In this blog, we discuss our favorite and least favorite parts about living in Medellin as a digital nomad. At the end, we’ll introduce you to our brand new Year Disrupted city scoring guide based on our unique grading scale. To listen to the podcast version of this, click here.
Living in Medellin as a Digital Nomad: An Overview
One of the main reasons we decided to make Medellin the
first stop in our journey was because we had heard such amazing things about
the city from casual travelers and digital nomads alike. Other reasons included
my familiarity with Spanish, alignment with U.S. time zone (EST), and the
estimated low cost of living.
We didn’t come to Medellin with any particular expectations, however, we still placed a lot of trust in the city. After all, it was to be the first stop, almost a trial one, in a brand new lifestyle. Not only would were Abhi and I moving in together for the first time, but we were about to take a deep dive into remote work, building our own businesses, and challenging everything we had ever learned about professional success.
So needless to say the stakes were quite high.
Before we get into pros and cons, we have to say that
overall we loved Medellin and we both believe that seven weeks was far too
little time. We could truly see ourselves coming back to Medellin at some point
in our journey.
Another quick disclaimer before we begin. We are writing about the pros/cons of Medellin for digital nomad life. This review is not intended to make sweeping statements about Colombia or Medellin. It is instead intended to be an unfiltered commentary on our subjective experience during our seven-week stay. While everyone can have a different experience, the following commentary reflects our experience and the general consensus from our other digital nomad friends. So if you disagree, that’s cool too but don’t hate
Pros to living in Medellin as a Digital Nomad
Pro #1: Cafes and Coworking Spaces
If you’re a digital nomad living in
Medellin, I don’t have to tell you that a lot of your week revolves around
work. There is absolutely no denying that Medellin, specifically the El Poblado
area, is optimized for digital nomads. The streets are lined with working cafes
and there are quite a few coworking spaces that offer daily passes and monthly
dedicated spaces. Fan favorites such as Velvet Café and Pergamino are relatively
quiet, have plenty of seats and outlets, and other digital nomads working the
Have you ever tried to work at a Starbucks
or coffee shop in the U.S.? If so, can you relate to spending 33% of your time
looking for a spot/outlet, 33% of your time hating everyone for talking too
loud, and the final 33% maybe working? Well that is NOT the case in Medellin.
If you’re someone who likes to get out of the house while still being
productive, then the cafes in El Poblado and Laurales are for you.
Some of our favorites include: Matilde, Velvet, Pergamino, and Naturalista. A word to the wise: the food isn’t great at some of these cafes so be sure to take a lunch break at a local Menu Del Dia for a delicious and affordable break.
Pro #2: Digital Nomad Community
Overall, the digital nomad community was
one of our favorite things about Medellin. This community is extremely
welcoming and centralized in the sense that once you meet one person, you
inevitably meet the whole crew. Digital nomads are insanely friendly people.
It’s like everyone is the new kid at school.
The digital nomad community in Medellin knows when to work, when to have fun, and when to network. We’ve met some incredibly inspiring people, content creators, and business owners. In fact, some of the connections I made in Medellin have already turned into business opportunities.
Don’t wait when it comes to tapping into
the community. Join a Facebook group such as Expat Women in Medellin, socialize
at the Selina coworking space or bar, or just say hello to someone who doesn’t
look too focused at a café. You won’t regret it.
Pro #3: Facilities and Services
Medellin is an extremely modern city with
convenient access to all of the facilities and services you may need. Gyms,
hair salons, barbershops, and grocery stores are typically within walking
distance. They’re affordable for the most part and you get an amazing value for
what you pay.
Healthcare is also extremely affordable and
accessible in the city so Americans, listen up! I got sick within the first
week and an English-speaking doctor’s visit complete with two weeks of
medication cost $30 USD. One of our friends also had a positive experience
getting Lasik eye surgery in the city.
Pro #4: Something for everyone
If you’re bored in Medellin then that is a
you problem. Living as a digital nomad in Medellin means you can balance work
and play with a never-ending list of activities. Whether you’re into partying,
salsa, or yoga and meditation, you’ll have no problem finding a space and
community. Think about what you love and pursue it in Medellin.
Pro #5: Proximity to Nature and Activities
There’s no doubt that the traffic and pollution might make you feel a bit cramped in Medellin. But no worries! Medellin is easy to escape in terms of day trips and multi-day trips. Whether you want to explore nature, hike, or visit nearby towns, there’s a plethora of ways to get out of the city. Check out our guide to visiting Guatape, a hidden waterfall, and Colombia’s coffee region.
Pro #6: International Food Scene
No hate to Colombian food, it’s delicious, but we were a bit worried about getting tired of it during our stay in Medellin. However, this was simply not the case because there are a TON of restaurants, both fancy and casual, to satisfy your international food cravings. Check out our favorite restaurants here.
Cons to Living in Medellin as a Digital Nomad
We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the
downsides to living in Medellin.
Con #1: Affordability
Before you read on, we want to underscore
that Medellin is significantly cheaper than living in Southern California.
Like, very significantly. That being said, we severely underestimated our
expenses, especially where groceries are considered. Most digital nomads lament
that groceries and toiletries such as soap, hair stuff, and sunscreen are
expensive due to being imported. There are, of course, local markets but they
were simply too far away from where we lived. There are ways around these
expenses, we just figured them out a little too late in the game. Dining at
local Menu Del Dias and ordering food delivery services such as House of
Broccoli is often more cost-effective than grocery shopping and meal prepping.
Con #2: Not Female-Friendly
I speak more about this in our podcast, but being a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Caucasian in Medellin was not always a pleasant experience. I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve never experienced the staring culture that I did in Medellin. I often found myself walking with my head down and eyes averted just to avoid unwanted attention. Men have no problem looking you up and down, making lewd comments, and slowing down when in a car/bike to take a very long, obvious look at you. Let me tell you, that’s a pretty disempowering feeling. It made both Abhi and me very uncomfortable. I spoke to other female digital nomads who expressed similar feelings.
I understand every culture is different.
However, in a place that you’re trying to make your home, this gets pretty
Con #3: Prostitution
Prostitution is very legal in Colombia. Disclaimer: we have nothing against legal prostitution. The legality of it does not bother us. However, the prostitution in Medellin is very in your face, basically unavoidable, in El Poblado, the city’s nightlife district. This can pose a different challenge to both men and women. Sometimes, we would wander into a perfectly normal-looking bar or club only to realize I was the only woman who wasn’t a sex worker. This type of protocol can be a bit uncomfortable and can bring weird things out of drunk tourists. If you’re a woman, I guess I don’t really need to explain why this can suck sometimes. If you’re a man, we’ve heard from some of our male digital nomad friends that dating can be a challenge in the city because of this aspect. For more information, check out our podcast, where we get more into this.
Con #4: Authenticity vs Accessibility
Living in El Poblado is a trade-off. Like we said, it’s close to everything and has an amazing range of options and facilities. However, there is no denying that it’s a popular tourist area located near the business/financial area. Although we would’ve loved to experience a more authentic side of Colombian culture, we opted for the convenience of El Poblado. Like I said, it’s a trade-off, but we would’ve preferred more balance.
Medellin is an amazing city that’s perfectly optimized for digital nomads. If you’re considering Medellin, be sure to think about your preferred working style, your budget, and the activities that bring you joy. Eliminating the choice paralysis helps your life run smoother on a daily basis.
Living in Medellin as a Digital Nomad: The Year Disrupted
As we chart our way across the globe, we’ll be giving our official Year Disrupted rating that we’ve developed specifically for digital nomads. Check out our breakdown of Medellin (all scores are out of 10).
- Cost of Living – 6/10
- Places to Work (coworking/cafes) – 9
- Digital Nomad Community – 8
- Nightlife – 6.5
- Outdoor Recreation – 7
- Safety/Female-Friendly – 6
- Modern Facilities – 8.5
- Medical/Healthcare- 8
- Food – 7
- Weather/Air – 7.5
Composite score: 75.5/100