When I first visited Medellín in June 2016, I fell in love with the city. It’s so beautiful, the people are amazing, and it’s so cheap.
Back then, Uber not only existed in Medellín, but it was thriving. They had a product called UberEnglish, where you could pay more to be matched with a driver who spoke English, helping foreigners like myself explore this incredible city.
Before coming to Medellín this time around, I realized something had changed. Before my trip started, I got a message from a friend who had recently returned from Medellín telling me explicitly not to use Uber, because it was now illegal.
My Spanish is pretty awful, so I was concerned with this. One of my favorite parts of using Uber abroad is putting in the destination where I’m going, as it’s hard to explain directions in a foreign language.
When I got to Medellín, I asked a few people if Uber was legal and got varied responses. Basically, the one I found to be true, is that it both is legal… and it isn’t.
Though I am no expert in Colombian law, it seems that UberBLACK is legal whereas UberX is not. With an UberBLACK, you get a car that basically looks like a more fancy taxi, with the license plate number displayed clearly on the side of the car. Important note: it’s only the case that UberBLACK is legal if you get a car that has the credentials printed on the side of the car, which you can’t predict in advance (though for 4 out of 5 of my rides, I did get one of these). On my way from El Poblado to the airport, I got an UberBLACK that did not have one of these license plat numbers on the side, and the driver specifically told me that if the police stopped us, we would need to tell them we were “friends.”
The good news is that UberBlack is incredibly cheap here. Most of my UberBLACK rides came in at around $2 USD – meaning that if there wasn’t a legality issue, I would have stilled have used UberBLACK anyway.
Though I can’t point to any laws here to backup the proposition that only UberX is illegal here, on a tour I took with a friend, the tour guide offered to give my friend a ride to the airport the next day. My friend liked the guy and agreed, though on the way to the airport by police officers, checking to ensure he was not in an Uber ride.
If you’re coming to Medellín and want to use Uber, I would recommend using UberBLACK to be safe.