Are There Trains In Colombia?

credit: Peter Parker

There’s a lot to do and see in Colombia, so it’s only natural to consider how to get around! Transport woes should be an afterthought when exploring a culture-rich, naturally beautiful country like Colombia. So, let’s discuss the matter of trains in Colombia!

Colombia has trains, but they do not transport passengers, only transport freight and coal. However, The Savannah Touristic Train travels from Bogotá to Zipaquirá and Cajicá. Buses are the most common way to get around Colombia. Mototaxi, boats, taxis, and planes are also viable options.

Does Colombia Have Railway Services?

Colombia has a railway network measuring 2053 mi (3304 km), but the railway services deal exclusively with freight and coal transport and not inter-city passenger transport.

The development of passenger train networks came to a halt when Colombia’s state-owned railway company, Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Colombia, during the 1990s.

In 1992, four train enthusiasts joined under the banner of a private company called Turistren to preserve the heritage of classical locomotives in the Savannah of Bogotá. Their passion led them to pursue avenues that could help them refurbish a train and make it operational for others to cherish.

As a result, they signed an agreement with the Colombian Railways Fund of Social Liability to sell them outdated train equipment. On May 29, 1993, they launched their tourist & cafeteria locomotive, The Savannah Touristic Train (Tren Turístico de la Sabana).

The tourist train travels from Bogotá to Zipaquirá and Cajicá on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The train departs from Bogotá at 08:15 and arrives at Zipaquirá at 10:30 in the morning. After arriving in Zipaquirá, tourists can explore the Salt Cathedral, a unique subterranean church inside a salt mine!

The train then leaves Zipaquirá at 12:30 and arrives at Cajicá at 13:00. Cajicá is a charming little town famous for its intriguing colonial architecture and tasty local cuisine. The train departs Cajicá at 15:30 and arrives back in Bogotá at 15:30, arriving at 17:45.

Why Are There No Trains In Colombia?

Apart from Colombia’s state-owned railway company, Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Colombia, liquidating in the 1990s, some parties introduced railway projects like Bogotá Metro to improve Colombia’s railway infrastructure. However, technical challenges, financial restraints, and political conflicts are the primary cause of delays.

Financial Constraints

The Bogotá Metro project requires substantial resources from the district and national governments.

The estimated cost of installing railroad tracks on land is 47 trillion COP ($12 billion USD), which equates to 4% of Colombia’s GDP. Experts say the cost is exponentially higher for underground railways, around 71 – 115 trillion COP ($18 – $29 billion USD).   

Bogotá Metro also relies on external funding from various governmental sources, including the Chinese Government, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank. However, the truth is that these funds are not always available, and economic or political conditions are fickle.

When building plans within the project change due to suppliers or unforeseen circumstances, they often snowball into legal disputes and canceled contracts that cause prolonged delays. Getting new or additional contractors raises the cost of the project.

Technical Challenges

The infrastructure required for a railway service often involves many geographical and environmental obstacles. Bogotá, for instance, sits atop a high-altitude plateau where landslides and earthquakes are common.  

The soil in the area consists mainly of clay, which is notoriously hard and makes digging the necessary railway foundations difficult.

When it comes to the city’s layout, it’s more complex than slapping down a railroad from point A to B. Urban areas that house peoples’ livelihoods, historic buildings, and population density are hoops to jump through without getting burned. 

They need to meet the expectations of modern transportation while still maintaining high-quality standards and safety protocols.

As for building an underground line, side-stepping water sources, reducing noise and vibration, and relocating utilities are priorities. Backtracking to fix oversights is often more expensive and time-consuming than doing it right the first time.

Political Conflicts

Colombian President Gustav Petro opposed the idea of constructing railroad tracks above ground. This decision is in direct opposition to his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos. Enrique Peñalosa.

Petro believes that an underground metro line will prove significantly more fruitful and be far less invasive for the residents of Bogotá.

Changing the project from an overland to an underground project means canceling all the existing contracts with the Chinese consortium. The bidding process will have to begin anew, delaying the project by several years and sending costs through the roof.

Furthermore, some accuse Petro of running interference by influencing the consortium’s decisions.

Claudia López, Petro’s political ally and current mayor of Bogotá, firmly believes in an overland project. She believes changing the plans will jeopardize the project and harm the city.

The tension between López and Petro creates an unfavorable situation among the district and national governments and ultimately pauses the entire project.

What Is The Best Way To Get Around Colombia?

There are plenty of viable modes of transport in Colombia that will scratch the travel itch and get people to their destination.


Buses are the most affordable and sleep-friendly option for getting around in Colombia. The bus network is extensive, spanning almost every corner of the country.  

Travelers can choose options ranging from local minibusses to luxury coaches, and they have tailored packages that meet expectations and budgets. Buses are great because they allow travelers to connect with locals and take in the changing landscape at a steady pace.

However, buses are the slowest mode of transportation, so travelers should prepare for winding roads and long hours!


Mototaxis are for adventurous spirits who want to try a traditional mode of transport! Colombia has a surprising amount of motorcycles that that offer a ride at a reasonable price.

These mototaxis are common in small towns and rural areas. It can be the most fun way to get around and see the sights because they offer great freedom.

However, remember that motorcycles are also the most risky and uncomfortable, especially with a lot of luggage. It exposes travelers to the elements, and noise pollution is a real thing. 


Boat travel in Colombia is a fantastic choice in terms of finances and a cultural experience. They are common in Colombia’s coastal and riverine areas that lack roads or airports.

They are ideal for accessing the Caribbean islands and Amazonian regions, which contain much of Colombia’s most precious fauna and flora. Boat transportation is generally safe, but it remains the most unpredictable because of factors like availability and weather conditions.


Taxis’ greatest advantages are their convenience and reliability. Travelers can get from point A to B without much hassle, and they operate in both rural and urban regions.

Bookings are available online or by phone, or people grab one from the street. They are the safest means of transportation in Colombia because they travel directly to the destination without interference from external factors. (apart from traffic, of course!)

Remember that convenience always comes at a price, and taxis are no different. They can be expensive when travelers rely on them too much. Some taxi drivers are dishonest and may try to overcharge or take travelers on longer routes. Keep an eye out for such things.


Planes are the best and often the only way to get to Colombia’s remote areas. Plenty of domestic airlines offer affordable prices to regions across the country.

It carries the highest price tag among all the other modes of transportation, but it also saves the most time. The downside to using the plane is that travelers will miss out on interactions with locals and skip some scenic views.