Complete Backpacking Medellin Travel Guide

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What we talk about in this article

If you’re going on a backpacking adventure through Colombia or South America, you sure as hell can’t miss out on Medellin! This city is so cool and it has so much to offer, we absolutely loved this place.

Before visiting Medellin, we planned to stay for a few days and then move on to the next stop. But we had no idea!

We ended up staying in the city of eternal spring for more than 3 weeks! And we loved every minute of it!

Because we loved the place a lot, we did quite a few activities and we got to know the public transportation system in Medellin quite well.

So we decided to write this backpacking Medellin travel guide for all the travelers who plan on visiting this city in the future.

It is, of course, essential to find an awesome hostel where you can feel at home!

In this guide, we tell you all about how to get there and how to get around in this massive city. We also talk about the different things you can do in and around the city, where to sleep, where to eat, and how to party!

Let’s dive in with how to get to Medellin:

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Complete Backpacking Medellin Travel Guide
Medellin - Photo by Juan Saravia on Unsplash

Medellin Public Transportation

Travel to Medellin by bus

Getting to Medellin is pretty easy.

You can either travel to Medellin by bus or by plane and both options are very straightforward. Medellin has two bus terminals, one in the North of town and one in the South of town.

Depending on your destination, you need to choose your terminal accordingly.

For destinations north of Medellin, you need to use the North Terminal and for destinations in the south, use the South terminal.

Taking the Medellin Bogota bus must happen in the South terminal and the Bogota Medellin bus will also arrive in the same southern terminal since Bogota is located on the south of Medellin.

Redbus is a popular bus service in Colombia where you can book your tickets in advance, but you can also buy them in the terminal right before you leave.

Travel to Medellin by airplane

Medellin has an international airport close by, the Jose Maria Cordoba airport.

We only used the airport for a national flight to Cartagena, but international flights fly to this airport as well. Transportation from Medellin Airport to the city can be done in different ways, but the most budget-friendly transportation is probably the airport bus.

It will take you from Medellin Airport to the city center for around 9000 COP (2,5€ more or less).

The airport bus will drop you at the Nutibara Hotel at Parque Berrio, which is smack in the city center. But of course, you can also rent a car or get a private shuttle to take you from Medellin Airport to the city!

Getting around – Medellin Public Transportation

This is the interesting part!

Medellin is a big city. You can always do a lot of walking around and still manage to get places. But you’ll soon notice the metro comes in handy.

It’s also possible to get a taxi or a collectivo, but we loved the metro system so much, that we never even thought about a taxi.

Generally, we got around by walking and the Medellin metro system. Though it’s so easy to travel quickly through the city, Medellin is also a great place to just walk around and discover. The entire city center is well maintained and has a lot to offer for city trippers as well as park dwellers.

The Medellin metro system has been called one of the top transport systems in the world.

Each year, more than 160 million people use this system. It’s been around for a long time and you can use older metro lines as well as modern lines.

Medellin has 5 lines and dozens of stations all around the city. The L line runs all the way to the top of the hill where you can visit the library and look out over the entire city. From there you can board a cable car system that takes you to Parque Arvi (see below). The metro is operational from 4.30h in the morning until 23h at night.

Here’s a map of the entire Medellin metro system.

How to use the Medellin metro

You should get a rechargeable card if you plan on staying a few days. The card itself is free and you can check your balance or top it up when needed. The price per trip is very cheap with a rechargeable card.

Buying a single journey ticket each time you board a metro, will be a lot more expensive.

The metro fare for 1 ride with Targeta Civica is around 2300 COP (0,6€)

The metro fare for 1 ride without Targeta Civica is around 3700 COP (1€)

You’ll also lose precious time waiting in line to buy a ticket. With the prepaid card, you can walk almost straight to the platform. The card is called “Targeta Civica” and we used one card for both of us.

Where to buy Civica Card Medellin

The Civica Card Medellin is a rechargeable metro card and you can buy it in every metro station.

We bought a Medellin metro card the day we arrived. Since we stayed for over 3 weeks in this beautiful city, we used it a lot!

The Medellin metro can be extremely busy during peak hours. We have this system to step into the metro at the exact same time so we never lose sight of each other. It can always happen that we don’t succeed in this when it’s too crowded. If one of us stays behind on the platform while the other is on board, we agreed to meet each other at the next station.

Complete Backpacking Medellin Travel Guide
Medellin metro - Photo by USA Reisblogger on Pixabay

Cool stuff to see and do

Medellin is a fun and interesting destination and there are loads of activities and things to do in the city, as well as the surrounding area.

Some of our favorite things to do in Medellin:

  • Parque Explore (also for adults!)
  • Planetarium
  • Free walking tour
  • Taking the cable lift up to the Spain Park Library, just for the views

Read more things to do in our designated article about things to do in Medellin!

Eat & Enjoy the delicious Colombian food

Street food in Medellin

Medellin has a lot of great street food.

We loved the empanadas best. They’re slightly different in each city. We found a great empanada stall next to the Exito supermarket and just couldn’t stay away.

There’s a lot of other typical street food in Colombia and Medellin.

We’re careful with food because of my allergies. That’s why we better redirect you to a real foodie in Colombia who wrote about Colombian Street food. 

It’s also possible to find great coffee shops in Medellin.

Food in Medellin

You can find some really great food in Medellin, just like in the rest of Colombia!

We especially loved the empanadas and the papas rellenas, both of which are street food. But you can also find great restaurants in Medellin.

Depending on the area where you’re looking for restaurants, there will be different options. In touristy areas, you can find imported food and international restaurants.

We always recommend eating where the locals eat. This way, you can make sure you’re getting great local food.

During lunchtime, you can order ‘almuerzo’ or the ‘Menu del dia’, which is a full meal for a great price. You’ll get a drink, soup, a main dish, and a dessert.

For some extra Colombia inspiration check out this short video

Party in Medellin – Parque Lleras and the Poblado

El Poblado and especially Parque Lleras is the place to be for parties. A lot of the Medellin hostels are located in this area, so there will definitely be a backpacker or tourist vibe.

El Poblado is full of life, day and night. There are tons of bars and clubs where you can indulge in the nightlife!

We went to Poblado once, with 10 other people staying in our hostel and we had a wonderful time. Going out is always better when you’re with some new international friends!

Or you can join an unforgettable bar crawl!

Sleep – Best Places to find accommodation in Medellin

You can choose to stay in different areas and neighborhoods of Medellin depending on what your interests are like.

For instance, Poblado is the party area.

Beds are expensive in Poblado and chances on a good night of sleep aren’t very good. If you’re in Medellin to party, Poblado is perfect, but if you’re not looking for dance clubs and a party scene, you might want to choose a different neighborhood, as we did.

We spend over three weeks in the city and are pretty clear about our favorite hostel in Medellin: Palm Tree Hostel.

TomPlanMyTrip also wrote an extensive guide on choosing the right hostel in Medellin.

Complete Backpacking Medellin Travel Guide

Best time to visit Medellin

Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring, meaning that it feels like a spring day all year round!

That’s just great, right?

There is, however, 2 rainy seasons and a dry season. The temperature is more or less the same, but there’s more rain during these months.

The rainy season is in April and May, and then again from September to November.

Is Medellin safe?

Medellin is a safe city to visit and even though many people ask the same question: Is Medellin safe?

The rough history of Medellin has left its mark, especially on the minds of travelers and their parents! 

It is safe enough to spend a few days and even to move to the city and live there. As with any other large city in the world, there is always a chance to encounter someone trying to rob you, but the danger is no larger than anywhere else in the world.

When visiting Medellin, always use common sense, don’t flash expensive belongings and take a taxi home after a drunk night of partying.

Read these tips on staying safe in Medellin.

Conclusion – Medellin travel guide

So these are our tips for your trip to Medellin Colombia. We really hope some of this information helps you with planning your stay in this exciting city.

It’s no wonder that so many backpackers who are passing through this city, end up living there for a few months or even years.

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Complete Backpacking Medellin Travel Guide
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