If you compare Medellin, Colombia with other cities around the world, you might feel a bit safer. Europe, for example, it’s notorious for you to lose your personal belongings by a pick pocket artist. Asia is known for fake jewelry and merchandises. Come to Medellin and you’ll find very few scams. Take note that this does not happen on a regular basis! Medellin has full of honest workers and you’ll experience an amazing culture here. But we’ve asked many travelers and expats for travel tips in Medellin.
I was debating if I should call this “Scams to Avoid”, but based on the number of times people experienced the same situation made the title valid. I’ve gathered few key factors that made me question people’s reasons but in the end, it all comes down to having few people seeing an opportunity and taking advantage. This happens all over the world, but knowledge is power!
Here are a few scams you’ll want to avoid in Medellin.
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Taxi’s a plenty in Medellin, Uber is also up and coming. While you don’t have to tip your taxi drivers, if the ride fare is showing 8,800 you’ll mostly want to give them 9,000. Some drivers will just hand you a few change while others will not even bother giving you change. While that is not a scam, it is something to be aware of.
You’ll most likely not encounter meter manipulation in Medellin since taxi companies do a regular inspection on their vehicles. But if you do, you can check out the article here:
Festival and Concerts
Planning on going to big events in Medellin? You might want to keep your wallet or any personal items close by. If you have a jacket with a pocket inside, that would be an ideal place to put your belongings. While there are no professional pick pockets in Medellin, you might come across five men trying to sell you tickets at the same time and not notice that your phone is missing. While during a festival or a concert you might want to enjoy every moment, you still want to check your pockets or purse every so often. If you’re at a concert and the crowd is filling the air with smoke (marijuana), you might as well enjoy the night and not worry about anything.
Also, if you plan on purchasing a ticket at the concert, you might want to check to see if they have ticket booth. Otherwise, you can purchase a ticket from the guys selling it on the street. Make sure to confirm with the people at the entrance to see if those tickets are legitimate.
There hasn’t been any tourists being drugged and robbed of all their money in Medellin compared to Bogota.
Mom and Pop Restaurant
Not as much in Poblado, but if you head towards a restaurant in any neighborhood, you’ll want to know the price. These restaurants serve the typical Menu Del Dia and you can see them in every corner, practically on every street. If they do not have a menu, or a price listed somewhere, be sure to ask them how much it will cost. If you are a foreigner you might get charged 1,000-3,000 pesos above their regular price (typically ranging 9,000-11,000). It’s a hit or miss, some restaurants love foreigners and they welcome them.
There’s a restaurant (Google Map above) near the Wandering Paisa hostel just going towards La Cetenta and they are known to be welcoming and the food is amazing as well. If you want towards Wandering Paisa and make a right, if they detect that you’re new to the city, you will get the gringo tax. Couple blocks towards Estadio Metro, near a church, you will get the gringo tax. It’s a fun way to look and explore each Menu del Dia spots and see if you will get the gringo tax or not.
What about the Food Stands?
I haven’t had any bad experience with food stands out in the street, but if you are a foreigner they might want to attempt getting a few pesos here and there, typically they won’t.
Not a Scam But…
Make sure to count your change, I do not know if some cashiers are doing it on purpose or not, but they might not give you an accurate amount owed. Whether their register is new to them or they accidentally added an item or don’t know how to count money, just make sure you know what you’ve ordered, how much you gave and how much you should be getting. In Al Alma Cafe in La Strada, there was an incident where I was charged 80,000 pesos for two breakfast items when it should have been 28,000. Another situation is Arrechocolas in La Cententa (70) in Estadio Laureles next to Exito on San Juan. A teenager that works there will try to rip you off and take 500 pesos each Arepa you purchase. If you argue, he might try to use a calculator and do some crazy math and you’ll probably be thinking, why isn’t he using plus and or minus on a calculator?
All in all, if you’re not worried about 500-3,000 pesos each time while in Medellin, might as well give them some extra money if you like their service. Most restaurants will ask you if you want to include tip (servicio), if they do not ask, they cannot add the tip on your receipt. If you carry your phone out and show off out in the public, you might be a walking target and it’s up for grabs to sell on the open market. Whether they want to take advantage of tourists or they are simply ignorant, or whatever the reasons, I hope this helps!