Is Medellin Safe?

Is Medellin safe? You’ve certainly heard some horror stories about Colombia and the Colombian cartel. In fact, anytime I talk about Colombia or Medellin to someone, they reference the Netflix show, Narcos.

Medellin is the home of Pablo Escobar, the king of the drug cartel in the 1980s. He practically put Medellin on the map. And not in a good way. Drug and cartel-related crime ramped up, and things became chaotic for a bit.

But in recent years, Medellin has cooled down a bit. And despite its turbulent and volatile history, it is actually a really pleasant city to visit.

Medellin is a large, industrial city with much more to offer than its bloody history reports. According to Britannica, Medellin coined the term “Colombia’s Manchester” because of the expansive textile mills and clothing factories. But beyond a booming economy that has grown ever since the railway connecting Cali to Medellin in 1914, Medellin offers a wildly unique cultural experience.

So, if you arrive in Medellin prepared and with an open mind, you will surely enjoy everything this bustling city offers.

If you’re curious to learn more about Medellin and common safety tips, keep reading as I answer the question, “Is Medellin safe?”

You should also read my post Is Colombia Safe?

is Medellin safe

Is Medellin Safe?

Medellin is in the state of Antioquia, Colombia. It is located in the northern central region, only about 530 km (330 miles) from the Panama border. Medellin is a great place to spend a few days to a few weeks, as it offers a peak into traditional Colombian living, great cuisine, great hiking, and other fun activities.

If you start searching online about Medellin safety to find answers to your question “is Medellin safe?” you will find tons of negative information and traumatizing news reports, like this one from The Guardian, published in May 2022. There’s no denying that violent crimes, robberies, and abductions are happening in Medellin to this day.

Despite the gnarly reputation that follows Medellin, you often won’t find this city in real statistical data when discussing dangerous cities across the globe. For example, this 2023 report from World Atlas lists the 10 most dangerous cities in the world based on a report released by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.

And the World Population Review lists the 10 most dangerous cities in 2023 on homicide rates. Notice how Medellin is not on either of these lists. In fact, no Colombian city made either list.

El Castillo Medellin

People are still traveling to Medellin. According to this data from, upwards of 1.4 million tourists visited Medellin in 2022. And you should know, most tourists in Medellin have absolutely no problem.

So, despite the lingering negative reputation, you can still visit Medellin and fully enjoy the unique culture without any negative consequences. I spent five weeks in Medellin and don’t have a single scary story to share with you.

I am here to give you all the important information and safety tips before your visit to Medellin, Colombia. Because, after all, Medellin should not be skipped over. It is such an exciting, lively, and cultural hot spot for anyone traveling to Colombia. Let me now continue answering your question – is Medellin safe?

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Comuna 13

Is Medellin Safe? Actual Dangers And Annoyances In Medellin

We’ve established that Medellin has a very negative reputation regarding safety, crime, and cartel violence. We’ve also confirmed that this reputation is largely unearned in 2022, considering the statistics don’t support the claims. And we’ve established that Medellin is 100% worth your time during your trip to Colombia. So now, let’s review some of the most common scams and things to watch for to ensure full safety while in Medellin.

Some neighborhoods are more dangerous than others

When someone tells me Medellin is dangerous, my first thought is, well, which part? Like any major city, Medellin is broken up into many different barrios and neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are more dangerous than others. Some neighborhoods have a high police presence and low crime rate, while others tend to be more of the “wild west.”

If you’re worried about safety in Medellin, you should try to stick to the neighborhoods that are most common for tourists and expats (non-Colombians who live in Medellin). These neighborhoods include the following:

El Poblado/Provenze

El Poblado and Laureles are by far the most well-known neighborhoods for tourists and travelers, but Envigado and Sabaneta are quickly catching up in popularity. You should try to stick to these neighborhoods when looking for hotels and accommodations.

Comuna 13 was once known as the most violent and dangerous neighborhood in Medellin, but police presence has skyrocketed, and it has become a pet project of the current Colombian president. In recent years, safety numbers have significantly improved, and it has become a major tourist attraction.

Centro Historico also has a reputation for being a dangerous neighborhood in Medellin, especially at night. While it’s still a lively and historic piece of the city, you should only visit Centro Historico during the day if you have serious safety concerns.

You should also read my post Where To Stay In Medellin.

Medellin market is Medellin safe

Locals might try to scam you

Once many locals find out you are a tourist, they might try to scam you. This can happen in a variety of different ways. They might increase the price of their products, charge more for a simple service, charge for something that should be free, and the list goes on and on.

You should try to be respectful and polite and know what you’re getting into. For example, if you want to buy a pair of sunglasses from a street vendor, try to ask around other tourists how much they paid for something. You can know how much the sunglasses should cost based on what others paid for similar purchases.

things to do in Medellin Colombia

Fake money scam

Throughout all of Latin America, there is one common scam involving fake money. It happened to me in Medellin, Peru, and Mexico and is gaining popularity.

The scam is very simple. You buy something (usually from a small vendor stand), pay with a larger bill, and they give you your change—one or more of the bills you received as change is fake.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell immediately as the money is generally pretty convincing. The best way to avoid this is by paying for your purchase with exact change or using only small bills at these small artisanal vendors. You can break larger bills at supermarkets, nicer restaurants, or even banks.

If you’ve been in Medellin for a while, try to familiarize yourself with the Colombian peso so that you may recognize a scam on your own.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

things to do in Medellin is medellin safe

The common “Tinder” scam men should watch for

This is a warning of awareness to men who travel to Colombia or women who know men traveling to Colombia.

Major cities in Colombia, Medellin in particular, are currently experiencing a rise in a dangerous Tinder scam. You match with a Colombian girl, you meet up for drinks or invite her to your place, she places a drug in your drink that makes you pass out, and she (and possibly her friends) rob you.

The drug is called scopolamine, otherwise referred to as “Devil’s Breath” in Colombia. It can make you completely blackout and can lead to a fatal overdose.

If you are going on a Tinder date, make sure you trust the person and have built a positive rapport (oftentimes, these women don’t speak much English, remember that communication is key to building trust here).

Don’t invite a Tinder date back to your hotel or apartment before meeting them. And if you go out for drinks, keep an eye on your drink.

Obviously, there are plenty of genuine matches going on in Medellin. It is the very small few who get themselves into these situations. So you can certainly still enjoy the dating scene, as long as you are careful and observant.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

is medellin safe?

Taxi drivers may take advantage of you

Street taxi drivers in Medellin have a reputation for being rather ruthless. They can easily upcharge you, use a higher meter to charge more, or bring you to roundabouts to increase the final price.

Uber and other rideshare apps are recommended in Medellin, and there is an abundance of drivers working on these apps. It is generally pretty fast and easy to call an Uber at all hours of the day in Medellin.

If you must take a street taxi for whatever reason, just follow my advice.

First, ask the taxi driver how much the trip will cost before getting in. If the cab uses a meter, ask the driver for an estimate on the price so you have an idea. Second, try to (discretely) take a picture of the taxi driver’s license plate before getting in, just in case something terrible happens. Third, make sure you have all your belongings before leaving the taxi. Dropped cellphones and wallets are pretty common, and there will be no way to contact your taxi driver for retrieval.


Street robberies and petty theft do occur

Street robberies are rather common in Medellin, unfortunately. The most common act of theft is a motorbike snatching your phone or purse while driving by.

Sometimes, a motorbike with two men (wearing full-face helmets) will pull up to rob you (possibly at gun or knife point). This threat has become so pervasive that many cities in Colombia have experimented with banning male passengers on motorbikes.

You should always be aware of your surroundings, including the traffic around you. The best thing to do is keep your belongings tucked away safely and avoid having your cell phone out when walking on the street.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Theft while hiking

Medellin sits at around 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level, and some beautiful hills surround the city. It is a great place for nature walks, hikes, and other outside activities. Unfortunately, many of the popular trails can be rather dangerous for solo travelers. Some opportunists hide on the trail to rob unsuspecting hikers. You can avoid this by only hiking on a guided tour or hiking with a large group of people.

is Medellin safe

Safety Tips For Visiting Medellin

Here are some important safety tips for visiting Medellin to ensure you have the safest and most fun time in Medellin. If you follow these tips, listen to your gut, and stay aware of your surroundings; you’ll have a great time.

Know your whereabouts

Knowing the area is critical to feeling secure and confident during your trip. Always download offline Google Maps to your phone before getting to a new area (although you can easily and cheaply get a local SIM card in Colombia to have data at your fingertips). Make sure you pin important places on your map, like your hostel/hotel and other areas you know.

Don’t be too flashy

There is no need to wear your nicest watch, jewelry, or clothes while exploring Medellin. It is a bustling city full of millions of friendly and not-so-friendly faces. You want to blend in and fly under the radar here. Wearing expensive jewelry or other signs of wealth might make you a target for possible theft.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Cerro de las Tres Cruces

Wear your bag in front of you

One of our friends gave us this piece of advice that we followed to the tea: “When you see Colombians wearing their bags in the front, you definitely should too.” It’s really great advice. Pay attention to the people around you; if others are wearing their backpacks in the front, it is for a reason.

Some common areas to do so include the Medellin metro, when on public buses, and really any other place that gets overly crowded.

Avoid walking around at night (especially alone)

Robberies and other unwarranted crimes often happen on dark, isolated streets later in the evening. You should avoid these desolate areas and stick to where the crowds are. Better yet, try to make some other female connections in your hostel or hotel, so you can have company when exploring after dark.

Blend into the local culture

Like any other major city, Medellin has a unique culture that keeps the city alive. A major part of this culture is their fashion and design choices. For example, Medellin society frowns on men who wear flip-flops and shorts. This attire is often viewed as “low-class” and only worn by undereducated men. If you want to fit in, pay attention to what the locals are doing and wearing.

is Medellin safe?

Is Medellin Safe For Solo (Female) Travelers?

A solo female traveler faces many more fears and anxieties than the average male. Unfortunately, women are often the target of unwanted crime, thefts, and advances. But Medellin is still rather safe for solo female travelers. Just follow these recommended safety tips for your visit to Medellin, and you should be good to go!

You should also read my post The Best Places To Travel Alone.


Share your location with friends and family

Sharing your location with your friends and family back home (or in the city), can provide a lot of reassurance and security. That way, in the unlikely chance something happens, somebody knows where you are.

For example, my friend left my hotel in Medellin late at night. She decided to take a street taxi home. I walked her to the taxi, spoke with the taxi driver for a minute, and had her share her location with me. So, I knew exactly where the taxi was headed in case anything fishy happened (nothing fishy did happen).

Medellin Botanical Gardens
Photo by Fausto Riolo @shutterstock

Meet people from your hostel or from guided tours

One of the best ways to stay secure as a solo female traveler is to not actually do everything solo. You can easily meet other like-minded travelers from your hostel, hotel or guided city tours. This way, if you want to go out and enjoy the nightlife or visit the Centro Historico (which does have the reputation for being a bit dangerous), you have company and support.

Medellin at night
Photo by ADRIAN DIAZ CADAVID @shutterstock

Don’t go out drinking alone

Drinking alone, particularly getting drunk alone, is one surefire way to put a target on your back. Instead, you can meet other travelers in a hostel or hotel bar or popular tourist spot, make connections, and enjoy their company.

Have emergency contacts readily available

I always like to travel with plenty of emergency contacts, including family and friends, people who might be nearby, and hospital services. While I’ve never once had to use one of these for an emergency, it always makes me feel better and eases some of that anxiety solo female travelers often face.

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Colombia. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Conclusion: Is Medellin Safe?

Medellin has a reputation for being a dangerous and lawless city, like most cities in Colombia. But it’s actually a very popular city for tourists and foreigners alike. Crime in Medellin has certainly declined over the decades, though it did see a slight uptick following the pandemic.

That being said, it is still worth a visit, and serious crimes are few and far between when you consider how many people travel to Medellin annually.

Just follow the above safety tips, practice common sense, follow your gut, and everything should be fine for your visit to this bustling city.

Further Readings

These other posts will be useful when planning a trip to Colombia:

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