As Colombia’s 2nd largest city, Medellin flaunts activities and attractions for all types of travelers. From the lush Jardin Botanico de Medellin to the quaint Pueblito Pais, there are many exciting things to do in Medellin.
Sure, a lot is going on here. But this is the ex-playground of notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar, so it’s expected that people wonder, “How safe is Medellin for travelers?”
Once known as “the most dangerous city in the world,” Medellin has uprooted its muddied past with the promises of culture, cuisine, and endless possibilities.
Whether you want to lock lips with traditional Colombian coffee or get inspired by the art in Antioquia, my guide will help you navigate the city safely.
Here’s everything you need to know about the safest districts, what to avoid, and how to travel to Medellin. Vamanos!
Is Medellin, Colombia Safe?
Let’s cut straight to the chase—Yes, Medellín is safe, and it’s more than ready to welcome you!
Forget about the old stereotypes you’ve seen in movies and series. Today’s Medellín is an entirely different story.
Medellin is a city that’s been through a massive transformation, flipping the script from a tumultuous and violent past to becoming one of Latin America’s most popular travel destinations.
Of course, like any buzzing metropolis worldwide, Medellín isn’t free from all types of crime. Although many travelers like myself consider Medellín to be a safe haven, it’s still crucial you’re alert and aware of your surroundings!
So, does that mean I think you should pack your bags and head to Medellín? Absolutely! It’s a city that deserves to be on every travel enthusiast’s bucket list as long as you take the necessary precautions.
Why Should You Visit Medellín?
Now you know you can visit Medellín without being overly concerned, the next question I want to address is why you should put this city on your bucket list!
First, Medellin boasts a pleasant year-round climate, so why wouldn’t you want to stop here? It also offers endless activities and opportunities to explore the great outdoors.
Imagine sitting on the foot of the Andes mountains. Medellín is home to fragrant gardens, lush parks, and stunning scenery just waiting to be discovered.
The ‘City of Eternal Spring’ is fringed with a flourishing coffee scene, rowdy nightlife, and mouth-watering cuisine. Whether you want to hit the heights paragliding or explore on a graffiti tour, Medellin has something for you.
As I mentioned, Medellín is a transformed city. You wouldn’t even recognize it a few decades ago...
Back in the 80s and 90s, Medellin was put on the map by the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Medellín was plagued by high crime rates and drug cartels. Talk about a place you probably wouldn’t want to go for a holiday...
But since then, local governments and law enforcement have worked together to drastically improve the city. Nowadays, Medellín’s numerous libraries, parks, and public spaces help foster social programs and community initiatives.
Showing off a major glow-up in neighborhoods that were once left out, Medellín is now buzzing with tourists and has turned into a chill, safe spot for travelers to explore.
While remaining cautious and aware of your surroundings is essential, tourists are generally met with open arms.
Is Medellin Safe to Walk Around?
Sure, Medellin is no Disneyland. That being said, it’s a very walkable city, and if you have your wits about you, you’ll be just fine.
It’s considered safe enough that even solo female travelers can comfortably walk the streets during the daytime. Still, there are some things to consider beforehand:
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or watches
- Keep your phone hidden in a safety belt, hip pack or shoulder sling
- Don’t carry large sums of cash on you
- Take a cab and avoid walking the streets at night
- Be aware of your belongings, especially at night
- Don’t go into unlit alleyways
- Avoid staring at homeless people on the street
- Be mindful of pickpockets and theft
- Avoid Downtown Medellin at night
These are standard practices that most travelers are already aware of. If you’ve traveled around South America before, you’re probably familiar with these safety precautions.
What are the Safest Districts in Medellin?
If it’s your first-time visiting Medellin, you might be wondering what areas to avoid. Since it was my first time visiting Medellin, I had the same question!
After researching beforehand and then experiencing the diverse neighborhoods of Medellin firsthand, I learned about which areas are the most welcoming to tourists.
I recommend you stick to well-known neighborhoods and tourist areas. My personal favorite areas include El Poblado and Laureles.
El Poblado is popular among visitors, especially backpackers and solo female travelers. With a high police presence, you’ll feel safe knowing that help is just a stone’s throw away. Petty crime is not considered a significant issue, and locals are quite welcoming.
And if you want to stay in Medellin longer, you could consider staying in Envigado or Sabaneta. Both areas have low crime rates and are accessible by public transport.
Is Public Transport Safe in Medellin?
Medellin is home to 4 main types of public transportation:
- Public buses
When you search around the Internet, sources say each of these options is considered safe for travelers, especially the metro. It’s important to stay alert and avoid rush hours, which are 6 am to 8 am and 5 pm to 8 pm.
That being said, we often heard from other travelers and trusted friends who had experience in Colombia, that you should avoid the public transportation at all cost!
As a group, we decided to take Ubers everywhere, which aren't really allowed in the city. But they worked out well whenever we called them!
Although I wouldn't recommend it, we still met some people who decided to brave the subway. So, if you're feeling adventurous and do explore the public transpo options in Medellin, just be very wary and use extra caution.
Is Medellin Safer Than Cartagena?
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, you might be trying to decide whether to travel between the big cities. Both Medellin and Cartagena have their safety concerns, but if you prepare ahead and stay alert, you’ll be fine.
Cartagena’s walled city and the Getsemani neighborhood are safe for travelers. Things can turn a little sour if you’re heading outside of these areas. With extreme poverty and high crime rates, these parts of Cartagena are considered less safe than Medellin.
Is It Safe to Enjoy Medellin’s Nightlife?
If you’re looking to let loose in Colombia, Medellin is one of the best places to do so. My friends and I found that Medellin doesn’t sleep—no matter the day of the week!
And we felt very safe walking around the areas of Medellin that are known to have bumping nightlife.
Medellin is known for its wild nightlife, buzzing bars, and funky reggaeton music. I think you’ll enjoy seeing the liveliness of Medellin at night even if you don’t usually enjoy nightclubs.
Whether you want to enjoy a “cubatas” or dance until your feet hurt, this city has something for everyone when it comes to celebrating at night. We were able to visit local clubs and party with locals, find more quiet bars, and hang out at evening events at our hostel.
After spending a few too many nights out, we found that the best areas for parties in Medellin are Parque Lleras and El Poblado. These places are great if you don’t want to go far out of your comfort zone. You’ll find lots of other tourists looking to experience Medellin’s nightlife in these areas!
Alternatively, head to La Macarena, El Centro, and Laureles to get a better taste of the local nightlife.
Partying in Medellin is full of surprises, but staying alert and safe is essential. To learn about the most popular spots, read more in this comprehensive guide on Medellin nightlife.
Safety Tips in Medellin
According to the U.S. Department of State, Colombia is at a Level 3 Risk. The government advises not to travel to Arauca, Cauca, Norte de Santander, and the Colombia-Venezuela border due to high crime and terrorism.
If you’re planning a day trip from Medellin, steer clear of these areas. But, if you decide to travel to the safer regions of Colombia, the government offers the following safety tips:
- Avoid protests and big crowds
- Watch the local media to plan for unexpected events.
- Don’t flash your valuables around
- Be aware of your surroundings
- If you catch a cab, make sure the taxi meter is running
- Take cash out from ATMs inside of malls and be mindful of your surroundings
- If you choose to go out, avoid getting overly intoxicated and don’t accept drinks from strangers
- Don’t walk around alone at night
- Be cautious in Downtown Medellin
Safety and Beyond!
Now that you know how to be safe when visiting Medellin, you can kick the stress and start planning. Save this safety guide and begin crafting the ultimate travel experience with Pilot today!