Budget Guide: Medellin
Best Budget Guide to Medellin, Colombia
Medellin has always been a destination that made my heart beat a bit faster. I’m not ashamed of admitting that all those books and stories I’ve read about the ill-famed cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar somehow contributed to my initial interest in the city. That and also the blustering accounts I’ve discovered about Medellin’s nightlife in local and international travel guides made me curious. But Medellin, also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring,’ has a few more surprises up its sleeve. During the last few years the formerly dangerous rated city has undergone a few changes. It managed to reposition itself with success as a top-notch travelers’ destination!
Bogotá to Medellin by plane
I think that Bogotá-Medellin is definitely the shortest air route in history. The flight lasted a whole 35 minutes! You’ll have10 minutes to install yourself hastily while the plane’s already taking off, 15 minutes to hurriedly guzzle down your blistering hot – and by the way fairly horrible – coffee and 10 minutes see yourself cascading down to Medellin airport. You won’t even have the time to fasten your seat belt! Thank you LAN Airlines for this rapid and efficient flight!
El Poblado de Medellin
If you are staying in Medellin, the best neighborhood is without a doubt El Poblado. There, you’ll find heaps of hostels and cheap B&B, but also funky and high standard hotels. El Poblado next to the Zona Rosa is a snug, upper class and a hipster friendly neighborhood, bustling with fashionable Colombians and curious globetrotters.
Sadly, a travel agency booked us a room at a hotel that was still undergoing renovation works and was home to other guests as well; cockroaches! The time I came face to face with Mr Roach in an elevator, a very small confined space, I have to stress out – was also the time I secretly vowed to myself never ever to trust any travel agency again! For the rest of my stay, I was jealously ogling at the cute little and welcoming B&B’s popping up a bit everywhere in El Poblado.
As aforementioned, Medellin is also known as the “Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” (City of the Eternal Spring). The city got this delightful nickname from its pleasant climate and from its perfect spring temperatures: it’s never too cold and never too hot! To me Medellin was therefore a welcoming change after spending a few days in grey and grumpy Bogotá, where buildings are hidden behind fast-shut gates. Discovering the friendly neighborhoods of Medellin with its friendly front porches and friendly, though sometimes curiously staring, inhabitants, was godsend!
There’s nothing more enjoyable than being comfortably installed at one of the many terraced cafés in El Poblado, while listening to live jazz music with a delicious bottle of chardonnay waiting to be emptied. Definitely one of my best memories in Colombia! And just when I thought life couldn’t be more enjoyable I made a life-changing discovery. This’ll be very welcome news for women with curly or wavy hair all around the world: a hair-straightener-machine in the ladies’ bathroom… I am dead serious!
Colombian women are so much more into their appearance as the rest of us are! Where else can you get your first boob job as a present from your parents for your sweet sixteen? Upper class women and girls from Medellin are perfect dolls, long, never-ending legs, skirts you could easily mistake for belts and monster cleavages. In Colombia, men tend to lose it and backslide into teenage-hood, spraining their necks just to admire those divine gals from every angle! So, women of the world, let me warn you: You might feel left out standing next to those beauties, dressed as a happy backpacker in your tank top and tracking gear!
Medellin and its (former) cartels
It’s said that Medellin, Pablo Escobar’s former stronghold, is now cleared of its cocaine rings and drug cartels! Colombians don’t want to be linked to the country’s dark past anymore and a lot of them will loudly and proudly claim that all drug activity has been eradicated… But what about international reports, what about all those intercepted cocaine parcels coming from Colombia and what about those pimped up monster cars with those dangerously looking drivers wheeling around Medellin? Just questioning myself here.
But honestly, don’t let my private doubts put you off your trip to Medellin, because this exceptional city is definitely worth a visit. It’s clearly a revitalizing, fun and very entertaining experience and one of my personal number-one destinations in Colombia!
Culture, trekking and public transport
Our journey in Medellin continued as it had begun: eccentric, steep and with a quite refreshing breeze! Here are my top things to do amidst this happy fuss of globetrotters, hipsters, locals and extremely rich people with dubious sources of income:
The Plaza Botero
Here, not less than 32 Botero statues will amaze you. Plaza Botero is like a free open-air museum and is located in the city center. At Plaza Botero you will be contemplating the art while some odd-balls will be contemplating you… but don’t worry, except for some daring pickpockets you won’t risk anything in the city center.
Medellin proudly presents… It’s Metro
Medellin is the only one of Colombia’s cities with a metro transportation system. Locals are therefore overly proud to show visitors its Metro system and will push them to immortalize it on their cameras. Some travel guides even recommend it as a tourist attraction … For me it was just another subway in another city. To be polite, I took a picture anyway (which I unfortunately deleted by mistake shortly afterwards).
Take the Metro to Acevedo, then change to Linea K on the Metro cable to Santo Domingo, where the Spanish Library is standing, all dark and mysterious, on the hillside of the city. The building is overlooking the Comunas (poorer neighbourhoods). If you continue your ride on the Metro cable you’ll reach Parque Arvi.
Parque Arvi is a large national park in the Medellin region. It’s also a perfect spot for soft-adventure sports like trekking, skydiving, camping, bird watching… Taking a trip up there is definitely a must! And in case you should get lost, extremely nice policemen are offering doughnuts to every lost soul they can take care of (what a fun experience being surrounded by 10 grinning and doughnut-offering policemen… and also: what a cliché!)
Parque Lleras is the true heart of Medellin’s Zona Rosa in El Poblado. It’s the best location to experience Medellin’s thriving nightlife. The area is packed with cafés, nightclubs and yummy eateries. People party hard inside and outside on the streets around Zona Rosa.
Centro Commercial Santa Fe
This is the perfect place for all the indoor-shopping-aficionados! The Centro Commercial Santa Fe is a haven for Shopaholics, no kidding!
Eating and drinking in Medellin
Verdeo juice bar and restaurant is a colorful place for vegetarians and healthy food addicts. If you are not hungry, then just go to Verdeo to hang out or read, and treat yourself to a glass of one of their amazing organic juices!
If you are looking for a good cup of Joe (which funnily enough is not always the easiest thing to find in Colombia) go to Pergamino Café in Zona Rosa. Their delightful brew truly set my heart aflutter. A yummy and hearty breakfast with Colombian pastries is also available.
Ajiacos y Mondongos
Ajiacos y Mondongos is a local, teeny tiny restaurant serving the 3 traditional dishes of Colombian cuisine: Mondongo (a dish with pork, tripe and chorizo), Ajiaco (the traditional chicken and potato soup) and Cazuela (is a red bean stew). My suggestion: go for the Cazuela!
Bar y BBQ Aloha
Bar y BBQ Aloha is a cute little place just at the side of Parque Lleras. Take place at one of their tables on the terrace and order one of their burgers. Sweet and sour is their watchword! They are definitely serving some hot and delicious Hawaiian cuisine.
Other useful links
Currency: Colombian Peso
$1 USD = $2936.97 COP
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