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5 Tips For Living in Medellin, Colombia

By Joshua Wood

Summary: Expats living in Medellin, Colombia report that there are safe places to live - and that the nightlife is fun, too. Read about how to live in Medellin - a city that has become quite a popular destination for expats.

Expats in Colombia - 5 Tips For Living in Medellin, Colombia

Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia. Expats in Colombia report that parts of Medellin are among the safest places to live in the country.

An expat who moved to Medellin reported that he or she "found Medellin from a friend" and wrote that "the climate is perfect" with "75 [degree] days and 65 [degree] nights" that are perfect for sleeping." There is also "good infrastructure" that is equal to America's, drinkable water, "low cost hydroelectric" that doesn't require a converter, and natural gas in ground. The expat, who is from the U.S., is very accustomed to finding "everything we want" and reported that the people are "very friendly" and "helpful."

Where to Live in Medellin

One expat in Medellin said, "I would not consider any [places in the Medellin area] other than Medellin for relocating now. [You'll] find lower costs in the countryside, but [it] can be dangerous. Also look in the suburbs of Envigado or Sabaneta (south end for a more serene life) as the central city can be dangerous and noisy. Prices in Poblado are much higher - starting above $250-500k and is an urban jungle."

The expat continued that "U.S. style housing is NOT common here - typical housing is more European (my 1st apartment) with smaller box rooms and closed in feeling. [I] miss the U.S. kitchen and bath design including appliances in typical housing here (my new condo is U.S. design and is good), much construction here is NOT equal to U.S. standards (no inspection process) and could require much money for repairs."

As far as cost of living, the expat wrote that "costs are MUCH lower as average wages are U.S. $300 per month. With $500 per month, you can live like a king."

Another expat in Colombia wrote that Poblado has expensive places but also affordable places. As the previous poster suggested, try Sabaneta. Also Envigado and in between. Key is security. And plan to learn the language quickly. Spanish is not that hard. It is important to read expats comments regarding recent tax laws changes. There are other countries that are a lot more tax friendly for retirees.

Nightlife in Medellin

One soon-to-be expat and his friend were getting ready to explore Medellin for the first time, and an expat advised that "Parque Lleras is where you and your friend want to be." but then added jokingly, "Be careful, I started hanging out there and wound up MARRIED!"

Other expats have recommended El Poblado as an option for things to do.

There are also many excellent restaurants in Medellin.

Safety in Medellin Colombia

Some believe that Medellin has gone from a murder capital to a model city.

The Crime in Medellin has become far less of a concern than it was during the height of the drug war, but there are still problems in many places in and around Medellin.

The U.S. State department advises that "due to the security environment in Colombia, U.S. government officials and their families are not permitted to travel by road between most major cities, use inter-city or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Cartagena and Bogota, but violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas."

Getting A Mortgage in Medellin

One expat in Medellin wrote that "getting a mortage in Colombia without any Colombian income will be difficult. (Try to get a mortage in the US under similar conditions and see what the bank's reaction is!) Besides, the Colombian bank system is very costly to the consumer. There is very little competition ( I wonder what Bancolombia's market share is??!!) They impose the rules. Besides Colombia is a developing economy thus the risks are higher, thus interest rates are also higher."

International Schools in Medellin

The Columbus School in Medellin is often referred to as the "only international school in Medellin". One expat with children at the Columbus School wrote that "At our first visit we were amazed. Facilities are beautiful. This school is one of the best schools (speaking only about facilities) in Colombia." Concerns that parent has about the school are contained in the full report. The parent also wrote that "you can still find some [schools] like Montessori and Cumbres."

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood joined Expat Exchange in 2000. His areas of responsibility include creative aspects of the community, research, sales and business development. Joshua received his Master's Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in English Textual Studies.

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Comments about this Article

Nov 23, 2015 08:19

Well the truth is in Medellin it is not a 'springlike climate' Yes it can be pleasant but actually it is hot because you are at a higher elevation and close to the equator where the sun is intense. Just going for a walk will result in sweat. It is also very noisy from constant traffic! This is a metropolis and definately not for everyone, I just married a Colombiana and we are leaving as soon as we can to live in the 'coffee triangle' in or near Armenia.

Nov 23, 2015 10:10

"With $500 per month, you can live like a king." If this is for a couple ... Entirely unrealistic, IMO, even if you live in one of the dicier districts in the city, and even if the recent very favorable exchange rate of USD to Colombian pesos continues to hold firm above 3000. More like minimum $1200 a month to rent in a location secure for foreigners and don't own a car. And not "living like a king", at that. Some would say $1500 is more likely, if you are to have a life. And pay taxes, etc. Yes, it would obviously be cheaper for a single person, but not by half in a decent neighborhood unless you are bunked up with a working GF/BF or other expense-sharing roomy. Opinions vary and your experience may also. But be realistic.

Nov 23, 2015 10:26

As to the weather, temperature can be deceiving. "Feels-like" temps are often ten degrees F higher than shown on a mercury column, and how far up (or down) the hillside you live can make a HUGE difference. Up toward the rim, it can be way cooler. Down on the flats, it can get quite hot in the mid-afternoon. Wear a hat if you are fair-complected. This past summer is said to have been hotter than usual. Even the Paisa were sweating and complaining. The rain only helps if it's enough to wash away the heat rather than simply increasing the humidity. Contrary to what you may hear, some well-off people here do have air-conditioners and use them on hot afternoons. The rest of the time, you can pretty much open your windows and enjoy whatever weather -- rain or shine -- happens to be currently on display.

Mar 5, 2016 00:59

Joshua, I too graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson & later went on for postgraduate degrees in literature and then in psychotherapy. I am seeking a literary group in Medellin for serious readers and/or a writers' group in English.

Jul 25, 2016 05:02

As a single pensioner, I went to Medellin in mid November 2015 and spent 3 months there just to test whether it was really the place I wanted to retire to. The city is lively, amusing and well connected. Unfortunately, I realized that Medellin was not the place for me for the following reasons: 1) Locals are not trustworthy. They say one thing but do not honour their engagements. You never know where you stand with them. 2) As a foreigner, it is a continuous struggle to defend yourself from people trying to take advantage of you in any situation. The worse: estate agents! It is funny to see how property prices increase, even considerably, when they face a foreigner. They also tell you false things, making the purchase of a property risky. 3) Safety depends very much on where you live and the places you go to. One risks having to live in a narrowly defined area to avoid security risks. 4)The culture of violence has not much changed since the 80’s and 90’s. I received death threats in exchange of money from the very same locals I trusted. “Sicarios” (killers) can be hired for as little as US$ 100. 5) Food, except fruits and vegetables, is deceiving. 5) Health care is very good, but doctors are arrogant and one finds it difficult to relate to them as I do in Italy. Hope my experience helps.

Jan 29, 2017 19:44

Joshua Wood doesn't include the date that this article was written. Bearing that in mind in January 2017, I must take issue with the statement "for $500.00 (USD) you can live like a king." Today that amount would not be enough unless you're a back packing kid sleeping on a bunk bed in a hostal. Could a Colombian live on it? Yes but they are often with the extended family and sharing expenses and the place they live in would not be very nice. It wouldn't be much of a life for a gringo.

Apr 13, 2017 18:32

Lately, in the last 2 years, 2016 and 2017, certain months have been producing higher amounts of pollution due to weather inversions not allowing air to move out of the valley in which Medellin resides. The months of highest pollution are March to April. 2017 had lower levels, and the city has implemented new measures to reduce pollution. When pollution levels are over 150ppm on the international level or 50 on the Colombian scale, persons are forced to use public transportation to lower pollution. The good news is that their many small towns and suburbs out of the valley with very clean air. you can be as close as 25 minutes out of the city in areas such as el retiro, guarne, rio negro, etc. The other good news is the rest of the year the pollution is not as noticeable. The city is taking a lot of measures to fix these problems. Email me if you have questions about living in Medellin or outside areas. I personally have an office in Medellin and plan to commute 2 days out of the week and work remote from the el retiro area. Fiber optics high speed internet is available now in towns out side of Medellin. Cheers!

Jan 27, 2018 14:40

The claims that the cost of living is low in Medellin are spurious. One would NOT live like a king on $500 a month. Clothing and food are quite costly, in many cases US prices. There is no Walmart type store, Clothing is sold in boutique-style stores in the malls. Not low cost. Transport is cheap, but air travel is not. . If your income will be limited to $500 a month my advice is--Forget Medellin..

First Published: Nov 19, 2015

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