Traveling to Medellin on a budget is totally possible thanks to many free attractions, cheap public transportation, and inexpensive food.
Traveling To Medellin On A Budget
As digital nomads, we need to stretch our budgets. We know that the more we lower our expenses, the more we are able to explore. This often means spending time researching for good deals and lower prices on websites like JustFly and Booking.com.
Pro Tip: Click here to learn more about our digital nomad lifestyle.
Colombia is an amazing place to visit where you can really stretch your budget, that’s why we decided that traveling to Medellin would be a good low-cost option for us. We spent four days there and made the most of the city’s inexpensive public transportation, free attractions, and cheap food.
Medellin Public Transportation
When traveling to Medellin, take advantage of the city’s public transportation. It’s cheap and you can get all around the city. Medellin public transportation includes buses, a metro rail, and even metro cables (gondolas).
Residents of Medellin are very proud of the metro and metro cable because they’re the only ones in Colombia. They keep them immaculate. Don’t even think of eating on the metro, or you will get yelled at.
So take advantage of the public transportation in Medellin because it’s inexpensive, but also use the metro cable to get some awesome views of the city. Because Medellin sits in what looks like a bowl, taking the cable cars up to the outer rim of the city means you’ll be getting expansive views looking down into Medellin.
Free Medellin Tours
When you’re traveling on a budget, you want to take advantage of as many free activities as you can. Luckily there are a few free Medellin tours you can take (remember to tip your guides though). The two Medellin tours that we took were with Real City Tours and with Zippy Tour.
With Real City Tours, we walked around downtown Medellin and heard stories of how the city has transformed throughout the years. We visited the Square of Lights, Botero Square, and more. We even learned a bit about some favorite local food.
It was interesting to learn about the city from someone who grew up there and who had seen how the city had changed from one of the most violent cities in the world to one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. Our guide was very proud.
With Zippy Tour we visited Comuna 13, a neighborhood once known for its incredible poverty and violence. Now, it is transformed and known for its street art and outdoor escalators. Yes, escalators!
You see, Comuna 13 is up on a hillside and residents had a horrible commute to get to the city center. Cars can’t even get to some areas of the neighborhood because the roads are so steep. So imagine having to walk down and back up at the end of the night. The six outdoor escalators changed that and made an elevation difference of 28 stories possible in about six minutes.
These elevators, as well as incredible graffiti and murals, are now a sense of pride for residents. As we walked around Comuna 13, our guide showed us some really impressive street art and even took us to see some street performers who were dancing on the street.
Cerro Nutibara, or Nutibara Hill, is a nice and inexpensive place to spend the day. You can take public transportation to get there and there are a few things to do once you’re on the hill.
The first thing to do on Cerro Nutibara is visit Pueblito Paisa. Pueblito means “small town” and Paisa is what people from Medellin are called. Pueblito Paisa is a recreation of what a town would have looked like at the turn of the century. There’s a church, fountain, small school, cobble stone streets, and other small buildings.
Overall, it’s not huge. But it’s a nice way to picture what Medellin would have looked like. Because Pueblito Paisa is a popular tourist attraction, there are also vendors selling souvenirs, jewelry, and food.
Also on Cerro Nutibara is Museo de Ciudad, or Medellin’s City Museum. This small museum shows the history of Medellin from about 1890 to 1950, through photography. We thought it was really interesting to see the old black and white photos and to see how the city has changed. It costs less than $1 to get in.
And of course, while you’re on Cerro Nutibara you have to take in the views. The hill is almost directly in the center of the city, so the views are pretty spectacular.
Parque Arvi is located in the northeast area of Medellin. This large park is a nature preserve and free to enter. There are trails, picnic areas, a cultural center, shops, and restaurants.
Once again, you can take public transportation to get there. Take the metro to the Acevedo station. From there, head upstairs to get on the metro cable (K line) to Santo Domingo station. At the Santo Domingo station, transfer to the L line metro cable to Parque Arvi.
Because the L line is not part of regular Medellin public transportation, it does cost an additional 6,000 pesos (about $1.75).
Museo Casa De La Memoria
Another one of the free things to do in Medellin is to visit the Museo Casa De La Memoria, or House of Memory Museum. Be prepared though, this is an intense and somber museum as it honors and remembers the victims of the armed conflicts that have taken place in the country.
Inside you will find photos, interactive displays, and detailed exhibits. Although it is an intense museum, as we mentioned, we highly recommend it. It’s important that these victims be remembered and that we never forget that these events occurred so that they don’t happen again.
El Poblado is Medellin’s most popular neighborhood. Because of that, it’s also more expensive. Still, we recommend walking around the area just so you can say you’ve seen it. It’s especially fun at night on the weekends, with everyone dancing and drinking in the central plaza.
Medellin Street Food
While we were traveling around Medellin, we were very conscious of how much money we spent on food. Luckily Medellin street food is very cheap. As you’re walking around the city, you’ll see plenty of vendors selling empanadas, arepas, buñuelos, and more. Take advantage and snack on these cheap eats throughout the day.
We did stop in to a couple of Medellin restaurants, but none that were fancy. We stuck to average restaurants, which still offered plenty of food for much less than we’d spend in the US for the same meal.
Where To Stay In Medellin
If you’re traveling to Medellin on a budget, we recommend staying at a hostel. As we mentioned earlier, El Poblado neighborhood is popular but expensive so we suggest staying in the Laureles neighborhood.
During our trip to Medellin, we stayed at The Wandering Paisa Hostel. We liked that they had free WiFi, were a short walk from the metro station and 70th Ave (a popular road with shops and restaurants), and had a 24-hour front desk. There is a bar and lounge, but at night it wasn’t loud and we had no trouble sleeping.
Final Thoughts On Traveling To Medellin On A Budget
If you’re looking for a fun destination that doesn’t break the bank, we highly recommend traveling to Medellin. It’s a big city with lots to do and see and, best of all, it offers a lot of budget-friendly attractions, accommodations, and food.