Medellin Colombia Travel Guide

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This Medellin Travel Guide and Video includes Medellin Top 10 Things to Do, Medellin Condo Rental, Medellin Favorite Restaurants, Medellin NightLife, Medellin Money Saving Tricks, Medellin Safety and Health Risks, and Medellin Cost of Living.

Medellin: Top 10 Things to Do
  1. Comuna 13:  This was the most impactful experience in Medellin with the most beautiful street art (graffiti) you have ever seen.  This is a story about homeless people who squatted on land in the hills above Medellin.  People go to see the most beautiful street art in the world and hear a story of a community shunned by society.  Community 13 built cardboard houses and lived without city water, electricity, sewer, or police protection for decades.  They formed a community to help take care of each other and were eventually attacked by the Medellin police, drug lords, rebels, and vigilantes. They survived all of this for decades and are the most interesting community in Medellin.  This is a must see in Medellin whether or not you are a fan of graffiti.  Your support will help us share information how to travel the world and how to make money online.  If you purchase anything we suggest below, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Here are links to the tours we recommend: 1. Private Tour, 2. Small Group Tour, or 3. Large Group Tour.  We went on Tour 3, but would do tour 1 or 2 if we could do it again.
  2. Marinilla:  This tour was our favorite tour in Medellin.  This The Rock of Guatape Tour includes favorites #2, #3, and #4 on this list of Top 10.  This tour starts with a drive through the most beautiful lushly green rolling hills you have ever seen in your life.  You will see how rural Colombians have lived for hundreds of years in this gorgeous landscape.  You then stop for breakfast in the quaint village of called Marinilla.  There you will see the gorgeous town square framed with colonial era buildings and the village church.  Next, you visit the Rock of Guatape and the town of Guatape, the next two destinations on out Medellin top 10 list.  Here is the link to the tour we took: The Rock of Guatape Tour.
  3. The Rock of Guatape:  After visiting the town of Marinilla, your tour will continue through more beautiful rolling hills and along a beautiful lake to the base of one of the largest rocks in the world.  Optionally, you can enjoy lakes views from the base, or climb the 740 steps to the most spectacular view from the top of the rock.  You will be surrounded by a beautiful lake with many islands and a stunning view of the lush rolling hills.  Make sure to have a Mango popsicle when you reach the top!  After a traditional lunch of chicken beef, or vegetarian, the tour will continue in the town of Guatape.  Here is the link to the tour we took: The Rock of Guatape Tour
  4. Guatape:  Guatape is the most colorful village I have seen in Colombia, and that really means something.  Each home has a painted mural on front in vibrant colors, that tells you who lives there based upon the kind of work they do.  After a guided tour of some of the most colorful murals, you will take a boat ride around Guatape lake.  You are then given about an hour of free time to take as many pictures of the colorful village before tour returns to Medellin.  Here is the link to the tour we took: The Rock of Guatape Tour  
  5. Pablo Escobar Tour:  We had watched the netflix series–Narcos.  So we wanted to see some of the places shown in the series.  There are several possible tours you can take.  Our tour visited the Escobar’s home called “Monaco” in the El Poblado neighborhood.  It is an 8000 square meter mansion in the wealthiest neighborhood of Medellin.  We also visited one of the neighborhoods that Escobar built for poor people who were literally living in a city dump.  Escobar built homes for hundreds of families, and gave them to them, mortgage free.  Next we visited La Cathedral, the prison Escobar built for himself before he surrendered to the Colombian government.  Finally, we visited the graveyard where Escobar is buried with his mother and his driver.  I am not recommending the tour we took, but here are a few other tour operators I would take if I was going today:  Pablo Escobar Tour 1.  Pablo Escobar Tour 2.  
  6. El Poblado:  We were told this is the most desirable neighborhood in Medellin, where most foreigners and expats live.  It was what we expected.  You might as well stay at home.  It was a crowded, expensive, and tourist trap and looks and feels much like living in the USA.  What is the point of visiting a foreign country if you aren’t going to get the flavor of the place?  If you need some special product that is only available in the USA, Europe or the UK, then the mall in El Poblado is likely to be worth a visit.  Otherwise, check out Laureles.    
  7. Laureles:  This is a beautiful neighborhood of people who are Colombian.  You can watch Colombians, eat with Colombians, and have fun with Colombians in a safe beautiful neighborhood.  Our condo on the 14th floor was fully furnished with a fully equipped kitchen, a desk workspace for digital nomads, and city and mountain views.  You will be surrounded by international and Colombians restaurants, night clubs, discotheques, live music, casinos, family grocery stores, and high quality international grocery stores.  Plus you will be in walking distance to the Laureles-Estadio Transit Station.  
  8. Free Downtown Medellin Walk:  Just click on the link to get a google map or insert the following five destinations in your smartphone. This is a daytime walk.  At night it could be dangerous.  There are four sights you should see on this walk.    1. Parque De Las Luces, 2. Basilica of Our Lady of La Candelaria, 3.  Palacio De La Cultura Rafael Uribe, 4. Plaza Botero, and 5. Museo de Antioquia.  Take the Metro to the San Antonio Station to start.  Take an Uber to the first stop if you don’t know how to get to a Metro station.   When you get to Palacio De La Cultura, make sure to go inside and walk up the stairs all the way to the outside patios on top.  The entrance is on the east side and the guards will make you register with your name, country, email and phone number, but there is no fee.  Walk up one stair case and down another.  This walk will give you a real idea of why Colombians should and be are a very proud people.  
  9. Medellin Metro/Sky Tram: Take the Medellin Metro from any station to the San Javier Station.  About $2 dollars.  At the San Javier Station, without leaving the building, go up the escalator and take the Sky Tram all the way to the end.  It has several stops along the way, but just stay in your seat.  At the top it turns around and returns you to San Javier Station.  If you never leave the station, you can go back from where you came for the same $2 fare.  The Sky Tram views are the most spectacular in the city.  
  10. Pueblito Paisa:  Grab a taxi or Uber to a miniature museum village not far from Laureles called Pueblo Paise.  Just walk around and take pictures and visit the museum there with pictures of Medellin life over the last 80 years.  

Medellin Condo

Here is a link to the condo: 14th Floor View Condo.  It has fast internet, a fully equipped kitchen and is in an amazing Neighborhood.  

Medellin Favourite Restaurants

  1. Full Arabe:  This is an outdoor cafe in Laureles with amazing Lebanese food.  They have both meat and vegetarian dishes, as you would expect at a Lebanese restaurant.  
  2. Saludpan: This is a health food restaurant catering to vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters.  It has both traditional Colombian foods and western style foods.  It might be the best restaurant in Laureles even if you are not normally a healthy eater.  You should feel free to try the special of the day.     
  3. Olivia Pizzeria:  This is very nice food despite being a multi-location restaurant. They have both vegetarian, vegan, and meat choices.  The Tomato Soup is really nice.  If you drink beer, ask to have your beer served as a “Michelada.”  In Colombia, Michelada means salt rim with lemon juice inside.
  4. Orale Mexican Restaurant:  If pig fat in your beans doesn’t bother you then check out this Mexican Restaurant in Laureles.  For your vegetarian or vegan friends, they have a nice guacamole.  
  5. Vagabond Buddhas Kitchen:  We had an amazingly equipped kitchen when we were in Laureles Medellin, so the best meals were at our house.  Make sure to pick up some avocados at the local grocery store and make some guacamole.  See Livability “Food Costs” below for grocery store locations in Laureles.   
  6. Lleras Park:  I preferred the Laureles area in general over El Poblado.  El Poblado felt too much like the USA and Laureles felt more like we were visiting Colombia.  I did enjoy spending an evening in the Lleras Park area (see Nightlife below) of El Poblado because of all the restaurants and nightlife.  While in Lleras Park, for people watching, check out 37 Park and for some decent pizza and a great atmosphere check out Bonhomia.  If you get an itch for some Thai food while in Medellin, check out Royal Thai, also in Lleras Park.

Medellin Nightlife

There are two bar hopping areas I would recommend.  They are likely to be safe, if you read and follow the Nightlife Safety below.   

  1. Lleras Park:  There are 20 or so fun places within a few blocks of Lleras Park.  But don’t wander too far down any side streets, unless you are in a group of people.
  2. Laureles Bar Hopping:  Walk  only on Carrera 70 between Calle 47d and Circular 1.  
  3. Nightlife Safety:  Like everywhere else in the world, most people you meet in Colombia will be great.  But you need to follow a few simple rules to increase the likelihood that you will be okay.  Stay away from drugs, prostitution, and mixed drinks.  Only drink beer brought to you at your table unopened, then open your beer yourself.  You can use google translate to explain this to your server.  This applies to men and women.  There are many stories online about people meeting extremely beautiful locals for a drink and waking up in the morning with everything stolen (credit cards, ATM Card, computers, jewelry, passport, everything).  After they take you back to your room and take your valuables, they will drive you around to multiple ATMs and drain your account.  You are not the exception to this rule.  The rule is: Open your beer yourself.  Hold it in your hand until it is empty.  Drugged drunk people are an easy mark.    

Medellin Livability Factors

  1. Walkability:  Medellin is not really a walkable city in the general sense.  It is too spread out.  But you can use Uber and the Metro to get around.  Some neighborhoods are walkable, like Laureles and Lleras Park.  But at night I wouldn’t walk unless you are in a well lighted area with many people around you.  In general stay out of situations where you are isolated.  At night, I only felt safe walking around Lleras Park and in Laureles only on Carerra 70 between Calle 47d and Circular 1.   
  2. Internet:  We stayed in a condo and the Internet was great.  But I hear not all home systems are so reliable.  For digital nomads, and people working online, check out a coworking space if you need guaranteed speeds.
  3. Exercise:  We stayed in the Laureles area of Medellin and ran around theneighborhood for exercise.  I also use resistance bands to stay toned, because they weigh almost nothing and fit easily into my luggage.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are my runs (and resistance band) days and Tuesday and Thursday are my Yoga days.  I do yoga with Adriene or Fightmaster on Youtube.
  4. Safety:  No jewelry, no expensive watches, no conspicuous designer brands, and no $1200 smart phones should be visible during the day or night.  Bring an older smartphone for navigation, internet access, and Uber.  Be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk into isolated places.  At night, I only felt safe walking around Lleras Park and in Laureles only on Carerra 70 between Calle 47d and Circular 1.  See further tips on Nightlife safety below.  It never hurts to visit the US State Department’s Travel Warnings, and check any country you are visiting.   
  5. Food Costs (Grocery):  You can save money in Medellin by cooking at home, no doubt.  I would say that food costs from the grocery store are only about 20-30% cheaper than the USA.  The budget grocery stores are even cheaper.  Here are the local (Exito, Consumo) or international grocery stores.
  6. Weather:  The weather in Medellin is very mild.  February is the warmest month with temperatures of 17°C (63°F) and January is the coldest month at 16°C (61°F).  Rain seems to come in bursts so you can stop for coffee for 20 minutes and then continue your outdoor activity.  Bring a light jacket for evenings and keep an umbrella in your day pack.  
  7. Health Risks:  Yellow Fever shots are required to visit many parts of Colombia, but not Medellin apparently.  The CDC and other web pages talk about more dangerous areas.  If you are traveling to any of those locations, get your free Yellow Fever shot when you land at the Bogota airport.  Just have the information desk point you to the Vaccinations clinic on the second floor of the airport.  But if you need any of the other shots recommended by the CDC, or your layover in Bogota is not long enough, get shots before coming to Colombia.

MedeLlin Money Saving Tricks

  1. SIM Card: Unlock your smartphone before arrival.  Get a SIM card that for about $25 for 4G speeds for a month which includes Internet.  
  2. Taxi and Airport Transfers: In a word, Uber.  Load Uber onto your smartphone before you arrive.   I read that you should only get in a taxi that you have called first by telephone.  Don’t ask a random taxi to stop.  There is no record of you being with them, because you didn’t call and register, there is a very small chance you’ll get mugged or killed, but why take the chance?  
    1. Super Important Tip:  Pick a well known landmark and select that for your Uber pick-up and drop off locations.  The drivers don’t seem to use addresses in this part of the world.  We stayed next to a well known restaurant in Laureles so we gave that as a pick up and drop off location and they found it every time.     
  3. Public Transportation:  The Medellin Metro works great but we never tried the buses.  Uber was so cheap $3-5 dollars per ride, so we stayed away from the buses.   
  4. Onward Flights:  We tried to board our flight from Mexico to Colombia using a one way ticket.  Interjet wouldn’t let us board the flight because we had no onward flight or bus leaving Colombia.  
    1. Onward Flight Tip:  Book on Orbitz and they will let you cancel the ticket if you do it within 24 hours.  Book right before jumping on your flight and cancel when you land.    

Closing Thoughts:  I had heard from from digital nomad friends that Colombia was a beautiful spot to visit.  I agree 100%.  Medellin is a gorgeous place surrounded by green luscious hills, beautiful people and things to see, a rich and interesting history, workable Internet speeds, and a reasonable cost of living.  The people of Medellin are proud and they should be.  It is a lovely place.  Like many parts of the world, the people shine even while their government and other influential citizens, pay far too little attention to creating an environment that fosters a middle class.  Colombia is the 63rd country I have visited since leaving the United States in 2007 and Colombia has been well worth the visit.  

The world is your home.  What time will you be home for dinner?  

Below is the cost of living one month in Medellin as a temporary visitor.  Have an amazing day!  

Medellin Cost of Living

Cost of Living, Laureles, Medellin, Colombia ($USD)
Expense Cost Low Medium High
Airbnb (1 Bedroom Apt) $39.00 0 14 30
Moderate Hotel $30.00 0 12 0
Backpacker Hostel $12.00 30 4 0
High End Restaurant $15.00 1 4 8
Local Restaurant $6.00 30 44 48
Food Cart $4.00 30 12 4
Subway/Train/Metro $1.00 20 26 8
Bus $1.00 20 10 0
Taxi $3.00 6 10 20
Total Per Month $828 $1,409 $1,702
Total Per Day $28 $47 $57

For information about how the above “Cost of Living Monthly Multiplier” works, please visit the bottom of this page at Vagabond Buddha.  It does not include alcohol, excursions, or extras, and it is for one person.  

VagabondBuddha.com, Copyrights, (c) 2018

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