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The 5 Best Neighborhoods to Live in Medellin Colombia As An Expat [2023]

Searching for the best neighborhoods to live in Medellin, Colombia as an expat? Check out this top 5 list for 2023 and find where you want to live! Includes pros, cons, and prices for apartments. Compare the best barrios and districts in Medellin for first-time visitors, families, nightlife, and raising kids. minutes


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About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

QUICK SUMMARY- Where To Stay In Medellin As An Expat

Medellin is Colombia's 2nd largest city, with 2.5 million people calling the city home. To house the population, Medellin is divided into 16 comunas (communes or districts) and 249 barrios (neighborhoods). Some barrios are older with colonial-style architecture, and other neighborhoods are newer with towering skyscrapers. Some places are popular with expats, and others are only known to local Paisas (what locals from Medellin are called).

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

6 Quick Tips To Prepare For A Move To Colombia

TIP 1. Understand Colombia's visa policy- A decade of experience living abroad taught me that a country's resident visa and permit situation can make or break a plan to move overseas. Chat with a Colombian visa attorney.

TIP 2. Know your health insurance requirements- Starting July 2022, the government requires all expats living in Colombia to purchase specific medical coverage that includes accidents, illness, hospitalization, disability, repatriation, maternity, and death. 

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TIP 6. Pick up some Spanish Skills- The most common difficulty experienced by expats in Colombia is English being less common than expected. Only 4% of the country speaks English. You can get a free 7-day Spanish language crash course to make your move to Colombia easier.

While all neighborhoods in Medellin have pros and cons, certain places are better suited for specific types of expats. Suppose you are a younger single expat interested in Medellin's famous party life. In that case, your neighborhood choice will differ from expats with kids.

So where do you go when you move here? Where do you live? What neighborhood do you pick? I'll break down the best neighborhoods to live in Medellin for expats and give you the inside scoop on what makes each one special, so you can find the perfect place for you.

What Are The Best Neighborhoods To Live In Medellín, Colombia?

Unlike most European cities, where the city center is the popular place to live, the southern areas of Medellín are more desirable than the city center (Centro) or the north of the city. The neighborhoods of El Poblado, Laureles, Belen, Envigado, and Sabaneta are considered to be the best areas to live in Medellín.

The five best neighborhoods to live in Medellin for expats are:

  1. El Poblado - Best place for nightlife in the entire city. El Poblado is an upscale neighborhood offering the largest variety of excellent restaurants, bars, and fancy clubs in Medellin. Ideal for expats who want to be in the tourist hub of activity.
  2. Laureles-Estadio - Great location for first-time expats. Located 2.5 miles east of El Poblado but with substantially fewer tourists, Laureles is a university neighborhood with a vibrant cafe scene, active nightlife, and tons of fitness and sports facilities.
  3. Belén - An up-and-coming neighborhood. Belen is a recently gentrified area that combines affordable housing with a central location.
  4. Envigado - Ideal for suburban life. Envigado is a quiet, peaceful family-friend suburban neighborhood located south of El Poblado.
  5. Sabaneta - Great small-town vibe for expat families with children. Sabaneta is a separate city at the far end of the valley with a laid-back vibe and pueblo atmosphere.

In this post, we offer you an overview of the best expat barrios to help you choose the perfect neighborhood for your stay in Medellín.

map showing the best neighborhoods in Medellin for expats

Where to stay in Medellin? I recommend the areas circled in red

Other Guides On Expat Life In Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed
How To Get Health Insurance In Colombia As A Foreigner
Expat Guide To Medellin Nightlife: Best Clubs, Party Areas, Bars, and Dancing
The Best Medellin Salsa Clubs [2023]
The Complete Expat Guide On How To Buy A Car in Colombia
How To Apply For A Colombia Tourist Visa [2023]
The Top 26 Reasons Why You Must Visit Colombia [2023]

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Comunas Vs. Barrios

When I first moved to Medellin, like most foreigners, I quickly narrowed my options to El Poblado vs. Laureles. However, when choosing the perfect location to live in Medellin, it isn't enough to ask yourself if you want to live in Laureles. Laureles is not a neighborhood; It is a large district, the same as El Poblado and Belen.

For example, walking from the northern tip of Laureles (near Los Colores) to the southern border near Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) would take over an hour.

A better question when deciding what is the best neighborhood in Medellin is asking, "Which barrio should I live in?"

 INSIDER TIP : Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley- Sabeneta and Envigado are commonly referred to as Medellin neighborhoods. However, they are actually independent municipalities, with both containing several barrios. Sabaneta, Envigado, Medellin, and 7 other cities make up the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley ( Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá). Medellin is the capital and largest city of the metro.

What is a barrio?

A barrio is a neighborhood in Colombia. There are 16 numbered comunas or districts in Medellín, which are further divided into individual barrios. Each barrio has its own unique flavor, vibe, and atmosphere.

Laureles and El Poblado are examples of districts. However, to confuse things, some areas, like Laureles, Belen, and El Poblado, are names for both the district and a barrio inside the district.

Understanding Estratos In Medellin

Something that makes choosing the best neighborhood that fits your budget and lifestyle is understanding Colombia's unique estratos system. I've lived and visited over 45 countries and have never come across a socioeconomic classification like Colombia's. Based on constitutional law, the estrato system was created in 1994 to deal with Colombia's disparity between the rich and poor. The estrato system subsidizes public services and utilities in Colombian cities.

In Medellin, different areas are classified and divided by a formal estrato system. The Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) ranks residential properties according to a 1-6 socioeconomic level. Basically, estratos help you find nice or wealthy neighborhoods and which neighborhoods you should avoid. A property in estrato 6 is considered a high-income neighborhood, whereas estrato 1 is a bit of a poor area.

The estratos run from one to six, with one being the lowest.

map showing the where to say in Medellin if you are upper class

Generally speaking the safest places in Medellin are the wealthier estrato

Not only does the estratos system help classify neighborhoods, but your cost of living will change depending on the estrato you live in. Estrato 4 pays the "standard" cost of utilities and services. Estrato 1, 2, and 3 represent poorer households with fewer resources and who pay subsidized/lower prices for services. Strata 5 and 6 pay higher fees for services as a "tax" to offset the lower average costs paid by estratos 1-3.

  • Estrato 1 - Lowest Class
  • Estrato 2 - Lower-Middle Class
  • Estrato 3 - Middle-Class
  • Estrato 4 - Upper-Middle Class
  • Estrato 5 - Upper Class
  • Estrato 6 - Wealthy

For example, renting a Medellin apartment in an upper-class estrato 5 means paying a higher rate for water, electricity, gas, and other utilities. While an apartment in an estrato 3 (middle-class area) pays a lower average cost for the same amount of utilities used.

For most expats, the best neighborhoods in Medellin will be in Estrato 5 or 6.

Colombian Rental Contracts: A guarantor (fiador) and down payment (depósito) are typically required when renting in Colombia. If your Spanish language skills aren't up to par, consider reaching out for help in negotiating and arranging the details of your apartment lease agreement. 

Rental agreements can seem overly complicated regarding paperwork, and contracts are nearly exclusively in Spanish. I have a team of expat attorneys who can help you navigate the process and avoid getting scammed. The team can also assist with Colombian visa application. 

El Poblado Pros And Cons- Best Neighborhood In Medellin For Nightlife

Enter your textFor many foreigners, Medellin starts and ends with El Poblado (comuna 14). The area is the hub of tourist activity and is famous for having the best nightlife in Medellin. If you enjoy going out and being around people, then areas around Calle 10 and Parque Lleras are great places to stay. However, the constant roar of the Medellin nightlife may be a bit overwhelming. El Poblado is not ideal if you prefer a more low-key lifestyle. 

El Poblado is a prime location for those looking for the western conveniences of an upscale neighborhood tailored to make foreigners comfortable. Additionally, El Poblado is close to the city center and has a metro station close by, making it easy to get around and explore different parts of the city.

While foreign tourists love the area. However, long-term expats have increased complaints that the hordes of wealthy foreigners push the neighborhood to be too expensive, congested, and increasingly unsafe.

El Poblado at night is consider the best party area in Medellin

The penthouse rooftops of the El Poblado's luxury condos have the best views of Medellin

Quick Overview Of El Poblado

  • Best Areas In El Poblado For Expats: Castropol, El Centro de El Poblado, El Tesoro, La Florida, Patio Bonito 
  • Best ForExpats looking for the most Western amenities and tourists looking the best party areas 
  • Best Restaurants: El Cielo (Michelin star), Mamasita Medallo, OCI.mde 
  • Major Attractions: Manila Gastronomic Area, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM)

Housing Costs In El Poblado

Typical cost to rent a furnished apartment in El Poblado:

  • Studio - $500 USD / ~2,200,000 COP
  • 1 Bedroom 1 Bath Apartment $1000 USD / ~4,400,000 COP
  • 2 Bedroom 2 Bath Apartment $1200 USD / ~5,300,000 COP

What Are The Advantages of Living in El Poblado?

  • Tons of Entertainment and Activities- Central El Poblado has a reputation for having some of the best nightlife in South America. Partying is the primary reason foreigners love living in El Poblado. Parque Lleras has the most entertainment options in Medellin. Here you'll find clusters of rock bars and dance clubs that can keep you dancing and drinking cold beers until the sun comes up.
  • Most International Restaurants - El Poblado has the best variety of places to eat in Medellin. From sushi at Hanami Teppanyaki to tacos at Brije Restaurante, El Poblado has you covered. And if you're looking for a more upscale experience, nearly all of Medellin's fine dining is in El Poblado as well. Check out the cheaper restaurants and food courts inside malls for more budget-friendly options.
  • Shoppers Paradise -  With different shops at varying price ranges for a multitude of products, shopaholics will find it easy to lighten their wallets while living in El Poblado. El Poblado covers everything from chic boutiques showcasing the best Colombian designers (check Mon & Velarde for menswear) to the big box name brands found at the Oviedo, El Tesoro, or Santa Fe Shopping Centers.

What Are Drawbacks Of Staying in El Poblado?

  • Gringo-Prices- El Poblado is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Medellín. It's inevitable that the prices of properties skyrocket when you have an area popular with foreign tourists and wealthy expats. El Poblado literally has 99% of Medellin's estrato 6 (richest) neighborhoods. To put the cost of living in perspective, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in El Poblado is still 42% less than the average one-bedroom in the US.
  • Steep Hills - Medellin is known for having beautiful views of the city. However, the expat neighborhood of choice (La Provenza) and the residential areas around El Tesoro mall and Santa Fe mall are located up on the hillside. You don't get the views without walking up steep hills to get home.
  • Large Tourist Crowds - El Poblado, especially the area around Parque Lleras, is the hub of tourist activity in Medellin. Tourism is a double-edged sword. More shops and services in El Poblado cater to English-speaking foreigners, making life easier for non-Spanish speakers. However, any place popular with foreigners means higher gringo prices, larger crowds, more petty crime, and that distinct "tourist" vibe.
  • Safety At Night- The well-known Parque Lleras is the hot spot for Medellin expats looking for fun nightlife. As the primary tourist area in the city, Lleras is the destination for foreigners looking for a party life. However, drunk tourists make a tempting target for robberies, muggings, and drugging. Don't walk through the park alone at night or if you have a bit too much to drink.
Parque Lleras in El Poblado is the best place in Medellin for nightlife

Parque Lleras in El Poblado goes from artsy park during the day to hub of Medellin's nightlife after dark

 INSIDER TIP : Spiked Drinks- The clubs and bars around Parque Lleras are notorious for "scoping." Scopolamine, known as "the devil's breath," is a powerful sedative used by women at clubs to drug foreigners. While not an everyday occurrence, it is not common enough to be wary. Always keep your eyes on your drink in a nightclub and don't share drinks or take sips of drinks from overly friendly strangers (especially women).

Laureles-Estadio Pros and Cons– Best Neighborhood For First-Time Expats In Medellin

Laureles-Estadio (comuna 11) is an excellent neighborhood for first-time expats in Medellín. It is quieter and more pedestrian-friendly than other parts of the city while still being within easy reach of the hustle and bustle. However, Laureles is far from boring. Central Laureles is home to one of Colombia's top universities, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB). With over 25,000 students, UPB gives Laureles the atmosphere of a college town.

The area delivers modern comforts (several malls, numerous coffee shops, and lots of food options), exciting nightlife (Carrera 70/La Setenta/La 70 for clubs and bars, Avenida 33 for live Latin music, rock bars, and some of Medellin's iconic salsa clubs), and conveniences of a large expat community (lots of English-speaking social events). Additionally, Laureles-Estadio offers loads of gyms and fitness complexes to help you stay in shape.

I lived across the street from UPB and consider Laureles the best place to stay in Medellin for expats. 

Head to Atanasio Girardot Stadium during a football match to get taste of Colombia's Futbol culture

 INSIDER TIP : Spanish Classes - UPB offers government-recognized Spanish language lessons. You may qualify for a Student Visitor Visa (V) by enrolling in a minimum of 10 hours of Spanish classes. Student visas allow you to live in Colombia for up to one year.

Quick Overview Of Laureles-Estadio

  • Best Areas In Laureles For Expats: Conquistadores, San Joaquín, Estadio, La América
  • Best ForFirst-time visitors to Medellin who need acclimate to living in Colombia
  • Best Restaurants: Mondongos (a controversial Paisa institution), Barbara Cocina Primitiva (gigantic tomahawk steaks)
  • Major Attractions: El Estadio Atanasio Gardot, Carrera 70

Housing Costs In Laureles

Typical cost for a furnished apartment in Laureles is ~20% less compared to El Poblado

  • Studio - $400 USD / ~1,800,000 COP
  • 1 Bedroom 1 Bath Apartment $800 USD / ~3,500,000 COP
  • 2 Bedroom 2 Bath Apartment $950 USD / ~4,200,000 COP

What Are The Advantages of Living in Laureles

  • Youthful Energy- UPB, in the middle of the barrio, is one of the largest universities in Colombia. The university gives the neighborhood a small-town college vibe with a more laid-back and local setting with lots of parks and green spaces, as well as many trendy bistros, delicious restaurants, and cozy cafes. The neighborhood is full of local university students, young expats, and digital nomads, providing a balance of international flair with a local lifestyle.
  • First Class Sporting Facilities- The massive Atanasio Girardot Sports Complex (Unidad Deportiva Atanasio Girardot) is home for two of Colombia's most popular football teams (Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín). Additionally, the sports complex offers several sports, recreation, and physical activity programs available to the public. You'll find an outdoor gym, beach volleyball, an Olympic pool, a running track, and, of course, football fields available for use. Further, the UPB campus (Pontifical Bolivarian University) has a complete sports facility with a pool, tennis courts, fitness classes, and a weights gym. I took yoga classes and lifted weights for cheap there. Laureles-Estadio is also home to my favorite gym, Centro de Movimiento. This fitness center offers calisthenics, yoga, and Crossfit-style classes.
  • Pedestrian Friendly- Laureles is much more walkable than El Poblado. The roads are wider, fewer tourists cram the sidewalks, and less car traffic crowds the streets. More, Laureles is flat, without the steep hills of El Poblado, Belen, or Sabaneta.
  • No Need For A Car - I never felt the need to buy a car living in Laureles-Estadio. Nearly everything you need is within walking distance. Further, you are rarely far from the nearest metro station. There are 3 metro stations nearby, with Floresta on the eastern border of La America, Suramericana on the west, and the main Estadio metro station smack in the middle between the stadium and La 70. I only jumped in an Uber or taxi at night for safety reasons.
  • Large Expat Community - While El Poblado is the tourist mecca, you'll find more long-term expats and digital nomads in Laureles-Estadio than anywhere else. This makes it easier to build your social circle of English-speaking friends who will stick around for a while vs. only staying for a week-long holiday. You'll find new friends at meetups, social events, and language exchanges at Café Revolución or just by hanging out at Café Cliché. Further, you'll find more yoga, pilates, salsa, and CrossFit classes taught in English here.

 INSIDER TIP : COOLEST thing to do in Laureles – You can't miss a visit to Atanasio Girardot Stadium! Even if you are not into football, the crowd's vibe, energy, and excitement are well worth the experience. To take things to another level, grab tickets for when Atlético Nacional plays their arch-rival Independiente Medellín. But be careful. Colombia is passionate about football. Especially during rivalry games, things can get rowdy.

What Are Drawbacks Of Staying in Laureles

  • Noise Levels - Colombians start partying at midnight and go until sunrise. While the nightlife in Laureles is less rowdy and more refined compared to Parque Lleras, that doesn't mean you won't get Latin music pumping into your windows at 2 AM. If you live near the two main party streets (La Setenta/70 or Avenida 33), be prepared for annoying drunks and some sleepless nights.
  • Safety Concerns -  While not as touristy as El Poblado, Laureles' reputation has grown among the expat community. More foreigners always draw more unsavory types looking for easy targets. Especially around La 70, don't walk late at night or take a street taxi. Use inDriver, Cabify, or Uber to be safe.
  • Life In An Expat Bubble -  Expat life in Laureles is so convenient and self-sufficient that it's easy to forget you are in Colombia. You can get some work done at Semilla co-working, do your shopping at Unicentro mall, burn some calories working out at UPB, go on a dinner date at a Korean restaurant, then meet your friends for drinks at La 70, all without ever jumping in a car or bus to leave Laureles.

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Belén Pros and Cons- Medellin's Hipster Neighborhood

One of the city's oldest areas, Belen, is increasing in popularity among expats looking for affordable places to live near the city center. Technically, Belén is a name for both a Medellin district (comuna 16) and a neighborhood (barrio) within the district.

As a district, Belen still has some rough areas classed as estrato 2 and 3, which would be too gritty for expats. But Belen, as a barrio, is considered an up-and-coming area in Medellin. While still a little raw, the neighborhood is relatively safe, with a strong police presence and a community that looks out for each other.

With few hotels or hostels, tourists rarely stay in the neighborhood, but expats can find affordable long-term apartments, but few Airbnbs or other short-term options. The main attractions near Belén include El Cerro Nutibara and Pueblito Paisa, a charming area atop Nutibara hill built with the colonial architecture typical of a late 19th-century Antioquia town. Several small pastelerias, local bars, and old men playing dominos outside the church add to the small-town vibe.

Living in Belen allows quick visits to Pueblito Paisa colonial town square atop El Cerro Nutibara

Quick Overview Of Belen

  • Best Areas In Belen For Expats: Belen Parque, Nueva Villa del Aburrá, Cerro Nutibara, Rosales
  • Best ForForeigners on a budget, but still want to live in the city
  • Best Restaurants: Guadalupe Belen (best Mexican food in Medellin), Asados La 80
  • Major Attractions: El Cerro Nutibara,Parque de Las Esculturas, and Pueblito Paisa

Housing Costs In Belen

Typical cost for a furnished apartment in Belen is 40% to 55% less compared to El Poblado

  • Studio - $325 USD / ~1,560,000 COP
  • 1 Bedroom 1 Bath Apartment $475 USD / ~2,270,000 COP
  • 2 Bedroom 2 Bath Apartment $650 USD / ~3,110,000 COP

What Are The Advantages of Living in BELEN

  • Unidad Deportivo- Proximity to this impressive sports complex is a key benefit to living in Belen. Unidad Deportivo teems with basketball hoops, football fields, tennis courts, an Olympic pool, a running track, a well-equipped outdoor gym, and even an archery range. If you are into sports, living next to Unidad Deportivo is an amateur athlete's dream.
  • Cerro de Nutibara - Living in Belen means having an ecological park as your backyard. Cerro de Nutribara (translates to Nutribara Hill) is a nature center and green oasis in the middle of Medellin. Nutibara is a protected ecosystem full of trees, forests, and flowers. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can catch the colorful feathers of macaws hiding in the trees. On weekends, the park fills with locals on leisurely weekend bike rides and family picnics. While the serious fitness fanatics hit the outdoor workout areas that dot the hiking trails up the hill.
  • Gentrification and Low Costs- As an alternative to the bustle, grit, and crime-ridden downtown, Belen is growing in reputation as Medellín's hipster neighborhood. Popular among young Colombian professionals, who want to live near the city center but are priced out of El Poblado, Belen offers a safe neighborhood with affordable housing. With young professionals moving in to gentrify the area, loads of new bars, delicious restaurants, and lovely cafes seemingly pop up all the time. Yet, as an up-and-coming neighborhood, Belen's cost of living is still relatively low. Especially compared to other expat neighborhoods in Medellin, housing here is flat-out cheap.

What Are Drawbacks Of Staying in Belen

  • Gritty and Grimy- Besides its hipster vibes and laid-back atmosphere, many young Colombian and expats live in Belen to be close to the city center but don't want to deal with the noise and bustle of downtown. But Belen doesn't fit everyone's tastes. There are drawbacks to living near the city center. What some expats consider "up and coming," others view as trashy and squalid. Belen doesn't have the upscale polish of El Poblado, the family-friendly vibe of Envigado, or the suburban atmosphere of Laureles.
  • City Vibe In A Bad Way- Belen feels more inner-city than other barrios on this list. The neighborhood can be pretty crowded and noisy, especially at night. Gone are the wide pedestrian-friendly roads of other barrios. Belen is one of the hilliest areas in Medellín. The many rolling hills that provide you a beautiful view of the city are a significant drawback for expats without a car to get around.
  • Traffic Jams- Even with a car, getting around isn't awesome. The hills make it difficult to find parking. Plus, the roads are tighter here, compounding the traffic and making it difficult to get around during rush hour.

Envigado Pros and Cons- Best Place In Medellin for Expat Families

Envigado is ideal for expat families looking for bigger homes, large green spaces, and nature that only comes from living in the suburbs. Directly south, about 15 minutes from El Poblado, sits Envigado. While part of Metro Medellin, Envigado is technically its own city, not a neighborhood. Medellin's ever-expanding sprawl absorbed the city in 2016, but Envigado still retains its own identity. Sure there are trendy barrios, like La Frontera, which mimic neighboring El Poblado's chic. Still, Envigado is quieter, safer, and has a distinct suburban character.

With mostly Colombian families living here, Envigado offers an ideal balance between getting the authentic Colombian experience but living only 15 minutes from El Poblado and still within easy reach of all the nightlife hotspots and shopping conveniences. Additionally, you are a short distance from all the expat communities, making it easier to find people with similar interests and make new friends while in Colombia.

Parque Envigado is one of the best area in medellin to stay for families

Parque Envigado is the hub of town's social life with Saint Gertrudis, shops, eateries, and cafes surrounding the park.

Quick Overview Of Envigado

  • Best Areas In Envigado For Expats: La Frontera, El Dorado, Central Envigado, Northern Envigado (San Marcos / La Magnolia), Jardine
  • Best ForExpats who prefer the suburbs and Foodies looking for the cities best restaurants
  • Best Restaurants: So many to name. Start with Restaurante Hatoviejo Viva (upscale Colombian cuisine) and check the list below
  • Major Attractions: El Dorado shopping area, Casa Museo Otraparte, Angel Waterfall (Cascada Salto del Angel)

Housing Costs In Envigado

Typical cost for a furnished apartment in Envigado is 35% to 45% less compared to El Poblado

  • Studio - $325 USD / ~1,563,000 COP
  • 1 Bedroom 1 Bath Apartment $550 USD / ~2,640,000 COP
  • 2 Bedroom 2 Bath Apartment $675 USD / ~3,250,000 COP

What Are The Advantages of Living in Envigado

  • Family Friendly - With a low crime rate and plenty of schools and parks in the area, Envigado is a great place to raise a family. The area is home to the Parque Ecológico El Salado. This nature park is a hidden green gem. Local families love to visit for picnics, kid-friendly hikes, skate parks, and rock-climbing walls. On the weekends, families hang out at the recently renovated central park ( Marceliano Velez Park). Here, kids can splash in the water fountains while the parents meet up to chat over a cup of tinto (Colombian street coffee), and grandparents sit on a bench to feed pigeons.
  • Lower Cost Luxury Housing PricesEnvigado's cost of living is also relatively affordable, especially compared to the more gringo-priced housing options in the El Poblado neighborhood next to it. Your average cost of a flat in a luxury high-rise apartment building with a view is about 40% less than a two-bedroom apartment in El Poblado. If you want to pay a bit more for luxury, the extra cost is worth it.
  • Suburbia- Located far south of Medellin's city center, Envigado has a more suburban, rural vibe. There is a strong sense of family here. It's common to see neighborhood kids playing football on the streets while old-timers drink a cold beer and play dominos. Sabaneta is ideal for expat families who want that distinct "community feel," where you know the family that lives next door and neighbors say "buenos dias" when walking past.
  • Surprisingly Excellent Restaurants - Jardines barrio in Envigado is a secret treasure trove of delicious restaurants. Locally dubbed "La Calle de la Buena Mesa" (literal translation is "the street of the good table"), Jardines is the best foodie scene outside of El Poblado. Besides typical Colombian cuisine (Restaurante La Doctora), there are international options, including Mexican (Milagros), Spanish Tapas (El Barral), and an upscale steakhouse (Lucio Carbón y Vino).  
  • Close to nature- Located 10-15 minutes from El Poblado, Envigado is far from Medellin's inner city. Almost rural, this area is a perfect home base for outdoor adventures. Envigado is home to several parks and is close to incredible hikes such as the 164 feet (50m) Cascada Salto del Angel waterfall, just 6 miles from Envigado park.

What Are Drawbacks Of Staying in Envigado

  • Limited Shopping - Options are more limited than El Poblado or Laureles, but the recently opened "Largest mall in Colombia," the Viva Envigado mall (opened 2018), helps keep expats from having to travel to hit up some shopping.
  • Traffic Congestion - In certain areas, the streets narrow considerably, making it difficult for large vehicles to navigate. There is not enough parking available in the area, which makes it challenging to find a space when you want to shop at one of the stores. Additionally, the traffic jams cause pollution problems, making breathing difficult while walking around Envigado during rush hour.
  • Location- Envigado is located a couple of metro stops south of El Poblado- which is itself south of Medellin. This means that if you make Envigado your base, you'll be going (farther) north every time you want to go somewhere. Some people find it annoying to constantly commute from Envigado to other parts of town. Further, the closest metro station is near the mall but far from most of the residential neighborhoods in Envigado. Jumping on the metro means constantly grabbing a city bus to the nearest metro station and increasing your commute time even further.
  • Noise Levels- Another drawback is that Central Envigado can get noisy due to the large number of buses, taxis, and motorcycles. If peace and quiet are what you're after, head to one of the neighborhoods like El Dorado that are a little away from the center.
  • Need To Up Your Spanish-Speaking Skills- It's time to break out of the expat bubble. Living in suburbia means being far from tourist attractions and foreigner-friendly businesses. If you're not fluent in Spanish, it's time to take classes. Your daily interactions with Colombians living here will be nearly entirely in Spanish. If the extent of your Spanish is being able to order a cold beer, you'll struggle in Sabaneta.

Sabaneta Pros and Cons- Best Place In Medellin For Expats with Kids

Sabaneta is an ideal neighborhood for expat families who want the convenience of living near Metro Medellin but don't want to raise their kids in the hustle and bustle of a major city.

Located at the end of the valley, roughly 20 minutes south of downtown Medellin, sits the charming municipality of Sabaneta. Like Envigado, Sabaneta is its own city. With the charm of a small Latin American colonial town, Sabaneta blends the authenticity of a traditional Colombian pueblo with the conveniences of living in a modern metropolis.

Sabaneta exudes a small-town ambiance unlike any other barrios or districts in Medellin. While expat life in Sabaneta is more laid-back, it is far from boring. Parque Sabaneta is a beautiful town square that is always bustling with activity. The square is a green oasis, surrounded by trees and packed with kids playing in the water fountains. Local families love spending their weekends there, snacking on crispy empanadas while Latin music fills the air. You'll find a row of attractive al fresco restaurants and eateries on streets just off the square. Opposite the square, you'll glimpse a row of market vendors hawking along the road.

Locals love chilling in Parque Sabaneta to meet up with friends for a game of chess or cup of Colombian coffee 

Quick Overview Of Sabaneta

  • Best Areas In Sabaneta For Expats: Vegas de San José, Lagos de La Doctora, San Joaquín
  • Best ForForeigners with good Spanish skills who enjoy laid-back small-towns
  • Best Restaurants: Ragazzi(pizzas and pasta), La Hija de Stella (one of the best Bandeja Paisas)
  • Major Attractions: Parque Sabaneta (specially during Christmas time), La Romera Ecological Reserve

Housing Costs In Sabaneta

Typical cost for a furnished apartment in Sabaneta is 40% to 50% less compared to El Poblado

  • Studio - $300 USD / ~1,430,000 COP
  • 1 Bedroom 1 Bath Apartment $400 USD / ~1,910,000 COP
  • 2 Bedroom 2 Bath Apartment $590 USD / ~2,830,000 COP

What Are The Advantages of Living in Sabaneta

  • Small Town vs. Big City Attitude- The neighborhood has a Pueblo (small town) mindset. Life is more relaxed, and the community watches out for each other. People aren't rushed; instead, they smile and wave when you walk by, rather than burying their faces in their cell phones.
  • Family-Friendly Community- It's almost a throwback to small-town Americana in the 1960s, where kids can be kids and play outside while adults hang out by the town square to chat and play chess. Sabaneta exudes a small-town charm, where everyone knows everyone's name, and neighbors are more trustworthy and friendly.
  • A Very Safe Neighborhood- The neighborhood is one of the safest in Medellin. A combination of the small-town vibe and a lack of tourists reduces the number of drug dealers and prostitutes in the area.
  • Great Views- While the flat area of Sabaneta is where most locals live. Expats prefer the more luxurious homes higher in the hills, where you get gorgeous views of Medellin.What Are the Drawbacks Of Staying in Sabaneta

What Are Drawbacks Of Staying in Sabaneta

  • Traffic Can Be Relentless- Traffic is okay if you want to stay in Sabaneta. However, driving in and out of Sabaneta when heading into Medellin can be a nightmare. Avoid driving during rush hour. If you must commute to Medellin, consider using the two nearby metro stations.
  • Small-Town Atmosphere- Traditional small-town Colombian vibe is charming and quaint to expats with families, but quiet streets and a laid-back lifestyle may not work for younger expats or foreigners who want the energy and electric atmosphere of a major city. This charm may not last as Sabaneta grows in popularity. Developers have built 100 new apartment projects in the area since 2016.
  • Limited Entertainment- Another drawback of living in a small town, Sabaneta isn't known for its fun nightlife. There are shots at Shupa and some rock music at Valhalla club, but for a proper night on the town, you'll need to make the trip to Laureles or El Poblado.
  • Lack of International Food options - Lack of tourists and few expats means fewer restaurants. You will not find many high-end bistros; Colombian eateries are the norm in Sabaneta, with restaurants serving pizza counting as "International Dining."
  • Not Very Walkable - With an area of less than 6 square miles (15 km²), Sabaneta is the tiniest municipality in Colombia. But don't let its diminutive size fool you. While everything is within walking distance, the town is not pedestrian friendly. Sabaneta has some of the best skyline views of Medellin, but expats who want Instagram-worthy views need to deal with the hills. If you don't invest in a car or motorbike, coping with the steep hills to do your grocery shopping, visit the park, or eat at a restaurant can get exhausting.
  • Need to speak Spanish- If you only speak English, you'll get many more puzzled looks and "no hablo inglés" than if you were living in El Poblado or Laureles. You'll need more than Hola and Gracias to get by easily here. Simple things like asking for 800 grams of boneless, skinless chicken thighs from the butcher will require taking a couple of Spanish classes. Without upping your Spanish-speaking skills, you'll constantly be whipping out your cell phone for Google to translate.

La Candelaria-El Centro Neighborhood - Where Should Expats Avoid Living In Medellin?

La Candelaria-El Centro is a neighborhood in Medellin's city center. While Plaza Botero and other must-see tourist attractions are in this area, I do not recommend expats to live in La Candelaria. The neighborhood is beyond raw and grungy. This is not a hipster bohemian, more sketchy ghetto vibe.

In my 8 years of expat life visiting over 45 countries, Junin Street is the least pleasant place I have ever walked. The urine-stench-filled street is crammed with homeless druggies getting high in the open. This area is disgusting even for someone like me who lived in cities overrun with homeless in the United States, like San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

Also, La Candelaria is statistically the most dangerous part of Medellin, with high crime rates and a significant number of reported robberies. Be very cautious visiting this area: always stick to well-traveled areas and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

A hotbed for drug deals and prostitutes, La Candelaria or El Centro is not the best places to stay in Medellin at night. Photo Credit

Even during the daytime, you'll want to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against petty crime. Avoid carrying your purse or backpack, don't pull your phone out in the open, and watch your pockets when walking in crowded areas. While there is a police presence, you can still be mugged or have your pockets picked in this part of town.

The downtown core is dangerous at night, especially east of Avenida Oriental. Unless you know the area, stay away from the Medellin Centro at night and avoid walking around downtown alone at all costs. 

If you see crazy cheap apartments for rent in La Candelaria, don't bother. The extra cost savings is not worth the risk.

Best Neighborhoods In Medellin For Expats

If you're considering a move to Medellín, Laureles-Estadio is my choice as the ideal place to live. The neighborhood is centrally located and filled with amenities (bistros, shopping malls, trendy cafes, co-working, and co-living). The convenience and location make it a great place to settle in and explore all Medellin offers. Having a larger expat community is especially helpful for first-time expats. Here, you'll have an easier time making new friends and adjusting to your new surroundings vs. the more transient tourists in El Poblado.


Other helpful resources on living in Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed

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FAQs: Best Neighborhoods In Medellin For Expats

Where to live in Medellin on a budget?

If you are an expat on a budget, La Candelaria - Centro is one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Medellin. This city center neighborhood is even home to Medellin's most popular tourist attractions and sites, including the Palace of Culture, Catedral Basílica Metropolitana, and Bolivar Park.

Centrally located, La Candelaria - Centro (aka downtown Medellin) offers convenient access to the entire city. However, La Candelaria - Centro is one of the shadiest places in Medellin. Junin Street is the worse, with the sidewalks lined with homeless drug users. Regardless of price, I DO NOT recommend Centro as a neighborhood for expats to live in. The extra cost savings is not worth the trade-offs.

What is the safest area in Medellin?

I recommend Envigado or Sabaneta if you want to feel extra safe. Both areas are quiet upper-middle-class neighborhoods filled primarily with local Colombian families. With fewer foreign tourists to tempt thieves, drug dealers, and prostitutes, both Envigado and Sabaneta are considered safe neighborhoods in Medellin.

Where are the best neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia, for new expats?

If you are new to Medellin or a first-time expat, my favorite neighborhood is Laureles. Everything you need is within a couple of blocks walking distance. Laureles combines convenient shopping, energetic nightlife, and a supportive expat community into a tidy, affordable district.

It's hard to beat El Poblado if you want upscale living, Medellin's best nightlife, the widest variety of shopping, and the most entertainment options. But upscale also means the most expensive high-rise apartment buildings.

Expat families looking for more space to raise kids would prefer the family-friendly feel of Sabaneta or the suburban community vibe of Envigado. However, both areas are 20-30 minutes from tourist attractions and Medellin nightlife.

If the cost of living is your most important factor, Belen is my recommendation. Belen is the cheapest neighborhood in Medellin that is still safe for expats. Belen has some rough areas. Stick to the barrios like Rosales with an average estrato higher than 4 to find the low-cost housing options in safer neighborhoods.

"Best" is subjective and depends on your lifestyle, vibe, and budget choice. But, no matter your lifestyle, with 2.5 million people, 16 districts, and 249 neighborhoods, Medellin has an abundance of options to choose from.

What are the best places in Medellin to live a local experience?

It depends on what you mean by "local experience." Envigado lets you experience life as a Colombian upper-middle-class suburban family. Belen is an authentic working-class life in the inner city of a major metropolis. Sabaneta gives you a glimpse of life in a typical Colombian small town.

All three areas can be considered local, and each provides an excellent experience for specific types of expats.

Where to stay in Medellin for fun nightlife?

Central El Poblado, specifically near Parque de El Poblado Park and Parque Lleras, is Medellin's epicenter for nightlife and entertainment. La Setenta in Laureles-Estadio is a close 2nd place. Parque Lleras is a rowdier and more touristy crowd. La Setenta is a bit more upscale and expat focused.

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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last eight years to over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller, Abroad: Expats That Thrive. [view press...]