Practical City Guide – Medellin

  • Post category:Resources
  • Post last modified:June 10, 2024

You won’t find the best restaurants, activities, or sightseeing here. Rather, I’ll tell you:

  • how to get from the airport to the city center
  • what are the supermarket companies
  • which hostels I stayed into
  • where to find food

In summary, all the “practical” information a classic city guide won’t tell you.

Medellin, Colombia.

From the Airport to the City Center

Before we learn how to get to the city, I urge you to buy a SIM card at the airport. I paid $20 USD for 30 GB for a month, which I thought was honest compared to Belgian or Turkish prices.

Make sure you have at least the equivalent of $/€100 in COP (Colombian pesos) in cash. If you didn’t have the chance to exchange your cash at the departure airport, you can exchange it when you arrive.

When you get out of the airport, there will be some buses waiting by this sign.

Expocisiones bus sign at the Medellin airpot.
Expocisiones bus sign at the Medellin airport.

Climb in one or get into the line.

You’ll pay for your ticket at the end of the trip, IN CASH. As of June 2024, it costs 15,500 Colombian pesos per person.

If you don’t want to take the bus, you can also take a taxi. A bunch of taxi drivers will be roaming around, saying out loud “San Diego”, which is the mall next to the place where the bus will drop you anyway:

image 2
Maps Link.

From there to El Poblado, you have two options.

  1. Uber
  2. Subway

If you’re there during the day, I suggest you take the subway as it is much easier.

Walk to the station Exposiciones (in the top left corner of the screenshot), buy yourself a transport card, and take the direction “La Estrella” until the station El Poblado.

If you’re there during the night (after 22h30) or if your hotel is far from the station El Poblado, take an Uber.

Your phone won’t know exactly where you are which will make it hard for the Uber driver to find you, so they will cancel the trip.

Resultantly, I suggest you move next to the Honda garage as it will make it much easier for the driver to find you.

I was advised against taking the yellow cabs, but I don’t think there are too many risks, especially if you speak Spanish.

Accommodation and Moving Around

I’ve actually never stayed in a hostel in Medellin (only two nights but it doesn’t count).

In general, you have two safe areas to stay in: El Poblado, and Laureles.

Laureles is cheaper and flatter with mostly high-middle-class Colombian families living there and obnoxiously loud clubs.

El Poblado is fancier, but steeper and more expensive. All foreigners live there.

In the two times I’ve lived in Medellin, I stayed around Parquel Del Poblado and Manila.

I prefer Manila.

I mainly use the subway (during the day) and Uber (at night) to move around.


The supermarkets are Carulla, Jumbo, Exito, and D1 from the most to the least expensive ones, in that order.

However, grocery shopping is not worth it as it’s super expensive on the one hand, and the food in restaurants is pretty cheap on the other.

You can have soup and a big plate of meat and veggies and rice for $20k in El Poblado (around Parque Del Poblado) and $12k in the city center.


Colombians from Medellin speak Spanish with a “Paisa” accent, easy to understand.

If you want to take Spanish lessons, I suggest you go to that school.

Tell Cindy (the director) that I sent you.

She’ll be happy.

Mobile Network, SIM card, and Payment

I used Claro for the mobile network, but there are other mobile networks. In general, it’s not very expensive so I didn’t bother comparing them.

As I said above, make sure to purchase a SIM card at the airport. You don’t want to end up in Medellin without the Internet.

Get a Transferwise or Revolut card to pay in COP. Most places accept Visa/Mastercard. I got cash from the bank Davivienda but there are probably other banks that will enable you to get cash too.


This is where it gets tricky.

El Poblado is not as safe as people will tell you and the city center is not as dangerous as people will tell you either. Laureles is in between those in terms of safety.

In El Poblado:

  • Avoid Parque Lleras. It is full of tourists and “girls”, if you know what I mean. It’s more or less safe at any time of the day and night.

In Laureles:

  • Avoid the people which your instinct tells you they’re dangerous. Don’t feel stupid for crossing the road several times.

Are tourists especially targeted?

Few people look like tourists as much as I do with my extra-blond hair and extra-white skin. My friends in Bogota even told me at some point: “Do you see how everyone in the street is looking at you?”

I didn’t, because they weren’t looking at me when I was looking at them.

But broadly, it’s true. If you don’t want to attract attention, wear a cap and absolutely avoid the shorts-Vans combination because it screams “tourists” more than my hair.

I didn’t feel I was more targeted because I was a foreigner. I wasn’t harassed in the streets either.

Safety in the City Center

Drop the shorts and flip-flops, you don’t want to attract attention. Only put your phone in your pocket and the rest in your bag (no watch). Wear your bag in front of you or on one shoulder only so you know if someone tries to get inside.

It’s recommended not to flash your belongings in the street, but you’re fine taking your phone out to look at the map. If you want to be extra safe, do so inside a mall or a church.

Avoid empty places. The safety rule usually is “if there are people in the street, you’re safe” which is funny as it is the other way around in Belgium.

I’ve ended up there several times way past 22h00 and nothing ever happened to me. I’d say it’s not as dangerous as people make it seem, or as you will feel.

When you see young women alone managing open-air restaurants where everyone pays cash, you’re entitled to think the city is safer than people will tell you.

I’ve witnessed the same scenes of women alone at night selling food in what feels like a “dangerous area”, or young women walking to get their bus to go home.

It’s all fine, especially since the area has the police cruising through the streets several times 24/7.

I’d go as far as saying that walking around Medellin city center at night is safer than Brussels’ city center at the same time of the day.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should go there for your midnight walk. But don’t let the safety aspect prevent you from enjoying the Cine Americano Colombo or the Jazz Club at night.

If you go to these places alone, you can take a moto taxi to go home which is cheaper, faster, and a lot of fun.

The city will be empty on Sundays and holidays. The people in the streets are scarce, mainly populated by those you want to avoid. There’s no point in going to the city centers in those days.


The good news is that Medellin is the city with the cleanest water in Latin America.

The bad news is that it’s because half of it is chlorine.

The locals drink it and I did it too and never got sick a single time, despite eating in the localest restaurants possible.

But that didn’t prevent me from getting diarrhea for my entire stay, caused by chlorine. I didn’t get a stomachache or anything. Just diarrhea.

As a result, I suggest you keep the water for cooking and teeth brushing and avoid drinking it.

The problem is that as soon as you eat out, the rice will have been cooked in the water, the vegetables will have been cleaned with the water, and your soup and tea will have been made with the water.

Luckily, there are bathrooms in every mall, and there are a lot of malls so even if you get sick, you should be fine.


Medellin is fun if you speak Spanish and if you’re into reggaeton and nature.

But that’s about it. The city is rather small and the offer of entertainment options is limited.

Bogota is much better in this regard, but it’s also colder, uglier, more polluted, and more dangerous.

For more technical city guides, head to

Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

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