Top Tips on How to Stay Safe in Medellin

Medellin | © Iván Erre Jota / Flickr
Medellin | © Iván Erre Jota / Flickr
Photo of Chris Bell
30 September 2017

Medellin has come a long way since it was known as the most dangerous city in the world, and travellers now flock to the Colombian city to enjoy its warm climate, friendly locals, and interesting attractions. However, like any big city, Medellin has its dangers – so here are some tips on how to stay safe when you visit Medellin.

The most important safety tip in Medellin is to be aware of which parts of the city you visit – although Medellin has turned a corner in recent years, and is no longer the urban warzone it was 20 years ago, there are still neighbourhoods to avoid or visit with caution. For example, Comuna 13 neighbourhood has recently become a popular spot for tourists on account of its street-art scene and innovative urban escalators. However, the area is still the site of frequent gang activity and should only be visited as part of an official tour. Don’t just go wandering around Comuna 13 by yourself.

Comuna 13 in Medellin | © nigel burgher / Flickr

The same advice goes for parts of El Centro neighbourhood, which is the location of many popular tourist attractions such as the Botero Park, Parque de las Luces, the Antioquia Museum, and is also the main focus of the popular Real City Walking Tour. While the area is generally safe by day, at night much of it is a haven of street crime, and wandering around El Centro at night is not a good idea if you want to stay safe in Medellin. Nearby San Antonio Park – the finishing point of the walking tour – is famous for its twin Fernando Botero statues, but it’s also not recommended to visit here alone, especially after dark.

San Antonio Square in Medellin | © Randal Sheppard / Flickr

The majority of travellers end up staying in El Poblado neighbourhood and going out clubbing in the famous Parque Lleras, known as Medellin’s party hotspot. While this area is generally considered safe, and rightly so, there are certain things you should avoid if you want to stay safe in Poblado. Steer clear of buying drugs here: it is common for petty theft to occur and, as it’s still illegal to buy and consume cocaine in Colombia, you are asking for trouble from the police. Also never accept unsolicited offers of drugs on the street: these are usually set-ups, and no-one wants to spend a night in the cells during their travels. Also, keep an eye on your drink in a club: spiking is uncommon, but it does happen.

Plaza Botero | © Plaza Botero/Guía de Viajes Oficial de Medellín/Flickr

One final tip is to be discrete with your valuables when you’re walking around the city, pickpocketing is common, and even armed robberies do happen, particularly when people flash expensive camera and cellphones in the street. Just make sure to keep an eye on your belongings – particularly on public transport – and try not to draw much attention to yourself on the street.

Naturally, these tips are simply meant to enhance your enjoyment of your time in Medellin – the city has come on leaps and bounds over the years, and the vast majority of visitors experience no problems. If you follow the preceding tips you are unlikely to run into difficulties and will be able to enjoy your stay in Medellin, hassle-free.

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