My First Impression of Medellín – What Happens When you get Lost in the Streets at 2 AM?

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I’ve been in Medellín for a week now and I’ve visited a bit of the city. This is by no means an in-depth post, but really to give you my first impression of a city that so many people think is really dangerous. Come back to my main blog in a month for an in-depth on everything you need to know about Medellín.

Getting in

I had an evening flight from Mexico to Medellín and arrived here at around midnight after a nice stopover in Mexico City. Once you arrive in Colombia there is a dedicated kiosk at the border for Canadians as we have to pay a special 190,000 COP reciprocity tax (CAD$80). This is, from what I’ve read, as a direct response to the Canadian government’s own fee on Colombians visiting the country. This could be paid by credit card (or in Colombian Pesos) so I was fine.

I also read a lot online that you needed a proof of onward travel to be let into the country. I did not and didn’t have any problem. I don’t know if it was the late arrival, Aeromexico who were lazy that day (they are supposed to check this at the airport before letting you on the plane) or if I was simply lucky! If you don’t want to take any chances you have either the option of booking a ticket that offers free 24-hour cancellation and then cancel it in the next 24 hours, or use service like flyonward.com that lets you rent a ticket for a 24 to 48 hours periods for $10.

 

Getting lost in Medellín at 2 AM on my first night

It all started in Mexico before getting on my plane. I had emailed my hotel to arrange a transport from the airport, but for some reason, only half the email arrive and they did not have all my contact information required to make the arrangement. So, here I was, alone at the Medellín airport at around 1 AM now, trying to get a taxi for the 45 minutes ride to the city. And since everyone was so afraid that I get kidnapped here in Colombia, the thought did cross my mind that something bad could happen. I managed to get a shared taxi with a Colombian/Canadian accountant from Toronto that explained a great deal about the city on the way. That turned out to be a great ride, I paid the 75,000 COP ($32 CAD), the taxi dropped me at the hotel and everything was fine…

… or so I thought! The Hotel I had book had 2 separate buildings for dorms and rooms. I had booked a room for the first night and the taxi had dropped me off at the dorms one! So I thank the woman that woke up to welcome me at the wrong hotel, entered the street address in google map, and was on my way. I don’t know if it’s me that could read the address properly (probably, they have a funny way of giving direction), but there I was wandering some deserted street at 2 AM. I finally managed to find it, after asking for direction (which I never do) not once but twice in other hotels where there were people at the front desk.


So, is it safe?

So the short answer to “What happens when you get lost in the streets at 2 AM?” is thankfully nothing! This was on my first Thursday night in town, and last Thursday we went out to an organized Pub Crawl and I walked those same streets alone on my way back at 3 AM this time and still, nothing happened.

Did you know that many major US cities are more dangerous than Medellín? Medellín is estimated to be about as safe as Orlando, Florida. That being said, just yesterday a guy from the hostel where I’m staying got his phone taken at knife point at 1 PM in a public park. So no matter how safe you are, it is important to always stay careful.

Barrios (Neighbourhoods)

I haven’t got to visit the other neighborhood yet, that will come for my full review of the city. I’ve explored El Poblado and have been to Laureles an afternoon to check it out.

El Poblado

This is the main upscale district in Medellín and the most touristic one. It is pretty calm during the week, but can get wild on the weekends! There are many restaurant and patio on all the streets close to Parque Lleras.

Since I’m in this city mainly to work for the next month, I’ve looked out a couple of cafes. There are plenty of them with good wi-fi to work from. The coffee is excellent and a cappuccino will cost you around $4000 to $6000 ( $1.70 to $2.5 CAD).

Laureles

I’ve yet to experience it fully, but I’ve been there for a walk and it seems less touristic than El Poblado while still having lots of places to go out and cafes to work from.

Communication

There are not many English-speaking Colombian, even in the more touristic place, so it is really a great place to learn Spanish. Language exchanges are great events to attend in order to practice and learn. I went to one on Wednesday night at a local bar and met 5 Colombians that were learning English. It also gives you a unique insight into the local culture that you would have had if you’d have stick to all the touristic stuff.

To stay in touch with your friends back home, or to have access to your favorite travel app, you can get a local SIM card (you will need an unlocked phone) for really cheap. I bought one from Claro for 5 000 COP (CAD$2) and a 2Gig data package for 42 000 COP (CAD$20).

Things to do and More to Come

Medellin is a city that seems to have a lot to offer at first glance! The Pablo Escobar Tour, Guatapé, Comuna 13, crazy pub crawl, language exchange night, salsa dancing and much more!

There will be a much more complete blog post with a video of the city coming up in the following month, but I wanted to give you my first impression of this new place after only a couple of days.

Bottom line

This was my first experience of Medellin, there will be more to come once I get a good grip on it! I should be in the city up until the end of September, if you’re ever in the area and would like to talk travel, don’t hesitate to send me a message! We love to meet our followers especially those on the road!

Do you want to know more about Medellin? Have you ever been and would like to share your experience? Let us know in the comments!

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All my South American Trip stories are here:
Around the World Part I: Colombia
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Where to go on a Quick Stopover in Mexico?
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