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Colombian National Police, photos courtesy of Colombia National Police - Is Medellín Safe? Medelin Guru
Is Medellín safe to visit? Follow our expat safety tips to reduce the risk of being a victim of crime. We also have 2019 updates on security in Medellín.

Is Medellín Safe? Security in Medellín and Safety Tips – 2019 Update

Is Medellín safe to visit? Medellín is generally safe to visit if you follow some basic safety tips, as you will reduce your risk of being a victim of crime. However, security in Medellín is still a major concern for expats living in Medellín and also tourists visiting the city.

Medellín still has a reputation of violence and drugs to overcome that hasn’t been helped by the popular Narcos series. What many people don’t realize is the timeframe depicted in Narcos was well over 25 years ago and that Pablo Escobar is long dead and buried. Furthermore, Medellín has experienced a remarkable turnaround over the past couple of decades.

I have lived in Medellín for over eight years. And probably the most common questions I get from friends and relatives in the U.S. are still related to the security and safety in Medellín.

I frequently hear questions like “Is Medellín safe?”, “Aren’t you scared living there?”, “What is the chance I will be kidnapped when I visit?”

In this article, we look at some up-to-date crime statistics and 20 recommended expat safety tips. Crime and safety is a major concern of expats and was included in our list of 11 downsides to living in Medellín. We also have separate articles that look at safety and crime rates in Bogotá, safety and crime in Cartagena and safety and crime in Cali.

Everyone’s experiences and perceptions about security and safety differ. Obviously if you or a family member or close friend have been victim of a crime your perceptions about security and safety will be different than someone that hasn’t experienced a problem.

Note the above photos of Colombian police are by the National Police of Colombia. Also, please note that this article was completely updated in March 2019 with up-to-date crime statistics.

Medellín Homicide Rate by Year – 1990 to 2018

Medellín Homicide Rate by Year – 1990 to 2018

Medellín Homicide Statistics

Nothing demonstrates the remarkable turnaround in the security situation in Medellín more than looking at the historical homicide statistics in the above chart.

In the 1990s, Medellín was known as the murder capital of the world. In 1991, the homicide rate in Medellín was reportedly 375 per 100,000 residents. This was almost triple the homicide rate in the current most dangerous city in the world, Caracas, Venezuela.

Over the past 25 years, there was a dramatic turnaround in Medellín with the homicide rate dropping significantly, as seen in the above chart. Medellín was even taken off the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world based on homicide rates a few years ago.

In addition, out of 10 cities in Colombia, Medellín experienced the biggest drop in its reported homicide rate from 2009 to 2015 as seen in the following chart.

Homicide Rates in 10 Cities in Colombia 2009 to 2015, source Medicina Legal

Homicide Rates in 10 Cities in Colombia 2009 to 2015, source Medicina Legal

Medellín now has a lower homicide rate than is found in St. Louis, New Orleans or Baltimore in the U.S. that are still on the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world.

During the full year 2018, 626 homicides occurred in Medellín, which was 44 more than in 2017. Medellín closed the year 2018 with a rate of 24.75 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

This homicide rate of 24.75 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 was up from a homicide rate of 20 in 2015 in Medellín. 2015 had the lowest homicide rate for Medellín in over 40 years.

La Candelaria (El Centro) in Medellín remains the most dangerous comuna in the city. In El Centro, there were 108 homicide cases in 2018, five more than in 2017. This was followed in 2018 by San Javier with 91 homicides; Robledo with 55; Belén and Aranjuez with 39; Guayabal, La América and Laureles-Estadio with 30 each; Castilla with 25; Doce de Octubre with 23; Villa Hermosa with 20 and Manrique with 16.

In contrast, the safest comuna in Medellín in 2018 in terms of homicides was Buenos Aires with 7 homicides followed by Popular with 10 and El Poblado and Santa Cruz with 11 each. In addition, the separate municipality of Sabaneta had 8 homicides in 2018, which was the lowest in the past eight years. Unfortunately it appears that homicide rates aren’t publicly reported for all the separate municipalities in the Aburrá Valley.

Foreigner Homicides in the Aburrá Valley Over the Past Decade

According to an early 2018 article in the El Colombiano newspaper, 50 foreigners were murdered in the decade in the Aburrá Valley from 2007 to 2017. So, this is an average of one foreigner homicide every 2.4 months.

The reasons for these homicides vary but the majority were related to street robberies, drugs and sex tourism and crimes of passion.

In the over seven years I have lived in Medellín, a majority of the foreigner homicides in the city tend to be reported in the news that the victims resisted a robbery or were involved in shady activities such as drugs and prostitution.

These foreigner homicides over the past decade occurred all over the metro area and in seven of the 10 municipalities in the Aburrá Valley. Most of these foreigner homicides occurred in Medellín (37), followed by Bello (3), Caldas (3), Itagüí (2), Copacabana (2), Envigado (2) and Sabaneta (1).

In Medellín, the comunas with the highest counts of foreigner homicides over the past decade were El Poblado (10), Laureles-Estadio (10) and Belén (6), which are three of the most popular neighborhoods for foreigners living in Medellín.

In regards to the manner of homicide, 29 were perpetrated with a firearm, 12 with a knife, 4 by asphyxiation, 2 by dismemberment, 2 with a blunt object and one by poisoning. Five of the victims died in cases of massacres or multiple homicides.

The murdered foreigners came from several countries: 14 were from Europe, 12 from North America (U.S., Canada or Mexico), 9 from South America, 9 from Central America and the Caribbean and 5 from Asia-Pacific. Nine of the homicides were foreigners from the United States and seven were from Venezuela.

Colombian police, photo by National Police of Colombia

Colombian police, photo by National Police of Colombia

Details of the North American Homicides in Medellín

The following list looks at the 12 homicides of foreigners from North America (U.S., Canada or Mexico) over a decade (from 2007 to the end of 2017).

We look in detail at each homicide to demonstrate that several of these victims reportedly resisted a robbery or were involved in shady activities such as drugs or prostitution. In some cases, details of these homicides are sketchy with a underlying cause not reported.

  1. June 28, 2010, Jason Correa Salazar from the U.S., age 24, was reportedly traveling in a Volkswagen Golf in El Poblado with a Colombian where he was killed by two men on a motorcycle.
  2. July 2, 2010, Jason Gil Galeano from the U.S., age 29, was assassinated in the bar Gurú during a massacre that killed eight people. Galeano reportedly had been visiting Colombia for two months where he had a daughter.
  3. July 7, 2010, Roy Guzmán from the U.S., age 52, was shot in the Florida Nueva barrio in Laureles-Estadio. He reportedly was shot during a robbery attempt when he was walking with three women.
  4. July 26, 2011, Juan Carlos Beltrán Carreón from Mexico, age 34, was killed with a knife, tortured with a hammer and hanged with an iron cable, in the house he had rented in the Los Colores barrio in Laureles-Estadio. He had a food business in the city.
  5. April 24, 2012, Dennis Ian Levy from the U.S., age 58, was shot during a robbery at the El Tamarindo hostel in the Provenza neighborhood of El Poblado. Reportedly he resisted a robbery when assailants asked for his wristwatch.
  6. May 30, 2012, Noah Goldberg from the U.S., age 46, was shot in a bar on Carrera 70 in Laureles-Estadio. Goldberg reportedly was involved in the sex tourism business.
  7. May 11, 2014, Frederic Lavoie from Canada, age 31, was found dismembered in four garbage bags in Sabaneta. He was using a false Bahamas passport in the name of Roberto Clementi Major. He had arrived with a woman from Cali and rented an apartment in El Poblado. Lavoie was a wanted drug trafficker in Canada. Reportedly his murder was believed to have been a settling of accounts.
  8. June 4, 2016, Jesus Gustavo Estrada de la Rosa from Mexico, age 48, was killed in the Los Alpes barrio in Belén while trying to prevent the theft of a neighbor’s motorcycle.
  9. September 25, 2015, John Mariani from the U.S., age 65, was shot while reportedly resisting a robbery in front of the La Estrada mall in El Poblado.
  10. December 14, 2016, Jigar Patel from the U.S., age 35, was reportedly attacked by a knife and killed by two assailants during a robbery in the barrio Miranda in north Medellín.
  11. July 22, 2017, Dennis Ruckel from the U.S., age 68, was found semi-nude and dead with three knife wounds in an apartment in the Naranjal barrio in Laureles-Estadio.
  12. December 2, 2017, Johnny Noel Simancas from the U.S., age 41, was killed with multiple stab wounds in an apartment in El Poblado. He reportedly was involved with an underage girl of 17 years who called a friend for help.

The bottom line is that resisting robbery or being involved in shady activities like drugs and prostitution are risky behaviors in Medellín. Furthermore, during the past decade, there have been many foreigners who died from drug overdoses reported in the news.

However, it is highly unlikely that any normal foreign tourists not involved in these risky behaviors would be shot and killed randomly. Safety in Medellin for most foreign tourists comes down more to muggings, robberies and thefts.

Homicide Statistics by Neighborhood in Medellín in the Past Decade to October 2018

Historically the highest counts of reported homicides each year in Medellín occur in the La Candelaria comuna (El Centro).

In addition, in the past decade, 12.5 percent of the homicides in Medellín were in El Centro.

In the past decade (10 years up to October 18, 2018), according to Sijin of the Metropolitan police and Seguridad y Convivencia (Sisc) of the Mayor of Medellín, the following are the counts of homicides in Medellín and the top three comunas:

  • Total Medellín homicides – 11,846 in the past decade up to October 18, 2018
  • La Candelaria (El Centro) homicides – 1,482 (12.5 percent of the total in Medellín)
  • San Javier homicides – 1,245
  • Aranjuez homicides – 878
1,000 new police in Medellín in 2014, photo by National Police of Colombia

1,000 new police in Medellín in 2014, photo by National Police of Colombia

Other Crimes by Neighborhood in Medellín in the Decade from October 2009 to October 2018

It’s worth looking at crime statistics by neighborhood to help determine the safety of neighborhoods in Medellín. We have a separate article that looks at the safest neighborhoods in Medellin and the Aburrá Valley.

Historically the highest counts of reported robberies and thefts in Medellín occur in the La Candelaria comuna (El Centro). And this is followed by Laureles-Estadio and El Poblado, which are two of the most popular neighborhoods for foreigners in Medellín.

Note that Colombia reports hurtos, which means robberies and thefts. So, the robberies statistics in Colombia actually include both robberies and thefts. Robbery in English involves force or the threat of force. While theft is a broad term that can cover a wide variety of criminal offenses including pickpocketing.

In the past decade (10 years up to October 18, 2018), according to Sijin of the Metropolitan police and Sisc of the Mayor of Medellín, the following are the counts of robberies of persons in Medellín and the top three comunas:

  • Total Medellín robberies of persons – 72,311 in the past decade up to October 18, 2018
  • La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of persons – 25,265 (35 percent of the total in Medellín)
  • Laureles-Estadio robberies of persons – 8,837
  • El Poblado robberies of persons – 7,800

Also, the most commonly stolen items are normally cell phones followed by money, clothes and jewelry.

The Medellín robberies of cell phones statistics in the past decade (10 years up to October 18, 2018) are:

  • Total Medellín robberies of cell phones – 37,251 in the past decade up to October 18, 2018
  • La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of cell phones – 13,828 (37 percent of the total in Medellín)
  • Laureles-Estadio robberies of cell phones – 4,863
  • El Poblado robberies of cell phones – 3,912

The Medellín assaults on premises statistics in the past decade (10 years up to October 18, 2018) are:

  • Total Medellín assaults on premises – 15,485 in the past decade up to October 18, 2018
  • La Candelaria (El Centro) assaults on premises – 4,076 (26 percent of the total in Medellín)
  • El Poblado assaults on premises – 2,379
  • Laureles-Estadio assaults on premises – 1,852

Each year, El Centro has the highest counts of reported robberies/thefts, motorcycle thefts, homicides and sexual offenses. So, it remains the most dangerous area of Medellín. If you live in El Centro, you need to take extra security and safety precautions. And you should take care when visiting El Centro.

As a result, the police have been focusing many of their efforts in El Centro. So, you will see an increased police presence in El Centro in several areas like Parque Berrío and Plaza Botero. Also, we have looked at the safest neighborhoods in Medellín.

Reported Robberies in Medellín in 2017 and 2018

An article in March 2019 in the El Colombiano newspaper (in Spanish) has reported robberies statistics in Medellín for 2017 and 2018.

Reported robberies of persons in 2017 and 2018 were most common in the same comunas in Medellín as during the past decade:

  • La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of persons – 6,548 in 2017 and 7,047 in 2018
  • Laureles-Estadio robberies of persons – 2,140 in 2017 and 2,826 in 2018
  • El Poblado robberies of persons – 2,001 in 2017 and 2,480 in 2018.

In all three comunas with the most reported robberies of persons, the count increased in 2018 compared to 2017.

Reported robberies of businesses in 2017 and 2018 were most common in La Candelaria (El Centro) followed by El Poblado and Laureles-Estadio:

  • La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of businesses – 1,147 in 2017 and 1,264 in 2018
  • El Poblado robberies of businesses – 536 in 2017 and 543 in 2018.
  • Laureles-Estadio robberies of businesses – 503 in 2017 and 469 in 2018

Reported robberies of homes in 2017 and 2018 were most common in Laureles-Estadio:

  • Laureles-Estadio robberies of homes – 201 in 2017 and 241 in 2018
  • El Poblado robberies of homes – 181 in 2017 and 228 in 2018.
  • Belén robberies of homes – 199 in 2017 and 222 in 2018

Crime is a problem in Medellín. However, Colombians living in Medellín generally feel safe in their barrio (neighborhood). In fact, in a survey of over 14,000 Colombians in late 2016, Medellín ranked higher than all 10 other cities surveyed in Colombia in terms of citizens feeling safe in their barrio.

Police officer at Pueblito Paisa, photo by National Police of Colombia

Police officer at Pueblito Paisa, photo by National Police of Colombia

My Safety Experiences in Medellín and Colombia

I have lived in the Medellín metro area for over eight years in five different neighborhoods. And I have been traveling to Colombia since late 2006, when I first discovered Colombia.

During all this time living in Medellín and traveling to Colombia, I have felt safe but I am security conscious and use common sense plus take some safety precautions outlined in our 20 safety tips below.

In all this time traveling to Colombia and living in Medellín for over eight years, I only experienced three problems. One problem was in January 2020 in Laureles in Medellín when I was robbed at knifepoint.

And two of my problems were on the Medellín metro. One time on the metro was a few years ago when I was traveling on the metro with a backpack during rush hour. And a small camera was in the small pocket in the backpack. When I arrived at my destination, I later discovered the camera was gone.

Also, I was a victim of a pickpocket on the Medellín metro in August 2018. I normally try to avoid rush hour on the metro when people are packed like sardines.

I had my cell phone in one front pocket and my wallet in the other. I had one hand on my pocket with my wallet and my other hand was holding on. When I arrived at my destination, I realized someone had taken the cell phone from my pocket. And I didn’t notice or feel anything. Note that cell phones are the most commonly stolen items in Colombia.

Luckily this was an older Samsung J3 model cell phone that I was planning to replace anyway. And since the cell phone was registered in my name, it was easy to report it stolen to block the IMEI, buy a new phone and get a new SIM with the same phone number.

I have not encountered any other security problems while living in Medellín and traveling throughout Colombia. But I am safety cautious and normally take taxis at night and don’t go to certain parts of the city.

20 Medellín Safety Tips for Expats for 2019

Medellín is generally considered safe to visit if you use common sense and take some precautions. There are a number of basic precautions you can take to be vigilant about your personal safety and improve your security while in Medellín and Colombia.

Here are 20 safety tips in no particular order that should improve your security and greatly reduce your risk of being a crime victim in Medellín:

1. Don’t flash your cellphones, cameras, jewelry or money around. In addition, pickpocketing and purse snatching is common in some public places. Distraction is frequently the strategy, so be alert and keep an eye on your belongings. Also, be aware of your surroundings when using your cellphone, as cellphones are the most commonly stolen items in the city.

2. Never resist if you are a robbery victim. Many homicide victims in Medellín resisted robberies. It’s not worth risking your life for some money and/or possessions. Don’t try to be a hero.

3. Be careful in El Centro. Chaotic El Centro has the highest crime rates in the city. Street crime in El Centro is quite common. And there are areas in El Centro that are magnets for drunks, drug addicts and homeless people. After dark, El Centro becomes even more dangerous.

4. Be careful on the Medellín metro. As my experience demonstrates, it’s possible to be a victim on the Medellín metro by pickpockets during rush hour that you may not even realize until you arrive at your destination.

5. Stay away from drugs, sex tourism and illegal activities. Participating in shady activities increases your likelihood of becoming a crime victim and historically many of the foreigner homicides in Medellín have been related to these activities.

6. Dress conservatively and lose the shorts and flip-flops. Try not to be such an obvious foreigner tourist that can make you a target. See how typical Colombians dress. An expat in shorts and flip-flops speaking English loudly on an iPhone is likely to attract some unwanted attention.

If you dress like this, you may attract some unwanted attention

If you dress like this, you may attract some unwanted attention

7. Use ATMs in malls and grocery stores. Avoid ATMs on the street or in areas with few people around. And be conscious of who might be watching you.

8. Avoid bad neighborhoods. The poorest neighborhoods in Medellín like Popular, Santa Cruz, Manrique, San Javier and 12 de Octubre are not really places for expats, even during the day unless you are part of an organized tour like a graffiti tour.

9. Never leave your drink unattended. It takes almost no time for someone to drug your drink with something like Scopolamine (aka Devil’s Breath), which can wipe the memory of its victims and can affect the ability to resist criminal aggression.

10. Take care even in El Poblado. Street crime is possible everywhere in Medellín. El Poblado is touted by some as the safest part of the city. But robbery statistics have been increasing in El Poblado. This is likely due to criminals targeting the wealthiest area of Medellín where most foreign tourists stay.

In addition, take care in Parque Lleras, which has been experiencing problems with street crime, drugs and prostitution resulting in an increased police presence. Also, take care in Laureles-Estadio, which also has been experiencing increases in robbery statistics.

11. Don’t carry lots of cash with you. Only carry what you need for the day or night with you.

12. Put your bag, purse or backpack in front of you. In busy areas like El Centro it’s common for snatching of bags, purses or backpacks.

13. Late at night call for a taxi. During the day, hailing a taxi on the street will likely be fine. But at night calling for a taxi or using an app like Cabify is safer and will ensure you are getting a legitimate driver.

14. Don’t walk alone at night. It’s safer in groups. And if walking alone, stick to well-lit streets where there are plenty of people.

15. Try to keep a low profile. If you keep a low profile you are less likely to become a target. And never give out information about where you live to strangers.

16. Watch out for motorcycles. A disproportionate number of robberies and crimes in Medellín take place by criminals on motorcycles due to the ability for a quick getaway. So, take care brandishing phones in taxis or on the street as you may attract unwanted attention from a criminal on a motorcycle.

17. Don’t carry your passport with you. Carry a copy of your passport with another ID like a driver’s license. Only bring ATM and credit cards which you plan to use. Leave your passport and other cards locked up in a safe location.

18. Don’t invite strangers to your home or hotel. And if you are meeting someone you don’t know, always do this in a public area like a mall, restaurant or café.

19. Change locks and buy a security door. When you are living in a place long-term in Medellín always change the locks. No telling who else will have keys. And for even better piece of mind change the door to a security door reinforced with steel inside and around the frame. But make sure to get permission from the owner if you rent before replacing a door.

I travel often so I bought security doors for two apartments I have lived in. Thieves are looking for doors that are easy to break into and many apartments in Medellín have front doors that are quite easy to break into.

Security door I installed for improved security at home

Security door I installed for improved security at home

20. No Dar Papaya. Don’t give papaya. This is a famous quote in Colombia, which means essentially don’t put yourself in a position where you become vulnerable to be taken advantage of. Many of the above tips are ways to “No Dar Papaya”.

These common sense safety tips apply not only to Medellín but also generally apply to other cities in Colombia and other countries in Latin America.

Reporting Crimes in Medellín

If you are a victim of crime in Medellín you can report this. A police report, known as a denuncia, may be filed at the nearest Unidad de Reacción Inmediata (URI) of the Colombian judicial authorities.

You may also file a report at a police station but it will not have the same validity for legal process. So, it is recommended that victims of a crime go to the nearest URI to file a formal report. And be sure to get a copy of the report.

The National Police (Policía Nacional) have police stations located throughout the Medellín metro area and a list can be seen here. And the police station in El Poblado is located at Carrera 43B # 12-20 with the fijo phone number of +57 4 266 8826. This police station is only three blocks from Parque Poblado.

In addition, Guala is a special division of the police that handles cases involving extortion and kidnapping. They can be reached via phone at 165. And their office in Medellín is located at Carrera 51 #14-259.

Colombia Travel Warning or Advisories

Several countries provide a Colombia travel warning or Colombia travel advisory.

For example, the U.S. Department of State has a Colombia Travel Advisory that is currently at Level 2 – exercise increased caution. In this travel advisory, it is advised to reconsider travel to several departments in Colombia including Arauca, Cauca, Chocó, Nariño and Norte de Santander Departments, with the exceptions of the cities of Popayan (capital of Cauca) and Nuqui by air.

Also, Canada has travel advice and advisories for Colombia that says to “exercise a high degree of caution”. It also recommends avoiding all travel within 20 km of the border with Venezuela, within 20 km of the border with Panama and the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco.

In addition, the UK has UK foreign travel advice for Colombia that advises avoiding all travel to the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco. And Australia also has its Australian travel advice for Colombia that recommends avoiding all travel within 20 km of the borders with Venezuela and Ecuador except the Pan American Highway crossing at Ipiales and avoiding all travel to the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco.

Medellin Guru’s Safety and Security Series

Safety is the biggest concern of foreigners visiting Colombia or planning to move to Colombia. So, we have a series of 15 popular articles about safety and security in Colombia:

  1. Is Colombia Safe? Colombia Security and Safety Tips
  2. Is Medellín Safe? Medellín Security and Safety Tips
  3. What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
  4. Medellín Robbery: Expat Experience Being Robbed at Knifepoint
  5. Colombia Gun Laws: Is it Legal to Have a Gun in Colombia?
  6. Scopolamine: The Realities of Devil’s Breath in Colombia
  7. Colombia Protests: Tips for Foreigners to Stay Safe During Protests
  8. Is Bogotá Safe? Bogotá Security and Safety Tips
  9. Is Cartagena Safe? Cartagena Security and Safety Tips
  10. Is Cali Safe? Cali, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
  11. Is Santa Marta Safe? Santa Marta Security and Safety Tips
  12. Is Pereira Safe? Pereira, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
  13. Is Manizales Safe? Manizales Security and Safety Tips
  14. Is Bucaramanga Safe? Bucaramanga Security and Safety Tips
  15. Is Barranquilla Safe? Barranquilla Security and Safety Tips
Colombian police, photo by National Police of Colombia

Colombian police, photo by National Police of Colombia

The Bottom Line: Is Medellín Safe? Security in Medellín and Safety Tips

The biggest question I have received since living in Medellín has been “Is Medellín Safe ?” And my answer has been “yes”, as long as you follow some common-sense guidelines.

Medellín unfortunately still has a bad security reputation to overcome that is for the most part undeserved. The reality in the city is that the security situation has improved dramatically over the past couple of decades.

This biggest concern of expats planning to move to Medellín is security and safety. But once they start living in the city, security becomes less of a concern once they realize that the reality doesn’t match the perception many foreigners have.

I have talked to many foreigners living in Medellín over the past several years. And I have only encountered a handful of expats that have experienced crimes. Most of these were robberies on the street or on the metro. And the most commonly stolen item was a cell phone. And in some cases, these crimes could have been avoided if they followed the common-sense security tips listed above.

Also, be careful of safety and security posts on the large Medellín Facebook groups due to many false claims I have seen. For example, I recently saw a comment claiming the reported crime rate in Laureles is five times higher than in El Poblado. But if you look at the actual reported crime statistics in the article above, this isn’t true.

The bottom line is if you take the precautions we recommend above with our safety tips, your risk of being a victim of crime should be greatly reduced.

In addition, “Is Medellín safe?” is a very common question asked by expats visiting Medellín. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).

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 September 17, 2018 with Jeff’s experience of being a recent victim of a pickpocket on the Medellín metro and added a section with Colombia travel warning and advice from several countries.

Editors note: updated on November 7, 2018 to revise this article with up-to-date crime statistics in Medellín.

Editors note: updated on March 17, 2019 with up-to-date crime statistics for homicides and robberies in Medellín.

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72 thoughts on “Is Medellín Safe? Security in Medellín and Safety Tips – 2019 Update”

    1. I would reconsider your move here as streets are not generally handicap accessable like they are in the usa or europe. I would say take a pass. Good luck.

    2. Hi, I am blind and this post, as well as the murder rate post, is making me reconsider living in Medellin. Have you seen people with blindness living in Colombia or Medellin? Thanks

    3. Royce Daber May 26, 2020

      Awesome blog. Really thank you!

      • It is safe as long as you follow the guidelines offered by Medellin Guru. Those visitors who get into trouble here typically disregard the safety suggestions and think that this is Disneyland or some free for all red light district which it is NOT. Read the article thoroughly and follow the suggestions and you should be fine.

    4. Daniel Yachimec December 10, 2019

      I am in Medellin right now for the third time. This article is 100% accurate, well written and extremely informative! This article has the potential to save lives. It should be required reading for anyone considering coming here! I am extremely grateful to people like Jeff. Who take the time to do the research and publish the most accurate facts and figures. Thanks for helping me stay safe! I have had no problems in Medellin and I love the city!

    5. Andy Campbell July 24, 2019

      My fiance lives in Medellin. Never had any issues. Love the city. I live in Atlanta, and I have felt more unsafe in parts of Atlanta.

    6. Andreas Ehrencrona July 21, 2019

      I’ve traveled through at least fifty countries and have only ever been attacked once in the street (Singapore of all places), despite walking through deprived areas, but here in Medellin we were robbed at knifepoint two days after arrival. On the very first day we also felt unsafe when people were following us in the street. I’d strongly advise against traveling here.

      Of course there are things you can do to make you less exposed to danger, for example only staying in touristy areas with private security guards, but why not go to a safer country instead in the first place?

    7. All the major cities are extremely dangerous these days. Venezueñans have been given many of the colombian jobs because they work for half pay. These are very sad times. Very desperate.be careful throughout the country.

    8. Are other places in Colombia as dangerous from what you have heard? E.g. Cali and Cartagena

      And thanks for the informative post.

    9. Audrey Khuner April 24, 2019

      I’m planning to stay in Medellin for a month this summer with my husband and two children (age 5 and 1). Any advice on what neighborhood to stay in for safety and family friendly parks and restaurants?

    10. Hi Jeff,
      Great detailed report. We were wondering how all the new security cameras now being put in place with the hundreds that Medellín already has played a role in adding to the security. We know most of them are for traffic control but a lot of them are for security reinforcement as well? No?

      Thanks!
      John and Susan

    11. Orlando K Modeno March 19, 2019

      HI, I Have been to Medellin over 8 time in 8 years staying there are long as 2 months at a time (like I did in 2015). I have never been a victim of robbery but I have witnessed it twice, the latest in January 2019 when I took a friend for my birthday. These were the scenarios:

      1. In 2015 while in el centro during the day around 11AM, I witnessed a motorcycle with 2 young men on it rob a OXXO store (equivalent to 7-11 in the US). One stayed on the motorcycle while the other one ran inside, pulled a gun on the cash register clerk, took all the money that was given to him, jumped back on the motorcycle and they were gone. All this took less than 2 minutes. All I did was watch and I did not involved. Some friendly advice: If you find yourself walking on the street, be ware of motorcycles with 2 men, especially if you have your back against them, this is why Cali, Valle de Cauca, outlaws 2 men riding on a motorcycle.

      2. The other incident was 2 months-a-go this past January on the Metro around 5PM, worst time ever on the trains. I had warned my friend (his 1st time in Colombia) to keep his wallet in the front pocket and place his hand on it. Anyway, in the came car I noticed a group of young backpackers 30 feet away from me with backpacks but didn’t think anything of it. It turned out that when we all got off San Antonio station, the tall European tourist’s backpack was robbed, his camera, wallet, and passport was taken. I felt bad for him but the police captured the guy and was helping the tourist recoup his stuff. Be careful with packpacks on trains and buses, which is why you often see Colombians with packpacks in front against their stomachs on the Metro.

      With all said, just be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine. Medellin is beautiful but use common sense and never resist a robbery, not worth it, things can be replaced but not your life.

    12. geoffrey March 18, 2019

      I am asked for money on the street every day. Chronically homeless, unwashed and marginalized people are quite visible. But in my experience beggars here are grateful for any amount I give them and will say God bless you for even 200 pesos which in USD is about 7 cents. I carry loose coins with me for just that purpose.
      Many of them are in that position because they’ve have made poor choices in life but so many more show clear signs of malnutrition and an otherwise disadvantaged life from birth.

    13. Uber is not safe in Medellin. Stick with taxis. My Colombian girlfriend, her family and friends never take it as they consider it shady. I also thought Uber was fine here and have taken it hundreds of times until my Colombian gf and I got robbed at gunpoint while in an Uber by three guys who pulled up on motorcycles. This happened at 10am on a weekday. We are 100% sure the Uber driver tipped them off as he was driving unusually slow, didnt communicate and when they robbed us he was cool as a cucumber. They also have your home address when they pick you up btw. SUPER SHADY. While there are a lot of decent Uber drivers there are also plenty of Uber drivers here who work for the local gangs. And remember technically Uber is illegal in Colombia. Hail a cab on the street. Don’t take Uber in Medellin.

      • Harold July 19, 2019

        Jesus…. this is by far the first story I read of an incident involving uber. Colombia is practically no man’s land at this point. There is an exception to all these hedging strategies against the possible dangers and the dangers are just too rampant. I dont know how anyone would enjoy coming here ><

        • Andreas Ehrencrona July 21, 2019

          Indeed. There is advice against taking taxis (we’ve heard several stories about people being robbed by taxi drivers), Ubers, the metro (pickpocketing) and walking (muggings). In other words: there is no safe way of getting around.

    14. Just my opinion, but the most likely person to be a victim of crime is a Colombian woman. I cannot tell you how many ladies have told me they were robbed of their cell phone or purse. I agree with Jeff. After living here for a few years, you lose your fear or crime and just live a normal life. Just take the normal precautions.

    15. Michele Morse November 14, 2018

      Thank you for this article. Very informative and makes a mom feel better about her 23 year old travelling there now. Are you able to recommend any hostels that you feel are safer than others?

    16. Hi Jeff, do you have an email that I can contact you with a private question?

      I have recently had some interaction with someone in Colombia and I would like to get your take on whether I should be more cautious before I get in neck deep.

      thanks for your time.

    17. Hi Jeff.
      once again you have done an excellent post update. I would only add from my humble point of view and although it sounds selfish, I prefer that the rest of the world think that Medellín is an insecure city. Because going predisposed to a place is like leaving always with distrust and you can lose the true magic that is the kindness and good hosts that are locals.

      • This is not Disneyworld and a journey here requires a great deal of research and a clear understanding how wonderous this place is filled with adventure and beauty and Peril. Many come here thinking this is a playground a Theme Park, an amusement park. In many ways it is. BUT, Bear in mind that guerillas and delinquents and gangsters and starving Venezuelans and grossly underpaid sleep deprived, angry disenfranchised Colombians are everywhere. The social chaos and inequality is sad and frightful and easilly overlooked when galavanting around in a lustful intoxicated stupor and many visitors here are just exactly in that frame of mind. Be mindful walking around Parque Lleras or 70 thinking this is Soho in Manhattan or the upper east side of Manhattan. This place is not that in any way shape or form. Don’t be blinded.by the lights the music, the beautiful women and your testosterone. This still is and always will be Medellin, Colombia. Have fun, keep your wits about you. KEEP YOUR CELL PHONE OUT OF SIGHT. ESPECIALLY IN A TAXICAB.

        • Great post Ron. Two other suggestions: don’t live in Poblado and use the Metro system, including its linked buses.

          Poblado’s *where* the perceived and plurality of the money is in Medellin, and arguably criminals’ #1 hunting ground. If you don’t live there, then at least 1/3rd or more of the time you can mitigate but not eliminate your risk as an extranjero here.

          Second, save some pesos and *often* time by taking the metro system, including its buses linked to the various Metro estaciones. Because the buses and metro trains are integrated with Cívica cards, you receive a discount on a complete trip with them, and given this metro’s often horrendous traffic in the late afternoon/early evening, you can get at least a majority of where you’re going on the trains, sans traffic (but NOT without people, they’re often crowded then). Best of all, if you can avoid non-walking travel from 3:30/4:00 – 7:30 pm, you’ll likely save yourself considerable frustration. Plan ahead.

        • Mark Arthur Weaver March 9, 2020

          Well said!

    18. Jeff Bannister November 7, 2018

      As an X state police officer, I have to say this was well written and accurate. You did a great job putting things in perspective. I have felt safe there when I went. The chances of something bad happening to you are ASTRONOMICAL if you don’t put yourself in a position of doing something sketchy. Don’t buy drug, don’t deal in the sex trade, don’t flash cash or valuables and don’t be loud and obnoxious, Easy rules.

      Great job I hope to meet you next year when I come down.

    19. Thanks for this in depth article about safety in Medellin. And thanks for including the current crime stats. Keep up the good work.

      • Hi Mark, thanks. A goal of this website is to keep all the content up-to-date.

    20. Word of advice. Leave those ridiculous Tommy Bahama shirts and whatever else middle aged perverts think is currently “en vogue” at home. I see these targets Weds-Sun in Lleras in front of my gym. One, you give the rest of us who live here a bad name. Two, you might as well paint a bullseye on your back for every little rat in Medellin to find you…..and they will.

    21. All my life I haven’t heard the best things about Medellin but at the same time, I haven’t heard them from somebody who has actually lived there so I think I would give Medellin a chance.

    22. Hi Jeff, thanks for the info. I’m considering moving to El Poblado but have a serious concern about my dog. He’s a very exotic looking small breed dog (basically a miniature husky). When I visited, I did see some tourists with dogs walking them during the day time which eases my mind a little. But when it comes to not flashing valuables, its a bit impossible when it comes to walking my dog for exercise. Am I making myself a rather large target here for dog theft if walking only during the daytime in El Poblado?

      Thanks,
      Jason

      • Hi Jason, I see people walking exotic looking dogs all the time in Medellín. So, I wouldn’t worry too much if you plan to walk your dog during the day.

    23. I found Medellin to be safe. During the day, you could basically let your guard down and relax with no problems, even in downtown. in my time there, I never heard any gunshots, or saw anyone robbed or assaulted. I think its good to point out that that Medellin is no longer even in the top 50 most dangerous cities by homicide rate, when for along time it was number one. I wish people would stop complimenting as city as having a lower homicide rate than St. Louis or Baltimore. The US has 300 million people and its ethnic ghettos are extremely violent places. Having lived in South Los Angeles, there were gunshots day-and-night, police sirens at all hours, and everyone had dead friends or relatives from violence. To say that a city is safer than the ghetto of New Orleans is not saying much.

      • Richard June 27, 2018

        I’ve now lived in Medellin for almost 3 years and have lived in Laureles, Poblado and now in Calasanz for the past 2 years. I have seen some street crime like robberies committed by criminals on motorcycles and my wife and I had our cell phones stolen while in a taxi where two armed thieves on motorcycles pointed pistols at both of us in a taxi stopped in traffic and demanded our phones which we quickly surrendered. Best advice given regarding these incidents is DON’T RESIST.

        The other common theft is that of bicycles. If you ride a bicycle around the city and don’t use a very secure lock, even when stopped for a few minutes, it will be gone if you don’t pay attention. My wife’s son recently was accosted by two knife wielding cretins while on the bicycle path near Estadio. Three chained bicycles were stolen in the entrance to our gym in Estadio last week. I’ve now had 3 bicycles stolen from me since moving here and other than my wife’s sons incident, all were secured. Just FYI.

    24. Ian Stoeppelwert June 12, 2018

      An excellent article, one whose included facts I’ve been all too happy to share with my friends and family before I moved here recently.

      Does anyone have a recommendation for a contractor for acquiring and installing one of those steel-reinforced doors? I secured permission from my owner, it just has to exactly match the appearance / color of all the other doors.

      ¡Muchas gracias!

      -Ian

      • Hi Ian, thanks. Homecenter has some security doors but they may not match your door. In the first apartment where I installed a security door I used http://www.puertascolmena.com/sitio/. And in the second I used https://www.puertasdifusion.com/. Both Puertas Colmena and Difusion did a great job of matching existing doors.

        • Peter Jones March 8, 2020

          Hey Jeff, may I ask the approximate cost of having a security door installed? I live in an apartment block and the flimsy wooden door would probably not take more than a couple of good kicks.

          • One security door I bought about 5 years ago for an apartment was 2,450,000 pesos from the company https://puertascolmena.com/.

            The company needs to send someone out to see your door size and match the color and will give you a quote.

          • Homecenter has sone very good ones. Last time i checked i saw a very good one for about a million pesos plus install. Some less some more. Homecenter 65 has a big selection and some english speaking sales people.

            • We looked at Homecenter, but they only have certain door sizes. If you need a custom door size need to go to one of the security door companies that manufacture doors. We twice had to have a custom security door manufactured due to our non-standard door sizes.

      • The people at homecentre are very helpful and can refer you as well. No need to get ripped off at high end Poblado stores where they will double the price because they pay such high rent. Just like these fancy restaurants here who will Rob you blind. This is a great town just be aware and do your honework. Ask for an english speaking service person at homecentre 65 I had a great experience their last week. Gustavo helped me he spoke perfect english and was so helpful. Have fun here but avoid being bilked.

        • Peter Jones March 9, 2020

          Thanks guys very much appreciated, I’ll check out homecentre first as looking at their website they are clearly the more economical option. If they don’t have the size, style and color I need I’ll give a costume installer a call.

    25. Alexander May 14, 2018

      Thanks for the info.

      I’d like to point out for anyone interested that if Medellin were in the US, it would rank 12th or 13th among the cities with the highest murder rates.

      To be clear, a ranking would look something like this:
      1) St Louis, Missouri
      2) Baltimore, Maryland
      3) Detroit, Michigan
      4) New Orleans, Louisianna
      5) Birmingham, Alabama
      6) Jackson, Mississippi
      7) Baton Rouge, Louisianna
      8) Hartford, Connecticut
      9) Salinas, California
      10) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
      11) Washington, DC
      12) Medellin
      13) Kansas City, Missouri

      • Thanks, here’s a link to an article with those U.S. city numbers: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/national/the-cities-with-the-highest-murder-rates-in-the-us/collection_5a789407-4d43-5403-ad56-7c47880bda8e.html#20

        In the 1990s, Medellín was known as the murder capital of the world. And now there are several cities in the U.S. with higher homicide rates.

        • Medellin is a very beautiful place but has but reminds me of Jamaica. Nice place for an all inclusive gated community hotel with guided tours. Venturing out on your own is only recommended in groups to approved well protected areas. This aint no disco. No CBGB this ain’t no foolin around. Peoceed with extreme caution.

        • Peter Jones March 8, 2020

          Great article Jeff. I think European readers of your your site may have a different perspective as Europe has far lower homicide rates than North America.

          For example, in 2017 Spain had 307 homicides out of a population of 46 million and Italy had 400 homicides out of a population of 60 million.

          In the same year, Colombia with a population 49 million had 12,237 homicides.

          Therefore, from a European perspective, the Colombian homicide rate looks really high.

          • Quoting statistics in my opiniion makes little sense here as the real issue here is the very high incidence of violent street crime. Theft of cellular phones here is very high. I am on constant lookout for bandits looking to to rob me. These criminals are roaming every neighborhood here especially high income neighborhoods. We are easy to spot and easy to steal from. Very sad and very frightening here these days.

    26. Judah lyons May 3, 2018

      Yes its tough being human! So, living in Oaxaca City Mexico which is considered very safe. The Oaxaquenos here are such gracious people its refreshing. But, I want to visit Colombia and I travel with a very fancy guitar that is impossible to hide. So, in my travels to other countries it’s security is of utmost importance. Can you recommend an apartment complex that would fulfill my needs to feel like when I leave it at home it is secure? And an area that is walking distance hopefully, or a short ride to gyms, yoga studios, restaurants etc?

      Judah

      • Hi Judah, there are many apartment buildings in Medellín with 24 hour porterias (doormen). I can’t recommend a specific building as it is difficult to know furnished apartment availability by building. Since you are looking to be near gyms, yoga studios, restaurants, etc. you should probably be looking in El Poblado. And you can find many furnished apartments available on Airbnb. The descriptions on Airbnb will show the location and features.

    27. I truly enjoyed reading this article Jeff!! Thank you for your insight! I feel better about wanting to plan a trip to visit Medellin now. Thanks again!

      • Hi Gary, thanks and hope you have a good time here. Just follow the safety tips and you will greatly reduce the risk of running into any problem.

    28. Nice detailed article that should be required reading for anyone visiting Medellin or planning to move here. And the safety tips are great advice.

    29. Good post with common sense guidelines to live in or visit any big city. In Medellín I worry much more about being run down in a controlled pedestrian crosswalk by a driver who’s texting on their phone than I do being a victim of violent crime.

      • Don’t forget the cars, busses, trucks and motorcycles and bike riders who routinely ignore red lights and mow down pedestrians routinely.

        • Peter Jones March 8, 2020

          Great points James/Ron. I have often joked about what’s the bigger danger here, the robbers or the lunatic drivers who have absolutely zero consideration for pedestrians.

    30. Nice in depth article. I have been coming here for over 45 years. Medellin in 1975 had 400 Thousand people and was Dodge City. Now this sprawling metro area approaches 4 million people including many new arrivals from Venezuela and mnay displaced families from other parts pf Colombia.. in a country where the minimum wage is about one US dollar and inflation over the years has catapulted prices, many challanges affects residents here many of whom are Disenfranchised and frustrated. Medellin is glorious but it is not to be taken lightly. If you ask the locals here in every neighborhood and strata they all know that hypervigilance is required day and night in all sections of this city snd country. Jeff spells it out quit correctly. Remember this fact ..This is not Disneyland lets be clear about that. I recommend you read the US state department travel advisory for additional recommendations and if you are an American here you may want to enroll in the STEP program just in case. Enjoy. Eat, drink and be merry but follow the advice herein to the letter. Elections are taking place here in Colombia later this year,We need to watch what will happen here later this year.

    31. Brock Canner January 18, 2018

      Thanks Jeff, it’s nicely detailed. Also some on the list I’ve been to. It’s pretty much common sense. will take a closer look later, Thanks again, always great to read your posts.
      Cheers!!!

    32. Excellent information on this topic. Thank you.

      One thing that I’ve been curious about is if you contact the police as a result of being a victim, how attentive are they to addressing your concern or finding the perpetrator? Many countries have outright and open corruption of their police forces where the assailant can be found and brought to justice…for a “donation”. Sadly, this may be further exacerbated by the victim being a foreigner/gringo where there is little incentive to resolve the case. In my travels, I’ve heard several stories of foreigners who were victims of crime and the police did nothing other than accept a bribe and write a “report”. As one Latin countries police officer comically explained, “If you as a gringo hadn’t been here, this crime wouldn’t have happened”.

      I sincerely hope that’s not the attitude among the police forces in Medellin.

      • I had a good experience with the police recently. I had my purse stolen in El Centro by a guy who grabbed it and ran and two police chased the guy down and one of them returned with the purse and asked that I go with him to file a report which I did. I think it helps that the police here are national police and not local police.

      • Hypervigilance is required here. police are understaffed and way Underpaid.

      • I was robbed by an armed gang on my first stay in Laureles-Estadio in an Air-bnb. The first responded police were great but the second police doing the finger printing stole other things. They said we were not allow in the room while they worked and didn’t find the things missing until they had left. Otherwise the original police were very good to deal with. Also all the people around the apartment were great. The internet shop allowed me to send emails to my insurance company and family without charge. We went back and paid once we got replacement credit cards.

        • Mark Arthur Weaver February 23, 2020

          Steve, I am headed to Medellin to stay in an AirBnB on Aires de Valencia! Are you till there, did they follow you to the place or break in.

          Typically what I noticed in Cali when I was married to a Calena, maids and domestics tipped off gangs to do the robberies.

          I am booked for a month, looking at living there, although I have other options. I speak Spanish almost like a native, but I am still an older heavy set Gringo!

          What do you think

          Thanks

          Marco

          • Marco. Colombia 2020. A very uncertain time here. There are no easy answers to give you. A lot depends on where you will live and what your lifestyle is. Many visit here for various reasons. If you are coming to Party then the risks are greater. Watching some expats here I am reminded of the 1970s here when I was in my 20s. Coming here at 50 or 60 or 70 and partying like when you were 25 can be a lot of fun but can be very very very dangerous. We stick out like sore thumbs. White or otherwise Balding. 6ft Tall. Hanging on to 25 year old Sardinas. How do you think Colombians view us? Especially bandits looking for easy pickings? Read the articles here. I love it here but am CONSTANTLY ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ROBBERS.
            Read the U.S. State Department Travelers warnings.
            We are inundated with Venezuelan Refugees. Hungry and desperate do your due diligence. Safety in numbers here single guys are easy targets. Don’t let your guard down. Not for 1 second.
            If you were living in Culiacan, Sinaloa Mexico where life is cheap and dangerous how would you proceed? The same goes here.

            • Peter Jones March 8, 2020

              ‘I love it here but am CONSTANTLY ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ROBBERS’

              Totally sums up more my thoughts after 3.5 years here and having been robbed twice, once with a gun and once with a knife. Medellin is a great place to live (not to mention economical if you are used to European or North American prices) but never kid yourself that it is not dangerous because it is.

          • Plis ca change ca c est la meme choses! Something things really do not change.

            I did not do drugs or alcohol or party in the 70s nor do I do it now, but indeed your comments are pertinent and I take them seriously. I will take a look at Medellin but I am not absolutely convinced I will stay and I have a portable income

            Anyway, I am on my way, thanks again!

            Blessings!

            Marco

    33. Super in-depth post Jeff, you left no fact unmentioned. This will be shared with my friends and family many times! Thanks!

    34. David Williams January 18, 2018

      Nice balanced article with some great information. Before I arrived in Medellin my biggest concern was safety. Traffic is now more worrying to me than crime. The safety tips make sense and should be required reading for anyone visiting Medellin.

    35. Comprehensive article with very good advice.

      • scott hengehold March 17, 2019

        i have lived in 12 de octubre for over 6 years and feel safer here than when i am in poblado,belen, etc.

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