72 Hours in Medellín, Colombia (Part I)

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Medellín is a beautiful city wrought with a storied past and an exciting future. My 72 hour trip to Medellín included discovering both sides of the city as well as much more.

To make for an easier read, I split my 72 hour trip report into 4 posts. Here are the different pieces, I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: Getting there (the post you are reading)
Chapter 2: Day 1 in Medellín
Chapter 3: Day 2 in Medellín
Chapter 4: Day 3 in Medellín

My 72 hour journey in this beautiful city took place right before Halloween of 2017 (October 26-28, departing on the 29th). After it was all said and done the weather was as good (if not better) than I was expecting. Expect to get some rain, sunshine, and everything in between this time of year. Temperatures were mild, never going too far below high 60’s and too far above the low 80’s (perfect?).

My journey began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from where I departed from. I flew on Spirit Airlines for relatively cheap; a one-way ticket from FLL to MDE was about $150 and only took 3.5 hours. Who knew you could get to such an amazing part of the world for 1) so cheap and 2) so quickly!?

Landing at MDE International Airport is quite the adventure. It’s almost always cloudy in or around the city/airport so expect some turbulence. Don’t worry, they inform you ahead of time 🙂 The airport is fairly small and easy to navigate. Assuming you’re not from Colombia or do not hold a Colombian passport you will need to go through Migracion Colombia. They’re extremely polite and will ask if you’re traveling for business or pleasure. Just smile and say “gracias” once they award you that stamp you’ve long been waiting to receive!

Once through immigration I highly recommend you swing by the ATM right outside the terminal and grab some Colombian Pesos (COP). This is where you will get the best rate and they have two ATM’s just outside the exit gate, to the left of the snack shop. Do not go to the exchange – you will get ripped off. If you have USD you want to convert to COP do it at a bank in the city. The ATM I used was from Bancolombia, one of the biggest in the country. One of the first things you may notice (at least I did) is their currency is colorful and fun to look at. It’s also similar to the Euro in the sense that the larger the denomination of the bill the larger it is physically. This is a good way to organize your money, especially if you’re like me with USD and just shove it all in to your wallet!

Once you’ve gotten some cash from el cajero (ATM) and had a snack from the shop next to the ATM’s (they have some tasty delights) it’s time to head into the city! The airport is about 45 min outside the city (most people do not know that, I certainly did not!). At this point you have a few options:

  • You can get an Uber to take you into the city (~$15-20 USD)
    • It may take some time if there are no drivers nearby
  • Take a good ole fashioned taxi (about the same price)
  • Splurge and get a Mercedes van or something similar
    • This option will cost more but you can share it with other tourists going the same direction as you, as most are.
    • Or if you’re in a large group, this is definitely the way to go. In that case you may want to book it in advance.

The ride into the city is beautiful. You weave through the countryside into the mountains, and if your driver takes the highway, which most do, you will either descend into the city from the southeast off of highway 56 or come into the city from the north off of highway 60. There is a road into the center of the city between the two, but I was told this route is rarely taken. Ultimately, where you are staying in the city will determine what route your driver takes. Which brings us to our next topic – where to stay in Medellín!

Where to stay in Medellín

While there are loads of great neighborhoods to call home while visiting Medellín there are also a few you will want to avoid/stay away from. Medellín has seen rapid growth and expansion, urban development and investment since the “dark days” during Pablo Escobar’s grip on the city; yet some areas are still unsafe for visitors/tourists. It’s like any major city in the US – avoid areas you wouldn’t walk your dog at night and keep your wits about you and you will be fine. Enough said about that.

I decided to stay in the El Poblado area during my visit, which I highly recommend. Therefore, the majority of this post will revolve around that area. However, I will mention other areas to add some diversity to this article.

Poblado is a magnificent area offering travelers of all walks of life something to enjoy. It’s located in the southeast corner of the city and occupies about 9 sq-mi of area and is very walkable. I stayed “up the hill” off of Calle 10 which cuts through the most happening part of Poblado, Parque Lleras. My condo was a newer building and 20 stories tall. There are several of these high-rise style condos throughout the Poblado area, all of which should have accommodations via Airbnb, HomeAway, etc. Parking can be an issue in this area, however, which is why I would recommend not getting a car. Moreover, the city is so walkable and taxi/Uber friendly you don’t really need a car in the first place. Save the money – and the planet!

Whilst staying in Poblado it is very easy to get locked in to the area and not venture out too much. While there is an abundance of things to do and see in Poblado/Parque Lleras the city offers much much more which is why I would recommend taking at least a full day to explore other parts of the city.

Other great areas to stay are the Laureles/Estadio area (near the Estadio Atanasio Girardot) that have a lot to offer. Also worth considering the Bello and Belén areas if you want to get more of a real paisa local feel.

Continue to Chapter II: Day 1 in Medellín