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.
If you want to get around Medellin peacefully, you need to be able to properly talk and understand locals in the best way possible. Aside from transportation apps, apps for communication are essential to prevent misunderstandings that can cause confusion.
Let’s look at the most critical communication apps while touring around Medellin.
WhatsApp is one of the most common messaging apps that has dominated Colombia. What’s great about this app is it’s also capable of group chats, calls, direct messages, and sending photos. Plus, you don’t need a Colombian number to use WhatsApp.
As long as you have a smartphone, you can easily download WhatsApp and use it in Medellin. There are also no extra charges to send a message or call, making it a quicker way to stay in touch than sending emails.
Who doesn’t have Facebook? This social media app has been one of the easiest ways to get in touch with your family, friends, and even colleagues because it allows the quick sending of updates through photos, videos, and messages.
Facebook can be easily downloaded to any smartphone in Colombia. Even better, you can find different public groups on the app. This makes it easier to connect with the locals, especially when you’re a digital nomad.
Skype is another software easily downloadable on your smartphone, laptop, or desktop. It allows you to make video calls and send messages for free. We highly recommend Skype for keeping in touch with your friends and family, especially those living hundreds of miles away.
Like WhatsApp and Facebook, you can send messages or call your loved ones for free – as long as messages are exchanged over Skype.
Ground transportation is critical if you want to reach the best tourist attractions in Medellin. While it’s more expensive than public transit, it’s more convenient and can help you reach your destination without getting late.
EasyTaxi is a useful mobile app for requesting taxis in more than twenty cities in Colombia, and this includes Medellin. Originally founded in Brazil, EasyTaxi is now a common transportation app in over thirty countries in Latin America.
What’s great about EasyTaxi is that it can track available taxis in real-time, providing information about the cab’s license plate and driver’s name.
Tappsi is a Colombia-based transportation app and one of EasyTaxi’s major competitors in Medellin. But did you know these major mobile apps merged to compete with Uber?
Like EasyTaxi, Tappsi can track in real-time a driver’s name and the cab’s license plate. What tourists mostly do is book both Tappsi and EasyTaxi to check which app gets a taxi faster.
We know cabs are more convenient than public transportation. But there’s nothing wrong with choosing the bus because it’s cheaper, is there? And redBus saves the day when you need tickets for your Medellin travels.
This mobile app allows you to buy your bus tickets in advance, instead of having to wait in long lines to secure one. Plus, redBus gives you an overview of available operators and routes available. And it also enables individuals to choose seats and their desired payment method in purchasing the tickets.
4. Grin Scooters
Aside from taxis and buses, scooters are also becoming common in Colombia, especially in Bogota and Medellin. Grin Scooters is a unique app that lets you rent scooters for transportation in real-time.
Locals prefer using scooters because bike lanes are widespread in Medellin. However, always remember to take precautions when riding scooters because these are more prone to road accidents.
5. Transmilenio and SITP
Transmilenio and SITP is a bus application ideal for ex-pats. It’s common in Medellin and Bogota, showing you the bus number and route each bus takes. This helped several tourists determine the right bus number to help them get to a certain destination.
Another advantage of this mobile app is the ability to check the balance on your transportation card through the NFC or Near Field Communication Technology using your phone.
6. TransMi App
Another bus transportation app is TransMi, which was recently launched in 2019. The TransMi App allows users to identify the time when the next bus will arrive at a certain station.
This mobile app became a hit among users because it promoted convenience. Through TransMi, you can predict the time when you must arrive at the bus station so you wouldn’t miss the bus.
A possible downside of TransMi is its precision. While the time is not 100% accurate, it’s still better than not knowing anything at all.
Picap basically works like Uber. But, instead of cars, you’re looking for a scooter with a driver. It’s a lot cheaper than taxis and more convenient if you need to get to your destination faster.
Picap involves requesting a ride and giving you an affordable rate that rarely fluctuates. Riders normally bring an extra helmet they can use for their safety. Tourists love Picap because the drivers are professional, fast, and friendly.
Plus, avoiding the traffic is a huge plus!
When you plan on visiting multiple tourist spots in a single day, you need a mobile app with an accurate map to help you with navigation. Let’s check out the best apps to prevent you from getting lost.
1. Google Maps
Google Maps is the best navigation app you can use when getting around Medellin, especially when you choose walking over riding public transit. Tourists love using this mobile app because it’s reliable and accurate.
If Google Maps is the king of navigation when traveling by foot, Waze is your best friend when you are driving. This mobile app can track real-time traffic and gives you a rough estimate of your estimated time of arrival.
Delivery mobile apps are also handy when looking for food options while staying at your hotel. They promote convenience because you can simply order via the app and wait for your food to arrive at your doorstep. Here are our top recommendations.
Domicilios is a free mobile app readily downloadable, as long as you have a smartphone and a stable internet connection. It features more than 3000 restaurants in Colombia, so it’s easier to choose a cuisine that matches your cravings.
Because it’s a mobile app, you don’t need to worry about speaking in Spanish. Simply search for a particular food, and the app gives you all possible restaurants that serve what you’re looking for.
If you don’t wish to download the mobile app, Domicilios also has its web version where it’s also possible to place an order. In my experience, this is still better than calling the restaurant hotline and speak in Spanish.
Car and Scooter Rentals
Aside from mobile apps for getting around Medellin, car rentals are also in demand in the city. If you want convenience and are willing to pay, renting a car is your best option for reaching your preferred destination the fastest way possible.
Several car rental companies exist, and their price ranges will generally differ, depending on the type of car, rent duration, and other factors. Regardless of whether you’re renting a luxury or an economy model, car rental companies will typically ask for an advanced down payment.
On average, car rentals cost $30 daily, including insurance and taxes. However, here are essential points to remember when renting a car:
Expect traffic congestion, especially during peak travel hours.
Roads outside the main city may not be in their best conditions
Using navigation apps can be challenging, especially when there’s poor signage.
Parking can be expensive and limited.
It’s best to check whether your driver’s license is valid.
You must also have international driving insurance coverage, especially in case of accidents.
It’s also possible to rent a motorbike or a scooter, which is way cheaper than renting a car. This is pretty convenient, especially when you’re a couple who must not be late for your dinner reservation.
Renting a scooter allows you to skip clogged lanes and experience faster mobility with the places you wish to visit. But, don’t forget that the same traffic rules apply to scooters.
Safety Tips When Using Uber
Even when Uber is highly reliable, you still need to remember the following safety tips to prevent unfortunate situations.
Always have a screenshot of your Uber’s license plate and driver details.
You can use the share-ride feature, allowing you to share your ride to your emergency contacts.
Always confirm the driver’s name before getting in your Uber.
It’s best to have a local Colombian SIM card so it’s easier to call someone in case of emergencies.
Downloading an offline version of your city is possible on Google Maps for easer tracking.
Get Around Medellin Without a Hitch
These ride apps make it easier than ever to explore the City of Eternal Spring. No matter where you need to go, they’ll get you from point A to point B.
Looking for pro tips on how to navigate Medellín? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get insider knowledge on everything that goes on in the City of Eternal Spring!