How to buy Copper Canyon train tickets

Updated June 2020. This post gives details on how to buy your Copper Canyon railway tickets before you travel, without having to pay a USD $100 tour operator premium.

Andrew and I travelled on Mexico’s Copper Canyon railway in October 2016, from El Fuerte to Creel. We travelled in Business (then known as First/Primera).

copper canyon railway tickets - all aboard!

All aboard!

Since then, new First Class carriages have been added to the train. That means there are now three classes of ticket on El Chepe, the name given to the Copper Canyon train. They are Economico, Business and First. You should buy Business and First Class tickets in advance.

Terms used: The El Chepe website uses a number of different terms for the classes of train ticket. The top end tickets are First Class, aka Primera. The next level is Business aka Executive or Ejecutiva. Then the regular tickets are Economico, also known as Economy, Tourist or Turista. Not all trains have all classes of ticket. For consistency, I write about Express trains and use the terms First, Business and Economico in this post.

How we bought our tickets in advance

After some faffing (see more on that below), we bought our Copper Canyon train tickets in person from Los Mochis train station.

To get there, we found a super-helpful man with a taxi, who did us a round trip from Los Mochis town centre to the train station for MXN$200. You could probably knock MXN$20-$40 off that if you can be bothered to bargain. I couldn’t – it had been a long day!

You’re at the mercy of Los Mochis train station’s opening times (not all day every day and slightly random, from what we could piece together – best to call and check!)

If the ticket office is open, buying in person at Los Mochis station is easy. You will need to show photo ID, and you can buy tickets for any start/end point station on the Copper Canyon railway.

You can also buy tickets in person at the other end of the line at Chihuahua station.

Copper Canyon train ticket prices and where to start your journey

A full timetable and list of prices in Mexican pesos for both Express and Regional trains can be found from the links on this page. Selected prices on Express trains – which only go as far as Creel – are as follows, based on stated June 2020 prices and exchange rates:

  • Los Mochis to Divisadero one-way. First 3300 MXN ($148 USD, £118 GBP). Business 2400 MXN ($108 USD, £86 GBP). Economico 2000 MXN ($90 USD, £71 GBP).
  • Los Mochis to Creel one-way: First 3600 MXN ($162 USD, £128 GBP). Business 2700 MXN ($121 USD. £96 GBP). Economico 2200 MXN ($99 USD, £78 GBP).
  • El Fuerte to Divisadero one-way: First 2700 MXN ($121 USD, £96 GBP). Business 1800 MXN ($81 USD, £64 GBP). Economico 1400 MXN ($63 USD, £50 GBP).
  • El Fuerte to Creel one-way: First 3000 MXN ($135 USD, £107 GBP). Business 2200 MXN ($99 USD, £78 GBP). Economico 1700 MXN ($76 USD, £61 GBP).

Here are train prices for Regional trains from Creel and on to Chihuahua.

You can break your journey at two stations for no extra cost – you’ll need to specify where and when.

We started our Copper Canyon train journey from El Fuerte. You can get there by bus from Los Mochis 2nd class bus station – it’s a 2-hour MXN$50 journey. The Copper Canyon train departs from Los Mochis at 6am and from El Fuerte at around 8am, so this option gives you an extra 2 hours in bed! Plus, El Fuerte is really pretty. The train stations in both Los Mochis and El Fuerte are a few miles out of town. Taxis are easily arranged.

Travelling in this direction, west to east, means you’ll see the most scenic parts of the trip in daylight.

Our bed in El Fuerte was at the rather lovely and very reasonably priced Hotel la Choza. It’s very centrally located, with a tasty restaurant menu to boot. If you use this link to book the hotel, I receive a small commission and a big smile, at no extra cost to you. Thank you 🙂
copper canyon railway tickets - El Fuerte

pretty El Fuerte

Other ways to buy your Copper Canyon railway tickets before you travel

By phone – here’s the page with the numbers. You need to call at least two days before your journey, although the El Chepe website recommends buying tickets up to six months in advance. According to the train conductor, and another couple we spoke to, the phone option works! If we were to travel again, this is what we would do.

By internet – not really. There’s (currently) no online booking facility on El Chepe’s website. If you want to pay USD$100 extra per reservation, however, there are tour agencies who can help you out.

By email – as described later on in this post – don’t bother!

For more on the Copper Canyon, see my picture-packed post to help you plan a stay in and around the Canyon. Channel 5 in the UK have also featured the Copper Canyon as one of their World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys.

What if I haven’t bought my Copper Canyon train ticket in advance? Can I blag it?

The short answer: Maybe. But don’t count on it!

The longer answer: If you sweet-talk the conductor they MAY let you buy a Business ticket on board. This is more likely during low season – see the info box below. However (having seen a couple negotiate to do this over more than an hour during our October trip), this was only because the rules had recently changed and hadn’t / still haven’t been well publicised. Now more time has passed, the helpful conductors may not have the latitude to be this accommodating.

If you fail, you’ll be moved to Economico class. It’s best to take enough cash in Mexican pesos to pay for on-board tickets.

March 2018 update: A reader rode the Copper Canyon railway in February 2018. They travelled Economico, but said they spoken to passengers in Business who had been able to buy tickets on board because it was low season AND the train wasn’t fully booked. Again, this was before the days of First Class. If you would be upset at being moved to Economico, you may decide this isn’t worth the risk. If any reader tries this option, please do let me know how you get on in the comments below so I can amend the article and keep future travellers updated. Thank you 🙂

The Chepe website only talks about buying in advance – up to six months beforehand in high season. The relevant page for the small print is here.

First, Business and Economico classes are often part of the same Express train. However, on some days (here’s a schedule) the Economico carriages are a completely different Regional train that runs an hour or more behind the Express (Business/First) train. You may have a fair wait if you get kicked off!

copper canyon railway tickets - boarding the train at El Fuerte

Happy to have our tickets!

I’ve used the Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico for my all my Mexico trips. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.

What’s the difference between First, Business and Economico classes?

You can see pictures of the different classes of train carriage here.

First Class gives you access to a rather fabulous observation terrace. No matter which class of carriage you’re in, though, the views are still spectacular. Although the terrace means those views will be less interrupted. However, an advantage of Economico is that locals using the train for public transport purposes aren’t so fussed about stunning views – they’ve seen them all before! It’s therefore easier to grab an inter-car vestibule and snap those all-important out-of-window-train-moving pics!

The restaurant options have been upgraded since we travelled. In First Class a meal is included, and Business Class you have access to the dining car.

When we used it, the dining car prices for food were inflated, but not stupidly so. Breakfast dishes were around MXN$100-130 pesos, coffee MXN$30. I can recommend the breakfast chilaquiles.

The downside of Business/First is that you’re not allowed to take your own food on to the train.

However, you can grab a quick late lunch snack in the short stop from the food vendors at Divisadero station. In Economico you can bring your own food on board.

And Economico Copper Canyon train tickets are just over half the price of those in First Class.

Copper Canyon railway - stunning Divisadero

View from Divisadero station

Can’t I buy First Class or Business Class Copper Canyon train tickets on the train?

According to our train conductor, the rules changed in March 2016. Previously, you could buy all tickets on board and advanced purchase was only really seen as necessary during the high seasons of Christmas, Easter and during the Summer. Since March 2016, however, you can only buy Economico class tickets on board the Copper Canyon train.

How not to buy tickets for the Copper Canyon train

Andrew and I journeyed on the Copper Canyon railway (aka El Chepe) from El Fuerte to Creel in October 2016. It was Andrew’s birthday on the day of our trip, and we wanted tickets in our hot and sweaty palms to avoid any unexpected birthday surprises!

How not to buy Copper Canyon train tickets #1 – Email

One week before our trip: I emailed the address on the El Chepe website in my best patchy Spanish, to ask if you could buy tickets at El Fuerte station or if we could only get them on board. I never got an answer. Therefore I don’t recommend this option.

How not to buy Copper Canyon train tickets #2 – Turn up at the Viajes Flamingo office in Los Mochis

One day to go: After six hours travel from Mazatlán on an early morning bus, we stumbled with our backpacks through the near 40oC heat from Los Mochis bus station to the town’s Viajes Flamingo (travel agent) office, as the then-current Lonely Planet guidebook said they sold tickets.

Arriving (slightly sweatily), we were told they no longer sold them. Ah! Apparently the only place to get them was at Los Mochis train station, a few miles out of town. So that’s where we went …

After all that effort, is the Copper Canyon railway worth it?

Absolutely! It’s a wonderful experience, and I’ve pulled together some picture highlights here. I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat.

Have you travelled on the Copper Canyon railway recently? How did you buy your ticket? If you know of any updates on ticketing, do share your tips in the comments below 🙂

, ,

26 Responses to How to buy Copper Canyon train tickets

  1. Barry Cloyd 17 February 2019 at 11:33 pm #

    We are planning a honeymoon trip from Los Mochis to Creel (leaving around April 1st/2nd 2019, returning to Los Mochis around April 8, 2019)…with a stop along the way at Divisidero (most likely). This seems to be very confusing as to how to buy tickets…what would you recommend is the easiest way to go about this? Thank you

    • Julie 19 February 2019 at 10:33 pm #

      Hi Barry, it is confusing – hence the need for an article 🙂 For Primera class tickets it’s best (easiest) just to ring them. Have a brilliant honeymoon and happy travels! Julie

  2. Marielle Bouma 11 December 2018 at 2:15 am #

    Dear Julie,

    I am planning to do the train trip around december 20. Not sure whether this is covering the christmas break… I do not mnd to travel Economica and understand correctly that these tickets can be bought on board of the train without any issue? Thanks for confirming!

    Kind regards, Marielle

    • Julie 11 December 2018 at 7:00 pm #

      Hi Marielle, Readers tell me you can buy Economico tickets on board, although they’ve not done so over Christmas. Probably worth a call to the ticket office if you want to be absolutely sure. Sorry I can’t be of more help, and have a wonderful trip 🙂 Julie

  3. Daniele J. Ermes 28 March 2018 at 11:19 am #

    Hi

    I just returned from a 10 days trip in Copper Canyon and i found out that actually you can sometimes buy primera class tickets onboard, depending on the season.

    I wrote a complete guide about the Copper Canyon and tickets information

    https://ermes.blog/2018/02/26/guida-copper-canyon-chepe/

    altought is in italian you can use the google translator tool on the left sidebar and it will show a decent english.

    Hope it can help
    cheers

    • Julie 28 March 2018 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks Daniele,
      Really good to hear that in the low season it’s sometimes now possible to buy Primera tickets on Board. I see you travelled in Economy, I don’t suppose you spoke to anyone who bought Primera tickets on board? I get quite a few questions on this blog and – as the Chepe website isn’t very helpful – it’s always good to get someone’s more recent first-hand experience.
      Thanks for the article – looks like you had a great trip 🙂
      Kind regards
      Julie

      • Daniele J. Ermes 28 March 2018 at 6:56 pm #

        Hi Julie, yes i travelled in second class but i asked to different people traveling in first and of course to conductors because i wanted to verify the whole thing after reading your helpful article.

        So it’s confirmed: you can buy first class onboard in low season. My suggestion is: travel in Clase conomica, really no need to spend more (except for schedules issues).

        • Julie 29 March 2018 at 10:02 am #

          Thanks Daniele, that’s good to know. Do you know how they classify low season, by any chance? January (after new year) and February? (we had to buy tickets in advance for a journey in late October). Thanks, this is really helpful 🙂

        • Daniele J. Ermes 29 March 2018 at 10:15 am #

          Low season is supposed to be any period outside:
          – Holy week, i.e. Easter (worst time ever!)
          – Christmas time holidays (tourists and locals all around)
          – Summer holidays (a lot of students around)

          hope this can help

        • Julie 29 March 2018 at 4:06 pm #

          Thanks Daniele. I’ll change the article slightly to mention what you found. It still seems difficult to say for certain: your February was low season, my October wasn’t 🙂 Thanks again for all your help and info.

  4. tanyakorteling 9 March 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    I’m currently trying to book tickets for 22nd to the 26th/ 27th March and am facing the same challenges, I cant even get an answer by phone! We only want economy tickets but being s close to Semana Santa I
    wanted to reserve them as I hear it gets very busy. Does anyone that’s commented here know if it’s likely to be too busy to get economy tickets on the day of the journey from Chihuhua to Creel, I really hope so as we’ve got flights booked already!

  5. Maryhelen Chavez 25 January 2018 at 2:42 am #

    Thanks for the train information, we will be traveling on it March 2018, very helpful. I will post information about our trip.
    Maryhelen

    • Julie 25 January 2018 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks Maryhelen, have a brilliant trip! Look forward to hearing about it 🙂

      • Tricia 26 February 2018 at 3:19 pm #

        Hi can you buy tickets from Chihuahua train station?

        • Julie 26 February 2018 at 11:22 pm #

          Hi Tricia, I would like to say yes, but in all honesty I don’t know for definitive as I didn’t get my tickets from Chihuahua. Probably best to call them and check (or buy over the phone, which I’m told works!) – their contact numbers, including one for international calls, are at the bottom of this page: https://chepe.mx/english/index.html

          Happy travels,
          Julie

        • Tricia 27 February 2018 at 7:21 am #

          Hi thanks for the reply, after further reading have decided the best way is to start at El Fuerte. So can you buy tickets from the ticket office, and is it easy enough to book accommodation and tours etc?

        • Julie 27 February 2018 at 10:12 am #

          Hi Tricia
          El Fuerte is where we started our journey too. You can’t buy tickets at the station – but you can at Los Mochis (which you’ll no doubt pass through) or via phone – details of both options in the article. Accommodation we just sorted as we went, booking about a day in advance. Tours we sorted out once we arrived, though we mostly travel independently so were only organising hiring bikes/where to hike. There were plenty of mini bus/Quad bike tours from Creel, though. Hope that helps – have a fabulous trip 🙂

        • Tricia 27 February 2018 at 10:37 am #

          Thank you so much. Cant wait to go now.

  6. Anu Gummaraju 27 September 2017 at 8:41 am #

    Julie, so helpful! Especially the ticking information. We want to do the whole ride from Los Mochis to Chihuahua.

    Do you know if we can break journey overnight for a couple of nights at Divisadero and Creel, and hop back on the train the days after with the same ticket? I’ve been looking and can’t seem to find any information on this, except one site that says you can do this with a first class ticket, not on an Economic ticket!

    • Julie 27 September 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      Glad it’s of use 🙂 It’s a wonderful train journey – I’ve just looked back at the notes I made at the time to try and answer your question the best I can. Here were the the options available when we travelled:
      1. Buy separate tickets for all your Primera class journeys at Los Mochis station. You can do this, even if you want to go between – say – Divisadero and Creel.
      2. Don’t buy tickets in advance, just hop on the Economico train to do your extra journeys. You can buy Economico tickets on board.
      3. Get the bus for your extra journeys (which is what we did, between Creel and Divisadero and also Creel to Chihuahua). You’ve already done the prettiest part of the train journey by Divisadero, and the bus is more frequent and cheaper 🙂 There are two bus companies in Creel located just behind the train station next to each other – their times and fares are posted on boards and you get tickets inside at the counter. In Divisadero the bus stops by the road (there’s only one road so you can’t miss it – your accommodation should know the schedule). It’s an hour on the bus between Divisadero and Creel, and about 4-5 hours Creel to Chihuahua. Chihuahua is worthy of a day or two: it has some good museums and a very cool mural of a chihuahua 🙂
      Hope this helps. Have a fabulous trip, it’s a stunning part of Mexico.
      Happy travels, Julie

      • Frenchie La Chance 25 February 2018 at 1:40 am #

        Thank you for posting. The information should help people to get on the train. In April 2017 I had a group of 11 people and we bought tickets on the Express First class train from the conductor. I had no problems the year earlier (2016). This year I have been working on getting the tickets for 12 people for this April 2018. I have finally got a phone response from them today (2-23-18), followed with a email. My wife found this post just before I got a hold of them on the phone. Your post conformed the problems I was having in the 2 days. It is a pain in the backside getting the tickets. I have ridden the train many times in the last 30 years. With the online buying tickets outside of Mexico it was a pain. To get the tickets in Mexico is a lot easier. With the economical train it is much better and the views are the same. It is also about half the cost of the first class.

        Thank you for your posting!

        • Julie 25 February 2018 at 7:31 pm #

          Thanks so much for taking the time to comment – it’s really helpful for readers to know that it’s still a pain to get tickets and requires phone-call persistence when booking them outside the country. It’s such a wonderful trip to take, I don’t know why they’ve made it so hard, especially when everything else about Mexican public transport is so easy. Like you say, the economical train is a good option too. Thanks again, and hope you and your group have a wonderful trip. At least you know it’s worth the effort 🙂

        • Toey 7 March 2018 at 5:37 pm #

          All the posts had some helpful information but I would like to hear more from Maryhelen Chavez who is travelling this month. We are thinking of trevelling on the train March 23-26 so possibly Maryhelen may have finished her trip. Also Julie, I have read that there is no longer a first class train and that tickets can not be purchased on board. Thanks for any infomation.

        • Julie 8 March 2018 at 9:20 am #

          Hi, thanks for your message. I’d not heard or found anything about the first class train not running? If you want first class tickets you need to buy them before you board – either at Los Mochis or by phone in advance. Full details are in the article. Have a fabulous trip 🙂

  7. rodderzuk 6 July 2017 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you! This was really helpful. My girlfriend and I want to travel in August. I wanted to book a hotel along the way but I didn’t want to book the hotel without booking the train first. Now I’m thinking we might just wait until we’re in Mexico and we have a better feel for the place. I think I might have been a bit too organised! Your post has helped me out, thanks!

    • Julie 6 July 2017 at 7:46 pm #

      You’re very welcome – really pleased it was helpful. It’s an incredible journey and a gorgeous part of Mexico and can definitely be done without too much advance planning. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time 🙂

Comments or questions? Share them here :)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.