How dangerous is Medellin, Colombia? My roommate gets mugged!

At one point Medellin was rated, “the most dangerous city in the world”. Drug wars, drive by shootings, bombings and kidnappings ran rampant though this city. Looking for the best countries in the world to retire cheap means living in some pretty out of the way places. The best places to live in the world might have the worst reputations.
First, I’ve noticed Medellin is surprisingly safe. People are friendly, there are a lot of smiles and don’t get me started on how pretty the women are. But, is it all fake? Is it a smile in one hand, and a knife in the other? Here’s 3 stories that sum up Medellin life for me so far.

1. My roommate was robbed at knife point last night. The public parks here all have free WiFi. Why’s that important? Well, it’s 2am in the morning, and my roommate (I’ll call him DJ Flaco) decides to leave the party to message a friend using this free WiFi. Lighting a smoke, he takes a drag. Taking out his phone, he starts Facebook messenging people. Out of nowhere, a tiny Colombian girl runs by him and tries to snatch his phone. While he’s only 122 lbs soaking wet, and kind of buzzed, he still manages to keep his phone. He drops his cigarette out of his hand, and half tackles this would be phone snatcher into the public fountain. After a quick tussle he gets his phone back. What he doesn’t notice is that her partner has come around. A tiny Colombian guy, he whips out his knife. DJ Flaco, decides it’s not worth it. Soaking wet, the beer and drug fuelled buzz now worn down by the soaking in the fountain and the adrenaline. He hands over his phone and wallet. After they take his stuff, the two muggers just grin, and saunter off slowly. DJ Flaco, tries in his limited Spanish to get help, and while there are people are around, nobody is really stepping up to help him.

2.It’s a Saturday at 5 am in the morning, the four of us have now hit 3 nightclubs and an afterhours. Time to get home. We decide to grab the cab in front of the afterhours club. Everybody gets in, and I’m the last one in. All of a sudden I feel a hand in my front pocket. I’m kind of half squatted, because I’m on my way to sitting down. I grab the arm, and the pickpocket is super surprised. His face is full of fear, as I’m probably at least 40lbs bigger than he is. I squeeze his forearm and he drops my coin purse into the street. I let go of his arm and he bolts like an Olympic trainee. Picking the coin purse out of the street, I close the cab door and we vamos.

3.On my first day into Medellin, I’m tired and full of stupid. I get a cab to take me Lleras Park where my hostel is. We find it and I pay him. After 30 minutes the cab driver pulls back up. I have no idea what he is doing back at the hostel. Did I not pay him enough? Nope, turns out I had left my carry on bag in the back of the cab. That’s right. 2 iPads, my kindle, and all my work notes could have all been gone. I am amazed at how honest this guy is. 2 hours later. The same cab driver is back.  A small pouch which contained all of my cables, had fallen out of the carry on. I am so lucky, this guy was honest.

From what I’ve seen of Medellin, the people are all super friendly for real. Those smiles are real. They are honest and care about you as a person not just a walking ATM. Saying that, they have a saying here. “Don’t give Papaya” Roughly it translates into, don’t show off your bling and tempt fate. By showing your papaya, you risk getting your hand lopped off. I’ve travelled all around the world, and I can say Medellin is no more dangerous than downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at night. 

They did a famous study once, where they had a group of convicted criminals look at video surveillance of a busy sidewalk. They asked them separately which people they would target. 84% of the same people were picked by this group as good potential victims. Don’t give papaya anywhere. Keep aware of your surroundings, and be smart while traveling to find the best places to live cheap 

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