In this in-depth digital nomad guide to Medellin, you’ll find everything you need to know to set yourself up in one of the fastest growing digital nomad hotspots.
We stayed for 3 months and enjoyed every moment. We had experienced the highest level of productivity since starting on the trip, it was like no other South American city we’ve visited with it’s awesome standard of living, modern infrastructure and super friendly locals.
Why Choose Medellin
Cost of living: The basic cost of living in Colombia is lower than that of the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia; particularly for items such as housing, transport, food and entertainment.
Internet: Colombia as a whole has good internet – Medellin especially, has fast and reliable internet.
Climate: City of External Spring – need I say more. Warm and sunny during the day and cool at night, 365 days of the year. No need for heaters or air-conditioners. Average temperatures range between 60°F (15 °C) and 80°F (27 °C).
People: Medellin has a reputation for being the friendliest city in Colombia. We couldn’t agree more – “Con mucho gusto” (translated to with pleasure) is a common gesture.
Currency: Colombian Pesos (COP)
Language: Spanish is the official language spoken by the majority of the population. However, there is a small percentage that can speak English. We’d recommend getting the basics down prior to your arrival or take up some lessons during your stay. Medellin has a number of Spanish schools to choose from, we booked an intensive week with Toucan Spanish School.
Safety: Most people associate Medellin with drugs and homicides, however in the last 20 years it’s gone through a massive transformation which has resulted in clearing out the drug cartels and plummeting homicide rates. The government and the people have been working hard to shift the stigma to increase tourism. When you speak to the locals and hear the stories of the past, it’s quite astonishing to see how far this city has come.
Avoid dangerous areas and getting involved with drugs and prostitution. Like anywhere follow extra safety precautions and have common sense. During our time, we never left unsafe and found there was regular police presence which put us at ease.
Visa policy: Holders of 95 jurisdictions do not require visa to enter Colombia for a maximum stay of 90 days. See the list of countries here.
Where to Stay in Medellin
The most popular neighborhoods for digital nomads to live are El Poblado, Envigado, Laureles, and Estadio. They are relatively safe areas and have a variety of restaurants, shops and nightlife.
El Poblado: This is the upper-class, expat and tourist area, which make it the most expensive neighborhood, but has the most options of restaurants, bars and shops. The lush green suburb is nestled into the mountain side, so be prepared to do lots of hill walking (or taxis) and consider this when looking at your accommodation options.
Envigado: Technically, Envigado is located outside Medellin, but is only 5 miles (8 kms) away via the metro. The housing prices are a little less and there’s a good choice of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. Most expats choose this area for it’s less touristy vibe than Poblado.
Laureles & Estadio: These two suburbs are right next to each other and are close to the football stadium, a public sports arena, and one of the main universities. It’s a quiet upscale area with an authentic Colombian atmosphere. There’s not as many choices of restaurants and bars as Poblado or Laureles, but there’s still plenty of good choices and you’ll find affordable rentals. Some areas aren’t so close to the metro, so take this into consideration when deciding on your accommodation options.
Accommodation in Medellin
August – October 2017 (3 months)
Cost: $1,200 USD per month (including wifi and utilities)
Location: El Poblado
Amenities: Wifi, washing machine, fully-equipped kitchen, TV with cable.
Summary: Our Airbnb was a spacious studio with decent sized kitchen, big balcony, pool, gym and laundry. The furniture was comfortable and amenities were new and in good working condition. Wifi was decent and reliable – no problems with Skype calls or streaming. It was conveniently located near a variety of food options (restaurants and food trucks), supermarkets, big shopping malls, and parks. It was a little over our budget, but we got 50% off for a new and modern apartment with all the bells and whistles in a convenient location.
Transport in Medellin
Getting around the city is generally very easy and cheap – either by taxi, metro or bus.
Taxis are easy to find, all metered and cheap. Try to avoid traveling during peak periods or catch the metro.
The metro is even more cost effective at 2,300 COP (80 cents) for any distance. It’s the most straightforward and easy system, just ask for 2 tickets which gets you a return ticket. No fumbling around trying to work out your destination at the ticket machine. Try to avoid traveling during peak periods and if it’s unavoidable make sure you buy your ticket, otherwise you might be caught out in a long waiting line.
There are a lot of buses around town, you need to flag them down because there aren’t many bus stops. Cost is about 1,900 COP (under 1 USD).
Internet in Medellin
We chose a pre-paid option through Claro. It’s the largest service provider in Colombia. There are stores in most shopping malls and the major Exito, where you can purchase SIMs and recharge. The customer service representatives can assist with the set up. Also, there are small lottery booths where you can recharge, however you’ll need to know the short codes to choose the right package.
Claro SIM: $8 USD (23,400 COP)
Package (data only): We chose 2B for $8 USD (23,400 COP) over 30 days every month. This was sufficient since we try to use wifi when we can (at home and restaurants) and use WhatsApp or Skype to make calls.
A passport will be required when purchasing a sim card.
Not everyone at speaks English, so some basic Spanish and pointing can help.
We didn’t have any problems with Claro coverage. Our wifi at home was good and reliable. Internet quality will depend on the location and set up on the premises.
Places to Work in Medellin
We’re unable to comment on co-working spaces, because the costs are out of our budget, so we utilize our space at home and when we need a break will head out to a cafe or restaurant.
Here are some of our favourites with fast wifi and powerpoints:
Cafe Zeppelin: A nice space with indoor and outdoor seating. They also do an awesome menu of the day for about 12,000 COP ($5 USD). They post the menu of the day for the week on their Facebook page.
Cafe Red Velvet: Good coffee, comfortable seats and nice chilled vibe – super popular with digital nomads.
Burdo: Great food, a little pricey, but beautiful open space.
Places to Eat in Medellin
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Here are some of our favourites:
Federal Ribs: These guys have nailed BBQ ribs, they also do good burgers.
Crepes and Waffles: A long list of various savoury and sweet crepe and waffle options.
Shanti: Fresh quality mediterranean food.
Menu del dia: Lunch was our favourite time of the day, because almost every restaurant offer Menu del Dia which usually consists of protein, side dish and either a juice or dessert. Prices can vary from around 12,000 COP ($5 USD) up. Typically Colombian restaurants are cheaper than western restaurants.
Feel free to leave a comment, share our guide or email us with any questions.