Is Medellin Safe?
Is Medellin, Colombia safe to travel to?
This is a normal question that prospective travelers have in mind when they are thinking of coming down to my beautiful city. Before I give you a detailed response, I want you to know that you’ve come to the source for “accurate” information. I am not some foreign blogger guy that spent a week in a hostel and thinks he knows Medellin like the back of his hand. I was born in Medellin, kidnapped to the U.S. where I lived for a long while, as well as Europe and Mexico City. I’m a tour guide who knows the Idiosyncrasy of Medellin extremely well since I’m out in the field every single day doing tours.
Medellin has gone through a huge transformation from where it was 30 years ago. In 1991, it was coined the most dangerous city on Earth. Car bombs were exploding every day, killing thousands of people. Images of vultures chewing on corpses in the rivers were not farfetched. If you owned a mortuary, you had a really good clientele and business would be booming for you. The culprits were leftist guerillas, right-wing paramilitaries, cartel groups at war, crooked politicians, the public who accepted bribes and even some evil police officers as well. Corruption played a big roll in all of the violence. It was easier to make the money and look the other way than to go against the tidal wave. There was just too much money going around and all of these ambitious groups went through extreme methods to consolidate power and territory. Currently, there is a peace accord with the majority of the Farc guerrillas in Colombia who turned into a political party, bombs have subsided, local groups have a truce, tourists are respected and protected.
Overall, it’s very safe for foreign tourists to visit Medellin without any problems or worries. We don’t have any psychos shooting at innocent people in movie theaters, malls, and schools like in other countries. As many of my guests have said: “Alex we feel safer here than back home!” Medellin is a wonderland. There is a blissful ambiance that one experiences here, where people are genuinely amicable and
welcoming. Medellin is like a vortex, it enraptures you in. Even through the rough times, the Paisa people have always maintained their poise, their optimism, and that beautiful smile with perfect teeth that characterizes them.
The transformation in Medellin is evident when it comes to public transportation for connectivity purposes such as the cable car, tranvia, and metro. We have what we call “cultura metro”, which translates to “metro culture”, meaning that we follow and exercise codes of good conduct and etiquette. These include not eating or drinking anything period while on the tranvia, metro, and cable car, not talking loud or being obnoxious, forming lines outside are a must while waiting for passengers to exit before others enter, and giving your seat for the handicap, elderly and women.
We Paisa’s are a proud people who love our city like it was our mother, are well mannered, and like things clean. Make sure you do your part to maintain our culture of cleanliness and respect during your stay. Areas such as El Poblado are safe to walk around on your own. Most hotels are in this part of Medellin as are restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Please refrain from giving money to panhandlers in the street. You are not helping Medellin by doing so. These people are usually not from Medellin, not even from Colombia.
We Paisa’s love to work. Tip the people who work, contribute to the economy and who are assets to our beloved Medellin. In Plaza Botero, I recommend a good private tour guide to explain all of the intricacies of the area, the statues, the churches, and who’ll keep all of the street vendors off of you. I don’t endorse a group tour as cheap as it may be, as you can barely decipher what the guide with limited English skills is saying amidst 50 people shoving and hovering around you, toppled with the street noise of downtown. You get what you pay for in life. Barrios such as Santo Domingo and the Comuna 13 are in general safer to visit these days. There you can experience beautiful graffiti art. However, it is recommended that you not go alone. You don’t know the area, there are lots of in’s and out’s, and dead ends. Hire a licensed private tour guide. You learn way more about the history, customs, culture, and will be safe since we know the area well. There have been people who think they’ll be cool if they go out on their own and explore these barrios all by themselves. I have a saying… “Don’t confuse adventure with stupidity.” Why expose yourself alone in a barrio labyrinth that you know nothing about? Besides, you’re here for such a short period of time in most cases, so why not make the most of it by hiring a licensed guide who knows the people and the history while you relax and absorb the art and take it all in?
Lastly, as a seasoned traveler and experienced tour guide, I leave you with advice that you can apply here in Medellin and anywhere around the world.
- It’s not a good idea to bring any type of jewelry with you let alone wear anything of value on you period.
- Don’t flaunt your money, or take out a bundle in public. Drug dealers don’t even do that, you shouldn’t either. Be discreet and attract less attention.
- Be respectful, don’t come here thinking that you can get away with anything because you are from “x” country and that the Embassy will bail you out of the overcrowded jail if need be.
- When in a bar or night club, don’t leave your drink unattended period. If you need to pee, down your beer, cocktail, shot, whatever, before you go.
- If a girl that is out of your league is hitting on you and you usually don’t have game, or are not use to that type of caliber of girl…then you might think of bailing out now.
- Wherever you go, be an asset, not a liability, always leave something, don’t be a taker.
- Contribute to the local economy by fomenting sustainable tourism.
I hope this has helped you in one way or another. I love my guests and always make sure my group is safe and well taken care of. Til’ next time.
About The Author:
Alex Restrepo is the owner of Medellin Travels, the most respected tour company in Medellin. He also heads the Lend Me a Hand nonprofit group that helps troubled youth in Comunas 1, 2 and the graffiti artists in Comuna 13 with his big brother program. When he’s not on a tour, he can be found at the Avoeden Cafe, next to Medellin Travels in El Poblado or can be reached by email at Tours@medellintravels.com.
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