How To: Self-Guided City Tour of Medellin, Colombia for Under $5

Medellin, Colombia is a beautiful city with a brutal history. Behind the red brick buildings of Medellin, against the backdrop of the lush green hills, lies a sinister past. Medellin is one of the very few places that we were actually nervous to visit during our month in Colombia. But once we arrived in Medellin, our fears slipped away. The city of “Eternal Spring” stuck with us. And although we did experience a couple of questionable interactions – isolated incidents during our entire month in Colombia, actually – we generally felt quite safe exploring Medellin.

Our favorite and most budget-friendly day in Medellin was spent riding the Metro around the city, exploring and taking the gondolas up into the hills.  One of the things I was told before we left for South America was to not ride the Metro in Medellin. Apparently, the trains get packed like sardines, which leads to discomfort and the a high chance of theft. Y’all, we’re from the Bay Area. Anyone who has ridden BART can tell you that’s no big deal. Just always, always have your hands on your pockets if you’ve got a wallet or a phone in there – travel safety 101. So we decided to completely ignore that advice and risk taking the Metro in Medellin.

And it was amazing!

The Medellin Metro is unusually beautiful. It’s above ground and, thanks to the hills it winds through, it offers some absolutely stunning views of the sprawling Medellin cityscape. Plus, you can get amazing views of the city from above by taking the Gondolas – they’re like an enclosed ski lift. For under $5 each, we were able to see the entire city of Medellin just by riding the rails, hopping on and off as we pleased, and taking the gondolas! Here’s how to see the city of Medellin in a day for under $5.

Psst: We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that you’ll want to look at before your trip!

Starting Point: El Poblado Station

We started at El Poblado, 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. If you’re a fancypants big spender, you can take a taxi to the station, I guess. Oh and hey, can I borrow some money? Kidding. Kinda. Total spent so far: $0

Unlike most train systems, you have to buy a ticket from a real life human. This will only be mildly difficult if you speak a little Spanish. Otherwise, good luck.

Beautiful metropolitan Medellin, Colombia. Medellin offers loads of options for transportation in Colombia, from a subway to hilltop gondola rides!

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 more. Once you cross the turnstile, the machine eats your ticket forever, so no one will ever know if you go somewhere else than where you paid to go. Look, we’re just here to report factual information, not tell you to accidentally say the first thing that came to mind like we did and then realize later with absolute horror that you owe the Colombian government a few cents. We live in constant fear now. Is that worth it to you?!?!

Anyway, grab a ticket and go to the platform on your left, towards Niquia. Total spent so far: $.77 per person

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From here, it’s choose your own adventure. You can easily hop off the train at every station (which is what we did) and take in the view, then hop back on and keep going.

The important thing to remember is to not leave the stations unless you’re OK buying a new ticket. But each time you leave the train and get out on the platform, you can just wait for the next train, which will arrive in less than five minutes. I often think back to our day riding the Metro in Medellin when I’m waiting for 20 minutes for the next BART train here at home …

Recommended Stops on the Medellin Metro

We stopped at Exposiciones to catch some incredible views of the city, followed by the impressive spires of the stunning Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Perpetuo Socorro, which you can see from the platform. That’s the pretty one in the feature photo!

We also got out of the train at Parque Berrio. From the platform you can see loads of great statues and locals running around down below. You can also see the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture, which is easily one of the coolest buildings I’ve seen.

Checkered Rafael Uribe Uribe Cultural Center in downtown Medellin, Colombia! Here's how to see Medellin for less than $5.
Checkered Rafael Uribe Uribe Cultural Center in downtown Medellin, Colombia. One of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve ever seen. Original photo credit: “Metro de Medellín” (CC BY 2.0) by Guía de Viajes Oficial de Medellín

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. It was one of the only times we felt unwelcome in Colombia.

The next fantastic place to stop is Universidad. This is the metro stop for the Medellin Planetarium, the Medellin Botanical Gardens, the university (obvs), and an excellent science museum, Parque Explora. There’s plenty of activities to spend the day here, so keep it in mind for later! We spent an entire day exploring this spot.

Once you’re done having science-filled adventures, hop back on the Metro and head to Acevedo. This is where Medellin’s metro system gets really impressive.

Riding the Medellin Gondolas

Once at Acevedo, head towards the exit, but follow signs for the K-Line, towards Santo Domingo. Do not exit the station! The stairs will loop you around to a 180 and you’ll see them: gondolas!

That’s right. Medellin’s Metro system features gondolas that will take you into the hills for some of the most awe inspiring views of any city we’ve ever seen. 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 extra attention to your belongings. If we weren’t planning to stop at each station on the line, we might have gotten our bag swooped. There was a moment when we were alone in a gondola car with a dude who was straight up sizing us up, staring at our bag and reaching for …. something in his pocket, we didn’t wait to find out what. It was legitimately the only time we felt unsafe in all of Colombia.

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One of the most unique and fun ways to take a city tour of Medellin is from above, on the city's Gondola Metro! You'll be treated to stunning views from inside your own little car.
One of the most unique and fun ways to take a city tour of Medellin is from above, on the city’s Gondola Metro! You’ll be treated to stunning views from inside your own little car. Original photo credit: “Medellin, Comuna 13, Metro Cable 2009” (CC BY 2.0) by Omar Uran

Once you get to Santo Domingo, you have two options: head back without paying extra, or pay to take the L-Line up to Parque Arvi, which is a giant park way up in the hills. We opted the check our Parque Arvi. The price for the second leg is 4.850 COP. Total spent so far: $2.39

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. At this point, the commuting locals clear out and it’s mostly tourists heading to the last stop. 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.

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 and a bottle of blueberry wine made from blueberries that grow within park itself (we’re suckers for boujie booze), and a plate of bandeja paisa, a local Medellin dish and one of our favorite Colombian dishes!

There’s plenty of walking trails at Parque Arvi to explore  that wind through the forest and showcase some of Medellin’s natural beauty. But we didn’t actually do any of them, because we were too busy eating and drinking our fancy beer. Don’t judge us!

Riding the Metro is the best budget-friendly to take a city tour of Medellin, Colombia. We spent the whole day riding the trains and it cost us under $5!
Riding the Metro is the best budget-friendly to take a city tour of Medellin, Colombia. We spent the whole day riding the trains and it cost us under $5! Original photo credit: “Medellín, Colombia” (CC BY 2.0) by amolinam2016

To return to the Santo Domingo station from Parque Arvi/Santa Elena you have to pay the 4.850 COP again to come back. Total spent so far: $4.01

At the Santo Domingo Metro station, 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, just follow the horde.

Pay the ticket for whatever station you’re headed to and back track via the La Estrella direction. Total spent so far: $4.78

At the 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 will end at to the San Javier station. Climb the stairs to find even more gondolas! Whee!

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 of the beautiful street art you’ll see below you winding through the neighborhoods.

It was at this point that we were approached by a teenaged couple who wanted to take a picture with us. Like, because we were gringos, I guess? Youths are weird – this is a universal truth.

Anyway, hop back on your gondola once you’ve reached the end of the line and head back to San Antonio. Don’t follow the crowd once you off board at San Antonio. Most are going north. Instead, you want to look for the La Estrella direction.

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Get off at El Poblado, or whatever station you’d like. Pat yourself on the back knowing that you have now seen the entire city of Medellin, and you have spent less than $5!

Riding the Metro is the best budget-friendly to take a city tour of Medellin, Colombia. We spent the whole day riding the trains and it cost us under $5!
Riding the Metro is the best budget-friendly to take a city tour of Medellin, Colombia. We spent the whole day riding the trains and it cost us under $5! Original photo credit: “Metro de Medellín” (CC BY 2.0) by morrissey

Step by Step Guide to the City Tour of Medellin by Metro

Here is a step by step how-to guide to the self guided city tour of Medellin that we did. You can find more information on the Medellin Metro at their website.

  1. Begin at El Poblado station. Hop on the train headed towards Niquia.
  2. Stop at any station you like to take in the stunning views. We recommend ExposicionesParque Berrio, and Universidad.
  3. Continue in the same direction until you reach Acevedo
  4. Once at Acevedo, head towards the exit, but follow signs for the K-Line, towards Santo Domingo. Do not exit the station! If you continue following the signs, you’ll reach the gondolas.
  5. Once you get to Santo Domingo, you’ll need to pay extra to take the L-Line up to Parque Arvi. Yes, it’s worth it.
  6. Explore Parque Arvi and Santa Elena to your hearts content. Eat lunch. Grab a beer. Take a nature walk.
  7. When you’re done, head back to the Gondola at the entrance to Parque Arvi and head back to Santo Domingo station. FYI: you’ll pay the ticket fee again to come back.
  8. At the Santo Domingo station, you have to leave the station entirely, and walk to the other side of the building to get the train heading to La Estrella.
  9. At the 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.
  10. Take the B-Line to San Javier station. Climb the stairs and hop on a gondola!
  11. Once you reach the end of the line on your gondola, head back on the B-Line to San Antonio.
  12. Get off at San Antonio, but don’t follow the crowd. Most are going north. Instead, you want to hop onto a train headed towards La Estrella.
  13. Get off at El Poblado station, your starting point!

Psst: We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that you’ll want to look at before your trip!


Have you ever explored a city using public transportation? Tell us about it in the comments!

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A budget friendly self-guided city tour of Medellin, Colombia using public transit. A complete guide to how to see the city of Medellin for under $5! What to do in Medellin | Colombia Travel | Medellin Travel | South America Travel | Budget Friendly Medellin | Cheap things to do in Medellin | Medellin on a budget

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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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