From what I had read online, I really had different expectations of Medellin. I think in the back of my mind I was expecting a Colombian version of Mexico City: A city with an historic center and colonial districts, and metro system tying them together quickly. The streets of Mexico City teem with street vendors and life. Music is most everywhere, as well as delicious food.
Medellin is its own city. It has to be met on its own terms. Much progress has been made since the bad old days, which is the rhetorical point made every time Medellin is written about. But progress and industriousness do no translate into charm and grace. I imagined little neighborhoods with plaza centers where one could feel a part of a community. This might exist, but I didn’t see where or how.
If you search online, you will find many articles about how Medellin is a great place to retire. High on the list of pluses is the cost of living. This cannot be denied. At the moment the peso is about 3400 to the US dollar. That is up from 2400 to the dollar a year ago, and 2000 the year before that. Now it seems historically weak. Inflation has not kept up with the deflated value of the peso, so everything is a bargain for visitors. But right now the US dollar is at a high, and it will probably not stay that way. Cheap today, Medellin could become much more expensive at the turn of the US dollar. One has to be cautious about retiring based on current exchange rates.
Safety and Security
If you are planning to retire someplace, safety has to be a consideration. If you wish to stay safe in Medellin, here is an article with the precautions. The author provides an extensive list of risks and safety precautions, but this one was maybe the most significant for a potential expat retiree:
Don’t get too comfortable
Some neighborhoods in Medellín (El Poblado and Laureles, for example) are often touted as being the safest parts of the city. This may be true in relative terms, but the truth is, bad things can happen anywhere. Plenty of robberies have been known to take place even in the “safest” of neighborhoods; it’s important to remember this and to exercise caution at all times.
Don’t get too comfortable, even in the relatively safest neighborhoods. This is not the life I am looking to live.
The most likely crime will be property crime, but muggings can result in physical injury, of course. Here is a report from numbeo.com about crime in Medellin:
|Level of crime||72.62||High|
|Crime increasing in the past 3 years||54.55||Moderate|
|Worries home broken and things stolen||47.73||Moderate|
|Worries being mugged or robbed||73.86||High|
|Worries car stolen||59.09||Moderate|
|Worries things from car stolen||64.29||High|
|Worries being insulted||32.95||Low|
|Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion||15.91||Very Low|
|Problem people using or dealing drugs||80.68||Very High|
|Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft||62.50||High|
|Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery||67.05||High|
|Problem corruption and bribery||65.91||High|
Safety in Medellin, Colombia
|Safety walking alone during daylight||55.68||Moderate|
|Safety walking alone during night||28.41||Low|
If you are planning to retire some place, you should start with the rest of your life in mind. You may be spry and strong at 70, but what about 80 or 90? The two safest places in Medellin, and the ones where expats retire, are Poblado and Laureles.
But those places are expensive. If you look at the cost of living in Medellin, of course it is averages. There is a lot of poverty there to bring the averages down. Which brings me back to the cost of retiring in Medellin. Not only is the peso likely to strengthen, but the neighborhoods where the expat retirees settle are more expensive.
I accept that between my expectations, and the scorching El Nino heat, I certainly have a subjective take on the city, but it is good to have other views when considering something so life altering as retiring some place. I’m going to try to make it back to Medellin maybe some months from now and give it a second try. For the moment, though, it is no longer on my list.