I’ve been living in Medellin for over a month now so I can officially tell you it’s one of the best countries to retire cheap. After a year in South East Asia, I was a little hesitant to start this years tour of Central and South America. My biggest fears? I don’t speak Spanish, and I really hate salsa music.
Landing at the airport, I had a really pleasant surprise. They have airport buses that run you right into town for cheap 9000 COP ($4.50 CDN). Or you can take a taxi for $70 000 COP ($35 CDN). I took the cheap bus, called a collectivo…. and then took the taxi from the bus stop. Much much cheaper.
The first thing I can tell you is that cabs do not speak English. And they don’t seem to understand maps either. They do not however, try the “no meter” trick. They all seemed super honest. (I’ve had worse cab rides in Richmond, BC. Worst cab company in Canada). An average cab ride is about the same price as an Uber here. They also have a local app called Easy Taxi.
If the cabs are honest and the relative same price as an Uber, why Uber? With Uber, you can put the exact map pin in where you’re going. Remember the cab drivers here don’t speak English, and don’t know how to read a Google Map. If you’re going somewhere that really requires English speaking, you can pay 50% more and order an English speaking Uber.
My first night here, I went to the tourist area. Lleras park. It’s the place to be if you like partying. Bars, nightclubs, restaurants & hookers. It’s fun, and doesn’t shut down till about 4am. (I always like a little danger and chaos in my party zones). You can buy drugs, beers or tacos here. All super safe, as there is a very heavy police presence. I also liked the fact that there were locals that partied here too. It is more expensive than any other part of town though.
After a few nights in Poblada and Lleras Park, I wanted to find the “real” Medellin. Now, I’m completely different than most people here. I don’t want fancy restaurants and safety. I want street food, and a little hint of chaos. I love street food, and you’ll have a hard time finding it Lleras park. The local food is mostly rice, with beans , a protein, and an inedible hockey puck called an arepa. Delicious (except the arepa)!
68% of the people I’ve met here in Medellin, are Digital Nomads. Not a lot of fat tourists, or backpackers here. And out of those 68%, about 90% of them live in two areas. Poblado or Laureles. These are the two parts of town you’ll want to stay, if you want to hang out with your Digital Nomad peeps. It’s a great community here. Literally the best I’ve seen in the world.
Me? I found a haunted afterhours/bar party hotel to live in. It’s deep in the heart of Centro. And just like the downtown in Edmonton, Alberta, it’s full of crime, not the safest and crappy if you want to drive. My room is 15000 COP ($7 CDN) a night. Living in Poblado a 1 bed room furnished apartment is roughly 1,200,000 COP ($600 CDN) a month. Poblano is expensive, but nice.
If you want food that costs half the price of Poblado, or to live in the heart of Medellin, Centro is the place to go.
Centro is dangerous. My roommate was mugged. But saying that, he was out in a park at 4am in the morning and kind of drunk. Here in Medellin you’ve got to stay hard and sharp.
Even though there’s crime, the people are all super nice, putting up with halting attempts at Spanish, and welcoming me to Medellin. I really am the only Chino (Chinese person) here. I get big smiles everywhere I go. And they seem like they do care that you’re having a good day.
My typical day is pretty great. I wake up, work on the blog a bit, and then head to the gym. There are gyms everywhere here. Free gyms made of concrete blocks in the park, old school 80’s iron gyms (where I work out) and high tech fancy gyms.
After the gym, I’ll go grab a meal for about 6000 COP ($3 CDN) or a tasty meat pie for 1800 COP (90 cents CDN).
There are bars everywhere here in Centro, and barber shops. I don’t know why there are so many barber shops. But literally I counted 5 in a 3 block radius. Get a haircut here . It costs 10 000 COP ($5 CDN) but it’s one of the best haircuts I’ve ever gotten. They start with clippers, go to scissors, and then a razor! Worth it!
If you want to go grab a beer in a bar it’s about 8000 COP ($4 CDN), or you can buy them at the grocery shops for about 2000 COP ($1 CDN). Remember nobody really speaks English here, so if you are going out for a beer, you might feel a little shut out.
Me? I’ve spent a month in Medellin, Colombia, and I love it. I’m going on the rest of my tour, but I’ll be back!
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