How is the Tren Maya? A guide to taking the train!

Tren Maya

What the Tren Maya is Like Now

Just about everyone has been waiting for the Tren Maya to start running. It is an exciting project that is changing the face of tourism for Mexico and the southeast of the country. The Tren Maya is now operational. Two sections are open now and passengers are already traveling around the area. So, what is the Tren Maya like? How are the stations? How do you buy tickets? What are our tips for taking the Tren Maya? and What is our opinion of the Tren Maya after taking it and seeing the project come to fruition? All of these things we will discuss in this article and video here. First, we want to show you our video of the Tren Maya that will explain and demonstrate many things about it. 

Our video of the Tren Maya

We like to experience things so we can tell you about it. We recently took the Tren Maya and visited stations and collected information so we could share it with you. It was a little hard to get information before going because the communications and information of the Tren Maya is not very good. This is all the more reason to write this guide and let you know things that are not posted about online. 

 

Tren Maya Map of the Route

Where does the Tren Maya go? Below is a map of the entire route. As you see, it is a loop around five states in the southeast of Mexico. Currently the routes available are Cancun to Campeche and Campeche to Palenque. The other sections are scheduled to open late February 2024. The remaining routes are about 70-80% complete now. 

The entire route is 1554km (965 miles) and visits the large cities and important towns that have access to ruins, haciendas, cenotes and more. 

Tren Maya Map
Here is a map of the entire route. This is available to download from the Tren Maya app.

How to buy tickets now for the Tren Maya

Right now, there is an ecommerce website that sells tickets. It only offers the beginning and final stations of the routes now. If you want to travel between other stations, you need to go to a station to buy in person. This is the process for now but will change as the whole route is opened. 

Tips for Buying Tickets for the Train

  • The official website for buying the Tren Maya Tickets is here
  • If you go to the station to buy tickets, it is best to have cash and card. Both are accepted but because it is new, terminals don’t always work and sometimes they have no change for cash payments. 
  • But your tickets in advance. The trains now are about 60-70% full. As the rollout continues, it will get busier. So be sure to buy your tickets in advance especially the long-distance tickets so you can plan your trip. 
  • If you need to change tickets, you need to do so within 72 hours of your departure date in order to get a refund or change the ticket. 
  • When you buy in person at the train, they ask for ID of all tickets purchased. So, if you are buying for a group, take IDs with you. 
  • Names on the tickets need to match the ID and IDs are needed to board the train. 
  • For local discounts you need a INE ID. Currently they are saying that is the only ID. Locals do get discounts on both tourist class and premier class. 
  • For elderly discount you need an INAPAM card. 
  • Tickets are not transferable. Only the name on the ticket is able to use the ticket with ID. 
Tren Maya Merida Station
This is the Merida Teya Station for the Tren Maya.

How much are tickets for the Tren Maya?

There are four tips of tickets for the Tren Maya:

  1. International tourists.
  2. Mexican national tourist.
  3. Locals, residents of the 5 states the train passes. 
  4. Elderly seniors with ID. INAPAM

Here are some sample prices. Since all the routes are not open, the complete pricing is not available. Note: These are just international tourist prices. 

San Francisco Campeche – Cancun

  • Tourist Class: $1,166 MXN
  • Premier Class: $1,862 MXN

Cancun – San Francisco Campeche

  • Tourist Class: $1,166 MXN
  • Premier Class: $1,862 MXN

Cancun – Merida

  • Economy Class: $735.00 MXN
  • Premier Class: $1,173.50 MXN

Merida – Cancun

  • Economy Class: $735.00 MXN
  • Premier Class: $1,173.50 MXN
 

Traveling with children on the Tren Maya

Here are a few details about regulations of traveling with children on the train. 

  • Children ages 2-14 must be accompanied by an adult over 18. 
  • Babies and up to 2 years must be a ratio of one young child per adult. Children up to 2 do not have a right to a seat. 
  • There are bathrooms with changing tables on the train for families. 

How are the Tren Maya Train Stations?

When this project was originally underway, there were some pretty fanciful renderings for stations. We have some of the photos here in our article. The stations are large enough and have come out with clean designs that are good, not the futurist and fanciful designs, but they do work. 

Campeche Tren Maya Station.
This is the Tren Maya Train Station in Campeche.

Right now, in the stations there are lots of people helping out. It is pretty easy to get information and when the train comes, people organize the passengers in order to board efficiently. This is good news because the online help from the Tren Maya is practically nonexistent. 

The security for the Tren Maya and the stations is the National Guard. At the stations and on the train the National Guard have more civilian type outfits which makes it feel more like a special train employees. 

Tren Maya bathroom in Merida
Each station has nice touches. In Merida this station has cool mirrors in the bathrooms which is the symbol of the Tren Maya. 

 

Campeche Tren Maya Station
These are the platforms on the Tren Maya in the Campeche Train Station.

Parking at the Train Stations

Since some will drive to the stations, there is sufficient parking available for free at stations. Most of the parking is not shaded, so that means your car will be in full sun for the length of your time away on the train. This might make you consider taking public transportation to the stations. Right now, there are public bus options from the larger stations and new connections are starting. 

What is available to take on the Tren Maya?

  • You are allowed one carry on and one bag of a maximum of 55cm x 40cm x 25 cm.  With a maximum weight of 25 kilos. 
  • The only animals allowed are service dogs and emotional support animals. Proper paperwork is needed and animals much be register before taking the train. 
  • Technically you are not supposed to board with food or drink. 

How fast are the train now?

The top operating speed will be 160kmph (100mph). Currently the trains are running 80-120 Kmph (50-75 mph). We know this because we drove alongside the train from Merida to Piste. The train alternated speeds but is about the speed of cars on the highway, which the limit is 110km per hour. Currently there are delays for construction, filling up on gas, waiting for trains to pass the like. It is good to note that the trains are still in pre-opening mode. Once the complete route will open, things should get better and up to speed. 

What are the services like on the Tren Maya?

We were impressed by the level of service and overall look of the train and staff. We would say that the service is similar to a good airline like Lufthansa or AeroMexico. Staff is very well trained and friendly. The uniforms are clean-cut and style of the everything is new and efficient. 

At your seat….

At your seat you have a plug which can be good for laptops, charging cameras and new iPhone without the USB plug. There is only one plug per 2 seats in first and second class and in first class where there is only one seat, you also have your own plug. So, to guarantee a plug, you can reserve this seat if traveling in first class. There is one USB plug per seat in both classes. 

There is open WIFI on the train. We will say it works about 67% of strength. You do have to remember you are going through rural areas where even cell signals might not be that strong. Our best recommendation is to download some shows or a movie to watch for your journey. 

Bathrooms on board the Train

There are two types of bathrooms on the Tren Maya. One is a smaller bathroom, and the other is a family or handicap bathroom. both the bathrooms and nice. At many larger stops cleaning crews pass through the train to tidy up. This keeps the bathrooms in order during the trip. This is one area the train has an advantage over bus travel. 

Tren Maya bathroom
There are two types of bathrooms on the train. This is the handicap and family bathroom.

What is the difference between first class and second class?

There are two classes of service on the train. There is premier class (first class) and tourist class (second class). Honestly there is not much difference between the two services. We would say that if it is a shorter journey (3 hours or under) to just pay for tourist class because the main benefit of a little extra space is minimal on shorter journeys. 

First class (or premier) has 2-1 seat combination compared to 2-2 in seconds class (tourist class). This makes seats in first class wider and a little more comfortable. No seats on the train recline, they do have head rests. In first class you get a drink of your choice and an odd combination of a few potato chips and a small calzone. That is about it for the differences on the trains they are using now. 

Food Service on the Train

On the tourist train there is a bar car or food service. They offer paninis, sandwiches, chips, cookies, sodas, beer, a few alcoholic drinks and good coffee. It is average for this type of travel. There will be a service of train with restaurant quality food and serving local dishes. This is not in operation at this time. 

What is our opinion of the Tren Maya after taking it and watching it be built?

Well, after a long time coming, the train is up and running and we look at what was promised and what is being delivered. 

The positive aspects of the Tren Maya

  • This project has created millions of dollars of free advertising for Mexico and its tourism sector. There are articles on large news website and videos being taken every day by bloggers, so that is a benefit. It has also created a lot of pride among Mexicans. Right now, when you travel on the train, everyone is happy, construction workers wave and are still taking video of the train passing by, even though it has been running for a while now.
  • The Tren Maya is creating a lot of new connections. Some stops might not seem like there is much nearby, but they are the backdoor to some of the great Maya ruins in the area like Uxmal. So, people will be able to visit some of the places a lot more easily.
  • Train travel is appealing to tourists because it is more comfortable than buses and they go where they say they will. For the longer distances, this type of travel will make it more appealing to visit farther from the main tourists’ destinations. 
  • We like the fact there are different prices for tickets. This makes it more accessible for locals to use the train. 
  • For places like the state of Quintana Roo it means another transportation system. Right now, in the state there is only one road that goes up and down the state, the 307 Highway. If anything happens like a bad accident or sinkhole, no one can get to and from the Airport. With the Tren Maya this will take pressure off the roads, even for cargo as well. 
  • Some highways and exiting roads are new again. The 180 Toll Highway from Cancun to Merida has been almost completely rebuilt. This was because the highway was moved to one side and the train built on the other side. This gave an opportunity to straighten and level the highway more, making it fast to drive. Currently the time between Merida and the Riviera Maya has been cut by 25 minutes of driving time. 
  • The train will be an attraction to draw tourist away from the beaches and further into the peninsula. A large majority of tourism comes into Cancun and stays on the Carribean coast, so this will be an easy form of travel for international visitors to the area. 
  • This is a huge infrastructure project that is not all about a passenger train. This is part of larger infrastructure projects going in Mexico now. Currently there are some very exciting projects underway, and these will be continually tied into the Tren Maya. 

Some of the things that not so positive about the Tren Maya

When the Tren Maya was being planned, many of the stations were going to be closer to urban centers. For example, the Tren Maya was supposed to follow the 307 Highway in Quintana Roo. This would have meant the Tren Maya Station in Playa Del Carmen would be about where Constituyentes Avenue meets the highway. This would have been very convenient for most and easy to walk to the train station. Instead, the route in Quintana Roo was built further back from the coast and highway. 

On our train journey we noticed this also with the stations we used. For example, Merida’s Teya Station is a 20-minute drive from the center of town, and when you arrive at the Campeche City Station, it is another 25-minute bus ride to the center of town. Not only is this 45 minutes more in transportation time, but another 100 pesos. Currently the train takes about 3 hours to make the trip on this route. It takes just over 2 hours and 5 minutes to dive the same distance by car and buses do it in 2 1/2 hours. Even when the trains get up to full operational speed, it still will not as quick or cheap as taking the bus for most short and medium haul trips. In addition to this, on the route between Merida and Campeche, there are currently 33 buses a day making this trip. This highlights just how efficient buses are now and the competition the train still has. This will make it hard for locals to use the Tren Maya for short and medium distance trips, hence reducing the reliance on the train as a regular transportation service. 

Build it and they will come?

This expression ” Build it and they will come” only works if it is special enough, efficient to some degree and is accessible to people. When we first heard about the Tren Maya project, many people were excited that a train service was coming to Mexico. Little did they know that there are already passenger trains in Mexico. The largest is the El Chepe train which goes along the Copper Canyon in the north of Mexico. It is both for cargo and passengers.  The train traverses’ mountains, desserts, cannons, tunnels and bridges and is one of the most scenic and great train rides in the world! But unfortunately, not that many tourists take this journey. Why? Because it is far from many cities and while the journey is spectacular, the destinations at both ends are not. It does take some work to get to and from the train and it comes down to accessibility and the smaller tourism market that wants to visit this region of Mexico. 

We predicted since the begging of construction the Tren Maya that it would not be overrun with tourist leaving the Riviera Maya for points across the peninsula. Many that come to the Riviera Maya like it because the Caribbean and laid-back aspect of visiting there. Those that pay for a hotel for the week (often at hundreds of dollars a night) do not like to leave more than a daytrip or tour and then return. So many tourists will perhaps use it for a tour to Chichen Itza and experience the train in the process. We hope many people do explore the Tren Maya route and all it has to offer, but it is hard to get people to visit some of the places because it is not of great interest to some. 

The Tren Maya is an important piece of the tourism package of the southeast of Mexico and overall new infrastructure taking place now in Mexico. It is a new tool for tourism and has brought a lot of attention to the Yucatan Peninsula and everything that it has to offer. We look forward to seeing the Tren Maya open more opportunities to locals as well as tourists in the coming years. We also look forward to bringing you more information as the train starts new operations and adds the other trains to the routes. 

Conclusion

Thanks for reading our article and watching our video. If you have any questions of comments, please post them below and we will be sure to get back to your questions. 

Tren Maya operating
The Tren Maya running between Merida and Cancun at sunset.

7 Comments

  1. I am confused. The train does stop in Merida now or it does not stop in Merida? Sounds like you can only go from Cancun to Campeche and/or Campeche to Palenque but no stops in btween?

    • You can go to Merida but you cannot buy tickets to each station online now. Currently or the last time we looked it was Cancun to Campeche or Palenque and the reverse, no other station options.

  2. Thank you for this very interesting and thorough article. I would really like it to have gone to Constituyentes and the highway in Playa del Carmen.

  3. I want to take the train from Cancun to Palenque later this year. This week I checked out the train website and buying tickets seemed to be impossible. I could click on calendar dates for the following week only but then could not choose a seat or determine if any seats were still available. Choosing a date weeks or months in advance was out of the question so how can anyone plan to use this service and know they have confirmed transportation upon arriving in Cancun?

    • This is a problem because anyone arriving at the airport does not know if they will arrive on time, how long it takes to go through customs and immigration. Then if there are not trains frequently, it is hard to plan. Right now, there are a lot of issues with ticket. Many buy and the email confirmation is not arriving. Often tickets are not available in advance because everything is starting.

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