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Warning: TripAdvisor Can't Be Trusted for Medellín and Colombia - Medellin Guru
TripAdvisor is a popular travel website with restaurant and hotel reviews but it can't be trusted for Medellín and Colombia due to many likely fake reviews.

Warning: TripAdvisor Can’t Be Trusted for Medellín and Colombia

TripAdvisor is a popular travel website with restaurant and hotel reviews but it can’t be trusted for Medellín and Colombia due to many likely fake reviews. Also, TripAdvisor now has many places in its lists of best restaurants that are now closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in Colombia and other countries in the world. This article is updated for 2021.

The TripAdvisor website has top restaurant ratings for Medellín and other cities in Colombia. But some of these top restaurant ratings can’t be trusted for many reasons. Also, TripAdvisor has lists of the best things to do, best hotels and best hostels. But these best lists are not very accurate in my opinion.

Several Medellin Guru readers living in Medellín for a while have asked why very good restaurants in Medellín aren’t rated higher on TripAdvisor. Also, they wonder why some questionable restaurants are rated so highly. So, we now look at this in more detail.

Why TripAdvisor Can’t Be Trusted

TripAdvisor can’t be trusted for some of its recommendations in any country including Colombia for several reasons, including:

  1. Reviews on the site can be submitted by anyone. And the reviewers haven’t necessarily stayed at hotels or hostels reviewed or eaten at the restaurants that they review on the site. So, even competitors can attack each other with reviews. Also, staff at restaurants, hotels and hostels and their friends and family can submit their own glowing reviews.
  2. TripAdvisor reportedly has many fake reviews. A study by The Times in the UK found a third of TripAdvisor reviews are fake. And the website Fakespot.com has found the mean of fake reviews on TripAdvisor is reportedly 32.9 percent according to their analysis. Also, a fake restaurant was even able to become the top restaurant in the UK on TripAdvisor.
  3. TripAdvisor is missing many restaurants and places. For example, it appears to be missing all the restaurants in the large Viva Envigado mall. So, its list of best Envigado restaurants is not accurate. And it appears to be missing all the restaurants in the large Mayorca mall in Sabaneta. Also, TripAdvisor is missing many of the museums in Medellín.
  4. It is possible for restaurants, hotels, hostels and other companies to buy reviews. There are Internet sites that sell positive reviews.
  5. TripAdvisor still includes many places, which have closed. For example, the site still includes District 1 as #12 in its best Asian restaurants in Medellín but District 1 is closed. Also, for restaurants in Envigado it includes Tepito Tacos y Tequila, which is closed and Brooklyn Restaurant & Lounge, which is no longer in Envigado and moved to El Poblado.
  6. TripAdvisor includes different locations of the same restaurant chain as separate listings. So, in its list of best restaurants you may see the same restaurant listed multiple times.
  7. Restaurants in other municipalities are not included in best lists on TripAdvisor. So, you can’t bring up a list of the best restaurants in the Aburrá Valley that includes restaurants in Medellín, Envigado and Sabaneta. You would have to bring up different lists for each municipality.
Is Cavieli Ristorante Caffe in Belén really one of the 10 best restaurants in Medellín?

Is Cavieli Ristorante Caffe in Belén really one of the 10 best restaurants in Medellín?

The TripAdvisor List of Best Restaurants in Medellín

Looking at the list of the TripAdvisor best restaurants in Medellín to see their 10 best restaurants in Medellín on March 1, 2021 demonstrates why some of the recommendations from this website can’t be trusted.

TripAdvisor 10 Best Restaurants in Medellín – March 1, 2021

  1. La Pampa Parrilla Argentina
  2. Betty’s Bowls
  3. Malanga del Tropico
  4. Pokawa
  5. Cavieli Restorante Caffe Pizzeria
  6. Tika Dogs Gourmet
  7. Toro Restaurante
  8. Eden Bistro
  9. La Pamapa Burger & Ribs Interplaza
  10. Turban Kabob House

I have been to all these restaurant and in my opinion NONE of these restaurants belong on a list of the 10 best restaurants in Medellín, as there are many better restaurants in the city. Also, La Pampa is listed twice with two of its five locations in Medellín. La Pampa has some good steaks. But in our opinion, there are better steakhouses in Medellin.

We used the Fakespot.com site to analyze the review ratings for each restaurant and found the following:

Fakespot.com analysis of reviews for top 10 Medellín restaurants on TripAdvisor, March 1, 2021

Fakespot.com analysis of reviews for top 10 Medellín restaurants on TripAdvisor, March 1, 2021

Fakespot.com found that seven restaurants out of the top 10 have suspicious reviews so it would rank them lower. These seven restaurants in red have lower reliability of reviews according to Fakespot.com and are likely manipulating the system. But keep in mind that Fakespot.com also can be suspect.

In addition, Fakespot.com found that no restaurants on this top 10 Medellín list have reviews that were 90 percent reliable. Also, there are some better steakhouses in Medellín in our opinion than La Pampa and Toro Restaurante listed as the #1, #7 and #9 restaurants in Medellín by TripAdvisor.

Also, be careful of other best lists on TripAdvisor for Medellín and other cities in Colombia. We have found that consistently there are places included that don’t belong in best lists, which is likely due to fake reviews.

Why Restaurants, Hostels, Hotels and Others Create Fake Reviews

TripAdvisor is used by millions of travelers and positive reviews and being listed in best lists on TripAdvisor can bring many customers to places listed around the world. And billions of dollars are spent on hotels and restaurants and other things to do as a result of reviews on this site. So, many places create fake reviews to improve their position on TripAdvisor.

But if you have a restaurant, hotel or hostel or other venue be careful about fake reviews, as TripAdvisor is starting to take action. A man in Italy last year was sentenced to nine months in prison for posting more than 1,000 fake reviews on TripAdvisor. He reportedly worked for a company called PromoSalento that sold reviews to restaurants and other businesses.

Also, for the worst business offenders, TripAdvisor even posted red badges on their profiles “warning travelers that the business has been trying to manipulate reviews.”

The bottom line is that posting fake reviews is fraud.

My Experience with TripAdvisor in Colombia

I have been using TripAdvisor since I first started visiting Colombia in 2006 and also during the over eight years I have lived in Medellín.

Some of the listings on TripAdvisor in my experience have accurate reviews but some places are clearly trying to manipulate their reviews to rank higher on TripAdvisor.

So, most best lists for Medellín and other cities in Colombia on TripAdvisor tend to have some places that belong and some that clearly don’t belong. So, you have to be suspicious of the best lists on TripAdvisor in Colombia or in all other countries I have traveled to in Latin America.

I have been burned way too many times by going to a highly rated place on TripAdvisor that wasn’t very good. Also, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants in Colombia in TripAdvisor lists are now closed.

Also, over the past several years I have found that many restaurants in Medellín and other cities in Colombia and other countries in Latin America listed on TripAdvisor have closed. It appears that TripAdvisor does not update listings when they close.

Pizzas from some of the "real" best pizza places in Medellín

Pizzas from some of the “real” best pizza places in Medellín

Medellin Guru’s Best of Medellín

This Medellin Guru website has many lists of the best of Medellin. These are curated lists that are being kept up-to-date. And these lists are based on my over eight years living in Medellín with input from friends and my Colombian wife and her family plus input from readers.

Medellin Guru has several articles about the best restaurants and coffee shops in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley:

  1. 20 Best Restaurants in Laureles in Medellín
  2. 14 Best Restaurants in Envigado, Colombia
  3. 14 Best Restaurants in Sabaneta, Colombia
  4. 13 Best Pizza Places in Medellín: The Best Pizzerias in the City
  5. 12 Best Steakhouses in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
  6. 12 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in El Poblado
  7. 11 Best Mexican Restaurants in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
  8. 10 Best Burgers in Medellín: Best Burger Places in the Aburrá Valley
  9. 8 Best Colombian Restaurants in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
  10. 9 Best Italian Restaurants in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
  11. 9 Best Places for Brunch in El Poblado
  12. 8 Best Asian Restaurants in Medellín
  13. 6 Best Restaurants in El Centro in Medellín
  14. 5 Best Independent Coffee Shops in El Poblado
  15. 8 Top Coffee Shops in Laureles
  16. 5 Best Nano/Micro Breweries in Medellín
Some of the "real" best malls in Medellín

Some of the “real” best malls in Medellín

Also, we have several additional best of Medellín articles:

The Bottom Line: TripAdvisor Can’t Be Trusted for Medellín and Colombia

Be careful of TripAdvisor lists of the best of Medellín and best lists for other cities in Colombia and in other countries. In my experience these lists are missing many of the best places. The biggest problem appears to be fake reviews that are used by some places to manipulate the system and rank higher on TripAdvisor. So, don’t rely on TripAdvisor exclusively.

TripAdvisor is not the only source to be careful of that covers Colombia. In addition, the Internet is full of out-of-date information about Colombia. Also, Lonely Planet for Colombia is out-of-date and missing many of the best places in Colombia. Furthermore, the foreign retirement publications get Medellín and Colombia wrong.

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 March 1, 2021 with current information about why TripAdvisor can’t be trusted for Medellín and Colombia.

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33 thoughts on “Warning: TripAdvisor Can’t Be Trusted for Medellín and Colombia”

    1. Hey Jeff! I just found your site. I’m heading to Medellin in April. Thank you so much for your post and insight!!

    2. Charlie March 3, 2021

      Thanks for the article. TripAdvisor is a joke. LMAO at a hot dog place in the top 10 restaurants in Medellin.

      • I agree with you. A hot dog place in the best restaurants of Medellin list by tripadvisor is a complete joke. Fake reviews are fraud.

    3. That top 10 restaurant list for Medellin from Tripadvisor is a joke. No way La Pampa is the best restaurant, its not even the best steakhouse. Also, Pokawa with poke bowls no way belongs on a best restaurants list. Tripadvisor is horrible.

    4. Hey Jeff
      I found your article by accident and I cannot more than agree! But the problem is not just Tripadvisor. I found that many bloggers just copy/paste wrong information all around about Colombia, just to generate clicks. Huge travel bloggers have content about Colombia that is obviously totally wrong. They are recommending as best beaches in Colombia like Taganga or Playa Blanca close to Cartagena, which is absurd. I also made a video about that https://youtu.be/V7I-iLfpY5w

      Information online in general cannot be trusted!

      You have a great blog, I should check it out more often.
      cheers from bogota
      Frank

    5. Joseph Mathews July 13, 2019

      What about the Spanish language site “Degusta”? I used them in Panama, both Panama City and Bouquete, and found them good.

    6. A quite useful site. Thanks.

    7. David July 4, 2019

      Jeff,

      I usually agree with the information you provide in your posts. But, I am wondering why I always receive your updates late.

      As always, I receive them nearly a week after others have posted comments. I have been here two years and been following Medellin Guru since you separated from Medellin Living.

      Why the delay in updates?

      David

      • Some readers see new articles when they are published on the Medellin Guru website https://medellinguru.com/. And some readers see new articles when we post on the Medellin Guru Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/medellinguru/, which is normally posted the same day as things are published on the Medellin Guru website.

        While others see new things published when they receive the Medellin Guru weekly newsletter that is published weekly – http://archive.aweber.com/awlist4750169. The weekly newsletter includes new Medellin Guru articles published in the past week. So, if you wait for the weekly newsletter some other readers will have already seen the articles that were published up to a week earlier.

    8. Bernard July 4, 2019

      And this is a bad thing why? I love it when my fav Restaurant/Hotel/Place-to-go is NOT listed on Trip Advisor or is listed low. Does anyone want their treasured spot inundated with tourists? Especially the types that give tourists a bad name?

      People who use TripAdvisor in order to obtain accurate travel information deserve what they get.

      In 2010 a currently top rated Medellín restaurant that I still frequent, one of the chef’s sisters was at the bar with her lap top, her job was to get their TripAdvisor to #1. She must have been opening 50 new email addresses a day and writing reviews. Every few days I’d stop in, “We’re #11 as of this morning”.

      I’ve asked quite a few owners over the years why they were not on TripAdvisor and they said they didn’t want the tourists/attention. A lot of business owners who have a good running business don’t want to be listed.

      I agree, let them go to Betty’s Bowls.

    9. Tripadvisor is worthless so don’t waste your time using it. Fake reviews with fake best lists. That Tripadvisor list of the best restaurants in Medellin is a complete joke.

    10. Thanks for the helpful post that should be required reading for any tourist coming to Colombia. TripAdvisor for Colombia is pathetic not only with their laughable list of best restaurants for Medellin. Also, their best restaurants lists for Bogota and Cartagena are joke. Clearly fake reviews are being used by many places to game the TripAdvisor system in Colombia.

    11. Geoffrey June 28, 2019

      I was sorry to see that TA is being gamed to such an extent. I have used the site for many years in quite a few cities to great advantage and without a problem but maybe that’s owing to the fact that I tend to seek out advice by posting my questions on the site’s forum for the city in question. There are qualified destination experts for each city and many regular posters. They can have thousands upon thousands of archived posts and everyone can be PM’ed. Clicking on a poster’s icon will bring up a profile of that person’s reviews showing the number of total reviews and percentages of reviews from excellent to poor.

      Adam Hornets is a TA destination expert for London UK. He has over 40,000 posts and is truly an expert with loads of helpful tips. He even met up with me there for a pint at a local pub; a blast. In Buenos Aires Argentina I had breakfast with destination expert BA Sandy. She directed me to a custom leather jacket shop that I never would have found on my own and with the very best price. She’s university trained in the architectural history of Buenos Aires and one of the most knowledgeable persons about that giant city and its history. Expert Londinense in San miguel de Allende Mexico has been travelling in Mexico and other Latin cities for business for many years and has almost 9,000 helpful posts. I read them almost daily for two years and came to respect his level of knowledge and willingness to share.
      As mentioned above though, there is no holy grail of travel resources but TA, in spite of its flaws will continue to serve as a resource for me. I think Jeff was most professional and entirely right in directing and confining his observations to Medellin and Colombia.

      • Good comments and I am pleased to hear that TA still has some validity in other parts of the world. I have relied upon them for years and was never once misled or disappointed especially in Austria and Germany.

    12. I use TripAdvisor (and other sources) as a first search, then narrow down, check for other reviews by name, or go inspect the place/menu.

      In Colombia and Panama, these sites are helpful: DEGUSTA, DOMICILLIOS, and RAPPI (you need to know Espanol)

      As Rappi is online delivery, it has menu and prices which are good for researching. Order delivery only if late or far away.

      Being established in Bogota, Medellin Guru only help if the restaurant/store are multi-city chains.

    13. JWMathews June 28, 2019

      Jeff, I’m a former long time travel agent and Trip Advisor reader. I’ve just returned from Germany with extended stays in both Hamburg and Berlin. It’s not only restaurant reviews, but also hotels, inns etc. The concept is good, however, I have a better
      idea for posting and verifying reviews. Serveral airline and airport review sites won’t post your review unless you scan and attach a receipt or airline ticket with your name on it and the dates must correspond with the review or it doesn’t get posted. San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City have the same problem. The rceipts scans are not posted, however.

      We’re coming to Medellin in February for eight nights. I’m greatly looking forward to it. I will state that we chose “Patio del Mundo” from their site and cross referenced several review sites in both Spanish and English. Thanks for this site and for all the comments. I’m coming to be around and meet Colombians and resident “Norte Americanos” as well. I don’t want to be isloated from local life but to revel it.

      • Yes, there should be a requirement for reviewers to verify they are an actual customer with a receipt or some other method but the receipts for these places particularly restaurants are all over the map. But Hostelworld uses this for their reviews – you need to have booked though Hostelworld so it is actually customers doing reviews on Hostelworld. So, if looking for much more reliable rankings of hostels, Hostelworld is recommended.

    14. You wanna know how to avoid being taken for a ride with these fake TripAdvisor reviews? Stop reading them. No, I’m not trying to be rude when I say that; I’m serious. Stop reading the reviews and focus on the submitted pictures of the food, signage, dining room, menu, etc. Ask yourself does this look like it would be a restaurant that I would enjoy eating in?

      Also, focus not on the positive but the negative aspects of the review. Sure, most people are going to rate their experience up; even the fake reviewers will likely rate up not down. So read the negatives first then shoot your shot. I’ve enjoyed some of the best restaurants in Medellin that way and I didn’t care if they made the top 10 list or not. Remember, you eat with your eyes first, then your mouth.

      • Good suggestions. I have found that looking at the photos can help identify really good restaurants.

      • At the end of the day I enjoy eating at home and save 150.000 pesos. Almost one week’s salary for most colombians. Good for tourists on vacation. 150 mil fills up my shopping cart to overflowing. Come mucho en mi casa. Es mas economico y muy delicioso. Disfrute.

    15. Amanda June 28, 2019

      Nice post. No way that Betty’s Bowls is the best restaurant in Medellin. There are so many better restaurants in Medellin like Barcal, La Provincia, Oci.Mde, Carmen and El Cielo that aren’t even on the Tripadvisor list. Tripadvisor = fake reviews.

    16. The title of your article: “Warning: TripAdvisor can’t be trusted for Colombia and Medellín” implies it’s a Colombia and Medellín phenomenon when in fact it’s a worldwide thing, as you say so yourself in the body of your article. More accurate would have been something like “Warning: TripAdvisor can’t be trusted, and that includes in Colombia & Medellín”.

      To be listed on TripAdvisor the owner of a biz must sign it up to TripAdvisor, if not then the business will never be listed and cannot be reviewed. You make it sound as if it’s TripAdvisor’s responsibility to list businesses and that they purposely omit or are remiss in listing some, when in fact many restaurant owners in Envigado & Sabaneta (to use your example) would easily not even know about TripAdvisor; Envigado is not Austin.

      You mention fakespot.com like they’re the holy grail for detecting fake reviews when they themselves have terrible reviews and are considered by many as highly suspect and unreliable, if not an outright scam (www.trustpilot.com/review/fakespot.com is just one of many examples). All anyone has to do is fakespot their own TripAdvisor reviews to see how bogus fakespot is.

      Yes there are tons of closed businesses on TA that they fail to un-list, but that again is up to the owner to request, and that might be the least of their worries when their biz has gone belly-up, and they stop getting reviews anyway so they drop down in ranking and it becomes obvious a biz is out of biz when the last review was in 2016.

      You complain that restaurants in other municipalities are not listed in the best restaurants list of Medellín but there’s a pretty good reason for this, wait for it …. They are in other municipalities. TripAdvisor businesses are listed by municipalities.

      Then you offer as proof your personal opinion, repeat opinion, of what the better restaurants are in Medellín, proving TripAdvisor “can’t be trusted in Colombia and Medellín”. Not defending TA here at all, they, as many review systems, are far from perfect and open to gaming but in the case of your article, meh, not feeling you parcero.

      • The title is a reflection of this website that focuses on Medellín and Colombia. Of course the problems with TripAdvisor are in other locations as well.

        A traveler can add a business to TripAdvisor so it can be reviewed – this doesn’t have to be done by a business – see: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12104-k2332832-How_do_you_add_a_place-Help_us_make_TripAdvisor_better.html.

        There are many unclaimed businesses on TripAdvisor that weren’t submitted by owners. For example, here is one in Sabaneta: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g2079013-d4540679-Reviews-El_Sombrero_Comida_Mexicana-Sabaneta_Antioquia_Department.html.

        There is no holy grail – we just used Fakespot to demonstrate the possibility of fake reviews to explain why the Medellin best restaurants list on TripAdvisor is questionable.

        Obviously a business that is going out of business is unlikely to remove themselves from TripAdvisor. But this is a downside of TripAdvisor – they don’t validate that places are still in business. This is frustrating as several times I have gone to restaurants listed on TripAdvisor only to find out they are closed.

        Not being able to get a list of the best restaurants in the Aburrá valley is another a downside of TripAdvisor.

        • We like to cook at home and avoid overpaying at high priced restaurants. We live in Laureles and buy our gourmet meat at the butcher shop located within consumo la america. Their aged tenderloin filet mignon is of the highest quality imaginable at prices that are as mouth watering as the meat itself. They will individually wrap each delectable portion on request. I cannot begin to stress the fine cuts of meat available there at prices that resemble 1970s USA prices. The filet mignon compares to lobels on madison avenue on manhattans fashionable upper east side at prices about one tenth. Amazing and true. Ask for filet mignon specifically which is specially wrapped and stored in their meat vault under lock and.key. The butcher will hand slice the portions to your requirements. Voila … perfection. Enjoy.

    17. William June 28, 2019

      Nice article and I agree 100% that Tripadvisor can’t be trusted. Their list of the best restaurants in Medellin is a joke. Also many of the hotels and hostels they have highly rated are jokes.

      I remember when the Flip Flop sandwich shop was the highest rated restaurant in Medellin on Tripadvisor, which was laughable.

    18. I have been a loyal and frequent contributor to Tripadvisor since its inception. Perhaps you need to provide them with your observations. I would imagine they would appreciate your input. The world has depended on them for countless years and i would hate to lose them as a trusted source for reliable information.

      • Dan Dascalescu June 28, 2019

        @Ron: it’s wishful thinking that TripAdvisor would actually care about feedback. I did send feedback several times this year. Never got any intelligent response.

        • Sad indeed. I guess all good things must ultimately come to an end. I depended on Tripadvisor heavily when I travelled during the 1990s and early 2000s and always had found the reviews provided by the vast majority of the contributors to be right on the money. There will always be a few rotten apples attempting to thwart the efforts of honest reviews submitted by members in good standing who have no hidden agenda or axes to grind. They were the gold standard for so many years.

          • Charlie June 28, 2019

            There are more than a few bad apples on TripAdvisor now. Many places like restaurants, hotels, hostels and other places like museums get fake reviews to game the system to improve their position on TripAvisor. In the article above it refers to studies that show up to a third of reviews are fake but of course TripAdvisor doesn’t agree with these studies. IMHO TripAdvisor has become worthless with so make fake reviews feeding their fake best lists.

            • That is a darn shame. I am very sad to hear that. Thanks for the heads up.

        • Arnold s July 4, 2019

          For me, the best way to spot a place with fake reviews is to click on the reviewer’s icon and look at their profile. So for example my profile said that I joined in 2004 and I have 254 contributions. When you see someone like that you may not agree with their review but at least you know it’s not a fake. If you see review after review of a restaurant or hotel where the person joined recently and they’ve only done one or two glowing reviews then I would just ignore that review. If you see a lot of reviews like that in the same company I would definitely report that to TripAdvisor. They sometimes have taken action when I’ve reported a hotel where obviously they have used fake reviews to increase their ranking.

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