Comprehensive Guide to the Medellín Metro – Colombia’s Only Metro System

Medellín Metro

The Medellín Metro is the only rail-based mass transportation system in Colombia. But it’s much more than a rail-based system.

It’s a comprehensive mass transportation system in the city that integrates two Metro rail lines, four Metrocable cable-car lines, two Metroplús elongated bus lines, a Tranvía tramcar line and even feeder Metro buses.

The Metro guide on this website is out-of-date and incomplete. In addition, I haven’t seen a complete, accurate and up-to-date guide to the Medellín Metro in English anywhere else.  Some readers also asked for an update.  As a result I wrote this article.

The Medellín Metro System

The Medellín Metro system consists of:

  • Two rail lines – Line A (North to South) and Line B (Center to West) with a total of 27 stations.
  • Four Metrocable cable car lines – Line H, Line J, Line K and Line L with a total of 12 stations.
  • Two Metroplús elongated bus lines – Line 1 and Line 2 with a total of 27 stations.
  • One Tranvía tramcar line – line T-A with 11 stations.
  • Well over 200 white Metro feeder buses that take you to/from Metro stations with routes to neighborhoods all over the city.

A current map of the Medellín Metro system that can be printed out can be found here.

Traveling on the Metro is generally very safe. However be careful of pickpockets during rush hour or any other time the metro cars are crammed full of people.

The worst time to use the metro is during the evening rush hour on Monday to Friday. So try to avoid this evening rush hour. During this time it may take two to three trains to get on, particular from busy stations like Poblado and San Antonio.

Tranvía tramcar line – line T-A

Tranvía tramcar line T-A

History of the Medellín Metro

In 1980, the Medellín Metro project was presented to the Colombian National Government by the city of Medellín. And the National Counsel of Economical and Social Policies approved the project in 1982.

The Metro was envisioned as a massive urban transport system for the worker classes of the city.  Furthermore it was also seen as an important cultural symbol that would also help to develop marginalized and some of the poorest areas of the city.

The construction project was contracted to German and Spanish firms. The first journey on Line A of the Metro was on November 30, 1995 between Niquia and Poblado stations.

Later Line B was added and Line A was expanded south to La Estrella. In 2004, 2008 and 2009, the initial three Metrocable routes come into operation. In 2015, the tranvía tramline T-A was added with a $300 million investment. And in 2016, the Metrocable line H was added.

In 2012, the Medellín Metro system was named one of the top transport systems in the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), a global consortium of organizations founded to promote sustainable transportation worldwide.

Most noteworthy the Medellín Metro system now transports well over 160 million passengers per year. The clean and efficient system saves over 178,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year while also greatly reducing accidents and traffic in the city.

Civica card - photo courtesy of Metro de Medellín

Civica card – photo courtesy of Metro de Medellín

Civica Card

The Civica card is a rechargeable card for using the Medellín Metro system. With the card you can avoid the long ticket lines plus your fare will be cheaper.

I have had a Civica card for over seven years. And it has saved me so much time plus saved some money.

It doesn’t cost anything to get a Civica card. You just need to show an ID like a cedula or passport. And it won’t have any value when you initially receive it.

You can get a Civica card at the Niquía, San Antonio, Itagüí y San Javier metro stations. The small offices at these stations are open Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., or Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

You can charge a Civica card standing in ticket lines at each metro station. And there are recharging machines in some Metro stations.

There are also nearly 600 additional places around the city where you can recharge a Civica card – a complete list is found here. You can also recharge at some of the Gana locations in Envigado and Sabaneta – here’s a list.

In addition, a Civica card provides discounts at several places. For example, it provides a 10% discount at Óptica Santa Lucía, 15% discount at Divercity, 20% discount at Dunkin Donuts and several discounts at the Sonría dental chain. A complete list of discounts is found here.

Metro feeder buses at •Itagüí station

Metro feeder buses at Itagüí station – now with Civica card readers

The Civica card can also be used on most of the white Metro feeder buses that are being set up with Civica card readers. If a metro bus has a Civica reader you can no longer use integrated tickets for the lower fare bus/metro combination.  On buses with a Civica reader the lower integrated fare is only available if you use a Civica card.

The Civica card can also be used in the Encicla system of public bicycles. See here how to sign up for the Encicla.

I can’t understand why anyone would stand in long lines to buy tickets to use the metro. Tickets are now on a card that is charged once with one or more trips.  You can buy one trip or additional trips in advance.  When the card has no more money you deposit it in a slot.

But a rechargeable Civica card is easy to get and convenient plus you save 13% on fares compared to buying tickets in lines.  I recharge my Civica card when the ticket lines are short so I can skip the long ticket lines.

Metro Fares

The current standard Medellín Metro fare with a Civica card is 2,000 pesos ($0.70). But the fare can go as high as 3,260 pesos, in example, if you used a Metrocable with Metro train plus two feeder buses

The standard metro fare if you don’t have a Civica card is 2,300 pesos ($0.81). So you save 300 pesos (13%) per standard trip with a Civica card.  As a result of having a Civica card I estimate I save over $50 per year with lower fares.

The Metrocable line to Parque Arvi has a separate fare of 5,200 pesos unless you can show you live in an Estrato 1, 2 or 3 neighborhood, which will result in a lower fare.

The following is a table of 2017 Metro fares courtesy of Metro de Medellín. Note the Frequente row is the fare for most people using the Metro.

2017 Metro fares courtesy of Metro de Medellín

2017 Metro fares courtesy of Metro de Medellín

Discounted fares are available as shown in the table for those over 60 years old (Adulto Mayor), students (Estudiantial), people with reduced mobility (PMR) and carriers (Al Portador). The discounted fares are established when you sign up for your Civica card.

Hours

The Medellín Metro is open from Monday to Saturday from 4:30 am until 11 pm for all lines except for Line L to Parque Arvi. On Sundays and holidays the hours are from 5 am to 10 pm. And 8:30 am to 10 pm on Line K and 9 am to 10 pm on Lines H and J.

Line L to Parque Arvi is closed on Mondays and runs from 9 am to 6 pm on Tuesday to Saturday. On Sunday and holidays Line L runs from 8:30 am to 6 pm.

During peak hours (from 5 to 8 am and 3:30 to 7:30 pm), on the main Line A, about every 4 minutes there is a train. During the other hours it is reduced to about every 6 to 8 minutes.

Avri Metrocable station

Avri Metrocable station

Using the Metro as a Tourist

It is possible to use the Metro system to get to many of the popular tourist locations in Medellín. The following is a list of several Metro stations and key tourist sites that are located near each station:

Metro de Medellín even offers a tourist guide (in Spanish) found here that shows many more tourist sites that are easy to get to via the Metro system.

In addition we previously provided an article with our top five churches in Medellín with a suggested way to see them using the Metro.

Also six of the malls in Medellín are conveniently located within a block or a few blocks from a Metro station:

Villa Sierra station on new Metrocable Line H

Villa Sierra station on the new Metrocable Line H

Medellín Metro Master Plan – The Future

The Medellín Metro has a Master Plan covering the period from 2006 to 2030. In this master plan are many expansions to the metro system.

The tranvía line T-A (Corredor Ayacucho) opened in 2015.  And the new Metrocable line H opened in 2016.  Both of these expansion were part of this master plan. Due to capacity issues additional train-sets were added to the main Line A last year, which was also part of this master plan.

Nearer term Metro expansions planned in the 2017 to 2020 timeframe include:

  • Complete the Metrocable line M in 2017.
  • Expand the Poblado station.
  • Add new Metroplús line between Envigado and Itagüí.
  • New metro station between Industriales and Poblado stations.
  • New metro station between Envigado and Itagüí stations.
  • 13.5 km tranvía line along Avenida 80 running from Aguacatala station to Caribe station (this line is in design).

Further out expansions in the Master Plan in the 2021 to 2030 timeframe include:

  • Mini-metro line from El Poblado to the South Bus Terminal.
  • Tranvía line to Rio Negro and the José María Córdova international airport.
  • Cable car system in Itagüí.
  • Tranvía line in Sabaneta.

So you will see many more expansions coming to the Medellín Metro system over the next several years. More tranvía lines, more cable cars, and more metro lines are planned as well as a regional train system.

Metroplús bus at Parque Belén station

Metroplús bus at Parque Belén station

The Bottom Line

A well-designed mass transportation systems is about more than just getting people around in a more environmentally friendly way.  As Medellín demonstrates, such systems can also be positive drivers for social and economic change.

Medellín has operated its comprehensive metro system for over 20 years with regular expansions. Seems like Bogotá has been talking about a metro for decades and still has nothing but a plan and it’s overcrowded TransMilenio bus system.

With the inexpensive Metro system in Medellín, extensive bus routes in the city with inexpensive fares as well as inexpensive taxis it is very possible to live in the city without a car.

Our Medellín Living reader survey in December last year found that 81.6 percent of expats living in the city don’t have a car.

And for expats moving to the city, 48.3 percent cited “public transportation including the Metro system” as the third primary reason they were attracted to Medellín (after low cost of living and the climate).

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About Jeff

Jeff first discovered Colombia back in 2006 and has traveled to all the major cities in Colombia. He is fortunate to have a job in the U.S. with location flexibility, which has allowed him to spend over six years living in Medellín. He is also studying Spanish to become fluent.

Comments

  1. Beautiful! Really nice and truly helpful. The up to date Metro map is easier to read than the old one. I was set to take an out of town friend on the Metro to Parque Arivi on a Monday (assuming that everything would be less crowded) but you saved me a big pain in the a** surprise by mentioning that the cable car extension is closed on Mondays.

    Great job Jeff!

  2. While the Metro, Tram and Metrocable systems are impressive there are some points to remember.

    The metro system allows travel in the floor of the valley but that’s it. A very large part of the public transport system – not mentioned here – are of small buses. While they are cheap, they are often driven badly, overcrowded and spew pollution into the air. It is also difficult to consider that those buses are part of an integrated bus system. Although bus stops are becoming more common it’s perfectly possible to hail a bus from anywhere. That leads to elongated journeys and it causes traffic issues. The city sponsored part of the system as described here is impressive – but it’s only a portion of the public transportation infrastructure.

    Additionally although the metro system is said to be accessible to handicapped people that’s more a statement than completely true. One of the issues with the metro system is that as it is above ground the design of the stations is such that you often have to climb many steps. There are elevator and chair lifts, but if you are ever with a disabled person on the system you’ll find that the facilities for them are limited and sometimes in bad repair. Staff often do not want to help either.

    As the Metro is overground that has created issues in Centro. The elevated line there cuts directly through the community and is something that other cities have often tried to avoid. If nothing else the elevated line does nothing for the site lines in Centro.

    As much as expats may vote that they love the public transportation in the city there are increasing problems with locals moving away from the system and using either cars or motos for travel. The traffic in the city and the associated pollution is now a very real issue in the city.

    There’s also another threat in the city which is Uber. Uber is now heavily recruiting in the city and if it can avoid the legal problems it has in the country is clearly aiming to grow significantly. If that happens it won’t just impact the taxi community. As other cities have found an increase in the vehicle for hire business promoted by Uber tends to lead to ever increasing traffic congestion as cars circle awaiting the next fare. With few dedicated bus lanes and limited space to add them that’s not going to help public transportation.

    So the city sponsored part of the public transportation infrastructure is impressive – and Medellin has made a better job of it than say Bogota – but the issues of providing mass transportation in a city that lies in a steep walled valley is always going to be a challenge. As a result the quality of public transport in the city is very variable. Modern and efficient in some parts – dated and polluting in others.

  3. Thanks this article is helpful and very complete. I wasn’t aware that you can use a Civica card for some discounts elsewhere. I could have saved money at Sonría recently.

    I always see so many people wait in long lines to get tickets. Why don’t they get a Civica card that is free so they can avoid the lines? Plus they will save money!

  4. Hey Jeff, another nice article. It was cool to meet you at the January meetup.

    For short term visitors, it might be helpful to know that you can buy multiple rides on a card at any ticket booth. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out, but at <$1 USD per ride, it makes no sense to risk a long wait in the maluco sol for a single. Just buy 10 or more rides, touch the card on the scanner to enter, and remember that on the last ticket, you drop the card into the slot instead of scanning. This is probably old news to Medellín expats with a Civica card, but it might help newbies like myself.

    • Thanks I added that to the article. But you can save money on fares with a rechargeable Civica card so it’s a better option if someone is here for a longer time.

  5. Hey Jeff, above you have listed : Bello station – Puerta del Norte Mall

    The centro is actually right at the Niquia Station. Just my opinion, but the Bello Station is not one to casually get off and explore, unless you are MDE street wise and know how to avoid problems.

    Cheers, Josué

    • Thanks for catching that. It’s fixed. It slipped my mind as I even wrote the article on this site about Puerta del Norte Mall and have been there many times.

  6. This is so helpful! Do you happen to know if children can ride free with an adult? And up to what age? Thank you!

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