What’s it like? Living in Medellin, Colombia; a ‘Premier’ Digital Nomad Location in South America
Not many cities can match what Medellin, Colombia has to offer digital nomads and expats.
From the stunning mountain views and ideal weather, to the sultry salsa vibes and the friendly Colombian people — living in Medellin has a whole hell of a lot to offer.
Is the bustling Colombian metropolis the ‘premier’ digital nomad/expat spot in all of South America?
That’s what you’re about to find out below. Every single thing you need to know before living in Colombia for your first working vacation in the City of Eternal Spring.
Enough with my fluff here, let’s dig in.
Why Medellin, Colombia is One of the Best Warm Places to Live for Digital Nomads in South America
First and foremost…
It must be stated that I’m a fan of living in Medellin.
Te lo juro.
Medellin, Colombia is one of my favorite cities in all of Latin America — not just South America.
Here’s just a handful of things I Iove about living Medellin, Colombia:
The city is built into a valley in the Colombian mountains. There’s mountains surrounding every part of the city.
With all the mountains, you’re sure to find amazing views from almost every area of the city. Just like at this view from my rooftop in Medellin…
Medellin is called ‘the City of Eternal Spring’ for a damn good reason; it’s one of the best warm places to live. You’ll find a near perfect climate here, year round.
Sunny, springtime temperatures, and little rain. Medellin weather never felt cold – but rarely felt too hot. You could walk around without fear of sweating during the day. Refreshing.
Nature Around Every Corner
If you enjoy being outdoors, Medellin is a great place to be.
While you won’t find a beach anywhere near here, there’s always a lot to do in the mountains. Within 15-30 minutes of the popular expat neighborhood of Poblado, you’ll find dozens of hiking opportunities into the mountains around the city.
Hikes filled with lush greenery and waterfalls…
Modern and Developed
This isn’t your typical, rundown Latin American city. Medellin, Colombia is more than modern.
New developments are popping up everywhere. There’s high-rise buildings as far as the eye can see.
The metro stretches from one end of the city to the other — and works damn well. There’s a new tunnel from the airport that makes it so much quicker to get to the city.
Oh, and you’ll find world-class restaurants, cafes, co-working spaces, gyms, and yoga studios all over.
Colombia has a reputation for being dangerous. One that was well earned in the past.
Luckily, things are far safer these days.
Medellin Colombia safety still has its issues, but you won’t find the city on a “most dangerous” list any longer.
Most Medellin digital nomads and expats have zero issues as of late, because the city has invested heavily into cleaning things up and keeping people safe.
Colombia is a great place to be single. The locals are good looking, friendly, and love going out to dance. No need to elaborate too much here.
Now, all of these factors make Medellin living a damn good option for digital nomads in South America.
But that doesn’t mean the city is the “best” on the continent…
Other South American Contenders
There’s 12 countries in South America and hundreds of cities. I’ve been to eight of these countries. Three of the others are too small to matter, and Venezuela is too dangerous to visit.
So I’ve got a pretty good idea about the continent as a whole.
From a “digital nomad” perspective, I’ve found only a handful of cities in South America could even compete with Medellin living.
Let’s consider the following;
- Bogota vs Medellin
- Cali, Colombia
- Lima, Peru
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
- Sao Paulo, Brasil
If we’re talking top digital nomad cities on the continent, these are it — along with Medellin.
Well, let’s do a little comparing and contrasting…
Cali, Colombia is like a mini Medellin in a lot of ways. There’s less foreigners and only about 60% of the population. You’ll find more of a local scene here, instead of an expat vibe. And nature is around every turn in Cali too. Oh, and Cali is way cheaper than living in Medellin too.
However, this city is a bit more dangerous than Medellin. Nor it is nearly as developed.
Then you’ve got Bogota vs Medellin. The nightlife in Bogota is absolutely amazing, Zona T is a world-class neighborhood, and the big city has everything you’d ever want.
Except that it’s far more difficult to find some nature to escape to here and the weather in Bogota sucks. When you put Bogota vs Medellin, the latter is the clear winner.
Lima, Peru rivals Medellin in every which way from mid-November to June. This is when the weather in Lima is absolutely ideal. Sunny Pacific Ocean views with a light breeze coming from the sea. Outside of those months, you won’t see the sun in Lima.
Like most of Peru, Lima is also incredibly safe and the food is amazing.
Buenos Aires has its pluses. Decent summertime weather that’s a lot like Medellin, unique culture, big city vibes, and low costs.
But there’s nothing I found Buenos Aires did better than Medellin. NOTHING.
Rio de Janeiro is an amazing, amazing city. Especially if you like the beaches and *ahhem* culture found on said beaches.I could spend six months in Rio every single year and be a happy camper. More than happy…thrilled.
But there’s no denying Rio is dangerous. There’s thieves looking to rob tourists found around many a corner in the city. There’s no working from a cafe in Rio — at least not for me. Plus, the city simply isn’t as modern and growing as Medellin.
I love Rio. Don’t get me wrong. But I’d take Medellin 60% of the time, 40% of the time I’d check out Rio.
I haven’t been to Sao Paulo, but I’ve heard good things and bad ones. Here’s the reality…in a city of 20+ million, traffic and pollution are going to be problems. It’s inevitable. Plus, I’ve heard the city can be dangerous and expensive.
Overall, Medellin is almost 4+ million people in the metro area. That’s big enough where you’re never lacking for things to do or amenities, but not overwhelming like 20+ million could be.
Medellin is the #1 digital nomad city in South America in my books.
Are there cheaper cities? Yes.
Are there safer cities? Probably.
Are there Beaches? Not in Medellin.
But nothing comes close to the full package Medellin offers, outside maybe Lima, Peru when there’s good weather.
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Colombia Visa Requirements
After hyping Medellin to the moon and back, let’s dig into this city and breakdown some of the basics about living in Colombia.
A Colombia visa is damn easy to get and deal with.
Most first-time Medellin digital nomads can show up and get a visa-on-arrival. You’ll need a valid passport and a return flight to get up to 90 days on a tourist visa.
Then you can extend that visa another 90 days while staying in the country.
You can stay in Colombia for 180-days a year on a tourist visa.
Many digital nomads living in Colombia full-time either have a student, medical, or investor visa.
How to Find an Apartment in Medellin, Colombia
There’s three ways to find apartments in Medellin, Colombia, and/or all of Latin America for that matter.
First and foremost, you can check Airbnb.
If you plan to spend less than three months living in Colombia — then Airbnb is the absolute best place to start your search.
You’ll find ideal private one-bedroom apartment rentals in nice areas of Medellin for $20-50 a night. Around $500-1,500 a month depending on budget and quality.
If you’re moving to Colombia for a longer period of time, there’s no need to spend anything more than $1,500 a month in this city.
In fact, $800-900 a month will get you an incredible apartment on Airbnb in Medellin for 1-3 month stays.
If you plan to stay over 3+ months in Medellin, then you may want to look off the short-term booking site and look for longer term rentals.
There’s two ways to do that in Medellin…
The first is online.
I prefer a local site called Fincaraiz that puts you in contact with local Colombians trying to rent their properties for months on end. You’ll need some Spanish here to navigate the site properly.
This is a great place to start looking for long-term rentals in Medellin.
There’s also a handful of expat Facebook groups dedicated to finding rentals. I don’t have Facebook, but I have a few friends living in Medellin who found great deals in these groups.
But I found something even better when looking for long term rentals in Colombia…
Yep, you read that right.
Start walking around the neighborhood and/or area you want to live in. Then look around. In most Colombian neighborhoods, you’ll see a few window signs every block with phone numbers in them.
All of these signs are for renting or buying apartments.
Just call the number and see if the apartment is available for a showing. Again, you’ll probably need some knowledge of Spanish to make this work.
Internet Speeds in Medellin
Internet speeds in Medellin, Colombia are more than fine.
In fact, they’re damn good in many spots.
For example, my last apartment in Medellin offered 50 Mbps download speed. More than enough for 4-5 digital nomads to get work done at the same time.
Your average one-bedroom apartment in Medellin generally comes with a private router and 10-20 Mbps download speed.
I always recommend asking a host for a screenshot speed test before paying for anything.
There’s two WeWork locations in Medellin and both are sure to have lightning fast WiFi, along with dozens of other coworking spots throughout the city.
I found cafe WiFi speed to be solid around the neighborhood of Poblado too — as most cafes in the area had a minimum of 20 Mbps download speed.
This is where South America generally may fall down the list as far as digital nomad cities go, for some people…
The language barrier.
Well, that and safety issues.
You do *need* to speak Spanish if you plan to live in Medellin for 3-6+ months. Speaking the local language will make life so much better.
Te lo juro.
While Medellin is a popular tourism and nomad destination, English levels are still not high. You can get by with just English around Parque Lleras, but don’t expect great conversations.
Spanish is the language of Colombia and you will find a more enriching cultural experience by learning to speak some of the romance language.
This is the best place to start learning Spanish before arriving to Medellin.
Medellin’s Cost of Living
While the language and safety can put off a few digital nomads, many find the cost of living too alluring in Medellin, Colombia.
For $2,000+ USD a month, you can get:
- One-bedroom apartment in Poblado/Laureles ($700-900 USD)
- Full-time maid/cook ($400-450 USD)
- Groceries ($300 USD)
- Monthly gym membership ($50 USD)
- Going out 3-4 nights week on dates/partying ($300-400 USD)
- Couple tourism activities a month ($100 USD)
- Other costs ($100 USD)
The Cost of Living in Medellin, Colombia is Low
You can live a great –and productive– life in Medellin for under $2,000 bucks, all-in, every month. That’s cheap cheap.
You’d be balling at $2,500-3,000 a month for one person. Penthouse with stunning mountain views level balling.
You could also live in Medellin for as low as $1,200-1,300 a month too. But at that price point, I’d recommend moving to Cali, Colombia instead.
How to Move Around Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, Colombia is a big city, but luckily traffic isn’t too bad. This is especially true when compared to other large Latin America cities.
This is because the Medellin has one of the best metro systems in Latin America. Going from
the north to the south of the city, you can get to almost anywhere in the city for less than $1 USD.
The standard far is 2,550 Colombian pesos, or somewhere around $0.79-0.80 per ride.
And the metro in Medellin is exceptionally safe, always on time, and overall just runs well.
However, I rarely use the metro while in Medellin.
Because Uber is so cheap in Colombia.
Half of my rides cost less than $2 bucks per ride. You can take a 20 minute ride for $4-7 bucks. The convenience combined with price is unbeatable.
Backpacker, Digital Nomad and Expat Scene
Foreigners flock to one area of Medellin upon arriving in the city…
The “zona rosa” or nightlife district in Medellin is gringo central. No matter if you’re a digital nomad, backpacker, or expat in Medellin — this is probably one of the first places you’ll check out in the city.
While there’s bars, clubs, and great restaurants around every corner in Parque Lleras, I’m far from of fan of this spot.
It’s chalk full of stumbling drunk gringos, drug dealers, and prepagos – aka Colombian prostitutes.
Not exactly my favorite scene.
However, there’s a lot of expat and digital nomad scenes all over Medellin.
You shouldn’t have a tough time meeting people who work online in the city. Co-working spaces, Facebook groups, and hostels all hold events in the city for meetups.
I’ve always had good luck meeting up with fellow digital nomads in Colombia through social media.
“Cosas” in Colombia
I won’t comment too much on this one, as it’s common sense.
But Colombia can be a degenerate’s paradise if you want it to be.
“Cosas” like drugs, women, and more can be found around every corner — often for jaw-droppingly cheap prices.
If you don’t have some self-control, you might find yourself in a bit of a predicament while in Colombia. As you can get your hands on anything you’d want and need in Medellin.
And I do many anything.
That being said, Colombia offers so much more than drugs and women.
I certainly hope you can look past this shady aspect of the country and get to know the friendly locals and stunning nature — more so than what happens in the back bathroom stall of nightclubs in the country.
Medellin, Colombia: The Verdict
In my opinion, Medellin, Colombia is one of South America’s premier digital nomad cities.
There’s not a single digital nomad destination that offers such low cost of living, great quality of life, and safety anywhere on the continent.
While living in Colombia isn’t perfect, you won’t regret spending a few months to a year living in the City of Eternal Spring.
Ya tu sabes.
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