View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

First day in Colombia

Our flight went well. Actually managed to sleep a little bit on the plane, which is not normal for me. We flew with AeroMexico. I had bought the tickets during the summer when I saw them on sale dirt cheap.

Mexico City to Medellin return for $216 USD ($276 CAD) each. Not bad for a four and a half hour flight.

It was a night flight, with the sun coming up only a half an hour before we landed. First impressions of Colombia from the air? Green, lush, and mountainous. Looks like we're going to love the scenery.

Arrived at the airport and went through customs. I knew of this ahead of time, but as Canadians, we have to pay some kind of "reciprocity fee" to enter the country. We are the only nationality that has to do this for Colombia. Special to be Canadians, isn't it? Sometimes, not in a good way.

The fee is 160,000 Colombian pesos ($75 CAD) each. Not small change by any means. Paid it by credit card, right at the immigration booth.

Stamped our passports, and then we were in.

First stop was the airport tourist info booth. The girl there, Joanna, was very helpful and gave us a guide to Medellin as well as a map of the entire country. She warned us of the areas to stay away from (we had no plans to go to these areas anyhow) and gave us some other info. I asked her how to get a SIM card for our iPhone and she pointed us towards a small shop the next floor up.

We went up there and the guy was also very helpful. There are three major cellular carriers in Colombia and he said that Claro was a tiny bit more money, but it had the best coverage. The cost for the SIM card and 2GB of data was 47,000 pesos ($22.18 CAD). Hey, we're connected now! He did the activation and everything for us, and showed us that we were online. Nice guy. The 2GB is valid for 30 days, but we're here for six weeks so we'll have to try and make that last three weeks and then sign up for another 2 GBs.

Next up, the bus ride into town. There is a special airport bus that takes you right into the center. Cost is 9.000 pesos ($4.25 CAD) each for the 45 minute ride.

Tough to take decent pictures from the bus.

Inside the bus!

Haven't yet figured out if that is in kilometers or miles per hour. 

Coming in to the outskirts. 

Medellin is a city of about 4 million people. Built into a valley with steep mountains all around, and a lot of the city is actually on the side of these mountains. Very interesting how they've dealt with the geography.

First impressions from the bus? Overall, cleaner than Mexico. Very green.

A farm with a view of the city.

We got off the bus right downtown. Next up was to flag a taxi. There are little yellow taxis everywhere! As I had read in our Lonely Planet guidebook, taxis are cheap and plentiful!

We had made arrangements to stay with a couchsurfer and had received directions from our host to get to their place from downtown. Also, I had previously found the approximate location on the map on our iPhone and was able to show that to the driver as well. He seemed to have a pretty good idea of where it was, so off we went into the nightmare of traffic. Motorcycles zipping in and out of everywhere. How they survive, we don't know. Some don't, I'm sure!

Arrived about 15 to 20 minutes and 5 kms (3 miles) later. I congratulated our driver on his skills, and paid the bill. 12,000 pesos ($5.65 CAD). Nice...taxis are cheap like they were in South Korea.

Andrea was there to greet us. Her boyfriend Herber was at work. They are a 30 year old couple who are both biologists but effectively still in school. She is doing her Phd and he is finishing his masters degree. They met at school.

She was heading off to school herself, so left us alone with the two cats. She had kind of given us a bit of idea of the neighbourhood and where the nearest shops are and said she would be back around 6:00pm.

But we were zonked. Never left the house. They have good wifi here, so got caught up on that, and I had a nap.

Sure enough, they returned about 6pm and we met Herber as well. They both drive motorcycles to get around which is a very popular thing here in Medellin. We discussed what to do about dinner, and decided to head out. Flagged a taxi right outside their door. Like I said, those little yellow cabs are everywhere!

They took us for "arepas", a typical Colombian dish made with white corn flour and stuffed with meat and cheese.

Yummy! One arepa will leave you stuffed!

So, we each had an arepa, Herber and I each had two beers, and the girls each had a lemonade. Total bill was 48,000 pesos ($22.66 CAD), tip included. I can see us eating out a lot in Colombia!

Then, they suggested we take the cable car to see the lights. I mentioned earlier that Medellin has dealt with it's geography in interesting ways sometimes and they have a cable car system that is actually part of the metro public transportation system.

Getting on the cable car.

There are a couple of stops along the way if you wish to get off, and then we get to the top.

Our couchsurfing hosts, Andrea and Herber.

Looking down on Medellin.

In bed asleep by 10:30pm, and slept like a rock. Today, they are showing us the city!

Women's slippers on sale today only. They look comfy....


  1. Didn't realize Medellin was such a big city.
    How do you pronounce Heber's name?

    1. I had the spelling wrong. It's actually Herber. Pronounced like "Hair-bear", with a slight rolling of the "r".

  2. Wow it was nice waking up to Medelin!! Andrea and Herber seem a nice couple. Medellin seems like a concrete made steel and glass... it seems from afar. Love the mountains and the city a peaceful appearance. Oh, I bet those arepas were delicious!! I have to put Colombia on my bucket list to visit...even if it's a short trip.

    1. Andrea and Whether are a wonderful couple and great hosts. Yes it is definitely a concrete jungle when it comes to the buildings but there is lots of greenery and green spaces. Yes, those arepas were good, I can see more of those in our future.

  3. 4 million didn't know it was that big.

    The arepa looks delicious. Enjoy your stay. Looks like you are off to a great start.

    1. Yep, it is a big city!

      The arepas were delicious and very filling, we will definitely be eating more of them.

  4. Wow what a neat city, LOVE the Cable Cars!

    1. Yes, it is a pretty cool city. In other countries or cities people pay a lot of money to go for a ride on these but here it is part of the transportation system. I believe it cost us about $1.00 CAN in order to take the Metro, cable car and then a bus to get us from downtown back to the house.

  5. How exciting. Such great organization on your part - your research always pays off - will you be couch surfing again? Great way to meet the locals....enjoy

    1. Yes, having some organization helps but sometimes we play it by ear. If you want to couchsurf though you definitely need to plan ahead. We have used couchsurfing a lot in the past and yes, I am sure we will use it again in the future on this trip. Meeting the locals is one of the main reasons we use it. :-)

  6. What a trip so far! We learn so much thru your travels. Thanks so much for all the time you put into posting and sharing your photos. Couch surfing friends are awesome! Have fun!!!

    1. Thank you so much for those kind words Connie and Barry. We meet such wonderful people through couchsurfing and have had so many great experiences because of it and this one is no exception.

  7. I knew you guys would like it. Over the next six weeks the question is, how to get Sherman to South America? We would love to tag along with our rv. (We'd get a Class B). Arepas are great and they even have electric arepa makers like sandwich makers. They are common in Venezuela too.

    1. I don't think Sherman will ever make this trip but we would definitely consider doing it in a much smaller unit like a Class B, just like you! Guess we had better start planning for this in the future. :-)

  8. I, also , am impressed with the size of the city!

    1. It amazes us how they have built the city up into the sides of the mountains and how the vehicles make it up the steep roads. They have a very good transportation system which helps a lot.

  9. Very nice clean looking city, looks like you will be enjoying your time in Columbia.

    1. Yes, we have found it to be very clean here. We will be interested to see what it will be like out in the countryside.


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