I thought Xochimilco was in Mexico State. I always hear about it from other foreigners, but I didn’t know that it’s just here in DF, albeit a little bit farther to the south. It even has its own light rail line connecting it to Taxqueña! What that means is that it’s easy to go there, if you know Taxqueña well, that is. That place is a freaking maze. Once you find the light rail station, which is BESIDE the Metro station, NOT inside, then you’re on your way. The trip takes less than an hour from one end of the line to the other.
They use a plastic card available at the vending machines for MXN10 (~PHP25). A one-way trip costs MXN3 (~PHP7.50) so make sure you load MXN6 more on top of the MXN10. It’s common for some people to just hand over their coins to someone who has a card and tap it twice, because that’s totally possible to do. Xochimilco is a large residential area despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, so expect to share the light rail ride with locals, mostly. Once you reach the end of the line, it’s time to find the Embarcadero.
There are several around town, but the biggest one appears to be Caltongo. The farther from the light rail station you go, the smaller the embarcaderos get. On the contrary, Caltongo has a big collection of trajineras docked on its port. More boats, more choices! More choices, more haggling possibilities! The usual rate is MXN350 (~PHP900) PER BOAT PER HOUR. The thing you have to know, though, but is rather already obvious is that there are around a hundred boats there, and not all of them can grab customers.
What does that mean? It means that haggling is important, because you can get a really good rate pitting those boatmen against one another. Understand that this is their bread and butter, and since there are so many of them, it’s hard to make ends meet on a daily basis. Mine started with MXN350 and ended at MXN250 (~PHP650). It can go way lower depending on your boatman’s desperation. After all, the only capital they need here is strength to paddle that trajinera. They don’t even need gas.
It’s a hard situation to deal with. On one hand, you want to save up as much as you can. On the other, you know that how much your boatman will take home that day to feed his family might totally depend on you. Just you. It makes you want to think twice whether you want to be a generous man or a cheapskate. In the end I just gave him MXN300 (~PHP780). Meeting at the middle, I think that’s just fair for both of us. A typical one-hour ride won’t bring you anywhere exciting, so plan accordingly.
But not everyone wants to go anywhere exciting. You see, the thing is that most locals who come here don’t do so for the sake of sightseeing. Locals come here to party. Say what? Yes, you read that right. THEY PARTY. The modus operandi goes like this: A group of more than 10 people will hire two boats for two to three hours. Those two boats will then be bound together. On one boat’s table, the sound system will be set, while food is prepared on the other. Get in, and it’s one legit canal party waiting to be enjoyed.
A typical trajinera has around 10 seats, but the overal capacity of the vessel can be a maximum of 20 people, not including the boatman. Getting two boats for 20 people leaves ample space for dancing and getting drunk. If you do the math, two boats for three hours divided by 20 people at a rate of MXN350 per hour means just around MXN100 (~PHP250) per head. That’s way cheaper than the cost of cover if you go to a bar at Zona Rosa or somewhere else.
But not every local goes to Xochimilco to party. You will also find couples on a date, keeping the entire trajinera to themselves. Once in a while, you will find a loser tourist alone on his boat because no one else decided to join him. Wait a minute, are you referring to me? Fuck you. Okay, I digress. Like I said, one hour will not get you far, and you will eventually get stuck in traffic at one of the main canals because the party boats tend to loiter there. If you are interested, there are itineraries lasting four hours or so.
Keep in mind that these canals were indispensable during the pre-colonial era. There is a lot of history to be learned here. Also, there is the island of the dolls. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that it’s an inhabited island full of dolls hanging everywhere you look. It’s an interesting story, but I don’t really have a lot of space left, so just Google it. Or better yet, go there and explore it yourself. It will be like a Mexican version of the Blair Witch Project, I suppose. FUN!!!
[XOCHIMILCO] Ready for the Canal Party