A Budget Friendly Tour of Medellin, Colombia

Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Perpetuo Socorro in Medellin, Colombia
One of the things I was told before we left for South America was to not ride the Metro in Medellin. It bummed me out, since I had heard they had a great train system. The person’s reasoning was the trains get packed like sardines, which leads to discomfort and the increased chance of theft. Y’all, we’re from the Bay Area. Anyone who has ridden BART can tell you that’s no big deal. So we decided we would risk it, and ride the Metro.

We had read a Lonely Planet article saying you can see the whole city for less than a dollar if you use the train. What’s more budget friendly than that!? It turns out some of the information was a little outdated or confusing, so here’s our version of seeing Medellin from the rails. Note: there are some optional detours that add some money, but we spent just under $5 each.

medellin colombia as seen from the metro gondolas
Imagine this as far as you can see, but for a super long time.

We started at El Poblano, since it was the closest to our hostel. It might look too far to walk to the station from Gringolandia, but it’s all downhill and took us about 15 minutes. Total spent so far: $0

Unlike most train systems, you have to buy a ticket from a real life human. The tickets are kind of on an honor system. You could say you want to go to the next station (Industriales) and pay 2.150 COP, or you could say some other station and pay a small bit more. It’s up to you. Once you cross the turnstile, there’s no record of what you paid, because the machine eats your ticket upon entry. So grab a ticket for Industriales and go to the platform on your left (towards Niquia). Total spent so far: $.77 per person

From here, it’s choose your own adventure. You can easily hop off the train and take in the view, then hop back on and keep going. The important thing to remember is to not leave the stations. Just wait for the next train, which will be there in less than five minutes. We stopped at Exposiciones to get our feet wet. We saw some really nice views of the city, followed by the impressive spires of Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Perpetuo Socorro (see first picture).

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Checkered Rafael Uribe Uribe Cultural Center in downtown Medellin, Colombia!
Checkered Rafael Uribe Uribe Cultural Center in downtown Medellin, Colombia!

Next we got out at Parque Berrio. From the platform you can see loads of great statues and locals running about. You can also see the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture, which is easily one of the coolest buildings I’ve seen. A word about Parque Berrio: if you feel inclined to exit the station (which we did), please note that even though this is a downtown area, not many travelers come here. We got a lot of “Are you lost?” looks from the locals, and not in a particularly friendly way.
The next great stop is Universidad. From here, you can see the planetarium, botanical gardens, university (obvs), and science museum. There’s plenty of activities to spend the day here, so keep it in mind for later! Hop back on and head to Acevedo. This is where Medellin’s system gets really impressive.

The Gondola is part of the metro system in Medellin, Colombia.
I felt like I was in Tahoe again! I love gondolas. Try to get one of the newer ones so your pictures aren’t foggy.

Once at Acevedo, head towards the exit, but follow signs for the K-Line (Santo Domingo). Do not exit the station! The stairs will loop you around to a 180 and you’ll see GONDOLAS! That’s right. Medellin’s Metro system features gondolas that will take you into the hills for a constant barrage of awe inspiring views. The best part is the first leg of the ride up doesn’t cost extra. Something to note here. The K-Line crosses over a neighborhood that isn’t the most tourist friendly. As such, pay attention to your belongings. If we weren’t planning to stop at each station on the line, we might have gotten our bag swooped. We were being sized up and it was legitimately the only time we felt unsafe in Medellin.

Once you get to Santo Domingo, you have two options: head back without paying or pay to take the L-Line up to Arvi. We opted for the latter. The price for the second leg is 4.850 COP. Total spent so far: $2.39 This is where the locals clear out and it’s mostly tourists. Not a lot of people come up here, so Lia and I got a gondola to ourselves. This was nice, because we were jumping back and forth to take in the Jurassic Park-esque scenery we flew through. At this point, the gondola goes over a hill, so you can no longer see Medellin splayed out in the valley. Instead, there are trees and hills for miles in every direction.

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Traveling via Gondola high above Parque Arvi on the way to Santa Elena in Medellin, Colombia.
*Jurassic Park theme*

After the 10 minute or so ride, we reached Parque Arvi/Santa Elena. We were surprised to find a great little farmer’s market here in roughly the middle of nowhere with fresh fruits, coffees, wines, salsas, jewelry, cannabis oils, breads, handmade souvenirs, and so much more. We dropped 31.000 COP/$10 on an artisanal beer, bottle of blueberry wine made from blueberries that grow within park itself, and a plate of bandeja paisa, a local Medellin favorite. There’s plenty of walking trails around to take part in, which we did not. To return from Parque Arvi/Santa Elena you have to pay the 4.850 COP again to come back. Total so far: $4.01

At Santo Domingo, you have to leave the station entirely, and walk to the other side of the building to get the train for the right direction. It sounds confusing but there are signs. Or follow the horde. Pay the ticket for whatever station again and back track via the La Estrella direction. Total spent so far: $4.78

Gazing out over the gardens at the farmer's market in Santa Elena, Parque Arvi, in Medellin, Colombia.
Gazing out over the gardens at the farmer’s market in Santa Elena, Parque Arvi, in Medellin, Colombia.

At San Antonio station, get off and walk up the stairs to the B-Line. Just follow the traffic, because there’s only one side of the platform for departures. This line takes you to the end (San Javier), and climb the stairs to YOU GUESSED IT, more gondolas! This will take you up the western hills of the city. We felt much safer here. Take the gondola all the way up and take pictures. We were approached by a teenaged couple who wanted to take a picture with us. Youths are weird – this is a universal truth. Hop back on and do the reverse to San Antonio. Don’t follow the crowd once you off board at San Antonio. Most are going north, but you want to look for the La Estrella direction.

Get off at El Poblado, or whatever station you’d like. Enjoy the fact that you have now seen the entire city, and you have spent less than $5!
Liked this post? Share it on Pinterest!A budget friendly guide to seeing the city of Medellin, Colombia using public transit, all for less than $5 USD!

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2 Comment

  1. I always love budget guides to city and love how inexpensive this is! I really want to visit Colombia after hearing so many great things about it, so saving this for when I do!

  2. Karin says: Reply

    Inspite of having lived in Colombia for more than a year, I´ve never visited Medellin! What a shame 😉 I did hear though that their public transport system was amazing – although I didn´t expect it to be SO impressive! Great way to move around! Pinning this for when I finally go visit the city…

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