El Poblado is the most popular neighborhood for foreigners living in or visiting Medellín. But no neighborhood is perfect and there are downsides of El Poblado and living in Medellín’s most expensive neighborhood.

El Poblado is the most upscale neighborhood in the city of Medellín. In addition, El Poblado is where the most hotels and furnished apartments catering to foreigners are located. Also, El Poblado is where the most expensive real estate and most expensive apartment rentals in the city tend to be located.

I lived for over a month over eight years ago in a furnished apartment in El Poblado during an early trial of living in Medellín. It didn’t take me long to determine that El Poblado wasn’t for me. I prefer to live in a neighborhood that has a lower cost of living and isn’t as westernized.

Note the above photos are apartment buildings in El Pobaldo.

There are pros and cons to every neighborhood. And the following is a list of eight downsides of El Poblado, in no particular order:

Views like this come at a premium in the El Poblado neighborhood

Views like this come at a premium in the El Poblado neighborhood

1. Most Expensive Apartment Rentals – Downsides of El Poblado

We recently surveyed 1,000 unfurnished apartments in five popular neighborhoods for expats in Medellín. And we found that unfurnished apartment rental costs are the highest in El Poblado.

If you want to save on unfurnished apartment rental costs in Medellín, our 2018 survey of unfurnished apartment rental costs in Medellín found that you can save an average of 13.5 to 24.5 percent by living in Laureles-Estadio, Belén or Sabaneta instead of living in a similar sized apartment in El Poblado.

Average Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs Per Square Meter by Neighborhood for Four Years

Average Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs Per Square Meter by Neighborhood for Four Years

And if you select Envigado, you will save an average of 9.6 percent compared to the apartment rental costs in El Poblado.

The unfurnished apartment rental prices in El Poblado may be lower than in many cities in the U.S. But the rental prices in El Poblado are high for Medellín.

Also, furnished rental apartments are more expensive in El Poblado. We also found that furnished apartment rental costs are higher in El Poblado. One of the findings in our survey of 750 furnished apartments in Medellín is that El Poblado has the highest furnished apartment rental prices in Medellín.

If you are looking for inexpensive apartment rentals in Medellín, you shouldn’t be looking in El Poblado.

Apartment buildings up the hill from Santafé mall in El Poblado

Apartment buildings up the hill from Santafé mall in El Poblado

2. El Poblado is Hilly – Downsides of El Poblado

Much of El Poblado is hilly and not very walkable. For example, El Tesoro mall is located high up the hills in El Pobaldo and almost nobody walks from lower in El Poblado to El Tesoro.

Also, it’s about a 15-minute walk up-hill from the Poblado metro station to Parque Lleras. And it’s about a 15-minute walk uphill to the Santafé mall from the Aguacatala metro station.

Walking up the hill from Poblado metro station

Walking up the hill from Poblado metro station

If you live in El Poblado you will need to contend with the hills. But not all of El Poblado is hilly. For example, Avenida Poblado where the Santafé and Oviedo malls are located is flat and walkable. Also, the Ciudad del Rio neighborhood is flat and walkable.

However, due to the hilly nature of El Poblado, some expats choose to live in other neighborhoods in the city.

Apartment buildings up the hills in El Poblado

Apartment buildings up the hills in El Poblado

Laureles-Estadio is flat in comparison and is very walkable. And most of Belén is flat with the exception of the Loma de los Bernal barrio in the west. Some parts of Envigado are also flat and most of Sabaneta is also flat and very walkable.

If walkability is important for you, El Poblado may not be the best neighborhood for you.

Traffic on the Autopista in El Poblado

Traffic on the Autopista in El Poblado

3. Traffic – Downsides of El Poblado

Some of the worst traffic in Medellín is found in El Poblado. Avenida Poblado and Calle 10 tend to have bad traffic during rush hour and even during lunch hour. And it can be very difficult to go to or from El Tesoro mall up the hills in El Poblado during rush hour.

Traffic is one of the downsides of living in Medellín we previously looked at. And traffic reportedly is the biggest concern of expats living in the city.

I currently live in Sabaneta, which doesn’t really have much of a problem with traffic. It’s only when I leave Sabaneta that I encounter traffic in Envigado and almost always encounter traffic in El Poblado.

In my over eight years living in Medellín the worst traffic in the city I have encountered has tended to be El Poblado and El Centro.

Also, when I previously lived in Laureles-Estadio and in Belén I didn’t experience nowhere near as much traffic as I have experienced in El Poblado.

4. Utilities are More Expensive  – Downsides of El Poblado

El Poblado is primarily an estrato 6 neighborhood with about 74 percent of the households in El Pobaldo rated at estrato 6.

Residential properties in Colombia are ranked in a socioeconomic scale, which are known as “estratos”. Estratos in Colombia run from 1 to 6, as follows:

  1. The lowest class
  2. Low-middle class
  3. Middle class
  4. Upper middle class
  5. Upper class
  6. Wealthy

The wealthy estrato 6 in Colombia represents only about 3 to 4 percent of housing in Colombia.

People living in the higher estrato 6 and 5 neighborhoods in Colombia pay higher rates for utilities (electric, gas and water) and Internet, television and phone services. This is to subsidize the lower rates paid in the lower estrato 1, 2 or 3 neighborhoods.

Someone with higher incomes in estrato 6 or 5 can pay a higher rate for cable TV because they have enough money to pay for this service. On the other hand, someone living in estrato 1, 2 or 3, can also have the same cable TV service because the estrato system permits them to pay much less for the same service.

The estrato system is designed for utilities so that estrato 4 is neutral, estrato 5 and 6 pay higher rates and estrato 1, 2 and 3 pay lower rates.

Estrato 1 have discounts in public services rates of 50 percent, estrato 2 gets discounts of 40 percent, and even estrato 3 get discounts of up to 15 percent.

For example, this means that a family living in estrato 6 may pay around 700,000 pesos per month for water, electricity, gas, Internet, telephone and TV. And a family living in estrato 1 may pay less than 190,000 pesos for the same services with the same consumption.

Starbucks first coffee shop in Medellín in El Poblado

Starbucks first coffee shop in Medellín in El Poblado

5. El Poblado is More Westernized – Downsides of El Poblado

Some expats that come to Medellín don’t seem to like seeing brands from the U.S. such as Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

If you walk down Avenida Pobaldo in El Poblado you will walk past a Burger King, Hard Rock Café, McDonald’s, Office Depot, Papa John’s and Starbucks.

In El Poblado you can’t escape U.S. brand fast food and restaurants. In El Poblado you will find:

  • 4 Burger Kings
  • 3 Domino’s Pizza places
  • 9 Dunkin Donuts
  • 1 Hard Rock Café
  • 1 Hooters
  • 3 KFCs
  • 3 McDonald’s
  • 6 Starbucks
  • 2 Papa John’s
  • 9 Subway stores
The first Papa Johns in Medellín on the ground floor of the La Strada mall in El Poblado - opened September 2015

The first Papa Johns in Medellín on the ground floor of the La Strada mall in El Poblado – opened September 2015

However, you won’t see as many U.S. brand fast food places in the other neighborhood in Medellín.

Also, in El Poblado you won’t see very many of the small local restaurants with inexpensive menú del día meals that you will find are plentiful in other neighborhoods in Medellín.

For example, where I live in Sabenta there are over 40 small restaurants with menú del día lunch specials for only 8,000 to 10,000 pesos. The menú del día normally includes a soup or salad, a main course of meat, chicken or fish plus sides of rice and/or potatoes and a drink.

The Santafé mall in El Poblado in Medellín

The Santafé mall in El Poblado in Medellín

6. Shopping is More Expensive – Downsides of El Poblado

El Poblado has three of the most upscale malls in Medellín: Santafé, El Tesoro and Oviedo. But the shops in these malls tend to have prices that are higher than can be found in other malls in Medellín.

We previously provided a comprehensive guide to the malls in Medellín, including the best malls in Medellín. There are many malls in other neighborhoods in the city that tend to have lower prices than found in the malls in El Poblado.

In addition to the shops in malls in El Poblado generally having higher prices, the grocery stores in El Poblado also tend to have higher prices than in other neighborhoods in the city.

Exito in El Poblado - tends to have higher grocery prices than Exito stores in other neighborhoods

Exito in El Poblado – tends to have higher grocery prices than Exito stores in other neighborhoods

For example, Exito doesn’t have the same prices in all its stores in Medellín. The prices for groceries in Exito in El Poblado are generally higher than the Exito stores in Larureles, Sabaneta and other neighborhoods. Prices for groceries in Exito in El Pobaldo tend to be about 2-4 percent higher than in other neighborhoods.

Also, El Poblado doesn’t have as many discount grocery stores that are more common in many other neighborhoods in the city. In El Poblado there isn’t a PriceSmart and no Makro and there are not many Tiendas D1 or Justo y Bueno stores in El Poblado.

Apartment buildings in El Poblado, Medellín

Apartment buildings in El Poblado, Medellín

7. Most Expensive Properties When Buying – Downsides of El Poblado

Since most of El Pobaldo is estrato 6, El Poblado tends to have to most expensive properties in Medellín when buying.

The free Informe Inmobiliario property magazine has several new apartment projects in El Poblado listed. Most of the new apartment projects in El Poblado tend to cost over 5 million pesos per square meter to buy.

Exiting properties in El Poblado typically sell for between 3.5 million to 5 million pesos per square meter.

You can find properties in other neighborhoods like Envigado, Laureles-Estadio, Sabaneta and Belén that sell for 10 percent to over 25 percent cheaper prices per square meter than in El Pobaldo.

Also, we plan to look at purchasing properties and property prices in Medellín in future articles.

8. Everything Else is More Expensive – Downsides of El Poblado

It’s not just apartments (renting or buying), utilities or shopping that is more expensive in El Poblado. In fact, most prices will be higher in El Poblado compared to other parts of the city.

Everything from restaurants to getting your hair cut to pet services to nightlife will be more expensive in El Poblado compared to other neighborhoods. Also, all the most upscale (and most expensive) restaurants in Medellín are all located in El Poblado.

View of El Pobaldo

View of El Pobaldo

The Bottom Line: Downsides of El Poblado – Living in Medellín’s Most Expensive Neighborhood

El Poblado remains the most popular neighborhood for foreigners out of all of the Medellín neighborhoods. But El Poblado has several downsides and it’s the most expensive neighborhood in the Medellín metro area.

So, the majority (over 70 percent) of expats living in Medellín reportedly live in other neighborhoods in the city. Other neighborhoods that are popular with expats include Envigado, Laureles-Estadio, Sabaneta and Belén.

Each neighborhood has pros and cons. And we plan to look at several of the neighborhoods in Medellín in 2019 including El Poblado in more detail with the pros and cons of each neighborhood.

The bottom line is the best neighborhood to live in is the best neighborhood for you. Everyone has different priorities. The only way to know which neighborhood is the best for you is to spend time there.

In addition, we previously looked at 11 downsides to living in Medellín. Also, we looked at 12 downsides to living in Bogotá, the capital and largest city in Colombia.

What other downsides of El Poblado have readers experienced?

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.