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Gringo Pricing: The Realty of Gringo Pricing in Medellín and Colombia - Medellin Guru
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.

Gringo Pricing: The Reality of Gringo Pricing in Medellín and Colombia

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 and some gringos in Colombia may have a special price for you as a tourist.

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. In particular beware of gringo pricing from other gringos 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.

Beware of Gringos in Colombia Charging Gringo Pricing

One thing to watch out for is gringo pricing from other gringos in Medellín or Colombia.

For example, one “gringo-owned” real estate agency in Medellín with many furnished apartments has rental prices that are much higher priced than the overall market.

I talked to a Medellin Guru reader recently that was planning to rent a furnished apartment from this agency for $60 per night. But he looked on Airbnb and found a similar apartment in the same building for only $30 per night. So, the “gringo pricing” for using this agency was about 100 percent higher.

Also, there is another “gringo-owned” real estate agency that we have been told increases the prices for properties when selling to gringos. For example, the price of one property reportedly was increased by $30,000 USD for a gringo buyer who was not familiar with pricing in the market.

In addition, there is at least one “gringo-owned” visa agency that has higher visa pricing than other visa agencies.

Furthermore, there was a small company with expat services with overpriced sneak peak and relocation services in Medellín. However, this company is no longer in business.

The bottom line is check prices with other agencies or providers when using a gringo-owned firm.

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. 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.

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 foreign-owned firms 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 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.
  8. Be careful of gringo-owned firms in Colombia, they may have higher prices.
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, beware of gringo-owned firms and understand 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?

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

Editors note: updated on April 24, 2021 to add section about gringo-pricing from other gringos.

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27 thoughts on “Gringo Pricing: The Reality of Gringo Pricing in Medellín and Colombia”

    1. Geoffrey June 19, 2021

      There are some fairly astute observations here. Gringo pricing does happen however I’ve found that in Medellin the gouging is less widespread and less predatory than in other places I’ve been in Latin America. After I got settled into the routine of everyday life here I relaxed my guard because I wasn’t encountering people attempting to take advantage just because I’m a gringo. It’s been years now and I pretty much know what the prices are and where the deals are. On the whole things are pretty fair.

    2. Nice article, that gringo real estate firm with high priced furnished apartments is Casacol. Run from them, you can find much cheaper rental apartments on Airbnb.

      • I agree, Casacol has the highest priced furnished rentals in Medellin, you can find much cheaper on Airbnb.

    3. David Williams March 16, 2019

      Nice article. WARNING be careful of expats charging high prices to newbie expats. 2 kids are heavily promoting on youtube their How to Expat services with overpriced sneak peak and relocation services. For example I see a Getting Settled package with a high price of $670 for finding and apartment, neighborhood tour, visa assessment, 2 hours of Spanish classes and 2 hours customized services. IMHO you should be able to do this yourself for less than $100. Visa assessment is free at any visa agency, real estate agencies will show you apartments for free, for a neighborhood tour hire a taxi for less than 40,000 pesos per hour, only 2 hours of Spanish classes – worthless and you can go to a language exchange for free. These kids are taking advantage of newbie expats with high prices for things you can easily find for free or low cost.

      • Hi David, thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree that much of the services provided by How to Expat can be found for free or much cheaper prices. Also, the founders, Sam and Tacha, don’t really have much experience renting apartments in Colombia, as they only have rented one small unfurnished apartment in Sabaneta. Does renting one small apartment really qualify them to advise other expats??? Note that the founders of How to Expat wrote three articles previously published on Medellin Guru. But they no longer will write anything for Medellin Guru. And Medellin Guru does not endorse or recommend their services in any way, as I believe they are overpriced and exploitative.

      • Richard March 16, 2019

        David, I agree with you and looks like their prices are high. I just looked and $390 is way overpriced for a sneak peak service from young kids that includes only a visa consultation, 6 hour neighborhood tour, grocery shopping tour and El Centro cultural tour. Give me a break, do I really need a tour to take me to Exito, Jumbo and a few other grocery stores town? Aren’t walking tours in El Centro free with maybe a 20,000 pesos tip? Aren’t visa consultations from visa agencies free? And I could easily hire a taxi driver or private driver to give me a 6 hour neighborhood tour for much less than $100. Also, can look at this Medellin Guru website and can find information about visas for free, walking tours for low cost, info about grocery stores like Exito, Pricesmart, D1, Justo y Bueno and more for free.

        • Charlie March 23, 2019

          I agree with the other comments that the prices charged by How to Expat are high and they are obviously exploiting newbies who don’t know that much of what they include in sneak peek or relocation packages you can get for free or low cost. And give me a break including 1, 2 or 3 hours of Spanish classes in a relocation package, that’s a joke. What can you learn in 1, 2 or 3 hours.

      • Hi David thanks. I also looked at that How to Expat Getting Settled Package for $670 and looks definitely like exploiting newbies with cheaper and free alternatives available:

        – finding an apartment — real estate agents will show you apartments for FREE and look at the Medellin Guru website apartment articles for free to find out market prices
        – visa assessment — visa agencies will do this for FREE
        – 2 hour Spanish class — go to a language exchange for FREE and what can they teach in 2 hours anyway? I see no value in this.
        – 2 hour customized service – go to a Medellin Guru monthly meetup for FREE and get a free beer and talk to many experts and expats who have lived here for a long time for FREE
        – neighborhood tour — hire a private driver or bilingual taxi driver by the hour for perhaps 26,000 to a max of 50,000 pesos per hour.

        So, How to Expat looks to be exploiting customers with high prices.

      • Hi David, thanks and I 100% agree with you that How to Expat’s Getting Settled package has a very high price of $670 just for finding and apartment, neighborhood tour, visa assessment, 2 hours of Spanish classes and 2 hours customized services.

        Give me a break – any real estate agent will help you find an apartment for free, a visa assessment is free at any agency, go to a language exchange for free instead of 2 hours of Spanish classes where they will try to up-sell more classes. And what value is a neighborhood tour for a few hours when I can hire a taxi or private driver for the full day for much less than $100.

        How to Expat talks about gringo pricing in their videos but actually the How to Expat services are Gringo priced and taking advantage of newbie expats.

      • WARNING. How to Expat’s relocation services are GRINGO PRICED and VERY HIGH by two young expats from Switzerland that are taking advantage of newbies to Medellin.

        I spent about 10 minutes Google searching and essentially found everything in How to Expat’s $1,070 Premium relocation package for free or relatively low cost.

        – Airport Transfer – $35 – http://www.medellin-airport-transfer.com/
        – Finding an Apartment – FREE – http://www.arrendamientosenvigadosa.com/ a big agency specializing in rentals
        – Neighborhood Tour – about $70 for a 4 hour private tour for 2 people from a bilingual guide – https://tourguides.viator.com/Listing.aspx?Country=Colombia&Region=Antioquia&City=Medell%C3%ADn
        – Transportation Tour – $5 for self-guided tour – https://practicalwanderlust.com/2016/08/city-tour-of-medellin-colombia.html
        – Visa Assessment – FREE – Expatgroup.co plus has a low cost $125 visa service – https://medellinguru.com/visa-agencies-colombia/
        – 3h Spanish Classes – instead 450,000 pesos ($144) for 10 hours of private classes – http://www.toucanspanish.com/pricing/
        – Health Insurance Assessment – FREE – Angela Berrio insurance broker – angela.berrio@asesorsura.comhttps://medellinguru.com/health-insurance/
        – 5h Customized Service – NOT sure what this is…

        My total cost = $254 but with more Spanish class time (10 hours) and this took only about 10 minutes…

        I started a thread about this on Colombia Connections – http://colombiaconnection.freeforums.net/thread/5803/expat-overpriced-relocation-services-pricing

    4. Parque Arvi charges more to foreigners than Colombians for the Guided Hike!

    5. Make the effort to learn Spanish if you live in a Spanish speaking country. Most Europeans speak 2-3 languages. I can’t count how many times I spoke with taxi and Uber drivers who said I was the first”Gringo” that spoke to them in Spanish. By far the Paisas are some of the most friendly and polite people I have ever met, and I have been coming to Latin America since the 80’s.

    6. The number one absolute to get along and not get taken is to speak Spanish…even basic tourist Spanish! Back in the 1960s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Medellín I quickly got used to haggling with taxi drivers (no meters back then) and in the markets and shops. And do not be afraid to walk out of a business! You may find the owner or clerk will follow you into the street quoting lower prices (Happened to me in Quito). Since 2008 my wife and I have been traveling back to Medellín about every other year to see friends, help teach English and get out of the midwest winter. We have been in markets, taken taxis, bought things in shops, eaten in restaurants…etc. Have not encountered “Gringo pricing.” Merchants, service providers and people on the street are happy to help especially if you speak Spanish or at least make the attempt. Thanks for the tip on Avianca fares… I did not know that at all. Will try next time we fly in country.

    7. John Jenkins March 14, 2019

      The Salt Cathedral near Bogota also charges foreigners one price and colombians a lower price.

      • Yes, thanks. Already in the article that the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira near Bogotá has a higher price for foreigners.

      • Hey John,

        Can we chat, have been trying to track you down.

    8. Great tip on Avianca fares! Thanks.

    9. Brian Cosier March 12, 2019

      Interesting post as always. The haggling you mention – would this apply to the listings of apartments for rent? Most listings post the rent but is that number fixed or merely what the agent is hoping to get?

      thanks,

    10. Jeff,
      Castillo de San Felipe in Cartagena also differentiates between residents and foreigners. You did not mention rule #1: Let your Paisa significant other (or Paisa friend) do all the hard bargaining in markets and other places w/o fixed prices 🙂 🙂

    11. I think Lifeafar is higher pricing based on the YouTube videos creating demand than renting from a local but of course it is easier also

    12. Medellín has less gringo pricing than popular tourist cities in Latin America, mainly because there aren’t enough foreigners to make ripping them off a profitable industry. As more foreigners arrive, it has, and will become more common.

    13. Orlando K Modeno March 12, 2019

      Hi, in my experience traveling to Colombia over 20 times all over the country, I only really encountered foreign prices and Colombian prices are national parks. For example, I went to Parque Natural Chicaque (a beautiful cloud forest), 30 minutes south of Bogota and they listed a foreign price and local price. Being Colombian-American and not fully speaking fluent Spanish (but looking the part)-I learned to always carry my cedula with me when traveling to any type of park or leisure activity. Also, if you are stopping at small food stalls (where prices are not listed), especially near tourist areas, I have encountered gringo prices in Latin-America, such as in Mexico many times.

    14. Nice post, this should be required reading for foreigners visiting or planning to move to Colombia. I agree with you that there isn’t much gringo pricing but some Colombians are looking to take advantage of foreigners.

    15. HUGH HORTON March 12, 2019

      I think you mean reality not realty

      • Thanks for catching the typo, fixed.

        • LUIS A FLORES March 12, 2019

          Hi Jeff, my wife is from Medellin Colombia. I have retired in in san diego calif last month. Her parents live there. We are in search for a condo/apt there. Not knowing anything about the process and nor is she we need help please. Due to the pollution we are thinking somewhere if there is above it but not to far from services. We are planning as soon as i find some direction to vacation there for 30-days to look for a home.
          Any suggestion would be appreciated.

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