Editor’s Note: This article has been updated annually since it was originally published in order to provide current information and rates.
I spent my first few nights in Medellin, back in early July, crashing with my friend Troy in Itagui. He had found a room to rent through an online apartment search website in Colombia called CompartoApto.
I had been browsing the site as well before arrival, however most of the listings didn’t include photos, and in the ones that did, the bedrooms didn’t look to inviting (ie. comfortable, brightly lit). At the same time, I also reached out to a few expat friends I knew from last year.
Adriaan over at Colombia Reports referred me to someone hew knew who was renting a room at the International House Medellin in the neighborhood of Belen, Malibu. I called her, and after asking a few cursory questions, e-mailed the owner, Joel Goleburn to come take a look.
Upon viewing the apartment, I knew immediately that I’d be comfortable living there. As I already had plans to live with Troy and one of his roommates in September, I ended up living in Joel’s building for 5 weeks.
I later learned Joel had been working on it for the last two years, fully renovating it. It had opened for business just a few months prior, so everything was new.
The result of all that work is a very beautiful, modern set of apartments. There are 10 rooms for rent. The available rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floor, while Joel lives on the fourth floor.
At the time I lived there, rent was in the range of 450,000 to 600,000 pesos per month, or about $250 to $332.
As of January 2013, the rates are:
- 600,000 pesos ($339) per month for single occupancy for men
- 500,000 pesos ($282) per month for women
- 700,00 pesos ($395) per month for two people in a room
A $100 USD (or equivalent) by Paypal is required to hold a room (returned after move-inspection).
There is a one month minimum, and this rate includes a private room, shared bath (there are 2 full bathrooms per floor), all utilities (cable, internet, power, water, local phone), and access to the washer/dryer. For an additional $5,000 pesos ($2.82) per day, you can have a private half-bath.
In August 2010, he opened an Argentine-themed fast food restaurant called La Esquina de Boca on the ground floor. The food is excellent, ranging from freshly made empanadas to spinach and cheese ravioli and an array of pizzas with a crust far better than your typical Colombian pizza joint.
January, 2013 Update: Per Joel, “The restaurant is currently being transformed into a common area for the residents of the building. The new space (ready by March 1st, 2013), will have a dining and movie-watching area, bar, and large outdoor seating area. It will also have a US-style juice bar and gourmet coffee station (commercial-grade Italian espresso machine, a 2-group Le San Marco, has already been installed).”
It’s a great convenience to have high quality food so close to home, and with a few flat screen TV’s as well, it’d make a great place to watch big sporting events.
Across the street from the building is the Unidad Deportivo de Belen, an outdoor sports complex with basketball courts, soccer fields, a swimming pool, and weights.
The whole complex has lighting, and is a popular post-work, post-class hangout for people in the neighborhood.
As far as I know, it’s free to use, however access to the pool does cost a small fee (about 5,000 pesos, or $3).
Inside, each stylishly furnished apartment has a small balcony perfect for getting some air or conversely, smoking, and a common area with cable television.
I don’t watch a lot of TV while living in Medellin, however it’s always nice to have access to one. Each room includes a smaller TV as well.
The kitchens are equipped with brand new, modern appliances, and the cabinets are fully stocked with pots, pans, utensils, and enough kitchen supplies to keep the average traveling chef happy.
During the month I spent living on the 3rd floor apartment, I spent a lot of computer time in my room as the Wi-Fi signal was strong enough in there.
I can’t speak for the rooms further down the hall, however it was common to see my roommates on their computers at the kitchen table. The printer in the photo above belonged to one of my roommates, and the Wi-Fi router for the apartment sat just below it.
A source of some frustration was the Internet access, which seemed to go off at random times for no apparent reason. Usually this was resolved by unplugging the router for a minute, and then letting it power up again. I was never clear on whether that was an issue with the internet provider, Une, or the router.
March 2012 Update: Per Joel, “over a year ago I brought in a tech and since then we have had the best internet available in Medellin, fast and stable throughout the building including the restaurant and rooftop and all the rooms.”
Included in the room rental were all of the bedding, as well as a towel. A washing machine was located on the ground floor, and free for residents.
Clothing could be hung on the rooftop to dry under the sun.
My room faced the street and basketball courts, which could create quite a lot of noise at times. In all honesty, I began to hear traffic as early as 6 am on the weekdays. On the weekends, people began to play basketball as early as 8 am. Even with the window closed, it was noisy.
At one point I had the option to switch to a room that was across the hall, and further removed from the street noise, however I didnt’ want to give up the large window which allowed for a lot of natural light during the day, and which I often kept open.
It is also worth noting that the building is close to the northern end of Medellin’s domestic airport. During the day, jet and prop planes can often be seen taking off and landing. They are so low you can easily make out the airline names on the plane bodies. It’s a cool sight to behold, however the planes are loud enough to require a pause in conversation if you’re outside or on the roof.
March 2012 Update: Per Joel, “The number of flights operating out of the domestic airport has dropped to just a few per day. Most are being routed through the international airport in Rio Negro, so airplane noise is less of an issue.”
I’m a stickler for a hot shower, and I was very happy with the strong water pressure and hot temperatures of the water in the bathrooms.
A friendly housekeeper cleaned the common areas of the apartment, including the bathrooms, several times a week.
In that respect, I felt very spoiled. This was certainly a big step up from living in a hostel as I did for my first month in Medellin last year.
In addition to secure (protected like Fort Knox), quality apartments, there is a wonderful social vibe to International House Medellin. I had several meals with roommates on the rooftop, a free BBQ on the ground floor hosted by Joel, and a lot of fun during my stay.
Ironically, I lived with Angela, who wrote a guest article for this blog about how to obtain a student Visa! She was living there with husband Jared, and both were taking Spanish classes at a nearby university, UPB.
Lastly, the building is just a few blocks from Bodytech Laureles, an Exito for buying groceries, and a popular nightlife district along Calle 33 (known as La 33). It is also centrally located within the city of Medellin.
On the downside, it is not within walking distance of a metro station. The nearest are Estadio, Industriales, and Poblado, which all run about 5,000 pesos ($3) by taxi. If you prefer a cheaper option, there are a ton of different buses that pass by the apartment in any given hour.
To sum up my experience:
- Comfort and quality of rooms and interior design
- Price for what you get
- Social vibe
- Proximity to a university (for Spanish classes), gym, supermarket, sports complex, and popular nightlife area
- Rooftop terrace
- Restaurant in the building
- Apartment security
- Quick bus or MetroPlus ride to the metro and the Zona Rosa (Parque Lleras/Poblado)
- Street and airport noise
- Distance from metro
To read a more recent review from February 2013, go here.
To see more pics and enquire about availability, visit International House Medellin.