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Medellin Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Medellín is the second largest city in  Colombia. It has over 2 million people and is the capital of the department of Antioquia. It’s set in a valley running south to north and just a one-hour flight from Bogotá.

Understand

Recent history

Let’s just get it out of the way up front: throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world for its size, and had a highly disproportional homicide and kidnapping rate. It was the home of the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the so-called Medellín Cartel, who virtually took over the city during that time. Since his demise in the mid-1990s, the cartel was disbanded and the city rebounded tremendously. In 1991 there were 6,500 murders in the city, by 2009 the murder rate decreased to 2,900. In 2016, there were a total of 534 homicides reported in Medellín.

Despite these relatively recent developments, it’s safe to say that the city is better off today than 20 years ago. Paisas, the residents of this region, are proud of their city’s progress, and are ready to move forward with vigor.

Medellín is a vast city built north to south in the Aburrá valley and surrounded on either side by majestic mountain ranges. The wealthier classes live in the well-protected hillside neighborhood of El Poblado, and the more traditional suburban neighborhoods, Laureles and Envigado. This is far removed from the action and commotion which are found in the city’s center. There are the busy markets and a thriving street life that make up much of the city’s charm. The city is home to a half-dozen universities, accounting for a vibrant cultural and nightlife scene fueled by thousands of young adults from all over the country. Medellín is also Colombia’s largest industrial center, and home to factories making everything from designer clothing to Toyota SUVs. The city’s northern hills are flooded with rural refugees from the ongoing civil war and their ingenuity in making a living is impressive. People sell anything from crayons to guinea pigs to garden earth in the bars in order to make a living.

As a relatively new city, the architecture has a decidedly modernist appeal, which goes hand in hand with the progressiveness of its residents. Medellín also has the first (and only) Metro system in Colombia. For international travelers, Medellín is perhaps most famous for the Botero Museum, whose namesake is one of the most famous modern artists alive today. It is also known for its perfect climate with its nickname “city of the eternal spring”.

Metropolitan area

Medellín is surrounded by 8 smaller towns and together they form the Area Metropolitana with almost 3.5 million people. These other towns are: Bello, Itaguí, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Caldas, Copacabana, Girardota and Barbosa. The neighboring town of Envigado does not belong to this administrative association even though it is closer than many of the mentioned above. Medellín is a true conglomerate of towns and you will find it difficult to tell the borders between these municipalities. Located east of Medellín is the valley of Rionegro which is larger and higher in the mountains. This area holds some of the most important factories, recreational grounds and suburbs of the city, as well as the International Airport.

Climate

The weather in Medellín is quite mild it well deserves its common motto of ‘City of eternal spring’. Average daily temperatures are 22°C (71°F), range from 15 to 30 °C (60º-85°F). Humidity is comfortable in the 50%-70% range. Due to its proximity with the equator there is little variation with the seasons. Due to the high altitude and moderate overcast skies Medellín stays cool, with an occasional couple hours of strong sun light.

As Medellín is located in a tropical country, the absence of air conditioners in Medellín often takes foreign visitors by surprise. Air conditioning is used in downtown areas. Fresh air comes from the mountains surrounding Medellín on all sides, and provides Medellín with the perfect climate. At night time the temperature is usually in the 10-15°C (50-60°F) range, and depends mostly on if its raining or not. The majority of restaurants are in open air environment, without walls, because of the perfect climate.

Talk

Spanish is the official language in Colombia. Few locals are bilingual, and when so it is usually English as the second language. You will find many signs written both in Spanish and in English, especially in the more tourist areas.

Disadvantaged youths in the city have assembled a wealth of new expressions that have fascinated scholars and artists. Many local movies like La Vendedora de Rosas depict this urban language called Parlache in its own idiom. Dialectologists have assembled a dictionary (Diccionario de Parlache ISBN 9589766498 by Luz Stella Castañeda Naranjo and José Ignacio Henao Salazar, May 2020).

Get in

By plane

International airport

  • José María Córdova International Airport (in the nearby city of Rionegro). International non-stop flights are available from Caracas, Lima, Panama, Quito, Curaçao, San José (Costa Rica), Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York City and Madrid with easy connections to Buenos Aires, Santiago, São Paulo, Rio and other places.

Airlines serving this airport are: American Airlines, Avianca, Copa Airlines, LATAM, Spirit Airlines, Insel Air, Satena. VivaColombia is a low-cost airline with a hub at this airport.

Domestic flights have frequent service to Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, San Andrés Islas, Santa Marta and Pereira. There are taxis that can take you down to the city. a taxi from Rionegro’s International Airport to the city is a set price to Medellin at COP$60,000, taking around 45 minutes (May 2020).

Combuses run buses (COP$9500, one hour) to downtown Medellín dropping you behind the Nutibara hotel, near the Parque Barrio metro station. Taking the bus/metro/walking combination from the airport may seem attractive from a price point, however depending on where you are going in the city, it can be up to 2 hours to your destination, in addition to having to buy another metro or bus ticket. Parties of 2 or more can easily just get a cab instead for not much more expensive.

Domestic airport

  • Olaya Herrera (close to downtown). A small local airport for regional and domestic travel, with non-stop flights to 23 destinations. Airlines: LATAM, Aerolínea de Antioquia -ADA-, Satena, EasyFly. Also charter flights from Searca.

By bus

Medellín has two bus terminals (North and South) managed by the same company and share a single website. Both terminals have mid-size shopping malls in the premises. For a complete list of the cities check the webpage.

  • The North terminal is much larger and it is connected with Metro station Caribe and the rail system (Although passenger rail transport in Colombia is quite limited). It serves cities North and East of Medellín (Cartagena, Santa Marta and Bogotá included).
    • Bogotá: 9hr30min – COP$60,000 -75,000 with Bolivariano, Arauca, Coonorte, Rápido Tolima and Magdalena (September 2016)
    • Guatape: 2hr – COP$13,000 with Sotrasanvicente and Sotrapeñol (March 2016)
  • The South terminal is next door to the much smaller domestic airport (closest Metro station El Poblado but not within walking distance). Serves towns South (Manizales, Pereira, Cali).
    • Cali: 8hr – COP$50,000 -68,000 with Bolivariano, Arauca, S26, Expreso Trejos and Magdalena (September 2016)

By car

There are four roads leading to Medellín from all cardinal points. From Bogota you can take Autopista Medellín and head west 7–9 hours with beautiful scenery. From Pereira, Cali and the south take road 25 towards Medellín. If coming from the Atlantic coast (Cartagena, Barranquillia) take route 25 south to Medellín (approx. 11 hours). There is no road connecting Panamá with Colombia.

  • Trains are scarce and unreliable in Colombia. It is not possible to arrive in Medellín by boat.

Get around

Most of the city of Medellín is built on a grid system. Carreras (streets) are abbreviated as Cr, Cra, K, kra or Crs and run parallel to the river from south to north. The calles (also streets) cross the Carreras and run from East to West. Calles are abbreviated as C, Cll or Cl. Avenidas, abbreviated as Av, are usually larger and main streets. The numerical system for the Avenidas is used but some have names that are more commonly used such as Avenida el Poblado or Avenida Oriental. There are a few streets called Transversales which usually refer to wide Carreras atop the mountains in El Poblado neighborhood. The most famous are transversal Intermedia, Inferior and Superior. Along Laureles neighborhood you can also find Diagonales and Circulares.

Each address consists of a series of numbers, for example: Calle 50 # 65 – 8 which indicates that the building is on street 50 (Calle 50) 8 meters ahead from the intersection with street 65 (Carrera 65). The centre point of the city, Parque de Berrio, is at the crossroads of Calle 50 and Carrera 50.

Metro and Metroplus

Traveling through the city is easy and quick, with the two-lineMetro system, you can go to anywhere in the city with The Metroplús (Bus extension to the Metro) and the four-line Metrocable, a sky train or cable car that has revolutionized transport in the city. Trains run from 5PM to 11PM on workdays and from 7AM to 10PM on Sundays and holidays. Single tickets are COP$2,400, transfers between the Metro trains, cables and buses (Metroplus Line 1) are free.

The Metrocable to the ecopark Arví – Line L – opened 2010 and has an additional fare of COP$5,550 for the 4.5 km trip up the mountains. Transfer is available at the Santo Domingo station of the Metrocable K line.

The Metroplus system consists of long articulated buses powered with natural gas for a more environmentally friendly option. They run on exclusive roads and enclosed stations. Only the station Hospital offers transfer to the Metro.

See the transit map where the Metroplus is the thin green line Bus linea 1  .

Taxis and buses

Taxis are cheap and plentiful. All taxis have meters, make sure they use them. Minimal fee costs about COP$4,600. Taxis should always be called by phone for safety reasons and not be hailed on the street. As in most Latin American countries, their driving can be harrowing, so hold on tight.

There is also the TuriBus, a modern bus that goes around the city showing its parks, attractive neighborhoods, and historical parts; it only costs COP$15,000. While they do not guarantee this, many times their guides also speak English and are happy to translate for you.

If you want to go around downtown or neighborhoods near the downtown area without using Taxis, try using the Circular Coonatra. There are various routes, marked on the front and back of the busses. These cost about COP$1,400 and require exact change.

Other

Outdoor escalators: This unusual system allows underserved indwellers to climb up the mountains in the way to their homes, the escalators go up equivalent of a 28-story building. Rides are free  . They are in the west of the city – San Javier area – which can be a rough neighborhood. It is not in walking distance of the San Javier metro station, which is the nearest. Similar examples were only for tourist purposes, they are found in Bilbao near Portugalete, in the way down to the Vizcaya Bridge, and Monjuic Hill in Barcelona, Spain.

Car rental: Renting a car in Medellín, Colombia can enhance your visit, so it’s definitely worth considering. Take a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia, Santa Helena, El Peñol or Llano Grande in Rionegro. Driving from Medellín allows for spectacular views as you climb up and out of the city into the surrounding mountains that lead to your day trip destination. Cars can be rented in town or at the airport.

Scooter or motorbike rentals: Since the steep hills of Medellín stops many visitors from biking, an appealing alternative is to rent a scooter or motorbike/motorcycle. There are two motorcycle rental agencies in Medellin: Colombia Moto Adventures has a selection of ADV motorcycles and scooters for adventure travelers and Medellin Scooter Rentals.

Biking: Biking is not easy in the city since many neighborhoods are in the hills. There is a small bike-route in the Laureles and Estadio areas. There are few areas designed to park bikes. On nights and weekends some major avenues are closed for the popular Ciclovía when you can safely ride a bike in the company of many other people exercising.

Walking is safe in some areas, not so in other parts of town. Read the stay safe section for advice.

See

Landmarks

  • Pueblito Paisa is a reconstruction of a typical but tiny Antioquia village. It’s located on top of el Cerro Nutibara and has a pleasant view over the city. It’s within walking distance from the metrostation “Industriales,” but as the walk to the top requires hiking uphill for a while, visitors might find that a taxi ride is a smart choice.
  • Los Alumbrados, the Christmas lights decorating Medellín, make it the most beautiful Latin American city for the holidays. The lights stay put from the beginning of December to mid January. The most impressive parts are centered around the Rio Medellín at the ‘puente de Guayaquil’ and downtown. Large statues made of lights can be found throughout the city.
  • The Metropolitan Cathedral, which holds the record as one of the buildings in the world with the most bricks – over 1.1 million – along the Bolivar Park in the city heart. Cra 48 calle 56. Metro station Prado.
  • The Junin pedestrian street is a cobbledstone street in downtown area from Colteger building to Bolivar’s park shows the history of city with Astor tea salon and Versalles salon.

Museums and the arts

  • Museo de AntioquiaCra 52 #52-43 (Metro station Parque Berrío.). Monday to Friday 10AM-5PM, Su holidays 10AM-4PMA collection of contemporary art including many pieces, paintings and sculptures of Fernando Botero, one of the most important sculptors in the world. The Plaza Botero holds several large sculptures just in front of the museum and is free of charge. Entrance is usually free, but on occasion is COP$8,000 and students COP$4,000..
  • Museo Universidad de AntioquiaCalle 67 N° 53-108 (Metro station Universidad), . closed SundaysRepresents the merge of six collections: Visual Arts, Natural Science, University History, Galileo Interactive Room, Human Being and Anthropology. The attraction for foreigners is the Anthropology Collection which has the largest number in the Colombia of pre-Columbian ceramic pieces, with near 20,000 objects. It’s in Bloque 15 of the University’s main campus. Free.
  • Casa Museo Fernando GonzálezWas local writer also known as The Philosopher from somewhere else or Otraparte which gives name to the home. A good opportunity to see an old traditional home with gardens, personal belongings and know more about his legacy. Monday to Friday 8AM-8PM, Sa Su 9AM-5PM. Cra 43A # 27A Sur – 11 Avenida Fernando González (in the nearby town of Envigado), phone +57 4 276 1415 or 335 2501. The closest Metro station is Envigado then take a cab or bus, the walk is almost 2 km mostly uphill.
  • Museo Pedro Nel Gómez, . Shows artwork by this local artist. M-Sa 9AM – 5PM. Sundays and Holidays 10AM – 4PM. Not near the Metro, closest stations are Prado or Hospital. Free.
  • Museo Interactivo EPMA ‘please touch museum’, great for kids. Tu-F 8AM- 5:30PM, Sa Su 11AM-5:30PM. Closed Mondays (or Tuesdays after a holiday Monday). Cra 57 # 42-139, located on Parque de los Piés Descalzos and next door to the Plaza Mayor convention center. Phone +57 4 380 6950. Metro station Alpujarra or Cisneros.
  • Museo Etnográfico Miguel Angel Builes, . A large display of everyday use articles crafted by natives from all over the country. Tools, textiles, bijouterie, pottery, little boats, small tents. Cra 81, No. 52B-120. The museum is off the beaten path, closest Metro station is Floresta but the walk is over 1 km.
  • The Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM) has now 2 sites. The original is a small building near Suramericana and Carlos E. Restrepo neighborhoods, hosting the traditional exhibits. The new space in Ciudad del Río is a large and old industrial warehouse. Great café and restaurant in the premises. Opened in October 2009 near Metrostation Industriales. Original site: Carlos E. Restrepo, Carrera 44 Nº 19A-100. Phone +57 4 444 2622. Ciudad del Río, Carrera 64B Nº 51 – 64, Ph +57 4 230 2622 
  • During the 1980s a local law mandated every new building to invest 5% of the budget in a work of art displayed to the public, usually a sculpture. The legacy is around 300 monuments and sculptures scattered throughout the city and the nickname of City of Sculptures. There are 3 places with a higher concentration of sculptures: the above mentioned Plaza BoteroEl Cerro Nutibara close to Pueblito Paisa and the gardens at Suramericana (Headquarters for the largest insurance company in the country).
  • After the wave of violence in the 1980s and 90s there was a resurgence in the field of education and the construction of modern libraries in poor neighborhoods became a top priority. A few of them are masterpieces of architecture and a couple of them are easy to visit: Biblioteca España is atop the mountain and looks like giant black rocks hanging in the hills: Go to Metrostation Acevedo then take Metrocable to Santo Domingo station. Another library is close to Metrostation San Javier.

Parks

  • The Parque de la bailarina I.C.R.C. (Ballerina’s I.C.R.C. Park)   Carrera 43 E between 7 and 9 street. Is a park located in El Poblado. You can find art that is made by artistic an cultural corporation Alas de mariposa since 2008, every month.
  • Parque de los Deseos (Park of wishes). The near Antioquia’s University, has an Indian context, beautifully emmarqued with the planetarium, and large display of science experiments. You can find free open air movies and discussions with film directors Saturdays at 7PM. Metro station Universidad.
  • Plaza de Cisneros (o de la luz – Plaza of Light). The is in the heart of the city, it borders some beautiful buildings from the 1920s, the EPM library, and a sector that was full of drugs and poverty many years ago, but is now a place to visit and have a great time. Metro station Alpujarra.
  • Also visit the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot park)   for a Zen experience in the heart of town. Outdoor cafés, cultural activities. Metro station: Alpujarra or Cisneros.
  • Plazuela de San Ignacio depicts Colonial and Republican style buildings. This little plaza witnessed in 1803 the birthplace of the largest university in town. The main lecture hall or Paraninfo de la Universidad de Antioquia is still in use and available for public view, even though the University moved 45 years ago to a big campus 2 km. north. Cra 44 at calle 48. Metro station: Parque Berrío. Walk uphill 6 block east.
  • Parque Berrío is in the heart of town at the crossroads of Carrera 50 and Calle 50. Has the buildings of the Stock Exchange, Bank of the Republic, La Candelaria Church and the busiest metro station. It has the unofficial meetingplace for the locals -right at the sculpture of the ‘Fat Woman’ or ‘La Gorda de Botero’. Connects directly to Plaza Botero and Plazuela Nutibara. Metro station Parque Berrío.
  • The Parque del Periodista (journalist park) is a small square right in the center of the city. It is where the ‘bohemian’ and ‘alternative’ people meet. The bars play music varying from reggae and old salsa to alternative rock. You will find most of the people hanging outdoors instead of inside the bars. Metro station Parque Berrío.
  • Parque San Antonio is a large, newer development right downtown. Hosts a handcraft bazaar and an infamous sculpture of a fat dove, bombed by criminals a couple of decades ago during the hard times of violence. By request of the artist the piece of art has not been repaired. Metro station San Antonio.
  • The Parque de Boston is an attractive area that leads down to the main promenade La Playa where people can be found gathering at night to see street acts.
  • Jardín Botánico (Botanical Gardens), Calle 73 # 51 -298 (Metro station Universidad), . Mid-size gardens with a vast collection of orchids and many tropical flowers, plants and trees and a beautiful lake. Unfortunately no information is provided on the plants except for their name – thus, bring a smartphone for lookup up information on wikipedia if you are botanically curious. The covered area for display of flowers is an architectural marvel. The annual orchid exhibit every August is world class. Closed for one or two days each month for private events – check their website. Also has a purportedly good restaurant. Free except during the orchid exhibit.
  • Zoo (Zoologico Santa Fe), Ave Guayabal9AM-5PMAround 1,000 animals are displayed here. COP$8,000 adults, 4,000 kids.
  • Parque Juanes de la Paz is of limited touristic attraction since it has mostly sport courts and is in an under served neighborhood. With the help of the world famous singer work began in 2006 on a recreational park for the rehabilitation of the handicapped. The 68,000 m² facility cost was around COP$11 billion, financed in part by the government of Medellín, it was completed in 2008.  . Metrostation Tricentenario.
  • The new Arví park in the eastern slopes of the valley, close to a beautiful dam. This park (free entrance) promotes ecotourism with well marked trails for hikers and mountain bikes, a picnic area, and a butterfly dome (COP$5,000). To get to the park you can take the Metrocable L line (COP$5,550, 20 min) which takes you over the tree tops into the park. Or take the Santa Elena bus (COP$3,000) from Cra 42 & Calle 50 close to Parque Berrío. 
  • Parque El Salado is in a beautiful natural setting on the mountain overlooking Envigado. There are good paths for walking. The major tourist attraction is a short canopy tour/zip line with about five stops. (The complete is longer but the additional length is reserved for members). Take the Metro to Envigado and then take the connecting bus that goes to Parque El Salado. The bus ride is worth the trip as it winds its way through neighborhoods up the mountain with some great views along the way. 

Buildings

  • Ferrocarril de Antioquia – Old train station is a fine building at the corner of City Hall and the Governor’s Hall. Has a small exhibit area with free admission. Cra 52 # 43-31. Metro station Alpujarra.
  • EPM building also called the Intelligent building for its computerized self-control. An icon of contemporary architecture. Cra. 58 calle 42. Metro station Alpujarra.
  • Edificio Coltejer has been the symbol of the city for over 40 years, shaped as a threading needle for this textile company. Calle 52 cra 47 (Crossroads of La Playa Ave and Junín). Metro station Parque Berrio.

Neighborhoods

  • Prado neighborhood – formerly it was the wealthy neighbourhood of the city so many huge houses were built there. It still has some of these beautiful old houses, though it should be visited with caution as it’s near the center of the city. Metro station Prado.
  • El Poblado neighborhood – this upscale part of town is built in steep hills and has many modern buildings which complement the nearby Andes forest. Most of the trendy bars, clubs, and restaurants of Medellín are located in this neighborhood. Safe to walk around at any time. Recommended. Take metro to Poblado station and walk East on Calle 10 for approximately 1 km.
  • West of the Medellín river are the middle-class neighborhoods of LaurelesEstadio and Suramericana which are modern. Carrera 70 in Suramericana is where many of the best Salsa clubs are, and represent an excellent way to take a break from the trendiness of Zona Rosa and see some real Colombian dancing. The line B of the Metro runs along ‘Estadio’ near all major stadiums and sport facilities.

If you only have a day

In the morning take the metro to a downtown station, visit some churches – most are open early in the morning -, then head to the park outside Museo de Antioquia to see the sculptures, enter the museum at 10AM and visit until lunchtime.

Have lunch either at the museum’s restaurant or cafe, or take the metro to Metrostation Universidad, enter Jardin Botanico (Botanical Gardens) and eat there. Rest a little while strolling the gardens, then go across the street to Parque Explora or Parque de los Deseos. Before sunset take the metro to Acevedo station, hop on the Metrocable for spectacular views in the way up, and a city of lights upon your return. Take the metro back to any station near El Poblado, go shopping and then for dinner and a bar afterwards.

Do

Sightseeing

  • MetrocablesThere are two cable car extensions of the Metro: For the line K take the a metro train to Acevedo station and from there take the Metrocable up to Santo Domingo for a nice view over the city. The cablecar is included in your metroticket. Go during the day and walk around to see what working-class people live like. The area at the top sees tourists so there are little stands set up and people selling empanadas and other things. You can stop at a little bar and have a beer. Don’t stray too far or off the beaten path in this neighborhood, though. For those so inclined, there are young people that give tours waiting at the top wearing t-shirts that said “guia” (guide). Also recommended is taking the metrocable located at San Javier up to La Aurora (J line). Although there is nothing special to see or do at the top of the cable car route, the trip itself is longer and more interesting than the cable car that goes to Santo Domingo.
  • Stroll along lively Carabobo street, Carrera 52 in the heart of downtown, recently converted to pedestrian-only. Safer during daytime. Metro stations Parque BerrioSan Antonio or Alpujarra. Along the street see Plaza Botero (read under Museums) and also:
Basílica de la Candelaria built in 1767, a National Monument. Cra. 49 # 50-85, just off Carabobo.
Edificios Vásquez y Carré built at the turn of the 19th century by a French architect. Nowadays in public use, with stores, cafeterias, etc. Cra. 52 x calle 44.
La Veracruz colonial church, built in 1682. Cra 51 # 52-58.
Palacio Nacional Circa 1928, is now a large shopping mall. Styled with Romantic and Modern influence. Cra 52 # 48-45.
  • Turibus is a good option to get a general overview of the city. You can take it to many of the main tourist attractions for COP$17,000. The tour lasts four hours and allows 20–30 minutes per stop for sight-seeing and photos. Turibus departs from the south side of Parque Poblado at 9AM and 1PM. You must return to the same bus after each stop, it is not a hop-on/hop-off service. Spanish is the only advertised language, however many times at least one guide speaks English and is happy to translate  .
  • GTOPIK Paragliding Medellin San FelixEstadero el Voladero km 6 via San Felix, ,  An excellent paragliding company that will take you flying over Medellin where you will be able so see the aburra valley from the sky. Experience some beautiful scenery such as the waterfalls around the launch point. Easy paragliding Medellin will take you flying farther if you wish to explore the nearby towns of San Jeronimo and Santafe de Antioquia. All while flying like a bird. If your family is in for a long vacation you can also learn to fly in Medellín. To get there get the bus to San Pedro de los milagros from north terminal at Caribe metro station. Ask for el Voladero.

Entertainment

  • Medellín has a very active cultural life. There are four major theatres in town: Metropolitan Theatre, Pablo Tobon Uribe, Teatro de la Universidad de Medellín and Teatro EAFIT (page not updated since 2020). They offer a variety of Music concerts, Opera, Theater, Ballet and other events with international and local performers.
  • There are several good quality contemporary and classic theater companies, such as MatacandelasHora 25Pequeño TeatroOficina Central de los Sueños and Teatro Popular de Medellín. There is an annual Theater Festival held in the last week of August, organized by Medellín en Escena
  • The city sits to classical music orchestras: Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín and Orquesta de EAFIT
  • The annual opera program is held in September, organized by Prolírica de Antioquia
  • Go to the movies: most movies are projected in their original language with Spanish subtitles. For independent flicks try the Centro Colombo-Americano with downtown and El Poblado locations.

Commercial movies are available at most shopping malls: Cine Colombia, Royal Films or Cinemark . Price is around COP$10,000.

  • The Arepa: Medellín’s English Magazine is a resource guide while in the city. They also have a weekly radio show talking about the events in the city.

Sports

Medellín sports various “unidades deportivas” – “sport units”, which are essentially parks with sport facilities: Soccer, basketball, swimming, archery ranges etc. Admission is free for most parts (pools might ask a small fee), but they are popular destinations for locals as early as 6am and thus might require some waiting time until a facility is available. As a historical side note: These places were created to get potential criminals off the streets and the people of Medellín welcomed them very much.

  • Watch a soccer game at one of the two teams based in Medellín, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín. Attending a home game at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium is recommended for any football – soccer fans, or those wanting to experience the famed South American passion for futbol! Games generally take place on Wednesdays and either Saturday or Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium. Metro station Estadio.
  • The neighboring town of Envigado also has a professional soccer team  . Metro station Envigado.
  • The neighboring town of Itagüí also has a professional soccer team  .
  • The Juvenile Soccer World Cup was held in Colombia during July – August 2011 (Also called Under-20 by FIFA) with Medellín as one of its venues.
  • Try the new skateboarding track at Parque Ciudad del Rio. Opened July 2009, this colorful bowl-like ramps allow lots of fun for skaters and spectators. Metro station: Industriales.

Fairs, shows & exhibits

  • Visit the city during the first days of August for the local festival “Feria de las flores” (Flowers festival). There are all kind of events during one week including the “Desfile de Silleteros” (Parade of flower carriers).
  • The new freshwater Aquarium inside the Parque Explora opened in December 2008 and depicts a great variety of river and freshwater wildlife, abundant in Colombia. It is probably one of the largest aquariums in Latin America and certainly one of few specialized in freshwater fauna. Metro station Universidad.
  • Planetario Municipal, . Digital equipment. See the outer space at the Planetarium for COP$12,000. Cra 52 # 71 – 112 at Parque de los Deseos. Metro station Universidad.
  • Medellín has one of the most important Poetry Festivals in the World. Every year, usually in July, poets from all around the world (including Nobel Prizes) come to this amazing event.
  • Full moon nightDo a visit to an old Cemetery (Cementerio de San Pedro) where former presidents and beautiful sculpted graveyards are found. Metro stations Hospital or Universidad.
  • The Convention Center Plaza Mayor is the main site for big events including the fashion and textile industry related annual shows Colombiamoda (July) and ColombiaTex (January)  .
  • The Fourth International Tango Festival will convene with world renown artists. Free admission to all events. Every year in June. 
  • Tangovia is a monthly street fair in the neighborhood of Manrique, with great tango performers (singers, groups, dancers and more). Calle 45 x Carrera 73.

Learn

Medellín houses many important universities and learning institutes. Almost 100% of the courses are in Spanish.

Universities

  • Universidad de Antioquia with over 200 years is the largest and more important academic institution in town and the second one in the whole country. Its old campus downtown has beautiful republican architecture while the newer campus (1960s) is a great example of modern architecture  .
  • Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana has 2 main campuses. Careers that are strong: Medicine, architecture, liberal arts and engineering  .
  • EAFIT emphasis on business, information technology and engineering  .
  • Escuela de Ingenieria de Antioquia.
  • CES a health sciences university  .
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia has 2 campuses, good education in engineering.

Learn Spanish

At a variety of second language schools:

  • Total Spanish Colombia is a full immersion Spanish language school that teaches Spanish through fun interactive lessons to ensure that classes are both interesting and effective. Group, private 1 on 1 and specialist Spanish classes are available at their refurbished (as of April 2017) school in Parque Lleras. Maximum 6 students per class. They also offer students free wifi, drinks, conversation clubs, language exchanges and cultural activities.
  • Español para Extranjeros Offers individually tailored lessons for beginners to advanced students, either one-on-one or in groups. Lists prices and contact details on their website, and comes highly recommended.
  • Medellín Spanish School Like most of the schools in town, this one offers the best flexibility and quality at a price that does not aim to rip off the “rich foreigner”.
  • Learn Spanish with the Language Institute Medellín, +57 316 4039 305. They offer cheap courses with great accommodations! 

Learn Tango

After Buenos Aires, Medellín is the best place to learn how to tango.

  • Che Tango Dancing school. Address: Calle 32 E # 80 A – 57, Barrio Laureles – Nogal. Phone: +57 4 412 8326 Mobile: +57 3 14 890 4557 email: che.tango.medellin@gmail.com 
  • El Ultimo Café (Milonga & Tango Dance Academy), Cra. 43 B # 11 -12 (Near parque el Poblado), ,  Scheduled eventsA dance academy with good turnout.

Learn Colombian cooking

  • This culinary school has occasional courses on Colombian Cuisine. INSARC Cra 40 A # 11B – 15. El Poblado, Lalinde. Phone: +57 4 4444 850.
  • La Colegiatura is a small college with full degrees in culinary sciences and also shorter courses in basic and Colombian cooking. 

Work

It is not legal to work in Colombia without a proper working visa. Visas can be obtained by employers on your behalf.

There is a significant market for English and other language teachers, and most hostels accept foreign workers without checking their visa status.

As of April 2016 visitors from most western countries are allowed to travel in 90 days without applying for visa. For working visas, have a look at the official site about the topic.

Buy

Colombia is famous for its coffee and Medellín is only a few hours from the coffee growing centers of Colombia. You can find coffee flavors of everything you can imagine, from ice-cream to arequipe (sweetened milk). The ‘Starbucks’ coffee culture is growing, with the most prominent brand being Juan Valdez coffee shops. The Juan Valdez chain is owned by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, and sells a variety of Colombian coffees.

Aguardiente Antioqueño: Schnaps with a special flavor, much like black licorice.

Ron Medellín: The local rum. The quality of this rum was elevated to the highest standards during 2009 and the 8 and 12-year bottles are great presents.

Despite the claim of being the textile capital of Colombia, Medellín is not a shopper’s paradise for clothes for North American tourists, but prices can be attractive to visitors from other latitudes. The main malls sell a limited variety of clothes, (especially men’s clothes), at only slightly discounted prices from the US, although there are always bargains to be found if you look hard enough. The style of clothes for women in Medellín is very revealing and sexy, so it perhaps more suited for gift buying than shopping for yourself. When planning your shopping for clothes bear in mind that the local weather is very mild, so the options for winter and summer clothes are limited. Near Parque Lleras you can find via Primavera, a little zone full of local young designer’s shops with unique garments that you will surely won’t see anywhere else.

Handcrafts

  • On the first Saturday of the month there is the Mercado de San Alejo, an open market right on Parque de Bolívar, hours: 8AM a 6PM A large variety of local handcrafts sold primarily by the artisans themselves. Right in the middle of Parque Lleras from Thursday to Sunday you may as well find some handcraft being sold.
  • Centro Artesanal mi viejo Pueblo. Cr 49 # 53-30. Phone +57 4 513 7563

Shopping malls

  • El Tesoro Parque ComercialCra. 25A # 1A Sur – 45 / Loma El Tesoro con Transversal Superior (Access only by taxi or private car), . 9AM-11PMA large shopping mall located in an unusual location: in very steep mountain overriding a creek. Many upscale stores, technology shops and good restaurants. El Tesoro is bilingual; they have an Information Center where visitors can get any information in English, every day from 2PM to 9:30PM. Furthermore, it is possible to access this service calling 321 10 10 ext 111-112. And just for tourists to go shopping without any problem, the mall made a brochure with all the terms and expressions they need, in English and Spanish. Ask for it at the information desks.
  • Oviedo centro comercialAv El Poblado Cr 43 A # 6 S 15, . Large shopping area with nearby hotels and restaurants.
  • San Diego centro comercialCalle 33 No 43 16 (at the crossroad of Las Palmas, Avenida Oriental, Avenida San Diego and calle 33), . The first shopping mall built in Colombia over 30 years ago is still a nice place to stroll, eat and of course shop. You will find good prices for top notch merchandise.
  • Outlet Mayorca is directly connected to a Metro station and also has a movieplex.  . Metro Itagui.
  • Premium Plaza (Centro comercial), Carrera 43 A 30 – 25, ,  10AM – 10PMPremium Plaza has more than 115,000 m², with 1,427 cells free parking, over 350 shops to choose from entertainment, shopping, large financial services five banks, cinemas in 35mm and 3D formats, gym, amusement park, two squares of meals, the largest casino in the city and synthetic soccer courts.
  • Monterrey (Centro comercial), Avenida 62 (Carrera 48) x Calle 102 blocks from Poblado metro station. This mall is the place to go for anything computer or cell phone related. Many small shops selling all manner of electronic equipment and accessories. There is also a 5-screen movie theatre in this mall as well as a salon offering excellent massages (store #126).
  • Santa Fe centro comercialCra 43 A # 7 sur – 170 (Av El Poblado & Loma los Balsos, 300 mts south of Oviedo), ,  10AM – 9PM, restaurants and Jumbo until 11PMThe mall opened May 2010. 5 levels of shopping, entertainment, and food.

Stores

  • For leather goods for women visit Bon-Bonite with 10 locations in town. Features many handbags in leather and ethnic materials, as well as shoes and accessories. Available In most shopping malls.
  • Underwear, for men and women, are plentiful and the variety is great. Women: Leonisa, Tania. Men: Unico, Punto Blanco, GEF. In all major shopping malls.

Money

The local currency is the Colombian peso (COP$). It is strongly recommended to use the exact change on taxis, because the drivers rarely have the exact amount. US dollars and Euros are rarely used, except for tourist oriented stores.

Using credit and debit cards is frequent in Colombia but not prevalent as in developed countries.

ATM limits: ATMs strictly limit withdrawals on foreign and domestic cards. You may only be able to get out COP$1.2 million per day, so plan to visit the ATM often or hunt around for a more relaxed limit. There are 5 major international banks with local offices, if by chance you hold a card of any of these banks your rates are usually lower (Citibank, HSBC, RBS, Santander and BBVA). The largest Colombian bank is Bancolombia with ATMs everywhere.

When withdrawing money from an ATM it is highly advisable to avoid any located on streets for safety purposes. It is recommended to withdraw from ATMs inside shopping centers. Be sure not to take a taxi straight after withdrawing, it is not unusual for people to be followed out and mugged soon after making a withdrawal. Keep an eye out to be sure you are not followed. If you plan to withdraw a significant amount of money, it is recommended to ask the police to escort you (at no cost).

Eat

Colombian cuisine is varied and regional. The more typical dishes are referred to as comida criolla.

Some examples are: sancocho de gallina (chicken soup), carne en polvo (ground beef), arepas de choclo (fresh corn tortillas), empanadas (meat-filled fried turnovers), ají (hot sauce), ajiaco (Bogota’s chicken and potato soup), bandeja paisa, natilla, buñuelos (fried cheese puffs), hojuelas (fried puff squares), rice with coconut, Antioquian beans, sobrebarriga (flank steak) mantecada (bun made with lard), papas chorreadas, pandeyuca (yucca bread) and carne desmechada (shredded meat).

A typical breakfast in Medellín consists of baked corn arepas (Flat unsweetened corn pancake) topped with butter and fresh white cheese, coffee or hot chocolate.

One treat that will leave anyone stuffed is the “Tipico Antioqueño”; arepa con queso (small flatbreads with cheese on top), beans, chicken, rice, fried eggs, chicharron (salted and fried unsmoked bacon) and patacon (deep-fried plantain pancakes). Topping that off with a Colombian beer and a cup of “chocolatte” (pronounced the Spanish way – it’s milky, sweet hot chocolate) makes for an excellent meal. An excellent place to eat typical food is Hatoviejo.

There is a large variety of restaurants all throughout Medellín, especially concentrated around the ‘Zona Rosa’ which is in Poblado between Parque Poblado and Parque Lleras. You can find a fine display of places with whatever food you desire, with good quality for comparatively cheap prices compared to the US, although there is a shortage of authentic Greek, Indian and Thai restaurants. Sushi is increasingly popular and may be found at the larger malls or supermarkets that are more “international.”

Colombia also has an incredible variety of tasty fruits. A few of these are: guanábana, lulo, zapote, mamoncillo, uchuva, feijoa, granadilla, maracuyá, tomate de árbol, borojó, mamey and tamarindo. Ask for a “Salpicón”: a mix of fruits marinaded on orange or watermelon juice.

Colombia is well known for its coffee, and Medellín is no exception. As with any large city, there are the usual chain restaurants, however the American “fast-food culture” has not made a huge splash in the country. Mc Donald’s, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and Hooters can be found there.

El Poblado

  • HatoViejo (Local dishes), Calle 16 #28 – 60 Via Las Palmas (Across the street from Hotel Intercontinental), . Great food for the last 30 years. Mostly meat, regional dishes. Decorated as an old farm. Also outdoor areas
  • Las Luisitas (Typical & Local), Carrera 37A No. 8A-50, . Simple and well-done Colombian meals in this tiny place with lots of character. Prices used to be modest, now expensive.
  • La Provincia (Seafood & Italian), Calle 4 sur # 43 A – 179 (Near Oviedo shopping mall), . M-Sa noon-3PM, 7PM-midnightReally good food, well prepared and well served. Closed Sundays.
  • Al Patio (Mexican – Seafood), Carrera 38 # 19 – 2- 65 (Carretera Las Palmas), . Noon-4AMRestaurant and bar. Overlooks town, great outdoors.
  • Herbario (Steak & Seafood), Carrera 43 D # 10 -30 (Near el parque El Poblado), . M-Sa noon-3PM, 7PM-11:30PMShort and exquisite menu.
  • Mystique (By Juan Pablo Valencia), Cra. 33 # 7 – 55 (El Poblado – Provenza, not far from Parque Lleras), . Nicely prepared meals with option of 1 to 4 dishes in the Chef’s Menu. Nouvelle Cuisine at its best. A short menu with the options changing every 2 months.
  • Casa Molina (Eclectic cuisine), Calle 11a # 43b- 41 (Barrio Manila, El Poblado), . By appointment only. Seafood and steaks.
  • Bijao (Latin food), Cra. 37 A # 8-66 (Parque Lleras, El Poblado), . M-Sa noon-2:30PM, 7-11PM.
  • El Cielo (Molecular cuisine), Cra 40 No. 10A – 22 (El Poblado), . Noon-3PM, 7-11PMMolecular cooking is a complex science, here you can sit down and enjoy it. Ignorance is bliss.
  • Anita’s (Cafe), Calle 4 sur No. 43-A 97 (Near Oviedo shopping mall and McDonald’s), . Breakfast-lunchModern cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Eggs any style, bacon or French toast. Sandwiches (ciabatta or baguette), salads (Caesar, tuna, Thai or Italian), delicious coffee and fruit juices.
  • Milagros (Mexican), Cra. 48 # 10 – 45 local 149 (Near Hotel Plaza Rosa), . Authentic Mexican food. Basic wine list.
  • La Fiambrería (Seasonal and Harvest), Cra 43 B # 8-52 (Parque el poblado, Southwest corner), . Lunch and dinnerNice lunch menu for under COP$10,000. Try the meat in a Bailey’s sauce.
  • Bonuar (At the Museo de Arte Moderno), Carrera 44 Nº 19A-100 (Ciudad del Rio, on the side of the Museum). Great outdoors. Easy free parking
  • Lion’s Den Sports Pub (American), Car. 36 No. 10-49 (Three blocks from Parque Lleras. Go up Calle 10 and turn left on Car. 36, we are 5 buildings down on the left), ,  5PM – midnight nightlyWatch NFL, college football, NBA, baseball, soccer and more international sports. Please call to see if we can get your game. Menu: Black bean nachos, chicken wings, burgers and sandwiches (grilled chicken, tuna salad). Multiple plasma/LCD/wide screen TVs.
  • VerdeoCarrera 35 # 8a-3, ,  Lunch, bakery, salad bar, cooking classes. Vegetarian.
  • El Café de Otraparte (in Envigado), Calle 27 Sur, 43A – 61, Envigado (adjacent to Casa Museo Otraparte, in Ave. El Poblado), . 3PM-midnightNext door to the museum. Open-air and open-minded café.

Laureles, Suramericana, Estadio

  • Vitto’s (Trattoria Italiana), Calle 33 # 74 B – 310 (Ave. 33, 300 mts up from Bulerias Circle), . Well done Italian food, home-made pasta. Great sauces.
  • Zen Wei (Taiwanese), Calle 33 # 74B-240 (near Bulearias circle), . Vegetarian buffet for lunch
  • Fenicia (Middle Eastern cuisine), Cra. 73 # circular 2 – 41 (Ave Jardin, Laureles), . Monday to Friday noon to 8:30PM, Sundays/holidays noon-4PMMainly Lebanese dishes in this unpretentious restaurant. Good food.
  • Hari Om (vegetarian), Carrera 66 B, Diagonal 4-7, . Some vegetarian Indian dishes.
  • Salud PanCircular 4 # 70-78 (not far from Mondogo’s), . Bakery, vegetarian, seeds, nuts, also gluten free food
  • El Arbol de la Vida (vegetarian), Carrera 64 C # 48-188, . Well served vegan dishes, low in salt – hey, the use of salt shaker is free.

Downtown

  • VersallesCarrera 49 # 53-39 (Metrostations Parque Berrio or Prado), . Restaurant along carrera Junin downtown has basic Argentinean fare at reasonable prices.
  • Moli (Vegetarian), Calle 54 # 47 – 105, local 132 (Centro comercial El Parque), . Downtown location.
  • In situ restaurante (Jardín Botánico), Calle 73 # 51 D-14 (Metro Universidad), ,  Reservations recommended. Nice restaurant located in the middle of the Botanical Gardens. The menu offers a combination of local food, some organic choices and all plates are well presented. Outside the restaurant there is a little garden with herbs and aromatic plants..
  • Restaurante VegetarianoCarrera 51 D # 67-30, . Daily menu, burgers.
  • Agua Clara (Typical), Carrera 49 No. 52-141, 2nd floor (Metro station Parque Berrio), . lunchRegional food.
  • Lenteja Espress (vegetarian), Calle 53 # 42-17, . Vegetarian burgers (Chickpeas and lentils), Mexican vegan, lasagnas. Also features a Poblado location at Carrera 35 # 8A-75

Oriente – eastern suburbs

  • QueAreParaEnamorartePartidas para El Retiro (Crossroads of Las Palmas and road leading to El Retiro, near the dam), ,  At 40 km east of Medellín, great local food, old fashioned and homemade.

Multiple locations & online – delivery

  • J y C Delicias offers typical arepas with a variety of toppings, good for lunch or dinner. A few locations: in Laureles neighborhood Carrera 76 # 33 A-62, phone +57 4 250 4861. In El Poblado Calle 4 Sur # 43 A-8, phone +57 4 312 6656, and El Tesoro Shopping mall. .
  • Mondongo’sCarrera 70 # circular 3 – 43 (Right hand side on avenida 70, 3 blocks from Universidad Bolivariana), . A famous and traditional local restaurant with tow locations in town, and one additional in Miami for the homesick. Offers a local soup made up with tripe. If not adventurous you can go for regular beans and other delicacies. Additional location in El Poblado Calle 10 # 38 -38, phone +57 4 312 2346.
  • El Astor (Dessert house), Junín: Carrera 49 # 52-84 (1 block away from Edificio Coltejer), . 9AM – 7PMTraditional cakes, pastries and desserts. Tea house. Metrostation Parque Berrio.
  • Pasteleria Santa ElenaParque el Poblado (Carrera 43 # 8 – 36), . Great desserts, pastries and the locally famous ‘Pastel de Gloria’ filled with guava paste and arequipe. Also downtown at Ave. La Playa Carrera 45 # 50-64. Many locations throughout town.
  • Food and Deliveries (Online only – Deliveries only), Virtual, . 11AM- 9PMMeat, fish, soups, rices. Nice trays, still hot when the meal arrives to your home/hotel. You can also order via Microsoft Messenger.

Drink

Local drinks

  • Aguardiente – A popular alcoholic beverage in Colombia with sweet and licorice-flavored, made-up of sugarcane. The local brand is Aguardiente Antioqueño and it is usually drank straight followed by an ounce of water or slices of mango.
  • Ron – Rum is also popular with locals. The domestic brand is Ron Medellín Añejo aged either 3, 8, 12 or 30 years, typically served mixed with Club Soda, Coca-Cola or lemon juice  .
  • Cerveza – Beer is available almost anywhere, the one most enjoyed by people is Pilsen, a light golden in color, German Pilsener or Lager of beer. Also admired by locals and foreigners is Club Colombia a finer premium beer, made-up of 100% malt  . Other popular national beers include Aguila and Costena. A small company brews beer locally: Tres Cordilleras makes Wheat, American Pale and Amber Ales. Bogota Brewing Company operates a restaurant in the Poblado neighborhood with good craft beer at uncompetitive prices. Their bottled beers are available at bars and restaurants throughout the city.
  • Refajo – A kind of cocktail made by mixing beer and the local soft drink Colombiana. It is refreshing and a little sweet.
  • Cocteles – Due to the great variety of tropical fruits and its juices your imagination will be boundless when creating Cocktails in Medellín. Start with Lulo juice with vodka, or try the many recipes with passion fruit (Spanish: Maracuyá).

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the main days to party in Medellín; the rest of the week the mainstream nightlife isn’t really exciting. Bars close at 2AM, but you will find plenty of clubs that close at 4AM, and if you need to stay up later just look for the techno or electronica clubs.

Dance clubs

  • Babylonuntil 4AMBest known for its Thursday night all you can drink, COP$35,000 to enter. Located in Las Palmas. It’s popular with gringos and ‘gringo hunters’.
  • El BlueA popular place with cross-over music (a mix of rock and local music). It’s popular with gringos and ‘gringo hunters’. Thursday is the night to go.
  • CircusA new venue with great views over Medellín. Very popular with the beautiful, in-crowd and normally plays cross-over music.
  • Cuchitril Club-BarCalle 10, #52-87The name translates as “hovel,” which can only be thought of as a tearm of endearment for this salsa club. It’s actually very nice inside, with decor somewhere between arabesque and neon plus chandeliers. There is a fair amount of room to dance, including a space on the wonderful courtyard patio/garden in the back. Sundays are the best nights, when all sorts of great salseros and salseras converge in this part of town for the party.
  • Eslabon Prendido (Salsa & Tropical), Calle 53, #42-55 (Maracaibo street) (Downtown, half block east of Parque del Periodista). Probably the most famous salsa club in the city, with live bands Tu Th (it’s more or less closed the rest of the week). The name of the place plays with words: Hot -or Burning- Link instead of Missing Link. It’s fairly small inside, but the dancing spills well into the street. There are tables inside, if you are looking to just watch, but they are claimed way before the party gets started. Its location downtown warrants some precaution.
  • Mangosuntil 4AMThe most famous of clubs here in Medellín and has a reputation of being visited by rich mafia-related Colombians but is also usually full of incredibly hot women (proceed with caution, some women are paid for). Also it is very very expensive at about $5 per beer and $25 for a small bottle of rum, Auto Pista Sur.
  • Palmaia (Autopista Sur). The newest, biggest and arguably best club in Medellín and has a capacity of 3,000 people. Standard crossover music with a boxing ring for girl-fights!
  • RedOpposite El Blue, offers electronic music and local music.
  • Sabor Antillano (Salsa & Tropical music), Calle 38 sur # carrera 43. Envigado (Two blocks down from main plaza). A fun tiny place. Classic salsa with songs coming from vinyl.
  • Viva (Dance club), Calle 51 # 73 – 100 (Close to baseball stadium). Large 2-story dance club with mostly gay clientele

Bars

There are a few districts for bars. Foreigners prefer Parque Lleras in El Poblado, safer, more upscale, nicer crowds. The middle class also mingle outside Museo de Arte Moderno, near Carlos E Restrepo neighborhood; and the so-called Urban Tribes meet at Parque del Periodista (downtown). Other areas with bars are: Carrera 70 near Estadio, Carretera Las Palmas and Avenida 33 in Laureles.

The area around Parque Lleras, (la Zona Rosa), has a concentration of restaurants, bars and is great for people watching. It is active on most nights and a must visit for those looking for Colombian nightlife. The major restaurants on the corner, El Rojo and Basilica are great for food, drinks and people watching. Occasionally they have live music or big screens when important football matches are played.

Parque Lleras is interesting any night of the week although admittedly Thursday, Friday and Saturday are far more lively. There are places, mostly electronic music venues open till 6 or 7AM outside of the city limits as the laws forbid any bar to remain open after 3PM. People however gather around Parque Poblado until dawn drinking, smoking and chating. You can buy cigarettes, alcohol and anything else you could wish for from the street vendors until the last man standing.

A more upmarket experience can be had at La Strada just south of Parque Lleras on Aviendo El Poblado. The centre features numerous bars, restaurants and clubs. La Strada has become the weekend destination for the more affluent of Medellín’s residents. Expect to pay more for drinks and food than in la Zona Rosa, bars close at 1AM.

Just outside of Medellín, there are some venues in the neighboring towns of Sabaneta, Envigado and Itagui. Sabaneta has not yet caught on with foreigners, making it the place to go if avoiding gringos is your thing.

  • Arte Vivo Mostly a local crowd. a great 1980s and 1990s live band (maybe the best in town) playing rock-pop greatest hits and local rock. Prices are affordable, with a nice upscale crowd, and beautiful women. Located in el Poblado across the Monterrey Shopping center (Calle 10 x Las Vegas).
  • “El Alamo” The cheapest bar in Parque Lleras, free rum for girls. They show American football games if you need your fix.
  • B-Lounge is an electronic disco with rich, beautiful women.
  • La Kasa which are both good on Thursday nights as it’s Ladies Night.
  • Niagara (5 puertas), Cra 38 (2 blocks south of Parque Lleras, El Poblado). Opens in the afternoon until 2AMHas been a classic for local crowds for over 30 years. Informal, beer, chat
  • La Camerata has offered classic music to its costumers for over 25 years. Occasional live appearances. Calle 49 between carreras 64 y 65, near calle Colombia.
  • San Marcos, . Bar and video has mostly gay clientele, located near Unicentro shopping mall Calle 34 # 66B – 53, Barrio Conquistadores. 
  • Vinacure An incredibly trippy place – expensive to get in but definitely worth seeing once, entry is about US$4. The entire club is designed by a noted Colombian sculptor. Try to go when German, the owner, is about so you can check out The Naked Room, an interactive art exhibition that must be experienced (sometimes) naked. This is a very interesting, unusual and fun art-museum/bar. It’s truly unique. To get there, take a taxi to the beginning of Caldas (carrera 50 No 100D Sur 07, Caldas). Or you can take a bus.
  • Casa Gardeliana (Tango bar), Carrera 45 # 76 – 50 (Manrique), . Since 1973, has been the meeting place for tango lovers. Live music, dance.
  • Salon Málaga (Tango and Bolero bar), Cra. 51 Bolívar # 45 + 80 (Between Amador & Maturín streets), . M-Sa 7AM-2AM, Su holidays 8AM-midnightA classic bar right downtown. All social classes mingle here with nice music and local drinks. Dance. Only half a block away from the main Metrostation San Antonio (Lines A and B). .
  • Dulce Jesus Mio (Mi Pueblo), Calle 77S # 46B-90 Sabaneta (Next to Texaco gas station), . 4PM-1AMThe whole place is a replica of a traditional ‘paisa’ town. The locals from the village will greet you and be your host, ask you to dance and party all together. Every midnight is new years’ eve. Really fun.
  • Bolero BarCra. 67 B 51 A 98 Local 101 (Near Exito calle Colombia), . Tangos, boleros.
  • BermellónCalle 23 Sur # 42B-107 Envigado, . Tango, et al.

Where to stay in Medellín

El Centro

Most of the inexpensive hotels in Medellín are in El Centro. It’s a vibrant area during the daytime, but at night it becomes a dangerous “warzone” of the worst of Colombia, i.e. homeless junkies lighting up crack pipes in front of police, prostitutes, aggressive beggars that will follow you, robbers and junkies looking for targets, people going crazy on crack. Unless you’re a thug yourself, this is really not a place you want to go out at night. No joke.

  • Hotel ConquistadoresCarrera 54 #49-31, . An affordable and safe hotel in the center of town. All the basic amenities, including broadcast TV, hot water, lock boxes. Restaurant on site. Extremely friendly and helpful staff. COP$36,000 single, COP$48,000 double or twin, COP$72,000 triple, COP$144,000 family.
  • Hotel LintonCarrera 45 #47-58 (El Palo between pichincha and Bomboná), . All the basic amenities including cable TV, hot water, mini stereo system in rooms. COP$20,000 for a single room.
  • Hotel Ayacucho RealCalle 49 (Ayacucho) #48-15, . All the basic amenities including cable TV, hot water, mini stereo system in rooms. COP$28,000 for a single room.
  • Hotel San JoséCalle 49 #45-12, second floor (Ayacucho por el Palo), . Probably the cheapest decent hotel in town. Despite the price, it is clean and safe. Cable TV, hot water, laundry on site. COP$16,000 for a single room.
  • Hotel NutibaraCalle 52A # 50 – 46 Plazuela Nutibara (Downtown near Metro station Parque Berrio), . The most traditional hotel in Medellín, now a tad rundown. Great architecture. Just across the street from Museo de Antioquia. Fax: +57 4 231 3713 from COP$110,000.

Estadio and Laureles

These are middle-class, safe and quiet neighborhoods just west of the river (west of downtown) with many bars, restaurants, shops and clubs along Carrera 70.

  • Hotel Egina MedellínCalle 47 #68A – 80, Medellín 54 Colombia, . 65 rooms, standard rooms, junior rooms and suites, all equipped with air-conditioning, mini-bar and Wi-Fi access. Facilities and services are bar, events room and fitness room/gym. From COP$140,000.
  • Hotel Terranova 70Carrera 70 #47-34 (Diagonally opposite Estadio metro station), . The cheapest hotel in this area. Clean, modern, nice rooms. Friendly staff. Bar next door plays loud music until 3am. COP$45,000 for a single room.
  • Sauces del EstadioCra 69 No.49A-30.
  • Hotel TRYP (a Wyndham hotel), Calle Colombia 50 N 70-124 (near Stadium), . The newest hotel in the area
  • Hotel Casa Laureles, Calle 35 No.78-66.
  • Hotel Laureles 70 , Circular 5a No.70-15.
  • Samarian Hostel, Carrera 77b #47 35 Sector Laureles Estadio Velodromo, +57 4 2504472 Cel 3165006043. samarianhs@gmail.com. Metro stations Floresta and Estadio nearby, communal office space for digital nomads with a coffee bar, language exchange and Spanish school nearby, dormitories from COP$18,900 (breakfast included).

El Poblado

This is probably the most desirable neighborhood to stay in. However, it is also the most expensive. The higher-end bars, restaurants, and clubs are all located in this area. High-end supermarkets (Pomona, Carulla and Exito) are nearby, as well as shopping malls, open Wi-Fi networks, and a few Juan Valdez coffee shops.

  • Hotel IntercontinentalCalle 16 #28-51 (Variante Las Palmas, 2 km up from San Diego shopping mall), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMA nice and traditional hotel in town. Suburban location. Large rooms, convention center.
  • Hotel San Fernando PlazaCarrera 42 A # 1 – 15 (Ave. el Poblado), . Very fancy and elegant for the price, excellent service. Nice surroundings with many restaurants, gym, coffee house. US$110.
  • Poblado Plaza Hotel (Estelar), Carrera 43A No.4Sur-75, . In the Golden Mile. Has a pleasant garden where meals can be taken. Free Wi-Fi.
  • Hotel Plaza RosaCarrera 32D No. 09-17 El Poblado, ,  .
  • Four Points by SheratonCarrera 43 C #6 Sur 100 (Near Oviedo shopping mall, Poblado neighborhood), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 3PM.
  • Hotel Belfort (A Dann Carlton Hotel), Calle 17 # 40 B – 30 (Avenida el Poblado). Nice swimming pool area.
  • Park 10 HotelCarrera 36B No. 11-12 El Poblado, ,  .
  • Milla de Oro (Estelar), Carrera 43 A No. 1A Sur 237 (Av. El Poblado, between the main plaza and Oviedo shopping mall). Over 150 rooms. Toll free calling within Colombia 01 8000 97 8000
  • Hotel Portón de MedellínCarrera 43A No 9 Sur 51 Av. El Poblado (Close to Oviedo mall), . Located in the area called “The Golden Mile”. US$90-180.
  • Dann Carlton HotelAv. El poblado Cra. 43A # 7-50 (Close to Poblado main plaza), .
  • Estelar Poblado AlejandríaCra. 36 # 2 Sur-60, .
  • Medellín Royal (A Radisson hotel), Cra 42 No 5 Sur -130 El Poblado (Near Oviedo and Santa Fe shopping mall), ,  Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMfrom US$110/night.
  • Hotel Casa-10Calle 11 #43B-71 (A couple of blocks NW of Parque Poblado), . The least expensive hotel in this area. Clean and modern rooms, but musky. Opened in early May 2009. Friendly staff. Wider range of cable TV than most inexpensive hotels. Internet computers and Wi-Fi included. Free parking. COP$150,000 for a single room.
  • Novelty suitesAve El Poblado Calle 4 sur #43 A 109 (Milla de Oro), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMComfortable and spacious suites in a modern building. Moderate prices.
  • Holiday Inn ExpressCRA 43 A # 1 SUR – 150 Av El Poblado (Next to Oviedo shopping mall), , fax+57-4-384554Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM.
  • Medellín Executive Suites HotelCalle 11 A No. 31 A – 208 (Near Zona Rosa), ,  An exclusive hotel with exemplary service, modern amenities, and idyllic surroundings. Located in one of the most beautiful areas of Medellín. Short walk to Parque Lleras. Wi-Fi, pool and recreation deck available.
  • Hotel Santa AnaCalle 15 sur No. 48 – 34 (Two blocks from Metrostation La Aguacatala), . Santa Ana is not as nice as the other hotels in El Poblado, but its proximity to the Metro is a breakpoint for many visitors. There is not much to do in La Aguacatala. Breakfast included. COP$140,000.

Boutique hotels

  • Art HotelCra 41 # 9-21 El Poblado (Zona Rosa, Parque Lleras.), . Spacious loft-style rooms with high ceilings, some with private terrace. A real boutique hotel near Lleras Park, but quiet and safe. US$110 + tax.
  • Las Rosas (Boutique hotel), Cra. 33 # 5 G – 73 (Barrio Provenza, near Parque Lleras), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMOnly 14 large rooms with good service. Spanish courses available. The hotel arranges great tours outside the city.
  • Hotel La Casa Medellín (Los Balsos), . In Los Balsos el Poblado. Walking distance to popular attractions such as Oviedo Shopping center. U.S. phone number: 310-728-6301
  • DiezHotelCalle 10 A Cra 34 (El Poblado), . Mobile +57 300 216 3744. A boutique hotel with decor inspired by all Colombian regions. From COP$300,000.

Other neighborhoods

  • Hotel Las Lomas (International Airport Hotel), Glorieta of the international airport (José María Córdova Km. 26), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMNice suburban hotel with beautiful grounds. Not noisy. Toll-Free from Colombia: 018000 940 440

Hostels

  • Blacksheep HostelTransversal 5A #45-133 (Patio Bonito), ,  On-site Spanish lessons, BBQ every Sunday. Operated by a helpful Kiwi expat named Kelvin. Two meters long European sized beds, en suite bathrooms, hot power showers, airy rooms, fully equipped kitchen, 5 computers with high speed internet access (COP$2,000/hr), TV room + cable, free DVDs, hammocks. Dorm bed: from COP$34,000, doubles from COP$95,000.
  • Casa Kiwi HostelCra 36 #7-10 (3 blocks above Parque Lleras in El Poblado), ,  Great foreign-run backpacker hostel, with cheap dorm beds and private rooms, and a new addition with nicer private rooms and suites. High speed internet, free Wi-Fi, TV with satellite. Terraces and patios, a fully equipped guest kitchen, laundry service, pool table, and lockers in the dorm rooms. Great atmosphere and good customer service and travel information. Dorm bed: COP$40,000, private room from COP$80,000.
  • Sunshine HostelCalle 9 #43C-36 (Poblado), ,  Check-out: 1PMOperated by two nice and helpful Israelis, it is one of the cheapest hostels in town. Two-meter-long European-sized beds, hot power showers, fully equipped kitchen, computers with high-speed internet access, free Wi-Fi, three common areas (TV area, dining room, chill-out area with hammock), ping-pong table. Dorm bed: COP$17,000, Doubles from COP$55,000.
  • Hostal Tamarindo – Medellín (hostaltamarindo@gmail.com), Calle 7 #35-36, El Poblado, ,  Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AMCalm, warm and friendly atmosphere, great service, clean comfortable rooms, bathrooms and social areas, hot water all day, a fully equipped open kitchen, free linens and towels, lockers, DVD movies, no curfew, free Wi-Fi, internet service, laundry service, keyless entry and complete tourist information. Co-ed dorm: COP$18,000, Female dorm: COP$22,000, Private room from COP$55,000.
  • Lleras Park HostelCarrera 39 #8-72, El Poblado, ,  Check-in: Anytime, check-out: 2PMAmenities include free towels, internet, lockers, coffee, cable TV, and 24/7 security. Roof top bar, meals for cheap, book exchange library, guided tours available. Dorms COP$20,000, doubles from COP$60,000.
  • Palm Tree HostelCra 67 # 48D – 63 (Behind the Exito Colombia supermarket, 3 blocks away from the Suramericana Metro station), ,  Check-in: 24hr, check-out: 11:30AM24 hour staffed office, free internet and Wi-Fi, dormitories and private rooms, linen included, hot showers, laundry service, bar, book exchange, free bicycle, cable TV with over 100 channels, DVD movies. Hammocks, free BBQ on Fridays, fully equipped kitchen, free bag storage, free coffee and breakfast. Dorm bed: from COP$25,000.
  • Samán HostelCalle 10 N° 36-24, El Poblado, ,  Run by an amazing guy named Alejandro who goes out of his way help you experience medellin. Seriously plush and very clean for a hostel, and close to the more up-market bars around El Poblado. Internet, plush lounge, kitchen, free tea & coffee, laundry service. Alejandro and his sidekick, also Alejandro, clean the rooms daily and even offered to do the dishes after cooking dinner! Dorm bed: COP$20,000.
  • TigerCar 36 No. 10-49 (Across the street from Parque Lleras in Poblado), ,  Check-in: 2:30PM, check-out: 11:30AMBrand new hostel which is steps away from the main night-life in town. Extra large compartmentalized private bunk beds. US TV programming, DVD, laundry, bilingual staff, pool table, free internet, WiFi, XBOX-360, private lockers, 24 hour reception, events, tour information, kitchen, hot water. Owner is American with plenty of experience in Medellín. Sports Bar located in the hostel (see ‘Eat’ section). Dorm bed: from COP$22,000.
  • The Pit Stop (Hostel), Cra 43 e # 5 – 110 (Patio Bonito, in El Poblado), ,  Mobile 314 657 6390. from COP$35,000.
  • The Wandering Paisa HostelCalle 44 A No. 68 A 76, Laureles, ,  New hostel with comfortable beds, included linen, Nintendo Wii, free wifi, bar, laundry service, hammocks, sun deck/patio, rooftop terrace, library, 24 hour hot water, bilingual staff, lockers, kitchen, tour information, 24 hour reception.
  • Waypoint HostelCra 48b # 10 sur – 08 (La Aguacatala, in El Poblado, next to EAFIT University), ,  Clean sheets, pillows, blankets and towels. Cooking facilities, hammocks, hot water, Wi-Fi, swimming pool.
  • International House MedellinCalle 32B # 66C – 06 (right across entrance #2 of Unidad Deportiva de Belén), ,  Hostel run by a traveler in a residential area with good connections to public transport. Free, very fast WiFi; awesome, really well-equipped, communal rooftop-kitchen (with lots of fridges for guests to use); laundry for COP$10,000 per load. Work & travel-friendly. Free sports facilities just across the road, huge mall and supermarket within 5 minutes walking distance. Small shop downstairs for snacks and drinks. Non-smoking except for balconies and rooftop. Very helpful and caring staff. US$7 for dorm, US$300/month for private room.
  • Lucia CentralCalle 54 Numero 36 A-36, 050013 Medellin (From the city center walk up Calle 54.), ,  Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AMA brand new place with comfortable beds and great breakfast. Extremely friendly owners. COP$20,000.

Respect

Clothing is usually casual but shorts or Bermuda pants are unusual on weekdays. Only young locals will wear them on weekends. Sweaters and jackets are usually not necessary at daytime, occasionally needed at night.

Refrain from joking about drugs, kidnapping or bombings. Many residents of Medellín were personally affected by the violence of the past, and today they consider themselves very modern, forward looking and ready to move on. They do not find these things to be funny. In addition, the police take the security situation very seriously, and you may find yourself detained. Accordingly, there is no official tourism built around the history of Pablo Escobar, and many people do not like to discuss him, although several hostels offer a Pablo Escobar tour. You will receive a lot of puzzled stares if you start asking how to get to the house where he was killed, etc.

When on the Metrocable, remember that it is a functional part of the Metro system, and that many proud residents of the mountainside neighborhoods ride the system to and from work each day. Accordingly, refrain from gawking, commenting on or taking pictures of the neighborhoods below, especially if there are Colombians in your car.

Stay safe due to the Coronavirus situation in Medellín

Medellín is generally a safe city for tourism, depending on the part of town you visit and the hours (like most other cities) and is much safer than in previous years. It was reported that in 2009 the murder rate in Medellín was the lowest in 30 years, while murder rates have since doubled in 2010 in a new surge of violence. According to the US State Department, murders have involved tourists and U.S citizens, and there remains a risk of “terrorist” actions in the urban area. Much of the violence is concentrated within the city’s hillside slums and among known drug traffickers, although richer parts of town have also been afflicted by the latest surge in crime. The poorer neighborhoods in the north-east and north-west of the city should be avoided at both day and night to avoid trouble. Most of the inner city is best avoided at night, maybe excluding El Poblado. Most travelers to Medellín will tell you that they never found themselves in any danger while there, as the city center and touristy neighborhoods and attractions are all heavily policed. Therefore the following advice should not deter your plans to travel there.

Don’t travel alone after dark. Almost anyone who knows anyone who has gotten into trouble in Medellín will tell you that they were doing things that you shouldn’t do in any city, i.e. walk around after dark alone, especially leaving clubs after having been drinking. If you must, travel with a few friends, and at night call a taxi instead of taking it off the curb.

Avoid straying off of the main areas outside of the Santo Domingo Metrocable station, especially after dark; basically, try to stay within sight of the station and library, and you will be fine. Avoid areas of downtown at night, such as the Parque San Antonio area (including outside of the Metro station), Parque Boliviar, and areas directly to the north of Parque Barrio, where there is a lot of prostitution and other shady dealings. During the day, these areas are all perfectly safe with the normal precautions.

As in most large cities, petty crime can be a problem; it is advisable to carry a color copy of your passport rather than the real thing, avoid carrying a wallet and to keep varying amounts of cash in several pockets, socks and bras. Only carry what you will need for the day, and always have enough hidden somewhere to get back to your hotel. However, at most tourist sites, the police have a very heavy presence, so you can feel safe taking pictures and walking around during the day. Avoid parks, muggers with knives wait for tourists in parks near hotels in the affluent areas of the city, such as El Poblado.

Avoid accepting drinks from strangers. One common organized scam reported recently involves girls being overly friendly to gringos at a club, buying them drinks and then asking to go home with them. The drinks end up being drugged, and the girls make off with money, credit cards and other valuables. It is not very common for Medellín locals to go home with other locals to hook up; rather, cheap hotels are used. So one should be suspicious of overly friendly girls asking to come to your hotel or residence from a club.

Many people sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of the small-time vendors selling anything from fruit, ice cream, cigarettes, lottery tickets, cell phone chargers, trinkets, to hats. However, a simple “no, gracias” will deter them from bothering you.

As Colombia is still a country with a “macho man” mindset, women might be the subject of lewd comments, cat-calling, or whistling. Women shouldn’t take this personally – although women have the same rights as women in the US and elsewhere, it’s just the culture.

Do not, under any circumstances, make any jokes about the use of cocaine or bombs. The Colombian police take jokes as threats, and you may find yourself in a police station explaining yourself to unsympathetic police officers. Under normal circumstances, police officers are usually kind and helpful towards tourists.

The age of consent in Colombia is 14, which does not apply to prostitution which is a crime with minors under 18. The drinking age is 18. Minors are not allowed to be in possession of alcohol at any time, and they may not enter night clubs of any kind. If a minor is found to be in a night club, the entire club will be immediately closed for violating a national law (Enforced more in nicer neighborhoods).

Always change your money at the airport or at a bank. Bancolombia is the largest national bank, is based in Medellín and has ATMs almost everywhere. “Street changers” offer tempting rates for your dollar, but be on guard. “Street Changers” palm several of the biggest bills for themselves. Do not flaunt large amounts of money around. ATM machines are your best bet for dealing with the complexities of various money changers.

When using an ATM machine (only delivers pesos) it is wise to use machines in a mall (Spanish: centro comercial), one of the large superstores (such as Exito, Jumbo or Metro) or grocery stores (such as Carulla), then take your time walking around a bit. Don’t rush out the door. If someone is watching people at the ATM, they will wait for you to leave, and possibly rob you on the street down the road. Using ATMs on the street is not advisable in Colombia.

Health

  • The water in Medellín is potable, although bottled water is always available everywhere for the extra-cautious.
  • In Medellin, you are at no risk of many tropical diseases like malaria, cholera, yellow fever, leishmaniasis or Chagas disease because of its altitude and a very good vaccination program that eradicated all vectors for those diseases.
  • If only staying in Medellin and/or Bogoto no extra vaccinations are required. Though, if traveling to the far south a yellow fever vaccination is required and one might be asked to provide proof of it; you can get it for free Monday to Saturday, from AMm on, at Carrera 45 # 50-48 (El Palo con la Playa), Edificio El Doral, Consultorio 203 (first floor). It takes 10 days to become effective.
  • Altitude is generally not a problem for foreigners since Medellín is approximately 1,500 m (4,921 ft) above sea-level (about the same as Denver, USA). However, some who reside at or around sea-level may experience some minor effects their first night. If this is the case, it is advisable to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol on the way there and on the first night.

Telecommunications in Medellín

Telephone

  • International country codes: Colombia 57, City code Medellín 4. When calling a mobile from outside Colombia dial 57-3 (i.e., +57 311 xxx xx xx don’t double the 3).
  • To make an international call from Colombia, dial the access code 005 (Orbitel), 007 (ETB) or 009 (Movistar), followed by the country code, area code and party’s number.
  • Many local phones are blocked for direct international calling, but calling through an operator will work many phones: Call 159 for the operator.
  • For all local phone calls you have to dial only 7 digits.
  • When calling from a local phone into a cell phone you have to dial ’03’ then the 10 digit mobile number.
  • When calling from a Mobile to a local phone: dial 03 + (city code) + 7 digit phone number.
  • Emergencies dial 123

Mobile services: There are several mobile phone companies in Colombia (Claro, Movistar, TIGO, Uff!, UNE, ETB and Avantel). Calling mobile phones is more expensive than calling local numbers but not prohibitive. In crowded places is common to find people selling ‘minutes’ to make calls from their cell phones, usual range of prices from COP 100 to 200 per minute for domestic calls. All mobile numbers have 10 digits (The digit 3 is always first).

Internet

There are many internet cafes throughout the city. The appendix for Colombian web addresses is .co

Mail

Regular mail in Colombia is quite dismal [27] as you can not attach the stamps yourself and always have to go to a post office. There are very few offices in each city, usually downtown. With this background, private mail couriers have flourished with better service and more offices. There are close to 10 different companies, among the most popular are Coordinadora and TCC. Both have agreements with international delivery services and cover the world over.

Newspapers

There are 4 daily newspapers in town:

  • El Colombiano is the second largest paper in the country with somewhat conservative views. Interestedly it has a few vignettes with the most important news in English – look for ‘Antioquia Bilingue ‘.
  • El Mundo has a liberal point of view. [28]
  • The small format news outlets Q’hubo and ADN are easily available.

For the country Colombia Reports is a good source of news in English. [29]

A good monthly paper about life downtown, with long articles (sorry, only for masters of the Spanish language), is Universo Centro. [30]

Online music

  • Paisa Estereo is an online radio station streaming to more than 174 countries from Medellín

TV stations

Six local stations are available in cable services, air broadcast and most can be watched online.

  • Teleantioquia has local news and entertainment. The news outlet has hearing impaired caption. It promotes its non-violent programming. The channel is also available online.
  • TeleMedellín, online at: [31]. Also has an app for the iPhone.
  • Une .
  • Cosmovisión.
  • Canal U the local universities medium [32].
  • Televida is a regional catholic TV channel based in Medellín. [33].

Cope

Medical services

There are plenty of good hospitals and clinics in Medellín unfortunately English is not widely spoken by doctors and nurses. Most upscale hotels have medical services in house.

  • Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul covers almost all specialties with emphasis in transplantation, trauma.
  • Clinica Cardiovascular is the local reference for cardiovascular medicine in adults and children.
  • Hospital Pablo Tobon Uribe a non for profit with excellent services.
  • Clinica Medellín with its main building downtown and a smaller branch in neighborhood El Poblado.
  • Clinica el Rosario has 2 sites, the one in El Poblado is modern, calm and oriented for international patients.

Consulates

  • Austria Austria. Address Cr 43A No. 14-109. Phone: +57 4 266-5757, ext. 119/ Fax: +57 4 268-2858
  • Belgium Belgium – Bélgica. Address Diagonal 75B No. 2A-120, Of. 309. Phone +57 4) 341-6060/ Fax: +57 4 341-2946
  • Bolivia Bolivia Address Cl 10 No. 41-9, Of. 301. Phone +57 4 381-7601/ Fax: +57 4 268-2706
  • Brazil Brazil – Brasil Address Cl 29D No. 55-91. Phone +57 4 265-7565/ Fax: +57 4 265-5211
  • Chile Chile Address Cr 48 No. 12sur-70, Ed. El Crucero, Of. 808. Phone +57 4 313-2209 or +57 4 313-5264/ Fax: +57 4 313-1608
  • Costa Rica Costa Rica Address Cr 43A No. 14-109 Ed. Nova Tempo, Of. 309. Phone +57 4 381-7549 or +57 4 312-2391
  • Denmark Denmark – DinamarcaCl 49 No.50-21, Of. 1904, .
  • Ecuador Ecuador Address Cl 50 No.52-22, Ed. Banco de Caldas, Of. 802. Phone +57 4 512-1193
  • El Salvador El Salvador Address Cl 10B No. 35-27. Phone +57 4 266-5433/ Fax: +57 4 266-5586
  • France FranceCr 52 No. 14-200, local 204, , fax+57 4 265-7291.
  • Germany Germany – AlemaniaAddress Cr 43F No. 17-419, , fax+57 4 232-8474.
  • Italy Italy – ItaliaCl 31 No. 43A-172, , fax+57 4 262-3139.
  • Mexico México Address Cl 50 No. 42-54, piso 2. Phone +57 4 239-0456/ Fax: +57 4 239-7062
  • Netherlands Netherlands – HolandaAddress Cr 52 No. 51A-23, Of. 401-402, , fax+57 4 251-0314.
  • Panama Panamá Address Cl 10 No. 42-45, Of. 233. Phone +57 4 268-1157/ Fax: +57 4 288-6108
  • Peru Perú Address Cl 4 sur No.43A-195 Ed. Centro Ejecutivo. Phone +57 4 268-7285/ Fax: +57 4 268-7293
  • South Korea South Korea – Corea del Sur Address Cr 42 (Autopista Sur) No. 54A-22, Itagüí. Phone +57 4 372-0755/ Fax: +57 4 373-6289
  • Spain Spain – España Address Cr 42 No.10-11. Phone +57 4 312-0400/ Fax: +57 4 266-5364
  • Sweden Sweden – SueciaAddress Cr 43A No. 1 sur-31 Ed. Banco Ganadero, Of. 401, , fax+57 4 268-7878.
  • Switzerland Switzerland – SuizaCr 68 No. 48D-48, , fax+57 4 260-1881.
  • United Kingdom Reinos UnidosCarrera 49 No. 46A sur-103, Envigado, , fax+57 4 331-0046.
  • Venezuela Venezuela Address Cl 32B No.69-59. Phone +57 4 235-0359 or +57 4 351-1644/Fax: +57 4 351-1909
  • There is no consulate for CanadaChinaIndonesia or the United States of America in Medellín, but each has a national embassy in Bogotá.

Laundry

Laundromats are scarce in Colombia, but full-service laundry and dry cleaning shops are commonly found in important streets and some shopping malls.

Electricity

It is 110-120 volts for the country, using two-prong outlets (the same as in USA).

Go next

East

  • Guatape and La Piedra del Peñol: Guatape is located approximately 90 minutes outside of Medellín and is a popular recreational and ecotourism destination for many Colombians and foreign travelers. Half the fun of traveling to Guatape is driving through the Colombian countryside lined with beautiful rolling hills, small towns, farms and friendly people. Once you arrive in Guatape you will notice that the town borders a reservoir built for a hydroelectric dam. The lake covers thousands of acres and can be explored and enjoyed by renting a boat or taking one of the large party boats available on weekends. Guatape has new resort hotels, restaurants, homes, and recreational rentals (boats and water skis) bordering the lake. The huge Rock (La Piedra del Peñol a.k.a. Peñón de Guatape) that borders the lake is an unexplained geological phenomenon. With 2/3 of its height below ground, the exposed vertical face is over 200 m high (660 ft) and visible from throughout the surrounding countryside. Anyone can scale the rock for a few thousand pesos via a staircase built into one side, the view is breathtaking. On the top of the rock, a restaurant offers outdoor tables overlooking views that stretch to the horizon in every direction. There are buses going about every hour from the Medellín North bus terminal. Pablo Escobar, the famous drug lord, once called Guatape his home and built several big Casas on its lakeshores. His presence made Guatape a dangerous place for both foreign visitors and local Colombians. After his death Guatape transformed into a quiet town that’s growing as a tourism destination. Escobar’s main home is now a bombed out shell that is easily viewed from the lake.
  • Natural Reserve of Río Claro This private nature reserve began in 1970 with the intention of supporting the protection of tropical rainforests in the Canyon of Rio Claro, while developing ecotourism with recreational-educational programs. The lime-stone, marble deposits and the river bed are beyond amazing. [34] Accommodations with optional open to the forest cabins are available. Day tours from Medellín are also available with optional activities to choose from such as cave trekking, white water scenic rafting, kayaking and canopy adventures to name a few.
  • Extreme sports: Montevivo is a reservation in Santa Elena, 30 minutes up the hill from Medellín. It has 5 aerial ropeslides, one is around 400 m long, among the largest in the world. You can canopy, trek, even sleep in the park. Phone: +57 4 538 0279. email: montevivo@montevivo.org
  • Parque Arví Comfama: Near Santa Elena, this adventure park has a wide range of hiking trails and is famous with locals for its canopying, a sport where a person navigates the forest canopy with zip lines, wire bridges and rope swings. Gloves are recommended for this activity, as it can be hard on your hands. They can be purchased from a kiosk immediately up the hill from the canopy park.

West

  • Santa Fe de Antioquia, a tropical town with beautiful colonial architecture. An annual film festival draws the national elite and cinema lovers to this charming spot. This cobblestoned street town founded in 1541 was the former capital of the Antioquia Province until 1826 when it was ordained to Medellín.

South

  • Most of the coffee in the country grows in the Andes region southwest of Medellín and most of the traditions of the coffee growers are the same as in this city. Indeed, world famous Juan Valdez has lived in Medellín for over 3 decades. There are most of 20 small towns southwest of Medellín (Suroeste Antioqueño) where you can see Juan, mule Conchita and Grab Life by the Beans.
  • Jardín is a quaint little town that displays beautiful local architecture, 2½-hour drive southwest of Medellín. The main plaza is lined with several outdoor cafes, a large stone built church dominates this plaza. Local fresh trout is easily available at many eateries in town and a couple of countryside restaurants. Probably Jardín’s most spellbinding natural attraction is the Splendor Cave. LandVenture Travel offers day tours from Medellín to the Splendor Cave plus visiting sugar cane mills, coffee mills and other great tourist attractions that Jardín has to offer.
  • In the very southern tip of the Antioquia Department there is a small country hotel overlooking the Cauca river. Terrific views of the canyon, ecological paths, swimming pool. Hotel Pipintá

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Colombia

Popayan Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Popayán (pronounced: Po – pa – ‘yan) is a colonial-era city in southwestern Colombia. It is the capital of the Cauca department.

Understand

The city was founded in 1537 by Sebastian de Belalcazar. Because of its beautiful colonial houses, it is known as the “white city”. Popayan has played a major role in Colombia’s history dating back to the early days of the Spanish conquest and into the 20th century. A number of Colombian presidents were born in Popayan including, most recently, Guillermo Leon Valencia from 1962 to 1966. Other well-known citizens include Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816) and Camilo Torres (1766-1816). Popayán has one of Colombia’s oldest universities: the Universidad del Cauca, founded in 1827. The university is well known throughout the country for its Law School, Medical School, and its Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering programs. Nowadays around 220,000 people live in the city.

Climate & Weather

Get in

By plane

Popayan’s airport does not have heavy traffic but you can reach the city by air. There are about four daily flights from Bogota to Popayan and vice versa. The airport is open between 6AM and 6PM. There are no flights between Cali and Popayan. The airport in the neighbouring city of Cali (100-minute car ride) serves many domestic and international destinations.

By bus

There are numerous bus companies available. One of the most reliable bus operators is Expreso Bolivariano. Avoid Expreso Puerto Tejada and Expreso Palmira. There is significant guerrilla activity in the countryside near Popayan and it can be risky to travel by land during periods of disturbance if you are not a local. There are daily buses from the border town of Ipiales.

  • from Cali: COP$12,000, 3 hours with minibus COP$14,000, 2 hours
  • from Armenia : COP$40,000, 7 hours (several a day)
  • from Medellín: COP$60,000, 11 hours (7PM, 8PM, 1AM)
  • from San Agustin: COP$34,000, 5 hours (six a day)
  • from Tierradentro: COP$20,000, 4 hours (5AM, 8AM, 10:30AM, 1PM, 3PM)
  • from Pasto: COP$25,000, roughly 6 hours, but double check before you go
  • from Ipiales: COP$25,000 – 40,000, 7-8 hours (better during the day) – Many buses leave in the early morning.

Get around

Popayan is a small city and it is an easy 10-15 minute walk between the bus station and the centre. The historical centre is fairly compact and best explored on foot. Taxis are plentiful and can bring you at the bus terminal for around COP$3,000.

See

Since Popayan was a seat of power during Spanish colonial times, there are numerous architectural gems in the city. Some of the most impressive are, naturally, churches. Do not miss:

  • Iglesia de San FranciscoCalle 4 and Carrera 9Large baroque church built during the 16th century but then destroyed by and earthquake in 1736. It was rebuilt in 1790. Its tower contains one of the biggest bell of America made from gold and bronze. Inside the church, there are ten decorated altars. free.
  • Iglesia La ErmitaCalle 5 and Carrera 2The church Ermita de Jesús Nazareno is the oldest church of the city dates back to 1546. It has a refined altar and colonial paintings (frescoes) that were discovered after the 1983 earthquake.
  • BelenSmall church perched on top of a small hill overlooking Popayan.
  • Parque de CaldasPopayan’s central square, named after one of Popayan’s most famous citizens: Francisco Jose de Caldas (1768-1816). A statue of him is visible in the center of the square. On one side of the square is a city landmark called the Torre del Reloj or the ‘Clock Tower.’ The clock was designed by Caldas himself and was constructed in Croydon, England before being shipped to Colombia. A few doors down from the Torre del Reloj is the city’s Cathedral, which was badly damaged during the major earthquake that almost destroyed the whole city on March 31, 1983. The city took almost 20 years to fully recover from the quake but the vast majority of the buildings in the white colonial centre have now been restored to their former glory.

As for government buildings the Gobernacion and the Universidad del Cauca have excellent colonial premises.

  • Puente del HumilladeroCarrera 6 and Calle 2Another architectural site which is a long walking bridge over a river in Popayan that was constructed in old Roman style.
  • El Morro de TulcánCalle 7 and Carrera 2a hill which was an Indian pyramid dating before 1535. On the top of the hill there is a statue dedicated to the Conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar which founded the Spanish establishment of Popayán. The top offers a perfect view of the city and during week-end, a crowd is there to enjoy the sunset. free.

Also you can see other older religious traditions like of the Amo Jesus Nazareno of Puelenje is a Catholic image, that is worshiped in the temple of Puelenje, district of Popayan, Colombia. Patron Saint of this place. It is a polychrome wood sculpture of Jesus Christ of the eighteenth century made ​​in the Quito school. Is Baroque. The image also scrolls the Holy Wednesday. In the processions of Holy Week in Popayán that are inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.This religious festival is celebrated by the natives of Puelenje for 15 days, where there are fireworks, processions, religious ceremonies and cultural events as the Chirimia.

Do

The city is world-renowned for its Easter celebrations, or the Semana Santa. In fact, the celebrations are the second largest in the world (after Seville, Spain) and are a major sight! Every night during Semana Santa, there are processions in the streets and tens of thousands of people line the sidewalks to watch as floats pass by with religious motifs. The floats are carried on the shoulders of human volunteers. It’s a great honour to be selected for the Semana Santa processions but the floats can weigh up to 500 kg and so dislocated shoulders are frequent. It’s a major cultural event that is witnessed by people from all over the country.

Learn

  • Universidad del CaucaCalle 5 and Carrera 5The University of Cauca has 9 faculties in which it provides undergraduate and graduate training in different areas of knowledge like Telecommunications, Civil Engineering, Human Sciences and Arts. University of Cauca on Wikipedia

Buy

You can buy some handicrafts. They are specially made by guambiano indians

Eat

In 2005, Popayan became the first city to be designated a City of Gastronomy as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. For cheap and genuine food, try the market near Plaza Bolivar, north of the Puente del Humilladero. Meals from COP$5,000.

  • Carantanta: A kind of chip typical from the Cauca departement made from corn, It can be eaten with a soup.
  • Pipian: A sauce made from peanuts. Can be served with tamales or very small “empanadas”, which are potato doughnuts.
  • Champús: Drink made from crushed maize, in addition to panela, lulo, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves and leaves of the orange tree.
  • Manjar Blanco or Payanés: a typical sweet cream made from milk, sugar and rice.
  • Manjarillo: dulce de leche with panela (unrefined whole cane sugar).
  • Dulce cortado de leche: another variation of dulce de leche with cloves and cinamon.
  • Breva Calada: dessert made of figs cooked with panela served on top of white cheese. Usually made for Christmas.
  • Helado de Paila: Ice cream made in a large shallow and heavy copper bowl.
  • Envuelto: Corn cake wrapped in a plantain leef. Can be eaten with cheese.
  • Rosquilla: the Popayan version of the donut.
  • Cuaresnor Pan TolimaCarrera 6 and Calle 4, . 6AM–9PMSimple place to try some of the Cauca specialties. The place has also a nice bakery. Lunch COP$7,000.

Vegetarian option:

El MuroCarrera 8a, #4-11dishes and a drink for $4000.

Real santo domingo (calle 4 # 2-39), . Crepes + Gaseosa (option of chicken or meat or fruits) $3,900

Cakes and morecarrera 2 #2-35, . Amazing cakes.

Stay safe

Popayán is in Cauca, which was considered one of the most dangerous departments in Colombia in 2011.  In 2011 several car bombs rocked central Popayán, with the authorities blaming local armed and mafia groups for the actions.  stay alert for information regarding drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitaries, as this city and its surroundings sees the presence of countless armed groups.

Drink

Aguardiente caucano is a drink based on Anis and it has some degrees of alcohol. It’s the favorite drink in informal parties.

  • El SotareñoCalle 6, 8-05A small and friendly bar with oldish music and good atmosphere.

Where to stay in Popayan

  • Hostel CaracolCalle 4 #2-21 (4 blocks from the main square and just 300m from La Ermita church), ,  Opened in October 2011, this is one of the most laid-back hostels in the city. It’s in a beautiful 16th-century colonial building in the heart of the colonial centre. Offers: Free Wifi, Computers with internet, 24-hour access, kitchen, DVD room, Lockers with power sockets, lots of information on trips. The hostel also offers the best deals on long-stay rates. Dorms: COP$27,000, private room: COP$48,000, doubles: COP$62,000.
  • Hostel TrailCarrera 11 #4-16 (20 meters from Hotel Monasterio), ,  The backpacker’s choice in Popayan since 2006 and rated considered by the rough guide to be “one of the best hostels in the country…” with private and dorm rooms, the fastest broadband internet in the city, free Wi-Fi, Skype, DVD Collection, lockers with power points, hot water showers, laundry and self-catering kitchen and breakfast service. HostelTrail also runs most of the tours in Popayan including the downhill cycling trip to Coconuco. Wednesday night is curry night. COP$10,000 for a curry and a drink. Dorms: COP$23,000, doubles: COP$62,000, singles: COP$40,000.
  • ParkLife HostelCalle 5 #6-19 (In the central park besides the Cathedral), ,  Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noonThis hostel is right in the center of Popayan, in the Prque Caldas. It is in a beautiful colonial building with amazing views to the Popayan main square. In the past few months the area has been reserved only for pedestrians so that tranquility is a guarantee. It’s good karma and low prices have atracted many visitors trying to visit the city or its surroundings. The services include free Wi-Fi, laundry service, big common areas, and free use of the kitchen. The area is very close to several coffee shops, supermarkets and the main commercial street. Dorms COP$25,000, doubles COP$55,000.
  • Hotel Pass HomeCalle 5 #10-114 (five streets down the hill from the central park), ,  This hotel is clean and the owners (Colombian family) are very friendly. If you need a place for a tent, you can pitch here as well for COP$10,000 and you can use the kitchen for free. Free WiFi. Private rooms have cable TV with 106 channels in English, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, etc. You can also purchase a breakfast, lunch, and dinner package with local Popayan cuisine for COP$10,000 per day. Dorms COP$18,000, singles COP$25,000, doubles COP$36,000.
  • Residencial FloridaCarrera 6Very simple rooms with shared toilet/bathroom. Singles from COP$7000.
  • Hotel Monasterio (Dann Hotel), Calle 4, between Carreras 10 and 11This is a city landmark in itself. It used to be a Monastery and it was converted into a very nice hotel. It is behind the Iglesia de San Jose. It is about 4 city blocks from the Parque de Caldas. $$$.
  • Hotel Camino RealCarrera 5 # 5-59 (Half a block away from Parque Caldas), . This is a very good hotel in the city center. The food is unexpectedly sophisticated. The service is cordial, especially important for non-Spanish speaking guests. The decor reflects the Spanish influence, but makes you feel at home. The rooms are comfortable for the business traveler as well as for visiting families. Reasonably priced rooms in the heart of the city. $$.
  • Casa Familiar TuristicaCarrera 5 No. 2-07, . This is a smallish family run hostel with an excellent location right inside the historical center. The family seems mostly indifferent, neither helpful or rude. It offers two hot showers, kitchen use (with a fee), laundry service and breakfast for COP$3,000. Price for a dormbed was COP$13,000 but has been rising.
  • La Casa de MimaCalle 3 # 2 -37 (5 blocks away from Parque Caldas), . Once a family home, now attended by owner. Very convenient location in a quiet downtown street. Rooms are large, most with private bathroom. Back garden, small swimming pool. Check-in can be arranged for guest convenience. COP$70,000.
  • Coffee Break HostelCarrera 1 #3-27Hostel located in the university neighbor. The center is at a five minutes walk distance as well as other attractions. The staff is very friendly and will help you organize tours. Rooms are comfortable and clean. The common space is nice with hammocks and pizza oven. Large and clean kitchen with everything to cook. COP$25,000 for a dormitory bed, COP$50,000 for a double room..
  • There is a lot of budget accommodation in Carrera 6, just across the Puente del Humilladero, north of the Rio Molino.

Go next

  • Coconuco, one hour from Popayan, this small town offers the Hirviendos hot springs. HostelTrail (see Sleep) also runs the most popular trip in Popayan which is a downhill cycling trip to Aguas Hirviendos. The tour leaves at 10PM from HostelTrail and returns at around 3-4PM in the afternoon.
  • Puracé National Natural Park, a national park two hours from Popayan, where it is possible to trek to the top of the Purace volcano or look for Andean wildlife. The bus leaves for the park at 5am from the main station.
  • Salvajina
  • Silvia, about one hour from Popayan, in the land of the Guambiano Indians. There is a spectacular market there on Tuesdays.
  • San Agustin, a small town with dozens of pre-Colombian statues, waterfalls and beautiful views can be reached in about 5 hours.

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Colombia

Bogota Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Bogotá’s sheer size and (outdated) violent reputation are intimidating for visitors, but the city opens up to the savvy traveler with incredible riches befitting the capital of Colombia, and one of the biggest cities in Latin America. Historic riches—its well preserved historical quarter has a good claim to be the original capital of Spanish colonial South America, as the capital of the vast New Kingdom of Granada, placed strategically close to mythical El Dorado. Artistic riches—the small historical quarter alone is home to dozens of experimental theaters, and diverse art galleries dot the most popular neighborhoods pressed against the dramatic Eastern Andes peaks. Culinary riches—its several dining districts play host to world-class restaurants representing all the world’s cuisines, traditional and modern, frequented by the local jet set crowd. Rich with nightlife, the party lasts well into the night at sweaty salsa clubs, English pubs, caffeinated indie rock shows, cocktail lounges, steakhouses-cum-dance parties, and amidst drawn-out conversations in coffeeshops and corner cafes in this decidedly intellectual university town known as the Athens of South America. You could see the sights in a few days, or linger for a month to live the cosmopolitan life.

Bogotá Districts

The city of Bogotá is divided into 20 distinct localities, or Districts, and every visit to this city should include touring at least three or four of them, depending on the purpose and extent of one’s travel. The “must-sees” include La Candelaria, Chapinero-Zona T, and the Zona Rosa. A little extra time to explore La Macarena in Santa Fé, Parque 93, and Usaquén’s colonial center would be time well spent.

La Candelaria
Despite having a bit of a (snarky) reputation among well-to-do Bogotanos as a slum filled with drug-abusing hipsters, La Candelaria is the city’s beautiful historic district, the seat of the national government, a bohemian hotspot for the arts, has a good claim to be the original capital of South America—all travelers must visit.
Santa Fé-Los Mártires
The traditional downtown area, which surrounds La Candelaria, has far less appeal to more cautious tourists due to frequent violent crime, but travelers should make a point to visit the great restaurants in its (safe) northern neighborhood, La Macarena, near the International Center.
Chapinero-Zona G
El Chapinero is one of the city’s genuinely coolest neighborhoods, and the center of gay nightlife. Zona G is arguably the best spot in the city for fine dining.
Zona Rosa
Every great South American city has a Zona Rosa—it’s the dedicated nightlife district, heavily policed, and filled with restaurants, pretty leafy streets, and expensive clubs!
Parque 93
Of the city’s nightlife/fine-dining districts, Parque 93 is the most laid back. The focus is on the establishments lining the park, with its festivals and beautiful views towards the mountains.
Usaquén
Favored by wealthy Bogotanos, Usaquén has huge high-end shopping malls, an old colonial center, a huge golf course, and restaurants and clubs off-the-beaten-path (for tourists).
Teusaquillo-Salitre
Teusaquillo-Salitre is home to the National University, the imposing fortress of the U.S. Embassy, shopping at the slightly edgy neighborhood of Galerias, big parks that host major festivals, the planned city of Ciudad Salitre and its burgeoning business district, and virtually all of the city’s major sports venues.
Northwest
A mix of wealthy and middle class neighborhoods, firmly off the beaten path for travelers, despite being just west of the major nightlife districts to the east.
West
A vast and confusing jumble of poor and middle class neighborhoods and El Dorado International Airport.
South
The much maligned South. It’s arguably the most dangerous and pretty clearly the poorest part of town, and it’s a rather huge area, with over a quarter of the city’s population. There is in fact plenty to do here, for the most intrepid travelers, in addition to Sumapaz National Park in the extreme, rural south.

Understand

With a population of about 8.8 million people, Bogotá sits approximately 8,660 feet (2640 m) above sea level in the Colombian Andes region. Orientation is relatively easy, as the mountains to the east are generally visible from most parts of the city.

To understand the sheer size of the city, consider that Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York City are the only North American cities larger than Bogotá. In fact, in 2008 the World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) from the United Kingdom ranked Bogotá as a world city comparable to San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Dubai, Buenos Aires or Berlin, grouped by their economical, political and cultural developments. What this means for the traveler is a world class urban destination.

Bogotá is a city of contrasts, and as such it offers a unique experience to its visitors. Prepare to find a hectic balance between the new and the old; the peaceful and the frantic. Encounter century-old plazas and churches shadowed by towering skyscrapers. Find peaceful tree lined bicycle routes cut through by wild-traffic avenues. Bogotá is a city with many layers. From internationally recognized universities to regional offices for multinational companies, Bogotá is Colombia’s capital for official business dealings. It is a city that caters to a population that has been exposed to European and North American influences, which ensures that anything from traditional dishes (Ajiaco) to sushi or fast food restaurants can be found. It’s one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities of Latin America.

Bogotá is divided by 4 sections: The South which is mainly the poorer section of the city, its population is most working class residents; The Downtown, is the city’s original Downtown and hosts most of its traditional heritage locations, city and public offices, and financial headquarters. Few people live in the area. The West, which is home to Bogotá’s major sporting venues and outdoor parks, as well as residence areas for main middle class living; and The North which is where most modern development has taken place, and combines many upscale living spaces with affluent shopping centers, boutiques, cafes, nightclubs, and many new business neighborhoods offering headquarters to many multinational corporations and neighborhoods for upper-middle and upper class residents.

During the last decades, due to the city’s exponential growth, some of neighboring towns have been absorbed and are now considered within the metropolitan area of Greater Bogotá, like Chia, Soacha and Mosquera.

Get in

Fly to Bogotá

The city is served by El Dorado International Airport  (~20 minutes from downtown in a taxi), that receives several flights daily from New York City, Washington D.C., Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Houston, Miami International Airport, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, São Paulo, Madrid–Barajas Airport, Barcelona El Prat Airport, Frankfurt Airport, Mexico City, San José, Lima, Buenos Aires, Panama (disambiguation), Quito, Guayaquil, Oranjestad (Aruba), Willemstad (Curaçao) and Toronto among others. Tourists can also take advantage of the convenient connections and direct flights from Los Angeles, Washington, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Punta Cana, Valencia (Venezuela), La Habana, Montego Bay, London, Frankfurt and Orlando. Many international airlines such as JetBlue, United, Delta, Iberia, Air France, Lufthansa, Air Canada, American Airlines, LAN, Gol, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Spirit, and AeroGal amongst others.

Domestic flights are served by many airlines including Avianca (main Colombian airline), Copa Airlines, LAN, EasyFly, Satena, and VivaColombia (a low-cost airline). Domestic flights of Avianca are served from the Puente Aéreo terminal, next to El Dorado terminal, and features WiFi access to the Internet from almost every location. There are more than 20 daily flights to the 2 airports located in Medellín, over 15 daily flights to Cali and more than 10 to Cartagena. Taxis are regulated, reasonably priced and safe from the airport. El Dorado Airport is undergoing a complete makeover, which will end in 2012 and will make it bigger and more comfortable. El Dorado is also the third busiest airport in Latin America and the largest by cargo movement.

To get out from the airport into the city there are a couple of options:

  1. Regulated taxis. You first have to search for a stand where you will have to point out your destination and then they will print out a ticket indicating the price you will have pay. Then, pick up a taxi from the line and explain to the driver your destination. At the end of the journey you will have to pay only what is printed out in the ticket. The typical price will range from COP$15,000 to 25,000.
  2. Bus. Walking only some meters outside the main door entrance, you will find a “paradero” (bus stop) with frequent busetas passing by. Although this is by far the cheapest option (around COP$1,500), it can be daring if you don’t know the city already, since the bus only indicates the main places where it passes by. However, bus drivers are friendly and quite helpful, and you can ask them to indicate you when the bus is passing a certain point of the city. A good option is to ask him to drop you close by a Transmilenio station and then continue your trip from there.
  3. Transmilenio. Bogotá’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system extends to El Dorado avenue, so you can use the system to get into and out of the airport. You can only use the system if you have small luggage – you might not be allowed into the stations if you are carrying big suitcases. To get out, find the “Alimentador” (feeder) stops in front of the main terminal or the Puente Aéreo (if you travel with Avianca) – it is a green bus with “Transmilenio” on the side. This bus will bring you for free to the main “Portal El Dorado” station. Buy the Tullave card before entering the station, and take the bus you need. People with Transmilenio or blue SITP jackets are ready to help (although most of them do not speak English – bring your Spanish phrasebook).
The safety of bus travel in Colombia has greatly improved. However, foreigners should be cautious not to travel to areas of unrest and travel only during the day. Do not carry large amounts of cash with you as robberies are known to occur along some routes. Service in the ‘upscale’ buses is very good and they are very comfortable. Pick the most expensive service (just a couple of dollars extra) as these buses tend to be newer and better mechanical condition. Bogotá is also building 2 new terminals, one located far south and one on the north corner to serve buses going on those directions.

Buses run in and out of Bogotá’s main station, El Terminal de Transporte de Bogotá. The station is clean and has standard amenities. Located at Calle 22 B, No 69-59, several bus companies have regular routes to destinations around the country. To get there from the airport, you can take a short taxi ride.

Take into consideration that most of the restaurants serving within the terminal can be expensive by Colombian standards, but well served. In case of need, it may be advisable to order a dish for 2 people or just to check places around the station.

The Terminal is divided in several color-coded areas that indicate the destinations to which companies in that area travel to : Yellow = South, Blue = East and West, Red = North and International, Purple = Arrivals.

The terminal’s website has a useful Search Engine . Simply enter your destination as “destino” and it will list the companies serving that destination, schedules, and approximate price.

Some common bus companies in Colombia that are found in this Terminal are :

  • Expreso Bolivariano : This company has one of the most extensive networks. Some international destinations as well.
  • Coomotor : Mostly destinations in Southern Colombia.

Get around

The city of Bogotá is built on a grid system. A rather imperfect one, actually. Chaotic urban sprawl in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly driven by violence in the countryside and the immigration that ensued, made the city develop without any effective long term urban planning (or, in some cases, just plain bad urban planning). This has resulted in a lot of irregular blocks, twisting streets, and diagonals cutting across what is supposed to be a perfect grid. Therefore, the apparently straightforward street address system has historically been more of a guideline as to where things are than a precise way to get to places. An update of the street addresses in much of the city was directed towards solving some glaring inconsistencies in getting around. Most places that tourists visit are easy to find nowadays, but you have been warned.

Carreras (roads) are abbreviated as Cr., Kra., and Cra. and run parallel to the mountains from South to North. Carrera numbers increase from East to West, away from the mountains – so Carrera 7 is near the mountains and Carrera 100 is far from them – except for a very few carreras near the mountains that increase in reverse order and that have names like “Carrera 1 E” (‘E’ standing for East).

Calles (streets) cross the carreras and run from East to West. Calles are abbreviated as Cll. and Cl. For half of the city (the northern half tourists are most likely to visit) calle numbers increase from South to North – so Calle 13 is near the center of the city, whereas Calle 250 is one the last streets before exiting Bogota on the northern side. Calles in the southern half work similarly to ‘East’ carreras near the mountains: the southern calle numbers increase from North to South, mirroring streets in the northern half. These are called things like “Calle 85 S” (‘S’ standing for South).

Aside from calles and carreras, there are ‘diagonales’ and ‘transversales’. As their names suggest, they are not perfectly parallel to calles and carreras. However, the same numbering system applies to them. Diagonales are supposed to be deviations from calles, whereas transversales are supposed to be deviations from carreras. So, for example, Diagonal 107 runs sort of East-West and is somewhere around Calle 106 or 108.

Avenidas, abbreviated as Av. or Ave.., are usually larger, main streets. Geographically speaking, most avenidas somehow fit into one the four categories mentioned above, although some avenidas twist around. They usually have a classification and number as described above, but they also have a distinct name, like “Avenida Suba”, “Avenida Boyacá” and whatnot. So, for example, Avenida Jiménez is a main street and, in the number system, is also called Calle 13.

Each address consists of a street and a series of numbers. For example, Calle 45 No. 24-15 (sometimes written as CL 45 # 24 – 15 or CL 45 24 15), means (1) the location is on Calle 45, (2) of the two insecting carreras nearby, the one with the lower number is Carrera 24 (since in this case we are talking about carreras, it means the nearest carrera to the East of the location; if we were talking about calles, it would be the nearest calle to the South of the location), and (3) the location is roughly 15 meters from the intersection of Calle 45 and Carrera 24. Furthermore, since the last number, 15, is odd, the location is on the southern side of Calle 24 (if the location were on a carrera, it would be on the west side of it). Even numbers at the end have the opposite meaning.

By taxi

While ubiquitous and affordable, taxis are arguably the most visible representative to the world of Bogotá’s worst side. Travelers used to being cheated by taxi drivers probably aren’t yet acquainted with the paseo millionario, or “Millionaire Ride,” where a taxi driver swings by to pick up well-armed accomplices who then rob you, possibly drug you, and almost certainly take you to multiple ATMs to forcibly withdraw a large sums of money. This rather extreme practice is actually pretty common. Taxis should not be hailed off the street—only called through dispatch. Nice restaurants and any place of lodging will be happy to do this for you, and will express genuine concern if they think you are going to try to hail one. Otherwise, call one yourself at 599-9999, 311-1111 or 411-1111. Sometimes it can take a while to get one, though, so it’s good to have a back up. If public transit isn’t your thing, consider keeping a private car service on hand. They are pretty good deal for the money, when all is considered, and your hotel or business should be able to recommend one.

The cab hailing app Uber is a safe and affordable option in Bogota, though will require you to have Internet access from your phone. Uber rides can take a while to reach you, particularly if you are in the La Candelaria area.

If calling for a taxi, the driver will want to confirm that it is you who called by asking for a “clave” (key), which is always the last two digits of the phone from which you called to request the taxi. Each taxi has a meter which should increment one tick every 1/10 km or 30 seconds and starts at 25 ticks. The rate chart is printed on a card in the taxi. Nearly all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of you in one way or another; be sure the taxi meter is started when you begin your trip. Tipping is never necessary—be sure to count your change and be on the lookout for both counterfeit coins and notes. There are extra charges for the airport, holidays, and nights (after 8PM). Surcharge details are printed on the fare card. Surcharge for ordering a taxi arriving at your house is COP$600, extra charge after 8PM is COP$1,600, even if you are starting your trip before that time. Holidays and Sundays are also extra charged COP$1,600. Lock the doors of the taxi, especially after dark. If you experience a problem in a taxi or with the driver, dial 123 to report a complaint with the police. You should also call the company with which the taxi is registered.

In other hand If you are interested in a more private and professional option, you can hire a Shuttle Service. This kind of services often have wide range of vehicles and can be paid by credit card so you won’t have to worry about carrying cash all the time.

By Transmilenio

Bogota’s rapid bus service, the Transmilenio is extremely affordable, clean and efficient. It carries commuters to numerous corners of the city in exclusive lanes, bypassing the notorious city traffic. Tickets cost COP$2,000-1,700 (you must buy the card beforehand for COP$3,000). The downside, though, is a result of is own success—it’s terribly crowded during rush hour, and even sometimes during the rest of the day.

The vehicles used in that systems are articulated buses; they are fast and safe, but could be full during the afternoon times. The system also uses different kinds of stations: the simples offers bus services at the right and left sides (north-south;east-west) and the intermediates are usually located in middle points and have complete services, such as elevators, station libraries, bikes parks, restrooms. Alimentadores services (buses that reach zones the articulated buses do not) and the portals, the nine arrival and departure places of the buses, are located near the entrances to the city. Service ends 10PM–11PM, depending on the station. Intercity buses from the metropolitan area also arrive at these stations.

The sheer number of bus numbers is quite intimidating, but has a simple logic to it. (If you don’t have time, use the trip planner, and still probably ask some people at the station where to go.) There are actually only ten routes, demarcated by letters (and names, but don’t worry about that). J and L routes will take you into the historic/political center, with J buses even stopping right at the Gold Museum. B buses will take you up through the North, with Calle 85 being the closest stop to the popular Zona Rosa, B buses take you to Portal del Norte, where you can catch inter-city buses up to Zipaquirá (for the Salt Cathedral). K buses head out towards the airport.

Privately owned buses cruise all the main thorough fares and many side streets, and are the principal form of transport for the working class and student class. Though they do follow specific routes, they do not have bus “stops”; you merely call to them like taxis and they will stop for you where you are standing. Placards in the large front windows list destinations, either neighborhoods or main street names. Upon entering you will be asked for the fare; if you are not traveling alone you may be asked “Para ambos?”, for example, meaning “For both?”, to see if you are paying for just yourself or for your companion. Then you pass through a turnstile to the seating areas. The buses come in three sizes, usually, long (like a school bus), medium and small (called busetas). All have turnstiles. To exit these buses, you go to the back door and either push a button located usually on one of the hand rails or next to the exit, or simply call out “Aqui, por favor!” (Here, please!) or “Pare!” (Stop!). Passengers are often expected to embark and disembark even from the middle of the street.

Sometimes vendors are allowed to enter the buses to sell candy or small gift items (occasionally donating one to the driver for the privilege). Or, you may find entertainers such as singers or guitar players, and even the more creative of the street beggars who will regale you with a long, poetic story of their sad situation before asking for donations. Even in the smallest buses, cramped full of people standing and sitting, it is a common sight. A Grammy-nominated singer named Ilona got her start performing on buses around Bogotá.

You can plan which bus you need to take ahead of time using a combination of Google maps (which shows stops and bus lines) and the SITP website, though that works only for SITP buses.

The cost for riding on a private bus normally costs COP$1450 during the day and COP$1500 during the night.

By colectivo

Colectivos cover practically every major route of the city, and can generally be flagged down at any point on a main road. Watch these small buses for lists of destinations displayed on their windshields, or ask the driver (in Spanish) if he passes the neighborhood or intersection you are going to. Not very comfortable, but they are faster than a common bus and it’s also used as a shuttle for routes that don’t have so much affluence, it can take you almost anywhere.

Travel by bicycle in Bogotá

Bogotá has Latin America’s largest network of bicycle routes, called ‘Ciclorutas.’ On Sunday’s and public holidays, many main and secondary roads are closed to cars for the Ciclovia from 7AM-2PM, a special feature of Bogotá, where people can run, bicycle, inline skate or just watch from the side. There are refreshment stands along the way and most parks host some type of event such as yoga, dancing, stretching, spinning, etc. To get a bicycle you can rent a bike or going for a guided Bike tour on Bogota’s Ciclorutas or participating in the Ciclovia are fun and healthy ways to get to know the city, and to get closer to the people.

Sightseeing in Bogotá

Many landmark events in the history of Colombian and South American independence took place in La Candelaria, the historic mid-sixteenth Century colonial neighborhood that hosts the national government, including the near killing and escape of Simon Bolivar, the execution of revolutionary heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta, known as ‘La Pola,’ and the Grito de Libertad, known as the beginning of the region’s revolution. The district is indeed teeming with history, and there are a lot of interesting museums (arguably the best being the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum) and old churches. Some of its lovely streets are pedestrian-only. The most important places are Catedral Primada and Palacio de Nariño on Plaza de Bolívar, Iglesia del Carmen, Biblioteca Luis A Arango, the Colonial Art Museum, and the colonial architecture of the houses and buildings. Almost all the museums are free. La Candelaria also contains numerous Catholic Churches, many of them centuries-old. The Colombian-American and Colombian-French cultural centers are located in La Candelaria, and a Colombian-Spanish cultural center is under construction.

Outside La Candelaria, the most famous site is up the mountains over Santa Fé at the Sanctuary of Monserrate, which you can see from virtually any place in the city. Take the funicular up, or if you are feeling brave and athletic, hike it. Santa Fé also is home to the National Museum and the Modern Art Museum.

The northern neighborhoods that are so popular for dining and nightlife really don’t have all that much to see, in terms of traditional sightseeing, aside from the small colonial center in Usaquén. The park known as Parque 93 is rather pretty, though.

There are a couple interesting sights in Ciudad Salitre, for those either staying out there or those with plenty of time, having seen the more famous sights downtown, including the Botanical Gardens and the Maloka Science Center.

Tours and excursions in Bogotá

Downtown Day Tour

No visitor to Bogota skips the historic Downtown and La Candelaria neighborhood. In fact most affordable lodging and dining options can be found this side of town making it highly desirable by low-budget travelers and backpackers, given its close location to many of the city’s attractions.

Start your way on Avenida Septima and Calle 14, just arriving Parque Santander. Take the opportunity to visit the world famous Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum for its legendary El Dorado collections. Then continue south one block up to Avenida Jimenez and give your camera a workout at one of Bogota’s most famous and historic intersections, where a couple of ancient churches and 19th century buildings collide. Turn east (towards the mountains) and walk up Avenida Jimenez alongside downtown’s famous Eje Ambiental or Environmental Axis, which is a section of the avenue that has been closed off to vehicles except Transmilenio, to make way for a generous tree-lined pedestrian sidewalk and an enclosed water stream. Many historic and famous buildings are located alongside the Eje Ambiental, home to Bogota’s most famous and traditional companies like El Tiempo and the Bank of the Republic.

A few blocks east just past the Parque de los Periodistas the Eje Ambiental starts bending northwise, so leave the axis and turn south instead via one of the small streets that branch into the neighborhood and make your way up to Calle 13 and Carrera 2, el Chorro de Quevedo, unofficial center of La Candelaria, where it is argued that the City of Bogota was founded back in 1538. Today, bohemian life meets to enjoy arts, culture and music at this spot. On the way make sure to take in the whimsical coloring and architecture of the neighborhood’s streets and colonial houses. Continue on Carrera 2 southward a couple of blocks up until Calle 11, and turn west once again just in front of La Salle University: You’ll be glad you do since you’ve been climbing constantly eastward so enjoy your walk back down. Make sure to notice the eccentric street names found on picturesque signs at every corner.

Make your way down west on Calle 11 and you will pass by the Museo Botero, museum showcasing some of famous Colombian painter Botero’s private art collection and work. Another block down is the Centro Cultural Garcia Marquez, modern cultural center and venue that includes Library, Art Galleries, concert halls and lesson rooms, with year-round events and displays for all tastes and audiences interested in culture and the arts. Continue down west and reach the Plaza de Bolivar, the city’s overwhelming main square surrounded by neoclasic government palaces and the Catedral Primada, largest church in the country. After taking in the many sights, you might want to leave the square southbound for a couple of blocks on Carrera Septima to check out the Presidential Palace and its Presidential Guard. Finally turn around back Carrera Septima northward until you find Transmilenio, just about where you started!

What to do in Bogotá

Outside of Bogota

Consider an excursion to Zipaquirá with its impressive Catedral de Sal. Shared or private guided tours can be booked in hotels/hostels or you can go there by bus or train.

Performances and Festivals

  • On some Friday nights, parts of Avenida Septima are closed in the Centro and you can see all sorts of street performers, live music, magic shows, buy crafts and street food. If you don’t mind crowds its worth a visit.
  • Check out the Iberoamerican Theater Festival, the biggest theater festival in the world (occurs every two years during Easter Week).

Other activities

  • Catch a football (soccer) game at El Campin Stadium. Easily accessible by Transmillenio and with a capacity of 48,000 spectators, it hosts games for the Colombian international squad as well as for professional league home teams Millionarios and Santa Fe. Avoid the north and south section for these home games which are populated by rival supporter groups; instead get a ticket for the eastern or western wings. International game tickets start from COP$20,000 and home games at COP$16,000.
  • Take a cab or Transmilenio to a working-class neighborhood in the southside. Sit down in a ‘panaderia’ (bakery), order a “colombiana” brand soda and some good bread. Sit down and breathe the environment of the regular Colombian. Don’t narrow yourself to the upscale Norte. Since picking out one of these neighborhoods can be dangerous, the best ones to do so: Santa Isabel, 20 de Julio, The Tunal area.
  • Go to Parque Simon Bolivar and chill like rolos (Bogota citizens) do, walk around the town’s biggest park or ride the train.
  • CiclovíaEvery Sunday and national holiday from 7AM-2PM, major avenues are closed to cars and thousands of people turn out to bike, skate, jog and walk. You can join on foot or by renting a bicycle in the Candelaria neighborhood with Bogotravel tours.
  • Sabana de BogotáWho would have imagined that there exists a fascinating natural wonder right in the heart of Bogotá? The wetlands of the Sabana (savannah) de Bogotá is where the rivers slow down a bit to rest on the plateau and “clean up” after flowing down from mountains. The water then continues to flow into the valleys to rejoin with the rivers below, including the Bogotá and Magdalena rivers.

Learn

Bogotá has numerous educational institutions. Some of the top universities include the National University , Universidad de los Andes  , Pontificia Universidad Javeriana  , Universidad del Rosario, Universidad Externado  ,Universidad Santo Tomas  , Universidad de la Sabana  and Universidad de la Salle  . However, there are many privately and publicly funded universities and schools.

If you want to learn Spanish, universities are a good option since they have all inclusive plans. They not only offer Spanish courses but also Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, Italian, etc. Also, many embassies have institutions that teach languages, such as the Centro Colombo Americano, the British Council, The Italian Institute, Goethe Institut, The French Alliance and the Brazil-Colombia Cultural Institute (IBRACO).

If you are looking for a more personalized education you can look for some of the Spanish schools in Bogota. Some of them are: Relato, Whee Institute (non-profit) and Spanish World Institute Bogotà.

Talk

The Spanish spoken in Bogotá is considered among the most neutral and clear in the world. If you know the basics, you’ll probably be fine. Bogotá is full of English academies and bilingual schools, so English is spoken by many people. The most “touristy” areas are full of young students who go to bilingual schools, and generally, they will help you translate. Colombians love to show off the best of their country to reduce the negative image it has among foreigners.

Work

It is illegal to work in Colombia without a proper working visa. Visas can be obtained by employers on your behalf.

There is also a significant market for English and other language teachers.

Shopping in Bogotá

Local products worth bringing home include :

  • Inexpensive handicrafts and silver jewelry from vendors. One of the cheapest and picturesque places to buy handicrafts is Pasaje Rivas (Calle 9 no. 9). You can access the narrow hall filled with small stores crossing Plaza de Bolívar, where de Major’s and president’s office is located.
  • Coffee-based products
  • Leather handbags, shoes, and wallets.
  • Uncut and cut emeralds brought in from the world’s best emerald mines

In Usaquen you can find a huge flea market on Sundays.

Malls

The nicest malls in town are generally in the North, in Usaquén and the east of Suba: Unicentro, Hacienda Santa Barbara, Santa Ana, Palatino, Cedritos, Santafé and Parque la Colina, Iserra 100, Bulevar Niza.

The chicest area of Bogota, Zona T in the district of Chapinero, is surrounded by the upscale malls of AndinoAtlantis Plaza and El Retiro which holds various upscale boutiques such as Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Loewe and many more.

More Affordable Shopping Malls : Downtown: San Martín, Calima. West and Northwest: Gran Estación, Salitre Plaza, Hayuelos, Metrópolis, Plaza Imperial, Unicentro de Occidente, Titán Plaza. South: Plaza de las Américas, Centro Mayor.

Where to eat in Bogotá

Local food

Arepas: Corn flour based pancakes, sometimes made with cheese or slightly salted.

Empanadas: The closest comparison would be pastries. These are popular all over South America, so generally each country/region has their own recipe. The filling usually consists of meat, potato, vegetables and rice wrapped in a corn flour crust.

Tamal: Usually eaten for breakfast. A mixture of meat, chicken, potato, vegetables and yellow corn wrapped in plantain leaves and then boiled. Should be accompanied by a large mug of hot chocolate.

Ajiaco: Traditional thick soup based on three kinds of potatoes, chicken, avocado, dairy cream, herbs, corn, among others, usually eaten for Christmas and other important festivals. Typically from the altiplano region, and considered the city’s official dish.

Pizza and burgers. OK, can we really call these traditional Bogotá meals? One could surmise they’re from here, seeing their omnipresence. The city does both quite well, and you just need to do a 360° turn to find some.

Casual dining

Options are many for casual dining, unsurprisingly for a Latin American city of seven million people. Bogotanos love food from all over, so you’ll find a good mix of Colombian food, as well as cheap food from North America (especially pizza and burgers!) and Asia. Note that the Chinese food is almost always Colombianized, which can be pretty good anyway, but is almost never the real deal. Sushi is likewise easy to find, but usually of below-average quality. The clear exception is (upscale) Wok, which has several locations, and for a North American-price will serve you top-notch sushi and other authentic East and Southeast Asian dishes.

For lunch, definitely try a corrientazo—a small eatery that is only open for lunch, serving people on their lunch break a delicious full meal, with soup, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a meat dish, several starch offerings, and usually additional fruit on the side. You’ll know corrientazos by their well-advertised and extremely limited menu, which often consists of only one available main course! Best options are usually traditional ajiaco, bandeja paisa, or fish. Sometimes the advertisement is just “almuerzo” (lunch) on a cardboard sign. Prices are astoundingly low: around COP$3,500-10,000/meal.

Rotisserie chicken is usually not far away, often called chicken “broaster,” and is just fabulous. They’ll pass you plastic gloves to wear while you eat it to keep your fingers clean.

If constant meat and starch isn’t your thing, the more popular neighborhoods have lots of places just selling fruit and fruit juice/smoothies, often selling ice cream too. The fruit in Colombia is outstanding, and the juice bars are unbelievably cheap.

And there’s always Crepes & Waffles, a ubiquitous Bogotá chain that—with such a focus—can’t help but be great.

Restaurants

There are a few dedicated gourmet zone, the most impressive of which is Zona G (G for Gourmet). It’s a quiet, residential-looking neighborhood jam packed with absolutely incredible, world-class restaurants. Other places to look for high-end dining are (naturally) the Zona Rosa, as well as Parque 93, the La Macarena neighborhood of Santa Fé, and a little further afield in Usaquén.

For dining with a view, there are two restaurants up at Monserrate that are not at all tourist traps—they are excellent, modern, high-end restaurants. Just outside the city on the road to La Calera is Tramonti, another mountaintop restaurant less-known to tourists, but done up like a Swiss mountain chalet and perfect for watching the sunset and the lights come on.

Drink

Nightlife in Bogotá is very diverse, and you can almost certainly find whatever experience it is you are looking for. There are English pubs, Latin dance halls, electronic music clubs, quiet storefront bars, wacky themed clubs, salsa clubs, a huge indie-rock scene (if Cali is salsa, Bogotá is rock n’ roll), megaclubs, cocktail lounges, etc.

The cosmopolitan side of Bogotá nightlife is overwhelmingly to be found in Zona Rosa and Bogotá/Parque 93. It’s a little more spread out and sparse, but you’ll find similar places in Chapinero Central, Usaquén, and even Santa Fé and La Candelaria. Chapinero Central and La Candelaria tend to be more bohemian/hipster/artsy/young. Chapinero is also the center of gay nightlife.

Where to stay in Bogotá

If you are going to stay in Bogota, keep in mind the location; Most low-budget visitors choose to stay in La Candelaria, the colonial neighborhood in the center of the city. There are many cheap, nice hostels where you can meet travelers from all around the world. The historic district as well as all the major museums and some nightlife options are within walking distance. The deserted neighborhood streets are unsafe after dark on weeknights, though. Pressure from neighborhood groups to oust the remaining criminals has caused police presence to increase but you must always remain cautious. Check the location very carefully before you choose a place to stay, security is worse in the tiny deserted streets uphill and closer to Egypto neighborhood.

You’ll find several hotels in the upscale northern districts like the Zona Rosa, Parque 93, as well as in Ciudad Salitre on the airport highway. Security won’t be such an issue but prices are much higher. Nevertheless, you won’t have any problem hailing a taxi at 6AM in the morning in the northern districts, because your hotel would be just around the corner from nightclub, or on the way to the airport. On the other hand, you can find low to medium priced hotels and hostels more expensive than La Candelaria’s around downtown or near universities, especially in Chapinero Central.

Note than most hostels carry a strict no drugs due to the negative effects that these activities have on Colombians and their way of life. Cocaine use not only supports the violent conflict that has ravaged this country and this city, but also promotes the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest both through its production and subsequent eradication efforts. Child prostitution is also a current issue for many hostels and hotels who are fighting to prevent this from becoming a way of earning an income for young Colombians.

Stay safe due to the Coronavirus situation in Bogotá

Bogotá is not as dangerous as it is perceived to be, but still a little crazy. Its once insanely high murder rate, which was the highest in the world, has dropped to a rate comfortably below most major Latin American cities, like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Caracas, and Mexico City. Bombings and kidnappings are a thing of the past, and should not be a concern to visitors at all—this is no war zone.

The principal safety concerns for travelers are muggings and taxi crime. Muggers are usually high on drugs and armed with knives or guns, and you should simply give them what they ask for without a fight—it’s never anything worth dying over. Neighborhoods that are frequented by travelers that have a significant problem with muggings include La Candelaria (after dark on weeknights—daytime walks and F-Sa nights are fine), most parts of Santa Fé, and to a much lesser extent the more southern parts of Chapinero close to Avenida Caracas. Los Mártires is a place to be on guard any time of day.

Taxi crime is a weird problem here (see “Million Dollar Ride” below). While longer-term visitors will find themselves lazily hailing cabs now and then, it is best to call cabs and not hail them off the street. Any cab dispatched will be safe, while hailed cabs are infrequently, but a little too frequently for comfort, dangerous. It may take a bit longer, but your safety is worth an extra wait. Hotels and nicer restaurants will always be happy to call one for you, and often offer to unprompted.

Oh, the Million Dollar Ride (Spanish: Paseo Millonario). It happens frequently enough where in most social situations with Bogotanos, at least someone or someone close to them has had an experience. It occurs when you hail a taxi on the street, the taxi stops, you get in, then someone else gets in with you, and they take you for a ride until you have taken an important sum out of your bank accounts. This is usually accomplished with legitimate threats of violence.

ATM muggings. Pay attention when using cash machines that nobody follows you after you have withdrawn the money. It’s a precaution foreign visitors aren’t always used to taking, but it’s not hard—look around as you step up to the machine to see if anyone’s paying too much attention, then do the same afterwards. If someone is, abort and/or go into a store or eatery and stay put. Try to use ATMs that are inside (the supermarket Éxito always has them), while still paying attention to your surroundings.

Stay healthy due to COVID-19 in Bogotá

Bogotá’s tap water is safe to drink and of high quality. Beware of street foods that may cause an upset stomach. Bogotá has no tropical diseases like malaria because of its altitude. Altitude sickness is, in fact, the largest health problem affecting foreigners—expect to be panting while going uphill or up stairs at first! Generally, a few days without hard physical activity or time spent in a mid-altitude city like Medellín will do the trick. If you have heart disease or a respiratory condition, talk to your doctor. El Dorado Airport provides wheelchairs for travelers with special needs. Private hospitals offer excellent health care.

Cope

Embassies & Consulates in Bogotá

  • Austria AustriaCarrera 9 No 73-44, Piso 4, Edificio Fiducafé, , fax+57 1 317-7639 M-Th 10AM-noon.
  • Belgium BelgiumCalle 26 No 4A-45, Piso 7, .
  • Brazil BrazilCalle 93 No 14-20, .
  • Canada CanadaCarrera 7 No 114-33, Piso 14, , fax+57 1 657-9912 M-Th 8AM-12:30PM, 1:30PM-5PM, F 8AM-1:30PM.
  • China ChinaCarrera 16 No 98-30, Santa Fe de Bogota, , fax+57 1 6223114 .
  • France FranceCarrera 11 No 93-12, ,  .
  • Germany GermanyAve El Dorado – Cra. 69 No 25B-44, Piso 7, Edificio World Business Port, .
  • Indonesia IndonesiaCalle 70, no. 8 – 19, , fax+57 1 345-5730 .
  • Netherlands NetherlandsCarrera 13 No 93-40, Piso 5, , fax+57 1 6233020 .
  • Spain SpainCalle 92 No 12-68, ,  .
  • Sweden SwedenCalle 72 No 5-83, , fax+57 1 325 61 01 .
  • Switzerland SwitzerlandCra. 9 No 74-08, Piso 11, , fax+57 1 349 71 95 .
  • United Kingdom United KingdomCarrera 9 No 76-49, Piso 8, ,  .
  • United States United StatesCalle 24 Bis No 48-50, , fax+57 1 315-2197 .

News outlets

The most important media for Bogotá are:

  • El Tiempo is the country’s largest daily with a heavy focus on the capital.
  • El Espectador has a liberal point of view and also a heavy focus on Bogotá.

For news and travel information on Bogotá in English:

  • Colombia Reports
  • The City Paper

Go next

  • Visit nearby towns like Chía (for Andrés Carne de Res restaurant), La Calera, Cajica, Tabio, Zipaquirá and La Vega. You can find cheap and fast transportation to any of this destinations either from the Terminal de transportes or the Transmilenio North Portal. From most, you can return the same day. But it’s a good idea to get out, Bogotá is a chaotic city surrounded by lots of relaxed and peaceful places.
  • Choachí is the best kept secret in town. This small village 50 min. East of Bogotá is reached after climbing up and down a tall mountain, so tall you can see Monserrate at your feet. Local cooking, hot springs and a great Swiss restaurant await for you at your destination.
  • Parque Nacional Sumapaz to the south of Bogota to see the Paramo. It is closed due to improvements of guides and infrastructure. (August 2016)
  • Parque Nacional Chingaza to the east of the town Calera is a different place to see the Paramo. You’ll need a 4×4 vehicle or go by a tour. Entrance fee is COP$13,500 for Colombians, COP$39,500 for foreigners and includes an obligatory guide. There are trails up to around 4 hours. Better to start early as you have to leave the parque at 3PM. Apart from the vegetation it’s possible to see bears, deers and other animals.
  • Laguna del Cacique Guatavita, . Closed every Monday if Monday is a holidayThis spiritual lake is where the legend of El Dorado originated. The Muisca Indian King used to have religious ceremony in the middle of the lake, painted all his body with gold dust, and threw gold things offered in sacrifice into the lake. English/Spanish guided tour is available. The journey will take little more time than to Zipaquirá. Go to Transmilenio’s North Portal and find the intermunicipal route to Sesquilé/Guatavita. Let the driver know that you intend to go to the Lagoon and he’ll drop you off at a point where you have to walk – it’s quite a hike on a steep hill, but people going by car will often pick you up and take you to the entrance if you ask. Foreigners COP$15,000, Colombians COP$10,000.
  • Bogotá as a hub to visit other places in Colombia As the national capital is centrally located you can easily visit many distinct destinations as the Amazon Jungle (1½ hr by plane), Spanish colonial cities Cartagena or Popayan (1-hr flight), modern cities like Medellín located in an impressive Andean valley or Cali at the foothills of the Andes.

To get to the airport from the city, you may use Taxi or a public buseta (van). A way to get by public transport is either to go to the Calle 19, which from the Candelaria where most foreigners tend to stay, is only 4-5 blocks away. Catch a bus that says “Aeropuerto”. Or go the Avenida 26 which is the street that goes directly to the airport. Also look for buses that state “Aeropuerto” there. This journey may take around 45 Minutes from the town center depending on the traffic conditions, but is significally cheaper than taking a taxi anywhere in the city (COP$1,300 vs. around COP$25,000). The Transmilenio K10 route will drop you off at Portal El Dorado, and you can board a green Alimentador bus from there to the Airport and the Puente Aéreo.

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Colombia

Barranquilla Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Barranquilla is a city on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

Introduction to Barranquilla

Barranquilla is a cosmopolitan and primarily industrial city, often visited by businessmen of all nationalities. However the main attraction for tourism is its carnival “Carnaval de Barranquilla,” that takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday. In November 2003, UNESCO proclaimed it as one of 28 different “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.

Barranquilla is also called by its residents and Colombians in general “Curramba” (from a language game, in synthesis, Curramba is a reference to “party”) and the Golden Gate to Colombia (Puerta de Oro de Colombia), this due to its location on the delta of the Magdalena river, making it the most important commercial sailing port to the Atlantic Ocean for the nation.

Residents are known as “Barranquilleros” and are characterized by their outgoing and friendly attitude and relaxed behavior. This makes the average barranquillero an optimistic and open individual, as well as goal-directed and hard-working.

Get in

By air

Visitors arrive to the city traditionally by plane. The airport “Ernesto Cortissoz” is on the far south side of the city. The fare is usually US$8–12 to get to the town center by taxi.

International direct flights are available to Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Panama City. Domestic non-stop flights arrive from Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.

Airport car rental services can be arranged from abroad with two main companies: Hertz and National Car Rental.

Take a bus to Barranquilla

Buses run by the terminal as well and will get you into the city for $0.55 or less, with the drawback of a significantly less comfortable ride experience.

Barranquilla can also be a connection to other cities of the northern coast of the country, provided the traveler doesn’t have a flight connection to anywhere else in Colombia already. Long-distance bus fares (in US dollars) to some cities are:

  • Cartagena – $12
  • Maicao – $13
  • Santa Marta $13
  • Medellín $20
  • Maracaibo – $26
  • Caracas – $44

Since the bus station is quite far away from the town center, and since buses departing from there are generally slow and stop at every village, it might be a good option to travel with bus companies operating direct links to Cartagena, Bogotá or Santa Marta from around the town center. One of these is Berlinastur, departure to Cartagena or Santa Marta every hour, COP$16, terminal at calle 96 with carrera 46. To get there from the tramway system you can take Alimentador A-71 or A-94, and also many “unofficial” colectivos, ask people in the street.

Cochetur runs air conditioned van services for travel among Cartagena, Baranquilla, and Santa Marta. Price per person is around COP$25,000 and trip time to either of the other cities is around 2 hours.

Get around

Moving around in Barranquilla depends largely on the traveler’s budget, language barriers and spirit of adventure.

Renting a car is an option for visitors with a more comfortable budget, the daily fare for an economy vehicle being around COP$150,000 a day, and with gasoline prices of about COP$8,000 per gallon (COP$2,100/L). However, driving in Barranquilla can be obviously tricky if you don’t know your way around or the changes in traffic during rush hour. Rent a car services can be dealt with from abroad or upon arrival to the hotel, may that be the case.

Taking a taxi is by far the best option for the newcomer. As of January 2011, the minimum fare was COP$5,000. They may more a bit more expensive at night time, Sundays, on national holidays or during rush hour. Taxis in Barranquilla do not have a meter: The fare is decided by the driver on the basis of distance, travel time and daytime vs nighttime. The most you will ever be charged for an in town trip is COP$16,000.

For those with more spirit for adventure, buses are another option. In this case, talking to the driver may not be necessary, but knowing someone in town is definitely of great help when choosing the right route. Bus fares are around US$0.80 per ride, sometimes a little more if the bus is equipped with air conditioning (not all of them are). Be warned that the buses do not wait until you are seated before they move and when getting off, often start back up before both your feet are on the ground when getting off. They also start and stop abruptly, so hang on.

Mototaxis are an illegal way of transportation that has grown in popularity. These consist of motorcycles charging significantly less money than a regular cab to take you virtually anywhere, but this mean of transportation is riddled with risks for personal safety, as these drivers have the tendency to be reckless.

Sightseeing in Barranquilla

Every year by the end of February or early March (forty days before Ash Wednesday), Barranquilla hosts its famous “Carnaval de Barranquilla” (carnival of Barranquilla), a four-day-long celebration in which the true partying spirit of the city is unleashed. Parades, dances, concerts and many cultural manifestations take place all over town.

Barranquilla also houses the beautiful and famous Teatro Amira de la Rosa, the old Customs building-Edificio de la Aduana, that serves as library as well as a museum; the Museum of Gold; and many other great places to visit. There are also a large number of art deco buildings built from the late 1930s into the 1950s. (See the book Barranquilla-Ciudad Art Deco by Gustavo Garcia.)

Another place to visit is “Bocas de Ceniza”, where the Magdalena River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Museo del CaribeCalle 36 No. 46-66, . 9AM-5PMA great collection of the history of Barranquilla and the Caribbean. Modern displays featuring immigration, native cultures, ecology, food and else. A special chamber dedicated to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Closed: first Monday of the month (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). COP$10,000.

What to do in Barranquilla

Barranquilla is a large, complex city. Daytime activities are mainly of shopping and eating, but nightlife is active all year round, with bars and nightclubs open from Thursdays to Sundays in most cases. Some of the main party spots in town are Trucupey Latin Disco, AguaHelada, MoMa and Frogg Leggs if you plan to dance.

For a more relaxed environment some options are Luna Negra, Beba Genobeba, Old Times (a 1980s retro bar) and some spots known as “estancos”: These are basically liquor stores with or without tables, where music is played on weekends. Commonly people gather in these places to drink listening to music from the place itself or from their own car audio systems (in Barranquilla sound restrictions are quite lenient).

As well there are magnificent restaurants in the area known as “Washington” such as Naia, Mix where the tourist can experience an elegant, chic night.

Some places are known as “puntos frios” or “mundo de la cerveza” (world of beer), in which you should be able to get beer pretty much any day. There are also small tiendas (convenience stores all over the city).

If you are lucky enough to go during Carnival you will find yourself in a place in which everybody is up to party for entire days with no rest.

Take “Chiva”, an old-style bus full of people, music and dancing! The bus takes you to several nice discos in Bquilla. Typically on Saturday nights. Here is a good one: “La Chiva de Juan”. Calle 34 # 72-197. Tel: 3600264. Cell: 315-7420885.

  • Go bowling at: Titos Bolo ClubCarrera 51B No. 94-110Titos Bolo Club is a classic bowling place where you have to write down your own score. Price is COP$27,000 per hour and lane + shoe rent.
  • Drive Gokart at Xtreme Karts – Carrefour PradoCarrera 56 No. 75-15510AM-10:30PMHere you can drive gokart in the basement of the supermarket Carrefour in Altos Del Prado. It’s a lot of fun to race with your friends. COP$9,000 for 6 minutes.

Learn

The language and culture!

Shopping in Barranquilla

There are many shopping centers with national and international brands. The biggest two are Buenavista and Villa Country, both located to the north. A cheaper alternative with plenty of “Sales” is El Único.

If what you want is artisanal souvenirs, the corner of 72 street and 46 avenue is the place to go. There you will find kiosks selling cheaper artisan work and a store by the name of “Artesanías de Colombia”, where more certified, yet more expensive souvenirs can be found. At the down town you will also find these for a lower price but usually of lower quality. You can also find the true and authentic artesanias in nearby towns such as Usiacurí, many of which are worth visiting.

Where to eat in Barranquilla

Both local and international cuisine are available in town. Local delicacies include arroz con coco and sancocho de guandul (a soup made of pigeon peas or “guandules” and meat), bocachico frito (fried fish from the Magdalena river), sancocho, and fritos (fried foods), including arepas and empanadas. If you wish to try local food, good choices are;

  • Mag Mondongo
  • Narcobollo
  • La mano Costena
  • El Tremendo Guandul
  • El portal del Marisco (seafood).
  • El corral del Marisco (seafood).

Try to go to “Las Flores” in the nearbies “Bocas de Ceniza”. There are many seafood restaurants next to Magdalena River. Very good food and environment.

All the above offer traditional food at very affordable prices.

Some other places to go, for a more international menu are:

  • Doña Linda (Arabic food)
  • El Arabe Gourmet (Lebanese food)
  • Pepe Anca (steak)
  • Pepe Anca (try their pepper steak. pricey but worth it)
  • La bonga del sinu (steak)
  • El Merendero (steak)
  • Cafe de la Casa (Colombian gourmet sandwiches, salads, drinks with outdoor lounge area)
  • Bora Bora (Thai)
  • La vera cucina italiana (Italian)
  • Nena Lela (Italian)
  • La Caprichosa (Pizza) Very good pizzas. You can order by pieces (very huge pieces) for only US$1.50, and it will be enough to keep your stomach up.

Drink

The local beer is Aguila, and is also the cheapest one. However, Club Colombia is a Colombian beer with great flavor and quality, and just a little more expensive.

International beer is available widely, with Heineken being the preferred brand.

The spirit of preference by locals is rum, in a variety of national and international brands. Another popular drink is Aguardiente (an anise-flavoured liqueur derived from sugar cane), and is worth a try. Aguardiente literally means “burning water”, and it honors its name. As well Scotch, which is a little more expensive, hence it is consumed by the elite, the preferred brand is called Old Parr.

Almost any type of liquor is available, whiskey, vodka and tequila some of the most prevalent.

  • Embassy PubCarrera 50 No. 82-264Good international food, plus great cocktails, shots, spirits, beers and music, all in all an environment that is reminiscent of the famous pubs in northern Europe.

Where to stay in Barranquilla

Budget

  • Villa GironCarrera 38N #41-31Clean. Friendly staff. A bit dark and institutional feeling. Restaurant on premises. Doubles (matrimoniales) available starting at US$10, or $8 w/o air-conditioning.
  • Hotel OlimpicoCarrera 42 #33-20Clean. Friendly staff. Free WiFi. This area is not particularly safe at night. Doubles with fan: ~COP$35,000.
  • Hotel Colonial InnCalle 42 #43-131, . Clean, safe, friendly staff. Pretty courtyard. They have a sister hotel 2 blocks away which is similar. Doubles with fan ~COP$30,000. With air conditioning COP$45,000.

There are many inexpensive hotels in the area between the above hotels. Walk around and ask to see rooms; they’re all quite decent. Generally the ones not listed in the guidebooks are a bit cheaper.

Mid-range

  • Howard Johnson Hotel (Former Versalles Inn), Cra. 48 # 70-188 (Half a block from intersection of calle 70 – busy and wide street – and carrera 48), . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noonRenovated, nice mid-range hotel. Weekend special: you stay 2 nights and pay for one, breakfast included. Small swimming pool. There is a station for the new bus system 3 blocks away. COP$180,000.
  • Hotel Country International Carrera 52 # 75-30, Barranquilla. Nice staff, good breakfast.

Splurge

  • Hotel Del PradoCalle 54 #70-10, .
  • Hotel Puerta del Sol.
  • Hotel Dann Carlton BarranquillaCalle 98 #52B-10, .
  • Sonesta Hotel BarranquillaCalle 106 #50-11, .

Go next

Stay in touch

Internet access starts at about US$0.60. There are tons of places that serve up access for US$1 or less, but shops are typically tucked up in centros comerciales (malls) without signs out on the street.

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Colombia

Cali Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Cali is a city in southwestern Colombia, capital of the Valle del Cauca department. It has about 2 million inhabitants and it is a significant industrial and commercial center.

Understand

Cali is famous for its historical places, entertainment and day and night activities. It is also the world’s capital of salsa dancing. Cali is known in Colombia as the capital of fiestas, street partying, dancing, and salsa as Cali’s salsa clubs are among the most famous in the entire continent. Among many other things you can experience on your vacations, the people from Cali have developed a playful and hedonistic culture in harmony with the natural surroundings and country life.

Cali is a great place for tourism and leisure. The capital of the department of Valle del Cauca has become a mecca for tourism thanks to the beauty of its women, its historical sites, and a multitude of spots for day and night entertainment. Cali is one of the major economic and industrial centers of the country, and the main urban, economic, industrial, and agrarian city of southwest Colombia.

Cali is also known as the Sport Capital of America and host of many major sports events that take place in Colombia. Among the most important sporting events that have taken place in our city we´ve hosted the VI Pan American Games in 1971. We are also proud to have been the host of many World Championships in different sports. Cali hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Cup for the twelfth time in 2013 and, between July 25 and August 4, 2013 hosted the World Games.

Cali’s weather is wonderful. It has warm, sunny days with temperatures between 19°C (66°F) and 34°C (93°F) that average 26°C (79°F). Its altitude is 1,003 meters (3,290 feet) above sea level.

Get in

By bus

From the Terminal de transportes you have the choice of many different regional, national and domestic destinations.

The trip from the airport to the terminal lasts around 20 minutes and you can do it either by taxi (COP$45,000) or mini-van (COP$4,000). Recommendation: Travel only by certified transport companies, like Expreso Palmira, Bolivariano or Expreso Brasilia. These companies bring you safety and comfort for you and your luggage. You may bargain with other companies, but the trip may be very uncomfortable.

  • to/from Bogotá : COP$65,000, 12 hours
  • to/from Medellín : COP$50,000, 9 hours
  • to/from Popayan : COP$12,000, 3 hours or with minibus COP$14,000, 2 hours
  • to/from Pasto : COP$40,000, 9 hours (check for safety)
  • to/from Armenia : COP$20,000, 3-3½ hours
  • to/from Pereira : COP$29,000, 4 hours
  • to/from Manizales : COP$30,000, 5 hours

Fly to Cali

Cali’s International Airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón   is 16 km northeast of the city and can be reached by bus or taxi. Many domestic and some international destinations can be reached. There are flights to and from Medellín, Bogotá, Barranquilla, Ibagué, Pereira, Pasto and Cartagena. Foreign cities that can be reached by non-stop flights are Miami, Madrid, Panama City, San Salvador, Quito, Guayaquil and Esmeraldas in Ecuador. The airlines with international flights are: Avianca, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, LATAM and TAME. The low-cost airline VivaColombia   also serves the city with flights to Medellín and Bogotá.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are a fast and affordable way to get around the town. Only use official cars and it is strongly recommended to call for one if possible (you may call the local numbers 444 44 44, 555 55 55, or 660 60 60 and ask for one, your name and destination will be registered in the head office). Make sure the driver starts the meter running. The meters count units, not in the local currency. The minimum fare during daytime is COP$3,700, during nighttime it’s COP$4,600. 14 units equal COP$900. Do not leave your luggage inside the taxi while you are not, it sometimes happens that drivers get off as soon as you are out the taxi and your luggage is still in the trunk. In any case, many of the taxi drivers are nice and gentle people and have some good stories to tell, so hopefully you speak or understand Spanish at a reasonable level. But be sure to pay what they ask because they would call the cops and will not let you get out until you pay the full fare.

By bus

  • MIO – Masivo Integrado de Occidente: This transport system consists of large blue buses running in exclusive lanes with enclosed stations and offers the best option for local transit. All buses are air-conditioned, clean and safe. A one-way trip costs COP$2,000 paid by smart cards which can be purchased at manned bus stops. The system continues construction of new lanes with the eventual goal of comprehensive coverage of the metropolitan area.
  • There are 23 urban transport companies to travel around the town. You may ask someone for a route, the local people are very eager to help. A regular trip costs COP$1,500.

Sightseeing in Cali

  • Historic churches, there are many historic Catholic churches that represent different Spanish Colonial architecture of a time gone past. The city is over 450 years old, so architecture is one of the best things to see.
  • Museo del Oro del Banco de la República, Calle 7 No. 4-69. A museum containing archaeological exhibits of pottery and gold of pre-Columbian cultures which existed in the region. There is also a small art exhibition. The entrance is free and it’s open Monday till Saturday.
  • Museo Arqueologico La Merced, located in the downtown, is a Colonial-type church, with an archaeological museum displaying pre-Hispanic exhibits and religious art from ancient cultures which inhabited the region in pre-Columbian times.
  • Cristo Rey, a statue in the top of a hill, similar to Cristo de Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Offers a great city view and climbing the mountain is a good exercise. Do not walk alone, it’s not a really safe place.
  • Cerro de las Tres Cruces, a hill embellished with three big crosses from which the whole city is visible makes an excellent morning hike, however, do so only on Sundays as there is generally much military presence these days, due to high number of hikers.
  • Iglesia de San Antonio, colonial-type church at the top of a hill. Another great view of the downtown area. Be careful, as this area can be dodgy after dusk.
  • Barrio de San Antonio, the Iglesia de San Antonio is located at the heart of this area. This place is popular because of its colonial architecture and it is located on top of a hill meaning that it is cooler up there and you can see the city of Cali from the top. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights many people come to the area to watch performers, story tellers, people selling handy crafts and just chilling out with friends. It is a great place to stay filled with restaurants, hotels and hostels for travellers. Many Europeans and North Americans who teach at the bilingual schools and English institutions in Cali choose to live in this area.
  • Estatua de Belalcazar, like its southern neighbor Popayan, Cali was founded by the Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar. There is a statue in Belalcazar’s honor in a nice residential area of Cali, where you can look out over the whole city. It’s much safer than Cristo Rey.
  • Statue: El gato del rio is a famous statue of a giant cat that, along with the statue of Belalcazar, the Three Crosses, and Jesus, has become a symbol for the city. It is situated across the Cali River from the barrio of El Peñon.
  • Zoologico de Cali, this is an excellent zoo with many animals from around the world. The premises are very well kept and, surprisingly, it is in an up-scale side of town. The animals generally have lots of space for themselves. Do not miss the Bengal tigers, the butterflies and the birds.
  • La Ermita, a Gothic-style church located in the downtown area. It was built in 1678 and then renovated in 1930.
  • La Tertulia Museum of modern art with international exhibits and a movie theatre that shows many award-winning art house films, among other foreign language works.
  • Plaza de Toros The city’s bullfighting arena. Mostly active in December during the “Feria de Cali” festival.
  • Culture Cali has many cultural offerings, like the Teatro Municipal Enrique BuenaventuraCentro Cultural Comfandi or the Teatro Jorge Isaacs.
  • Nice places: Lake Calima (1½ hour trip from city) nice place to stay for about 30 dollars night also one of the best places for windsurf in South America. The town of Jamundi, about half hour south of the city also has nice weekend homes for rent and some decent mountain hikes for those up for some time in the country.

What to do in Cali

  • Soccer matches: In the Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero is the host place of the local teams of the city, Deportivo Cali and America de Cali. Each Sunday one of them plays a Match for the National Championship. Between the months of May–June and November–December they are in playoffs, so the matches are more exciting. It is recommended that tourists sit on the west side section, “Occidental”, of the stadium. Under no circumstances should a tourist sit at the south side of the stadium as this is where the popular barras for both teams are located.
  • Mountain biking: Excellent tracks there, get information at BTT de Colombia Bike store (yellow pages ask for Julio).
  • Wind or kite surfing: The best place in South America, wind blows virtually 365 days a year find information at   or  .
  • Salsa dancing: Cali is one of the most famous or popular places for salsa in the world. You can find people dancing in the streets and every single night find a club open for salsa dancing. While salsa can be heard pretty much anywhere and at any time of the day, most popular clubs are to be found in the Menga district (north of Cali) and Juanchito (east).
  • MotolombiaAve 6 bis, 26N, #57, ,  Motolombia is a motorcycle tour and rental business run by Danish motorcycle world traveler Mike Thomsen. Motolombia offers guided tours on ATV in the mountains surrounding Cali and motorcycle tour all over Colombia.

Shopping in Cali

Shopping centers

  • ChipichapeMall: a big indoor/outdoor shopping center built on an abandoned train station and warehouse north of downtown. It provides nearly everything and especially the possibility to have a drink at various outdoor bars, and to see many calenas. Its the best place to meet other foreigners, immigrants and English speaking natives. Also a great place to buy local handicrafts and souvenirs at Tu Tierra Linda store, 2nd floor. The mall has movie theaters, two food courts, a supermarket and a department store. A hotel is now under construction. Chimichape also has free wireless internet in the open air where all the cafe bars are located.
  • UnicentroThe largest mall in town located 10 km south of downtown. It has over 200 stores, 30 restaurants and cafes, a multiplex, casino, office space, a supermarket, a department store, and the largest water fountain in town.
  • Palmetto PlazaAvenida Joaquin Borrero Sinisterra at Carrera 48, . Monday to Friday 08:00-22:00; Sa Su 09:00-22:00Popular with the young crowd with its many outdoor bars and cafes.
  • Cosmocentro has a large supermarket and a some stores.
  • Jardin Plaza is the newest mall in town with beautiful indoor gardens for a mostly outdoor experience. It has a nice movie theater complex. This mall is just across the street from the high tech hospital Fundacion Valle del Lili.

Other shopping

  • Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz: A place to buy inexpensive, sometimes cheap, artesanal figures and other stuff. Beware this park is outdoors and can be unsafe at night.

Where to eat in Cali

  • Cholados– a delicious mix of shaved ice and exotic fruit with raspberry and sweet condensed milk sauces and a wafer cookie. Often sold from vendors that have stands that display fruit and shaved ice, and best found in Jamundi, about a 15-min trip from the southern neighborhoods of Cali.
  • Pandebono – baked rings of cheese bread which is quite typical of Cali
  • Buñuelos – sweet fried doughnut balls
  • Sancocho de gallina – a very popular chicken soup, best found in a town called Ginebra, about one hour trip from Cali
  • Manjar blanco – a candy made from cooked sugar and milk, similar to dulce de leche (Milk candy)
  • Chontaduro or peach palm fruit – a local delicacy that is sold on the street, topped with salt or honey
  • Mango viche – green unripened mango, which is sold on the street and eaten with salt and lemon juice
  • Guarapo – a deliciously refreshing drink of freshly pressed sugar cane juice (usually the seller has a machine and extracts the juice right in front of you) served with ice and a squirt of lemon juice
  • Grosellas – small sour fruits which are sold on the street in bags and are eaten with salt
  • Arroz atollado – one of Valle del Cauca’s most delicious dishes, almost like a risotto with chicken, sausages and potatoes
  • Empanadas – corn pastries filled with meat or chicken and eaten with hot sauce (aji)
  • Champus – very exotic mix of pineapple, “lulo” (see below), corn and a plant called “limoncillo”… just delicious!.
  • Jugo de lulo or lulo juice – the most delicious of all local fruit juices
  • Aborrajados – fried cheese-filled plantains
  • Dulce de Guayaba con queso – a delicious dollop of guava paste on top of a fresh slice of local ‘cuajada’ cheese
  • Marranitas is a delicious mix of plantain with “chicharrón” (fried pork skin) — the best ones are in “El champus de Lola” in San Antonio hill.

Restaurants

  • Cali Plaza Hotel Restaurant A favorite hang-out for international tourists, free Wi-Fi. Calle 15 Norte No. 6N-37 – Granada Barrio – Zona Rosa – +57 2 668 2611 – mail@caliplaza.com
  • El Solar (Trattoria Faró), calle 15 Norte # 9 N-62, . until 01:00A fun place with outdoor seating, many options in the menu. Live music on weekends. $$.
  • PacíficoAve 9 N # 12-18 (Granada), . 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00Well-made seafood, many recipes from the Colombian Pacific. $$.
  • TizonesAve 6 BN # 28 N – 57 (Corner across from Carvajal headquarters), . Great meat. Steaks & seafood. $$$.
  • RingleteCalle 15 A Norte # 9N-31 Granada (in the middle of a narrow street), . Well done and served local food. Many recipes with plantains. $$.
  • El Patio VerdeCra 9 # 4-53 (San Antonio), . M-Sa 05:30-23:00Plantain is king in this restaurant. Local food. $$.
  • Faro El PatioCalle 19 # 105-52 (Ciudad Jardin-South), . Until 01:00Large menu, outdoor area. Live tropical bands on Fridays and Saturdays. $$.

Deliveries

  • My ThaiCentro Commercial Centenario Local 317, . Until 20:30 for deliverySushi, Thai curries (green, red, yellow) with chicken, beef, pork and calamari for COP$11,500, Salmon al vino (big fillet with stirfried veg and rice) COP$16,500 and various other stir fries etc. Delivery nearby COP$3,500. $-$.
  • Sr. WokUnicentro, Jardin Plaza, Chipechape, Centenario Plaza, . Delivery until 21:00Ready-to-eat Asian buffet. Choose combo with rice, noodles or chop suey as base and add two choices for COP$15,500 or three choices for COP$18,700. Choices include orange chicken, beef teriyaki, mushroom chicken, kung pao chicken, bourbon chicken etc. Delivery COP$2,000. Decent portions. $.

Drink

Local drinks

  • Guarapo – the juice of sugar cane which grows in the Cauca river valley.
  • Aguardiente – one of the favorite alcoholic beverage in Colombia, with each region has its preferred brand – the local brand is Aguardiente Blanco del Valle and is sweet and licorice-flavored.
  • Chicha – slightly-alcoholic beverage made of fermented pineapples.

Cali’s nightlife is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. There are some good clubs and bars to go out.

Visit Avenida Sexta Cali’s Broadway at day & night. Some bars and dance clubs popular with the working class are located there. Many banks branches are settled here. The avenue is crowded pretty much all day long. Be careful at night, could be unsafe.

Bars

  • Alterno Bar is more like a crossover type of bar, its pretty good and you can meet a lot of people there.
  • Blues Brothers Bar, ,  A big and popular bar, with live music on Thursdays. Avenida 6A Norte # 21-40 Barrio Santa Mónica.
  • El Faro is the place to go if you like classic rock/heavy metal. Located in “El Limonar” A “Jirafa” (Lot of beer) is about USD3.
  • Eliptica is an outside bar settled on a hill at the outskirts of Cali. The views are beautiful and this is a good place for an after party. Open till 06:00 or till the police shut it down.
  • Fanaticos Sports Bar at Palmetto Plaza Shopping center, where college guys and young professionals meet to watch their favorite sports games. Great beer and good prices, open every day until 03:00.
  • Forum is a popular club for electronic music with an energetic atmosphere.
  • London Tavern is busy only on a Thursday night when there is a live salsa band playing.
  • Martyn’s Bar is a classic rock bar that has been around since the early 1980s.
  • Roosters is a rock bar/pub with own micro brewery, imported beer and drinks, live rock music and major sports games on big screen – European run. Ave 6 Bis, 26N, #21. Tu-Su 18:00-02:00.

Dance clubs

  • Zaperoco is an excellent salsa club just off Avenida Sexta (Av 5N # 16-46, +57 2 661 2040). Salsa, rumba y son. Th-Sa 08:00-16:00.
  • Chango is a popular salsa club in the famous Juanchito sector in the other side of the Cauca River. Best salsa party in town.
  • Kukaramakara is a great local club with excellent mix of Latin music and good looking locals. Get a bottle and a table and enjoy.
  • Praga is a popular club which plays mix of all types of music called crossover. Located in the neighbor town of Yumbo not far from Cali.
  • Tin Tin Deo is a very comfortable and almost magic place where people can enjoy the classic salsa music and other Caribbean rhythms.
  • La Matraca (Tango bar and dance), Carrera 11 # 22-80 corner (Barrio Obrero), . 20:00-02:00$$.

Where to stay in Cali

Budget

  • The Green SamánCarrera 3 oeste 11-49 (Bellavista), . Breakfast is available and is of a high standard. The hostel offers gourmet dinners (prepared by an exceptional chef), cooking lessons, traditional paella on Sundays, interesting excursions to the surroundings of Cali, bike rental, and an open bar with live music. There’s a quiet garden with many colourful birds and two very friendly dogs, a nice swimming pool, a Turkish bath and a sauna. Other services include Wi-Fi, public computer, hammocks, laundry (for a small fee) and home cinema. Dorm bed: COP$18,000, double room with private bathroom from COP$60,000.
  • Casa Agua CanelaCra 24A N°2A-55 Miraflores, . Beautiful views over Cali from the lovely balcony if you stay on the top floor, a good location in the Miraflores area, and bright, clean, spacious rooms all come standard at Casa Agua Canela, as does friendly staff and good prices. You can cook for yourself using the equipped kitchen or ask them to prepare something tasty. Spacious, peaceful hostel with a relaxing vibe and not too many people around. You could always sleep outside on the communal balcony as there’s a single bed there on the top floor if you stay up there. Big supermarket and cash point a short walk away as well as plenty of pastry shops.
  • Kaffee ErdeAvenida 4Norte #4N-79, . Friendly owners who care about their guests run this great hostel close to bars, restaurants, shopping, and more. They have cheap prices but quality rooms, and offer free organic coffee and salsa lessons to their guests. They can arrange trips and tours, and the owners love to chat and share stories with the guests. A very homey, comfortable atmosphere.
  • Casa Blanca HostelAve. 6bis, Calle 26N, 57, Santa Monica (One block of the famous La Sexta, 4 blocks from Super mall Chipichape), ,  Check-in: 07:00, check-out: 11:00Run by Danish/Colombian couple (Mike & Diana) Casa Blanca Hostel opened in August 2008 in the safe and convenient location one block of the famous La Sexta avenue. The hostel offers big well equipped self-catering kitchen and dining area. There’s a large living room with 42″ flat screen, cable TV package and lots of DVD’s, reading section and magazines, free WiFi and guest computers, hot water showers, 24 hour reception, laundry service, airport pick-up, mini market, free parking for cars and motorcycles (indoor) and an outdoor patio. Dorms beds range from COP$15,000-20,000. Double bed private from COP$35,000-50,000 and twin bed privates from COP$35,000-55,000 (with possible 3rd bed on sofa bed).
  • The Pelican Larry HostelCalle 23 Norte #8N-12 Santa Monica Residencial, ,  BBQ, WiFi internet, beds 1×2 meters, clean and huge patio with well equipped clean kitchen, double rooms from COP$35,000. Located in what is considered to be a safe area. Two big supermarkets 10 minutes walk away. Decent gym just around the block for COP$10,000 per use. Very nice and accommodating staff. Massive shopping centre 15/20 minutes walk away called Chipichape if you’re into that. Nice American/British rock bar a few blocks away if you want a break from the salsa. If not you’re in walking distance from Tiendas (bar type shop things) playing salsa music or you can take a taxi or decent walk to streets with lots of clubs.
  • Iguana HostelAvenida 9N No. 22N-46 (Close to Avenida Sexta), ,  A welcoming hostel opened in 1998 by Swiss owner Urs Diethelm. Can get pretty full at the weekends due to travelers coming for “the Rumba”. Internet, Self-catering kitchen & Cable TV. Dorm beds from COP$16,000 and single occupancy from COP$24,000.
  • The Green HouseCra. 4C Oeste #2-34, San Antonio, Cali, ,  Check-out: 11:00Lovely hostel in the bohemian San Antonio neighborhood. The owner will make you feel right at home from the moment you step in. Everything is spotlessly clean and there’s a kitchen for guest use. Excellent breakfast is available for COP$5,000. Also a good spot to stay if you are into adventure sports, since the owner is into BMX, kiteboarding, paragliding and similar sports and can provide you with lots of info on these activities. Dorm COP$18,000, Single COP$30,000, Double COP$40,000 (all with shared bathroom).

Mid-range

  • Cali Rent Apartments (Cali Rent Apartments), Calle 21N#9N- 50, Cali, Colombia (Santa Monica),  Offers apartment for daily, weekly or monthly rent in Granada and Santa Monica near Chipichape mall. These are great alternatives to renting a room in a hotel and are usually cheaper and more private. ~US$65.
  • Cali Plaza Hotel (Cali Plaza Hotel and Apartments), Calle 15 Norte No. 6N-37 (Granada Barrio – Zona Rosa), ,  Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 13:00American-owned hotel with apartments and 24-hour security in the heart of Cali. US$63.
  • Casa Santa Monica (Casa Santa Monica), Calle 23N 8N-34 (Santa Monica), , fax+57 2 6686135 Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 15:00A three-house complex with 23 rooms total near by Granada, Chipichape and 20 minutes away from international airport. US$75 US.
  • Cali Flats (Cali Flats), Ave 6 bis, 26N, #57 (Santa Monica), , fax+57 2 668 99 86 Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 13:00Fully furnished apartments in nice 10-floor building. Internet access, Cable TV, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, bath with hot water, 24-hour reception, secure parking basement, access to gym, Turkish bath and sauna on 10th floor US$50.
  • Hotel Astoria RealCalle 11 No. 5-16, Plaza de Caicedo, . A historic hotel overlooking Caicedo Square. Most rooms have a balcony. Aging, but affordable and safe. Centrally located. Hot water, cable TV. Single rooms for COP$45,000.
  • Cali Charm Bed & BreakfastCalle 38 Norte # 4N-23It’s in one of the best parts of Cali, La Flora. Four blocks from Chipichape mall and 5 minutes from Avenida Sexta and Menga Night Life. The Cali Charm House has been remodeled to Western standard and it’s very affordable.
  • Hotel Dann Carlton (One block from the Hotel Intercontinental). Excellent too.
  • Hotel PlazaCarrera 6a No. 10-29, Plaza de Caicedo, . A modern hotel centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, carpeted rooms. Single room COP$40,000.
  • Apartahotel ColombiaCalle 31 N # 2Bis -48 (1 block away from The Terminal de Transportes), ,  Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 15:00Internet cafe, Wi-Fi, security surveillance cameras, hot water, restaurant, steam room, elevator, cable TV, room service. COP$55,000.
  • Cali ApartmentChipichape Mall AreaOffers two fully furnished bedrooms and complimentary Wifi internet + Cable TV. They also give you a local mobile phone (that you can put credit on) which is very handy. Rates start from US$450/week with discounts for longer stays.

Splurge

  • Hotel Four Points by SheratonCalle 18N # 4N-08Member of the Sheraton Hotels. Five-star.
  • Hotel IntercontinentalExcellent place to stay. Five stars. Safe and good location
  • Hotel Astoria RealCalle 11 No. 5-16, Plaza de Caicedo, . A historic hotel overlooking Caicedo Square. Most rooms have a balcony. Aging, but affordable and safe. Centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, Wi-Fi. Single rooms for COP$45,000.
  • Hotel PlazaCarrera 6a No. 10-29, Plaza de Caicedo, . A modern hotel centrally located. Hot water, cable TV, carpeted rooms. Single room COP$40,000.
  • NOW (Boutique Hotel), Avenida 9AN No. 10N-74 (Granada), . Fancy and modern. The bar by the roofpool has one of the greatest views of town. $$$.

Stay safe due to the Coronavirus situation in Cali

In 2011 there were murders and car bombs related to the ongoing mafia war between drug cartels in the city. Shopping centers all over the city have been scenes of shoot outs between rivaling mafia factions. It is advised to avoid shopping centers with poor security, although some of the biggest and most well guarded malls in Cali have been scenes of murders too.

Cali is considered more dangerous than most other major cities in Colombia; therefore, keep your eyes open at day and night. Try to take a taxi if you want to come and go at night.

Avoid backstreet in the downtown (El Centro) and Sucre neighborhoods. This area is especially dangerous.

Walking alone at night at Avenida Sexta can be unsafe.

As in most other cities, it is unwise to walk with jewelry or let people around you know you have cash on you. Most places around hotels are safe.

Try not to talk on cellphones while walking through streets; that might lure in robbers. Also do not use iPods or other valuables in public.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued an advisory to travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Cali because of the threat of terrorist attack and criminal activity.

Cope

There is a great high tech hospital in town: Fundación Valle del Lili with many bilingual doctors. 

Go next

  • The little hamlet of San Cipriano is a good day trip. Most people visit this place only for the ride to it, but it is also possible to stay overnight. Enjoy a swim in the various river beaches, or enjoy a tube ride down the river.
  • Calima Lake, 1.5-hour trip from Cali, is, due to its year round wind, one of the best wind- & kitesurf spots in Southern America. There are at least 3 windsurf schools around the lake. One of them is Pescao Windsurfing   , run by windsurfing instructor Luis Fernando. They have excellent wind- and kitesurfing gear for rent (prices: windsurf COP$55,000-70,000 for 2 hours; kitesurf COP$60,000 per hour, COP$120,000 per day) and offer courses too (prices: windsurf COP$100,000 for 2 hours; kitesurf COP$100,000 per hour). Overnight stay at the school costs COP$20,000 per night. To get to Pescao, take a bus from Buga or Cali to Darién, and ask the busdriver to drop you off at the school.
  • City of Buga 1 hour drive. Visit “La Basilica”, a major pilgrimage site in Colombia (Ask for Dulces del Valle best place for traditional Dulces). Also, Buga is more tranquil and cleaner than Cali.
  • Parque del Cafe  . Approx 3 hr trip from Cali (approx 2 hr from Buga, listed above). This is an amusement park, and the Colombian Coffee Museum, complete with the history of Colombian coffee and Juan Valdez. See the theatrical show there that explains the local culture celebrating coffee.
  • City of Jamundi half hour drive (ask for Cholados that Jamundi is famous for-a delicious mix of shaved ice and exotic fruit with raspberry and sweet condensed milk sauces and a wafer cookie. Often sold from vendors that have stands that display fruit and shaved ice. There is a traffic circle roundabout near the city entrance with many Cholado stands)
  • Popayan is about three hours away, and a nice place to stay for a couple of days.
  • Isla Gorgona is a remote island in the Pacific. The whole island is a national park, specially known for scuba diving expeditions because of the great diversity in fauna. There is a fancy eco hotel. Reachable from Cali: Either via Buenaventura (2½ hours to the west by car) or regional flights available from Cali to Guapi. From any of these towns you need to take a boat to the island.
  • Watch humpback whales: around 1,200 humpback whales are expected to arrive every June – July in the Pacific ocean waters of Isla Gorgona, Sanquianga and Utria National Parks. With the whales come dozens of tourists every year to watch them mating. The whales spend the summer months feeding in polar waters and head to tropical waters in winter for mating and calving, sometimes traveling up to 17,000 km. They are black, grey and white, can grow up to 18 meters long and weigh up to 40 tons.

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Colombia

Santa Marta Coronavirus Covid-19 Travel Update to Colombia

Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia’s Costa Norte.

Understand

Santa Marta an important commercial port and tourism destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much visible. From the beach, the view of the Caribbean Sea is more or less to the west (beautiful sunsets) with a huge rock of an island jutting up out of the water to make a somewhat dramatic effect. Off to the right is the port snug behind another even bigger rock. This is a decent beach if you like beaches that are right in town with lots of people, vendors, and noise. Vendors are rather aggressive if you are on the beach.

Aside from the old center, the main attractions of Santa Marta are its two resort-like suburbs El Rodadero, to the south, and Taganga, to the north. El Rodadero has several high-end hotels and private “clubs” that cater mostly to wealthy Colombians, whereas Taganga used to be a fishing village and is very popular with (mostly foreign) backpackers. Taganga has many scuba-diving agencies.

There is a high season and low season. High season is December through April, with its peak from mid-December to late January (due to school and university vacations).

Get in

By plane

The Simón Bolívar airport.has non-stop flights from Bogotá and Medellín. It is on the beach, 20 min south of town, but much closer to most of the beach resorts and 10 min from El Rodadero (main beach). If you get in from abroad check if baggage is unloaded in Bogota even if airlines promise they´ll send the baggage directly to Santa Marta.

A taxi to the Centre historico is around COP$25,000 (no prepaid or metered taxis available).

By bus

The bus station (Terminal de Transporte).is all the way out of town on the main highway. To get there, you can catch a bus/colectivo with the sign “UCC TRANSPORTE” at carrera 1. The ride will take some 45 minutes and cost about COP$2,000. If carrying a big backpack, you might be rejected by some colectivo drivers, just wait for the big buses. With the taxi the trip takes around half hours and costs COP$15,000. In the bus terminal, you can get free WiFi at the tourist office.

Bus rides are available:

  • from Cartagena: COP$20,000, 3½ hours
  • from Barranquilla: COP$10,000, 2 hours
  • from Medellín: COP$108,000, 15 hours
  • from Bucaramanga: COP$60,000, 9 hours (Copetran, Brasilia) (Feb 2016)
  • from Bogotá: COP$80,000, 16 hours
  • from Riohacha: COP$15,000, 2½ hours
  • from Taganga: COP$1,400, 15 min with minibus or taxi for COP$10,000

For more comfortable road travel across northern Colombia, a few companies offer air conditioned van services between Cartagena and Santa Marta, with stops in Barranquilla en route. Cochetur seems to be the most reputable of these. Price is COP$50,000 per person between the main two stops and they will pick you up and drop you off at your desired location in each city. You will likely share the van with 6-8 people including the driver. Tipping did not appear to be expected but a thousand or two goes a long way here.

If you’re heading to the Coffee Region, a cheaper option is to catch a Berlinastur bus to Honda (COP$70, at least 12 hours, departure at 2PM), and right after that another bus to Pereira (COP$30, 6 hours). You’ll need to wait for an hour or so in the middle of the night in Honda, but you can stay at Berlinastur office during that time.

Get around

Streets are numbered the beach can be considered “Carrera 1” or 1st St., and the first street is usually “Carrera 1A” or 1A St. The next street after the first row of buildings is Carrera 2 or 2nd St. Calles are streets running from north to south. Unlike bigger cities in Colombia, taxis do not run on a meter. payments range from COP$3500 for a “lift” (usually a ride no more than 10 minutes) to upwards of COP$20,000, depending on where you go. If you meet someone who ‘knows’ a taxi driver, this can be a good opportunity to negotiate a price to your next checkpoint in Colombia. Some drivers will take you as far as Barranquilla, although you have to negotiate.

See

  • Museo del OroCalle 14 No.2-67 (on plaza Bolivar). Displays a collection of precolumbian pottery, a nice collection of gold and a scale model of Ciudad Perdida. Free entrance.
  • Simon Bolivar’s place of death (take a bus for COP$1,400 or taxi for COP$5,000). Beautiful and very interesting gardens, lots of iguanas, study the map before getting any further. The guide will tell you only about the buildings and the history of the “Libertador”. COP$12,000.

Do

  • Scuba divingNearby coral reefs provide good possibilities for scuba diving. All the scuba diving operators are at Taganga, so you’ll need to go there to shop around (prices are very different from one to another). You can follow the PADI course (3-4 days), or just go for a 1-day dive (no licence required).
  • Jet skiOn the beaches, you can usually rent a jet ski in increments of 10 minutes. If you are not comfortable operating one, you can usually ask for a ride around. Life jackets are provided.
  • BirdwatchingBirdwatching at the El Dorado bird reserve above Minca ProAves.
  • Spanish SchoolCalle 21 3-88 Centro The Neotropical Spanish School at Casa Scania is a small size Spanish School focused on quality giving classes in downtown Santa Marta and Barranquilla, USD8/hour with one student per teacher, USD6 per person in small groups.Course material, hot and cold drinks included. Casa Scania Calle 21 3-88 (between Carrera 3 and 4) Central Santa Marta. For more info see homepage. USD8.
  • Adrenaline AddictsCarrera 21, Calle 20-36, . 9AM-6PMThey offer motorcycle rentals, lessons, and motorcycle tours spanning 1-7 days. Run by a pair of young Americans, new business with nice new bikes. Rentals around US$30/day, Tours under US$100/day, all inclusive, varies by tour. Run from Drop Bear Hostel.

Buy

Santa Marta is famous for its beach sellers. Since beaches are open 365 days a year, there are always people wandering up and down the beach selling anything.

The beaches in the northern suburb El Rodadero have aggressive sellers. Take this as an opportunity to haggle – usually aim for COP$2,000-3,000 below the price asked.

If you are planning to go to Tayrona and need to buy snorkeling gear, you’ll be disappointed to see only a couple of very basic Chinese packs, the same in all the shops. If you decide to buy them, the cheapest prices are in a kitchenware shop at Calle 15 with Carrera 3 (COP$15 for the “good” one).

Postcard stamps can be bought at the post office at Calle 22/Carrera 2 (COP$2,900 for Europe). No stamps are sold at the Depris post office (Carrera 3).

Carrera 5th is a big shopping promenade, with stores accompanied by street stalls and vendors. At the corner with Calle 20 there’s a big supermarket (Exito). Some streets are pedestrian-friendly, such as Carrera 3 between Calle 15 and 20.

Eat

There are a lot of eating options. They seem to be good at roasting and grilling chicken. They do a good job of grilling beef tough but flavorful. Seafood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive lots of shrimp and seafood cocktail vendors. Most varieties of fruit are available even what is more common to cold climates. At night street vendors sell all types of snacks pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, kabobs, rice in milk with coco, fried stuffed doughy things, etc. Coffee, hot chocolate, and both hot cinnamon and lemon is omni-present.

  • Restaurante El EspañoleteCalle 13 no 2-45Excellent Spanish food. Specialized in paellas, tapas and grilled meat. The owner, Toni, is from Valencia, Spain, and he can cook the real paella at a very reasonable price (less than US$15 per person). His wife, Alexa, is Colombian and her smothies are the best (she uses fresh passion fruit, mango, and other varieties of tropical fruits). They are both really nice and provide their customers with helpful tips to visit the best places in Santa Marta. Lunch menu is about $5. The restaurant is housed in a colonial building and it is even haunted by a ghost!
  • La Tasca – Tapas BarCalle 18 No 2- 72Run by a Spaniard, this small and cosy restaurant offers an excellent selection of typical spanish tapas at a fair price. It is a real experience for the palate of both locals and tourists.
  • Agave Azul – Sabores de MexicoCalle 14 No 3-74, . Open Tu-F for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only. Happy Hour Margaritas 2-for-1 from 5-7PM everyday.Very good Mexican food prepared by fabulous New York trained chef Michael McMurdo. With a range from burritos to steaks to seafood this very elegant food will blow your mind but not break the bank. With lunch menu for US$4 and dinner menu from US$8-13.
  • Merkabar / Welcome RestaurantCalle 10 No 2-11Good combination of local and gringo food. Good breakfasts, cheap filling lunches, and their famous “sopa del mar”, soup overflowing with seafood. Their fruit juices are excellent. Gilberto, one of the brothers that owns and runs Merkabar, speaks English and is friendly and helpful with tourist needs.
  • Ben & Josep´s bar & restaurantCarrera 1 # 18-67(Dutch owner) On the beach road in front of the Park Hotel. The very best steak (filet mignon) in Santa Marta. Fine dining for a reasonable price.
  • Restaurante El EscorialA good restaurant is in the middle of the block behind the beach on 11th street
  • Restaurante y Pescadería ManuelCarrera 1A # 26-167, . Very nice seafood.
  • Restaurante El SantoCalle 21 – 2a 52, . One of the few places in SM with good tender Argentinan meat and nice wine. Argentinan and Islandic owner. Very nice and welcoming.
  • Tim’s Gourmet Coffee ShopCra 1A 23-57 (50 m from the entrance of the marina in downtown Santa Marta.), ,  Opens at 7:15AM everyday. Tim’s Owls Den Pub open until 10PM weekdays. 2AM Friday & Saturday. 2-for-1 cocktails.You’ll get free Wi-Fi while you’re having a fresh coffee made by beans direct from the organic growers on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Western Canadian/German pastries and European style breakfasts daily until 2PM. Crepes and deli sandwiches all day.

Street food:

  • Excellent seafood soup from a man at the corner of 13th st. and 4th Carr (diagonally opposite the small church.. next to sunglasses vendors. You’ll see huge pots of soup). Very cheap and delicious, but only in mornings. Sells out by noon.
  • There is a man who has been sitting on 14th street between 3rd and 4th carrera (behind the beach) selling shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price for 23 years.
  • There is another man who has been sitting on 22nd street on 1st carrera (in front of the beach) selling a delicious shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price and he is very reliable and well known in the city.

Drink

  • Seko BarCalle 19 4-11, Santa MartaGood music, cocktails, excellent prices, slightly insane. Very popular.
  • Santo DomingoCalle 17 No. 3 – 70 near the cathedral.The best place to party in Santa Marta. The owners are super nice, they will personally attend. The owners are two Spanish. That women more beautiful and rumba, to good music and really nice atmosphere.I always found it a good show. Thanks Elena and Kike.
  • Crab’s BarCalle 18 No. 3-69 (between Carr 3 & 4)A fun rock n’ roll bar. The Colombian owner (who is a spitting image of Neil Young) used to own a large rock club in Bogotá, but he sold it to settle down here. Every evening he VJs videos of all the great classic rock bands. Friendly staff, great vibe, nice decor.
  • BurukukaA trendy nightclub on the way towards El Rodadero. Burukuka sits on top of a hill overlooking the sea, with a great terrace. It’s a high-end place, so dress appropriately. Also serves food. Vía al Edificio Cascadas del Rodadero, just out of town, to the south.

The drink of choice is, of course, beer. Because Santa Marta can get brutally hot during the summer (upwards of 35°C/95°F), it is a good idea to constantly have a bottle of water with you. During the evenings, when it gets cooler, beer and friends is often an excellent combination. It would be good idea to take a couple of “Stubbie Coolers” (Australian vernacular for an item which keeps the beer in your bottle cooler or longer) as the heat will have you drinking warm beer by the time you are at the end of your drink.

Soft drinks can be found at nearly every restaurant – sometimes you can even pick it up in glass bottles. They are cheap: a drink usually costs no more than COP$2,000.

Ask about Ben´s Bar on the Beach. Barrio Samario, La Puerta, and El Garage.

  • Juan Valdez CafeCalle 14 (next to the Gold Museum). One of the surprisingly few excellent coffee options in town. Even many good restaurants don’t have a good coffee machine and/or use good coffee beans.

Sleep

If you are looking for a place to stay, there are somewhat more expensive hotels. 10th street is less expensive. These include:

  • La Brisa Loca BackpackersCalle 14 N3-58 (carrera 3) (between Plaza San Francisco and Parque Bolivar), . Owned by two Californian brothers and built in an 80-year-old, neo-republican mansion and restored to recover its genuine colonial Caribbean feel. The large, high ceiling manor, with its eleven dorms and suites houses up to 60 people and provides beverages for many more. With pool, full size bar, hammock room, nightly meals and free Wi-Fi. Prices starting at COP$20,000 for a dorm with fan.
  • Hotel MiramarCalle 10C No 1c-70, . Classic South American backpacker’s hotel. Rooms are quite basic and sometimes it’s hot, but the staff is great, Wi-Fi very fast and free, defacto tourist information office for surrounding area (Tayrona, Lost City, etc.) Also has a really friendly restaurant, and offers safe boxes for backpacks when going on tours. They also have a location in Taganga at Calle 17 No. 2-36. Dorm COP$350,000; twin room shared bath COP$80,000-90,000; double room shared bath COP$100,000.
  • Candela & Chocolate HostelCalle 12 No 3-01, ,  Fairly new and clean hostel right on the corner with a locked security gate, ring the bell to get someone to help you. Rooms are spacious and well ventilated with lockable chests for your belongings. Free Wi-Fi. Two blocks away from the main plaza. Dorms for COP$18,000, including breakfast.
  • Hotel Nueva GranadaCalle 12 No 3- 17, Historic Centre of Santa Marta. Nice and small, with pool and jacuzzi, bar, comfortable and clean double and multiple rooms with air- conditioning or ventilators, unlimited internet access, and free breakfast. The staff is very kind and helpful. from USD33.
  • Hotel BetomaCalle 8 No 1- 58, RodaderoCute hotel with all comforts, which has been managed by its owners for more than 40 years and it is famous for its warm and helpful staff. It offers comfortable standard roooms with air- conditioning, and suites with kitchenette and living room from COP$110,000 per night with breakfast. All rooms have a bacony with sea view.
  • Casa Familiar (Also on Calle 10, 1 block up from Miramar, on other side of street.). Private, mild mannered and friendly staff. Rooms are small and basic. Single from COP$20,000. Also has dorm rooms for COP$15,000.
  • Hotel Palma Blanca (20 Street No 1b-69, next to a calm beach in the cheerful tourist town of Rodadero in Santa Marta.), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PMPrivate,comfortable, friendly and attentive staff, and a great swimming pool. All rooms have air-conditioning and wireless internet access. single COP$110,000, double or twin COP$130,000, triple COP$180,000, quad COP$230,000.
  • Finca Barlovento GuesthouseAt a beach right next to the Tayrona Park.
  • Cabanas Los AngelesThese cosy beach cabanas right next to the Tayrona Park are a great place for travelers who are looking for privacy and who don’t want to spend too much on accommodation within the Tayrona National Park.
  • El Kool Koala Backpackers (Calle 13 No 3- 139, only 3 blocks from the beach of Taganga in Santa Marta.), . Run by an Australian with 20 years travel experience who speaks fluent Spanish in the best Aussie accent and his energetic local best mate. Really cruisy place, outdoor setup for cooking, chilling, or drinking the night away. Dormitories from COP$18,000.
  • Hostal SolyMarCarrera 2 No 19-06, . This is an immaculately clean hotel, which is a change from a lot of the places in Santa Marta. The immediate area is probably the best in Santa Marta, as opposed to the sketchier Calle 10 barrio. The colonial rooms are recommended, with very tall ceilings and fan for COP$30,000 for a private room (single). The staff is incredibly friendly.
  • Hotel Imperial Caribe (also known as the Hotel Villa del Mar), Calle 17 No. 3-96 (between Carr 3 & 4), ,  Nice rooms, friendly staff. Singles with fan for COP$30,000. Doubles, Triples, A/C more. Free Wi-Fi in lobby.
  • Sun Citycalle 18-3#28Less crowded. This place offers comfort at low price. Run by a nice family that really cares. A place to get off the Gringo Trail a bit. privates from USD12-22.
  • Aluna Hostel calle 21 Carrera 5-72 , is one of the newest hostels in Santa Marta and is the perfect place for backpackers looking for a comfortable, quiet and safe hostel.
  • Cabin Tayrona Park ((Tayrona Park accommodation)), at one of the calmest beaches of the Tayrona National ParkCheck-in: noon, check-out: noonPrivate,comfortable, friendly local staff, and within the Park Double and triple rooms with private or shared bathroom from USD35 per night, restaurant service available.
  • Hotel Minca (Newly refurbished hotel and restaurant), Minca (Opposite the police station.). The hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders attract around 40 species of birds to the garden. Double COP$125,0000, single COP$80,000.
  • Hotel Sierra’s Sound (Your home in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta (Minca hotel and restaurant)), Minca (Next to the river.). Check-in: noon, check-out: noonAir-conditioned rooms from USD25 per person. It offers a calm and totally natural atmosphere and one of the best restaurants of Santa Marta.
  • Hotel Boutique Don PepeCl 16 # 1c – 92 Barrio Centro, ,  Small hotel with 12 rooms, restaurant, spa and rooftop jacuzzi.
  • El Hostal de JackieCalle 21 # 3-40 (between Carrera 3 and 4), Centro Historico (Take a public bus (blue colour) from the airport to Calle 22), ,  Backpacker Hostel with dormitories and private rooms. Kind and helpful staff. Each bed has its own fan (can be noisy at night) in 12-bed dorm. Small but nice swimming pool on the ground floor. Terrace bar with satellite TV and a hammock on the top floor. Wifi and 2 computers with internet. Kitchen available. Close to the beach (5 minutes walking). Laundry service. Checkout 11PM. from COP$21,000 in low season (COP$28,000 in high season).
  • Rodadero Apartments (RSMA), Carrera 1A 5 – 93 El Rodadero, ,  Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11:30AMApartments for rent day – season, near Tayrona Park and Taganga. 2 rooms with air conditioning, bathroom, LED cable TV, beach view terrace, free WiFi, pool, private parking, airport shuttle, local tours & snorkeling. start from USD65/night.

Go next

  • Taganga – a backpacker and hippie haven in a one-time peaceful little fishing village just north
  • Ciudad Perdida de Teyuna — Santa Marta, is besides Taganga the main jumping off point for the famous trek, and you should be able to arrange a trek on short notice with any of the hostels or tour companies.
  • Tayrona National Park — an unspoilt natural paradise of jungle, birds, ocean, and absolutely gorgeous beaches.
  • Cabo de la Vela – tours to this small village can be booked in Santa Marta or Riohacha, although departures don’t take place daily. An interesting experience, but only recommended for seasoned travellers, preferable with travel experience in SEE (begging children, heat, long bus drives)
  • Cartagena – the Heroic City, Capital of the Bolívar department is Colombia’s tourist city par excellence

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