Fly- There are two airports here, José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) is the main one and is around 45 minutes outside the city. Upon arrival take the bus into Santa Fe. This should take about an hour. From there, if you’re staying in Poblado, take a cab to your accommodation. If you’re elsewhere (such as Laureles) and close to the metro then get off at the Industriales metro stop.
Price- Bus $10K COP ($3.33 USD) Cab from airport $80K COP ($26.50 USD)
Bus- Most commonly people bus from Cartagena, Bogotá or Salento depending on where you started. Check prices for both the bus and flights as sometimes they can be around the same price. Buses take a long time because of all of the mountains- a 17 hour bus ride from the coast is just a 1 and a half hour flight.
Once here, take the metro! It’s the only city with a metro in Colombia and they’re very proud of it. This system also connects to the metrocable system that connects the poorer mountain neighborhoods with the city. Don’t eat or drink while riding, they like to keep it very clean. During rush hour you’ll be packed in like sardines. There is a lot of shoving but everyone is pretty chill about being pushed around. If claustrophobia isn’t your thing, you can cab it during these times and getting around on foot is easy and safe.
InMedellin Hostel: Located in Poblado (neighborhood) near all the gringo things and right down the street from a good Spanish school. This is one of the cheaper hostels in Medellín. A very nice hostel with big beds and clean facilities but it’s not very social and it’s a far walk from the metro. That being said, almost everything in Poblado is far from the metro. Poblado is very hilly so you might get a bit sweaty walking around. But there’s a lot of English speakers and restaurants geared towards travelers. It’s also a great area to go out at night. Wouldn’t recommend for a solo traveler due to the vibe.
Overall: 6/10 Price: $19,500 COP ($6.5 USD) Cheap for Medellín
International House: Located in Belen, a neighborhood that’s not really near anything you’re going to want to do- it was a little inconvenient. Standard rooms, awesome kitchen and rooftop area with good Wi-Fi. Vibe was meh while I was there but reviews seem to say that normally this isn’t the case. Location was my biggest issue with it.
Overall- 6.5/10 Price- $ 18K COP ($6 USD) Cheap for Medellín
Wandering Paisa: Located in Laureles which is the local version of Poblado. It’s an extremely safe neighborhood and much more of the real Medellín. The hostel has a great vibe with a lot of activities. It’s near the metro so easy to get to any part of the city and right next to the stadium so easy to go to some games (which is a must in Medellín).
Overall- 9/10 Price- $23,500 COP ($7.80 USD and up) Average for Medellín
Eating: Bandeja Paisa – steak, Chicharrónes (pork rind), chorizo, rice, red beans, avocado, fried egg, an arepa, and plantain chips.
Arepas- Classic Colombia. Classic Paisa. It’s think and round (not a ball, more like a pancake) and made with maize dough. Get it with cheese or stuffed- as they’re a bit bland on their own.
Doing: Take the free walking tour, go to a soccer game, take some day trips, take the metrocable, volunteer, visit 3 Cordilleras brewing company
Free walking tour– The guides are amazing, 100% Paisa and everyone is extremely excited and proud to share their city with you. You’ll learn a ton about the history of the Paisa people as well as their transformation into the safe and beautiful city it is today after the recent violence. There are two tours per day M-F and a morning tour on Saturday. The tour is very popular so it is highly recommended to book a day and a half in advance (the earliest you’re allowed to book).
Price- Free + tip
Go to a soccer game- Whether it’s Atlético Nacional or Deportivo Independiente Medellín (DIM) the atmosphere is unbeatable! Ask your hostel for the nearest shop selling tickets or head directly to the stadium. Make sure to get a ticket in the North section if you’re going to a Nacional game and the south section if you’re going to a DIM game (double check this when you’re buying your ticket though). But for the most part nobody checks seats so just head over to where the crazy fans are and just start cheering.
Price- $15-25K COP ($5-8.33 USD)
Volunteering- Want to give back? Head up to the mountains and volunteer in one of poorest barrios in the city. Angeles de Medellín is run by an American from Rochester, NY who has been living here for 12 years. The organization has English, sewing and computer courses for women along with job placement assistance upon completion. If you’re around for Halloween or Christmas they throw a huge Halloween and Christmas bash for the kids. It’s a huge treat for the kids and while you’ll leave utterly exhausted, it’s totally worth it. The organization is open Monday- Thursday and you’ll meet a ton of people while volunteering. Get in touch via facebook for more information.
Guatapé- Easy day or overnight trip. From Caribe metro stop is the North Terminal bus station. You’ll see ticket counters that advertise Guatapé – go there. Buy a ticket to La Piedra del Peño to climb the famous rock before heading into town. The bus drops you off and you’ll have to walk up to get to the actual rock. Once at the rock, the climb is 740 steps and on a sunny day it’s hot, so bring water. The views at the top are breathtaking!
Once you make your way back down, take a moto taxi to the actual town of Guatapé and walk around. You can take a boat tour, have lunch and enjoy the quaint little town.
I found it was enough for me just for the day and made my way back to Medellín in the afternoon. It you choose to spend the night there are is also some hiking to be done nearby with some nice waterfalls.
Price- Bus Medellín-La Piedra $12.500 COP ($4.16 USD) Taxi La Piedra-Guatapé $8K COP ($2.66 USD) Entrance $18K COP ($6 USD)
Jardin- I didn’t get a chance to make it here but I hear it’s definitely worth an overnight trip!
Metrocable- Built to help the neighborhoods in the mountains to have an easier way to get better jobs in the city center, the Metrocable is just part of the metro line and won’t cost you any extra.
3 Cordilleras is a brewery in Medellín. On Thursdays and Fridays they offer tours (only in Spanish) and have live music. The tour is meh but the atmosphere is really nice!
Price- $30K COP ($10 USD) for the tour and 5 beers
Museums- There are some good museums here that I know nothing about because I generally avoid museums. The walking tour will have a lot more information on some great museums in the city, though.
Staying: At least a week, if not longer. This is such a great city to just hang out in.
Going: Like Bogotá, you can head anywhere from here! This is in the middle so it’s easy to make this any part of your trip. Since I spent so much time here it was my first stop. The coast (Santa Marta and Cartagena) are north, Bogotá is to the Southwest and Salento is to the Southeast.