There are two airports which serve Medellín, Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH), Medellín’s small local airport and José Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE), located outside of Medellín in the municipality of Rionegro.
Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH)
The Enrique Olaya Herrera airport, is Medellín’s small, local airport, it is situated in El Poblado, one block away from the Terminal del Sur bus station. It’s a 15-20 minute walk from the Poblado metro station to the airport. This airport has flights available on three different airlines, and those who fly to and from Medellín on small charter planes and private aircraft tend to come through this airport since this is a small regional airport. Two different airlines operate out of this airport with flights to/from different destinations in Colombia:
EasyFly: Apartadó, Armenia, Bucaramanga, Corozal, Cúcuta, Ibagúe, Manizales, Montería, Pereira, and Quibdó.
Satena: Apartadó, Bahía Solano, Bogotá, and Quibdó.
It’s important to remember that the domestic flights at this airport use smaller planes, due to the restrictions related to the type of aircraft which can be used at this airport, since this is only a regional airport.
I have never personally flown into or out of this airport. My recommendation to get here would be to take a taxi since the fare should not be super high somewhere between $10.000-$25.000 COP depending on where you are coming from. Or you could always take the metro the Poblado station and walk from there to the airport or take an Uber here as well.
Jose María Cordova International Airport (MDE)
If you are visiting Medellín chances are you are flying into José María Cordova International Airport (MDE), which is located outside of Medellín, in the town of Rionegro. It is located approximately 35 Kilometers (21 miles) from Medellín. It should take you somewhere between 45 minutes and 60 minutes to reach Medellín from the airport and vice versa. However, this depends on where you are headed, where you are coming from, the time of day, traffic, etc.
Just a heads up, Rionegro is at an higher elevation than Medellín, and since we are in the mountains, the roads are narrow and winding. However, the views coming into Medellín from Rionegro from Via Las Palmas are spectacular, and the scenery is pretty.
Construction of the new Túnel de Oriente that is reportedly supposed to open in March/April 2019
A new tunnel connecting Medellín to other parts of the metropolitan area and the rest of the department of Antioquia is coming soon. When I first arrived during March 2018, I was told that it would be completed by December 2018, December has come and past and now I hear it will be completed sometime during March or April 2019, this might be correct since the tunnel is nearly complete. This new tunnel is supposed to reduce time driving to/from José María Cordova airport by up to half.
Airlines currently serving José María Cordova International Airport (MDE)
There are domestic and international flights from Medellín, on 12 different airlines, with service to 19 destinations, ten international destinations in North America and Europe, and nine domestic destinations in Colombia.
Aeroméxico: Cancún* and México City
Air Panamá: Panamá City
American Airlines: Miami
Avianca: Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Madrid, Miami, Montería, New York-JFK, San Andrés, and Santa Marta
Avior Airlines: Caracas
Copa Airlines: Panamá City
JetBlue: Fort Lauderdale
LATAM Airlines: Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cartagena, San Andrés, Santa Marta
Spirit: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando
Viva Air: Bogotá, Cartagena, Miami, Montería, San Andrés, and Santa Marta
Wingo: Panamá Pacifíco (BLB)
*Starting on 17 November 2018, Aereoméxico began offering seasonal nonstop service between Medellín and Cancún, twice a week, on Saturdays and Sundays. These new nonstop flights between Medellín and Cancún will reportedly go until 28 April 2019.
**AirEuropa is supposed to start having non-stop flights between Medellín and Europe beginning sometime during the summer of 2019, but I am not sure when this will begin and how many flights they will have out of Medellín.
**On 9 November 2018, Spirit began offering nonstop flights between Orlando and Medellín, twice a week.
Costs to enter the country if you are arriving on an international flight
The cost to enter Colombia on an international flight bound to Medellín as a tourist will vary depending on your country of origin. For example, if you are Canadian, you must pay a reciprocity fee of $191.000 COP (Approximately $80 CAD, with the current exchange rate at the time of writing of $1 CAD to $2.400 COP). However, if you are Canadian and 79 years of age or older or younger than 14 years of age, you are exempt from paying this fee. If your country of origin is Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and several other countries, you can enter Colombia for free.
Transportation to/from José María Cordova International Airport
If you are arriving in Medellín on an international flight, I would recommend either doing the currency exchange at the airport or visiting an ATM before you leave the airport. There are ATMs near the arrivals area on the lower level and there are ATMs on the upper level near the departures area, I would use caution using any Bancolombia ATM with a foreign debit card, since Bancolombia ATMs in my experience can be temperamental, I discuss this in my post “Banking in Colombia”. However, you will get a much better exchange rate visiting an ATM as opposed to doing a currency exchange at the airport. It is a good idea to always carry around some cash in Colombia, especially when you are going to and from the airport.
There are six options for transportation between José María Cordova airport and Medellín, white airport taxis, yellow taxis, colectivo (shared taxis) headed towards Centro Comercial San Diego near the Exposiciones metro station, Uber, and using a private driver.
White airport taxi to/from José María Cordova
At the Medellín airport, you will find many white airport taxis, which have an agreement with the airport and are approved to serve this airport. There at least three companies offering white airport taxi services: Acoa Taxi Aeropuerto, Aerotaxi, and Rápido Medellín Rionegro.
The fare for these white airport taxis to go to Medellín or the surrounding area is a fixed fare. There is a sign with these fares outside the arrivals area, and you will not pay any additional charge for arriving late at night or early in the morning. You should only pay the fixed fare, which includes the toll on the road. The following are the current fares from José María Cordova airport to Medellín and some surrounding areas:
To Medellín: $75.000 COP
To Envigado: $80.000 COP
To Sabaneta: $86.000 COP
If you want, you can also go to the airport via a white taxi. You can even call ahead and schedule a pickup, and from what I have heard they are pretty on time. The fare for taking a white taxi from Medellín to the airport is cheaper than coming from the airport. The following are the fares for white taxis heading to the airport from Medellín and some surrounding areas:
From Medellín: $65.000 COP
From Envigado: $72.000 COP
From Sabaneta: $80.000 COP
All of the fares listed include the toll for the road to the airport and as I mentioned previously these are fixed prices. Beware that some taxi drivers try to charge unsuspecting tourists higher “gringo” fares. If they try to do this you remind them that you know that the fare is fixed. If you can ask them how much it will cost before you get into the taxi and worst comes to worst, and they tell you the fare is higher before you leave, try to find another taxi.
Yellow Taxi to/from to José María Cordova Airport
The ever-present yellow taxis in Medellín are another way to get to the airport. There are approximately 30 different taxi companies registered with the city of Medellín. There are many more taxi companies registered with the local governments for the neighboring municipalities of Itagüí, Envigado, Bello, and Sabaneta.
The yellow taxi fare from Medellín to José María Cordova airport in 2019 is currently $75.000 COP. The yellow taxi fare from other municipalities in the metropolitan area (Envigado, Itagüí, Bello, etc.) heading to the airport is higher. Reportedly, the white airport taxis have an exclusive deal with the airport heading to Medellín and the surrounding areas. Apparently, (I have never done this so I cannot confirm the validity of this) it may be possible for you to negotiate a lower fare with the drivers of the yellow taxis who are returning to Medellín, a fare that is lower than what you would pay taking a white airport taxi back to Medellín. Trying to negotiate with the drivers of the yellow taxis may not work super well if your Spanish is lacking, so if that is the case for you, my recommendation is to take an Uber, airport taxi or airport transfer.
A third more economical option for traveling between the airport and Medellín is a colectivo, white airport taxi. You can find colectivos heading towards Medellín on the same level where you can find the white airport taxis. These are white airport taxis shared by three to four passengers, which means that the fare is spilt between the passengers. With four passengers the fare should be $18.500 COP per person, at most you should expect to pay $19.000 COP per person for a colectivo taxi. However, these colectivo taxis only go to the San Diego mall in Medellín, so you will need to take the metro or get another taxi from there to reach your final destination.
To go to the airport using a colectivo taxi, you will make your way to the San Diego mall, which is located approximately four blocks from the Exposiciones metro station. Typically white colectivo airport taxis will be waiting for passengers in the Texaco gas station parking lot that is next to the San Diego mall. However, if you have a lot of luggage, I would not recommend taking a colectivo taxi.
While using colectivo taxis to go to or from the airport is a more economical way to reach the airport, it will take you longer to reach your final destination since you have to go to Centro Comercial San Diego first and then get another taxi or take the metro or other transportation to your final destination. However, these taxis are nice since you get the comfort of traveling in the car without having to pay the full fare of taking a taxi. I have never actually taken a colectivo taxi from the airport to Medellín or vice versa but for the price, it can be a good option if you have time and are not traveling with a lot of stuff.
Airport bus heading to/from Centro Comercial San Diego
There is a bus from the airport which will take to you to downtown Medellín, to the San Diego Mall and this is the most economical option will cost you $10.000 COP. The authorized bus company which runs these buses is COMBUSES S.A. You can also take this bus from CC San Diego to the airport. Apparently there are also buses leaving from Hotel Nutibara, Calle 52A #50-46, Medellín, near the Parque Berrío metro station, which have a similar schedule, but I cannot confirm this.
Service from Centro Comercial San Diego heading to José María Cordova airport starts at 3:30 AM and ends at 9:00 PM. Service from José María Cordova airport to heading to CC San Diego in Medellín starts at 6:00 AM and supposedly ends sometime before midnight, since I had a friend who came to visit and took the bus after 10 PM on a Thursday evening from the airport to CC San Diego. Taking the airport bus to or from the airport should not take much longer than taking a taxi, but the bus only goes to this mall. After this, you would need to get a taxi or Uber to your final destination which should cost somewhere between $10.000-$25.000 COP. It should take the bus leaving from San Diego headed to the airport approximately one hour to reach the airport, but you plan to come early since there are 19 seats on these buses. While this is a more economical option, taking this route to/from the airport often takes longer than heading directly to the airport or directly to your final destination from the airport. I would only recommend this option if you only have carry on bags, I would recommend taking a taxi if you have multiple bags.
You can take an UberX or UberBlack from Medellín to the airport or from the airport to your final destination in Medellín. Taking Uber to the airport can be a good idea since fares taking an UberX from Poblado to the airport can range between $56.000-$90.000 COP, which means that taking an Uber can be cheaper than taking a taxi. However, be aware that it is not uncommon for Uber drivers to cancel on passengers or not come here to pick you up in Medellín, this has happened to me a lot in Medellín. If you are headed to the airport from Medellín, I would recommend that you make sure to order your Uber at least 10-15 minutes before you think you need to leave to get to the airport. This way in case it takes longer for them to reach you or they cancel on you, so will not be running late. The fare for taking an UberBlack from Poblado to José María Cordova can range from approximately $93.000 COP to $110.000 COP.
Getting an Uber from the airport to Medellín can be dicey since Uber is technically illegal in Colombia and given there is more security at the airport, it can be risky to find one. If you take an Uber, expect to sit in the front of the car, so it appears that your driver is transporting friend(s) or family, so it looks less suspicious to police. In my experience, it usually takes some time for Uber drivers to get to the airport and you will have to cross the street on the arrivals level heading to the private parking or somewhere else nearby but not directly where you are standing when you walk out of the arrivals area.
I have taken Uber from my apartment to the airport and from the airport to my apartment here in Medellín, and I have not had too many problems using Uber to go the airport. It is less expensive than arranging a pickup or a taxi, and I do not need to worry about carrying enough cash to pay for a taxi since I am paying in the app. Ubers tend to be in better condition, newer, nicer vehicles and safer than yellow taxis in Medellín, since Ubers here all have seatbelts and not all of the yellow taxis in Medellín have seatbelts.
Private Driver/Airport Transfer
Your final option for transportation to and from the airport is hiring a private driver or doing an airport transfer from your hotel/hostel/Airbnb to and/or from the airport. Hiring a private driver is more expensive than all of the transportation options mentioned above, you should expect to spend at least $94.000 COP or somewhere between $30-$50 USD one way for a private driver to pick you up to take you to the airport or take you from the airport to your final destination. Since this is the most costly option, I have never personally used this option. In most cases, your driver will have a vehicle that will accommodate up to four people, if you are traveling with more people or more luggage you will need to find a driver or company who has larger vehicles. These vehicles are often nicer and newer than the airport taxis and most of these drivers will probably speak English.
If you are looking for a private driver to take you to or from the airport from Medellín, you have some options. You can reserve transport with a company listed here, check the Medellín Expat groups on Facebook and see who people have recommended since this is a question that frequently comes up, who is a good person to take us to/from the airport. The beauty of having a private driver is that when you arrive at the airport, your driver will meet you after the baggage claim/customs in the arrivals area with a sign with your name on it. Your driver will already know your destination, when you arrive you collect any baggage and do anything else you need to before leaving the airport, there is no cash needed since you will have already probably paid for this pickup. The following are some options for private airport transfers:
José Luis Fonnegra, WhatsApp +57 (317) 699-9159: $80.000 COP for up to four people (Approximately $26-$30 USD depending on the exchange rate): I actually met José Luis in January 2019, when I had a walking boot on my foot/ankle and my other Uber driver had cancelled and José happened to be my Uber driver. José Luis drives for UberBlack, Uber’s luxury option and also can drive you around Medellín, to Guatapé, El Peñol, Jardín, etc. He speaks English and is now the person I use for airport pick ups and I have recommended him to friends and family. He has modern cars, is a great guy and has helped me a lot recently. You can pay him in cash or you can pay him with your debit or credit card, since has a mobile card processing machine. He has a lot of other foreign clients as well, so he is a good person to know. If you want to use his services, you can send him a WhatsApp +57 (317) 699-9159, at least 48 to 72 hours before you anticipate needing him to drive you somewhere. You should expect to pay José Luis at the time of service, unless you have previously worked out some other payment arrangement with him. His current price of $80.000 COP only applies for a one way trip to or from the airport from Medellín, Envigado, etc. You will pay $85.000 COP if you are going to Bello, La Estrella, Caldas, etc. or somewhere further than probably than Itagüí or Envigado, because they are further away.
Recently, I had to travel outside of Medellín/Antioquia, so I sent José Luis a WhatsApp message, asked if he were available, with my flight number and more. Using José Luis has been great, he is friendly and helpful, he has been especially helpful with me having a walking boot. He has picked me up at my apartment to take me to the airport and has also picked me up at the airport. One thing to be aware of is that José Luis, probably won’t come get you in the terminal, with a sign with your name on it. Having him pick me up, is like having a friend or family member come to get me at the airport, he will probably pick you up in the arrivals area on the other side of where the taxis pick up, where friends, family and others pick people up. He will send you a WhatsApp message beforehand, to confirm your pick up, arrival information, where he should meet you and more. Before taking off, make sure to send José Luis a WhatsApp message so he knows when to expect you. If you do end up using José Luis, please let him know that I referred you.
Black Diamond: $30 USD (per person, up to 17 people)
Colombia4u: $48 USD (includes return trip but that is a per person charge – so if you have four passengers it would be $192 USD)
Medellín Airport Transfer: $34 USD* for transporting 1-4 passengers (approximately $110.000-$115.000 COP depending on the exchange rate). This company has bilingual drivers so this is a good option if you have the money and want an English speaking driver to pick you up at the airport. You can reserve this service ahead of time using their website, your credit/debit card or PayPal.
*If you are being picked up by Medellín Airport Transfer between 12:00 AM-4:00 AM, an $5 USD additional night fee will apply.
Medellín Airport Tips
1. Plan to arrive early for your departing flight
José María Cordova International Airport is not a massive airport by any stretch of the imagination but do your best to arrive early for your flight. If you are on a domestic flight within Colombia, you will do well to arrive at least 90 minutes before your flight is scheduled to depart, to allow yourself enough time to check-in and clear security. Going through security here before boarding your plane here for domestic flights within Colombia is pretty relaxed, you can even take liquids in your carry-on bags, the 3 oz rule be damned.
If you are taking an international flight make sure to arrive at least two hours before your plane is scheduled to depart to allow you to check-in, pass through security and go through the Migración Colombia line. Yes, this applies for morning flights, it might be 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM but the lines for the check-in counter for American Airlines or VivaAir can be pretty long despite the early hour, I say this from experience. If you are in the country for more 90 days you will be expected to pay an exit tax before leaving the country which should cost approximately $87.000 COP, so if you are here for that long, do not be surprised if you are responsible for paying this fee to leave the airport.
2. Advice if you have overstayed your visa or tourist stamp here
If you have overstayed your visa or the legal limit you are allowed to stay in Colombia if you can try to go to a Migración Colombia office in Medellín or wherever you are and pay the fines and get this sorted out before you leave. I had an Uber driver tell me that he once saw Migración Colombia board a plane for a flight headed to France to come to get a passenger who had overstayed and had them pay the exorbitant fines for being here illegally. If you can avoid this do not let this be you. If you are not sure what to do in a situation like this, you can always ask the members of the Medellín Expats Facebook group for advice, since we will do our best to point you in the right direction and always recommend someone who can help you.
Keep in mind that if you are here illegally or break immigration rules, this may prevent you from getting a visa or permanent residency in Colombia in the future. I know someone who was ineligible for a resident visa in 2018 because they overstayed their previous visa and did not leave the country before their visa expired. They were in Colombia illegally for approximately one week, one week after their original visa had expired and because of this, their resident visa application was denied. They can reapply for a resident visa in two years under their current visa, but y’all, follow the rules and do not make the same mistakes as others have. You are a guest here in Colombia, and all of the local and national laws apply to you too, even if you are not a Colombian citizen. You do not want to face the threat of deportation or being prohibited from re-entering the country, because of poor planning.
If you want to stay in Colombia for more than 90 days, I wrote a whole guide on how you can get an extension from Migración Colombia to get an additional 90 days here, since you can spend up to 180 days in Colombia per calendar year (1 January-31 December) with just a tourist stamp, without a visa. If you do get an extension from Migración Colombia, make sure that you have your letter ready to show them when you are in the Migración line to exit the county. If you want to spend 180 days one year, and then spend 180 days here in Colombia the next year, you will have to leave the country and go somewhere else, and on 1 January of the next year, you 180 day count will reset. If you re-enter Colombia on or after 1 January, the next year, you can get another 180 days for the next year to spend in the country without a visa.
3. Allow yourself enough time to get to or from the airport especially at rush hour
Traffic in Medellín can be brutal and going to or from the airport is no exception. During non-rush hours it can take 45 minutes to 60 minutes to get to the airport from Medellín, during rush hour it can easily take over an hour to reach the airport. Be prepared for this and make sure you leave enough time for traffic and to get to the airport.
4. Foreign tourists can get a refund of Colombia’s 19% value-added tax (la IVA), at la DIAN’s (Customs) office at the airport
If you are in Colombia for less than 90 days and you want to get your IVA refund, make sure to keep the receipts for your purchases, this refund supposedly applies for clothing, jewelry and other purchases. LA DIAN’s (Colombia’s Customs and Tax authority) office is located to the left of the Avianca check-in counter at Jose María Cordova airport. And la DIAN’s office has staff at the airport 24/7. I have heard that sometimes la DIAN’s office closes late at night if they have no clients, so you can ask someone from airport information to call la DIAN if their office upstairs is closed and they will send someone from their office downstairs to help you. You will receive your tax refund for in cash in Colombian Pesos. I have never personally done this since I live in Medellín and do not qualify for this IVA refund.
5. Flights from this airport sometimes can be delayed for fog or weather
Do not be surprised if your flight from Medellín is delayed because of weather in Rionegro, this airport sometimes has fog issues. Also, if you are flying between Medellín and Bogotá, those flights are often delayed, I have never been on a flight between the two cities that left on time, I am told this is because of delays at the Bogotá airport.
Also, all of the American Airlines flights I have taken between Medellín and Miami, always seem to be delayed, so if you are flying American between Medellín and Miami, do not be surprised if your flight is delayed in Medellín because of delays in Miami. I have no idea why whenever I fly between Medellín and Miami or between Medellín and Bogotá why these flights are always delayed. Delays flying between Medellín and Bogotá from what I am told are pretty common, so I guess to quote my grandmother, you might have to “Hurry up and wait”.
6. Take advantage of the unique retail offerings at this airport
José María Cordova International Airport, is the only airport I have ever been to that has a Leonisa store, a Pergamino location selling freshly brewed and roasted coffee as well as coffee beans, and a pharmacy. Yes there is at least one pharmacy in this airport, which actually is so convenient. And I have actually bought stuff at this pharmacy before, which is in the domestic terminal section of the airport. My American family has already heard my jokes about Leonisa and buying panties so early in the morning, since you can literally buy lingerie, panties, workout clothes, and bikinis at 6:30 AM if you are in the international departures terminal. Admittedly, I find the fact you that can buy panties at the Medellín airport so early in the morning to be quite hilarious, but then again Leonisa was established in Medellín, and undergarments are a big Colombian export. Therefore, this should not surprise me.
Also, if you need to buy a last minute gift for coffee lovers, look no farther than the Pergamino store in the international departures terminal. Pergamino has arguably some of the best coffee in Medellín, they pay high prices to their growers, who produce their coffee sustainably and their coffee is AMAZING, so this is one place where I would recommend stocking up if you are a coffee lover. I have another story about the pharmacy at the airport, that I will hopefully discuss in another blog post. While this airport is pretty small, I much prefer this airport to the Miami airport or other larger airports. Except the food options and outlet situation here to charge devices if you are sorely lacking and leaves much to be desired, but the people who work here are pretty nice, which is something that I appreciate.
When I came through in late January 2019 with a walking boot, because I had a foot and ankle fracture the American Airlines and other people working here were so accommodating and helpful. They got me priority check-in and boarding, into priority attention line for Migración Colombia and la DIAN and someone literally bought me me pain meds at the pharmacy when I had a panic thinking I had forgotten to pack pain meds. I gave them money and explained what I needed and they bought them for me, it was quite amazing and incredibly helpful since it would not have been a good weekend away without pain strong medication, given all the walking I was going to be doing. Thank you to everyone at the Medellín airport for taking care of me when I needed help. Generally my experiences at the Medellín airport are always much better than my experience at the Miami airport, especially with this walking boot. People, have always been really accommodating with this boot, having had this boot for a few months now, I have flown on three airlines with the boot and been through various airports with the boot, when I explained that I have a fracture, the people working at the check in desk, were extremely helpful and accommodating.
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