Medellín, Colombia

  • March 22, 2020

we spent 10 days in Medellín, Colombia.

99% of our time was spent in a tiny bubble known as La Florida so our impression of Medellín is based on a 10 block radius. 

La Florida is terrific for a week and a half of heads-down work, food, good weather, nice people, friendly conversations with other Western travelers, and coffee. it's also terrific for 6 months of binge-vacationing. nothing but young people looking to party.

we'd venture to say this was our favorite city between Europe and South America combined. we have a soft spot for a few cities in Asia (Bangkok, Seoul, and Tokyo) so we won't compare those.

Quirks


  1. as of March 2020 due to road congestion, traffic laws restrict cars on the roads between certain hours by the number on the license plate (whether the last digit is odd or even)

  2. locals walking around with briefcases on their chest with candy will also try to sell you cocaine

  3. a local claimed that the highest-quality chocolate and coffee are exported (but we thought both were pretty darn good in Medellin). the same local warned us the same thing about drugs offered by Medellin locals (we don't do drugs but perhaps a useful warning for other travelers)

  4. yes, most locals despise Escobar. however, we were surprised to learn that some locals still pay tribute to Escobar at his grave (flowers, mementos, etc)

  5. Medellin is a micro-climate and has mild weather year-round

  6. it is difficult to cross streets (not always cross walks), and sometimes you have to play frogger

  7. loads of digital nomads in la Floripa, numerous hostels and co-working spaces

  8. we were served Coke bottles in a glass bottle with plastic twist tops

  9. police officers dressed in green are for security, blue is for traffic 

  10. lots of hot and cold chocolate beverages ("milo", a chocolate and milk drink, was on most cafe menus)

  11. most toilets (even in nice restaurants) are not equipped to flush toilet paper. many signs asking patrons to throw toilet paper in the waste basket instead. we haven't seen this ~anywhere except Korea

  12. ajiaco is a traditional Colombian soup with chicken and potatoes

  13. break dancers run into the street to perform for change during red traffic lights

  14. La Florida is mostly filled with tourists

the Pablo Escobar tour

we went on a very educational tour of the pivotal places of Pablo Escobar's life. our tour included:


  1. a memorial constructed on the grounds of Escobar's house (for the victims, not Pablo). on it was a large black monument, dotted with holes for each life Escobar took. locals place flowers in the holes in remembrance

  2. the "jail" (more like a resort) Escobar built for himself and later sold to the Colombian government

  3. the graveyard where Escobar, his family, and other key members of his entourage were buried

  4. a soccer stadium that Escobar "donated" to the people

  5. the hideout where Escobar was discovered and the roof upon which he was shot and killed

Ryan made a Twitter thread with key takeaways and photos from the experience:

budget

our Airbnb in Medellín was $109 per night (+ $17 in fees per night). our unit was >50% more expensive than most of the Airbnbs with our search criteria (laptop workspace, gym, washer/dryer, etc.).

meals were $7 /each on average. because Medellín was optimal for heads-down work, we ate most of our meals separately, which meant we mostly ate at casual eateries. 

here's a comparison of our New York City vs Medellín lifestyle.

the crib

our Airbnb was in the middle of la Florida. this was the first time there were enough interesting dining and cafe options nearby that we did not even feel the need to visit a grocery store to stock up on our usual "grocery checklist" when we arrive in a city (fruit, bread, yogurt, snacks, coffee, etc).

while the unit was beautiful, spacious and centrally located, we spent only sleeping hours inside it. the next door unit (sharing a wall) had recently been torn down and a construction team started with power drilling and hammering from 8am. the noise was ear-splitting and we had to shout to hear each other. 

we avoided spending any waking hours in the unit.

meals

we can't say we know what Colombian food is. la Florida probably had traditional Colombian restaurants but the majority of the highly rated restaurants were tourist-friendly (aka. Western food). we mostly ate burgers and salads. it was all really tasty and high quality, though. 

productivity

Rickshaw followers are accountability partners. here's what we achieved in Lima.

Ryan built team accounts for Lobiloo customers, wrote a guest post for the Flippa.com blog, and began planning OKRs for the Fork team.

Hideko added features to a couple integrations, continued with her long-term project of revising all Help Articles for Fomo, started reading/learning about trading, and completed v0.5 backend build of a new medical app.

challenges

our main challenge was the construction in the next door unit of the Airbnb. otherwise, we loved it and will definitely be back.

ryan's corner

on our 2nd day in the city i joined Selina Coworking, a $40 per week workspace just 100 yards from our apartment. Hideko joined the following day, and my schedule was usually like this:


  • wake up at ~8:30a due to construction next door

  • go to a cafe and read a book + review vocabulary words (Korean language)

  • eat lunch (double cheeseburger with bacon, no bun)

  • work from another cafe

  • dinner with Hideko

  • work at Selina until late

some days i worked in the office until 1 or 2am. i'd get an ~8p coffee at the building's in-house cafe, a cup of ice, and just rock out with my headphones on. during this trip i actually spent a lot of time studying and reading, vs "creating," particularly the many hours i spent learning SEO from a course i purchased.

i accidentally even made a couple friends. at the coworking space a Twitter follower walked up to me and said, "are you Ryan?" then another guy who needed help ordering a burger medium-well, took me to a rooftop party at his hostel. strange times.

hideko's corner

i completed Vegan Diet: Part 2.

my first attempt was in Lisbon (wrote about my favorite vegan spots here). my second attempt was on this trip in Medellín (wrote about my favorite spots in Medellin here).

like i've said in other posts, i'm not vegan and i am not trying to be. i just like to mix things up.

rickshaw report

Medellín scored a 88 / 100 according to our Rubric.

Rickshaw Report Medellin Colombia

this is a top-3 score for us, with dozens of cities visited. we had no idea it would rank so highly before visiting, because again, we do zero research before showing up in a new town.

admittedly, ~half the reason we gave Medellín a high score was the concentration of a) other westerners and b) fancy restaurants and cafes. la Florida is a grid of fun for those willing to learn a bit of Spanish.

next time we visit we'll a join, coworking space, and maybe even get some groceries.