All over the globe, people are rethinking the way we work and live.
Unsatisfied with the confines of the cubicle and unwilling to wait until retirement to see the world, a new generation of digital nomads has begun blurring the lines between travel and work. Fueled by espresso and armed with MacBook Pros, they seek out exotic destinations where they can work remotely.
Ideal locations for digital nomads are places with pleasant weather, a low cost of living, fast Wi-Fi, a multitude of cafés and co-working spaces, a vibrant culture, and a well-established community of fellow nomads.
I’ve spent the last couple of years bouncing around as a digital nomad and am here to share my experience working remotely from some of the best DN hubs around the world, starting with Medellín.
What’s The Draw For Digital Nomads In Medellín?
Colombia’s City of Eternal Spring is now a thriving digital nomad hub that attracts remote workers from all corners of the globe. From the world’s most dangerous city to its most innovative, few places have undergone such a dramatic transformation in the past few decades as Medellín.
There are several reasons why Medellín is considered one of the best locations for digital nomads. The city enjoys a temperate climate throughout the year and is always a pleasant place to be. I’m from Michigan and have lived in places with extreme weather like Beijing and Bali, and I’d say that the weather in Medellín is just about perfect.
The best part about living here, though, without a doubt, is the people. Paisas, as Medellín residents are called, are incredibly welcoming, helpful, and sociable. At language exchanges, football games, and just hanging out at the bar, I met so many Paisas who were eager to chat and welcome me to their city.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you can speak a decent amount of Spanish, dance a little salsa, or are able to handle a shot or two of aguardiente, the local firewater. Paisas like to have a good time, and they’re more than happy to let you join in.
Let’s take a closer look at a few key categories that digital nomads must consider when deciding where to base themselves… and see how Medellín stacks up.
For each category, I rate Medellín on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being as good as it gets…
Digital Nomad Tools: 10/10
One of the best things about being a digital nomad in Medellín is how easy it is to get set up here with a place to live and work. In response to the influx of DNs to the city, enterprising locals have furnished rental apartments with things like bean bags, pool tables, and lightning-fast Wi-Fi.
During our stay, we had no trouble finding a room for rent in a shared place for two weeks and then our own one-bedroom apartment for a month. Both places were fully furnished and featured quality work spaces and really fast internet.
Not everyone wants to work from home, and there are many choices for cafés and co-working spaces in Medellín. Most of these can be found in the popular neighborhoods of El Poblado and Laureles, where most digital nomads choose to set up shop.
I particularly enjoyed working at The Roundhouse co-working space in Laureles. In addition to providing an excellent work environment, they also host social events on their rooftop terrace.
If you’re not into the co-working scene, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cafés in this city. Colombia makes some of the best coffee in the world, which helped power me through several long days of teaching English, studying Spanish, and blogging. Some of my favorite cafés to work from were Pergamino and Café Zeppelin.
Visa Requirements: 7/10
When seeking out a good digital nomad base, it’s vital to consider the visa situation. Colombia is an excellent choice in this regard, as most people can stay visa-free for 90 days.
If you fall in love with the place (which is quite likely, trust me), it’s straightforward and easy to extend your stay for another three months.
You are, however, limited to six months per calendar year. I met several nomads whose strategy was to arrive in July and do the extension, then make a quick trip somewhere like Panama City and return at the start of the New Year for a fresh day count.
A longer stay would require more than a tourist visa. If you decide you’d like to stick around for a year or longer, you could sign up for a Spanish course and transfer to a student visa. As I was only in Colombia for about two months, I didn’t need to worry about extending my tourist visa.
Few cities in the world have a better DN community than Medellín. There’s an active Facebook group and a corresponding website for Medellín digital nomads. I found both to be useful in planning our time there and in meeting people after we arrived. There are also meetups once a month and various conferences throughout the year that are specifically geared toward digital nomads.
If you want to move someplace where you can immediately plug into a tight-knit nomad network, it’s hard to top Medellín. I found this element to be lacking in other South American cities we visited, such as Lima and Santiago.
One of my favorite aspects of being a digital nomad in Medellín was the high quality of life I enjoyed for a comparatively low cost. We were able to rent a fully furnished apartment with a nice home office and all utilities included for only US$800 per month, and that was a short-term rental.
Working from the Roundhouse was also a great bargain at US$70 for eight visits during the month. And, as I was brand new to co-working, I appreciated the flexibility and not having to sign up for a full month straightaway.
All of the other essentials in Medellín are quite cheap. While Colombian food isn’t my favorite, I enjoyed finding a local joint for a menú del día. For around US$5, I’d fill up on soup, a main course, a fresh juice, and usually a dessert. Sometimes I’d just spend US$1 on a few empanadas or arepas.
I happily take the city’s sparkling-clean metro to get around at a cost of only 75 cents per ride, which includes free transfers to the scenic cable car lines.
One of the best bargains I encountered was catching live music and sampling five craft beers at the Tres Cordilleras brewery for less than US$10. Talk about a cheap night out!
Of course, being a digital nomad is not all about work. What’s the fun of setting out on a digital nomad adventure if all you do is sit around on your computer all day every day?
Thankfully there’s plenty to do in Medellín to keep you busy when you’re not working.
One major reason I chose to do an extended stay in Medellín was to study Spanish. People in this city are proud of their Spanish, which is known to be of a high standard. I took a week of group lessons at the Toucan Spanish School in El Poblado and then moved on to private lessons for a month at Colombia Immersion’s location in Laureles.
Do I still speak Spanish like a gringo? Sure, but thanks to my time in Medellín I know the basics and am comfortable making small talk with people.
Whenever I had free time, I’d go hiking in the surrounding hills, do walking tours of various neighborhoods, take salsa lessons, cheer on one of the local football clubs, or indulge in the city’s culinary and nightlife scenes.
Medellín is a relatively small city, so you won’t find as many entertainment and nightlife options as you would in a place like Mexico City or Buenos Aires, for example. As a big live music fan, I found that scene to be lacking. Of course, if you like reggaeton and dancing salsa you’ll be very happy in Medellín.
Over the past several years, Medellín has been consistently ranked among the best digital nomad hubs, and for good reason. The pleasant weather and beautiful mountainous surroundings continue to draw in new waves of nomads, and the community continues to thrive and grow.
Medellín and its people have an infectious energy and a resilient spirit that you’re likely to fall in love with. If you have the flexibility to work remotely, it’s hard to beat a city like Medellín as a home base.
Colombia is waiting for you.
Images accompanying this essay courtesy of author.