Is there gringo pricing found in Medellín and Colombia? We look at the reality of gringo pricing and what you can do to avoid being taken advantage of.

First a definition. “Gringo pricing” is a term used by some expats when foreigners are charged higher prices for goods and services. This is due to being a foreigner located in a foreign country like Colombia.

Essentially gringo pricing means the price of a product or service is inflated due to a customer being a foreigner. Also, as a foreigner from North America, Europe or Asia, you can be considered wealthy. So, some Colombians may have a special price for you.

In some cases, this gringo price in Colombia can be a 10 to 30 percent price premium or even more. In addition, this can happen in many other countries in Latin America in my experience. And this is more common in popular tourist locations. But this gringo pricing is also relatively easy to overcome in most cases.

In this article we look at several categories where gringo pricing is possible in Medellín and Colombia.

White airport taxis lined up at the Medellín airport, occasionally some white taxi drivers may quote gringo prices

White airport taxis lined up at the Medellín airport, occasionally some white taxi drivers may quote gringo prices

Gringo Pricing – Taxis in Medellín and Colombia?

Is there gringo pricing for taxis? Not often in my experience after living in Medellín for over eight years and traveling throughout Colombia. But there are a few exceptions. The taxis in Medellín, Bogotá, Cali and many other cities in Colombia are metered. And you are only required to pay what is shown on the meter.

However, in a few cities in Colombia the taxis don’t have taxi meters. For example, the taxis in Cartagena don’t have taxi meters. And some taxi drivers in Cartagena will take advantage and charge a higher “gringo” fare for foreign tourists.

There is an official fare list in Cartagena that taxi drivers are supposed to have in their taxis. But most taxis conveniently don’t have this official list.  To make sure you are not surprised at the fare at the destination when in Cartagena, always make sure to ask the fare to the destination before getting in a taxi.

Also, the white airport taxis in Medellín don’t have meters. We previously looked at the white airport taxi fares in our guide about how to get to Medellín from the airport. And some white taxi drivers will try to charge a higher fare to foreigners.

In the past eight years, this has happened to me only three times with Medellín white airport taxis. But I stood my ground and said I have lived many years in Colombia and know the fare is fixed. Also, I said I would call their taxi company and the drivers all backed down to the correct fixed price fare.

Apartment buildings in the Medellín metro area

Apartment buildings in the Medellín metro area

Gringo Pricing – Unfurnished Apartments?

Is there gringo pricing for renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín? Not really in my experience after renting four different unfurnished apartments for over a period of eight years in Medellín. And I have paid market prices for each unfurnished apartment I have rented.

There is a wide range of apartment rental properties in Medellín. And prices vary depending on location, age and amenities. However, a few unscrupulous real estate agents will try to charge a higher rental price to foreigners so they can pocket a higher commission.

The higher the agent can make the rental price, the more “commission” the real estate agent receives. And if an agent sees a foreigner who is not knowledgeable about the market it’s easy for the agent to increase the rental price to the foreigner tenant and pocket the difference.

So, it is very important to understand the apartment rental costs and typical market rates when looking for apartments in Medellín. This will help ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of by real estate agents and owners.

In addition, there is no MLS in Colombia to help determine market rates, as we pointed out in our article – “11 Things Real Estate Agents in Colombia May Not Tell You”.

Last year I met an expat in Sabaneta who told me he was paying 2,100,000 pesos per month to rent an unfurnished 2-bedroom apartment. This is about 45 percent higher than I pay for a larger 3-bedroom apartment. Also, this is higher priced than any 2-bedroom apartments we surveyed in Sabaneta during our survey to find out current market prices for unfurnished apartments. And I suspect this was likely the result of a real estate agent taking advantage of this expat not knowing the market prices.

So, to avoid being taken advantage of as a foreigner, it’s important to understand market rental prices.  In late 2018, we surveyed 1,000 unfurnished apartments in Medellín to determine market rental rates in El Poblado, Laureles-Estadio, Envigado, Sabaneta and Belén.

Furnished Apartments

Furnished Apartments

Gringo Pricing – Furnished Apartments?

Is there gringo pricing for renting furnished apartments in Medellín? Not really, as most furnished apartments in Medellín are found on major websites with prices clearly listed like Airbnb, Lifeafar and Casacol. So, the prices don’t change if you are a foreigner.

However, if renting a furnished apartment from a local Colombian real estate company for an apartment not listed on a website they may try to charge you more as a foreigner.

We found there is a wide range of furnished apartment prices in Medellín in our survey of 750 furnished apartments early this year.

The difference in pricing is typically due to location, apartment size and amenities. And the most expensive furnished apartments are found in El Poblado. I have seen some comments on Facebook about “gringo pricing” for furnished apartments from the foreign-owned real estate firms like Lifeafar and Casacol.

But in our recent furnished apartment survey we found several Colombian companies with furnished apartments with similar prices as the foreign-owned real estate firms. Also, the bulk of the furnished apartments from Lifeafar and Casacol are located in El Poblado. So, they tend to have higher prices than the overall market.

Are the higher prices for furnished apartments in El Poblado by foreign-owned real estate firms gringo pricing? Not really, as the pricing is primarily based on the neighborhood and also amenities offered.

Gringo Pricing – Buying Property?

Is there gringo pricing for buying property in Medellín? I have seen comments on this website and on Facebook groups where some expats think that the foreign-owned real estate companies in Medellín are marketing gringo-priced properties for sale.

A majority of the property listings found on expat-owned real estate company websites like Lifeafar Investments and Casacol are located in El Poblado, which is the most expensive neighborhood for properties in Medellín. And the pricing for these listings is set by the property owners who are primarily Colombians and not by the agency.

In El Poblado, new construction pricing is typically in the 5.6 to 6+ million pesos per square meter range. But if you purchase a 15-20-year-old property it is typically in the 3.1 to 3.6+ million pesos per square meter price range. And this pricing is higher than in other neighborhoods in Medellín.

So, is this gringo-pricing? Not really. The pricing is determined by the property owners and is based on the location, age, amenities and condition of a property. And if a property is priced higher than the market it will be difficult to sell.

Museo de Antioquia in Medellín has gringo pricing for foreigners, photo by Jenny Bojinova

Museo de Antioquia in Medellín has gringo pricing for foreigners, photo by Jenny Bojinova

Gringo Pricing – Tourist Attractions?

Are there gringo prices for popular tourist attractions in Medellín or Colombia? In my experience, there are only a few tourist attractions in Colombia, which have higher prices for foreigners.

For example, Museo de Antioquia in Medellín has a higher entrance fee of 18,000 for foreigner tourists compared to 12,000 pesos if you are a Colombian citizen or a foreigner resident with a cedula. But this is the only museum in Medellín with a higher entrance fee for foreigners out of 26 Medellín museums we looked at.

Parque Tayrona also known as Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona has gringo pricing

Parque Tayrona also known as Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona has gringo pricing

In addition, popular Parque Tayrona near Santa Marta has a much higher entrance fee for foreigners of 44,000 pesos or 48,500 pesos during peak season. This compares to 17,000 pesos or 19,500 pesos if you are Colombian.

Also, another popular tourist attraction near Bogotá with a higher entrance fee for foreigners is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. This underground salt mine that has been transformed into a cathedral has an entrance fee of 57,000 pesos for foreigners. And it has an entrance fee of only 34,000 pesos for Colombians or a foreigner resident with a cedula.

Most other tourist attractions in Colombia have the same entrance fee for foreigners and Colombians. In my experience over 90 percent of the museums and other popular tourist attractions in Colombia don’t have gringo pricing and have the same entrance fees for foreigners and Colombians.

Avianca has gringo prices for domestic flights in Colombia if you pay with U.S. dollars

Avianca has gringo prices for domestic flights in Colombia if you pay with U.S. dollars

Avianca’s Gringo Price for Domestic Airfare

Avianca definitely has a gringo price for domestic airfare. We previously looked at cheap domestic fares in Colombia. And if you use Avianca for domestic flights in Colombia and if you want cheap flights make sure to book on Avianca’s site as if you are in Colombia and pay in pesos.

If you do this, you will get a price that can be 50 percent cheaper (or even cheaper) compared to booking in the United States in U.S. dollars. To do this simply choose the country on Avianca’s website at the top of their website as Colombia. And you can still use English.

For example, using this method on Avianca I have flown from Medellín to Bogotá for only $70 round-trip. And I have flown from Medellín to Cartagena for less than $100 round-trip. To use this method, you will need to notify your credit card company that you are in Colombia, even if you aren’t.

I checked flights in two weeks flying round-trip to Bogotá from Medellín and found the flights if booking in the U.S. with U.S. dollars were 60 percent higher than if paying for the same flight in pesos. So, this U.S. price is definitely a gringo price. But this higher price is easy to avoid by paying in pesos.

Gringo Pricing – Restaurants and Shopping?

Most of the shops and restaurants in Medellín and other cities in Colombia have prices marked on items for sale or on menus. So, gringo pricing isn’t really possible in many stores and restaurants.

It’s the stores and street vendors without marked prices that may take advantage of foreigners with higher prices. I have seen this happen several times. I have seen a Colombian quoted one price and a foreigner quoted a higher price for the same item. This does happen in places without marked prices and is something to watch out for.

Tips for Avoiding Gringo Pricing

Here are seven tips to avoid gringo pricing in Medellín:

  1. Learn the local real estate prices so you aren’t taken advantage of. See our Medellín unfurnished apartment rental costs survey results. And see our Medellín furnished apartment rental costs survey results. Also, look at the Espacio Urbano website to see actual listings for sales and rentals in many neighborhoods. With this popular site, you can determine typical prices in neighborhoods.
  2. Learn some Spanish. Not many Colombians speak English. And if you don’t speak some Spanish, you are more likely to be taken advantage of.
  3. Learn the correct fares for Medellín airport taxis and the yellow taxis in the city with our up-to-date guides. We have a guide to all the options for how to get to Medellín from the airport. And we have a guide to Medellín yellow taxis with the current fares.
  4. Learn the Avianca trick for domestic airfare. Book your airfare as if your are in Colombia and pay in pesos and the price can be at least 40-50 percent cheaper than if buying in the U.S. in USD.
  5. Dress like locals. Men shouldn’t wear shorts unless at a beach city. Shorts are a dead giveaway that you are a foreigner.
  6. Haggle. In stores and street food stands without marked prices, the prices quoted to a foreigner may be higher. So, be friendly but haggle and you can improve the situation and may be able to get a 5 to 10 percent discount from the quoted price. Or go with a Colombian friend who may get a better price and can haggle for you.
  7. Before renting or buying an expensive product, ask a Colombian friend about the price. The people that have lived here their entire life know what is a good deal and what is not.
Gringo pricing in Medellín and Colombia

Gringo pricing in Medellín and Colombia

The Bottom Line: Gringo Pricing in Medellín and Colombia

The bottom line is that there really isn’t much “gringo pricing” in Medellín or in other cities in Colombia if you are properly educated about prices. I have lived in Medellín for over eight years and have traveled to Colombia since 2006. And in all this time I have rarely encountered gringo pricing. But I have taken the time to educate myself about prices so I am not taken advantage of.

I have seen many videos on YouTube that warn about gringo pricing in Medellín. However, in many cases these are scaremongering and trying to attract more views. If you educate yourself about taxi fares in Medellín, real estate market prices and Avianca’s domestic fare trick, it’s unlikely you will be taken advantage of with much gringo pricing in Medellín.

Also, in my experience, it is more common to encounter gringo pricing in the tourist city of Cartagena, compared to the other cities in Colombia. And this gringo pricing in Cartagena is most common from the taxi drivers and also from beach vendors in Cartagena.

What is your experience with gringo pricing in Medellín and Colombia?

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