Medellin MDE Airport Guide [2024]: How to Get Around!

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Medellin MDE Airport Guide [2024]: How to Get Around!
Medellin, a popular tourist destination in Columbia, named the appropriate "City of Eternal Spring." While most guides talk about navigating the city, not many talk about the resources you might need at Medellin's Airport. I'll share what I learned as a first time traveler and you can find out all of the information info you'll need before you land!
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Medellin is a beautiful Colombian city situated in the heart of the Andes Mountains. Needless to say, there are tons of things to do in Medellin. The City of Eternal Spring draws millions of tourists to its little corner in the Andes every year.

Airports are naturally anxiety-inducing, especially in foreign countries. No stress! I'm here to help you make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

I recently went to Medellin with the Pilot team and experienced this airport firsthand. And you won't need to worry that my info is out of date.

So, here's your handy guide to navigating the Medellin International Airport!

Airports in Medellin

If you're wondering how many airports are in Medellin, you don't need to be too concerned about getting mixed up. There are only 2 airports in this Colombian city:

  • Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE)
  • Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH)

Which is the Main Airport in Medellin?

The main airport for Medellin is the Jose Maria Cordova Airport (IATA: MDE), otherwise written as José María Córdova International Airport. It got its name from Jose Maria Cordova, a celebrated member of the Colombian Armed Forces.

Most people refer to this larger airport as the Medellin Airport

Sights to see while in Medellin.
Image credit: Brain Kyed - Unsplash

How Far is the Medellin Airport From the City?

The Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport is not in Medellin. In fact, it's 18 miles southeast of Medellin, in the city of Rionegro.

The other airport in Medellin, Olaya Herrera Airport, only serves domestic and regional flights. Before Jose Maria Cordova Airport was built, it was considered the international airport for the area.

Airport Layout

It's pretty easy for me to get lost and confused in an airport. I don't like to admit it, but it happens.

Medellín Airport ranks as Colombia's second busiest airport, handling a staggering 8 million passengers annually. You can imagine my initial worry about navigating through a sea of travelers and potentially confusing foreign-language signs!

But here's the silver lining: the airport is surprisingly manageable!

With just a 3-level passenger terminal—where an entire floor is devoted to food options—finding my way around was a breeze. No need to worry about missing your flight! Navigating the Medellín Airport turned out to be a piece of cake.

Arrival & Departure

To break things down a bit further, Medellin Airport's arrival and departure hall simultaneously serves domestic and international flights.

The arrival hall is on the ground floor, while the departures are on the 2nd.

If you're looking for a bite to eat after your long flight, head to the 3rd level for some great local and international cuisines.

Airplane in taxi Medellin.
Image Credit: Fabio Augusto - Unsplash

Airport Amenities

The airport also features all the conventional services, including currency exchange, luggage wrapping, duty-free shops, wheelchair-renting services, smoking areas, public telephones, free Wi-Fi services, police services, etc.

While I didn't use most of these services during my visit, I didn't see any highly long lines or poor customer service. My group did use the Wi-Fi a little to download episodes of our fav shows and call Uber to our hostel.

Medellin Airport Restaurants

I mentioned there's a whole floor of food, right?!

When it comes to travel, let's be honest—airport food usually isn't the highlight of the journey. But Medellín Airport offers a surprisingly refreshing change of pace by having an entire 3rd level being dedicated to food.

There is a lot being offered, from local Colombian flavors to international chains. Unfortunately, most of the food is still from fast-food chains or small coffee shops.

Some names you'll find in the airport that you may know include Dunkin' Donuts, Piccolo Pizza, Presto, and Burger King. So, if this doesn't suit your palate, I would recommend eating before you arrive.

One thing to note is that there are more food options before security than after, so plan accordingly!

Airport Lounges

An excellent way to learn about lounges in all the airports you visit is LoungeBuddy. And you can step that up by getting a Priority Pass—a membership that lets you access lounges a certain number of times per year.

In Medellin's main airport you'll find 3 airport lounges:

  • Avianca Sala VIP
  • The Lounge Medellin by Global Lounge Network
  • The Lounge Medellin International
  • Harmony Lounge

The first 2 lounges I listed are located in the domestic terminal, while The Lounge Medellin International and Harmony Lounge are available to those flying out of the country.

I always travel with Priority Pass—I have a membership that gives me unlimited lounge passes. During this trip, I found that Medellin's lounges were quite decent.

I was there very early morning, and some were still open with limited food and drink. And more than decent Wi-Fi, where I downloaded lots of shows for the flight home—the most essential part in my opinion!

Jose Maria Cordova International Airport Layout.
Image Credit: Airport Guide

What Airlines Service MDE Airport?

There are currently more than 25 airlines that are operational out of MDE Airport. Some of the most well-known airline carriers include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Europa
  • American Airlines
  • Avianca
  • COPA Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Iberia
  • LATAM Airlines

Getting to Medellin City From the Airport

There are several means of traveling to and from Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport. The primary forms of transportation are bus, taxi, or car rental.

Car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are not technically legal in the area, but I noticed several in practice. And as I mentioned, we did in fact call our own Ubers. More on that below...

Bus

Referred to as "busetas," traveling to and from Medellin Airport by airport bus is standard practice by locals and travelers alike.

It costs about 10,000 COP, which is about US$2.50 for a one-way adult ticket. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver once you board.

Note: I brought local currency with me, which I recommend to ensure you can purchase tickets.

Ensure to catch the bus outside the airport at gates 2A and 2B. The "busetas" traveling from the airport to Medellin's city center run 24 hours daily. You can expect a bus at these stops every 15 minutes.

These buses are small and can only accommodate 19 people. If you travel light, you'll have no issues, but it may be harder with a larger suitcase.

It takes about 1 hour to get to Medellin, but it could be longer with traffic. Once you reach the city of Medellin, the bus makes 2 stops, one at San Diego Mall and one at Hotel Nutibara.

Columbian flag in Medellin.
Image credit: Flavia Carpio - Unsplash

Traveling By Taxi

Traveling by taxi is a quick and easy way to get to and from Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport.

There are 2 types of Medellin taxis, the yellow taxis (local), and the white taxis (airport) or "Colectivos," the more affordable option. You can find these airport taxis in the taxis rank at the airport's main terminal.

The airport taxis can accommodate all your luggage, but these are often shared taxis where travelers from different groups all get in the same taxi. You can expect to pay around 16.000 COP or ~US$4.00 for taxi fare on a one-way trip to or from Medellin. These trips usually take about 45 min.

Travel times are essential, especially if you're hurrying to catch your flight.

Renting A Car

Renting a car is an option for you to get from Medellin Airport to the city center. A car rental will allow you to explore the city's beauty at your own pace and schedule. While renting a car gives travelers more freedom, it's more expensive than traveling by bus or taxi.

The car rental desk can be found in the main terminal, located on the first floor. One thing to be aware of is their opening times. They may be closed if your flight gets in too early or late!

It should also be noted that Medellin and Colombia have many motorbikes. Often, these bikes will be very close to cars and weaving in and out of certain positions. It's not easy to drive a car in Colombia if you aren't skilled or at least comfortable with tighter roads and traffic.

So, Is It Safe to Take an Uber From Medellin airport?

Car sharing is technically illegal. That said, Uber and Lyft still operate in Medellin and around Colombia, and we found it relatively safe when we went. But how?!

I wrote about this in another Colombian article about the Bogota Airport.

Here's the workaround these companies figured out: when you book an Uber or Lyft, you're technically not hailing a traditional taxi. Instead, you're renting a car along with a private driver.

This clever setup allows Uber and other car-sharing companies to skirt Colombian regulations, which classify ride-hailing services as illegal but give a nod to car rental apps.

I mentioned we used Ubers to and from the airport. We also used them around Medellin. To err on the side of caution, my friends and I opted for a discreet approach during our trip—we acted as if we were being picked up by a friend rather than an Uber driver.

Taxis in Medellin airport.
Image Credit: Atharva Whaval - Unsplash

Hotels Near Medellin Airport

Should you have a layover at Medellin Airport and need a place to rejuvenate and revitalize, several top hotels are within 2 km of the airport.

The Movich Hotel Las Lomas is one such hotel. Located 1.8km from Medellin's airport in Rionegro, this beautiful 5-star hotel has luscious gardens, a gorgeous pool, and comfortable rooms to catch some zzzs before your next flight.

Image credit: Alexandra Tran

Travelers Rio Verde Living Suites is another fabulous 5-star hotel, 1.9km outside Medellin's airport. This stunning hotel has a sun terrace, a state-of-the-art sauna, and an excellent fitness facility. You'll feel like you're on holiday before your holiday starts.

If Medellin is your final destination, I would not recommend either of these places. Instead, I would opt for some of the hostels in Medellin since these are the best places to stay if you're looking for a combo of affordability, fun, and social events.

Hotels near Medellin Airport.
Image credit: Alexandra Tran

Plan Your Next Trip to Medellin

Now that you can stress less about the airport, it's time to make sure your Medellin trip plan is going to let you experience this Colombian gem to the fullest! The Pilot team recently visited Medellin, and we loved it... We want you to as well.

Organize your ideas and itinerary for your Medellin trip on Pilot now!

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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

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