The city of Palenque, named after the archaeological site just a few kilometers away, is home to the westernmost station on the Tren Maya route.
Once tickets went on sale for this journey, we could not keep from checking out the Mayan Train, as it is also known.
Having already experienced the Tren Maya from Mérida to Cancún, we had a fairly good idea of what to expect. However, venturing beyond the Yucatán Peninsula somehow felt different and more exciting.
The adventure began at Mérida’s Ie-Tram hub in La Plancha Park, from where we were whisked away to Mérida’s Tren Maya station in Teya in just over 20 minutes.
Taxis and ride-sharing applications are also an option to get out to Teya, but as the Ie-Tram runs on a dedicated lane, it is faster and cheaper.
From Mérida to Palenque
A good deal has changed at Mérida-Teya station since our last visit, as the ceiling is now finished, and a handful of shops, including an Oxxo, GoMart, and a combination Subway/Pizza Hut, have set up shop.
After checking in, we did not have to wait long before the train arrived, and the boarding process was orderly and overseen by México’s National Guard.
Once onboard, we settled into our seats and prepared for the eight-hour trip ahead, slightly faster than by bus — and much more comfortable.
The crew said the route is still in a trial mode, and after the tracks are settled, the trip will take closer to five hours and reach a maximum cruising speed of approximately 100 miles an hour.
After 20 minutes or so after pulling out of the station, Premiere passengers were offered coffee and a sandwich, which was included in the ticket price. While it was nice to get anything at all, the food and drink aboard left much to be desired, so it’s not a bad idea to pack a lunch and snacks.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at the station in Umán, followed by Maxcanú, where passengers got on and off, likely to experience the train for the first time.
The next major station we hit was Campeche, where several more passengers hopped on and off, though the process was expedient and lasted no more than five minutes or so.
Nobody boarded or disembarked at the train station at Edzná, which, as it turns out, is roughly 10 miles from its archaeological site with no shuttle information posted.
As the trip continued southwards, the views slowly began to change, with small hills visible in the background, as well as several scenic river crossings.
As we ventured even further south into Tabasco it was interesting to see how the landscape began to change once again, along with the brightly colored homes next to the track.
As nighttime began to fall, and the novelty of the train had worn off, we began to approach our final destination.
Once outside the Palenque station, taxis offered rides into town for 200 pesos. However, being the frugal travelers that we are, we opted to take an ADO shuttle for 25 pesos. As it turned out, the shuttle stopped right across from our hotel.
All in all, the trip between Mérida and Palenque, though tiring, was comfortable and a better option than the bus. The train was not exactly packed, though this was in part because as the route is still in a “trial mode” not all seats were being sold.
For more information about the archaeological site at Palenque as well as details about our stay in the city, pick up the next print issue of Yucatán Magazine, available in March.
From Palenque To Mérida
As you would expect, the trip back from Palenque was nearly identical to the trip there. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
If you did not purchase your return at Mérida-Teya, the only place in Palenque Tren Maya tickets can be sold is at the FONATUR office in the north of town.
From downtown, a taxi to the Tren Maya / FONATUR office should not cost you any more than 50 pesos, but make it clear that you want to go to the ticket office, not the Tren Maya station itself.
The easiest way to get to the Tren Maya station in Palenque is to take a shuttle from the main ADO station downtown for 25 pesos per person.
A few more things to consider
Each passenger on the Tren Maya is allowed to bring aboard a suitcase weighing no more than 25 kg or 55 pounds, as well as a carry-on bag. However, at no point did we observe any bags being weighed.
Pets are not allowed on the train, though assistance animals are, as long as all of their documentation, including a valid certificate and vaccine card, is complete.
For Mexican travelers, the Tren Maya between Mérida and Palenque is 1,215 pesos for Tourist Class and 1,389 pesos for Premiere, which offers roomier cars and a few more snacks. For foreigners, the price is 1,848 and 2,957 pesos respectively, which admittedly is steep. Keep in mind that price discrepancies have been spotted, even on official printed materials, but hopefully, these mistakes will be sorted out soon.
Special discounts of around 30% are available for residents of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo.