On January 1, 2018, Medellín increased fares for the metro system in the city. So, we are providing an up-to-date Medellín Metro guide along with tips for using the metro system in Medellín.
Medellín has the only rail-based metro system in Colombia. But this mass transportation system is much more than a rail-based system.
Medellín’s metro system is a comprehensive transportation system that integrates two rail lines, a Tranvía tramcar line, four Metrocable cable-car lines, two Metroplús elongated bus line and even hundreds of small feeder metro buses.
The comprehensive metro system in Medellín consists of:
- Two rail lines – Line A (north to south) with 21 stations and Line B (center to west) with six stations.
- Four Metrocable cable car lines – Line H with two stations, Line J with three stations, Line K with three stations and Line L with two stations.
- One Tranvía tramcar line – Line T-A with nine stations.
- Two Metroplús elongated bus lines – Line 1 with 20 stations and Line 2 with eight stations.
- Over 200 metro feeder buses that connect to/from the metro stations with routes to and from many neighborhoods in the Medellín metro area.
The current map of the system is found here in PDF format, which can be printed to take with you. Note the above photo is of Line A in El Centro with Hotel Nutibara in the background.
History of the Medellín Metro System
The history of the Medellín Metro system traces back to 1980, when the project was presented to the Colombian National Government by the city of Medellín. The project was approved in 1982 by the National Council of Economic and Social Policies.
The Medellín Metro was conceived as a major urban transportation system for the worker classes in Medellín. In addition, it was envisioned to help develop marginalized portions of the city with limited transportation options, which are also some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
The massive construction project was contracted to German and Spanish firms in 1984. And the first journey on the Line A rail line was on November 30, 1995 between the Niquia and Poblado stations.
The system has continued to expand since the first rail line was installed. The Line B rail line was added in February 1996. And Line A was expanded south in 2012 to add Sabaneta and La Estrella stations.
In July 2004, the first Metrocable Line K was added. And in March 2008, the second Metrocable Line J was added. In September 2010, Line L to Parque Arvi was added. And in December 2016, the fourth Metrocable Line H was added.
The first Metroplús bus elongated bus line, Line 1, was added in December 2011 and Line 2 was added in April 2013.
In addition, the Tranvía tramcar Line T-A was added in March 2016.
In 2018, the metro system added monitors at many of the metro stations that show a color-coded status of the metro line and how much time until the next metro trains arrive.
The Medellín Metro system was named one of the top transport systems in the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in 2012. ITDP is global consortium of organizations founded to promote sustainable transportation systems worldwide.
The Medellín Metro system transported over 270 million passengers in 2016. And it reportedly saves over 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year. In addition, it greatly reduces the amount of traffic in the city and the number of traffic accidents each year. For example, the new tramline reportedly eliminated the need for over 200 buses.
2018 Medellín Metro System Fares
The 2018 standard Medellín Metro fare with a Civica card is 2,125 pesos ($0.71), which is up from 2,000 pesos last year. In addition, the fare can go as high as 3,475 pesos. For example, if you used a Metrocable with train plus two feeder buses
The standard fare in 2018 if you don’t have a Civica card is 2,400 pesos ($0.80), which is up from 2,300 pesos last year.
So, you save 275 pesos (11.5 percent) per standard trip with a Civica card. As a result of using a Civica card I estimate I save over $60 USD per year with lower fares.
The Metrocable line to Parque Arvi has a separate fare of 5,550 pesos unless you can show you live in an Estrato 1, 2 or 3 neighborhood, which will result in a much lower fare.
The following is a table of 2018 metro fares. Most notably, the Frequente row is the fare for most people.
Furthermore, 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 package carriers (Al Portador). When you sign up for a Civica card you can establish the discounted fares for your Civica card if you are eligible.
The integrated fares for integrated buses and the metro have also increased and range from 2,350 to 4,200 pesos as seen in the following table:
A majority of the integrated buses now have Civica readers. The exception to having Civica readers are some integrated bus routes in Medellín, Bello and one route in Itagüí. But these other integrated bus routes are expected to be converted to Civica readers.
How to Get and Use a Medellín Metro Civica Card
A Civica card is a Medellín Metro system card for users that is rechargeable. If you use a Civica card you can save time by avoiding the long ticket lines plus you save money with lower fares.
Furthermore, it doesn’t cost anything to get a Civica card. You can get a Civica card at the Itagüí, Niquía, San Antonio and San Javier metro stations. The small offices issuing Civica cards are open Monday to Friday 6:30 am to 8:30 pm, or on Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
To get a Civica card you just need to show an ID. And they will accept several types of IDs including:
- Colombian cedula
- Drivers license
- University photo ID
- Birth certificate
The Civica card initially will have no value but you can recharge it by standing in ticket lines at any metro station. In addition, there are some recharging machines at some metro stations.
The Civica card can also be used on many of the white integrated feeder buses that have Civica card readers. If a metro bus has a Civica reader you can’t use integrated tickets for the lower fare bus/metro combination. Buses with a Civica reader only have the lower integrated fare available if you use a Civica card.
Furthermore, the Civica card provides discounts at many places. For example, it provides a 10 to 30 percent discount at Dentalmedica, 15 percent discount at Divercity, 20 percent discount at Más Visión and up to 30 percent discount at the Sonrá dental chain. A complete list of Civica discounts is found here.
The Civica card is also used in the Encicla system of public bicycles in Medellín.
In addition, there at least one debit card that is multiple purpose and is also a Civica card, Bancolombia has one.
Considering that you save money with a Civica card, I don’t understand why there are always people standing in long lines to buy tickets. Individual trip tickets are put on a card that is charged 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 Civica card is rechargeable and has lower fares.
Reportedly there are only about 500,000 Civica cards issued. So, many users have to stand in long lines to buy tickets and don’t benefit from the discounted fares available with a Civica card.
Medellín Metro System Hours
The Medellín Metro system is open from Monday to Saturday each week from 4:30 am until 11 pm for all lines except for Line L to Parque Arvi.
On Sundays and most 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. During Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve the hours are normally shorter.
The Metrocable line to Parque Arvi (Line L) 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.
Medellin Metro Tips
Here are four tips for using the Medellín Metro:
- Get a Civica card. It doesn’t take much time to get one and you will save over 11 percent on fares plus you will avoid standing in the long ticket lines. Also, to get the integrated fare on integrated feeder buses with Civica readers you need a Civica card.
- Traveling on the metro is generally safe. However, watch out for pickpockets during rush hour or any time the trains are packed full of people. Also, watch out for people taking things from backpacks or bags. Several years ago, I lost a small camera that was in the small pocket in a backpack during rush hour.
- The worst time to use the metro is during the evening rush on Monday to Friday. During this time trains are packed like sardines. So, try to avoid this evening rush hour. During the evening rush hours from about 5 to 7 pm, it could take you two to three trains to get on at busy stations like San Antonio or Poblado and you will be packed in.
- Learn the integrated metro bus routes. You can get to and from many neighborhoods in the Medellín metro area on the integrated buses. For example, I can conveniently catch a bus outside my apartment building in Sabaneta and be at a metro station in about six minutes. Furthermore, the buses will have the route/stops listed on signs in the front window.
Using the Medellín Metro as a Tourist
If you are a tourist, you can use the metro system to get to many of the most popular tourist spots in Medellín. The following is a list of metro stations and several key tourist spots located nearby:
- Universidad: Jardín Botánico, Parque Norte, Parque Explora
- Parque Berrio: Museo de Antioquia, Plaza Botero, Iglesia de la Candelaria, Iglesia de la Veracruz, Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture
- Industriales – Museo de Arte Moderno
- Prado – Catedral Basílica Metropolitana, Iglesia Jesús Nazareno
- Sabaneta – Iglesia Santa Ana, Parque Sabaneta
In addition, six of the shopping malls in Medellín are located within a block or just a few blocks from a metro station:
- Itagüí station – Mayorca Mega Plaza mall
- Poblado station – Monterrey mall
- Industriales station – Premium Plaza mall and Punto Clave mall
- Niquia station – Puerta del Norte mall
- Los Alpes station – Los Molinos mall
So, it is possible and convenient to get to many tourist spots and shopping malls in the metropolitan area by using the metro system. The Medellín Metro even provides a tourist guide (in Spanish) showing additional tourist spots you can get to using the metro system.
The Future of the Medellín Metro
The Medellín Metro has a long-range master plan in place. In this master plan are many more planned expansions to the metro system.
The tranvía tramline T-A opened in early 2016. And the newest Metrocable line H opened in December, 2016. These two expansions were part of the master plan. Near term expansions already in work include:
- Expand the Poblado station
- Complete the fifth Metrocable – line M
- Add the third Metroplús elongated bus line between Envigado and Itagüí
- Add the sixth Metrocable – line P (contract awarded, to be completed in 2019)
Other expansions reportedly planned in the next few years include adding additional stations to Line A (between Industriales and Poblado stations and between Envigado and Itagüí stations). And adding another tramline along Avenida 80 running from Aguacatala to Caribe station.
Longer term expansions planned in the next 10+ years include adding a line from El Poblado to the South Bus Terminal, adding a tramline to José María Córdova international airport and adding a cable car system in Itagüí. In addition, a regional train system is in the planning stages.
So, more expansions are coming to the Medellín metro, which will continue to improve the public transportation system in Medellín.
The Bottom Line: The Medellín Metro System
The Medellín Metro is considered a symbol for Medellín. And it is still the only rail-based metro system in Colombia. With its comprehensive transportation system, Medellín arguably has a world-class public transportation system that is considered the best out of all the cities in Colombia.
Other cities in Colombia only have elongated bus systems like TransMilenio in Bogotá, MIO in Cali, Metrolinea in Bucaramanga and Megabús in Pereira. The largest city in Colombia, Bogotá, has been talking about and planning a rail-based metro for decades and still just has a plan.
With the inexpensive Medellín Metro system, extensive bus routes in the city with inexpensive fares as well as inexpensive taxis it is very possible to live in Medellín without a car. The good and inexpensive public transportation in the city is one of 27 reasons I chose to live in Medellín.
I have lived in Medellín for nearly eight years without a car and never even found the need to rent a car. And reportedly over 80 percent of expats living in Medellín don’t have a car.
Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.
Editors note: updated on October 11, 2018 to add a more complete list of IDs accepted to get a metro Civica card.
Editors note: updated on October 20, 2018 to add information about the new monitors put in metro stations that show the status of the metro system.