Medellin, Colombia: Travel Tips and Tricks

Last updated: September 16, 2023

I spent 10 days in Medellin with my then-girlfriend, Rachel, during July 2019. We found that the best local SIM card in Medellin was Avantel (but today I’d just use Airalo). The safest neighborhood was Poblado and my favorite coffee shop there was Pergamino. Our favorite tour was Comuna 13.

We had hoped to spend a month in Medellin, but we sorta felt unsafe or just unsavvy. We ended up leaving Colombia after we both got food poisoning, likely from some seafood at a beachside Indian restaurant.

I made a few travel videos while I was in Medellin, which I’ll include below.

Best SIM Card: Avantel

I got an Avantel SIM card for $10,000 pesos, plus the $20,000 pre-paid amount of 4GB data and 100 minutes of talk time. (2GB of daytime data, and 2GB of evening data) I bought this at a mall kiosk in Poblado. If I was staying in the country for over 30 days, I was told I would either need to get a new SIM or register mine somehow.

Now that I’m updating this in 2023, I’d probably just use Airalo. It is an app that helps you easily get eSIMs. Not sponsored; I legit used it and it seemed to be fair pricing and good availability.

Best Coffee in Poblado: Pergamino

If you’re not going to drink your coffee like a local as a tinto, or like a fancy local at a Juan Valdez Cafe, then may I suggest: Pergamino Cafe. I loved the coffee selections at Pergamino Cafe. They have cold brew, nitro, pour over, V60, AeroPress, Chemex, and more. This is a chain with several locations. Plus the Pergamino in the heart of Poblado is quite the scene! Lots of people were working at laptops. By 10:30am on a Friday, there was a line for seats. Also Try: Across the street is Cafe Velvet. This was less crowded, open earlier, and with some strong third-wave offerings (like V60 and pour over). One time while I was here, I met the Founder of Baselang!

Uber in Medellin: Use Cabify Instead

During our trip in July 2019, the app Cabify was much better than Uber. We had much faster pickups and paid a lower rate using the Cabify app.

Medellin Travel Videos

Here are a few of the videos that I made during our trip. I was practicing making daily videos to try and get better at my travel videos!


We also made these videos during our trip and I quite like them:

The Best Medellin, Colombia Podcast Episodes

During my research prep before going to Medellin, Colombia I found that these three podcast episodes were great introductions to the city’s history:

NPR: Episode #1825: The Remarkable Rebirth of Medellín

Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa reported in Medellín at the height of the cartel war. After 30 years, she returns to the city, joined by radio reporter Luis Gallo, whose father worked as a captain in the anti-narcotics unit and whose life and family history were forever changed by Colombia’s armed conflict. Together, they tour Medellín, talking to local artists, academics, urban planners and politicians to understand how it went from chaos to the innovative, model city of today. NPR link for the podcast / text description from here

99% Invisible: Post-Narco Urbanism

Lots of text on the link if you prefer to read the story there!

BBC: Medellin, Colombia: Slums and urban regeneration

How a huge civic project transformed the violent neighbourhoods of Medellin, Colombia’s second city.

My Favorite Medellin Photos

Here they are.

Two people standing at top of hill overlooking city below, clouds and green stuff
Looking down into the valley of Medellin. Here’s Rachel and I, at the top of a hill on an Airbnb Experience we booked.
inside with a wooden ceilings
Botanical Gardens of Medellin, aka Joaquín Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden
Many fruits arrayed out for sale
At the Farmer’s Market, we got to taste a lot of delicious new fruit.

More Information + Good Resources

Reflections On Couples Travel: By Rachel

I realized during this trip that:

  • Time away (withdrawal) energized us both. Rachel at Toucan, Nick solo working/connecting via interwebs.
  • Having the goal of Spanish was similarly energizing (and served to connect us with others)
  • Two nights in a place, at least, was more manageable. Travel between spots when spending one night there diminished ability to be fully present.
  • I missed my long time friends.
  • Novels kept me company.
  • When traveling, most mental space IS taken up by the travel itself. Return home and to routine felt restorative because mental space was freed up for bigger picture and long term goals and habits.


I’m glad that we went to Medellin. I heard that it was a hot spot for digital nomads, cuisine, and more.

Ultimately I didn’t feel super safe. I was a bit stressed out to always have to be mindful of my phone or laptop getting stolen.

These days in 2023, as I’m writing this, I much prefer Mexico City. See my guide to Mexico City here.

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