Medellin On a Budget
SightsHead to Plaza Botero, the best place to see famous Medellin sculptor Fernando Botero Angulo's larger-than-life figures. Centrally located in the "old quarter" of the city, it can be reached via the nearby Parque Berrio metro station. Nearby is also the Museo de Antioquia where you will find many of Botero's paintings, as well as work from other famous Latin American artists. The entrance is free so check it out! If you are looking for an oasis of calm in the busy city center, the gorgeous botanical gardens hold an amazing variety of flora and fauna and are completely free to enter. With their own butterfly house and great places to stop, relax, and admire the surrounding nature, these green gardens are a fantastic place to visit during your stay in Medellin. The city's Metrocable is an impressive transport system that connects the busy city center with the residential areas built up on the hillsides. It expands all the way up to Parque Arvi, a large nature reserve in the hills of Medellin and a great escape from the city. Visit the park for a bit of peace and quiet and observe the vast array of wildlife. Nearby is the town of Santa Elena, where you can grab a bite to eat or even lodge up for a night or two. If you want to visit the surrounding areas of Medellin, you can also head to Guatape, a town in the larger municipality of Antioquia. Located 2 hours out of the city, many visitors come to admire the town's pretty colored houses and soak up the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The main attraction of this small town is El Penol, a towering rock peering over the whole surrounding area, which requires you to climb some steep 600 steps but worth the effort as the top offers some truly spectacular views of the lakes and hills below.
ActivitiesA popular activity in Medellin for backpackers is the Medellin city walking tour. The tour guides are all locals and take you on a knowledgeable journey around Medellin's downtown. While the tour is completely free to attend, the guides usually accept any tips from attendees as payment. The tours run morning and afternoon on weekdays and once on Saturday and are extremely popular so you should definitely book a place in advance through the website. The meeting point for morning tours are at El Poblado Station and for afternoon tours, the Alpujarra station. While this activity is more popular amongst locals, why not spend an afternoon shopping in Medellin's mega-mall, where you will find big brands such as Zara, Forever 21 and H&M, as well as a great range of Colombian chains and high-end smaller boutiques. If you get peckish, there are also plenty of restaurants to grab some food to fuel your long day's shopping. For a fabulous night out in the city, head to Parque Lleras, located in the ritzy neighborhood of El Poblado. This great place to go out any night of the week welcomes a varied mix of locals and foreigners looking to let loose and have a good time. Around the park there are a great range of venues, from small salsa bars to bigger, mainstream clubs.
Food and DiningCorn and beans along with meat and fish are important in local dishes. A typical mountaineer dish, the Bandeja Paisa, is considered to be the national dish of Colombia and is native to the area surrounding Medellin. Originally, this caloric meal was created to provide peasant workers with enough energy to keep them going throughout the entire day. It has 15 ingredients including rice, plantain, an arepa (corn cakes), avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage, fried pork rind and a fried egg. Porridge, containing milk, corn and sugarcane, is also a characteristic dish of the department of Antioquia.
TransportationMedellin is served by Jose Maria Cordova International Airport, located in the nearby city of Rionegro. International non-stop flights are available to and from Lima, Curacao, San Salvador, Mexico City, Valencia (Venezuela), Panama City (Panama), Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York City. Domestic flights have frequent service to Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cúcuta, Santa Marta and Monteria. A taxi from Rionegro's International Airport to Medellin is about USD$22 depending on where you are going. Heading to the center will take you around 45 minutes. You can also share a cab, so that you only pay USD$5 but you will usually be dropped you off at San Diego near a large shopping mall. Another fairly simple option is to take the white and green official airport buses (Combuses, S.A.) marked "Aeropuerto". They depart approximately every 15 minutes from the airport until 12h00pm right out of the front exit/entrance of the airport, and will take you to either Barrio San Diego (San Diego Mall) or behind the Hotel Nutibara for USD$3.50. The Nutibara area is safe during the day but not recommended when it is dark, especially for first time travelers. The San Diego stop is closer to Poblado than the Nutibara Hotel and there are many taxis that congregate there to take you elsewhere in the city. You can also call an uber using the Free Wifi available at the San Diego Mall, which is a safe area. The journey takes a little more than 1 hour. Aeropuerto Combuses depart for the airport from the San Diego Mall and from behind Hotel Nutibara approximately every 15 minutes from 6h00am until 19h00 for USD$3.50 per person. There is also a small local airport Olaya Herrera close to downtown and it is very convenient for regional and domestic travel with non-stop flights to 23 destinations, including tourist destinations such as Armenia, Bogota, Bucaramanga, Ibague, Manizales, and Pereira. This airport is only open from 6h to 18h. There is also an helicopter service connecting the international and domestic airports. It runs every 30 minutes only from 6h to 18h and the flight takes 10 minutes. You can make the purchase online or at the airports. The cost is around USD$52 and the beautiful aerial views of the mountains and the city are free.
Medellin also has two bus terminals managed by the same company and share a single website. Both terminals have mid-size shopping malls in the premises. The North terminal is much larger and it is connected with Metro station Caribe. The buses serve cities North and East of Medellin (Cartagena, Santa Marta and Bogota included).The South terminal is next door to the domestic airport Olaya Herrera and serves towns South (Armenia, Manizales, Pereira, Cali).