As I near the end of 3 months living in Medellín and running my digital businesses, it's time for my traditional recap where I reflect on the things I loved, liked, disliked, and hated about living in this city. This article is part of my Popular Nomad Destinations series and is not meant to sway you in one direction or another, or sell you on a particular destination, but rather present one nomad's viewpoint. As usual, let's begin with the positive.
Pros to Living in Medellín Colombia for Digital Nomads
#1) The Internet is GOOD.
On a scale of Philippines to Japan in terms of Internet speed, I rank Medellín somewhere in the middle as “GOOD”. The two apartments I lived in during my three months here, and the two Airbnb's I stayed at for one night each in between apartments, all had 10 mbps speeds, which remained relatively consistent throughout the day and evening. (Sometimes in other cities I've lived, the Internet speed has slowed dramatically in the evenings when everyone in a building was home using it, but I did not encounter that here.) Most of the coffee shops I frequented also offered speeds of at least 5 mbps.
#2) Coffee shops are abundant in Medellín.
Hey, let's be real – we're digital nomads and we spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I lived in Conquistadores and Laureles during my three months and spent most of my coffee shop hours around this area.
My Favorite Coffee Shops in Laureles, Medellín
- Starbucks (Av. 74b #39B-6, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – Yeah, yeah, I know, but don't hate on me for loving Starbucks coffee. I've gotten enough crap from friends about being a Starbucks fan and it's falling on deaf ears at this point because you're not going to change my mind! (They DO serve Colombian coffee here btw.) There were a few reasons why I frequented Starbucks: 1) It was the only place in town to serve a 20 oz bucket of coffee, which I needed some days! 2) The Internet was fantastic. 3) There are plenty of seats upstairs so I never felt like I was overstaying my welcome if my visit lasted longer than expected. 4) Everyone knew me by name. I love the staff at this Starbucks location and it was nice to see friendly faces in the middle of a work day.
- Cafe Tales (Cl. 35a #65d22, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – I found this little gem early on. It's a tiny quaint cafe with fast Internet and plenty of outlets to plugin your laptop. A small group of women run this cafe and they are super nice. One lady even knows a thing or two about cryptocurrency which made for an interesting and unexpected conversation. The hours of this place are limited and so is the seating, but it's a nice spot to spend an hour of your day. You'll definitely run into my friends John and Vanessa at Cafe Tales because I joke that it's their second office. You'll recognize John from his friendly smile and enchanting English accent.
- Cafe Zeppelin (Tv. 39 #76-12, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – My friend Stephanie introduced me to this place. It's a few minutes walk from Starbucks in the heart of Laureles and offers a bit of an alternative vibe with couches and mismatched tables and chairs. One thing to note is that they don't open until 12pm each day, so some mornings (before I caught on to their hours) I would head to Cafe Zeppelin and then wind up at Starbucks instead because it wasn't quite noon. Their drinks are good but I wasn't a big fan of their food the few times I tried it.
- What's your favorite coffee shop in Medellín? Drop some suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of this post and help your fellow nomads out.
#3) There are plenty of co-working spaces in Medellín if you're into that.
I'm not into coworking spaces. I prefer to work out of my home. I'm on the phone a lot during the day talking about private business matters with clients who wouldn't appreciate folks eavesdropping. I also yell when I talk on the phone, which would quickly piss off everyone around me in a shared space. The few times I've been to coworking spaces, I found that I lost productivity due to the social environment. Perhaps that social novelty wears off if you spend enough time at a coworking space and see the same people each day, but when you're new, everyone wants to know who you are.
However aside from me not being a big fan, I know many people who love coworking spaces and who enjoyed the ones here in Medellín. I've personally been to meetings and events at the following coworking spaces.
- Selina (Cl. 10 ##9 – 17, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – This place is CRAZY (in a good way)! It's huge and located on the first few floors of a hotel, so you'll always meet an interesting crowd here. I was at an event once and witnessed the following: Our blogging meetup, people playing billiards, folks at a bar drinking, and a yoga / jazzercise class – all happening within 20 feet of each other on the same floor. This place is unique. My friend Ariel worked out of Selina on the daily and loved the atmosphere. I was rarely in Poblado except for social occasions and events.
- La Casa Redonda (Cq. 75 #38 09, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – A great location located in the heart of Laureles close to everything you'll want to be near. It's got a bit of a hippy vibe to it – or maybe it was just the decor. If you'd like to live in Laureles, you should Google Map this place and then try to find an Airbnb within walking distance. You won't be disappointed with the location of either.
- Seedspace Medellín (Cl. 8 #43a – 49, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – This is another smaller coworking space in Poblado that I learned about through attending an event. I believe it's called by a different name now (or maybe Seedspace is the new name) because they joined with a larger international coworking group. This place is classy and quiet and a little more conservative than the other two coworking spaces I mentioned above.
#4) Nice selection of food in Medellín.
I spent most of my time in Laureles which is becoming a little foodie area within Medellín, so perhaps my opinion is slanted because of the part of town I lived, but I had no trouble finding a selection of great restaurants.
My Favorite Restaurants in Medellín
- Il Forno (Circular 5 #73-15, Laureles, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – I'd be lying if I didn't put this restaurant first because I ate here more than any other place in town. Coincidentally it was the first restaurant that I ate at on my first day on town. I had just arrived, was starving, started looking for a healthy salad, and happened upon Il Forno – where I instead ate a steak. Il Forno is a small Italian chain with locations all over the city, more often than not in shopping malls.
The Il Forno in Laureles, adjacent to Primer Parque, is the location that I frequented. I'd often eat lunch there alone while I worked because they have great WiFi. And like Starbucks, the staff all knew me – they even had my order memorized. My first episode of How Much Does It Cost? – an international game show where I take you around the world to shop, eat, drink, and do fun things, and your job is to guess how much does it cost – was filmed here. You can check out that video below if you'd like to see what my favorite meal was.
I have one more thing to admit to you – which is that I'm eating here right now while writing this post!
- El Botánico (Cra. 33 #7-21, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – I ate here for New Years with John, which was a night that they offered a limited menu – your choice of fish or meat. I went with the fish which was an herb crusted salmon. That place was dope and one of the best meals I had while in Medellín. It's owned by an English guy named Lucas who moved to Medellín a couple years ago to setup a different type of business and changed course when he discovered the opportunity to bring this style of food to Poblado. I would've liked to have gone again on a different night, but I rarely made it out to Poblado.
- Korea House (Tv. 39b #7756, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – This was my fix for Korean food while in Medellín. During the weekdays, I'd spend many of my lunches working while I ate, and Korea House was one of my hotspots. Ask for their ginger tea which they sweet with panela. It's so ridiculously tasty.
- Kusi Cocina Peruana (Tv. 39b # 72-71, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia) – This was a recent discovery that turned into a favorite. There are a ton of Peruvian restaurants in Laureles and more being built as we speak. I had also tried Cuzco Cocina Peruana on a different night in Tesoro Mall, but I found their menu to be overpriced and their food only so-so. Kusi, on the other hand, had reasonable Medellín prices and some really delicious authentic Peruvian cuisine. Get the chicha moroda!
#5) It's easy and cheap to get around Medellín.
Metro System – Hats off to the public transportation system in Medellín – and Paísas (what people call themselves from the Antioquia region of Colombia) are quick to tell you how much better their city is than Bogota because of their Metro. However, I must agree that their metro system is fantastic. It covers the entire spread of the city, only costs 2000 pesos per ride (about $0.67 USD), it's fast, and it's clean. Medellín has a strict “no food” rule on the Metro so the seats aren't filled with arepa grease.
Buses – I only used the bus system a few times but also found it easy to navigate like the metro system. Like any big city, the buses and metro gets crowded during morning and evening commutes – but that's life in a big city. Also note, regarding buses, that there is a direct bus from MDE airport to San Diego Mall that you can take for 9500 pesos ($3.25). This is the cheapest and best way to get into the city in my opinion, and afterwards you can hop the metro, a bus, a taxi, or an Uber to get to your destination. That'll save you around $20-30 versus taking a taxi all the way from the airport, and it won't add any significant time onto your trip.
Walking – I love to walk, and I walked most places in Medellín. There were even a couple times that I walked all the way from Laureles to Poblado, which takes about an hour. Sidewalks connect most of the city which made pedestrian life easier, but be careful of cars! You'll hear me talk about that later in the “things I hated” section.
Taxis – I have an ongoing feud with taxi drivers all over the world, but I found the taxi drivers in Medellín to be courteous and less exploitative than other places I've been. Although there was exception. (Check out this post I made in the Medellin Expats group on Facebook about a taxi driver who turned off the meter real quick when we arrived at my destination and tried to charge me double. You'll have to be a member of that group to read the post, but you should join anyway if you're headed to Medellín.) Unlike the taxi drivers in Quito Ecuador, the drivers in Medellín are required to use their meters all day and night, so don't let anyone fool you otherwise – especially around Poblado where the drivers are known for trying to take advantage of gringos.
Uber – One important thing to note is that Uber is ILLEGAL in in Colombia, which is crazy that it still operates so rampantly all around Medellín. And every Uber driver will be quick to tell you that it's illegal, which is why they have you sit in the front seat so that it doesn't look like they are couriering you. I would, of course, never willingly partake in an illegal service while a guest in this lovely country, however, my friend said that Uber was traditionally a couple thousand pesos less expensive than a taxi for the same route. However use Uber at your own risk. There's certainly no shortage of taxis or other means of transportation.
#6) Proximity to hiking and day trips.
I wasn't just here in Medellín just to spend all my time working in coffee shops, so the city's proximity to hiking spots and smaller pueblos to explore was a perk. Here are a few places I visited on the weekends while living in Medellín.
I hiked Cerro Quitasol.
This is a cool day hike on the northside of town that overlooks the entire city of Medellín. My friend Chris and I definitely took the hard way up the mountain when we went, but there is an easier trail. Here's a video about hiking Cerro Quitasol that I put together after our excursion.
I visited the infamous neighborhood of Comuna 13.
Once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellín, the barrio of Comuna 13 transformed itself against all odds to become a beacon of art, culture, and urban development. It's also where you can find those famous outdoor escalators that scale the mountain. Check out my video on Comuna 13 below.
I went to Santa Elena to learn where all the flowers came from.
Santa Elena is a beautiful town situated very close to Medellín (less than an hour ride) where you can find some of Colombia's famous flower fincas. I spent a day in Santa Elena and visited a few farms to create this video below for Valentine's Day.
I took the cable car up to Parque Arvi.
I took Medellín's famous 20 minute cable car over 8,000 feet in elevation to Parque Arvi, an ecological nature preserve that spans over 40,000 acres filled with biking and hiking trails. It's also where I tasted coca tea for the first time.
I climbed El Peñón and visited Guatapé
The last day trip I took in Colombia was to El Peñón, AKA: The Rock of Guatapé, AKA: Stone of El Peñol, AKA: La Piedra, AKA: El Peñol, AKA: Ferrari. This famous landmark rock has an interesting history, and also one of the most spectacular views in Colombia. And the town of Guatapé – a few kilometers away – is a colorful and beautiful place to spend the day. It's a very touristy spot, but I like to do a few touristy things in each city I visit. Here's the view from the top of El Peñón.
And here's the video:
#7) There is a lot of history and culture to discover in Medellín.
This is an old city. Spaniards first arrived in the Aburrá Valley in the 1540s, and Medellín itself was founded in 1616. I spent way too much time working these past few months and not enough time exploring, but I did make time for a few historical discoveries.
I learned about Medellín's fascination with Carlos Gardel.
The history of tango in Colombia is forever linked to Medellín through the story of Carlos Gardel. To learn about this history, I visited Casa Gardeliana and Salón Málaga, which you can see more about in the video below.
I found the most beautiful stone house in the world.
While in Envigado one day, I happened upon Casa Santiago y Gloria – a beautiful home that was built stone by stone over the course of 32 years by a visionary man for the woman he loves most. This is a story about hard work, persistence, and true love which you can watch below.
I learned about some of Colombia's crazy traditions.
I had the pleasure of ringing in the new year with a lovely family who taught me a few things about Colombian New Years Traditions. They weren't quite the same traditions that Sofia Vergara's character Gloria tried to convince her husband Jay on Modern Family about, but still pretty cool in my book!
#8) There is a big and active digital nomad community here.
Honestly, I couldn't NOT run into other nomads here even if I tried. They are EVERYWHERE in Medellín. In Laureles, I ran into other nomads daily in coffee shops, parks, restaurants, bars, and local events. And of course, I also went out of my way to meet fellow nomads through Meetups and events. Here are a few groups and events that I recommend.
Digital Nomad Groups in Medellín
1) Blogging in Medellín – My friend Stephanie Linder runs this group and holds regular events geared towards bloggers and digital nomads. I spoke at one of her events about advanced SEO techniques for travel bloggers and also attended a couple others. Through Stephanie's events is where I met some of the most interesting nomads in the city. It's a great group and you should join.
2) Digital Nomads Medellin FB Group – I had the pleasure of connecting with several members in this Facebook group, but it wasn't anything official. I had posted that I was in town along with a few spots where you could find me, and I ended up meeting up with a few people from that group. It's a transient group, because like myself, many members are here today and gone tomorrow, but a nice way to connect with other nomads in the city.
3) Facebook Marketing Meetup Medellin – It's hit or miss on whether or not Chris Erthel is going to be in Medellin when you arrive, but if he is, and you're interested in Facebook marketing, and there's an event happening in his Meetup Group, I strongly recommend that you go. This was one of the most value-packed 2 hours I've ever spent learning about running successful Facebook ad campaigns.
Those are just a few of the events that I attended while in Medellin, and there are a ton more to choose from. I recommend that you join some of the local FB groups and active Meetup groups to find others, and also check out Ximena Restrepo's Catalyst Weekly. Subscribe to her e-mail list for a weekly roundup of events in the area.
You could fill almost every night of the week with an event in this city if you really wanted to – which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how much work you're trying to get done. There is a lot of opportunity for networking with other entrepreneurs in Medellín.
#9) Medellín has an affordable cost of living.
This is a tough one because affordability is relative to each person's individual financial status, but I'd feel remiss to not mention the cost of living here as I know you're probably wondering about it. I'll talk about cost of living in terms of four areas: Rent, Transportation, Food, and Entertainment.
Rent Prices in Medellín
I lived in two different Airbnbs while in Medellín – the first for two months, and the second for one month. My first apartment was in Conquistadores on Ave 33 and cost $670 USD per month (including the hefty Airbnb fee). It was a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom condo with air conditioning, washer, 42″ LCD smart TVs in the bedrooms, almost fully-equipped kitchen with a stove but no oven, and a big sliding glass door in the living room with a beautiful view of the city. The bathroom was incredibly small, and the kitchen was tight, but the bedrooms were decent sized. It probably should have been built as a 1 bedroom with a full sized kitchen, but developers in Medellín are trying to squeeze out these micro apartments and call them 2 bedrooms. I was the first person to live in it since it was remodeled as an Airbnb so it was very clean, which was a perk. Here's a video of the first apartment I rented that I made for my friends and family, so don't judge the production quality. 🙂
My second apartment was situated in between the barrios of Santa Monica and Lorena, which are northwest adjacent to Laureles. It was a 15 minute walk from that apartment to Starbucks in Laureles. It boasted similar amenities as my other apartment but was only 1 bedroom and did not have A/C. At first I was hesitant not to have A/C – but with the windows open, I hardly needed it. I couldn't keep the windows open in my previous apartment because the street noise was too loud, so I used the A/C often. But this second apartment was very tranquilo and on the 7th floor of a quiet neighborhood, so I was able to keep my windows open all day and night. This one cost me $600 a month including the Airbnb fee, which I negotiated down from $700. I'm normally a little better at finding deals, but places were limited this time of year in Laureles and everyone wants top dollar.
SEE ALSO: How I Rent $1000+ Airbnbs for Half Price
While searching for my second apartment, I had the benefit of being in the city, and I came across many studio and 1 bedroom apartments in Laureles that ranged from $450-$800 per month, most of which I found off Airbnb. One of the best spots I found was right in the center of Laureles. It was a fully furnished 1 bedroom apartment on the 11th floor with a beautiful view of the city for $550/month all inclusive. The problem is that when renting off of Airbnb, many landlords, including this one, want a full month deposit for a one month stay, which I'm not going to do. This particular apartment that I'm talking about, I got the landlord down to a 1/4 month deposit, and I would've taken it, but the Internet wasn't going to be installed for another week. (It was a brand new apartment.) I told the guy, “If you didn't have a bed for a week, I'd take it and sleep on the floor! But no Internet? Can't do that, sorry.”
Tips for Renting An Apartment in Medellín
- Start with Airbnb and get a feel for the price range of the different barrios. E-mail ahead and negotiate the price.
- Go to Colombia's Google at www.google.com.co and search for apartments. You'll get better local results.
- Try a few Facebook groups but don't get your hopes up if you post that you're looking for a spot. Instead, search for a few active agents in the group and contact them directly via WhatsApp or Messenger.
- Ask people who live here in Medellín if they know of anything available. Most of the apartment options I found were from people who knew someone.
Cost of Transportation in Medellín
The cost of getting around this city is surprisingly affordable. As I mentioned earlier, the metro costs about 2000 pesos per ride, which can take you clear across the city. And buses, which I used less frequently, cost similar. A taxi cab from Laureles to Poblado will cost about $4-7 USD depending on traffic. There's a minimum of 3200 pesos (just over $1 USD) for taxi cab rides, but shorter rides can still stay below $2-$3 without a problem. A combination of walking and using the metro was my preferred way to get across town, and I used taxis for local transportation, especially at night when walking wasn't safe.
Cost of Food in Medellín
Whatever you're about to read from me next – just know that you can do it cheaper if you'd like. I enjoy eating well and it's one of my favorite ways to experience a new city. So my restaurant and food budget may be higher than yours. That being said, an average meal in a restaurant for one could range you anywhere from $5-$15. And keep in mind that I'm talking about an entree, a juice or a beer, a coffee afterwards, and even a dessert (for the upper end of that price spectrum).
While in Medellín, I ate at a few places expensive places which had more “American prices”, and I also frequented some local spots where I could get away with a quick meal (nothing fancy) for $2-3. In a nutshell, I'll tell you that price, for the most part, wasn't a big factor in determining whether or not I wanted to eat at a certain restaurant or order a particular meal. However, I adjust to thinking in local prices quickly, and after two weeks, I remember being in a restaurant and thinking, “40,000 pesos for a meal?!?!” Watch that video I embedded earlier about Il Forno and you can get an idea of how much a good meal costs.
Cost of Entertainment in Medellín
This particular subject is also relative because everyone reading this is going to enjoy a different lifestyle. For example, I don't drink very often so alcohol isn't a big part of my entertainment budget. However, when I did drink, which was usually beer, they'd go for about $1-$3 USD each. (I drank local beers.)
A perfect day for me is hiking, exploring a new part of town, or going to a museum, and so much of my entertainment budget was spent on transportation to and from places, food/snacks, supplies, entry fees into museums, etc. All and all, similar to food, the cost of entertainment wasn't usually an inhibiting factor in whether or not I wanted to do something, which is why I said earlier that I feel that Medellín has an affordable cost of living.
#10) Each individual barrio has its own feel.
Medellín has about 2.5 million residents, according to a quick Google search, and I'd believe it. Although it's a decent sized city in terms of population, I love that each individual neighborhood has its own unique feel to it, and makes you feel like you're living in a small town within the big city. After a few weeks around Laureles-Estado area, I couldn't go anywhere without running into people I knew. I definitely recommend living on this side of town if you're looking for a central spot in Medellín that has a nice vibe to it. I also enjoyed Envigado and Bello, which are both far from the city's center and on opposite sides of town.
#11) The climate in Medellín is amazing. I'm serious.
I can't believe I almost forgot to talk about the weather! The other day, I was talking to Andrea about putting together this article, and when she asked me what was going to be on the positive list, my very first answer (perhaps because we were walking outside at the time) was, “The weather!”
If anyone's ever told you that the weather in Medellín is amazing, they weren't lying. It isn't called The City of Eternal Spring because it's filled with mattress stores! (Get it?) The temperature here is a consistent 17 – 28 degrees Celsius (63 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round. Medellín is located at 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level, so its climate is not as hot as other equatorial cities. I think that the best time to visit is December through February (which is when I was there) because it's the dry season, but I can't speak to the weather during the rest of the year. Folks I know have said that it's not too bad in Medellín during the rainy season, but don't take my word for it.
#12) The water is drinkable.
I drink a lot of water, and it's nice to be able to fill up from the tap. After this I'm headed to Lima Peru which unfortunately is a city where I'll have to buy bottled water or filter water in my home. Drinkable tap water is a perk to a city.
What I DID NOT Like About Living in Medellín Colombia
The title of this post reads, “What I Loved / Hated About Living in Medellín Colombia as a Digital Nomad”, but this section is actually called “What I DID NOT LIKE” because truthfully, I didn't hate anything about the city. However, I'm also pretty easy to please whereas you might be a douchebag. So here's what I didn't like…
#1) The parks here feel like an afterthought.
If you read my post about living and working in Quito Ecuador then you know how much I value parks and green space in a city. And here in Medellín, the parks left a lot to be desired. Many of the parks that appear as green space on Google Maps are actually quite brown and cement-filled. During my time in Laureles-Estadio area, I always wished there was more green space within a few minutes walk.
My favorite park in the city is called Regional Metropolitano Cerro El Volador Natural Park – it's a long name and a big park. It's actually more of a mountain than a typical park and it has beautiful views overlooking the city. This park in particular has lots of green space, but it was too far from my apartment to be my “local park” (ie: where I can go to exercise or relax on the daily).
#2) Paísas don't pay much regard to people around them… or just me.
This is a weird one to explain, but I'll do my best. As I mentioned earlier, I walk alot. Most days I'd walk at least 3-4 kilometers but usually more. Now, imagine a scene where I'm walking down the street and three blocks ahead of me I see two people standing on the sidewalk talking. I walk towards them, I get closer, and closer, and closer, and then just as I'm less than 1 meter in front of them, they cut me off and start walking slowly directly in front of me as if they didn't see me.
Another example is in the grocery store or a shopping mall, no-one moves out of anyone's way. A group of Colombians will take up an entire sidewalk, grocery aisle, or walkway, and make no effort to accommodate anyone else passing by.
That's a weird thing to notice, right? I think so too. But the amount of times that these types of scenarios occured were so frequent, that after a while I couldn't help but wonder what was going on? “Do Colombians not have peripheral vision?” is a question that legitimately crossed my mind at some point after having to stop in my tracks so many times for folks who cut me off on an open sidewalk.
And the last example I want to give is something that happened to me EVERY single day that I exercised in a park. While in Medellín, I did a 100k Jump Rope Challenge, so I'd spend about an hour a day in a park jumping rope. I'd always choose an isolated spot away from the crowds – if there were any – and start my workout. And within 10 minutes every single time, one or more people would post up next to me while I'm jumping rope and start smoking weed or cigarettes. Even on days when the rest of the park was wide open and completely empty, they'd choose to sit down within several feet of me and blow smoke in my face. This happened 100% of the time I jumped rope in a park, and I can't explain why. I just know that I wasn't a fan of it happening.
#3) Cars don't yield to pedestrians… at all.
Earlier I mentioned that sidewalks connected most of the city – which is great – but you're still not safe from vehicles. Drivers in Medellín have zero respect for pedestrians. I'd be fully clear to cross a side street, and midway through crossing, a car with no blinker would veer in for a hard and fast right turn and I'd have to jump out of the way.
Drivers in this city behave as if they've got the world's worst traffic and it's such a pain to get around, but the reality is that it's not terrible. Rush hour lasts for like 45 minutes after work and then Uber surge prices disappear. Driving in Centro and Poblado sucks for longer than rush hour, but the rest of the city has wide open roads throughout much of the day and night.
I can deal with shitty drivers on the road when I'm in a car, but I have zero tolerance for not prioritizing pedestrians. Cars would zoom up to an intersection and almost run over my feet while not even looking in my direction as they turned. (Which again made me question whether or not Colombians have peripheral vision.) Walking in this city is dangerous and the lack of respect city-wide towards pedestrians is discernible.
#4) I've felt safer in other cities.
Medellín has come a long way, that's for sure, but to be honest with you, I've felt safer in other big cities. Some of the feelings of insecurity came from the horrendous stories that circulate about motorcycles robbing people in cars at gunpoint, Americans who have had their heads chopped off, robberies and stabbings over cell phones, people drugging drinks in bars, etc. And while some of those stories have spun out of control from being told so often, others have happened to people I know personally. And aside from stories that run rampant around the city and within expat communities, other feelings of insecurity came from my gut. I'm lucky that I have no horrible stories to tell from my time in Medellín, but much of that is probably attributed to my experience as a traveler, precaution, and a bit of luck.
#5) Still a lot of drugs in Medellín.
Despite the positive stories that many people share about Medellín cleaning its act up (which are true), there are still a lot of drugs in the city. The drug use in Medellín is observable even to someone like me who doesn't seek it out and went of my way to avoid it. It wasn't uncommon to walk down the street and be offered, “Chicklets? Marijuana? Cocaine?” from street vendors, which leads me to…
I'm just not a fan of that part of town – particularly the touristy areas. Parque El Poblado especially feels like a chaotic carnival of indecency. But aside from the tourist trap areas, this part of town is filled with giant shopping centers and towers, one after another, and isn't the most inviting area of the city. The traffic makes it difficult to get around by car or taxi, and it's not the most walkable barrio either. At first I went to check it out because I had heard such wonderful things about the area, then I attended some events in Poblado, dinners, celebrations, etc. and I became a little disenfranchised with it, until finally I had to reluctantly agree to go to that part of town. It took a special event for me to go to Poblado. I preferred to live in Laureles-Estadio area, and I'm also a fan of Envigado and Bello which have a smaller-city vibe and are walkable areas.
#7) Where's the water???
I'm referring to lakes, oceans, or other bodies of water – not drinking water. To be fair, I knew before I came to Medellín that there were no big bodies of water nearby. This city would be so rad if it were on the coast or had a huge lake nearby. If you've been here, you know what I mean when I say that the city feels a little landlocked.
#8) Paisas are always telling me to espera
Espera literally translates in English to wait. And Colombians were always telling me to espera. My friends told me to espera, store clerks, baristas, security guards, my landlord… everyone would raise their hand in the stop motion and tell me to espera all the time. You fucking wait! That's what I always thought in my head every time I was told to espera. Certainly not a reason to not visit Medellin – it was just something I noticed that became a bit irritating. Although once I started telling people to espera it became more fun. I don't think espera literally translates as rudely as it would come across to tell someone in English to wait. I believe it's more similar to telling someone to hold on just a second or something like that.
In conclusion about Medellín…
I'm glad I came and I'd do it again! You can tell that many of the items on my negative list were anecdotal or typical of any big city. And that's because it was hard for me to come up with anything that I really hated about Medellín. I think you should go.
Medellín is one of the most digitally nomadic cities I've ever lived in, and that was a fun change of pace for me. I have a few friends who chase digital nomad hotspots around the globe and check all of them out, but for me, a large digital nomad community in a city isn't that important. For example, I've never been to Bali or Chiang Mai and it's been over 10 years since I've stepped in Bangkok. However, I really enjoyed the networking and social aspect of being around other digital entrepreneurs in Medellín. So if that's what you're looking for in a city – you'll definitely find it here. I also think you'll find a lot more. There seems to be something for everyone in this city and I greatly enjoyed my time here. Thank you to everyone I met who contributed to my happiness and success in Medellín.
Questions / Suggestions about Medellín?
Drop a comment below and let's discuss. I was only there for 3 months and I spent way too much time working during that time and not enough time having fun, so I certainly didn't see it all. If you have any recommendations on places to see, restaurants to eat at, coffee shops to work in, etc, please feel free to comment with your suggestions.
A few Medellín Guides & Resources
These are a few resources from friends that may help you out while in Medellín.
- Fifty Blogs United To Create This Super Medellin Travel Guide from Chris and Kim of the Unconventional Route. This is a great compilation of what other bloggers have had to say about the city with links to their posts. Although I gave him shit because too much of the guide was focused on Poblado/Envigado and not enough about Laureles!
- MedellínGuru.com – Jeff Paschke formerly wrote for the Medellin Living travel blog for three years about his experiences living in Medellín and later branched off to do his own thing. I met Jeff at Stephanie's blogging meetup and he's a smart guy who knows a lot about the city. He's got over 140 articles on his site about things to do in Medellín. Stephanie also regularly contributes articles to that site.
- Catalyst Weekly – I mentioned this site earlier. They do a great job at curating local events for English speakers. I gave their e-mail a read each Monday to see what was happening around town.
- Medellin EN3 – This is a local video series by Jared Couch that he created to change the negative perceptions at a local, national and international level about the daily life in Colombia. It's a great series that's worth your time watching to discover some new areas of the city and learn something new about Medellin.
- That's it. There's nothing else written about Medellín. Just kidding, that's just all I can think of at the moment to mention. If you've got a resource about Medellín that you recommend or have written a post about the city on your blog, drop the link in the comments below.
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- 9 Pros & 4 Cons to Living and Working Remotely in Medellin, Colombia
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Great site! Well written!
Thanks for the mention Paul! Great and detailed article. Was great to meet you and hope to see you on future travels!
Back at ya Stephanie!
Writing a freelance article about digital nomads and came across this one about Medellin. The organization of your thoughts and points is excellent! I like the resources you post and other helpful items. You really thought of your audience and it shows! Cheers!
Thanks Steve. I’m actually back here for another few days right now. 🙂
Good luck with your article.
Great information – thank you for sharing! My husband and I are digital nomads, currently living in Portugal with our twin toddlers, and looking to spend some time in South America. Did you get the feel that Medellin is a good place for a family? Or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks for your help and good luck on your next adventure.
Thanks Corinne. I don’t want to lead you astray, so I’ll have to say that I have no idea because I didn’t look at Medellin through that perspective as a solo traveler. I certainly met other nomadic families who lived in Medellin while I was there, but I don’t want to speak for them and I’m not sure what they actually thought about the city in regards to bringing their family there. If anyone else reading this has spent time in Medellin with their families, please feel free to drop a Reply and let Corinne know what you thought. Or if you end up going Corinne, please pop back in sometime and let me know what you thought of the city from your family’s perspectives. Sorry to not be much help, but the last thing I’d ever want to do is give you mis-information.
Thanks for the Article! I probably wouldn’t live in Medellin, but it seems a perfect city to visit and has bumped Columbia up on the list of places I need to prioritise to visit.
Thanks Tash. I spent a lot of time in Medellin after I published that article and have become a big fan of the city. I hope you get the opportunity to visit one day, even if just for a little while. Currently in Tbilisi, Georgia. 🙂
As a Canadian expat spending the winter here I agree with a lot of what you wrote. But it would be a boring world if we all agreed on everything, so:
Coffee: Starbucks? No! Their coffee is horrible – over-roasted and bitter, (unless you like to put sugar or cream in coffee in which case it’s no longer really coffee). Tostao (Colombian chain) is the best I’ve found so far.
Food: You wouldn’t go to Lima and eat Indian food so why come to Antioquia to eat Peruvian or Korean dishes? There are so many great local restaurants here that serve authentic comida paisa, but for the most part they are away from the tourist areas – you certainly won’t find any in Parque Lleras for example. But if you take the metro south to the second last stop you arrive in Sabaneta – a smaller municipality outside Medellin. There you can find dozens of local restaurants serving everything from Arepas and Buñuelos (so good) to full on dishes like Sancocho and Bandera Paisa. Sabaneta is my go to place for food..
And yes, the climate is amazing 🙂 Thanks for the effort you put into writing this – it was great to read.
I drink Starbucks coffee black like a champion and you’ll never change my mind! Keep in mind though, I was writing that from the perspective of someone who was looking for a place to work, and the Starbucks in Laureles is a great place to make that happen. Definitely lots of incredible coffee shops around with better tasting coffee though. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
PS: I actually came back a year later and spent some time in Sabaneta. That area grew on me and you’re right – they definitely have some good food (beyond bunuelos).