A First Timer’s Guide to Medellín

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SpanishColombian Peso

When To Go

Medellín is blessed with comfortable temperatures year round. It usually stays above 60 degrees, and below 85 degrees. There is humidity, but not like a normal tropical destination. It feels dry, although its not. I was shocked to check the weather and find it was 90% humidity one day, when it felt like a very comfortable dry. A lot of people will wear jackets and jeans around the city because it truly doesn’t feel like a humid climate, probably due to the elevation. Note I live in Las Vegas, so I am not use to humidity in the slightest!

Most people say to visit from December to February, because these are the drier months. Although, the summer can see less rain, with high temperatures. I went in August, and although most days were full of rain or clouds, someone I know went one week after me, and had no clouds or rain almost whatsoever. Like traveling anywhere, you cannot control the weather.

The rainy welcome to our Air Bnb in Poblado.

Where To Stay

If you are reading this post you’re either: going to Medellín, or wanting to go for the first time. Location can make or break if you enjoy your vacation, or the place you are visiting. For your first time I do recommend the following neighborhoods:

If you like modern, touristy, and nightlife try Poblado.

If you like more low-key, try Envigado.

If you want something more central, try Laureles.

Is It Safe?

Of course, you’re visiting Colombia and your whole family thinks you’re crazy, right? Not to worry. Medellín in the last 30 years has cut its murder rate by over 90%. Rest assure, it is safe. Like anywhere you need to use common sense, but be relieved that you should have a trouble-free vacation.

What I have noticed is ‘older’ generations (40 and up), tend to have a misconception about Colombia’s, and particularly Medellín’s, new and improved safety. Although not that new, considering the country has been thriving the past few decades, tourists in their 20’s and 30’s tend to be more relaxed about the idea of visiting the country. I noticed this before visiting, and was also told by locals that this is true. Medellín is a city full of young tourist, but is in need of an older generation to visit and change their perceptions on what it’s like.

In cities all across the United States, I hardly see women walk around alone. If I do, they are usually taking what safety procautions are needed (myself included). Although I actually noticed how many women were walking around Medellín during the day and night, dressed up or dressed casual. I felt no threat at all, and have actually never in my life, in all countries I’ve visited, seen so many single women walking around so freely.

Comuna 13, once the most dangerous neighborhood in the world, now a thriving tourist destination.

What To Wear

One of my favorite things about Medellín is that it’s for the fashionista’s. I had read before hand that people dress nice in Medellín, but didn’t understand the dress code really until I had gotten there. I felt under dressed.

Locals typically wear jeans, nice shoes, nice shirt, and jacket if needed. Just under business casual is my best description. In the United States its acceptable to wear sweats, leggings, sandals, ect. In Medellín, this is unseen and you will stick out. Lounge wear is simply not worn! Also, don’t dress like a typical backpacker (backpack, shorts, sandals, hat) you WILL stand out.

Designer is also fine. Nothing too flashy (common sense), but feel free to wear a nice handbag if you have one. Especially in the more touristy areas. At night, feel free to wear heels and a dress if that’s what you like.

What To Do

Medellín is full of things to do. The number one tour that I highly recommend is Comuna 13. This was also recommended by all other tour guides on the other tours we took. I actually recommend taking a tour of it, and setting time to go back on your own. If you are on a budget, skip the tour and just go on your own, its a fun spirited, authentic experience. Although its very busy during the weekend, go during the week. Sometimes it can get so crowded that you cannot enjoy it. I’ve attached some of the tours we did on our trip, all were amazing.

Guatape Day Tour

Comuna 13 and Cable Car

Walking Tour

Guatape, the most colorful town in all of Colombia!

Things To Know

Are you an American? Seen Narcos? Yeah, we know! Whatever you do, do not bring up Pablo Escobar. This is the number one thing I heard from tour guides. People of Medellín despise the man, and honestly, its a whole different city. They want to forget. The man killed thousands of people who’s families are still all over Colombia. Be respectful, and if you would really like to know about the Narco history, just take a tour. I went on this one here. Just whatever you do, don’t bring it up to locals.

About the cable car: Although this is a Medellín staple, and a must do, it’s actually the first cable car in the world that is built to be used as public transportation. It’s what has helped Medellín become one of the world’s most innovative cities. In the Comuna’s, the only way to get into the city was through miles of stairs built by the cities poorest people. With the new cable car system, it makes it possible for the people living in the Comuna’s to come work in the city, and cut their commute time drastically. This just might have something to do with Medellín reducing its poverty rate by over 60% in the past few decades. So keep in mind when visiting the cable car, that it’s not full of tourist, but of people getting to and from work.

Another note: Colombia is a cheap country, and your dollar will go very far. It’s the cheapest place I’ve visited. In fact we survived off $600 for a whole week for two people! (not including flights and stay) We ate out, got delivery, shopped, and so on. For food delivery, if you don’t know of it, you MUST download the app ‘Rappi’. It saved our lives for breakfast, groceries, and late night snacks. Rappi will deliver anything, from any store. It’s cheap and will get it to you fast. It’s basically the South American DoorDash, but on steroids.

Lastly, Uber is illegal in Colombia, but it still works and is used all the time. It works a little different than in the States, because you have to add money onto the app before the trip. But if language is a barrier, then use Uber! It costs the same as taxis, which usually costs us anywhere from $2-$5 a trip.

Also, keep in mind that the airport can be up to an hour away, so keep this is mind when planning.

I hope my guide for first timer’s in Medellín was useful to you! Feel free to share, comment, or contact with any questions.

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Happy Travels!

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