photo of the Maya Train

All About the Maya Train – a Personal Experience 2024


We have lived in Valladolid for more than 10 months spread over 3 years. We have watched and been inconvenienced at times by the construction of the mega Mexican project of the Maya Train. It began partial operation in January, 2024.

Here is our experience of riding the Maya Train in its earliest days. This is all about the Maya Train to help you through.

the maya train photo

What is the Maya Train Project

The Maya Train, el Tren Maya, Tsíimin-K’áak (Fire Horse in Mayan) was conceived by the Mexican government to connect 5 states – Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. The purpose is to increase tourism, improve transportation and create jobs. In other words stimulate the economy of the region.

When finished, 42 electric/diesel trains (built in Mexico) will cover the 1525 km (950 mi) and create 4,000 permanent jobs. The project is estimated to cost $28.8 B usd.

Mayan words are used throughout the system as part of the descriptions.

How complete is the Maya Train

3 of the 7 sections of the Maya Train are open and operational – Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo to Palenque, Chiapas as of April 1, 2024.

Operations are basic at this time with 4 trains per day. When fully operational, trains are expected to be every 2 hours.

For example, the trip from Cancun to Palenque takes almost 10 hrs now. When fully operational, it is expected to take 6 hrs.

They are aiming to have all sections open by the summer of 2024. This does not mean the operations will have 42 trains moving around the system. We wish the officials luck. We expect 2025 to be the year when all is fully operational. Perhaps next year we will try the Premier class and update all about the Maya Train then.

Route of the Maya Train

There will be 20 stations and 14 stops along the route.

map of the route showing stations for the Maya Train
Map of the route of the Maya Train showing the stations. Not shown are the 14 train stops scattered throughout the route

Schedule of the Maya Train

Only 6 trains in service at the end of March 2024 -current schedule example follows.

for example – Cancun Airport – Merida 2 trains per day 7:00am arriving 10:00am; and 16:30pm arriving 19:16pm
Merida – Cancun Airport 2 trains per day 9:06am arriving 13:43pm; and 14:06pm arriving 18:49pm
Note that Merida is CST and Cancun is EST so 1 hour difference
each one way trip takes 3.5 to 4 hrs.

Book accommodation in Merida here

Book accommodation in Cancun here

Types of Trains

There will be 3 types of passenger train cars – standard cars, called Xiinbal (walking); restaurant cars, called Janal (eating) and those with cabins for day and night, called P’atal (staying). Only standard cars are operational at the moment.

The standard cars have 2 classes of service and separate cars – Turista and Premier (regular seating, first class seating)

Turista class – seating is 2 pair of seats per row on each side of the aisle

Premier class: each row has a pair of seats with a single seat across the aisle. Other features include wider seats, a box lunch, unlimited coffee and service at your seat.

Tickets and costs

What everyone wants to know. There are tickets for locals costing about the same as a long distance bus. Non Mexicans pay elevated fares (since they are not part of the tax base funding the train).

Fare types are local, tourist Mexican, tourist foreigner, and special (Mexican students, retirees, pensioners, disabled)

Some fare examples for foreigners: Cancun – Merida regular – 977.50MP ($58) premier 1564.50 ($93)
Valladolid – Merida 505.50MP ($30) 809.00MP ($48)
Valladolid – Palenque 2353.50MP ($150) 3765.50 ($220)

Book your accommodation in Valladolid here

Book your accommodation in Palenque here

Where to buy tickets for the Maya Train

Tickets are available at each train station. We bought ours online – click here . We found this easy and quick. Your phone is your ticket. Tip – when you have selected route, date and time – click on the little symbol at the right side of the route to continue. We found the booking process to be quick and easy.

Can I bring food and drink onboard

Simple answer NO! But we had some as did others with no repercussion. Be aware that the trains are run by the military so they enforce the rules.

There is food and drink onboard at reasonable prices. Wine 100MP, beer 60MB, coffee 40MP, sandwiches – 59-125MP, pastries and botanas 50MP or less.

How fast is the Maya Train

Top speed will be 160km/hr. (99mph). We experienced speeds exceeding 100kph on our trip with slow periods at times. However the train was exactly on time so kudos to them.


Be aware that the train stations are located outside the destinations. All connections require a local bus or taxi service. Most stations have free parking available so if you are driving…lucky you!

In our case for our trip to Merida, we used a shuttle from the downtown bus station in Valladolid to the train station – cost 35MP pp and takes about 20 min.

Arriving at the station Merida-Teya we needed a shuttle to central Merida (Parque La Plancha). Once in the station head toward the parking lot end of the station (on the right coming from the train). There is a small booth with an auto vending machine for the bus to downtown – look for the IE-Tram sign before exiting the station. The fare is 45MP at a very SLOW auto vending ticket machine – there is only 1!

TIP – do not dilly dally – get the ticket quickly; there is a strict schedule for the electric shuttle bus. The trip into Merida takes 30-40 min.

From the bus station you will need to take another bus or find a taxi/uber to get to your final destination.

Does the Maya Train have wifi

Yes – the trains have wifi as do the stations.

Rules when riding the Maya Train

There are well defined rules regarding refunds, exiting at an earlier stop (the train is not hop on-hop off!) as well as behaviours expected of the riders. If you are interested click here. (Drill down for the rules in English).

Our experience riding the Maya Train

Before we rode “El Tren Maya”, we had been besieged with warnings about its shortcomings: It was late. It sometimes stopped. You couldn’t rely on it. It’s an embarrassment….

Well, don’t believe all you hear or read about this newest transportation mode in the Yucatán Peninsula. Try it yourself.

And, like us, be pleasantly surprised.

First, our short bus trip via Oriente from downtown Valladolid to the bus station on the outskirts of town: it was on time, efficient, and not that expensive (35MP).

Second, the Valladolid station. Really, a marvel. Expansive. Open air. Marble floors. Sufficient seating for those waiting. Even at our early morning hour, there was an open OXXO store to grab a quick bite and drink.

Of course, being new, the station stop was pristine. On duty attendants (wearing khaki slacks and white tops) and uniformed military personnel were obviously proud to be part of this new piece of transportation history. Instructions as to when, where, and how to proceed to the train platform were clear and in Spanish. As English speakers, we followed the crowd.

Once on the train, snacks were available for purchase, the ride was smooth, and one of us fell asleep until we reached our destination, Mérida! We enjoyed the comfortable air conditioning and freedom of movement experienced by passengers in our car.

Our one complaint was the lack of direction to the IE shuttle (Va-y-Ven) ticket dispenser. It was not well marked.

Like everything new, there are unexpected wrinkles but they will obviously be corrected.

Would we use the train again? Yes.

The good and the bad

Our experience was that the train was clean and efficient and ontime. Service staff was friendly though most had minimal English skills so some basic Spanish with foreign riders would be helpful. There is always somebody around willing to help out. We thought fares were reasonable and food and drink was always available. Our connections were efficient and like everything else ontime. It is all very modern except when it isn’t – still manual checking of passenger lists, handling of tickets, verifying documentation.

The bad and an ongoing controversy is about the environmental and cultural damage the construction caused. In fact there is an ongoing delay and court action around the Playa del Carmen and Tulum section. The court case has to do with damage and potential damage which may result in collapse of underground caves. Originally, the government stated that not one tree would be lost due to the construction. This clearly did not happen. There is potential damage to some of the Maya ruins due to the influx of tourists unless some limits are imposed.

We have heard about connection issues – shuttles not established, taxis charging outrageous fares. We have also heard about operational issues with delays and cancellations. I guess growing pains coupled with a political push for haste.


Do we have any hesitation in recommending taking the Maya Train? Absolutely not. Once it is completed and operation is at full capacity, it will be wonderful. We are certainly looking forward to riding the completed system. We have given you, the reader, all information about the Maya Train at its intermediate stage.

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