Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Jerardo Gomez
Traveling throughout the country of Mexico can be done in a variety of ways but a unique way is by trains. However Mexico has limited passenger train routes, and here are the ones you need to know about.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the enchanting world of exploring Mexico by train, highlighting some of the most picturesque routes, offering valuable tips for a smooth journey, and diving into the exciting Tren Maya project that promises an unforgettable adventure.
Why would you want to use these limited trains in Mexico?
The revitalization of the passenger train industry is gearing up in Mexico. They are all tourist train systems meant to support regional tourism and tours.
Get to Know the Different Routes Available on the Mexican Rail Network
From scenic coastal journeys to desert expeditions and mountain passes, Mexico’s rail network offers an array of routes for travelers to explore the country’s diverse landscapes.
Two are currently under construction and are due to open in late 2023 which includes Tren Maya and Toluca-Mexico city.
Chihuahua al Pacífico (El Chepe Train)
a tourist train running through the Copper Canyon
One of the most popular trips is the Copper Canyon Railway, which takes passengers through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. This route includes 37 bridges and 86 tunnels, with breathtaking views of the canyon’s rugged terrain.
a tourist train running from Guadalajara, Jalisco to a tequila distillery in Amatitán.
This train is specifically for tourists who want to go have an authentic tequila tour and is usually costly, booked well in advance, and has a complete itinerary. The train goes through scenic tequila agave fields from Guadalajara to Sauza Distillery, about 20 miles from the town of Tequila.
commuter rail system in the Mexico City metro area
This is the major subway and rail system in Mexico City. It is well integrated to getting to anywhere in the region nearby, and very strategically placed. It is cheap and usually used by locals but you can save money in Mexico by taking this as your transportation system.
Toluca–Mexico City commuter rail (under construction)
Toluca-Mexico City rail will be a fast transportation system that will connect two major cities which is located in Toluca and Mexico City. This is due to open in late 2023, just in time for the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
Tren Maya (under construction)
One of Mexico’s most ambitious train projects, Tren Maya, promises an unparalleled journey through the Yucatan Peninsula. Stretching over 900 miles, this modern railway aims to connect ancient Mayan ruins, picturesque coastal towns, and lush jungles, offering an unprecedented opportunity to experience Mexico’s natural and cultural wonders.
An Overview of Mexico’s Tren Maya
One of the most exciting developments of this network is Tren Maya, a visionary project designed to connect the Yucatan Peninsula’s tropical landscape and ancient sites. Tren Maya promises to be the country’s most innovative train travel experience yet, with plans to feature luxury carriages, eco-friendly technology, and cultural programs that showcase Mexico’s vibrant communities.
- 15 Stations from Palenque Chiapas to Cancun Airport, Quintana Roo.
- Owned by the Mexican Armed Forces
- Opened December 1, 2023
- 1 Track
- 99 MPH or 160 km/h
- Length 948 mi or 1,525 km
Opening December 1, 2023
The Tren Maya, also known as the Mayan Train project, is a long railway in Mexico that goes through the Yucatán Peninsula. It started being built in June 2020 and is supposed to start running by December 1, 2023. The railway starts in Palenque in Chiapas and goes towards Cancún in Quintana Roo with two different routes that go around the peninsula. The goal of the project is to connect popular tourist spots on the coast with less-known places inland, like historical Mayan sites.
In December 2020, President López Obrador said the military would run parts of the route, and the profits would support pensioners and retirees from the armed forces. In March 2021, Fonatur’s director, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, stated that the military would manage the entire route and keep all the profits.
In September 2021, Pons mentioned that local people might pay around 50 pesos for a trip from Cancún to Playa del Carmen, but tourists might pay 800 to 1000 pesos because they get extra services like restaurants. The route was changed in January 2022 to speed up construction and no longer go through Playa del Carmen. By June 2023, about two-thirds of the project was done, and the plan was for operations to start on December 1, 2023.
During construction, workers and archeologists found over 8,000 ancient artifacts and structures from archaeological sites by January 2021. There are concerns about the impact on wildlife, especially jaguars, and groups like the National Alliance for Conservation of the Jaguar have suggested building wildlife corridors to help.
Environmental organizations like the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental have accused Fonatur of cutting down trees without proper permits and not following environmental rules. In November 2021, the government exempted Tren Maya and other projects from environmental reviews. Originally, the trains were supposed to be electric, but plans changed in June 2020 to use diesel for cost reasons. Later, in August 2020, they decided to electrify half of the cars on the route.
In March 2022, Greenpeace protesters tied themselves to machinery in Quintana Roo to protest construction that was harming the environment without proper studies.
Tren Maya Ruta / Mayan Train Route
El Tren Maya es un proyecto ferroviario que busca conectar destinos turísticos y culturales en el sureste de México, promoviendo el desarrollo económico y turismo sustentable en la región. La ruta del Tren Maya abarca aproximadamente 1,525 kilómetros y pasa por los siguientes estados:
- Yucatán: La ruta comienza en la ciudad de Mérida, capital del estado de Yucatán, conocida por su rica herencia cultural y arqueológica.
- Campeche: Continúa hacia Campeche, famoso por su bien conservado centro histórico y fuertes del siglo XVII.
- Quintana Roo: El tren se adentra en Quintana Roo, hogar de la famosa zona turística de la Riviera Maya, que incluye destinos como Playa del Carmen, Tulum y Cancún.
- Tabasco: Luego, atraviesa el estado de Tabasco, conocido por su exuberante vegetación y su relevancia arqueológica, siendo Palenque uno de los sitios más destacados.
- Chiapas: Finalmente, llega a Chiapas, donde se encuentra otra joya arqueológica, las ruinas de Calakmul, así como la ciudad colonial de San Cristóbal de las Casas.
The Tren Maya is a railway project aimed at connecting tourist and cultural destinations in the southeast of Mexico, promoting economic development and sustainable tourism in the region. The Tren Maya route covers approximately 1,525 kilometers and passes through the following states:
- Yucatán: The route begins in the city of Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, known for its rich cultural and archaeological heritage.
- Campeche: It continues towards Campeche, famous for its well-preserved historic center and 17th-century forts.
- Quintana Roo: The train ventures into Quintana Roo, home to the famous tourist area of the Riviera Maya, which includes destinations like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Cancún.
- Tabasco: It then crosses the state of Tabasco, known for its lush vegetation and archaeological significance, with Palenque being one of the most prominent sites.
- Chiapas: Finally, it reaches Chiapas, where another archaeological gem, the ruins of Calakmul, can be found, as well as the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
Tips for Booking Your Train Tickets in Advance in Mexico
Booking train tickets in advance can be a great way to save money and avoid the stress of last-minute planning. If you’re planning to travel by train in Mexico, it’s important to do your research and book in advance to secure your spot.
Firstly, make sure to check out different train routes and schedules to find the one that best suits your needs. Many train operators offer discounts for early booking, so don’t hesitate to book as soon as you know your travel dates. Another tip is to book online to avoid long queues at train stations.
What to Expect During a Typical Mexican Train Journey
Embarking on a Mexican train journey is an exciting adventure that is sure to leave lasting memories. From the moment you step aboard, you’ll be transported to a world of vibrant colors, rich history, and stunning landscapes.
A typical journey will take you through quaint villages and bustling cities, showcasing the diverse culture and traditions of Mexico. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to sample authentic cuisine, meet friendly locals, and admire breathtaking views.
Trains have space for storage. Some trains like the Tequila Express is a party atmosphere, fun, and relaxed.
How to get to Mexico by train from The US
Currently, there are no trains from the United States that goes through Mexico, but leave you at the border.
Trains from the US go to the border city of El Paso, which is on the LA-Dallas rail line. El Paso is connected by a train service called the Sunset Limited. This train comes from different cities like New Orleans, Houston, Tucson, and Los Angeles. It’s like a bridge that lets people travel from these big cities to the border in El Paso. This train makes it easy for people to explore both the US and Mexico. From San Antonio, it is about a 2-hour drive to the border.
Well, the easiest way to go by train to Mexico is via the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing. From there, you can take a bus from Tijuana to Mexicali, where you can then jump aboard the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico or the famous “Chepe” train. This train takes you on a magical journey through the stunning Copper Canyon, before finally arriving in Chihuahua City.
Alternatively, there are cruise ships from San Francisco, LA, North America, and South America that take you to popular destinations such as Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Ticket fares vary by season.
Top Train Routes for Exploring Mexico
Chepe Express: Wind through the dramatic Copper Canyon aboard the Chepe Express, one of Mexico’s most scenic train rides. Marvel at the breathtaking views of rugged canyons, lush forests, and traditional villages.
Ferrocarril Central Mexicano: Explore the heart of Mexico on this historic railway line connecting Mexico City with Veracruz. Traverse diverse terrains, from snow-capped mountains to tropical lowlands.
Tequila Express: Embark on a journey to the birthplace of Mexico’s famous spirit, Tequila. This train ride offers a unique cultural experience, complete with tastings and informative tours.
Tren Suburbano: Connect with the vibrant energy of Mexico City through its suburban train system. Efficient and cost-effective, this option provides a glimpse into local life.
Essential Tips for a Memorable Train Journey
Book in Advance: Secure your tickets ahead of time, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure availability and preferred seating.
Pack Smartly: Pack comfortable clothing, layers, and essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a refillable water bottle.
Embrace Local Customs: Immerse yourself in the local culture by engaging with fellow passengers and trying regional foods at train station stops.
Capture the Moments: Keep your camera handy to capture the stunning vistas and charming encounters along the way.
Experiencing the Wonders of Tren Maya
Ancient Marvels: Visit the awe-inspiring ruins of Chichen Itza, Palenque, and other archaeological treasures without the hassle of long drives.
Breathtaking Landscapes: Traverse the stunning landscapes of the Yucatan Peninsula, from turquoise waters to dense rainforests.
Cultural Encounters: Interact with local communities and learn about their traditions, crafts, and way of life.
Planning Your Train Adventure: Practical Considerations
Route Options: Tren Maya offers various route options, catering to different travel preferences and schedules.
Accommodation: Choose between different classes of travel, from standard to luxury, to suit your comfort level.
Booking: Keep an eye on official Tren Maya announcements for booking details and opening dates.
Local Exploration: Plan extra time for off-train explorations, as Tren Maya’s stops provide access to some of Mexico’s most iconic destinations.
Exploring Mexico by train is a captivating way to soak in the country’s beauty, culture, and history. From the awe-inspiring Copper Canyon to the upcoming Tren Maya adventure, each train journey promises a unique and enriching experience. So, pack your bags, hop on board, and let the rhythmic chug of the train lead you to unforgettable memories in the heart of Mexico.
Is there a train from US to Mexico?
Where are the places that do not have passenger trains in Mexico?
Popular tourist locations in Mexico that do not have access to train stations include Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Ciudad Juárez.
Will Amtrak go to Mexico?
Amtrak does not go to Mexico.
What is the purpose of Tren Maya?
The Tren Maya train is proposed to cater to mass tourism and help the local economy with jobs. The train will likely increase tourism by having the fastest way to explore the dense Mayan peninsula.