Many expats in Medellín work remotely for a company or clients in another country. This is known as being a digital nomad with a location independent job that permits you to live anywhere. And a growing number of digital nomads are choosing Medellín as their place to live. Medellín is reportedly the largest digital nomads hub in all of Latin America.
There’s no doubt Medellin is a growing, thriving city. Medellin reportedly has grown by 121,000 people in the last year, which represents a 3.09 percent change pushing the total Medellín metro population to approximately 4 million people.
There’s numerous other reasons people are flocking to Medellín. Jeff, the founder and chief editor of this site, even wrote about his reasons here. However, one of the most talked about group of people flocking to Medellín is the digital nomad.
A digital nomad is defined as a person who is location independent and uses technology to perform their job. Some typical digital nomad jobs include, but are not limited to, writers, programmers, marketing/sales, teaching online and virtual assistants.
I myself gave up a traditional corporate sales role in the states and traded it it in for a more flexible, and albeit happier, digital nomad lifestyle in Medellin. You can read my full story here.
Remote Work is Rising in Popularity
Remote work is continuing to increase in popularity year over year. Recent polls showed remote workers are almost twice as likely to work beyond 40 hours a week and are 20% more productive when they are given creative projects remotely. Large companies like Amazon, IBM, Xerox, and Allergan are even jumping on board. Amazon planned to hire 5,000 remote workers in 2017, with numbers looking even more favorable in 2018.
Location independence is one of the key benefits of being a digital nomad. Digital nomads can live anywhere in the world, as long as there is reliable internet connection. The world is their oyster. And certain cities lend themselves to be more conducive to the digital nomad lifestyle. And you guessed it, Medellin is one of them!
You may ask, why Medellin? Today, we look at eight reasons digital nomads are choosing to stay and live in Medellin. I myself have been a digital nomad in this city for almost six months. So, I also share so personal opinions on why this is such an amazing place.
1. The Weather in Medellín
This may be an obvious one if you’ve done any research about Medellín. If you are in the beginning stages of your Medellín research, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
As a digital nomad, I want to pack light. The year round average temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit in Medellín allows you to leave the jacket, boots and scarves at home. Nothing heavier than a light rain jacket is needed here.
This weather also allows for outdoor workspaces (as I am doing right now) and I commonly work on the patio of cafes.
2. The Digital Nomad Community in Medellín
The community of digital nomads living in Medellín is one of the most supportive I’ve found throughout my travels. In addition, they have developed some of the most creative and interesting events & startups. Almost every night of the week, you can find an event or meetup that will not only allow you to network with like-minded individuals, but learn something along the way as well.
For example, I recently sat down with Juan Felipe, founder of the Latin based start-up VamosA whose mission is to make entrepreneurship training and international education more accessible to young people. Juan Felipe specifically choose Colombia, and now Medellín as a home base for his start up because of the inclusiveness of other entrepreneurs.
I was immediately accepted into an amazing network of digital nomads that had chosen this city as their home, and I was stunned to see so many foreigners who had fallen in love with Medellín and stayed. – Juan Felipe
Through VamosA, he also runs a monthly event called “Pitch Night” where entrepreneurs can come to practice their investor pitches in front of an audience of approximately 25.
Presenters are subject to questions and feedback. After the audience hears the 4 – 5 pitches, they vote on the best one. It’s not only a great event for the audience, but can help encourage individual entrepreneurs to take their pitch and business to the next level. Juan Felipe attributes Pitch Night’s success to the passionate group of people in the community.
Within six months, I have been able to surround myself with like-minded professionals from all over the world who appreciate Colombia’s beauty and spirit. In all my travels, I’ve never come across such a kind and passionate group of people as the digital nomad community in Medellín. – Juan Felipe
Stories like Juan Felipe’s are starting to increase. Just last month, we published an article featuring Eleni Cotsis and spoke to her about a group she started titled Women Entrepreneurs of Medellín. Eleni started the group because of the lack of options for women entrepreneurs to connect easily.
There are Colombian women just starting businesses, women with long-established businesses, foreign women who are just visiting Medellín and work online, and women who have lived in Medellín for years and haven’t had the opportunity to meet other professional women! – Eleni Cotsis
I personally started a monthly Blogging In Medellín meetup, with the goal of learning from and networking with other bloggers. Through meetups like these, I’ve made new friends, learned a ton of new information and developed new business opportunities.
These are just three examples of supportive communities here in Medellín. You are sure to find more if you scour the feed within groups like Digital Nomads Medellín or Medellín Expats. Rest assured there is a supportive community waiting for you here in Medellín.
3. Internet Reliability
Reliable internet speed is one of the most important necessities when performing a remote job or sustaining a digital nomad lifestyle. Luckily, Medellín has pretty good infrastructure (specifically for Latin America) and high-speed Internet is avaiable.
My current apartment rental has 10 Mbps of internet included in the price, however, I’ve seen several rentals offer up to 20 Mbps. For a higher fee, 100 Mbps is available in building that have service from Claro.
In addition, I purchase a monthly cell phone plan through Claro for 40,000 pesos (approximately $13 USD). I’ve heard of a few digital nomads that go without a data plan, arguing that due to the large amount of wi-fi available in parks, cafes or restaurants – it’s not necessary to purchase data. That may be true for some, but for me, I prefer having a data package in case of emergencies.
Either way you choose, Medellín has reliable internet options available through your cell phone, apartments, public spaces, co-working spaces and cafes.
4. The Colombian People
The Colombian people (otherwise known as Paisas in Medellín) are some of the nicest and most welcoming I’ve met in Latin America. There seems to be a culture of welcoming and inclusiveness (in my opinion) that I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere.
For example, if you are lost and can’t find your destination, it is commonplace to ask a local on the street and they will point you in the right direction.
Now, I can’t say with 100% certainty that their directions will always be correct, but I always appreciate the effort and kindness. Worst case scenario, there is surely another Paisa that can assist you along the way.
5. Cost of Living
Although prices are slowly increasing, cost of living is still relatively low for what you can get. If you’re a digital nomad in startup mode, you know that the more money you can save, the more money you can put towards your business.
Rents range drastically depending on location, strata, neighborhood and if you’re willing to have a roommate. Individual furnished rooms are available for around 800,000 million pesos ($263 US Dollars), but one bedroom furnished apartments can cost 2.5 million pesos ($823 USD) and even much higher in neighborhoods like El Poblado.
Purchasing food from local fruit stands or farmer’s markets ensure you’ll get the best price. A menu del dia can save the day – you can get a full and hearty lunch with rice, beans, vegetables and a protein for around 12,000 pesos (approximately $4). You can also read about very specific cost of living examples for both a single person like myself or a couple.
6. Time Zone
I realize many expats visiting are not from that states, however, this particular item may be geared towards folks that work with U.S. based companies.
Hailing from Chicago, I still have clients I work with on the Central time zone. Medellín rotates from the Central to Eastern Standard Time zone based on the time of year. Either way, it’s a huge advantage when working with U.S. based companies. This is one of the main reasons I choose to stay put in Medellín over other large nomad hubs in Asia (like Thailand or Vietnam).
7. Generous Tourist Visas
Many digital nomads are in Medellín on a tourist visa. Although we refer to it as a tourist visa, it isn’t a formal visa. Rather, a simple stamp on the passport. If you’re interested in getting a longer term, formal visa you can read how to do that here.
The cost to enter Colombia as a tourist will vary based on your country of origin. If you are from Canada, you must pay a 160,000-peso entry fee. However, if you are from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and several other countries you can enter for free.
Colombia often gives tourists a 90-day stamp upon arrival. You can extend for 90 additional days by paying a small fee and registering online.
Tourists can legally stay up to 180 days in one calendar year. It is possible that you may not get a 90 day stamp upon arrival if you get a grouchy customs agent, but this is rarely the case. If you’d like to learn the details of all things about Colombian tourist visas you can read more here.
One grey area for digital nomads is “working” with a tourist visa. Technically you are not supposed to work with a tourist visa. However, you aren’t taking a local job by working remotely, so you aren’t violating the spirit of the law and many countries won’t care. As long as digital nomads only stay for the legal amount of time and don’t work for, or employ, locals, they can enter any country and work online with just a tourist visa.
When I visited Europe, I was only allowed to stay for 90 days within a 6-month time frame, so Medellín already tops that. Six months is the perfect amount of time for me, as it allows me to get to know a country or city, while simultaneously forcing me not to stay comfortable for too long. This way, I can be sure to visit other countries like Peru, Ecuador or Brazil which are nearby.
As we stated above, it’s easy to want to stay in Medellín once you are here. You may never want to leave! Colombia for a while was even using a marketing slogan “Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay”. This definitely applies to Medellín.
8. Access to Cafes & Coworking Spaces
As digital nomads, when not working out of our home, we often seek out coworking spaces or cafes.
I am a café person. I find I’d rather spend my money on a coffee or a pastry, rather than a day at a coworking space. You can check out our favorite 6 Coffee Roasters in Poblado and we are working on lists for other neighborhoods!
If coworking spaces are more your style, Medellín has plenty of those as well. Again, a majority of these reside within the Poblado or Laureles neighborhoods.
It also seems like there is a new one popping up every day! Some of the most common coworking spaces in Medellín include, but are not limited to:
We plan to have an article soon that looks at coworking spaces. We will update this article when that list is available.
Coworking spaces can vary in price from free to approximately 30,000 pesos per day ($10 US Dollars). There are often discounts for weekly or monthly rentals. Check out the coworking spaces individual websites for details.
Final Thoughts: Digital Nomads in Medellín
If you’re a digital nomad that’s looking for a home for the next few months, Medellín may just be the spot. While no city is perfect and Medellín has its downsides, Medellín is a solid choice for digital nomads and has plenty to offer the remote worker.