First impressions count. Coming from the international airport outside the city heading towards Medellin at night is an unforgettable drive. Since the city is located in a valley you get to enjoy the lights and the view driving down the curvy road for like 15 Minutes. Just beautiful.
Not only this, the ‚second city‘ of Colombia has a lot to offer – and undergone a dramatic change. Back in 1991, Medellin was the murder capital of the world with 17 murders every day (source: The Guardian, 2014) – for more interesting facts about Medellin and Colombia feel free to read 17 interesting facts about Colombia: Did you know…. Nowadays, many people from different places around the world enjoy the amenities that come with living in this beautiful city.
Transfer to downtown
There are two airports: a smaller one for local flights only (located in the city) and the international airport José Maria Cordova outside the city. If you’re traveling by plane you’ll most likely arrive at the international airport.
There are basically three options to go to downtown
- Get a taxi: It will cost you about 65-70 thousand pesos (about 25 USD). Considering the long ride it is a fair price. Anyway, you should always be careful when taking a taxi anywhere in South America. However, in Medellin it is considered to be safe even taking a taxi in the streets. But don’t let them trick you. Especially, if you pay with 20 thousand pesos bills or higher. There are a few drivers who try to exchange your bill to a fake one when you’re not paying attention. So they will convince you that you paid with fake money and make you pay with another bill. So take one minute and never let your bill out of sight.
- Get an uber: Uber is very common in Medellin and a lot of people are using it.
- Get a bus: This is the cheapest option. A bus ride costs about 10 thousand (3 USD). You might need to take a taxi later within the city to get to your hotel/hostel – but still a lot cheaper. Small busses will take you from the airport to the Terminal North. They will stop along the way if you ask the driver. If you’re staying in El Poblado, for example, it is recommended to get off at the shopping mall San Diego and take a taxi from there (you’ll find a lot of taxis at the mall). It will cost you maybe another 10 thousand pesos.
If you’re traveling by bus, however, coming from another city in Colombia you will be dropped of at the Terminal South or Terminal North. Both have close access to the unique Metro as well as taxis waiting for you.
Paisas – people from Medellin – are super welcoming and friendly. If you have a question or you’re lost in the streets just ask for directions. They will take the time and explain to you even if they are in a hurry. However, to them it is considered rude to say „no“. This is why they will give you directions even if they don’t know. So sometimes it might be useful to ask a second person – just to make sure.
Personally, I had one experience when I was looking for a restaurant and asked the bus driver where to get off the bus. Because he didn’t know he asked other people in the bus. Again, they didn’t know so they started calling friends until eventually I had my directions. Just loving!
Also noteworthy: it is very common for women to undergo plastic surgery. From boobs (seen very often) to fake butts you’ll find everything. It is part of the city’s culture.
Best time to visit
The climate in Medellin is very mild all year around. Some people would say perfect. Neither too hot, nor too cold. Rainy season is September to November, with October to be the rainiest month on average. On the other side, January is the driest, May the coolest, and July the warmest month on average.
If you have the chance to visit in August, usually the first week, there is the ‚feria de las flores‘ where the entire city is decorated with flowers. It is just beautiful! Attend the parade (the second weekend of the festival) – it’s worth it.
Another recommendable month to set foot in town is December. Paisas are crazy about Christmas and Christmas lights. Even for non-Christian people it is very enjoyable. Usually, the official Christmas decoration organized by the city of Medellin follow a topic (each year different) and is located along the river in the middle of the city. However, in these years there is construction work going on at this site so you find it in different places. For 2016 it is located in Parque Norte. Check it out!
Where to stay
One of the best options to stay in is the area of El Poblado. You will find everything more or less close by (walking distance or a short taxi drive). Heaps of restaurants, fast food, shopping malls (SantaFé, Oviedo, Tesoro), Salsa places, nightlife, clubs, and parks – especially around Parque Poblado and Parque Lleras. You won’t be the only tourist there.
Another good area to look for a place to stay is Laureles. It might be a little bit less touristy. If you stay close to carrera 70 (la 70) there will be bars and clubs playing music basically every day of the week. It might get noisy at times but you have food, restaurants, supermarkets, nightlife, the stadium, and the Metro within walking distance.
Take the Metro. It is very safe and the paisas are very proud of it. You also get the chance to take the Metro Cables which are part of the unique Metro experience. A ride costs 2,200 pesos – no matter the destination.
You can also take the busses (about 2,000 pesos). It might be a little confusing with the signing at first. So just ask the driver or someone else which bus to take or where to get off.
Last but not least: taxis are found everywhere and a good and quite cheap option.
Take the chance and visit Medellin. There’s a lot to discover!