Medellin Digital Nomad Guide

The Medellin Digital Nomad Guide is a guest post by Shaun Taberer. Shaun is a copywriter and conversion optimization specialist and has been helping me a lot behind the scenes over the past two years. We actually met in Medellin two years ago when we both arrived in the city at the same time. I moved on and he continued to stay and wants to shared what he learnt with you.

Enter Shaun:

I first visited the city of Medellin around two years ago. I was travelling through South America and after three months of bussing, staying in hostels and partying up from Peru I rolled into the North Bus Station feeling a little apprehensive about this Colombian city that I’d heard so much about.

Back in 2013 everyone on the road was talking about Colombia. People were telling me about the coastal towns on the Caribbean, the whale watching in the Pacific Ocean, the jungle tours through the Amazon, the lost Andean civilisations… and the city of Medellin.

How did this city get on a list like that! My curiosity spiked. To me at that time Medellin meant Pablo Escobar but, like any concentration of a culture into a person, a singular idea or product, I was completely wrong. I came to find that this beautiful ‘city of eternal spring’ had many layers of interest. Its dark and violent history, its famous artists and writers, its architecture, its fantastic transport infrastructure, the warm and friendly people, the amazing parties, the perfect weather, the growing location independent entrepreneur scene – everything had me hooked.

I visited first like any normal traveller staying in the El Poblado neighbourhood, I was exploring the city in the afternoon and partying at night. But I soon wanted to make my move more permanent. That’s when I began exploring all the other neighbourhoods, restaurants, cafes, bars, co-working spaces etc. 

I ended up staying for 6 months. I flew down to Argentina to travel again, but after 4 months I was back. I began to get into work mode and spent my time building my copywriting and CRO business. I visited coworking spaces and cafes, got to know some other digital nomads, joined a football team and made friends from all over the world.

After two years, I want to spread the gospel of Medellin. It can be a daunting idea to get up and fly here, but that’s why I’ve written this guide, so that you can prepare by better knowing what to expect, where to go, where to stay, where to work and how to plug into this city’s many growing communities of location independent workers.

I hope you enjoy!

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Sections

Plugging In – Cell Phones and Internet
How to meet other digital nomads
Choosing the right neighbourhood – My 5 choices
Short Term Accommodation – Hostels and Hotels
Longer Term Accommodation – Shared Apartments and Your Own
Where to Work – Coworking Spaces, Cafes, University
Culture and Tourist Stuff – Things to do in Medellin
Nightlife – A short list
Cool Destinations Nearby
Cost of Living Breakdown
Getting There – Cheapest Flights to Medellin
Going To and From the Airport – What is the Safest and most Reliable way?
Visas – What options do you have?
Safety – Keeping out of Trouble
Map – A Visual Representation of all the Places Mentioned in this Guide

 

Plugging In

Coworking Ondas

Ondas Coworking Space

When arriving in any destination for the first time it is important to ‘plug-in’. Medellin is no different. There are lots of digital nomads living and working from here, but first you need to get on the grid to begin networking. Here are a few ways to get yourself ready:

Mobile phone/SIM card

There are three main cell phone providers in Colombia: Claro, Movistar and Tigo. As it is cheaper to call people using the same company, I have always used Claro because it is the most common provider. Prepaid (Prepago) SIM cards cost around $2 and calls are less than $0.10 a minute. Contract (postpago) phones are a cheaper option but you will need a Colombian ID to sign the agreement.

If you already have an unlocked phone you will be able to take it to any of the main provider’s stores (which are in almost all of the city’s malls) where they will configure the phone for you. If you need to buy a new phone I recommend that you go to Monterrey Mall where you will be able to pick up any smartphone for around the same price as in Europe.

Mobile Internet

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Monterrey Mall is the best place to get all your technological needs

Mobile internet coverage is very good all over the city. Like any modern destination,  Medellin’s metros and buses are full of mobile users checking their Facebook or email. It is generally excepted that Claro have the best coverage across the country, but the differences are slight in the city. Prices are low as competition is high. Take a look around each supplier and see which provider suits your needs the best. You can also invest in a dongle with prepaid data.

Home Internet

Before splashing out on the most expensive mobile internet plan it is useful to remember that Medellin is full of free wifi! All the malls, restaurants, cafes etc offer a free service, even public spaces are being given the free wifi treatment.

In terms of your home wifi, I would recommend that when you are viewing a new apartment or room you take your phone and perform a quick speed test before agreeing any terms with the landlord. Personally, I have always had relatively quick speeds, but I have heard some complaints from other nomads. I will discuss wifi at coworking spaces and cafes later on in the write up.

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How to meet other digital nomads

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An event at Epicentro Coworking Space

Meeting other digital nomads is a very good way to network and get connected as soon as you get into the city. This section of the guide is only available in the Premium Guide and Coupons package. You’ll find:

  • The best place to meet likeminded people
  • Hooking up with the right Online Communities

You can find out more about it here:

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Where to Stay

Finding the right place to stay is one of the most important things to get right when arriving in Medellin. We need to be productive, comfortable, social and safe. If you have not visited the city before I believe that it is best to first stay in a hostel/hotel so that you can be sure that this is the place for you. Also, hostels can be a great way to get to know the city as they offer lots of guided tours, events and, of course, parties.

First I want to give you a brief description of the most popular neighbourhoods to live in:

El Poblado

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El Poblado’s ever expanding skyline

The economic centre of the city, Poblado is the first stop for most visitors to Medellin. A very high density of both hostels and hotels means that there is a buzzing atmosphere here, 7 days a week. There are lots of restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, tours and shopping centres to cater for everyone who ends up here.

El Poblado (The Village) is still the most popular place to live for foreigners, but this means that it is also the most expensive place to live. You should expect to pay anywhere from 2 million COP ($780/€700) for a small apartment or around 800.000 COP ($313/€280) for your own double room.

For more detailed pros and cons about living in El Poblado check out the Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide.

This is some pretty cool drone footage I found on Youtube of the Poblado area at night…

 

Laureles

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A view of a typical street in Laureles

The area of the city that surrounds the popular University ‘UPB’, Laureles is quickly becoming very popular with both travellers and more permanent location independent workers. Centring around its two parks, it offers many fantastic restaurants and cafes. You only need to take a walk around to understand why people are deciding to move here from other areas of the city.

Unfortunately, this also translates into rising prices. Expect to pay at least 1800000 COP ($700/€630) for a small furnished apartment. A simple but nice double room will start at around 6/700.000 COP ($250/€210).

For the pro and cons chart and always updated prices, check out the Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide.

 

Estadio

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A bird’s eye view of the awesome facilities in Estadio (free to use)

This part of the city borders the neighbourhood of Laureles and is a place where more local families live. This doesn’t mean that it is particularly dangerous or unclean, it simply means that you may want take the bus ($1) or a taxi ($2/3) to Laureles when you want a really nice restaurant meal.

Actually Estadio is a fantastic place to live for many reasons, but the main one is all the sporting facilities. Based around the city’s main football stadium is a host of pitches and courts and gyms, from gymnastic facilities and handball courts to olympic size swimming pools and a velodrome. If you are sporty you will find yourself in this part of the city a lot, even if you are not living here.

A small furnished apartment is likely to set you back around 1200000 COP ($470/€420) and a simple private room should start at around 500000 COP ($195/€175).

Check out the pros and cons of living in Estadio with the Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide.

This video shows the area nicely as well as the passion that the city has for football (sorry for the length):

Envigado

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A firm favourite with many digital nomads, Envigado is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best areas to live. Officially it is not actually part of the city of Medellin and is considered to be a city of its own. However, as Medellin has grown, the two have all but become one.

That doesn’t mean that Envigado has lost any of its small town charm. It has bags of traditional cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as its own first division football team. Otra Parte is the former home of the famous Colombian Poet Fernando Gonzales and is now a popular hangout for many locals and foreigners.

You should expect to pay anywhere around 500000COP ($190/€171) for a furnished room and 1500000COP ($570/€514) for a small, furnished apartment.

 

For more info and pros and cons of living in Envigado take a look at our Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide.

Another arial video showing this part of the city and the views across all of Medellin (no sound):

Floresta

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On the square of Parque la Floresta

This area of the city is my personal favourite. With Parque la Floresta at its centre, you can find great restaurants, fun bars, a good-value coworking spot, a metro stop… the list goes on. What’s more is that Floresta is close to lots of other cool locations in the city, just two stops from Estadio, a quick bus journey from Laureles and a short walk to the ever-happening La 80.

The park is a really cool place to hang out. In the day it is a tranquil place to read a book or watch the people going by, at night groups of people converge for a bottle of beer or two. Also, every last Friday of the month it hosts a live concert.

Expect to pay at least 1100000 COP ($418/€377) for a furnished apartment or 500000 COP ($190/€171) for your own room.

 

For updated prices and the pros and cons of Floresta you’ll find more info in the Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide.

I wrote these quick overviews so that you could get a good first impression of each of the main neighbourhoods. When you arrive in Medellin you should take a look around these areas to see which one suits you and your lifestyle the best. You may even find that you love another area in the city that I haven’t even included here.

I recommend that you first book into a hostel or hotel so that you can get used to the different parts of the city. So, keep reading to find out which hostels/hotels are the best for both work and fun.

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Short Term Accommodation

Hostels that are suited for work and fun

After reading about Medellin’s neighbourhoods you will now know that El Poblado is home to most of the city’s hostels. However, in this write-up I want to include a few from different parts of Medellin. I’ve chosen 4 hostels which have a mixture of social fun, cleanliness and space to work. All are around $10 for a dorm bed:

The Happy Buddha

(El Poblado)– A beautiful, boutique hostel in El Poblado, this spacious hostel is becoming very popular. The attached lounge/bar is a great place to have a few drinks and meet the other guests. Clean and comfortable beds and well maintained toilets and showers also make this place a good hostel to choose if you want to stay in busy El Poblado. Importantly, there is a back room that has comfortable chairs and tables which makes it a good place to work from. This is where I first started my journey as a digital nomad, working as an editor for Johannes at WebWorkTravel. However, it can get noisy in the bar at night – avoid the dorm next to the bar! Private rooms are also available.

The Black Sheep 

(El Poblado) – Small, charming and popular, The Black Sheep is a great way to meet an active community in Medellin without having to go out on the town every night. The owners, from New Zealand, are very knowledgable and helpful (plus they do a great BBQ!). You are close to the metro here, as well as Medellin’s best known coworking spaces and cafes. The hostel itself does’t have lots of workspace but it’s possible.

Buddha Hostel

Laureles – If you want to check out Laureles in a little more depth, or if you’re tired of the Poblado party scene, then Buddha hostel could be the right choice for you. There is a really nice outside space to relax and start the day with yoga. There are also some areas where it is possible to work comfortably, but if you would rather work in a cafe or coworking space there are lots of options close by.

The Yellow House 

Floresta: This is small hostel with more of a guesthouse vibe. Set in the lovely surroundings of Floresta it is perfect for anyone looking to experience the calm and tranquil side of Medellin life. An added bonus is that the Ondas Coworking Space is right around the corner. When you are not working you can chill out in the hammocks with a cold beer, or check out the restaurants and bars near by.

I have only chosen four hostels as I believe that these are the best options for anyone who also needs to get some work done. However, if you want to spend your first few days in Medellin partying, then you should simply check out hostelworld.com and you will be spoilt for choice.

Hotels – Mid-range to Luxury

Many people coming to Medellin may prefer to book themselves into a hotel rather than a hostel. This way you can have your own space to work and relax, as well as avoid all the party/traveller scene. El Poblado is home to most of Medellin’s hotels, and there are some very luxurious options. I have selected six hotels here in both the medium and high price range.

Medium Budget

Apartasuites Torre Poblado – (from $43/€39) – El Poblado

Medium budget prices come in a little bit higher in this part of town, but this is a good deal. The price gets you a large, clean room with incredible city views from the balcony, free wifi access, a good breakfast in the morning and proximity to Poblano’s popular Parque LLeras (two blocks away). You can also choose a suite that is equipped with its own kitchenette. All rooms have a writing desk so that you can stay productive. The drawback is that the decor is a little bit dated.

Hotel Merlott– ($60/€50) – Estadio

If you want to keep active in your first few days in the city then you should stay around the stadium. You will not only have access to the many available sports facilities but you will also see a part of the city thats has undergone a real transformation in recent years. This hotel is modern and clean with good wifi and friendly staff. Each room is fitted with modern furniture and a writing desk

Hotel Asturias Medellin – ($33/€30) – Laureles

Close to the Unicentro shopping mall and the University UPB, this hotel is a great starting point to explore this part of town. There are lots of nice cafes and small, independent shops close by as well. The hotel is set right on the corner of a sleepy Laureles street, which means there will not be a lot of noise during the day or night. The hotel is also situated near the Estadio Metro Station so that you can easily explore the whole city.

High Budget

Inntu Hotel – ($49/€44) – Laureles

Set in the first Laureles Park, this hotel offers luxury for a reasonable price. Look out over the amazing views, relax in the amazing spa, or eat out in the first-class restaurant on the first floor. There is plenty of space to work both in your room and in the lobby area. Alternatively, If you want to get outside to work, there are lots of fantastic cafes nearby, as well as bars and restaurants in the evenings. This is the best place to stay in Laureles.

Sites ($98/€88) – Poblado

If you want an amazing view of the city, whilst sitting in your own hot tub, then Sites hotel is for you. You can choose between a loft room (standard double) or an apartment in varying sizes. All rooms come with a kitchenette, balcony and a sofa. If you want a desk you should ask for a studio room. This hotel is really close to Poblano’s main hub – Parque Llaeras. So there will be lots of things to do, both at day and night.

Diez Hotel ($90/€80) – Poblado

Designed to capture the spirit of Colombia’s many cultures, Diez Hotel has a different theme on each floor. In the rooms you will find modern and sleek fittings with a Latin American twist. Outside you will find pools and jacuzzis that offer the finest views possible in Medellin. If you are looking to arrive in Medellin in style then this is how you should do it.

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Longer Term Accommodation

After you you feel settled in Medellin it is time to look toward longer-term accommodation. If you want to know more this section of the guide is included in the Digital Nomads Medellin Premium Guide. You’ll find:

  • Where to find and book shared apartments
  • Where to find and reserve apartments

You can find out more here:

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Where to work

This section was a little bit tricky to write as I know that people like to work in different ways. Some like the togetherness of coworking spaces, some the hustle and bustle of a busy cafe, and others like to stay at home and get things done in their very own space. I have tried to put together some brief options so that all of you can find a place(s) to be productive.

Co-working

As more and more digital nomads are beginning to arrive in Medellin,  coworking spaces are beginning to pop up. Some, such as the promising Espacio, have been and gone. But here are your options now (I will add to this list as others open).

Ondas -Floresta (*Free day of Coworking coupon with guide)

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Hard at work in the Ondas Coworking Space in Floresta

Opened early this year in Floresta, Ondas Co-working space is a very cool place to work, hang out, and share ideas. The Australian owner, Kit, has a really keen eye for style so there a lots of little snugs and sofas to get your own space, as well as long communal tables to bounce around ideas. This space is designed for people who like to get up and move around, hopping from one workspace to another. If you want super professional office chairs and desks, then there are better options. However, if you are on this side of town and want to find a good coworking space with lots of awesome features and interesting people then look no further. Oh and they also have a cafe that serves THE best coffee in Medellin. Prices start at $100 per person, per month.

Atom House Poblado

This converted house in Poblado is a popular space for both Colombians and foreigners alike. Well established in Colombia (they have another space in Bogota) they offer good value deals at $140 a month for your own desk (if you stay over 3 months). The space is geared towards the more tech-minded entrepreneurs. You will find comfortable office chairs and desks, free coffee and tea, TV with movies and a ping pong table. Atom House also put on a series of talks/conferences/events that attract lots of digital nomads from across the city. One problem that I have heard a lot is that Atom House have been struggling with their internet connection, I know that people have left because of this reason. However, definitely worth checking out if you’re in staying in El Poblado.

Epicentro – Poblado (*15% off coworking)

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A view of Espacio’s main workspace

Another creative space in Poblado, Epicentro is a cool space to meet people working on different types of projects, from photography and art to web design. You can buy a monthly pass for around $125, which also gives you discount to the many events that they hold. You can also make the most of their conference rooms if you want to give a presentation or work together in a group without being disturbed. The building is in Patio Bonito, which is a really beautiful part of the city. This space is more geared towards the ‘creative’ types.

Laneros – Envigado (*10% off coworking/2 free days with coupon in guide)

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A meeting at Laneros coworking

Fifteen years ago a group of Colombian teenagers used to host LAN parties – they became known as the Laneros. In March this year these same people opened up their very own coworking space and the only name that they thought was suitable was – you guessed it – Laneros. The space, in Envigado, is built for anyone and everyone. From designers who like to work on their own, to start-up companies who can use office space for up to 6 people. These spaces also include television screens and projectors to improve teamwork and productivity. As this is such a new project I haven’t had the chance to get over there to use the space, however, after speaking to these guys about their project, I can see that they have a real passion and a great plan to make this a vibrant nomad hub in this part of the city.

Cafes

Many people are surprised to find out that in one of the most famous coffee producing countries the coffee sucks. If you just pop-in to a cafe the chances are that you will get a nescafe or a ‘tinto’ (you couldn’t make a worse coffee if you tried). But, thankfully, this is changing. More and more cafes are popping up and all of them are taking advantage of the amazing coffee that is produced in this part of the world.

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Velvet cafe is new on the scene but already proving popular with online workers

These quality coffee shops have quickly become a meeting point for digital nomads to work or chat. There are way too many cafes to include them all here so I’m going to choose five from across the city that suit our digital nomad needs.

Velvet – Poblado (*one free tinto with coupon in guide)

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Velvet Cafe. Notice the comfortable chairs and fitted desks on the left

A new place in Poblado that seems to define coolness. Chic and stylish chairs and tables make it a very inviting place, where you can easily spend an entire afternoon. However, Velvet isn’t all style over substance, it’s also a nice and relaxing place to work. They even have mini desks with power outlets specifically designed for people who want to work! The cafe is popular with other remote workers, so you will meet interesting, like-minded people. The coffee and cakes are also very good! A perfect place to settle down and be productive.

Revolucion – Laureles (*One free Americano with coupon in guide)

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Cafe Revolucion is a very popular meeting place in Laureles

Very popular with both the locals and foreigners, this place has become a meeting point for many people in Laureles. Although it is still relatively new, the owners (from Canada and Hungary) have built up a strong client base so there are always people around, many of them working. One drawback is that it is right on a busy road and there is nowhere to escape the noise of busses going by. Not perfect for Skype calls but definitely an awesome place with friendly staff.

Pergaminos – Poblado

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Hugely popular meeting place in Poblado but not overly suited to working

The most popular cafe in Poblado for foreigners, Pergaminos has become the standard meeting place for many digital nomads. Just walking through the cafe you are bound to here snippets of many different business plans and ideas. This popularity means that it is busy, a lot of the time. The main drawback, for me, is that they don’t have power sockets anywhere in the cafe! Very frustrating. The reason that I included this cafe on the list is because it is so popular with online workers and other professionals that you will meet a lot of cool people here.

Otra Parte

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This is from one of Otra Parte’s very popular events. You can find lots of interesting meet ups like this one taking place here

This fantastic cafe/restaurant/art centre is the historic home of the Colombian poet Fernando González. As a legacy to the life of its past owner, it is now a hub of artistic expression, from theatre and poetry to movies and speeches. In the daytime the cafe is a very relaxed place to get some work done and enjoy the good quality coffee that they have on offer.

Ondas Cafe (*one free coffee or juice coupon with guide)

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The owner Kit works hard to serve some of the city’s best coffee

Part of the coworking space I featured earlier, this spot has some of the city’s best coffee and a really nice, personable owner. Come for nice music, good people, tasty food, quick internet and strong coffee!

University

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This large University is the perfect place to work if you like a simple and quiet environment

One of Medellin’s (many) hidden treasures, the Universities fly under the radar of many digital nomads. There are many pros to working here; it’s free to use, good wifi, lots of young people, free facilities, good chairs and desks, coffee shops and lunch stands close by, and more. The two best Universities for working are UPB (Laureles) and Universidad de Antioquia (go to Universidad Metro stop). You will need to bring along your passport, or any other form of identification, to be allowed in. If you like to work on your own or want to meet other Colombians, then you should consider trying out a University before committing to a co-working space.

Hopefully this section of the blog has given you a good idea about where to go to work – no matter whether you prefer the quietness of a University Library, the hustle bustle of a cafe, or the togetherness of a co-working space. I aimed to give you options across the entire city so that you will never be far away from your favourite place to be productive.

But life in Medellin shouldn’t all be about work, work, work. The next part of this guide will cover (very briefly) the best things to do in your spare time…

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Thank you so much for reading this far! Hopefully this guide has been useful for you planning your trip to visit this wonderful city. Everything in the guide has been put together after hours and hours of work, wondering around and checking all these places out. That’s why we also put together our coupons so that you can save money while explore the places included in this guide.

Our Premium Guide has tonnes more information about things to see and do around Medellin as well as more info on the sections you’ve already read. The Premium guide includes the amazing deals and coupons AND the following chapters:

Culture & Tourist stuff

Nightlife

Cool Destinations near-by

Cost of Living Breakdown

Getting Here – Flight Deals

Getting to and from the Airport

Visas

Safety

Map of all locations included in the guide

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Summary

So this blog turned out WAY longer than I expected when I first sat down and planned it out. But that’s fine with me, I love Medellin and I can see it becoming more and more popular with digital nomads every day.

Hopefully you will be confident when you arrive here. You will know how to get connected, meet new and like-minded people, which parts of the city are cool, arrange accommodation for the short and long term, find an awesome place to work whether you like coworking spaces, cafes or libraries, know what to do on the weekend, where to go for a detox, how to get a visa and more.

I hope that you enjoyed the blog and that it has answered some of your questions.

Got questions or you want to share some advice? Please leave a comment!  would be great to hear from you!

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  • Jesco Puluj

    awesome guide!

  • Honey Goode

    really helpful tips! :)

  • Awesome!

  • Anna Ceachirova

    This is amazing. Hands down bets guide for someone who’s looking to get to Medellin in a couple of months. :) Thanks!

  • Victoria

    So helpful, thanks so much!

  • Great write up. Thanks. I always thought of Medellin as the Pablo escobar town. Your write up is good step to educating the outside world. A video would go a long way to complementing your blog post. Is there a PDF of this post? I think getting here would be a bit cumbersome

  • John Schnettgoecke

    Sean, this guide is insanely legit! I’m looking to make the move down to Medellin in a few months. Any chance I could ask you a few additional questions via email?

  • Ivan

    Fantastic resource…thanks for taking the time to write it :)

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