When I first touched down in Medellin, I did what any American would do—called an Uber to come pick me up. However, as I’ve spent more time in the city, my paisa friends have quickly shown me other (cheaper!) apps that work just as well as Uber.
If you like the convenience of organizing how to get from A to B on your smartphone, I’m going to share my newfound knowledge with you.
That way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running (er, driving) once you land in Medellin. Let’s take a look at seven major apps you can use to get around Medellin.
What to Know About Rideshare Apps in Colombia
Uber does still work in Colombia. However, a very public legal dispute with the Colombian government resulted in the controversial app closing its operation briefly in 2020. The move allowed some of its local rivals to gain a foothold on the ride-hailing market in Medellin.
As well as not being popular with taxi drivers, the app is not popular with other Colombian drivers, which greatly reduces the number of cars available. The most popular ride-sharing apps in Colombia include names you might not have heard of (namely DiDi and inDriver).
So if you’re flying into Medellin from New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you might want to download InDriver, Didi, Beat, or Cabify to ensure you’ve got some added peace of mind on your phone on arrival.
Ride-hailing activities are still officially operating in a legal grey area in Medellin and the rest of Colombia. So, unless the vehicle that arrives is a yellow taxi (many of the local taxi drivers use these apps), you might have to sit up front with your driver to avoid alerting suspicion from the authorities by riding in the back seat.
The world’s largest ride-hailing app, Uber, has had an on-off, love-hate relationship with Colombia since it first arrived to disrupt the transportation business in 2017.
Once upon a time, this app was illegal in Colombia. Today, however, it’s back with a vengeance. This app is gaining popularity with tourists and locals alike.
Personally, this is one of my preferred ways to get around because it’s safe, and you don’t have to adjust any settings when moving from country to country. The app automatically switches your location and currency.
The Chinese ride-sharing app, DiDi, landed in Colombia in 2019 and has been growing steadily since. However, it’s still got some way to go before it can rank alongside the market leaders – inDriver and Cabify.
As a consequence, you might have to wait a little longer to find a car.
The app works like all the others allowing you to pay with a credit card or cash and has a special tie-up with Huawei phone users to get a discount on your first ride.
What’s cool about DiDi is that it also offers food delivery! If you want to get a bite to eat without leaving your hotel, this could be the app for you.
Cabify taps you into Colombia’s impressive network of yellow taxis.
Originally from Spain, the app has consolidated itself as the principal taxi app in Colombia after merging with the other market leader, EasyTaxi and EasyTappsi in 2019. As a result, Cabify has most of the taxis in Medellín working on its platform.
It works very much like all the other ride-sharing apps, helping you find the address of your destination, transparency on pricing ahead of your ride (it includes the option of including a tip for the driver), and reducing the need to explain where you’re heading in a foreign language.
You simply request a taxi on your smartphone, and you can track the taxi’s arrival in real time.
The app provides security to visitors by providing you with the driver’s name and license plate and a panic button if you don’t feel safe. The app allows users to pay with a credit card or cash. It also claims to offset carbon emissions from your ride by planting trees in the Amazon.
Founded in Russia, the ride-sharing app, inDriver, has become extremely popular in Colombia as it gives users the option of selecting the price they are willing to pay.
It’s also more generous with drivers in terms of the amount of commission it charges, so you will probably find you have more options here than other apps like Uber. inDriver’s reverse bid approach can seem complicated at first for visitors from out-of-town who have little idea how much a taxi should cost from one side of the city to the other.
Start low and wait for the counter-bids to arrive and you will soon get an idea of how much the going rate is. Don’t accept the first offer, and slowly push your bid upwards towards the counter-offers you receive until you find the sweet spot.
Users can pay in cash, which is another reason it’s popular with drivers and local users.
If you want to meet more locals, the Moovit app is a useful piece of AI that will help you find the fastest and most convenient combination of Medellin’s buses, trams, metro, or public bikes.
Buses are brilliant for an authentic Colombian experience, and you’ll be surprised how many heads you turn or conversations you start by choosing this form of transport in Medellin.
Simply enter your route to discover the best bus route and estimated times to arrive at your destination. Moovit provides step-by-step guidance on how to get from A to B, and it provides helpful notifications on when to get off the bus and what to do next.
This app comes with the feel-good factor of feeling like a local and reducing your carbon footprint.
If you plan on using the metro, the official app of the Metro de Medellín will help you make sense of the system. That includes the tram system and cable cars!
This app comes with a useful map and information on fares, and updates on any problems. It’s probably a good way to get comfortable with the network.
Another nice thing about the metro is that it’s actually pretty close to several of Casacol’s major properties. For example, Landmark is just a short walk from the Poblado Metro. Or, if you’re staying at Factory Lofts, you won’t have to go far to reach the Estadio station!
Another of the apps that benefited most from the temporary departure of Uber from Colombia was Beat.
Formerly known as Taxibeat, the company was founded in Greece by Nikos Drandakis in collaboration with associates Nikos Damilakis, Kostis Sakkas, and Michael Sfictos in 2011 but has 90% of its operations in Latin America.
It’s now part of the Free Now group, a ride-hailing joint venture between BMW and Daimler. The app allows you to pay with cash or a credit card.
If you’re looking for safety tips for getting around Medellin, there’s really not too much to say. Taking a taxi is safe in Medellin, although you may want to do as the locals say and avoid dando papaya.
This paisa phrase, which translates to “don’t give papaya,” just means don’t flash around your valuables. Doing so can call unwanted attention to you as a traveler.