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6 Things to Know Before Living in Medellín, Colombia

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Emilie Jones
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Medellín is Colombia’s second largest city, right after it’s capital, Bogotá.

As someone who spent almost a year living just outside of Bogotá I personally much prefer life in Medellín, aka the City of Eternal Spring. The weather is perfect, the people here are amazingly welcoming and friendly, and the views are stunning here in the valley surrounded by powerful yet peaceful mountains.

Although I absolutely love living in Colombia, friends of mine have enjoyed living and working in Panama just as much.

If you're planning a move to Medellín, one of the best places in Colombia, here are 6 things that will make you want to make the move to Medellín tomorrow!

1. It's becoming a hotspot for tourists & digital nomads

Three foreign women who live abroad in Colombia on a touristic trip outside of Medellin posing in a jeep with a Colombian flag
Friends & me playing tourists

Before Coronavirus hit, Medellín was booming with tourism and gaining popularity among the digital nomad community. Once things reopen again I’m sure this will pick right back up!

In just 2 years of living here I’ve noticed so many new cute coffee shops and coworking spaces pop up as well as a large amount of US startups setting up offices here which means there are more and more job opportunities (which provide long-term visas) for foreigners. 

Want to hop on the digital nomad train? Browse remote jobs to find your perfect match.

Best places to live in Medellín for expats

Two of the most popular areas for expats living abroad and tourists visiting the city are:

  • El Poblado
  • Laureles

Both have amazing nightlife, restaurants, coffee shops, organic/vegan stores, and basically everything an expat needs. These also tend to be two of the safest areas of the city.

El Poblado usually attracts a lot of the short-term tourists and tends to be a bit more expensive in terms of rent and prices when eating out.

Laureles on the other hand has a bit less of the touristy vibe and a lot more local scene. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who end up staying in Medellín long-term usually move out to Laureles.

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2. Get to know the areas before renting an apartment

A laptop sitting on a shady balcony overlooking the mountains and Medellin
With such great weather, it's a treat to be able to work outdoors

When it comes to finding a place to live I usually always recommend first-timers to book an Airbnb or a hostel for a week or two just to get to know the different areas and start looking for apartments in person.

When testing out different neighborhoods, do your best to live like you really would be able to afford to. Don't treat yourself to only the best if that's not something you can afford in the long run. To really find the right place to live, you'll want to make your situation as similar as to what you can really afford and then pick the best neighborhood based on that.

A nice room in a shared flat in El Poblado or Laureles will usually cost around $200 per month but finding cheaper or fancier and more pricey options is definitely possible.

There are lots of different websites here in Colombia for finding rooms or apartments, such as CompartoApto and Vico, as well as the expat Facebook groups. There’s a fabulous expat Facebook group here just for women which is very supportive and any questions usually get answered very quickly.

3. Working in-person vs. working remotely visa rights

A group of foreigners on a hike in a rural community outside of Medellin
Some friends and me on a hike outside of Medellin

When it comes to finding work here in Colombia, the expat Facebook groups again really come in handy as people are often posting different opportunities. LinkedIn and Indeed are also widely used among larger companies.

I’ve personally worked here in Colombia as an English teacher and in Business Development and Customer Success for two different global companies. As mentioned before, lots of North American companies have smaller offices here mainly because of the cost of labor and time zone benefits, so there are more and more opportunities popping up for English speakers.

If you manage to get a job with one of these international companies they usually sponsor your visa and it’s often good for 1-3 years with the option to renew. 

If you happen to come to Colombia as a digital nomad doing remote work or if you plan on volunteering then you’d need to enter on a 90-day tourist visa which can then be extended online for an additional 90-days making it super easy for you to stay up to 6 months in this beautiful country.

4. Don't forget to pack your dancing shoes (and hiking boots!)

Once you’re here there is so much to do, so many cute towns to go visit just a few hours outside of Medellín, like Guatapé or Jardín for example.

The nightlife here in Medellín is incredible, you can find anything from a salsa club, to reggaeton, to hard techno all on the same block. Parque Lleras area is the hot spot, literally hundreds of bars, restaurants and clubs in a 10 block parameter. If you like dancing there are a couple places that offer free Salsa lessons during the week.

If you’re into hiking, you’ll also love this city as there are a couple trails within the city and endless hiking possibilities around the nearby mountains.

Medellín also hosts lots of festivals from the famous flower festival in August to large music festivals and smaller artisanal workshops and markets.

Lots of travelers and expats also take Spanish lessons here as there are tons of schools to learn from (some even offer long-term visas).

Other top activities are riding the metrocable, walking tours, paragliding, soccer/football games, visiting coffee farms, traveling to nearby towns and other cities, meetups and language exchange.

Speaking of packing, another thing I’ve learned the hard way is that you should always carry around an umbrella if you’re out for a while, you never know when it’ll just start to downpour in Medellín.

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5. Exploring other parts of Colombia is quick & easy

With some friends enjoying a local fútbol game

Transportation in the city is fairly good and cheap, with a metro system and busses heading in all directions, as well as taxis, Ubers, and DiDis, making it very easy to get to anywhere around the city. It’s also really easy to get out of Medellín as the city has two bus terminals.

Although you've chosen to live in Medellín, be sure to take advantage of visiting the rest of the country. Colombia has so much to offer from the Caribbean coast, the Amazon, the Pacific Coast, and so much in between. The cheapest way to travel in Colombia is by bus but what you'll save in money, you'll make up for in hours traveling. The country is more spread out than you might think!

Flights are also usually quite affordable to get to different cities and save you a lot of time, since Colombia is very mountainous, traveling by road is usually a long and very curvy, bumpy ride, not for those with weak stomachs.

6. There's something for everyone in Colombia

After having spent most of my early life in Canada and then in my early twenties living in the Netherlands for 6 months and then to South Korea for a year and a half, I was feeling really called to learn Spanish and spend some time in South America.

Colombia seemed like the perfect place in terms of weather, people, language/accent, things to do, etc.

Colombia has everything from Caribbean beaches, snowy peaks, amazon jungle, cute little towns, literally so much variety and so much to discover! I’ve been here for almost 3 years now and don’t have plans to leave yet. 

To see more of what it’s like living in Medellín, follow me on Instagram @emiliejones.co

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