Medellin Vs. Bogota: A Digital Nomad’s Guide to the Biggest Cities in Colombia
While everybody and they mama' heads to Medellin when visiting Colombia for the first time, it may not be the best Colombian city to check out.
Many a digital nomad may find the idea Medellin isn’t God’s gift to South America to be blasphemous. When cities in Colombia are the topic at hand, Medellin is rarely questioned as the top choice.
But hear me out…
Bogota, the capital and largest city in the country, is a certified contender when the best cities in Colombia for digital nomads is up for discussion.
Overlooked by many a digital nomad due to the shit weather and unmanageable size, Bogota has a certain charm to it. For visitors exploring Colombia, it’s definitely worth it to spend some time in the capital.
But is Bogota better than Medellin? That’s a tough one. Without ruffling too many location independent traveler tail feathers, we’re about to find out.
Medellin Vs. Bogota: A Digital Nomad's Guide to the Biggest Cities in Colombia
It’s time to compare Medellin versus Bogota and see if the “City of Eternal Spring” truly lives up to the hype.
Curious about the biggest cities in Colombia and which one fits your needs? Let’s dig in and solve the Medellin versus Bogota debate once and for all:
Bogota is a giant metropolis of nearly 8 million people in the city proper. The number swells to nearly 10-11 million when the metro area is added in, along with travelers, expats, and Venezuelans. Bogota is like the NYC of Colombia.
Medellin is a big city, but nowhere near Bogota in terms of size. Medellin is a city of around 2 million people. However, this number tends to swell when the metro is included, along with travelers, digital nomads, and Venezuelans. Most believe Medellin actually has a population of over 3 million.
- Winner: Tie. For travelers who like giant metropolises, Bogota wins. For nomads who prefer cities of a more manageable size, Medellin takes the cake.
The infrastructure in Bogota just isn’t spectacular. There’s no way around it. Traffic is absolutely terrible in the city. There are so many cars that some drivers aren’t allowed on the road during certain days (this is based on their license plate number).
As well, Bogota has no real metro transportation system. The Transmileno is fine and all, but it’s not the safest system by any measure and still falls prone to traffic issues on occasion.
Medellin, on the other hand, still has certain issues with traffic. However, moving around the city is much easier than in Bogota. Plus, the metro system in Medellin is truly world-class and allows residents and tourist alike to get around easily and efficiently.
- Winner: Medellin. Hands down.
Bogota weather is shit. Make no mistake about it. The sun only shines before 1 PM. In the afternoon and early evenings, you can almost always expect dreary days and a lot of rain. Bogota will get rain 3-5 times a week in the afternoons. Plus, it’s not warm here. You’ll typically find temperatures fluctuate from a high of 70 Fahrenheit in the late mornings to a low of 55 Fahrenheit in the middle of the night.
On the contrary, weather in Medellin is typically spectacular. Dubbed the “City of Eternal Spring” – Medellin sees sunny days and weather in the mid-70s nearly all year long. You couldn’t ask for better weather here.
- Winner: Medellin in a landslide.
Cost of Living
Bogota is a fairly cheap city by Western standards. However, most find the capital to be the most expensive city in Colombia. You’ll usually spend more money in Bogota on similar items than you would in other parts of the country.
Costs in Medellin have been rising in recent years due to the influx of digital nomads and foreign travelers. Still, the city is quite cheap by any standard. For being the second largest city in Colombia, you can find some incredible deals here.
- Winner: Medellin.
Quality of Life
While the quality of life in Bogota may not compare with Medellin, you can still live a solid life in the capital for a low price. Living in Zona T in Bogota offers first-world amenities and luxuries at a fraction of the cost you’d find in the West.
Medellin is simply impossible to beat from a quality of life perspective. The low costs, immaculate weather, impressive infrastructure, and more ensure travelers fall in love with the city.
- Winner: Medellin, but this category was a little closer.
So how does Bogota come close to competing with Medellin? Let’s find out…
Friendliness of Locals
While Bogotanos have a reputation for being a cold and distant group of people around Colombia, I’ve yet to feel that. People in Bogota are incredibly friendly and helpful to foreigners, especially if you speak a little Spanish. Many people in the capital are curious about foreigners and will initiate a conversation to learn more about where you’re from and why you’re in Colombia.
The Paisas are a friendly bunch, too. However, they’re also a proud people. The culture of Medellin ensures that foreigners will rarely feel like an “insider” while living in the city. I met some absolutely incredible people from Medellin, but I also met a few rude ones, too.
- Winner: Bogota, but just barely.
Bogota may be the most educated Latin American city I’ve ever stepped foot in. It’s quite rare to find someone who isn’t studying or doesn’t have a degree. Nearly everyone in the city works, too. It’s simply too expensive to live in Bogota without working.
Medellin is a little different than Bogota in this regard. The culture of Medellin isn’t as focused on education and finding a good job. As such, education levels in Medellin are not as high as in Bogota.
- Winner: Bogota.
As Bogotanos are quite educated, you’ll definitely be able to find English speakers in the capital. English levels in Bogota are on par with that of Lima, Peru – but not nearly as good as in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
While you’ll definitely want to speak some Spanish before heading to Bogota, you can get away with speaking English in certain areas of Bogota. For travelers looking for cities in Colombia with decent English levels, Bogota is tough to beat.
English levels in Medellin aren’t bad, but I’d say they’re a step down from Bogota. You won’t find as many English speakers in Medellin. Plus, you’ll definitely want to speak some Spanish in Medellin – as it’ll set you apart from the hordes of gringos roaming around the city.
- Winner: Bogota, but another close one.
Those damn gringos! As Bogota is a city of almost 11 million people in the metro area, it’s damn near impossible for the city’s population to get too tired of gringos. There are too many Bogotanos per gringo for there to be a big of a problem. Most people in Bogota rarely, if ever, interact with a foreigner on a day-to-day basis.
Medellin is a different story. There are thousands of gringos arriving in Medellin each and every week. As Medellin is a smaller city, the sizable digital nomad population combined with the backpackers does have an effect on the city. You will notice some “gringo fatigue” in Medellin.
- Winner: Bogota.
How Cute are the Colombian Girls
Colombian girls are known worldwide as some of the cutest chicks around. However, the girls in Bogota have a less than stellar reputation in Colombia. Many Colombians claim they aren’t any hot girls in Bogota.
I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. You can meet many a cute Colombian girl in Bogota. In such a large city, your sure to find a variety of women that suit your liking. Plus, you can meet girls from all over Colombia in Bogota. As the capital of the country, many people come here for the economic opportunity.
On the other hand, many find Medellin has the sexiest girls in the world. Many come to Medellin and are in awe of the stunning creatures walking around each and every day.
However, Medellin girls are notorious for being late, not showing up for dates, and only being interested in money. While many of them are true stunners, you better speak Spanish and be prepared for the mind games.
- Winner: Tie. Medellin has better-looking girls, but Bogota has more of them. Plus, the girls in Bogota are easier to deal with.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Bogota has the best nightlife in Latin America. People in Bogota work and study during the week. On the weekend, they like to let loose and enjoy a little rumba.
Not only that – Bogota is also a city of people from all over Colombia. People here enjoy mingling with others. You’ll find a more Western style of nightlife here than in other Colombian cities.
Medellin nightlife just isn’t as good as Bogota. There’s no way around it. People don’t have as much disposable income here, so they can’t go out as often. As well, many of the clubs feature Colombian style setups with lots of tables and big groups.
One positive of nightlife in Medellin is the reggaeton influence. The vast majority of the popular spots in Medellin blare reggaeton all night. If you’re like me, this is a huge plus. You can also find hip-hop clubs in Medellin due to the gringo influence.
- Winner: Bogota by a lot.
Fun Activities & Tourism
While Bogota isn’t known for tourism, you can still find some fun stuff to do in the city. Monserrate, Zipaquira, and the graffiti tour are all a great time. There’s enough tourism to keep a gringo entertained for a couple of weeks here.
But Medellin offers the traveler more tourism options, and overall, the activities are cooler here. Paragliding, Pablo Escobar tours, Guatape, El Penol, the Botero Museum, and more ensure you'll be entertained while in Medellin.
- Winner: Medellin by a little.
Medellin Vs. Bogota: Best of the Cities in Colombia?
On the surface, Medellin blows Bogota out of the water. Most don't think about any other cities in Colombia when booking their travels.
There’s a reason tourists and digital nomads flocks to the city in hordes. The incredible weather, low costs of living, and abundant eye candy can be difficult to compete with.
Once you dive a little deeper, Bogota starts to shine. While shitty and gritty on the surface with terrible weather and a rough exterior, Bogota has a lot to offer travelers.
With friendly, intelligent locals and some of the best nightlife you’ll find in a Spanish speaking country, Bogota becomes a definitive contender for foreigners to check out while in Colombia.
But which is the best city in Colombia? Is Medellin truly better than Bogota for travelers and digital nomads alike?
In all honesty, yes. Medellin is better than Bogota for 70% or so of travelers visiting Colombia. There’s more to do. The weather and infrastructure are better. Plus, the stunning women doesn't hurt.
Still, many travelers will find they enjoy their time in Bogota more than in Medellin. I know I did. There’s a reason I choose to base up in Bogota over Medellin. And while I miss the sunny weather on occasion, I certainly happy with my choice.
Winner: Medellin, but not by much.
For more information on cities in Colombia, check these articles out: