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If you’re here it’s likely that you’ve already researched or read about Copper Canyon or Barrancas del Cobre; a series of six canyons in Northwestern Mexico. You’ve also probably decided you want to take one of the world’s greatest train journeys on the Copper Canyon Railway (Ferrocarril de Barrancas del Cobre) or ‘El Chepe’ as it’s known and are ready to book your El Chepe train tickets.
El Chepe Train Tickets Booking Challenges
If you’re anything like we were, you’ve got as far as planning your trip and now want to know how to book El Chepe train tickets and to find out what the El Chepe train costs.
Despite considering ourselves well-travelled and always managing our own logistics we found this a real challenge a few years ago when had to book El Chepe train tickets. There was information out there, but not much, and what there was gave conflicting advice.
After lots of faffing about, I eventually figured it out and got everything confirmed with just a few days to spare. However, I have good news for you. Since we went on the El Chepe train, the booking process has become much easier, for Chepe Express tickets at least, although for Chepe Regional it’s still a little more long-winded.
It is, of course, also possible and easy, to book El Chepe train tickets through an agency. In fact, you could arrange an entire Copper Canyon tour via an agency but this approach tends to come with a hefty price tag.
We always try to keep our costs down and book all our own travel so I’ve based this post on that. Here’s how to independently book El Chepe train tickets for the Copper Canyon:
Copper Canyon El Chepe Train Trip Decisions
Before you can even think about actually booking El Chepe train tickets for your Copper Canyon trip there are three key decisions to make. Most of this information is on the El Chepe website but I’ve picked out the most important to help you.
1. What Direction to Travel on the El Chepe Tain
The direction in which you want to take the El Chepe train through the Copper Canyon – Los Mochis to Chihuahua or Chihuahua to Los Mochis. This will depend on where your prior and onward destinations are and the associated costs.
We were in Merida before the Copper Canyon and had plans to meet a friend in Guadalajara afterwards. This meant either direction would have worked for us, as we needed to take a flight or long bus journey at either end regardless.
We opted for Chihuahua to Los Mochis because the flights worked out cheaper.
2. Your El Chepe Train Itinerary
Which stations you want to stop at, on which dates, and for how long may influence which class of El Chepe train(s) you get. Your itinerary may also depend on what activities you want to do along the way. There are LOTS to choose from: half, full and multi-day hikes to waterfalls and into the canyon, horse-riding, mountain biking, and various sightseeing tours. The list goes on!
Which accommodation you want to stay at in the Copper Canyon may also impact your itinerary. Although most of the year you’re likely to be able to find somewhere to stay as you go if you have your heart set on a particular hotel, it would be best to book it in advance.
3. Class of Train – Chepe Express or El Chepe Regional
There are two classes of El Chepe train – Chepe Express and El Chepe Regional. El Chepe Regional is more economical and Chepe Express is nicer and created more to cater for tourists.
The other main differences are the days of service, the stations they service, and of course the price and how you can book and buy tickets.
There’s also a slight difference in the onboard facilities.
El Chepe Express
Duration – takes about 9 hours 40 minutes
Schedule – leaves from Creel at 8 am on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday arriving in Los Mochis at 5:40 pm. In the other direction, it leaves from Los Mochis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 am, arriving in Creel at 5:40 pm.
Please note that unlike Chepe Regional this train DOES NOT depart from or travel to Chihuahua.
Price – the entire journey one way for tourists costs 2,598 pesos (£120 / $153).
There are also other classes available: ‘Executive’ or ‘Business’ which is 3,374 pesos (£155 / $199) one way and ‘First Class’ which is 4,820 pesos (£223 / $287).
There are also return tickets available for all classes.
Permitted stops – you may stop at all stations on the route during your journey (for a minimum of one night). Therefore, if you want to take Chepe Express for the entire journey it’s very easy to plan your itinerary.
It is also possible to book and pay for individual legs should you want to combine with some stretches on Chepe Regional or by bus, colectivo or car.
Onboard facilities – Ulrike dining room, bar and terrace.
You ARE NOT permitted to take your own food on this train, although it’s up to you if you want to risk it. We didn’t see anyone else with their own food on this train.
When to book – MUST be booked in ADVANCE, you can’t buy tickets on the day at any station or on the train.
That’s the official line anyway, however, if you’ve had a different experience please let us know.
El Chepe Regional (Turista and Economica)
Duration – takes about 16 hours 30 minutes.
Schedule – leaves from Chihuahua on Monday and Saturday at 7 am, arriving in Los Mochis at 10:28 pm. In the other direction, it leaves from Los Mochis on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 6 am arriving in Chihuahua at 10:34 pm.
Price – the entire journey for tourists in the ‘Turista’ class costs 1,970 pesos (£93 / $117).
There is another class ‘Economica’ or ‘Economy’ which costs 1,034 pesos (£49 / $62) This is mainly used by locals, but tourists can use it too.
Permitted stops – you may stop at three stations (including your final station) during your journey (for a minimum of one night) at no additional cost. The train actually stops at another 13 stations between the start and end stations so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Most people stop at least at Creel because it’s at the start (or end) of the most scenic stretch of the canyon and at Divisadero/ Posada Barrancas for the best views.
Again it’s possible to buy El Chepe train tickets for individual legs, should you want to combine with some stretches on Chepe Express or by bus or car, or if you want to stop at more stations than allowed in the main ticket.
Onboard facilities – Dining room.
Again you ARE NOT permitted to take your own food on this train. However, I did see several people with their own food and there are vendors at some of the stations you pass through so it’s up to you if you want to risk taking or buying food outside of the onboard dining room.
When to book – Turista class CAN ONLY be booked in advance or on the day from the ticket counter at either Chihuahua or Los Mochis station (in advance is recommended for tourists).
Economica class CAN ONLY be purchased from the conductor ON the train. We can personally vouch for this as we had to do this to get from our starting point of Creel to Posada Barrancas.
Here’s Andy’s El Chepe video from this part of the journey.
On the El Chepe website, you can find more information on schedules and prices on Chepe Express and El Chepe Regional. Be sure to double-check the schedule yourself before booking because the times and prices are not set in stone and could change. It would be great if you could let me know if you find them to be different so I can update this post.
Which class of El Chepe train tickets you choose will depend mainly on your budget, itinerary and flexibility. You may decide like us, that you want to take a combination of classes to cut costs or because of the days you want to travel and where you want to stop.
Ideally, we wanted to use El Chepe Regional for the entire trip as it’s cheaper and has many more stations you can choose to stop at. This didn’t work with our itinerary so we decided to book El Chepe Regional from Creel to Divisadero/ Posada Barrancas and then Chepe Express for the most scenic stretch from Posada Barrancas to El Fuerte.
Don’t forget there’s also the option to travel by bus or colectivo. These tend to be slightly quicker and much cheaper than the train but don’t strictly follow the railway.
We took the bus for the first stretch from Chihuahua to Creel, and a colectivo for the final stretch from El Fuerte to Los Mochis. We’d read these sections weren’t very scenic so saving some cash won over on taking the train for these.
Car travel is also possible, but be sure to research thoroughly, especially the safety aspect of your road trip.
Booking El Chepe Train Tickets
Once you’ve considered all the information, made your key decisions and applied for your Mexico tourist card if needed (depending on the country you are travelling from), it’s finally time to book your El Chepe train tickets.
Here’s where you will have a much easier job than we did when we booked ours as the process has since been much improved and is what I’ll share next.
|Reminder: The below is based on booking Chepe Express or El Chepe Regional Turista tickets, as these are the only classes that can be booked in advance. |
For Chepe Regional Economica you’ll either need to get yourself to Chihuahua or Los Mochis before your trip to buy tickets in advance or on the day at the station ticket counter OR you can buy tickets from the conductor on the train at intermediate stations.
How To Book Chepe Express Train Tickets
As of 2022, it’s now possible to book Chepe Express train tickets online by going to the Chepe website and clicking on ‘Book Train’.
Select the class of train you want a ticket for, along with the origin and destination for your journey, then add your travel date. Click ‘Add Stop’ to add more legs to your journey.
Finally, complete the online form with your details and make your payment via their online system. Unlike what we had to do, it’s no longer necessary to email and send credit card details.
Once you’ve paid, you should then receive an email confirmation of your Chepe Express train tickets straight away.
How to Book El Chepe Regional Train Tickets
It’s only possible to book El Chepe Regional Turista tickets via email (email@example.com) or from the ticket counter at either Chihuahua or Los Mochis station. If you buy them from the ticket counter, it’s best to go at least the day before to buy them in advance, although you can buy them on the day if the train isn’t full.
You can’t book El Chepe Regional Economica tickets by email. So, you’ll either need to get yourself to Chihuahua or Los Mochis before your trip to buy tickets in advance or on the day at the station ticket counter OR you can buy tickets from the conductor on the train at intermediate stations.
|Tip: If you’re hoping to travel by El Chepe Regional during a public holiday like we did for Semana Santa, you may wish to reconsider and pay the extra to book Chepe Express in advance. |
It’s likely to be very busy and with El Chepe Regional there’s a risk there may not be enough room on the train(s) you want to travel on.
We struggled to get on our train from Creel to Divisadero and it wasn’t much fun being pushed and shoved in amongst the crowd of locals also trying to get seats.
That’s it, you should now have all the information you need to book your Chepe Express train tickets; (plus some useful information on El Chepe Regional, if that’s your preferred option).
Now you can concentrate on finalising your accommodation and activities and enjoying your trip!
One final top tip is don’t forget your camera to photograph and video the most incredible, epic landscape. This really was our only regret, that we didn’t have a decent camera with us.
For ideas on what to see and do in the Copper Canyon have a look at our 5-day Copper Canyon train ride itinerary and, for more information, you can also read more about Copper Canyon here this series of six canyons in Northwestern Mexico.
Have you travelled through the Copper Canyon by El Chepe train recently? Have I missed anything from our process to book El Chepe train tickets?
Travel Resources for Mexico
Planning your trip to Mexico? Here are some of our recommended useful resources to help you have the best time possible:
● TRAVEL INSURANCE IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION FOR TRAVEL. If you’re travelling long-term like us and from the EU, then True Traveller is our go-to option.
If you’re from a non-EU country, another option for long-term travel insurance is SafetyWing, which you can pay for on a month-by-month basis. This is also good for shorter trips.
● Compare Rental car prices in Mexico on Rentalcars.com.
● Booking.com usually have the best hotel prices in Mexico.
● Our go-to for self-catering accommodation in Mexico is Vrbo.
● Before booking accommodation in Mexico, check reviews on Tripadvisor.