TLDR? Medellin is generally a safe place to visit as long as you use your common sense.
You might have heard that Medellin was the murder capital of the world – thirty years ago! You may have also watched a brutal, bloody series on Netflix. SPOILER ALERT. The series is based on events that happened 30 years ago.
In fact, around the rest of Colombia Medellin has a reputation for being one of the most peaceful cities!
Why? Because paisas are tough and don’t let anyone mess with them.
Still, if you’ve got questions about safety in Medellin, we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at whether or not Medellin is a safe place to visit!
A Basic Rundown of Crime in Medellin
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of safety in Medellin, let’s just go over some of the basics. The city has a crime rate of 66.5.
Despite what you might think, that’s actually a lower crime rate than some big places like London and Chicago!
On top of that, most people report a high level of safety walking alone during the day. In other words, there’s nothing to fear while checking out fun things to do in the city.
Although safety at night in Medellin is reported to be a bit lower, at around an index of 35, don’t let that scare you. Most neighborhoods are just fine as long as you steer clear of the central downtown area.
Finally, most solo travelers report feeling totally safe in the area. In fact, there are solo female travelers who have said Medellin was their favorite place to visit overall!
With that in mind, let’s go over the nitty-gritty of safety in Medellin.
Getting Arrested or Shot
Statistically, you’re far less likely to get shot in Medellin these days than if you live in Detroit, St. Louis, or New Orleans, so maybe it’s time to stop asking the same old questions: “Is it safe to travel to Medellin?” “How dangerous is Colombia?”
If you’re looking for trouble, it’s pretty easy to find it in Medellin. If you’re not, then you’ll find it’s probably a lot less dangerous than wherever you’re flying in from.
There are three simple rules of thumb when traveling to Medellin (or anywhere for that matter):
Steer clear of drugs.
Don’t flash your wealth (i.e. iPhone12) in places where the residents are considerably poorer than you.
Stick to these three simple rules and you’ll find that Medellin is a remarkably safe place to visit.
Find yourself unable to resist any of the above and you are greatly increasing your chances of getting arrested (drugs are illegal), robbed, ripped off, or finding yourself in places where you really have no place being in the first place.
That’s when things can head south fast, especially if you go unaccompanied and don’t speak the language. So, exercise caution and make wise choices.
Medellin, like most big cities, suffers from the problem of petty theft, especially in certain areas where there are a higher numbers of tourists (targets).
It’s a particular problem downtown in the area around the Parque Botero and the Museo de Antioquia, to a lesser extent El Poblado and other popular areas for visitors like Comuna 13, home to the city’s uber-popular graffiti tour.
The fact that there are thousands of tourists hanging out in Comuna 13 these days is itself testimony to how far Medellin has travelled since the bad old days to become such a safe, inspirational place to visit in 2021.
The cable cars, public libraries, and parks introduced by the city’s award-winning architects and civic leaders over the last 15 years have transformed many of Medellin’s most troubled neighborhoods. The result? Medellin is now a much safer place for everyone.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that these neighborhoods are now 100% safe for visitors, however. There are still social problems in these districts, so it’s sensible to visit with a local guide or join one of the regular tours organised by locals.
Doing so helps pump money into the local economy which, in turn, gives local residents a better chance of finding an alternative career path and avoid getting dragged into gangs, drug dealing, or prostituion.
Public Transportation in Medellin
Medellin has been investing heavily in its public transportation network including an overland metro, electric tram system, buses, cable cars, and cycle lanes. All of these help make getting around Medellin much easier for everyone.
The paisas are incredibly proud of their metro system and the cable cars that ferry people to and from work. The network is as safe as any system in the world. You should be wary of pickpockets as you’ll notice that most people carry their backpacks on their fronts to avoid “losing” things in the rush hour.
Public transport taxis and shared-ride apps operate in the city as well and are also relatively safe compared to “first-world cities”.
It pays to take taxis from taxi ranks, these are commonly found outside shopping centers, and transport nodes.
If you are a celebrity or high-net-worth individual, and subsequently worried about your wealth or celebrity making you a target for organized crime in Medellin then you might want to make private arrangements with some of the city’s better security firms.
If you’re not as famous as J Balvin, you shouldn’t feel intimidated by jumping on the metro or getting public transport.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Medellin?
Much of the city’s wealth is linked to its water resources. Their electricity is generated by hydroelectric reserves up in the hills and they are very careful to take care of their network of reservoirs, rivers, and streams. So it’s not surprising that the city also has excellent drinking water.
It’s safe to drink which means you can cut down on bottled water and refill instead. It also means that fruit and veg off the street and from the local markets and salads in restaurants are unlikely to make you ill.
One of the positives of all wars is the development of health and medical treatments and 20 years of violence left Medellin with some of the best hospitals, surgeons, and doctors in the world.
The city’s continuously investing in its health system – private and public so in terms of physical safety, you are in a good place if, for whatever reason, you get sick or need to visit a hospital.
Hospitals in Medellin have become one of the many reasons people visit the city in the first place. Well-being and medical tourism have become a major attraction due to the quality of Medellin’s plastic surgeons.
Emergency Numbers to Know
If you follow our advice it’s unlikely you’ll have any trouble in Medellin. Still, if you or your travel companions do find yourself getting into trouble, then please reach out to a Casacol member of staff, or contact the following authorities.
A few handy numbers you should take note of in case you get sick, go to the hospital, or wind up in another emergency situation include:
National Emergency Number: 123
Tourist Police: +57 (1) 337 4413
U.S. Embassy in Colombia: +57 (1) 275 2000
If you need more support, you can look up local police numbers by neighborhood here.
Safety Tips for Visitors to Medellin
While traveling in Medellin, there are a few safety tips that you can keep in mind. These will help you have a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are a couple of safety tips to make your trip as fun as possible.
Keep an Eye Out for Pickpockets
If you notice something strange happening in front of you, almost like it’s a little bit of theater, especially for you, there could be a pickpocket coming up behind you. Pickpockets work in pairs. One will distract you while the other will make something disappear without you noticing.
Don’t Resist Criminals with Weapons
Please don’t resist if someone does try to steal something from you at knife or gunpoint. Petty thieves are often high on drugs and can react erratically.
Use Common Sense
Don’t leave things like your phone or wallet, lying on tables, wear ostentatious jewelry, or flash your cash, as this is almost like inviting people to steal from you. The locals won’t have much sympathy for you. No dar papaya (don’t give papaya), is the local expression. Translates into “don’t be dumb”.
Steer Clear of Drugs
Buy drugs off someone in the street and you can expect to get stopped by a policeman shortly afterward. They often work together to shakedown foreigners.
Leave Your Passport at the Hotel
It’s not necessary to carry your passport around – you can leave it at the apartment in the safe. However, it’s good to carry a photocopy with you.
If someone invites you to take a gift to their cousin in Miami or to pay for you to travel to somewhere exotic politely decline. There are hundreds of foreigners in Colombian jails paying for that mistake.
Is Medellin Safe to Visit? Yes.
Despite the fact that thirty years ago the answer to the question “is Medellin safe to visit” might have been, ‘no’, today it’s extremely safe to visit.
As long as you use your street smarts, you’re destined to have a great time in this beautiful city.
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