Things I wish I Knew Before My First Trip to Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, Colombia is a beautiful country, with a rich, warm culture. It can be a very inexpensive trip, but there are certain things I would recommend considering while planning your trip.
Place to Stay
When planning your first trip, I would recommend AIRBNB. There you will have access to reasonably priced places to stay with a database where you can see reviews and feedback on the spaces. Within AIRBNB you may have the same problems if you don’t do your proper research but I’ve heard stories of the mis-representation of the conditions of the housing are far worse when you look to contact places directly.
I believe it’s very important to look at the places to stay on AIRBNB very closely and understand what your priorities are. One thing I’ve learned to expect, are paper thin walls and no sound insulation unless specifically noted. Parque Lleras is the main area for the partying and nightlife and it can be obviously very loud. Post pandemic, I’ve noticed a lot of construction taking place but even before then, I’ve noticed that construction starts at 7 am during the week. I’ve stayed in AIRBNBs in between clubs and bars and notice that I was waking up at 7 am in the morning because it sounded like someone was drilling concrete literally above my head. Certain situations, they literally were drilling and breaking down concrete right about my ceiling; I would literally roam Parque Lleras looking for a place to rest until late afternoon when they were done for the day because I could not relax more or less sleep until the construction was over… especially after a night of partying until 3 am. This particular spot I was staying in also looked very luxurious, and appeared to be designed very well in the photos of the AIRBNB. The pictures showed a hot tub, a very sexy bedroom set up, with two sinks… beautiful. However, it turned to be just a room, with no closet, no ventilation or door to the bathroom (leaving nothing for the imagination when with company)… as well as no windows. You can smell everything that goes on in the hotel room and hear everything going out inside the hotel room and outside the hotel room. Still VERY worth $40-50 per night… however I would not recommend staying in places like so, unless it is just for the weekend of partying. This is a perfect time to note that many AIRBNB hosts are exceptionally great at posting photos that make the space look deceptively spacious with different angles and zoom modes on their camera so be aware that the spaces you stay may be smaller in person. Just make sure you are flexible with your expectations because an amazing experience can be hindered if they do not meet the perceived expectations.
If looking for a quiet place, I would recommend looking outside of the Parque Lleras, like Poblado or Provenza. Taxis are relatively cheap and the amount of peace and quiet you can have for what probably would cost you $2-3 at most (5-10 mins from Parque Lleras) in taxi and go a long way if it’s a priority for you. AIRBNB’s typically are in gated buildings with security personal. The AIRBNB’s typically will write in the description if it a quiet place to stay. Highly reviewed AIRBNBs and “Rare Finds” are typically amazing finds if you reserve them more than a couple months early, but I usually look to spend at least $60 a night for a single bedroom stay, $50 per person with 2 bedroom. Personally having traveled there numerous times as well as switching ARIBNBs every couple of days… I prefer to spend $80+ and here’s why…
Although not a deal breaker, I like places with hot water, washer and dryer, a beautiful view of the gorgeous mountains of Medellin, and some sort of rooftop pool or space. I think my two favorite things in Colombia… is going to the Unity Gym in Charlee Hotel (in the heart of Parque Lleras) and looking out the windows at the mountains in between sets… and waking up, waking up and walking out of to the balcony… have a cup of coffee… it is a divine experience. Therefore, the extra $30-50 I spend is so worth it. The quieter the AIRBNB’s are, the more strict they tend to be on late night loud music. The places less strict will have more guests that are going to be loud. That may be obvious but I would rather have it said than unsaid. Spending more than $80 p/night does not ensure hot water, washer and dryer but I believe you can find some amazing AIRBNB experiences within that price range. If you are told that there is hot water showers and you do not seem to be able to get hot water, I implore you to ask the staff or the host of the AIRBNB immediately and politely check the status because it may take a long time for someone to come for a quick fix… sometimes, it’s only flicking on the water heater switch on… and you spent 4 days taking cold showers for no reason… speaking from experience… This leads me to pointers on communication….
Colombians typically communicate through whatsapp so I implore you to have it downloaded and ready to use before you land in Colombia. The Colombian country code is +57 or maybe +58? Usually +57. When I first started coming to Colombia years ago, my Verizon Wireless international service cost me $10 p/ day and had terrible data. That was extremely expensive for a service that didn’t work, especially if you are there for more than a week. Recently I went and the service was great, had no problem, but still expensive. I have friends with T Mobile who do pay any fees for using their phone internationally and have no problem using the GPS and calling transportation… Social media would be difficult to use with the roaming data I would imagine for most providers from the states however. I recommend getting a SIM card in Colombia if you have an unlocked phone. They have cell phone service booths, stores but you can even find them at pharmacies. The data plans are fairly cheap, and you can buy packages loaded with a certain amount of data for a certain period of time. My last trip I did not buy a SIM card and it wasn’t a disaster. I no longer need to use google maps to navigate places within walking distance and just used WIFI at every establishment I would eat or drink… but if you’re going to be trying to keep in contact with people throughout the day, uploading pictures and videos to Instgram, doing a lot of sightseeing in many different areas and there for more than a weekend, this may be a very practical investment. But if you are there for the weekend, than maybe you can use your American service provider or just WIFI. Lastly on tips for my first trip to Medellin, I want to talk about the last thing to do before I board my flight for Colombia…. I wish someone had told me this before… my first 5 visits to Colombia…
Make sure you have a screenshot of the address of your hotel/ AIRBNB you’re staying. I have had terrible experiences getting from the airport to my AIRBNB due to incorrect address in the info of the AIRBNB and correct address in a message from the host which I could not reference due to my poor internet service. The drive is give or take 30 minutes from the Jose Maria Cordovo Airport to Parque Lleras/ Poblado area and most taxi drivers know how to get to that area and some may know some of the bigger hotels but there are times that my drivers got lost or the address was incorrect, and I had no way of contacting the hosts of the AIRBNB because I had no service which prevented me from being able to access the phone number to get directions from the host… I would recommend saving the address you’re going, screenshot the Google maps search, have the phone number of the AIRBNB host/ reception desk of hotel so that you or your driver can ask for directions…. You may not need it but spending 90 mins trying to get to your hotel after an international flight and customs can be pretty gruesome.
Lastly when at the airport, I would recommend getting a taxi from the taxi stand on the way to the hotel. The standard is 80 mil pesos. If someone is asking more, they may be a guy who is trying to make a little bit of money directing you to a taxi driver waiting somewhere. There is a bus that goes into town, significantly cheaper, I’ve never done that but have had friends who have used it and had no problems. There are also various transportation apps like uber, NDrive, DiDi that you can use as well that may be half the price, maybe more, I honestly forget… but if it’s your first time, and your spanish isn’t that great, I would recommend getting a taxi because the transportation services are technically illegal so it’s big ordeal finding a place for you to meet with them, and you have to sit in the front seat so you look like a friend being picked up… 80 mil pesos is the most you’ll probably spend on a taxi if you’re just going to be in the city and I happily spend it for the efficiency of the whole process.