Bogota vs Medellin: Choosing Where to Live In Colombia

The following is a guest post by Brice.

Bogota vs Medellin. The capital of Colombia versus it’s much loved little sister.

I believe it’s a truth in most countries, where the second city has a complex with it’s big brother. This is the case with Chicago vs New York, Manchester vs London, and Melbourne vs Sydney. It is no different in Colombia.

Medellin feels like it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves from the residents of Bogota, and in turn they make it clear their distaste for their “big, cold, ugly, and polluted” sibling.

Bogota has a better preserved colonial center.

Bogota has a better preserved colonial center

The funny thing with intercity rivalries is that the larger city rarely pays attention to the rivalry. They in fact usually pay compliments to the positive aspects of their compatriot. This holds true with Colombia’s two largest cities.

Rolos (the nickname for Bogota residents) are rarely heard saying anything bad about Medellin. In fact, when asked what they think of The City of Eternal Spring, three things are usually said: it’s beautiful, the women are beautiful, and the weather is great. (Which are all truisms.)

Another perfect day in Medellin

Another perfect day in Medellin

Ask the same question to Paisas (Medellin residents) and the same can not be said. The dislike for Bogota is near universal in Medellin. The general response to “What do you think of Bogota?” from a Paisa is: the weather’s cold, the people are unfriendly, and the women are ugly.

The funny reality, however, is that many of the respondents have never even visited Bogota. The answer is so universal in Medellin that it’s been ingrained in them without even having experienced the city for themselves.

Bogota Truth: The weather’s cold

So we’ve identified that Bogota is cold. Are the other statements by Paisas true? Well, the Rolos are not as open as Paisas, but Paisas are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever encounter.

Are the women ugly in Bogota? No. Do they wear more clothes than Paisas? Yes. Are there less plastic surgery enhanced breasts and buttocks? Yes. However, the women of Bogota have one thing going for them: a better sense of style. Paisas are stunning, but you will definitely find beautiful women in Bogota.

Medellin Truth: The Weather’s Perfect

So if the weather, women and people of Medellin are so much better, why would you want to go to Bogota? One word: diversity.

Bogota, along with being the home of the national government is also home to an amazing amount of cultural diversity. The museums, nightlife, restaurants, cafes, music scene, and theatres of Bogota can not be matched by any city in the country, Medellin included.

To have the opportunity to live in Medellin is a beautiful thing. It’s a fantastic city. I’ve had the chance to live in Medellin and spend a few months in Bogota. I like them both, and for very different reasons.

I think the ideal balance is to live in Medellin, and visit Bogota from time to time for a cultural splash. It’s only a 25 minute flight away.

Plus, you’ll save money living in Medellin over Bogota, so you can afford the occasional excursion to the capital to indulge in some of your favourite cultural experiences.

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About the Author: Brice is a location independent day trader who chose to live in Medellin for six months in late 2011 and early 2012. He has lived on four continents in five different countries. His favorite way to see a place is from the saddle of his trusty bicycle. To read more on his Colombian adventures, check out his website: Traveling to Colombia.

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Comments

  1. william cordoba says:

    better climate – Medellin
    friendlier – Medellin, by far
    safer – Bogota, with lower and more stable crime stats
    As a base for exploring – Medellin
    Paisas are more regionalist, which comes across as low self-esteem
    For business – Medellin, Bogota office-workers are a bit mindless, although it’s obviouly closer to govt. etc.
    prettier women – Bogota, paisas have that tasteless footballers’ wives look, painting their head canary-cheap yellow or whatever that colour’s called. When I bring visitors to bogota I never have to apologise for how the women look

    Most liveable town in Colombia (for a family) – Popayan
    Best people – Riohacha
    Best town to do business – Barranquilla

    • I’m not familiar with the crime stats for Bogota, nor have I lived there, but I have a hard time swallowing that it’s noticeably safter than Medellin.

      Just last year there was a rash of something like 6-8 armed hostel robberies (including kidnapping if you factor in people held against their will) in La Candelaria. Unfortunately, the same tactic seems to have spread to hostels in Poblado this year.

      Also, I’ve never felt the need to apologize for the way women look in Medellin. Just the opposite, though I do think they take the plastic surgery too far.

      • william cordoba says:

        A number of institutions publish data online, and it is worth consulting and comparing several of these.
        While Bogotá has lower absolute crime stats, the more important statistic for ex-pats is the stability, or predictability, of crime, usually measured year on year. Where crime levels fluctuate wildly, it is harder to make sound judgements about which neighbourhoods are safe and which aren’t.

        Here is one link:
        http://mafiaandco.com/2011/02/22/colombia-la-criminalidad-en-aumento-percepciones-cifras-y-meta/

        • It’s a shame, you can clearly see Medellin’s murder rate was more in line with the rest of Colombia (aside from Cali) in 2008, and then the drug gangs began their turf war in 2009 and the rate shot up.

          Of course the majority of those are occurring in areas where tourists have no business going (just like I didn’t frequent 3/4 of Washington, DC when I lived in the area).

  2. Sebastian says:

    I disagree with the friendliness of Paisa people. All times I spent in Medellin, I did not find them friendly. I hardly have had any conversation in Medellin. Not in daytimes, nor at night. Which I totally experience the opposite in Bogota. Rolos, and rolas are extremely friendly and very, very easy to get in touch with. Medellin has the best climate, without a doubt, but the city center is very noisy with Colombia’s worst traffic, The city itself, I don’t find beautiful. It is just a modern city to me. Nightlife in Medellin is excellent, but, only in the weekends.

    • My perspective is skewed because I’ve spent 16 of my 18 months in Colombia living in Medellin, but I’ve always found the paisas to be friendly and welcoming, as well as incredibly curious as to why I was visiting their country. I got this question more often in 2009 than 2011, which is a sign of the increased tourism, I believe.

    • Aside from taking friends sightseeing, I rarely spend time in downtown Medellin. I think we can all agree it’s not the most attractive area, which is why most expats live in Poblado or Envigado. That said, Adriaan who runs Colombia Reports has been happy to live and work there for years.

      I’ve heard others say the city doesn’t strike them as beautiful, but having been around the world, it easily makes my top 3, along with Venice and Cape Town. Of course we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

  3. I wrote a similar article here: http://seecolombia.travel/blog/2012/01/bogota-vs-medellin-decisions-decisions-pt-3/ and find much the same. For me, Bogota has the culture, the people, the style, and Medellin has the weather, the green spaces and the easier style of life. Being a Brit, I’m happy to sacrifice weather for all the richness of culture that Bogota has.

    Also couldn’t agree more about the sense of style. Various times I’ve been told by Paisas that Medellin style is some of the best in the world but for me Bogota women and men dress far better, and with a lot more variety.

    I would actually reverse what you say and suggest that living in Bogota with trips to Medellin would be better, but that’s just me! Good article.

    Paul

    • Being from Britain, I can’t believe you’d choose the cold weather of Bogota over Medellin. I’d expect the opposite!

      I’m from the East Coast of the US, and Medellin’s climate has totally spoiled me. The thought of enduring another long, cold Winter no longer appeals to me. Even in Lima, now that it’s Winter, I find myself thinking 70F is cold during the day, as I got so use to the low 80’s (F) in Medellin.

    • Hi Paul,
      I’m moving out to bogota in a couple of weeks a looking for a place to stay. I.ll be studying at UNAL, where would you suggest? Where can I find places to stay?

      Would love your advice,
      Thanks a million grace x

  4. The Rolas are beautiful women, but I think there’s a higher percentage in Medellin. I do find, however, that you’ll find a higher concentration of well educated, cultured, and well dressed women in Bogota. I find those three attributes incredibly sexy, so that is a point for the Rolas. The weather didn’t bother me in Bogota. I found the daytime temperatures more comfortable, and the nights a bit cold. Both cities I enjoyed, just on different levels. And yes, central Medellin is ugly. And the architecture of some of the building is hideous. That’s a given. The surroundings of the city, however, are in my opinion world class.

  5. Climate, by far hands down Medellin.

    I also think it is much easier getting around MDE than BOG and the traffic is certainly better in MDE. BOG can be a nightmare.

    Better and more varied restaurants in BOG although MDE has it’s share of good places to eat. Just not as cosmopolitan as BOG.

    Bogota is more of a business city so you see more men in suits and more women dressed professionally than in MDE but trust me, the women of MDE know how to dress for success be it in business or out partying.

    I’ve only lived in MDE for the past 5 years and visited BOG about 8-10 times. It was always fun to visit BOG but always better returning home to MDE.

    For my money, MDE is a much better place for ex-pats to consider living. BOG a better place for working.

    Depends on what you will be doing with your life!

    • Hermano de Pescado says:

      Agreed. Medellin is a cesspool. Living there is so hazardous to one’s health. The pollution is equivalent to smoking 5 packs of unfiltered camels a day. Medellin used to be a wonderful clean sparkling place to visit. No longer it is a disgustingly dirty and hazardous place to bring your usa lungs. I so used to love Medellin I am sad to have to have written such a review which is totally the truth.

      • totally agree the pollution in medellin is not beyond horrible. Bogota is not nearly as bad in terms of smog and the buses do not spew the horrible medellin diesel exhaust.

  6. What about all the thick, dark, stagnate exhaust that fills the Medellin valley? That’s a big reason guys leave after being there a few months or a year, you start to feel it in your chest and eyes. Nobody ever seems to mention that.

    • Aside from Centro, I don’t think the air pollution in the valley is that bad, and I certainly have yet to feel it in my chest and eyes.

      • Hermano de Pescado says:

        I totally disagree my friend. The acrid smoke is everywhere. You mute talking about another city.

        • the rest of the valley “enjoys” the same air as centro. so you only get relief when you drive out of the valley. It is amazing how clean you air feels when you get to rio negro airport after driving from medellin.

  7. Really? Maybe I’m just more sensitive, but when I’m in a cab I’m constantly breathing in exhaust and whenever I was in an area near traffic it seemed like the air was really bad. I also know some other gringos who left (in part) because of the air quality.

    It also depends on where in Medellin you live, there are definitely areas that have better air quality than others. In places like Rionegro which is outside the valley, there is NO exhaust in the air whatsoever.

    • Im Retired US marine get almost 3000 american dollars a month. I want to move to Medellin or Miraflores Peru. I visited Bogota last year stayed in Crown Plaza hotel tequendama beautiful hotel but expensive 160 a night. I want a apartment for like 400 to 500 a month and looking to get married and start a family. Any comments would be appreciated. I Like Latin women better then any other nationality Thx Dan

      • Hi Dan, I spent about 6 months living in Miraflores, Lima between 2011-2012. Eventually I’m going to write a post comparing the experience to Medellin.

        Your income is more than enough to live comfortably in either place. I’ve found that $400-$500/month is enough for an apartment, but not in the most upscale parts of either city (Miraflores, the cheapest I could find was $600-$640 for a studio this year, but there aren’t a lot of them, and it helps if you know Spanish to search like a local).

        In Medellin, Poblado is the comparable neighborhood, and I find it’s far prettier. I mean Lima is in the middle of the desert. Despite the ocean, there’s no escaping the views are at opposite ends of the spectrum. It also gets cooler than Medellin in the Winter, and you’ll see far less sun.

        But back to the rent, I think $400-500 is either your own apartment in a more middle class working neighborhood, or a room in a more modern, nicer apartment. In Lima, I mostly rented my own apartment, but they weren’t nearly as nice as the modern ones. If you can find cool roommates, renting a room gets you a good location, and a nice apartment.

        • Hi, Dan,

          I’ve been living about three years in Colombia and I’d like to give you my two cents. But first, Peru, although it has its fair share of nice ladies (and better food lest you cook at home), has some drawbacks compared to Colombia: 1) ethnically less diverse; 2) generally less developed; 3) further away from the US/Europe; 4) less educated people; 5) more classist than Colombia. Peru is generally cheaper than Colombia.

          Now, about Colombia (in no particular order of importance)-
          1) Money
          Bogotá is the most expensive, not just rent, but you’ll spend more money than in Cali, Barranquilla, Medellin, probably also Cartagena. Real estate and the cost of living have almost doubled since 2006 (don’t remember if it whas BusinessInsider or some other biz mag) and that’s something you can take as a tendency when forecasting costs.

          Renting is about double prices in Bogotá as in Cali for the same ‘estrato’ and standard, services and internet are more expensive too. In Cartagena prices vary greatly on where you live, but it is generally cheaper than Bogotá. Medellín is slightly more expensive than Cali and so is Barranquilla too.

          2) Time
          Bogotá is just massive, it spreads out over a large area and traffic is terrible. You waste your life in transit. Let me say that again, you waste your life in transit. Also, forget about getting a taxi during rush hour or when it rains. If both at the same time, then the effect is compounded. When, on a weekday right before 20:00, I call for a taxi, the average is 15 times before I get through, and even then the system doesn’t always find you a cab. Once, it’s a hassle, repeated every day, it seriously reduces quality of life.

          Never a problem to get a cab in the other cities.

          3) Ladies.
          Personality:
          Cali: Great, easy-going, educated, down-to-earth. Little or no game needed.
          CTG: Great, easy-going, less educated, down-to-earth. Little or no game needed.
          BRQ: Great, easy-going, education more than CTG, less than Cali, down-to-earth. Little or no game needed, although more than the two previous.
          MDE: Uppy but with more an appearances-show going on, education slightly higher than Cali, but difficult comparison because of content). Medium game.
          BOG: Colder personality, border to arrogant if from higher stratum or doing well financially, not so easy-going, although it gets better with time, well educated. Medium+ game, maybe more.

          Personally, I find Cali+CTG+BRQ to be shared first place, with MDE second and BOG last.

          Physical apperance:
          Cali: 50% black population, if dark is your thing, then this is the right place. There is actually not much mix going on. The white girls have curvier bodies than in MDE (lest operated) and BOG. They also have pretty faces, although the “fenotype” is different from MDE and BRQ. It all comes down to your personal preferences. Shared first place with BRQ.

          BRQ: More race mixing going on. You have lots of whites, tanned whites, light browns and browns to choose from. Percentage-wise the same as Cali.

          CTG: Same as BRQ, but less race mixing. Shared second with MDE. Hm… come to think of it, MDE comes second, CTG third.

          MDE: There are dark skinned (black) girls, but not as many. Mixed are few, so if you prefer white now and white tomorrow, you’ll be happy in MDE.

          BOG: Downright ugly (the men too). Although you’ll find a hottie every now and then, you won’t get a sore neck like in the other cities. The ones that are hot AND interesting enough that you won’t get bored with conversation are few and far between. Last place.

          CTG+BRQ+Cali bonus with a price: Hot weather makes socially accepted to dress lightly = lots of skin. Same goes for MDE, but in a lesser degree. The flipside? You might think that your present company is a 10, but find yourself in doubt every time you go out! (On the bus, on the street, at the mall, in the club, at university, at work, etc.)

          4) People
          The same thing I wrote in the ‘personality’-section applies to the men too. Bogotá is full of people that think themselves very important, and I can’t stand to have a conversation with most men. I admit, this is a problem in the other places as well, but much less so. One cannot hang out 100% of the time with girls, friends are needed, and even though I’m 34 myself, I have little meaningful conversations with men below my age. With women it’s different, you can discuss great things with a 20-something-old (life, relationships, culture, literature, world affairs, but not business). Again, Bogotá is the loser.

          All in all, if you regard time an invaluable asset in life, Bogotá is not a permanent place to live. Culturally it beats the rest, but if you want culture, move to Rome. I really enjoyed my time in Cali myself, especially the women. Yet, there is no ocean, and that goes for MDE and BOG too. Major disadvantage. These three offer lots of mountain hiking/biking opportunities, but in Bogotá everything is a big project; it all takes so much time.

          Result? Barranquilla. Nice climate, nice women, close to the ocean and (slightly) closer to US/Dom.Rep/Cuba/etc. You can go to Cartagena or Santa Marta when you want, but don’t have to see tourists all the time. Your money will last longer too.

          • Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time to share your observations in Colombia. I’ve been to Barranquilla for a few long weekends (same as Cali), but can’t imagine living there.

            I’m sure there’s more to the city than what I saw, but the natural beauty is a big part of why I love Medellin.

            Also, the weather. Anywhere along the coast, Cartagena/Barranquilla/Santa Marta is bloody hot and humid. Last time I was in Cartagena for a few weeks, I was taking 2-3 cold showers/day.

            For that reason, I’d rather base myself in Medellin’s mountains, and vacation on the coast, then the other way around. Not that I don’t miss being by the water. All depends on your priorities!

    • Hermano de Pescado says:

      Rionegro is wonderful and that’s where I escaped to. Rionegro is maravilloso. Medellin is the pits. It needs to be gutted.

  8. no esoty de acuerdo, basta con ver algunos medios de comunicacion para ver los comentarios de los ciudadanos de bogota para insultar y ofender a los de medellin, el manejo de rivalidades se da por que el gobierno da mas importancia lagunas ciudades que ha otras, por lo que las llamadas segundas buscan tener un espacio mayor en el desarrollo del pais,

    • Stop lying! You know every colombian from small cities and towns wants to travel,live,work or study in bogota. I’m paisa,but I need to tell the truth here,every single person in this country wants to have the life the rolos have in bogota.
      So don’t be such a jerk,bogota is the capital of the fucking country,and doesn’t matter how beautiful medellin is, we will always be the second one in the scene.

      Deje de decir mentiras! Usted sabe que cada colombiano de provincia como usted o como yo,quiere vivir,trabajar,estudiar o al menos viajar a bogota. Yo soy paisa pero tengo que decir la verdad aqui,lo que NINGUN PAISA QUIERE RECONOCER! Que todos quisieramos tener la vida que los rolos tienen en bogota.
      Deje de ser ESTUPIDO,retrogrado,limitado mental. Bogota es la capital de este pais y NO importa que tan bonito sea medellin,siempre sera la SEGUNDA ciudad.

      IS NOT ABOUT THE GOVERMENT,STOP BLAMING BOGOTA FOR EVERYTHING. IS OUR FAULT TO BE THE NUMBER ONE PROSTITUTION AND MARIJUANA ABUSE CITY IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY.
      POR ESO ESTAMOS LLENOS DE PUTAS Y MARIHUANEROS,POR ESTAR ECHANDOLE LA CULPA A BOGOTA DE TODO!

  9. This is a interesting discussion. As I briefly discussed in this article: http://amanofnonation.com/bogota-la-ciudad-de-nadie/ I don’t think it is easy to compare a capital city of over 9 million to a city of just over 3 million. There are so many pros and cons to each city but overall my wife and I see ourselves living in a small town of Antioquia.

  10. Kelly wilson says:

    This fact is right and this also same in many countries. Both cites are good and not good for many it depends on that person experience. This discussion is endless and discussion is continue and can not end. Thanks for this post

  11. We are in the process of moving to Colombia soon. Can anyone please guide me with some information an approx cost of education in an international school or english medium school in Bogota or Medellin, also rentals in a middile class and secured areas. Thanks much.

  12. Back to the original article, what’s the best way to travel (read economic) between Medellin and Bogota, then Medellin and Cartagena /Baranquilla?
    I’ve spent time in Perú, Ecuador, and Bolivia and if you have the time it is far better to take a bus for $10 rather than a flight for $100.
    Thanks! I’m excited to be moving to Medellin but more excited for travel outside of the city.

    • I hate to break it to you but bus rides between major cities like the ones you mentioned will run you around $40. For another $20, if you book early, you can fly on VivaColombia and be there in under an hour vs 10-12 hours (of often uninteresting scenery by bus).

      I’ve done the bus from Medellin to Bogota and back. Expect 12 hours. By plane, it’s 25 minutes. I also did Medellin to Barranquilla on an overnight bus back in 2009.

      • Thanks for the quick response. It is different everywhere and I can certainly handle the extra money for that time commitment. However, at some point I’m I’ll bus it to Ecuador as often times there’s an adventure in that alone. Or at least a few stories.

  13. I have lived in Medellin for about a year and a half, and the people are very friendly with me. I am thinking about moving to Bogota just because of the climate. I prefer the 60’s and 70’s and Medellin get into the 80’s almost everyday. That’s just me, I like the cooler weather and just want to be comfortable.

    • Bogota in the 60s and 70s…unlikely. Been here for four months during what most would consider to be the hottest months of the year, since June. I would say it has been more like mid 40s to low 60s. On occasion you will get into the high 60s and very rarely into the low 70s. But it is pretty darn cold here…especially if you want to live in a nicer, more safe, more central area like chapinero alto…it is actually a colder part of the city there, but an area I would recommend as being solid across the board for what most people would want.

  14. One thing I did not see mentioned is it is VERY HARD to rent an apartment, even for a Colombian, in Bogota. But for a foreigner, it is damn near impossible. Lots of red tape. Just in general, life in Bogota is filled with more red tape than most people would probably expect. It took three trips and 5 or more hours of total time just to open up a simple bank account in Bogota. Expect to take a lot of time and give a lot of paper work to do almost anything…even to get a buscard I had to give my passport and they put the number on the card. Any way, one lady wanted SIX MONTHS worth of rent for the secruity deposit plus rent each month. As if most average folks coming from Europe or N. America or Australia or NZ have 6 or 7 million just laying around to pay in one lump sum just to get that first month…plus you need more money to eat for the month. Luckily found someone who was down to earth and, upon looking at a paper from the school I work at, said, ohh, you can easily pay a months rent, you can stay with us with just 300,000 secruity deposit. Thankfully in a Central, pretty safe, somewhat quiet area.

  15. Thanks for the useful info. I’m trying to decide which city to teach English in. Having lived in NYC & LA, I’d like a break from the competitive chaos & grit of a Bogota. However, Bogota has three times as many schools, so my chances of getting lots of work is greater. Bogota has more direct, and even cheaper flights & it’s easier to get to town from the airport. From what I can glean, I feel more for Medellin. From a pragmatic sense, however, Bogota makes more sense …until I consider public transportation. Running about to private lessons and different schools could eat up a lot of time and money if the public transpo isn’t up to snuff. Am I better of doing the Medellin thing because of public transportation? I know there is no right answer. I need the opportunities of Bogota, but the lifestyle, pace, costs of Medellin are better for me. Does Bogota have an efficient tram/subway/train system? Thanks again for all your help.

    • Bogota is cold all the time. It is a wretched place to live. I would encourage you to reconsider. I Live in Medellin and can tell you unless you like living in a cold, thin air wretched place I would strongly recommend Medellin over Bogota.

    • You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Bogotá as I am now spoiled by the better weather in Medellín. Bogotá doesn’t have a metro train system but Bogotá has its TransMilenio bus system that is overcapacity and extremely crowded during peak times. In my experience, the traffic is much worse in Bogotá and the cost of living is higher. Medellín’s metro is inexpensive and works well. But as a bigger city, Bogotá has more employment options than Medellín.

      Some also prefer Bogotá as it has a bigger selection of restaurants and more nightlife options. But Medellín’s restaurant scene has improved over the past several years and the city has plenty of nightlife options for me.

      I could live in either city and I chose Medellín for its better weather, lower cost of living and better public transportation, which eliminates the need to have a car.

      • Thanks for the replies. I actually like seasons and cool temps as well as warmer. Weather is not an issue for me… but efficient public transportation is. Now that I know that Bogota doesn’t have a subway, in spite of being larger, I’m going to go for Medellin. It has about 33 language schools to Bogota’s 110. There’s gotta be some school of that 30 that wants me. Thanks again everyone. Very helpful.

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