin has some of the wealthiest people in the country but also some of the poorest living closes by. Street robberies do happen to foreigners and locals alike. Generally, these are done by 2 or more men on Motorbikes, with a knife or gun. Arms could possibly be fake or real so best to be cautious. Generally, a robbery will come from behind. The simple remedy to this situation is always to walk into the traffic.
Transport in Medellin
Medellin is a travel-friendly city. A modern metro system makes perfect for getting to most parts of the city. Though, the Metro is definitely best avoided around rush hour when queues often stretch out of the stations. The metro is clean, safe, and reliable. Police are at every station, usually at the entrance and on the platforms. Their main job is helping the disabled.
Taxi’s are cheap and convenient and can get you around the city for a similar price to what a Metro would normally cost in other countries. A taxi can be hailed on the street and will run by meter, payment is cash only.
Bikes in the city are a great option with some selected bike paths. A governmental bike hire scheme is invaluable for locals and can be used by foreigners on a weekly basis. You can sign up at various metro stations (Itagüí, Niquía, San Antonio, and San Javier – Monday to Friday from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm, or on Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm) by getting a personalized Civica card. To get a personalized Civica card you will need your passport and/or ID.
Motorcycles *The main cause of death in Medellin is traffic accidents. A motorcycle is a great option though care is needed. Roads are busy and congested at times and driving can become dangerous and problematic. But as long as caution is heeded a motorcycle is a great way to escape the traffic and get out of the city quickly and easily. In Colombia/Medellin Motorcycles are known as a Moto. There are a few options to rent motorcycles in Medellin but these are overpriced and certainly a Gringo trap. For the price of a monthly rental, you can buy your own Moto and then sell again on your departure for a similar price. Though if you do feel to rent some options are below:
If you prefer to buy check out www.facebook.com/groups/solomotosxsiempre or:
Electric Bike hire is another option as a time saver to explore the city at speed www.medebike.com/#rental
Stand-Up Scooters such as those from Grin have made it Medellin too. They cost a flat fee of $1500 COP to unlock and $300 COP per minute thereafter
Laureles Coworks & Where To Work
Meeting People in Medellin
- Facebook events
Networking and Further Info Groups
Laureles Bohemia Activities/Things To Do
Medellin Popular & Alternative Things to Do
Hiking Walking & Outdoors Medellin
Surrounded by hills and at the peak of the northern Andes Medellin is, of course, great for the casual walker. Though for the more experienced mountaineer you may need to travel a few hours out of town. Some of the best in town are below and make for a great hike when the need arises. These range from gentle to the more strenuous.
Parks & Open Spaces Medellin
The definition of the park in Medellin may be a little different from what some are used to, generally, a park is often a concrete square with a small patch of grass. Yet fear not there are a few hidden gems of greenery within the city worth stopping in.
- Cerro el Volador – Probably the most authentic city park in Medellin. 15 minutes walk up from Estadio. Forested and great views. Perfect picnic spot at the top.
- Cerro de las Tres Cruces (Hill of 3 Crosses) – A great afternoon hike, fairly steep but doable in an hour or so. Amazing views. Workout parks at the top and the mid waypoint. An iconic spot.
- Pueblito Paisa and Nutibara Hill – Next to Belen and Conquistadorres a family park that gets busy but offers some welcome nature within the city. Be sure to have an explore as it is quite big and there are some more quiet paths.
- Plaza Botero (Parque Berrio metro station) – Central concrete square of downtown including some stone carvings and one of the city museums.
- Jardín Botánico – A beautiful free botanical garden right next to the tube. Great picnic spot. Some interesting wildlife. Gets busy. And gates close for the night.
- Ciudad del Río – A small but acceptably sized rectangle park that stretches for a 100 meters or so. More of a dog park than one for lounging but nice none the less.
- Parque Pies Descalzos – Barefoot park, a zen-inspired park designed to be playful by nature.
The Best & Most Interesting Markets of Medellin
- Plaza Minorista (Food & Textiles)
- Plaza Mayorista (Food)
- San Alejo (Crafts) 1st Sunday of the month. Access via Junin Calle.
- Plaza da Flores (Herbs & Flowers)
- Plaza America (General)
Vegan and Veggie Friendly Food & Where to Eat – Medellin
Whether fine dining or street dining is your preference you will find an option. Although Colombian food doesn’t have quite the complexities of its Mexican cousins it does have an authentic and sometimes creole taste worth savoring. Open up to a new variation on Latin American cuisine. Whether it be hearty stews, fried delicacies, or an incredible assortment of fruits and vegetables that the region is blessed with. Or perhaps an entirely new range of bakery products with their own Colombian twist, foodies will find their buzz here if they look in the right places.
For the vegan or veggie in Medellin, you’ll probably prefer Laurells as a base with its plethora of laid back vegan and veggie-friendly restaurants and cafes. Poblado also has a pretty spectacular line-up too though restaurants in this district are generally a little more polished and hustled within the party sectors.
Top Tip: Essential Food/s to try – Hogoa (Crushed plantain gently fried ‘Pattaconnes’ topped with chopped herbs, tomato, onion, and olive oil. Papa Chorriada, Colombian baked potatoes. Both delicious.
- Bacano – To describe cool
- Paisa – The name of the self-proclaimed Medellin citizen
Medellin Films to Watch
Buying Online Medellin/Classified Ads
Being a bustling city Medellin has a huge number of malls where you can buy just about anything. However, for the e-commerce lover, there are options for buying both new and second hand. Check with neighbors though to see if delivery is possible. Delivery services in Colombia are notoriously bad.
New commerce Colombia:
Second-hand commerce Colombia:
- Medellin Gringo Classifieds With a Price. NO Real Estate facebook.com/groups/388570771333370
- Medellin Gringo Classifieds https://www.facebook.com/groups/expatsmedellin/
Medellin Getting in and Out
As Colombia’s second city with this comes all of the global connections,
1 large commercial regional/international airport José María Córdova International Airport (MDE), which is 21 mile or 35 km out of the city. Small safe and modern José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) has taxis available for transfer to the city. To Medellin, it is going to cost between 70000-80000 pesos or 80000 to 90000 if you take the new toll tunnel route. Each takes 40 and around 20 minutes respectively. Buses are also available for around 10000 depending on times and take around 60 minutes.
1 small internal (small jet) airport Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH), which is a long strip on the edge of Belen and within a few kilometers of both Poblado and Laureles. Olaya Herrera Airport is internal only. If you wake up early enough you can see hoards of small jets flying out like dominos around sunrise.
In addition, there is a hoard of bus stations taking you far and beyond.
Visas for Colombia
To enter Colombia you either need to have a visa before arrival or have an outbound place ticket to prove you will leave in order to receive a visa on arrival. The initial visa is usually valid for 90 days. Tourists can extend for a further 90 days. Learn more at www.medellinguru.com/tourist-visa
Finding Herb in Medellin
Being Colombia as you can imagine herbs are quite easily sourced. Not only will you be regularly asked on the streets. There is a range of other options. Herb oil is sold in almost all-natural health stores and is surprisingly potent and a great medicinal alternative. For the more adventurous and only recommend with a local; Barrio Antioquia shows an interesting glimpse into another side of Medellin. Colombians being creative though you will find a varying amount of different options from infused Ice Cream Parlors, Cake shops, and even online menus and delivery services.
With Colombia being almost as big as Europe there is understandably a lot of options depending on if you head out by Road or Air.
Road: Jardin, Guatape, Salento & the Cocora Valley are the most popular destinations for the nature lover.
Air: Cali, Bogota, Santa Marta/Tayrona National Park, Cartagena and the most recommended San Andres and Providencia Islands.