All travelers have had the same moment standing over their suitcase, staring blanking at the clothes they’ve laid out and exhaling loudly at the prospect of being too cold, hot, uncomfortable, or unstylish. Especially for travelers preparing for a multi-leg trip through Colombia and across different climates, deciding what to wear in each location is time-consuming and stressful. Luckily, whether you’re a fashionista, a practical dresser or just want to make sure you blend in with the locals, we’ve researched some dos and don’ts for how to dress in Medellín.
Bring your best jeans
Whatever the weather, you’re likely to see locals in jeans. Most women opt for a skinny fit, while the men choose straight-leg or drain pipe. Pair your jeans with a t-shirt or floaty top on warm days, or a light jacket on colder days (you may see Paisas buried beneath thick sweaters and scarves but most travelers from the U.S or Europe are more accustom to drops in the temperature).
It’s also worth noting that Medellín is famously Colombia’s city of plastic surgery, meaning it’s not uncommon to see some very prominent culos here. Embrace the curve culture and invest in a pair of jeans that flatter your bum.
Paisas are proud people and like to look presentable at all times, whatever the occasion. To truly dress like a local, keep your baggy harem pants and oversized hoody securely locked in your suitcase. Dressing smart doesn’t mean sacrificing any of your personality, just ensuring your look is polished – think less hipster and more high fashion. Investing in a pair of tailored trousers is worthwhile, along with shirts with simple patterns, and a pair of stylish sunglasses.
It may sound contrary to dressing smartly but a good pair of sneakers is a must in Medellín. We don’t mean the scuffed ones you’ve had for four years, rather a chic set to match with every look. Combining virtually any outfit with sneakers (‘tenis’ as they’re called in Colombia) is very fashionable, and the most stylish brands at the moment include New Balance, Adidas, Nike, and Puma. If you need to buy sneakers for your time in Medellín, head to Palacio Nacional in El Centro – the shopping center has an impressive selection of fake replica shoes for bargain prices.
Be prepared with layers
Temperatures in Medellín can range greatly depending on the time of year and rainfall, but generally speaking, the hottest weather averages high 80s and the coldest averages low 60s. Packing an extra layer to wear under loose-fitting clothes is a good idea to keep a constant, comfortable body temperature. Particularly if you’re visiting Parque Arví or Santa Elena while in Medellín, you’ll need to layer up, as these places are at a higher altitude and cooler.
Layers can also work in the heat – to prevent sweat patches, an extra item under your shirt can catch sweat and stop any embarrassing stains…
Always pack an umbrella
It’s a common misconception that the City of Eternal Spring is just that – always in spring. The reality is, Medellín’s weather has changed over the past decade and has become more versatile. The rainy seasons are meant to take place from April to May, and September to November, however, these periods have become more flexible and the city can experience heavy, random downpours throughout the year. When the weather turns, it happens very quickly, so ensure you’re prepared by taking an umbrella everywhere with you.
Bring expensive items
Although traveling can sometimes feel like a perfect opportunity to show off your best clothes and accessories, in Medellín, it’s sensible to leave any designer brands at home and go for a more modestly-budgeted outfit. While crime in the city has dropped dramatically over the years, being a foreigner automatically makes you a target for petty crime like theft, and it’s not worth risking a prized possession. Try to bring items that don’t have brand logos on them, and in terms of watches and jewelry, ask yourself in advance if you’d be upset if it went missing – only wear it if the answer is a firm ‘no’.
Only wear flipflops
While it can be tempting to save space in your luggage and only pack flipflops or sandals, it’s a big mistake. Not only does the weather quickly change in Medellín, but the roads in the city also aren’t ideal for flimsy footwear. Dirty feet, falling over potholes and slipping on tiles are all real dangers in flip flops. Not to mention, you’ll have sore feet wandering around the city, and it’s a sure way to identify yourself as an extranjero (foreigner). Flip flops are certainly useful for quick errands but sneakers are more fitting to Medellín’s landscape and style.
Rely on shorts & tank tops
A classic faux pas in Medellín, don’t be coaxed by images of glorious sunshine and commit to shorts and tank tops. You’ll rarely ever see Paisas wearing the two together and for good reason. There are strong UV rays in Medellín and it’s important to cover up as well as apply sunscreen. Even if you just want to expose your sun-deprived limbs to a little daylight, don’t do it – there’s nothing worse than taking the metro home with sunburn and a carriage full of staring eyes.
Overdress for nights out
Medellín’s nightlife is well-known for being vibrant and full of beautiful people. The clubs and bars here reflect Paisa culture – carefree and fun, so if you’re looking to rumbear, don’t spend too long getting ready. Most places have a casual dress code, however, the ‘dress-smartly’ rule still applies. Don’t wear heels or blazers, and don’t wear anything you don’t want to sweat in. While Paisas absolutely put effort into their appearance for a night out, the aesthetic is more enhancing-what-you-have, as opposed to transforming completely.
If you find yourself arriving in the city a little unprepared, our guide on where to go shopping in Medellín has plenty of options to help you find the perfect pinta (‘outfit’ in Spanish).