Hi, there! I’m Arielle, and I’m currently doing a program called Remote Year — which means I’m working remotely and living in a different city in Latin America each month until the end of the year. My second stop was Medellín, Colombia, and I learned a lot. Here are my key takeaways for anyone planning to visit.
1. First of all, it’s COLOMBIA, not COLUMBIA.
2. And you pronounce Medellín like med-eh-jean, not med-eh-yean.
3. This city faced a lot of drug wars, corruption, and violence only about 30 years ago. But the way it has rebuilt itself in such a short time is AMAZING.
4. And it’s important to know that Medellín is not an episode of Narcos. The locals really hate when you mention the show.
5. Paisas (people from this region of Colombia) also wish tourists wouldn’t visit Pablo’s grave or places that focus on him. Instead, try the Memory House Museum, as it’s more about the history overall and the people who suffered.
6. Comuna 13 was once one of the most violent places in this city, but now it’s filled with beautiful graffiti and awesome views — it’s a MUST-SEE.
7. Medellín is known as the City of Eternal Spring, which means it’s always warm and green, but it’s also always raining.
8. Ubers here are technically illegal, but people use them. If a driver asks you to sit in the front seat, it’s because they want to appear as if you’re a friend they’re picking up.
9. But the thing about Ubers is that they’re very unreliable and slow. Sometimes they just cancel on you, and it’s harder to find one when it’s pouring out.
10. Toilet seats don’t really exist here, so be prepared to squat or…deal with it?
11. And no, you shouldn’t flush your toilet paper. You’re supposed to throw it out.
12. The best damn thing about Colombia is the coffee. I recommend Hija Mija for breakfast toast and your caffeine fix.
13. And if you’re a brunch enthusiast, go to Burdo and get a Bloody Mary with chicken & waffles.
14. Rappi is the delivery system in Medellín, and you can get food, cash, groceries, liquor, beds, costumes, and even a doctor delivered to your door.
15. On Sundays from 7 a.m. — 1 p.m., they shut down Avenida Poblado for Ciclovia. Basically you can run, walk, bike, etc. without cars on the street.
16. Customary tipping here is 10%, but you can tip more if you want.
17. And most places take credit cards, but you’ll need cash for street markets, cabs, and tips.
18. Medellín offers a free walking tour in the downtown area, and it’s a great way to learn about the history of the city.
19. And if you miss that tour, make sure you still stop by Botero Plaza!
20. For a good view and a taste of nature, take the cable cars to Parque Arvi in the morning and hike.
21. Everything here is SO MUCH CHEAPER than the US If you need a good spa day, or want gel nails, do it here.
22. Pickpocketing is VERY REAL here, so watch your belongings at all times and never leave anything unattended. Don’t give papaya!
23. If you’re in Medellín and have time for a day trip, absolutely go to Guatapé and climb the rock!
24. And if you have ANOTHER day, go to the small town of Jericó. It’s so colorful and charming.
25. Police do random checks on the street and in cars. Do not risk having drugs on you!
26. Poblado is the trendy area that most tourists stay in, and it has lots of cool bars and restaurants.
27. Like La Octava Bar, which has a ball pit for extra fun!
28. Explore other neighborhoods such as Laureles and Envigado. Poblado is great, but these areas are too!
29. Make sure to get bandeja paisa — it’s a platter with rice, ground beef, beans, eggs, potato, chicharron, plantains, avocado, and arepas.
30. Also get pizza and hummus from Zorba’s — you will not regret it.
31. And of course, get yourself a deep-fried empanada.
Colombia’s slogan is, “The only risk is wanting to stay,” and that’s 100% true. Go visit Medellín!
Arielle Calderon is a writer temporarily based in Latin America participating in Remote Year. If you have any tips on cool places, events, or things to eat in Bogota or Mexico City, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram.
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