Planning a Trip
By Plane -- You will most likely be arriving in Medellín's international airport, José María Córdova (tel. 4/601-212; airport code: MDE), which lies about 45 minutes east of the city. Some smaller domestic flights land at Olaya Herrera National Airport. Several airlines provide service from the United States to Medellín, including Avianca, Copa, Delta, and American Airlines. Another option is to connect in Bogotá and take a flight to Medellín. Colombian airlines offer several dozen flights a day from Bogotá and about a dozen each from Cali, Cartagena, as well as a few flights from smaller cities. To get from the José María Córdova airport to Medellín proper, you can take a taxi for COL$45,000 to COL$55,000 (US$23-US$28/£12-£14), or you can take a COL$5,000 (US$2.50/£1.25) minibus, which will drop you off in the city center, the last stop being the Hotel Nutibara. From the city center, you can take a much cheaper taxi to your hotel. Green minibuses are located at the exit of the airport and labeled Medellín. If you arrive after 8pm, you'll have to take a taxi.
By Bus -- You can get to Medellín from most major cities and large towns, but if you can afford to fly, it's worth the investment as the journey can be long. Unlike most other Colombian cities, Medellín has two bus terminals, El Terminal del Norte and El Terminal del Sur, so check to see which end of town your hotel is closest to before booking your bus trip. Tip: If you will be staying in El Poblado, try to arrive at El Terminal de Sur.
Most of Medellín's tourist attractions are within walking distance of the city center, but there is also a great Metro system (the only one in Colombia) covering 26km (16 miles) east to west and 6km (3 3/4 miles) north to south. Metro tickets cost COL$1,300 (US65¢/33p) no matter where you go. There is even a free cable car system that moves about 27,000 people a day from the city center to the poorer comunas on the surrounding mountainsides. Taxis in Medellín are cheap, efficient, and generally safe to hail on the street during the day; at night you're best bet is to call a cab. A couple of taxi options include Empresa de Taxis Super S.A. (tel. 4/513-9700) and CityTaxi (tel. 4/444-0002).
Getting to Medellín's Tourism office feels a bit like entering a maximum-security prison. It's located in the Palacio de Exposiciones, at Calle 51 no. 55-80 (tel. 4/232-4022), and you'll have to ring many bells and walk through many doors to find the office. As a bonus, though, it seems few tourists venture this way, so the office often gives away maps and activity guides (including a guide that's in English and Spanish). The office is supposedly opened between 7:30am and 12:30pm and again between 1:30 and 5:30pm. There are also tourism offices located at José María Córdoba airport (tel. 4/562-2885) and Olaya Herrera airport (tel. 4/285-1048).
The best way to see the city is to take the Turibus (tel. 4/285-1978), which will drop you off at the city's major attractions as well as give you information about Medellín. Ask if there is a bilingual guide available. You can catch the Turibus at Parque Del Poblado. Tickets are COL$12,000 (US$6/£3) for adults, COL$6,000 (US$3/£1.50) for children.
To visit El Circuito de Oriente, a 1-day trip covering several towns and sites in the Antioquian countryside, contact Las Buseticas, Carrera 43A no. 34-95 (tel. 4/262-7444; www.lasbuseticas.com). The bigger your party, the better the prices. There are other bus and car companies that offer day tours of the Circuito de Oriente; for more information, contact or visit the Aviatur office in Parque de Bolívar, at Carrera 49 no. 55-25, Edificio El Parque (tel. 4/576-5000 or 4/576-5002; www.aviatur.com).
You can change money at most banks, upscale hotels (though the rate is poor), and both of Medellín's airports. There are ATMs scattered throughout the city, in malls, bus terminals, and in all EXITO stores. It's a bad idea to use ATMs in the city center, as robberies aren't uncommon. Although Medellín is much safer than it was in the past couple of decades, you still want to take basic precautions. Don't carry large amounts of cash, and disperse it on your person, especially in the city center, which can be a bit seedy. Tip: Try to withdraw money in the safer Poblado or Laureles neighborhoods.
If you have an emergency or need medical attention, try Hospital San Vicente de Paul (Calle 64 and Carrera 51D; tel. 4/514-6600), Clínica Medellín (Calle 7 no. 39-290, in Poblado; tel. 4/511-6044), or Clínica de las Américas (Diagonal 75B no. 2A-80; tel. 4/342-1010). Always head to private hospitals for the best care, especially if you have no cash or insurance card on you. There are pharmacies on nearly every corner of the city center.
To contact the metropolitan police, dial tel. 112, for medical and other emergencies dial tel. 123.